Having ushered in the New Year with enthusiasm, new two-wheelers, and novel adventures, it is time to celebrate the best two-wheelers that the past year had to offer.
Report: Kurt Morris and Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar and Apurva Ambep
The year gone by was an exciting one for the Indian two-wheeler market. There were new launches in almost every segment, including several new additions to the growing electric two-wheeler space. Along with the launches of many new small-capacity motorcycles and timely updates to popular ones, several premium motorcycles that raised the bar in their respective segments were launched as well. Interestingly, the number of launches in large-capacity motorcycles were greater than those in small-capacity bikes. The line-up that arrived at our jury round was an eclectic mix that comprised everything from humble commuters to top-spec sport bikes.
For the past 17 years, the Bike India jury have been impartial and stringent in their duties when it comes to evaluating these two-wheelers and awarding them points. The nominations in each category are scrutinized along the same guidelines to see how they fare against their rivals. Sometimes, it is difficult to select a winner because some of them are so evenly matched but there must be only one champion. The winners from each category are then subjected to one more examination to determine which one is the most deserving for the Two-wheeler of the Year award. The categories, nominations and winners are as follows.
The judges, as usual, meticulously tested each and every two-wheeler competing for the prize. The line-up for the awards comprised two-wheelers launched from 1 December 2021 to 30 November 2022. Only the winners in each category or sub-segment made it to the shortlist for the Two-wheeler of the Year Award.
The 2023 Bike India Awards panel members took into consideration a number of factors before reaching their conclusions. Points of evaluation included technical innovation, build quality, fuel efficiency, performance, practicality, styling and value for money.
A former racer and prominent automobile journalists made up this year’s jury. Following a two-part voting process, a winner from each category was declared based on the final tally of the ratings provided by each juror. The ballots were sealed, verified, and kept a closely guarded secret by the auditors. The prizes were given to the corresponding manufacturers when the winners were revealed.
As the editor, Kranti Sambhav now oversees Times Drive. His 21 years of experience in the field of motor sport journalism have given him specialised knowledge of two- and four-wheelers. He has also made contributions to programmes with Zee News and NDTV in the course of his work. Kranti is undoubtedly a meticulous inspector who thoroughly tested each vehicle before writing down his findings. He is also an Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) Award jury member.
Rayomand is one of the most productive and successful race-car drivers in the country. By defeating Narain Karthikeyan, he demonstrated his extraordinary potential. In 2003 and 2004, he also won the Indian National Karting Championship. He is encouraging the development of new talent on the track with his Indi-karting series. Moreover, he has coached Jehan Daruvala, an Indian Formula 2 race winner, and currently runs a team in the Indian Touring Car championship.
The editor of both Car India and Bike India is a seasoned professional in the automotive industry with more than 40 years of experience and a 26-year-plus career in motorcycle racing. He was one of just two Indians to compete in the Isle of Man TT races and he was successful at his first attempt, taking home a bronze replica. He is also one of the founding members of the IMOTY.
Joshua is an engineer by education but he decided to pursue his love of riding motorcycles and racing instead, so that he could see for himself what engineering is capable of in the real world. Almost six years ago, he started his journalism career with Bike India and it quickly became clear that he was a natural in this position. He is also an IMOTY jury member.
Motul specialize in the production and distribution of high-performance lubricants for a wide range of applications, including automobiles, motorcycles, and industrial machinery. The company was founded in 1853 and has a long history of developing innovative products that meet the demands of high-performance engines and machines. Motul have a reputation for producing high-quality lubricants that are designed to provide maximum protection and performance. The company’s products are used by professional racing teams and enthusiasts all over the world who rely on them for the best possible performance and protection for their engines.
This French brand was born during the Industrial Revolution. The most successful racing teams in the world and some of the largest original equipment manufacturers (OEM) collaborate with Motul.
In addition to their core business of producing and distributing lubricants, Motul are also involved in various other activities related to the automotive and motorcycle industries, including sponsoring racing teams and events, developing new technologies, and promoting safety and sustainability.
S P Group
The Shapoorji Pallonji Group Limited (S P Group), with a long history spanning more than 150 years, are operating in a wide range of industries: real estate, infrastructure (ports, power plants, highways, and tollways, for example), fabrication, EPC (power and steel), Gokak Textiles, construction material (pre-engineered buildings, interior, access flooring), Afcons Infrastructure (marine works, roads, bridges, tunnels, pipelines, and specialist foundation works—piling, drilling, grouting), Forbes and Company, agriculture (biofuels), and many other industries. These are some of the areas where the S P Group is thriving. The construction industry is still at their core. The Group is one of the oldest and most quality-conscious building enterprises in India.
The S P Group have a strong workforce of 60,000 experts, representing around 40 nationalities, who carry out the company’s ideals and commitments in every project. The Group serve clients in more than 50 countries.
Mazars (Knowledge Partner)
An independent and integrated global company, Mazars focus on offering audit, tax, and advice services. Mazars ensured that the judging process was fair and strictly adhered to the guidelines that reflect the Group’s principles and values in every project.
Mirror Now (Telecast Partner)
One of the most-watched news channels on Indian television today is Mirror Now, one of the jewels in the crown of the reputed Times Group. Mirror Now have become the go-to news source for the discerning citizen thanks to their clear, no-nonsense reporting and great insight into the Indian news environment.
Stepper (Lifestyle Partner)
The German eyewear company, Stepper, has traditionally manufactured frames with a focus on comfort. Over 40 years ago, Stepper developed the “design from the bridge” philosophy to enhance the comfort and fit of eyewear. Since the bridge of a pair of glasses bears a major part of its weight, Stepper designers take great care and employ extraordinary skill to ensure a precise fit. Their frames offer good value for the money and are made of high-quality materials at reasonable prices.
Bike of the Year (up to 175 cc): Bajaj Pulsar N160
This is a significant award for our country. When it comes to commuting within the urban jungle, a 175-cc motorcycle is ideal because, in addition to being comfortable and effortless to handle, it also returns more kilometres per litre than a larger motorcycle. The N160 has an outstanding 160-cc engine that produces ample power and torque. With a comfortable riding position and sublime handling, its svelte and fashionable form is not only aesthetically pleasing but also incredibly functional.
The Bajaj Pulsar N160’s digital instrument cluster, LED lighting, and a perimeter frame that offers improved stability and control set it apart from its rivals. The motorcycle’s astounding fuel efficiency makes it a cost-effective option for new riders.
Bike of the Year (up to 250 cc): TVS Ronin
It was clear that selecting a clear winner in this area would be challenging since the competition was robust and close. The jury’s decision to assign points to each of the competitors was an interesting one, but when the results were revealed, the TVS Ronin had amassed the highest total.
This motorcycle features a powerful 225-cc engine that delivers impressive performance while also providing smooth and responsive handling. One of the most notable features of the TVS Ronin is its unique and eye-catching design which draws inspiration from Japanese Samurai warriors. This design aesthetic is reflected in the bike’s sleek and sharp lines as well as in its bold colour scheme.
Adventure Bike of the Year: Suzuki V-Strom SX
Motorcycling is an adventurous sport and the modern ADV gives one the chance to travel off the beaten track, sometimes quite literally. This year’s contest featured two motorcycles and the judges chose the competent Suzuki V-Strom SX as the winner.
Undoubtedly, there are many buyers out there for motorcycles like the V-Strom SX. It offers bright colours, a tall posture, mini-ADV styling, respectable performance, and a light financial burden. It has excellent highway manners and a lot of potential for a motorcycle that costs less than Rs 2.5 lakh (ex-showroom). The 249-cc, oil-cooled, single-cylinder engine that does duty in the Gixxer 250 also powers this one with the same power output.
Bike of the Year up to 300 cc: Honda CB300F
The 300-cc class is an entry point into the premium market; therefore, for a product to succeed here, it needs to be at the top of its game. The contenders in this category must not only be mechanically and dynamically sound motorcycles but they must also provide exceptional value for money in addition to a few extra features that riders upgrading from a smaller machine demand.
The most popular motorcycle among the jury in this regard was the most recent model of the Honda CB300F. The 293-cc, four-valve, oil-cooled engine develops 23.8 hp and 25.6 Nm of peak torque. It comes equipped with a six-speed transmission and slip-and-assist clutch.
Bike of the Year (up to 350 cc): Royal Enfield Hunter 350
Since the 350-cc segment is also one of the entry points into the luxury segment, the products sold here must meet the high expectations of the consumers. The competitors in this category must meet a few other requirements that riders upgrading from a smaller motorcycle look forward to in addition to being a motorcycle that is fun to ride. Taking into consideration all these aspects, the jury responded most favourably to the Royal Enfield Hunter 350. Its aggressive pricing makes it good value for money and its dimensions make it accessible to a large number of customers.
Bike of the Year (up to 500 cc): KTM RC 390
It was clear that selecting a winner in this segment would be challenging. When the results were revealed, the KTM RC 390 received the highest number of points despite the jury having a difficult time deciding how many points to award each of the competitors. Its refreshed styling has come at the right time in this motorcycle’s product life, giving it a drastic makeover that has worked in its favour. This motorcycle impressed everyone with its performance. The 373-cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled engine continues to be the powerhouse it always was. To boost torque and overall rideability, the 2022 model has also benefited from a larger airbox and revised engine mapping. The output is rated at 43.5 hp and 35 Nm of torque.
Bike of the Year (up to 750 cc): Triumph Tiger Sport 660
One of the top motorcycle categories for newcomers to the world of large and multi-cylinder machines is this one. Thus, the winner in this market needs to be amenable to the novice while also being able to provide enough adrenaline to keep the seasoned rider interested. The Triumph Tiger Sport 660 excels as an all-arounder. Although it has the smallest engine in Triumph’s current line-up—a 660-cc, triple-cylinder—it nevertheless manages to generate a respectable 81 hp and 64 Nm of peak torque. The motorcycle also comes equipped with useful rider aids that are indispensable for a new rider in this category. Another highlight of this motorcycle is its low weight and agility that allow less experienced riders to get accustomed to it rather quickly.
Bike of the Year (up to 1,200 cc): Ducati Streetfighter V2
The Ducati Streetfighter V2 was this year’s champion in the premium motorcycle (up to 1,200 cc) category. In this iteration, this amazing motorcycle is an apt younger sibling to the mad Streetfighter V4. Its advantages include, among others, its clever electronics, smooth power delivery, and a firecracker of an engine. Ducati have done a wonderful job with the design in addition to providing the thrills that the Streetfighter V2 is renowned for.
The Ducati Streetfighter V2 is powered by a 955-cc Superquadro V-twin engine that develops 152 hp and a peak torque of 101.4 Nm. The Italian manufacturer also offers a full range of electronics and rider aids, which is a given. Nothing else comes close when you combine those things.
Cruiser of the Year: Harley-Davidson Nightster
Cruisers have always had a special place in the Indian market. They are large and flashy motorcycles with loads of torque and visual appeal. In addition to the style factor, cruisers are also great for covering long distances in comfort. This year’s contenders for the award came from the American icons: Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle, the Nightster and Sportster S from the former and the massive Challenger from the latter. The Cruiser of the Year Award for 2023 was won by the Nightster because it delivered the best combined package in terms of price, styling, comfort, and usability. The blacked-out look and riding position give it a unique look among modern motorcycles. Yet, it retains the cruiser element that Harley-Davidson swear by.
EV Scooter of the Year: Hero Vida V1 Pro
Over the past few years, electric vehicles (EV) have been trickling into the market and, in the two-wheeler space, scooters are leading the charge. Picking one from the latest line-up was tough because each came bearing its own advantages and special features. In the end, the jury bestowed this award upon the Hero Vida V1 Pro because it made the strongest case for itself as an electric scooter that could blend seamlessly into the life of a person who has been using an internal-combustion engine scooter for the longest time. Furthermore, they were also impressed by the Vida V1 Pro’s twin removable batteries because that adds to convenience which is a crucial factor in this segment.
Variant of the Year: BMW G 310 RR
When a motorcycle is well made, it does not need to be refreshed every now and then but timely adjustments and addition of features enable it to keep pace with the times. The BMW G 310 RR is essentially the latest product from the BMW-TVS partnership. The TVS Apache RR 310 has been perfected over the years and in its BMW guise, it features all the latest bells and whistles. Furthermore, it also gets the special BMW livery, making it the most accessible option to enter BMW’s family of faired sport motorcycles. Its prowess on the track and as a road motorcycle has been established beyond doubt. Therefore, it made perfect sense to award it the Variant of the Year title.
Readers’ Choice of the Year: KTM RC 390
This is one award where we do not have a say. This one is decided by you, our readers. Thank you for writing to us and voting for your favourite two-wheeler. It took a while to go through all the votes but we have a clear winner.
The KTM RC 390 in its latest avatar appears to have appealed to most of our readers and rightly so. The new design and the motorcycle’s significant weight loss have transformed it into a desirable road and track machine that also comes equipped with useful features and rider aids. Furthermore, there is a GP edition of the motorcycle in the market and a one-make racing championship is in the offing.
Manufacturer of the Year: TVS Motor Company
The Indian two-wheeler market is highly competitive because our appetite for two-wheelers is immense. To stay relevant in such a demanding field, a manufacturer needs to introduce new products and innovations frequently.
For 2023, TVS Motor Company deserved the Manufacturer of the Year Award. In the past year, the Ronin was their most crucial launch and it has also won the award in its category. Furthermore, they continue to contribute to India’s two-wheeler racing scene and they have the greatest legacy for the same in India.
In addition to making their mark in the Indian market, TVS have been consistently making their presence felt in overseas markets as well. Under their leadership, the Norton brand also seems to be reviving well.
Two-wheeler of the Year: Royal Enfield Hunter 350
The fight was close with three of the contenders jostling one another, but there is always one clear winner. This year, the biggest honour went to the capable Royal Enfield Hunter 350. The Hunter 350 was developed to be an easy city motorcycle and it fills those shoes easily. Its agility and accessible price have already made it a winner among customers too.
Like its siblings, this motorcycle also draws power from the new 350-cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder J-series engine that develops 20.5 hp and 27 Nm of peak torque. Refinement and a healthy torque curve are among the likeable attributes of this one in addition to its handling prowess.
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