Canyon Companions: 8 Great Middleweights For 2023

The new 800cc Suzuki middleweight motorcycle
It’s hard to beat a great middleweight bike. Bikes in the 650cc to 800cc category bring most of the power you need, without the heft or the high prices of bigger bikes. That means you can get a great commuter and a great weekend canyon companion in one. Sure, you’re not going to see MotoGP levels of performance from (most of) these bikes, but that’s not the point of a great middleweight.

For 2023 many manufacturers have updated their bikes or introduced new ones. It seems like the middleweight sector is where many are focusing their attention in 2023.

Aprilia 660

2023 Aprilia 660 Extrema
We know the Aprilia RSV4 is an amazing bike. But, not all of us want 230 horsepower and race bike ergos. So Aprilia launched the 660, a a 100-horsepower twin-cylinder sport bike. It competes with the in-line four-cylinders of the competition very well, thank you. It also has a suite of rider aids, a roomy cockpit that makes it comfortable on the road, and cool Italian styling that lets it stand out.

New for 2023, Aprilia launches the Extrema, the sportiest version of the RS 660. The new bike weighs just 365 pounds, or 166 kilograms, yet it makes 100 horsepower, giving it an Extrema-ly great power-to-weight ratio. The Extrema also ditches the passenger pillion in favor of a single-seat tail section, and comes with software that allows you to set up quick-shifting in an upside configuration so you can play Moto GP racer whenever you want.

Ducati Scrambler Icon

A yellow Ducati Scrambler icon beginner cafe racer.Ducati launched the new Scrambler in 2015 and quickly realized it had a hit. Since then, the bikes have evolved slowly. For 2023, the 803cc mill in the Scrambler makes the same 73 horsepower, but it has more torque than last year’s model. Speaking of the motor, for 2023 it’s lighter and has a new, slimmer, eight-disk clutch and it’s mounted in a lightened trellis frame, which should improve its already quick handling.

Like others on this list, the Scrambler Icon comes with new tech and you can connect your smartphone to manage the bike’s apps and also add a quick shifter, though Ducati’s allows clutch-less up and down shifts. Custom builders should take note: the rear subframe is now easily removable!

Honda CB650R

2023 CB650 R is the only middleweight four cylinder
Every other bike on this list is down at least one cylinder to the Honda CB650R. This middleweight naked bike comes with a 649cc liquid-cooled inline-four cylinder. That sounds like sportbike stuff, and in some ways it is. It makes a respectable 82 horsepower, and it stops thanks to two 310mm full-floating disks.

The Honda is a bit heavier than others on this list, but its willing motor makes it feel quite a bit lighter – though don’t expect it to perform like an RS 660. Honda calls the styling “Neo-Sport Café,” but to our eyes it’s more of a standard. It does, however, come with a cool four-into-one exhaust that makes you think of 1970s CB500s and CB350 Fours.

Kawasaki Z650 and Z650RS

A rider and his green Kawasaki Z650rs beginner cafe racer.
Kawasaki and Yamaha both found success with middleweight streetfighter-styled bikes, and both now make retro versions of those bikes. The Z650 has modern good looks, while the Z650RS does its best impression of a 1970s UJM. Both bikes make enough power, 67 horsepower, to get you up to highway speed and beyond.

Both bikes come with a slipper clutch and traction control, however the Z650 comes with a modern TFT screen while the RS comes with a more traditional gauge cluster. You do pay more for the coolness of the RS, however. It’s about $1,500 more than the streetfighter.

Royal Enfield 650 Twin

Royal Enfield 650 Twin
Royal Enfield has made a name for itself by making bikes that look like they came from 1970, so it’s no surprise that for its 650 range of twins, there’s not a huge update for 2023. In most of the world, the 650 is called the Interceptor, but because Honda owns the Interceptor name in the U.S., the bikes here are simply called the INT 650.

Royal Enfield bikes have quickly become popular for their low price and neutral, fun, handling. The company has drastically improved its build quality compared to its older machines as well. The Continental GT version comes with a cool café kit, which includes a solo seat and clip-on handlebars. Unlike others on this list, the 650s are charmingly devoid of most modern electronics.

Suzuki GSX-8S

The 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S is all new. The Suzuki GSX-8S should be showing up in dealer showrooms about now. The new bike slots in above the SV650 and the GSX-S 750 (which both continue), but has a different character. The new 8S has a 776cc parallel-twin engine that uses a 270-degree crank, with a balancer, for a strong torque curve. It also has a new bi-directional quick shift system that lets you up shift or down shift without the clutch.

While the SV and the GSX-S bikes are starting to look a bit long in the tooth, the new 8S shows that Suzuki is pouring some R&D money into the growing middleweight sector.

Triumph Street Triple 765

2023 Triumph Street Triple gets more power, better brakes, for 2023.

We’re not sure why Triumph triple engines have an intake whistle like they do, but it’s an intoxicating sound when your right hand is cranked toward the pavement. For 2023, the special editions of the Street Triple lineup get all the attention. Triumph upgraded the R and RS trims, and it has now added a Street Triple 765 Moto2 Edition, which brings Moto2 racing levels of equipment to the class.

The R and RS versions now get a more aggressive riding stance, as well as new electronics and brakes to help you control the 120 horsepower in R trim, or 130 horsepower in RS and Moto2 trim. Every Triple now gets a new gearbox with shorter gear ratios and an improved factory exhaust.

Yamaha MT-07 and XSR700

2023 Yamaha MT-07
The Yamaha MT-07 and XSR700 are two versions of the same platform. If you like modern streetfighter styling go with the MT, while fans of traditional bikes will go for the XSR700. Both bikes come with Yamaha’s 689cc parallel twin that makes 73 horsepower.

Fans of the 1970s XT500s should love the XTribute, which adds a bit of disco-era enduro flavor to this street bike. The bikes got a slight overhaul in 2022 that added bigger brakes and retuned forks. For 2023, the MT-07 gets smartphone connectivity and new electronics that allow you to install Yamaha’s Quick Shift System.