At Motorcycle.com, we love play riding in the canyons and enjoy a day at the track, but we realize the majority of time we spend on bikes consists of commuting from point A to point B, darting through the city and handling whatever errands possible that don’t require a four-wheeler.
It’s for this reason we’ve compiled a list of 10 city/commuter bikes we think are good choices to handle the daily grind. The criteria for this list were for a narrow and agile machine to squeeze or maneuver through tight situations while being relatively comfortable and capable of freeway travel. Bonus points were given for having storage space or provisions to easily fit aftermarket luggage. As usual, we’re sticking with new models while trying to maintain diversity for all types of riders.
Now, in no particular order, is our Top 10 city/commuter motorcycles. Have a suggestion for this list? Tell us in the comments section below.
10. Honda NC700X
Honda’s versatile NC700X is a natural choice for this list because of its commanding upright riding position and the built-in storage compartment in the faux fuel tank that can easily swallow a full-face helmet. The wide handlebars allow you to throw the bike wherever it’s needed, while its slim profile is great for splitting lanes (if you’re in California, anyway). As an added bonus, the NC returns excellent fuel mileage, and optional luggage provides ample room for groceries, though we’d opt for just the top case for commuting duties.
Perhaps the Honda’s biggest strong suit, however, is its optional second-generation Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). With it, you have the option to shift at the press of a button, or not shift at all and let the bike handle it for you. If slogging through the city congestion sounds like a chore from all the shifting and clutching involved, this option should be particularly appealing. Those looking for more of a feet-forward riding experience could also consider Honda’s new CTX700.
9. Zero S
Electric motorcycles thrive in city/commuting situations. Take the 2013 Zero S for example. For starters, it’s narrow and lightweight, making it excellent for getting in and out of traffic. Beyond that, the 54 horses and 68 ft.-lb. provide plenty of thrust to escape the onslaught of cars behind you when the light turns green, all without the need to shift – simply twist your wrist and go.
And in case you’re wondering about range, electric motorcycles get their best mileage in city traffic, as each time you’re coasting or braking, the regenerative effect is adding a tad more juice back into the batteries. Realistically, if your needs take you through the city often with occasional or brief highway use, returning at least 70 miles should be possible. What does this mean? That you can take your preconceived notions about e-bikes and throw them out the window. The Zero S definitely belongs on this list.
Oh, and from personal experience, we know the on-board zippered storage compartment easily holds at least six Gatorades.
8. Kawasaki Ninja 1000
The saddlebags are optional on the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 above, but with them the Ninja 1000 is a creditable and versatile commuter, especially if your travels include plenty of freeway miles. The fully-faired version of the Z1000, the pair share the 1043cc four-banger which definitely isn’t lacking for power. Cockpit accommodations are friendly and comfy, with an adjustable windscreen and pegs set at a mildly sporty position.
Slap a tank bag on the Ninja and it’s a great everyday motorcycle. If we were to gripe, it is slightly wide, which could prove a hindrance in certain situations. Overall, however, the Ninja is a throwback to the Universal Japanese Motorcycle, which is a good thing when talking about city/commuter bikes.
7. Aprilia Mana
A relative sleeper on this list, the Aprilia Mana doesn’t get much of the spotlight, but it meets the criteria we’re looking for here and does it well. The ride position is commanding with its low pegs and upright bars that give lots of leverage. Power comes from a 839cc V-Twin sourced straight from the Gilera GP800 scooter (they share the same parent company, Piaggio), which means the Mana also shares the CVT gearbox from the scoot as well.
Is the Mana a glorified scooter? Maybe, but consider this: shifting can still be done at the push of a paddle on the handlebar into one of seven gears. Or you can switch it to full auto and use your left hand to sip a latte on your way to work. When you’re done, stow your Thermos, along with your lunch, and whatever else, in the faux fuel tank storage compartment. Accessory luggage is also available if you need more space. Really, for getting around town or to the office, the Mana deserves more attention.
6. BMW C650 GT
Tom’s review of the BMW C650 GT perfectly explains why this scooter is on this list. Instead of feeling vulnerable on the freeway, the C650’s ample power inspires confidence to zip around cars and tour busses with ease. Then once off the highway, the BMW’s agility was surprising while carving canyons or going through a roundabout.
Being a scooter, there’s no shortage of storage, as the two glove compartments can hold small things like wallets or phones, and the underseat storage area is able to swallow two — two — full-face helmets! Of course, shifting isn’t an issue either, giving you one less thing to worry about on the daily commute. BMW categorizes its scooters under the Urban Mobility moniker, making its addition to this list an easy one.
5. Ducati Hyperstrada
We see lots of motard-type bikes in major cities. Makes sense: they’re light and nimble, and produce good torque from their Thumper engines. But dirtbike seats aren’t very comfy for longer rides, plus there’s no wind protection or storage capacity for that matter.
Enter the Ducati Hyperstrada. A slightly larger version of the motard, the 821cc V-Twin Hyperstrada is equally as useful as a dedicated motard through the city, but its broader seat and reasonable wind protection make for painless freeway jaunts. Capacious textile saddlebags provide room for whatever you need to lug around. The Strada version of the Hypermotard is a great compromise between motard fun and real-world practicality.
4. Kawasaki Vulcan 900 LT
For the cruiser set, the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 delivers a nice mix of power, comfort and maneuverability in a package that’s not too hard to manage in the city. And, with the LT version, some stowage capacity and wind protection. Its 903cc V-Twin is plenty capable of tugging along on the freeway, while the bags are more than enough to carry the things you need for the daily grind.
Sure it sounds weird to combine cruiser and maneuverability in the same sentence, but if the previous sporty bikes aren’t your thing, any of the three bikes in the Vulcan 900 lineup will handle themselves well in an urban environment.
3. Suzuki TU250X
The TU250X reminds us of a simpler time when motorcycles didn’t need to run 10-seocnd quarter miles to be relevant. Suzuki’s little retro-standard embodies the basics of affordability and versatility of the Universal Japanese Motorcycle theme. It’s cheap, light and has enough poke to get you around the city without feeling like a rolling chicane. Not to mention it can be configured in a number of different ways – just like the original UJMs.
Its paltry $4399 price tag makes the fuel-injected Thumper a considerable bargain, while its 326-pound curb weight is practically nothing. Plus, if you really want to harken back to the old days, a milk crate and some bungee cords instantly grants you storage space. For the frugal commuter looking for practicality over performance, the TU250X may be all that you need.
2. Triumph Bonneville
“I’ve always said the Bonnie was the perfect commuter bike,” says Jonny, in reference to the Triumph Bonneville. “I used to ride all kinds of bikes from New York to Connecticut, and out of all of them, the Bonnie was just ideal. So light, easy and comfortable.”
That kind of endorsement from our resident cruiser guy speaks volumes to the versatility of the Triumph Bonneville. When it comes to city riding or commuting, we’ve always liked its compact package, combined with the parallel-Twin that’s loaded with character – especially with a pipe. It works great for getting to and from the office, and as you can see in the picture above, there’s a host of aftermarket accessories available if you want to take it further.
1. 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.