Many of today's riders are discovering the daily comfort and riding ease that comes from bikes with tinier engines and tidier dimensions. Here are some of the latest bikes, big and small, that provide serious bang for your buck right now.
Base Price: $8,700
It's no secret we have a weakness for Retro-styled bikes. And the new Yamaha SCR 950 hits all the right notes. Just check out the sweet vintage lace wheels and old school number plates. The SCR looks like something that would roll right out of Steve McQueen's garage in the 1970s. The new on-off road scrambler-style machine is based on the bones of the Yamaha Bolt cruiser, including its 942cc air-cooled Twin. But the transformation to SCR was accomplished by adding a taller suspension and handlebars for a comfier riding position.
Of course with relatively modest underpinnings, the SCR won't keep up with the more focused bikes dedicated to dirt sports or backroad hustling. But with an easy-riding personality, classic style, and an estimated 51 mpg, the SCR is a bike that looks like a weekend toy but makes for an excellent daily rider.
Base Price: $4,600
The original Vanvan dates all the way back to the early 1970s, and a reborn version has been sold overseas for several years. But this year we get a chance to swing a leg over this affordable little tyke. Don't expect much power—there's just a 199cc single cylinder thumping away and backed by a five-speed. But because it weighs just 282 pounds, it should be plenty nimble and quite a bit of fun to ride around town.
The Vanvan is built for comfort with a thick, wide seat and upright controls. So here would be a great first bike for someone that doesn't want to spend a lot on their new hobby. The skinny fuel tank helps keep this machine's proportions tidy but with only 1.7-gallons on board don't expect to road trip this bike without lots of pitstops.
Base Price: $10,500
Triumph has long proven that expensive bikes and classic style don't have to go hand-in-hand. Last year the company completely redesigned and modernized the Bonneville lineup with several engine sizes and power outputs. The new Street Cup, based on that Bonne, is like a smaller, cheaper, and friendlier Thruxton. The Cup uses the mildly-tuned 900cc version of the parallel twin engine but engineers included a throatier exhaust system. The Street Cup was designed to look like a faithful recreation of a classic café racer.
And it works. The rider sits low and forward on this bike, thanks to the low handle bars, and hides behind a small flyscreen. But the Triumph crew made some special adjustments to the Bonne's chassis to sharpen its handling, including a unique suspension. And don't let looks fool you. The Cup might look vintage but Triumph has loaded it with modern tech like throttle-by-wire and ABS.
Base Price: $6500
Honda's middleweight sportbike, The CBR500R, is one of those rare bikes with wide appeal. It's a great machine for first time riders as well as seasoned enthusiasts that appreciate the nimble size, low price, and solid handling.
The 471cc parallel twin is smooth and torquey and happy to rev, and the suspension is very comfortable and compliant, whether around town or in the canyons. The CBR500R benefitted from some substantial changes last year including a revised suspension, new styling, and both a new exhaust and intake. Translation? It looks and sounds even better than before. But what hasn't changed is its status has a gateway to sport bike culture.
Base Price: $3000
Honda broke new ground with its Grom minibike back in 2014. It was cute, fun, and quickly became cult hit. The bike was such a success, Kawasaki wanted a slice of that 125cc single-cylinder pie. The new Z125 Pro is ultra-compact and light (225 lbs.) Plus it undercuts that Honda in price. In fact, it's the only bike on our list that dips below $3,000.
The low 31.7-inch seat height means it's an easy machine for riders with nearly any stature. The Z125 certainly looks aggressive and has a sport-style suspension that should make it a blast around town. Of course, if you need to hit the freeway, this little Kawi won't cut it. But it's so small and inexpensive, we could see owning one and parking it right next to a full-size bike as a spunky little errand hopper. Best of all? The Z125 should return close to 100 mpg.
Base Price: $10,000 (gloss black)
Victory motorcycles don't come cheap, and practically never go south of $10,000. But that changes this year with the new Octane. Although not an all-new motorcycle—it shares quite a bit of its mechanical makeup with the Indian Scout 60. But that's certainly not a bad thing because the Scout made our list of best buys last year. The 1200 liquid-cooled V-Twin is a modified version of what powers the Scout. It's also where it delivers 104 hp and 76 lb-ft of torque. The suspension has been calibrated for a sportier feel, too.
Because it weighs more than 100 pounds less than Victory's own Vegas, this lower-priced machine is also one of the quickest and most rewarding to ride in the company's lineup. Compared to the classically-styled Indian, the Octane looks more like a muscled-up street fighter—and we certainly liking that aesthetic.
Base Price: $13,000
Modern sportbikes have the technology, power, and sharp handling to seamlessly make the transition from road to track. But isn't there room for a sportbike that's just a little more comfortable? Apparently so. Ducati has created a sportbike that's friendly to ride every day. The riding position is more upright so less of your bodyweight is focused down on your wrists.
Still, this is still a beastly-quick machine thanks to is 937cc liquid-cooled L-Twin that puts down 113 hp way up at 9,000 rpm. And with just 463 pounds to pull around, it certainly won't be lacking when the road twists. The Supersport comes standard with a system that dials in specific riding and power modes (not unlike a modern high performance sport sedan) and includes traction and ABS.
And since it's a Ducati—the Supersport is one good-looking bike. For those that need a little more, the Supersport S model ($14,795) adds high-performance suspension and clutchless shifting.
Base Price: $9000
Last year Guzzi upgraded the V7 enough to warrant the "II" at the end of its name. What you get in this new V7 is a roomier ride, thanks to a half-inch lower seat and an engine pushed forward in the chassis.
Speaking of the engine, there's a new 750 cc, air-cooled V-Twin linked to a six-speed transmission replacing the old five. And this is no high-strung sportbike powertrain. So here's a bike that always relies on torque and gearing to get riders up to speed rather than top end horsepower. The V7 is no sportbike but that marvelous V-Twin certainly sounds sweet, and The V7 Stone might have a foothold in the past, but it's actually loaded with tech. Guzzi includes ABS as well as traction control as standard equipment, which turns this good deal into a great one.
Base Price: $19,000
The Harley-Davison Road Glide costs some money—that is without debate. The company's biggest bikes always do. But here's the thing, the new Glide is the least expensive bike Harley-Davidson offers with its massive, all-new 107 cubic-inch (1753cc) Milwaukie Eight V-Twin. It's not often that Harley completely redesigns its engines, and this one is significant because it has to carry the company into the future tackling stricter emissions and noise regulations. Harley says the new motor delivers more torque (10 percent) thanks to the four valve heads and a bump in compression. Harley also worked to reduce vibration and heat while also improving fuel economy.
But the new engine isn't the only news here, Harley has redesigned the suspension of the Glide to ride and handle better while also improving the range and ease of adjustability—we that new fairing ain't bad to look at either.
Base Price: $5,500 (est.)
You doesn't typically think of BMW as "cheap" bikes, but the new G 310 R is here to change that. The new bike uses a 313cc liquid-cooled single cylinder that cranks out 34 hp up at 9,500 rpm. And that's plenty because this little bike weighs just 350 pounds. But the thing that makes the new BMW such a standout in this smaller-class of sporty bikes is the high-level of craftsmanship with which it's built. This doesn't look or feel like a budget bike. And like the more expensive BMWs, this one is fitted with ABS standard.
We are particularly smitten by the bike's style—especially when it's wearing the classic old-school BMW white with red and blue stripes paint scheme. BMW hasn't yet announced pricing, but competitors like Honda's CBR300R and Kawasaki's Ninja 300 come in around $5000, so don't expect this one to stray too far outside that pricing neighborhood.