Year Close: The Best Motorcycles Of 2013

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With the fall bike shows upon us — starting with the AIMExpo this week, check back for complete coverage — 2014′s new crop of motorcycles are slowly being revealed. So it’s a good time to look back at why 2013 has been a bumper year for bikes.

Every manufacturer uses model years a little differently, so we’ve chosen the new bikes we’ve ridden this year, that are available to buy right now, that we think represent the best of 2013. Don’t see a bike you think should be included? Tell us why in the comments.

Mission RS
Mission RS
Mission set out to take full advantage of 21st century technology to reinvent the performance motorcycle and has absolutely succeeded in doing that. That’s not to say it can’t be done better and won’t be in the future, but as it stands, this bike is faster in real world riding than anything else out there, delivers superior feel and control and does that in a package that’s just as emotionally compelling as a gas superbike, in a totally new way. Internal combustion is now outdated. Don’t believe us? Conversion rate from test ride to sale stands at 97 percent.

RideApart Rating: 10/10

Honda cb500f cbr500r
Honda 500s
What do you want out of this whole motorcycle riding thing? Bragging rights? Flashy graphics and fancy components? Speeding tickets? A literal pain in the butt? Instead of that, what about a bike that’s insanely good fun at legal speeds? One that’s all-day comfortable, one that you can afford to buy and afford to run? One that’s as good in traffic as it is on mountain roads?

And here’s the thing about motorcycle riding: it’s a sport, not a purchase. It’s something you have to work hard at getting good at. The CBR500R, CB500F and CB500X are all perfect tools to develop the skills that you’ll need to ride something faster. They’ll help you learn about brakes, handling and power, all while providing you with a comfortable, confident, practical, economical form of transportation.

It’s not just n00bs who’ll find something to love in the 500s. Experienced riders will appreciate the cost and the fuel economy, of course, but will be surprised by the handling and performance and fun, too. It’d make a great commuter or just a great economical all-rounder for when the fancy bike needs to stay in the garage.

The 500s aren’t the fastest, sharpest and probably not the sexiest. What they are, are some of the most accessible, practical, entertaining motorcycles you can buy.

RideApart Rating: 10/10

Yamaha FZ-09
Yamaha FZ-09
Despite the fueling and suspension issues, the Yamaha FZ-09 is the naked sportbike I want to own. It’s such a complete package, performing well in town, on the freeway or on a good mountain road. While we hope Yamaha addresses the fueling issues on this and most other bikes in their range, adding something like a power commander and swapping the front suspension really isn’t all that difficult and would make this pretty much a perfect package. That’s before you factor in the $7,990 price tag. In an age when value is at the top of everyone’s priority list, the FZ-09 is right on the money.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

Honda Grom
Honda Grom
The Grom won’t be for everyone. It can’t go on the highway, you obviously won’t want to use it for long trips, and it does require a motorcycle license. You’ll know it if you want one and, if you do, the Grom rewards you by exceeding your expectations. It’s silly good fun.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

2013 ducati hypermotard
Ducati Hypermotard SP
They’ve taken a great bike and made it lighter, narrower, and more powerful. It handles beautifully, is unbelievable amounts of fun to ride, and all while returning decent gas mileage (I averaged 52 mpg the days in and around LA and 48 mpg for my trip to Big Sur and back). The engine is great, the ergonomics are spot on, and, aesthetically, the bike is simply gorgeous.

RideApart Rating: 9/10

Ducati 1199 Panigale R
Ducati 1199 Panigale R
Wow. This is the highest performing motorcycle in the world right now. No caveats, no asterisks, you cannot buy anything faster than this. Unlike more anodyne, inline-four rivals, it’s also the most exciting and involving experience too.

And, the lists of mosts and bests and whatnot continues: electronics, adjustability, components, nothing on the R is second best, it is the absolute best of everything.

That’s all in a daringly-designed, technically advanced package that amazes where you look, where you touch and in every facet of its performance. Claudio is right, the 1199 R is the ultimate.

RideApart Rating: 10/10

Moto Guzzi California 1400
Moto Guzzi California 1400
The California 1400 has all the looks, character and presence you could ever want from a cruiser, but rides like a real, 21st century motorcycle. Handling and brakes aren’t just safe, they’re genuinely good, even when compared to performance-oriented motorcycles, but that big V-twin’s rumble and quirkiness still conveys that primal motorcycle experience in an incredibly emotive way.

That’s a combination other segment busters like the Ducati Diavel lack, the California is just as good at being a throwback as it is a way forward.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

Star Bolt
Star Bolt
Star set out to make a Sportster that turned and stopped, was fun and safe to ride at proper speeds and I think they more than met their goal. The real test will be if people in this market think the upgraded performance is worth having the words “Star Bolt” on the side instead of “Harley-Davidson.” Buying a motorcycle isn’t always a purely rational decision, but I think the Bolt hits on enough areas that buyers will have to pause and give it a lot of thought. It should be a nice competitor and will hopefully continue to drive development in this class of motorcycle, something that is good for all of us as consumers. I’m curious to see what adding exhaust and tinkering with the air box and fueling would do, if the results were anything like I got on my Bonneville this thing is going to be amazing.

RideApart Rating: 7/10

Honda Gold Wing F6B
Honda Gold Wing F6B
One of the most uniquely capable, special motorcycles around, the Honda Gold Wing, has been utterly transformed into something even more capable and more special through a series of very basic changes. Cheaper, faster and more fun than the Gold Wing, the F6B makes an incredibly strong argument for itself even before you get to its looks, which have to be some of the boldest, most distinctive there are right now. It’s not just a sports tourer, it’s not just a cruiser, it’s not just a bagger, it’s not just a muscle bike. It’s all those things in a package that has something to offer to virtually any motorcyclist.

RideApart Rating: 9/10

  • Rameses the 2nd

    The look of FZ-09 is growing on me. The fact that it is cheap and I can have it as a second fun bike makes is it really compelling. Speed and Street Triples are probably better bikes, but the ugly lights and the pregnant gas tanks kill it for me.

    • Stephen Mears

      saw one in the flesh today at the track. looks great.

  • livacpa

    Hopefully buying a CB500F tomorrow! Can’t wait. Will be the 3rd in my stable next to a Triumph 675 track bike and a Duc 749 for the canyons.

    • http://statesofmotion.blogspot.com/ FastPatrick

      Where do you live? Dealer here in NYC says he can’t get any. Still waiting/hoping, because that bike is the complete solution for me.

      • livacpa

        Los Angeles, theres lots of deales here naturally and I just got lucky. Wanted white with ABS but settling on black non ABS. I want it now. It really seems like it will be the perfect daily commuter.toy

      • Jason Curtis

        Hey I have a nearly new non abs black one for sale very soon. Just over $1k miles. Located in brooklyn .

  • Deeds

    The year isn’t even over yet. There’s still EICMA.

    • CruisingTroll

      bikes “that are available to buy right now”… that means all the new goodness coming our way next year from this November’s EICMA doesn’t count.

  • Lourens Smak

    The 2013 bike that will top (probably) every European list is the BMW watercooled R1200GS…

    • CruisingTroll

      This. How the Waterboxer and Street Triple R didn’t make the list is a curious thing…

      • Gonfern

        I agree with the Waterboxer, but the Street Triple as been on every best of list every year since 2009. Its no surprise by now, sort of goes without saying.

  • Johnny Thunder

    Was the BMW HP4 not released already? And if it was, why did it not make it to the list?

  • Fresh Mint

    Just picked up the hypermotard SP – Thing is a blast :)

  • Von

    That Honda CB500F is calling my name! A perfect 10 for a $5,500 bike?! What else can you want from a entry-level designed bike? This will be my first street bike and I can’t wait! Honda made me ditch my lust for the beautiful retro bikes like the Triumph Scrambler and Moto Guzzi V7 for a bike that’s beautiful in it’s own way, more practical and in a completely different category.

    • John

      Their rating system is practically random. But I just take it as a thumbs up, rather than assigning real value to it. There’s no such thing as a perfect 10 motorcycle.

      • devillock

        Exactly. Far to many variables to consider, especially from rider standpoint. But if it’s orange, it’s good.

      • Von

        You’re right, rating a motorcycle is very subjective. But with no fueling issues or comfort complaints that plague some other much more expensive bikes in here, it’s amazing what Honda has done with the 500s. I don’t think the Panigale should have a score of ten because of its fueling issues. But that’s what’s great about motorcycles, there’s a “perfect” bike for every person.

      • 80-watt Hamster

        I guess I don’t necessarily see a RideApart score of 10 as perfect; more like as perfect as can be given price and purpose.

    • orthorim

      Test rode a 500CBX for a day – it’s a neat bike but no way I’d give it a 10. It’s all about the price – for the price, it’s a great bike. Suspension felt cheap and crappy compared to my Versys. Performance was anemic on the highway. Handling was excellent – loves the curves, super smooth shifter etc was also good. Great bike _for the price_.

  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    Wes manages to fit the term “whatnot” into everyone of his articles. “Whizbangs” and “doohickeys” still conspicuously absent.

    • Chris Optional Freeman

      there was not a KLR on the list. the term “doohickey” is therefore erroneous.

  • devillock

    1290 Super Duke. Once you go orange you never go back…

    • Piglet2010

      I thought you could not buy one until next year?

  • Rowtag

    I’m after the Hypermotard SP. I haven´t even ridden it yet and I´m in love with it

    • Piglet2010

      If I had the extra money lying around I would be tempted – one can fit the screen, seat and bags from the Hyperstrada (which has relatively inferior suspension components).

      • Gonfern

        my thoughts exactly. if you can swallow that price tag…plus another couple thousand for the strada goodies, you have the perfect hoonigane giggle machine, and a few minutes of parts swapping later, a pretty capable tourer.

        • Piglet2010

          Take off the bags and screen, swap the seats, pull off the mirrors, tape over the lights, and you are ready for a track day.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      It’s unreal.

    • devillock

      Try a SMT990.

  • Konstantin Chachanidze

    you´ve left out adventure and dual sport class completely. or is it just because not all the motorcycles are available for sale right now?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Best new models of 2013. There were no new dual sports and very few new ADV bikes this year.

      • CruisingTroll

        CCM 450. Available right now.



        in the UK. :p

    • Piglet2010

      What is new out there in the AT and DS classes, except for the R1200GS “water-head” (I would think the KTM 1190 and V-Strom 1000 will be considered for the 2014 list)?

      • Konstantin Chachanidze

        bit too late, but still, dunno :D :D :D that´s why I asked :D :D :D

  • Generic42

    I love the Mission RS but is it really a 2013 bike? Delivery won’t even start until late next year correct?

  • Generic42

    Someone grabbed mostly the low-res thumbnails for this article, pics look horrible.

  • Piglet2010

    ” Internal combustion is now outdated.”

    A wee bit of hyperbole, me thinks. What happens to the range on an electric bike when the temperature drops below freezing? I do several rides of 300+ miles in such conditions every year. Or if I want to ride the Top of the World Highway, will I find charging stations?

  • Rowtag

    what about KTM´s adventure 990 baja?

  • Tito Lopez

    Were all of these pictures taken with a Sanyo 5300 camera phone?

  • Dave Day

    Why is the Triumph Daytona 675R missing from this list?

  • Shawn McDermott

    Uh th BMW still spanks the Panigale R…what a joke.

  • DerekB

    Forget the Mission RS being the bike of 2013, I think its going to end up being the bike of the DECADE. It signaled the end of the combustion engine being the pinnacle of motorcycling.