Bike of the Year

What is our 2019 Bike of the Year?

You will be stunned by our choice for the 2019 Bike of the Year! Read on.

Unlike previous years, I have not ridden a lot of the new bikes this year. Manufacturers don’t seem to like what I have to say, so they don’t readily supply them.

Reviewing new bikes is getting fairly pointless, anyway. Each year bikes get that little bit better, lighter, more economical, faster, etc.

Even on paper, there are no huge advances in performance.

As for style, that’s down to personal preference.

Suzuki Katana is a rider’s delight online Bike of the Year
MBW on the Suzuki Katana launch … a great bike that divided riders over its styling

So the exercise of naming a bike of the year seems fairly pointless.

For example, how could an adventure bike win over a sport bike, cruiser, tourer, naked, neo-classic, etc?

And each year there seem to be new niches being added to the market to target new riders.

So for me, the bike of the year is not the fastest, most powerful, prettiest, most technological, best value, the biggest seller, etc.

In fact, the bike we have chosen seems to have been a bit of a sales flop and is quite expensive. It isn’t even available in Australia yet!

So here goes … drumroll please.

2019 Motorbike Writer Bike of the YearHarley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric!

This is a landmark bike in our beloved industry.

It’s the first full-size electric road motorcycle from a traditional motorcycle company.

While the others have talked about electric motorcycles and shown us some future designs and working concepts, Harley got in and produced it.

Ok, it’s been a bit of a sales flop.

The bike was supposed to be released in September, but deliveries were delayed.

Then they had to temporarily halt production to fix a fault with overheating chargers.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle electric highways
LiveWire on a DC fast charger

When they did arrive in US showrooms, customers did not exactly flock to buy them at $US30k (about $A44k).

They won’t even arrive in Australia until “late” in 2020.

And when they do, they may cost more than a full-dresser Ultra Limited tourer!

But not only is the LiveWire an historic landmark in our industry, it’s also a damn good ride.

I tested one around the streets of Portland, Oregon, and into the mountains and forests around the town.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle
Portland bike launch

It looks great, it’s lightning fast, super-smooth, handles very well, has loads of electronic gadgetry, it’s comfortable and brakes are exceptional given the added assistance of enormous electric motor back-torque.

Read our full review here.

DrawbacksHarley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle soundtrack

Apart from the price, the drawbacks are limited range (235km city, 152km highway), about 11 hours to charge off the mains and limited fast-charging infrastructure.

These issues will slowly be overcome with rapid advances in battery technology. Cleverly, Harley will be able to update easily its battery and even its supplier.

The LiveWire won’t change the minds of those who don’t like the idea of electric motorcycles. That includes those who simply want a bike to make noise, even though the LiveWire has a pleasant “whooshing” turbine sound.

Despite finding the LiveWire exciting to ride and admiring the tech, I certainly wouldn’t own one. I still love the pulse and feel of a conventional bike.

In fact, the bike I am most looking forward to riding in 2020 is the insane 208hp Ducati Streetfighter V4!

But I’m glad an established motorcycle company finally made the leap of faith with a proper electric motorcycle.

Let’s face it; electric motorcycles are inevitable, especially with countries such as Sweden planning to ban all fossil-fuel-powered vehicles from 2030.

Our decision will not be popular, but it will cause controversy and it will get people talking about the future of motorcycling. 

Let’s hope the LiveWire paves the way for a future of interesting and exciting motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

What was your choice for 2019 Bike of the Year? Do you agree/disagree with our choice? Leave your comments below.

  1. Obvious they sponsored this decision
    fancy selecting a bike with limited travel distance , that not even available to your prime audience
    Well Done
    nobody could ever dispute this choice ( no in Aus anyway)

  2. Are you guys old enough to remember when Wheels car mag gave their COTY award to the Leyland P76?
    Egg on their face too.

  3. Obviously we as a a group have diverse requirements. But a couple of points .1 motorcycles are a visceral experience encompassing speed noise and diverse road conditions. 2 I congratulate your bravado but to nominate a bike that is not available, no history of reliability and no support. Please help the buying public.! As a mature rider I am surprised the push isn’t toward more adaptive suspension. If you want to push the electric bike maybe look to china mass market not as sexy

  4. Hi Mark I agree BOT pretty pointless exercise but I guess sells mags. I agree very much a personal point of view, but what is more important is calling out any dogs! Although I don’t really think there are many now not like the 70’s where there were plenty. I like your choice of the Harley electric as an owner of a pretty rapid electric car once infrastructure is sorted the jump to bikes could be a game changer! Happy New Year and to Mrs MBW, from kiwi land keep up the honest reporting! Enjoy greatly the read…..

  5. From what I’ve read the Zero SR/F is a better bike in nearly every way and much cheaper. Why the Harley over the Zero? Is it because they pulled Zero sales in Australia due to a general lack of interest in electric bikes? I cant see Harley doing any better here.

  6. Good call Hinchy, I agree with you. A BOTY has to be groundbreaking in some way, and the LiveWire certainly is that. H-D deserve kudos for spending the money for what will surely be little return – in the short term. Long term will be another story I think and do I need to point out that no other ‘major’ manufacturer has even mooted an electric? Ballsy move.
    Everyone: dealers, journos and punters that I have spoken with loves the riding experience, same as you and I did at the launch. However no-one is keen to commit such a large amount of cash for a bike so limited in application. But it is a game changer, no doubt.
    Happy New Year MW
    Neale Brumby editor HEAVY DUTY magazine

    1. Will Harley survive long enough to see gains from ANY of its latest offerings? An ageing demographic, new riders shunning the brand as more and cheaper alternatives hit the market, the ‘stigma’ that’s attached to Harleys of any persuasion (ask anyone to describe a typical Harley rider), dwindling new bike sales and more exciting bikes about to appear (like the Aussie SAVIC – Good luck Harley. At least the Live Wire doesn’t make your ears bleed.

  7. Way too expensive, too limited in range, technology will just progress so quickly it’ll be old hat before you know it. Having said that electric bikes (and cars) will become the norm soon enough (especially when our Government realises they actually exist).
    And it’s still a Harley.
    Can’t wait to see what you think of the Streetfighter V4.

    1. How does the Government figure in this? Surely the market will decided if EV car and bike are the way to go. To date EV are a very small percentage of sales. I note that the EV industry in the UK is predicting 2020 will be a big year for EV sales in Britain. We shall wait and see. While I don’t care if people buy EV cars or bikes, they hold no interest for me. For me IC engines are “alive” with character and noise.

      Also I find it interesting that governments (some) are installing electric charge points along our national highway. Why does the tax payer fund this? Surely when the horseless carriage took over for the horse and buggy the governments of the day didn’t;t build service stations for them?

      I guess all will be revealed in the fullness of time. Energy density will always be an issue with EV.

  8. I loved the HD Livewire & was seriously interested in making it my next motorcycle.
    New technology I’ve allways embraced combined with awesome power delivery without petrol, seriously has me interested still……but the price is too expensive & range restrictive.
    In 10 years I see power outlet infrastructure improving along with range & massively reduced charging times, until then however it’s internal combustion for me.
    I decided more wind protection was required on my 2017 R1200R so the choice was more protection, power, technology & serious riding enjoyment.
    The BMW R1250RS Exclusive is the result & my choice BOTY for 2019.
    I ordered one, taking delivery before the end of August 2019, 6000klms later I can’t stop smiling.

  9. To choose such a non conventional bike as the HD Livewire , it should be exceptional at what it does . It has extreme limitations , especially in a country where it is commonplace to travel long distances . Good on them for having a go , not a realistic choice for bike of the year . The winner should be a ground breaking bike like the Indian FTR ( multiple accolade , and bike of the year winner ) , or a great allrounder like the Kawasaki Z900RS / cafe ( Japans bike of the year 2018 ) , or the all new 150hp Katana . All worthy winners , as are many others , that have proven their worth .

    1. Hi Martin,
      While everyone should be entitled to their opinion I must say you’re totally wrong with those bikes!
      They are derivative and will do nothing to advance the cause of motorcycling.


      1. In a day where everyone is beating a drum for some cause or another , perhaps you have found your calling , with climate change , you and Greta can make a great team . As you seem to have lost the spark , and enthusiasm for Motorcycle Journalism . With comments like , ” reviewing new bikes is getting pretty pointless ” . Bikes are better now , and more focussed than ever before , and to choose a bike the equivalent of a Toyota Prius , but only half as good , that is grossly overpriced and not even available in Australia is pointless . My 2 cents .

        1. Hi Martin,
          Glad I hooked you.
          Been hoping for a bit of discussion on this one.
          Perhaps you missed my point in the article that I wouldn’t own an electric bike.
          Maybe you also missed my point in another article about how the whole-of-life benefit of electric vehicle is yet to be proved (
          As for losing enthusiasm with new motorcycles, that doesn’t mean I’ve lost enthusiasm for riding.
          In fact, the more I ride modern, hi-tech bikes, the more I yearn to ride old bikes because they are more mechanically engaging.
          I think that over the next decade of rider aids and electric bikes there will be a swing back to old-style bikes.
          We saw it with hipsters in the “teens’, maybe it will be more prominent in the “twenties”.

          1. People yell no Petrol , then don’t think about the coal fired power station that pumps out pollution while charging these pretenders . You say , ” The more I ride modern, hi-tech bikes, the more I yearn to ride old bikes because they are more mechanically engaging.” That mentality I share , and is why I suggested the new Katana , and the Z900RS and Cafe . The Z900RS has only ABS and 2 ride modes , other than that they are an honest throwback to earlier days , you say you yearn for . I own a Z900RS Cafe , and you would be surprised just how many riders comment on my great Z1 900 Restoration . Then I point out the radiator , and tell them it is a new bike . Its a real fun bike to ride , that would blitz any stock Z1 , but has the benefits of a great chassis , water cooling , fuel injection , smooth engine and great brakes . I am keen to ride the 150 HP Katana , but fear I may just have to have one . Leave the Sparky bikes to those man bun wearing hipsters , and keep sharing your insights on REAL bikes .

  10. I still think that with the current technology electric bikes are better suited to commuting roles. For bike of the year I would choose the Royal Enfield 650, great performance for the price.

  11. I look forward to a an AFFORDABLE electric motorcycle, with a 19″ front wheel so I can fit some decent tyres to handle the gravel road I live on, as well as a real world 350 – 400 km range. The price being asked by
    Harley-Ferguson for the Live-Wire is just ludicrous. In terms of sales it deserves to fail, at least until it is offered at a sensible price, particularly given the poor build quality of American cars and motorcycles. Tesla cars are also great in theory, but just like Ford, Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge etc. they are beset by quality issues and poor after-sales service. As I produce my own electricity via an off-grid solar system, an electric motorcycle would make perfect sense for me, although I’d still need an alternative vehicle every second day while the EV charges during daylight hours, or better yet an affordable, removable battery pack that can be swapped daily so that one is charging during the day while the other is in use.

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