The 2018 motorcycle model year started out strong with the launch of the Yamaha Star Venture in June 2017 at the big Americade rally in New York. From there the pace picked up with Harley-Davidson’s reveal of eight new Softails with all-new chassis, rear suspension and 107 or 114ci Milwaukee-Eight V-twins (the more recently released Sport Glide makes nine).
Read our 2018 luxury touring shootout: Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra vs
Indian Roadmaster vs Yamaha Star Venture TC
Then Rider traveled to Japan in October 2017 for a first ride on Honda’s new Gold Wing and Gold Wing Tour, the first major revamp of that iconic model since 2001, which now features a double wishbone front end, 90 pounds less weight, Apple CarPlay and more.
Most of the other manufacturers have been hard at it building exciting new stuff as well—by our count more than 100 new models were introduced as 2018s, including a pair of exotic Vitpilen singles from Husqvarna and the affordable Royal Enfield Himalayan ADV machine. Very few models were dropped from lineups, too, leaving us with an unprecedented selection of new 2018 bikes from which to choose.
Picking one of these machines for our top honor is often a tough decision, but thankfully one manufacturer simplified the task this year by introducing a grand new version of its flagship model that made our vote unanimous.
As always Rider chose the Motorcycle of the Year from the list of all new or significantly changed motorcycles designated 2018 models, some of which are included in The Contenders section. The winner is usually the one motorcycle we think succeeds best at its intent and lengthens the list of history’s truly great motorcycles.
Manufacturer production and test bike availability varying as it often does, we may not have had the opportunity to ride every 2018 model before we needed to pick one as the MOTY in time for this issue.
And though we may have actually ridden several early release 2019 models before it was time to select the MOTY—the Yamaha Niken, for example—since they’re not 2018 models they’re not eligible for this year’s award, though we will include them in next year’s considerations.
No matter who wins, every new bike adds fuel to the riding fire and more potential for great rides and adventures. Congratulations to all of the manufacturers for bringing this year’s exciting selection of bikes to market.
Here are some of the top contenders for Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year, followed by the winner.
BMW G 310 GS
Read our 2018 BMW G 310 GS First Ride Review
Big adventure sometimes comes in small packages. BMW’s mini GS is based on the G 310 R and has the same 313cc, 34-horsepower single, but it’s a doppelgänger of the larger globetrotting R 1200 GS.
Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Touring
Read our 2018 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Touring First Ride Review
Ducati’s largest Multistrada originated its “4 bikes in 1” concept for sport, touring, urban and enduro riding. For 2018 it has received a displacement bump from 1,198cc to 1,262cc in the Testastretta DVT L-twin, as well as chassis, suspension and running gear updates.
Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic
Read our 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Heritage Classic Road Test Review
The tourer among the new-for-2018 Softails, the Heritage Classic has a low seat height, is available with a 107ci or 114ci V-twin and comes with standard cruise control and ABS, a new detachable windshield, lockable, water-resistant saddlebags, more suspension travel and load capacity and a 5-gallon tank.
Indian Scout Bobber
Read our 2018 Indian Scout Bobber First Ride Review
The Scout Bobber takes a dark, less-is-more approach to styling, with less chrome and fewer shiny components, clipped fenders and a more aggressive riding position. The non-adjustable fork offers the same 4.7 inches of travel, but it now has a cartridge design for better compliance.
KTM 1290 Super Adventure S
Read our 2018 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S Road Test Review
Power-hungry sport-touring adventure riders need look no further. KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure S has the same 160-horsepower, 1,301cc V-twin in the off-road-focused 1290 Super Adventure R, but swaps the R’s spoked wheels for cast and gets a semi-active suspension upgrade to make it street-ready.
Suzuki V-Strom 1000
Read our 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 First Ride Review
Suzuki’s big Strom trooper adventure bike has refreshed styling, Suzuki’s Easy Start and Low RPM Assist systems for 2018, and the new V-Strom 1000 also gets Suzuki’s “Motion Track Brake System” (a.k.a. cornering ABS).
Triumph Tiger 1200
Read our 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCA First Ride Review
For 2018 Triumph’s biggest Tiger loses the “Explorer” moniker as well as 22 pounds, and gains more power down low as well as cornering lighting, a new TFT display, all-LED lighting and more. It’s available in six adventurous flavors: XR, XRx, XRx Low Ride Height (LHR), XRT, XCx and XCA.
Yamaha Star Venture
Read our 2018 Yamaha Star Venture Road Test Review
Yamaha has jumped back into the luxury-touring game in a big way with the all-new Star Venture, which is loaded with comfort, convenience and buckets of traditional V-twin grunt from its air-cooled, 1,854cc V-twin, as well as 144 liters of luggage capacity, an electric windscreen, comprehensive electronics package and more.
And the winner is…
Honda Gold Wing Tour
Read our 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour First U.S. Ride Review
When Honda pulled the wraps off the new 1975 Gold Wing GL1000 at the Cologne show in 1974, the shock and awe must have leveled the room. Instead of the next salvo in the superbike war with Kawasaki’s 903cc Z1, Honda had followed up its game-changing 1969 CB750 with a liquid-cooled, 999cc flat opposed four with shaft final drive that promised unheard-of levels of smoothness, reliability and comfort.
It may have started out to simply trounce the competition, but instead Honda had created a new flagship for the company it believed was destined to be the “King of Motorcycles.”
How did the new Gold Wing stack up against the BMW K 1600 GTL? Find out here.
Within a few years the Gold Wing did indeed become the king…of touring motorcycles. As more features were integrated and the engine grew in size and cylinders to a flat six, thanks to its combination of smooth, stump-pulling power, excellent handling for its size, luxurious, wind-protected comfort for two and class-leading convenience features, from the late 1970s until the new millennium Honda’s Gold Wing was by far the dominant force in the heavyweight touring category.
Over the years the Gold Wing also grew in size and weight, and its rider demographic aged, earning the bike a reputation as a “couch on wheels” and an “old man’s bike.” Sales leveled off and some were lost to faster and lighter competition and the rising popularity of traditional V-twin tourers. While the 2017 GL1800 still provides a stellar combination of two-up comfort, power and handling, the bike has been overdue for a revamp.
The 2018 Honda Gold Wing takes an entirely new approach to luxury touring, once again emphasizing overall competence, power, handling and lower weight like the earlier Wings.
The new bike is shorter and sheds almost 90 pounds, yet maintains its signature roomy rider and passenger accommodations. The lighter, more compact 1,833cc flat six has more peak horsepower and torque, and all-new bodywork is sleeker with taut new styling.
The bike’s electronics are state-of-the-art, with throttle-by-wire, four riding modes, C-ABS/traction control, electronically adjustable suspension and windscreen, Bluetooth and a fully featured infotainment and navigation system that includes Apple CarPlay.
Two models, a Gold Wing Tour with a top trunk and sportier Gold Wing without, have varying levels of equipment and the choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or 7-speed dual-clutch (DCT) automatic—you can even get an airbag in the the top-line Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag model.
In focusing the new Wing’s design back-to-the-future on a leaner, sportier profile and contemporary electronic and convenience features, Honda is reshaping the market for the Gold Wing, determined to abolish its “couch on wheels” reputation once and for all while still providing an exemplary luxury touring experience.
We’d say it has succeeded in spades, well enough in fact to earn our highest honor.
And yet the west coasters are flying the rising sun again-jaded?…..nah-
There is a little german company with a 6 cylinder touring and sport touring machine that was obviously not included here….i wonder why
Perhaps they didn’t pay enough money to the publishers/editors?
Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year award is limited to current model-year motorcycles that are new or significantly changed. The BMW K 1600 GT and GTL won the award in 2012, the year they were introduced.
you guys were so nice to such a,,,, ,,,,,
I bought a 2018 BMW K1600 GTL and was sorely disappointed in the suspension. It was too harsh at best, and frenetic at worst – and I tried every possible combination multiple times. When I brought it into the dealer they told me that’s just the way it is. I also learned dynamic traction control would cut power midway through aggressive lean angled turns. That proved to be just as disappointing as the GTL’s suspension issues.
One long 2-hour test ride of the ’18 Goldwing revealed they had all that and more much better sorted out. The BMW’s engine is still truly amazing, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say the suspension was “bad,” but I would say it should and could be better. The Honda was surprisingly every bit as agile as the GTL. Also, the power is engineered more for ease of use rather than amazing power up through high-speed high-revving performance like the BMW. But that flat-6 Honda engine, and the entire Goldwing, has such a low center of gravity it’s amazingly confidence inspiring and easy to ride at any speed. In the end, I happily traded in my ’18 GTL for an ’18 Goldwing and I’m LOVING it.
Good on you Neil. Ive got one also (2018 Honda Wing) and love it more than any m/c I’ve ever owned. It does everything very well. Performance, comfort, smoothness and best of all GREAT handling! It now has almost 6k on it and it’s my main mode of transportation. Can’t stay off the darn thing and my wife loves riding on it too……..nice job Honda! 👍😊🇺🇸
Yes, I agree with Dennis Smith and say congratulations to you too!!! Having owned a 1983, 1993, 1988, 2001 and 2003 Goldwing (all new when purchased) I almost bought a BMW GTL until heard Honda FINALLY had a new Wing. I am so thrilled with my 2018 Goldwing Tour for all of the reasons Rider made it Motorcycle Of The Year and the a whole lot more! Was skeptical about the DCT but now I. love it! 😁 My wife liked it so much that she bought a silver 2018 Goldwing for herself. 🤘
What an interesting choice. If the unit of analysis is confined to the bike itself, I can understand why the new Wing is being honored. However, if the performance indicators extend to its relationship to the world within which the bike exists? Not so much. Not factoring in the purchase price and cost of ownership (and projected utility) is like honoring Mar-a-Lago as the best place to access our tax dollars. That would likely be true . . . but, not for me. And likely, not for you – right?
Sound decision but still like the new Beemer/baggers for feel/function.
I’ve ridden a wide variety of bikes over the past 40 years and I have to agree with the choice of the new Gold Wing. I test drove a number of bikes including the BMW K1600. I purchased the new 2018 Gold Wing and I’m convinced that this is probably the best engineered bike. The wishbone front suspension makes the ride amazingly smooth. I also found that when you put the bike in Sport Mode, it’s like riding a whole new bike. The performance is exceptional. Gas mileage is pretty good when in Tour or Eco mode. It’s unfortunate that they had to sacrifice the size of the tank but you still get over 420 KM (260 Miles) per tank.
I think you made a good call on this one. I’m looking forward to seeing how other manufactures step up their game to compete. It’s a good time to be a rider.
I agree with the decision.
Put 50K on a 2009, good bike, but a bit too heavy and definitely like riding a sofa. Too hot for the rider in hot weather due to air flow around the large radiators.
New one is lighter, visually sleeker, but retains all the good points.
The 2018 Honda Wing is impressive, rode a few over the years, and hats off to the company. However riders have never had some many great bikes to choose from. And displacement keeps growing, with the new HD Softtails at 107, and 114. Rode the 107 and was impressed. The Beemer is also deserving with smooth power band and athletic handling. However I fell in love with the stripped version of the Venture (2017 Raider) with the big air cooled 113 V-twin, and purchased. Added bags and shorty windscreen. The Raider with mostly all aluminum frame and low centre of gravity handles the corners exceptionally well, with gobs of class leading torque it flies and sounds great. One of the best values out there. These really are the best of times to ride hard and long, cheers!
I want a V-Strom. Just different, I suppose.
Well I would not buy either the K 1600 or the Honda but certainly not the Goldwing until they take their version of the paralever front end and solve the glaring issues the new models demonstrated when reviewed by many on You Tube. Way too much engineering with comfort as the goal rather than durability . As for the Beemer, anything I can drop in my driveway and break four grand worth of parts is no use to me. I will be riding GS beemers I guess till the end of time and just for fun take the money I saved from these monster cruisers and buy my Triumph Street Scrambler with the savings. Now I am a happy camper for any kind of touring I might conjure up .
Traxxion Dynamics is just trying to get people to buy their product by creating an “issue” which does NOT exist. My 2018 Goldwing is smooth and handles fantastic! Rides just like my wife’s Honda VFR. The guy making the videos is such a negative individual and frankly I think he should be sued by Honda for slander.
But it’s your decision. Buy a Goldwing or believe Debbie Downer.
Agree on the great 2018 GWT ride. Saw the traxion YouTube after I had bought and ridden my bike and immediately thought exactly as you do. Manufacturing an issue to create business. I’ve had at least 25 bikes of all types over my lifetime (starting when I was 14). My 2018 Honda Goldwing Tour DCT is just terrific and the ride is great.
Just purchased a new goldwing tour with the DCT transmission. I’ve sat on the previous version goldwing and it felt heavy and awkward for me. The new version has upset the apple cart and brought me into the fold. What a fine bike that exhibits excellent road manners, good fuel economy and a transmission to die for. Couldn’t be happier!!
I have over 45 years on 2 wheels and have ridden so many bikes but none that compare to my 2018 wing. I had a 2013 F6B and thought the world of it until I rode the 2018. It cannot be put into word’s!!!
Other manufacturers are trying hard but this is the one to beat imo. I have ridden the new HD’s with their so called improved motor???? Really Harley it’s a oversized lawn mower engine that is gutless. I have ridden the BMW 1600 and yes it has power but comfort and handling for me was not their.
Harley doesn’t know what handling is or brakes for that matter either along with the new Yamaha with a massive V twin that is very nice but the bike feels like a mack truck. My hats off to Honda for a motorcycle that can do it all and priced right with nothing else needed !!!!
How does the goldwing compare to the HD Ultra Linited?
I have been on 2 wheels for over 45 years ridden many bikes but none like the 2018 wing. Other manufacturers are trying hard to up their touring models. I have ridden the BMW 1600 yes it’s fast but for me not comfortable and suspension is just okay for me. The new Yamaha big boys as I call them are very nice but has a heavy feel to it kind of the mack truck feel of HD. Another company trying to move up but in my world let’s spend up 40.000 dollars on that screaming eagle and then need more cash to make it perform and the brakes suck!
I think Honda nailed it with the revamp of the gold wing and the price point for what you get it’s a no brainer. So much comfort, power and handling along with other cool options.
Why is there no Kawasaki motorcycle in all the testing you people did with all these bikes? I realize the Voyager is no Goldwing but it is a very good cruising motorcycle. It surley compares to the BMW . Any and all remarks are welcome please.
I have a DCT Tour 2018 Honda Goldwing. It is the best tour bike I have evr owned. The DCT is the game changer. It makes riding FUN AGAIN
I love the DCT in my NC 700x. I drive the urban / freeway mix of LA and the SF Bay Area. Never tried a Gold Wing. With the slimmed down 2018 Gold Wing, is it still too big to be considered a commuter bike for lane splitting urban freeways?
I’m wondering why the Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE wasn’t listed among the contenders for motorcycle of the year. Kawasaki has brought supercharger technology into the sport touring category and this motorcycle is an amazing piece of machinery. It offers exceptional acceleration, handling, and touring all in one bike.
all luggage capacity of the wing shrunk , you can not even get 2 fullface helmets in the trunk!? It has a taller seat height. I’ll pass. the front susupension design completely disconnects you from the road, very vanilla , you can’t feel anything. It floats like a boat. It looks good, runs good. That’s about it.
We flew into Denver from Phoenix on a Tuesday. Uber took us to Longmont where we picked up a slightly used 2018 DTC.
With the persistent wind at time concerning, our ride was wonderful.
Best bike we’ve ever owned👍😎