It’s the end of 2023, and your average Canadian motorcyclist is in hibernation (shout-out to everyone who’s still out there on the streets or trails, or getting ready for ice racing season, you absolute madlads!). So taking a look back at 2023, what happened this year? Turns out that as pandemic measures faded away, we had a pretty busy news season. Here’s some stuff to argue about with your riding buddies over the winter…
This news just came out after the show season was over. Honda plans to invest billions into electronic motorcycles over the next eight years. With a swappable-battery electric scooter released in 2023 and an electric MX bike in the All Japan Motocross championship, we expect many more such models before the decade is out.
Supposedly, the first major new EV bikes will be announced at CES in Las Vegas this winter. Expect a massive shift in the moto industry as everyone else follows in coming years. Honda even plans new factories to pump out these machines. They are 100 percent committed to the battery bike plan.
Kawasaki’s alternative energy bikes
Kawasaki actually beat Big Red to market here, with new electric motorcycles as well as hybrid models. The new Ninja 7 Hybrid and Z7 Hybrid are particularly interesting, since they offer the long-range versatility of a gasoline bike, while still allowing riders to benefit from EV powertrain in cities. Not such a big deal in Canada, but a very big deal overseas, as some cities are cracking down hard on inner city emissions.
If *all* you want to do is ride around town, you can opt for the all-electric Ninja e-1 or the Z e-1. Compared to the hybrid models, these machines are much more limited in their range and speed. However, they are a look at where all the powered two-wheeler segment is headed.
The Adventure Bike Boom
While there’s a lot of hype about battery bikes, the industry is not putting all its eggs in that basket! Over the fall of 2023, the Europeans, the Japanese, even the Chinese (more on that in a bit!) launched a pile of new adventure bikes. Scramblers, crossovers, ADV machines and dual sport bikes are the most popular bikes in showrooms right now, and the industry is backing that sales trend up with a lot of new machines.
We would run out of space if we listed them all, but just about every Euro manufacturer released something new or significantly overhauled. Bikes like the GS series saw generational updates; the long-out-of-production Stelvio reappeared. Ducati went back into single-cylinder territory with a new supermoto. Even Bimota—Bimota!!—built a crossover.
The Japanese were not quite as busy, but there were several new or improved ADVs from Japan. Countries that traditionally haven’t sold motorcycles to the west—India and China in particular—also had big launches.
The sheer number of new models introduced this year with all-road capability shows that the boom which started here in COVID-19 is still steamrolling onwards.
China is baaaack!
Now, we aren’t facing the Wild West situation of 15 years ago, when everyone and their brother was importing air-cooled motorcycles of iffy build quality into Canada (some of those were pretty good, some weren’t).
Instead, we see CFMoto is building up massive momentum with new bikes in its own lineup and a deal that sees it building machines for KTM as well. That includes the 790 Duke and 790 Adventure, both of which are coming to Canada now. In 2024, your next bike might indeed be made in China, but it might also have an Austrian brand name. More and more manufacturing is moving to China, whether riders like it or not.
CSBK changes hands
Shifting gears to the racetrack, we gotta say that we’re intrigued to see where Ross Millson, the new owner of the Canadian Superbike series, will take the racing. Like, literally: Will he take us to a complete western-province tour again? The 2024 schedule already contains a visit to Edmonton in June. Maybe down the road we can take a trip to BC as well, or maybe, somehow, we can add Quebec back to the schedule?
CSBK was a lot of fun in the Colin Fraser years, but now that he’s sold off the series, we’re curious to see what happens next. The new ZX-4RR series alone is a tip that the middleweight racing classes are going to get even more exciting in the years to come.
Marc Marquez jumps ship!
We haven’t really talked much about MotoGP this year, but this is probably the biggest story in motorcycle racing in the past decade. Marc Marquez, aka Mister Repsol Honda Forever, has had enough of the MotoGP factory team’s hijinks. After a couple of slump seasons, and a bunch of crashes, Marquez is now going to ride a Ducati. Say it ain’t so, Joe!
Given Ducati’s absolute dominance in the world of roadracing over the past couple of years, bringing #MM93 onto the Gresini team, with a possibility of a full factory ride in 2025, could make things really interesting. His battles with his teammates alone will no doubt be epic, as long as everyone stays out of the hospital. Marky Mark certainly isn’t known for his measured, careful riding…
On a more local note, Canadian ex-pat roadracer Dan Kruger appears to be the most successful export we’ve had in years. This year, he repeated his championship-winning performance in the US.
Dan cleaned up in WERA’s Superstock/Superbike and Endurance series again in 2023. He’s staying away from the street circuit stuff like Macau these days, and considering his success in the States, it’s no wonder. Congrats, Dan, and hopefully you can stay out of the weeds and repeat this performance again in 2024!
Honda just won’t give up on the idea of making gear-shifting easy, but previous efforts have generally had a big problem. Crusty, experienced riders often disdain tech like the twist-and-go DCT, or going wayyyy back, the Hondamatic. The new E-Clutch, introduced this fall, allows clutchless upshifts and downshifts while still allowing the rider to use the clutch when they want to.
It’s literally the best of both worlds, and while Honda is only introducing this tech on its four-cylinder 650s at this point, we expect to see it pretty much across the line in coming years, and we expect most other OEMs are trying to figure out how to bring out an equivalent.
Triumph has been making street bikes, and only street bikes, for a very long time. In 2024, they’ll sell their first pure dirt bike in generations, the TF 250-X motocross machine.
It’s massive news for Triumph, one of the oldest brands in the business. A completely new segment, and perhaps the toughest nut to crack, with the cutthroat racing of Supercross as the backdrop. It’ll be fascinating to watch this project’s progress in 2024, especially with a 450 version coming, and enduros as well. But while we wait for all that to work out, we do have one big, big question for the Triumph brain trust: Whatever happened to the electric motorcycle project?