Top 10 City/Commuter Motorcycles

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1. KTM 690 Duke

KTM 690 Duke

The 690 Duke is ideally suited for the cut and thrust of commuting. It boasts an incredibly low weight (about 360 pounds full of fuel) and a super-responsive fuel-injected Thumper motor sure to paint a smile on your face on your way to work. In our review of the KTM, we wrote: “There’s perhaps no sprightlier traffic dissector than the Duke.”

In a commuter role, it lacks only standard onboard storage, but there’s ample room to add a tail pack or other similar luggage. Its grunty Single provides instant power, even on freeways, and it’s challenging to get fuel economy to dip below the 50s. Standard ABS helps keep it shiny side up, rain or shine. Priced at $8999, it might be impossible to find a more amusing bike for you ride to work.

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  • Piglet2010

    The Bonnie feels like a tank when pushing it around the garage, but the combination of standard seating position, reasonably short wheelbase, low-end torque, progressive and light clutch, proper fueling, and an easy to modulate back brake makes it very easy to do tight U-turns, slow speeds in parking low, and tight weaves using a brake-torque technique. And the narrow, round section tires make turning at higher speeds while steering around potholes and manhole covers effortless. And the Bonnie will not cook your legs, unlike some other air-cooled bikes.

    • rudedog4

      The Bonneville is air and oil cooled as well. I’ve ridden mine to work almost every day since I picked it up earlier this month, and when I keep the speed under 60, I’ve gotten as high as 50 mpg.

  • Rick Vera

    I think this list was quite comprehensive and hit everything quite nicely. I think the NC700X is probably the best commuter, period, and as you said is a natural choice. A few others worth mentioning: Kawasaki Versys, Kawasaki Ninja 650, Suzuki SVF650 and Yamaha FZ-09. Of course, given that there can only be ten on the list, I’m not surprised that these weren’t necessarily picked over the ones you’ve chosen.

    One that I am surprised with is the Vulcan 900 LT. Even though Star’s 950 Tourer has a bit less ground clearance, I feel with their more capacious saddle bags that also lock combined with their more extensive OEM accessories which further enhance its commuter role (luggage rack, lowers, etc), that the Star should have edged out the Vulcan.

    Lastly, I’m also surprised the only proper mid-size sport-tourer on the market (until Yamaha reads my mind and makes a mid-size FJR using their new triple) after Honda’s canceled NT700V didn’t make it on the list, the BMW F800GT. For those of us who have no choice but for their bike to live outside all of the time, not having to deal with chain-drive maintenance is a big plus. BMW’s belt-driven, faired, sport-standard with ABS and optional traction control and factory luggage—both saddlebags and top case—is quite an attractive option and I’m surprised it didn’t edge out something like the Aprilia Mana.

    • Piglet2010

      How many NT700Vs did Honda sell in the US – 17 or 18?

      Just went over 10K miles on my “Dullsville”, and the only downside as a commuter bike is the relatively high seat height and center-of-gravity, so you need to make sure you have good footing when you come to a stop.

  • Ed

    I am very surprised that the Kawasaki Versys did not make your list! I ride it to work quite often and it’s one CAPABLE bike both on the highways and local streets– agile, nimble and most of all FUN to ride. I also had the TU250X before the V and enjoyed it. The downside was power, or lack of it on the expressway, but around town, it’s great!

    • Kevin Duke

      The Versys is another great commuter choice!

  • Brad

    My Speed Triple is a fantastic commuter. Comfy riding position and saddle. Excellent visibility. Lithe, nimble, and responsive. Equally flickable on side streets, twisties, and highways. Phenomenal machine.

    • Kevin Duke

      Yep, that’s another one that made it late into our final voting.

  • dustysquito .

    Seems like a weird list, but there’s some nice bikes on it. I’m a little surprised that the Ninja 1000 made the cut instead of the Ninja 650. Better fuel economy, lighter weight, and it still has more power than you legally need on the highway. The Ninja 1000 is more sport touring than “commuter.”

    • Kevin Duke

      Yeah, I voted for the Ninja 650, but my colleagues reminded me that many commuters in SoCal have to travel long freeway distances.

      • Kevin

        This was probably one of those times when you should have gone with a list of more than 10. There are just too many great bikes out there for this to mention them in a list as short as 10. I personally prefer some thing with liquid cooling for commuting but a lot of guys will carp about too much extra weight because of it.

  • Doug Erickson

    No CTX700? No Grom/MSX 125? No BV 350?

    The Hyperstrada and Ninja litre bike are really pushing it. Low speed, low CoG, and high maneuverability are everything in urban commuting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1481435775 Jeffrey McCollum

    And this shows what is wrong with motorcycling in America. the only bike that should be on the list is the Suzuki TU250. Small, frugal, nimble. Maybe Honda’s PCX150 ? CBR 250 CRF250, Kawasaki Ninja 300 as well as other easy, frugal offerings

    • Keith Lamb

      The problem with the CBR, CRF and Ninja is they can’t carry anything. It’s difficult to commute when you don’t have anywhere to store your lunch on the ride and jacket, gloves when you get to work. Scooters like the PCX are perfect for commuting because of underseat storage and low cost. If you’re going to commute on a bike, you want it to be a cheap bike since you’ll be putting so many miles on it without having as many smiles as you’d get on the weekend.

  • barney fife

    That Honda NC700X is, with a doubt, the all time ugliest bike ever produced. It represents everything that is wrong about the majority of modern bike designs.
    Apparently the designer was congenitally incapable of drawing an organic line.

    • Jamison

      I disagree. I think it looks fantastic. So we can agree to disagree on this subject. :-)

  • Jeremy

    The DR-Z400SM with a tail bag is my urban/commute bike. Need to jump a curb to get around traffic or construction? No problem. It also averages 60+ mpg.