We MO staffers are gluttonous consumers of motorcycle technology. Active suspension, programmable engine braking, slipper clutch, cruise control, ride-by-wire throttle, quick shifter, etc., anything that makes a motorcycle go faster, handle better or enhance rider comfort opens the drool gates. The downside is that with each technological upgrade is a commensurate increase in price, elevating many modern two-wheelers beyond the financial grasp of the bourgeoisie.
Just as important, if not more so, are the motorcycles on the other end of spectrum; the affordable, nontechnical models that attract new riders into our beloved sport or keep practical riders riding. These are the bikes that perpetuate the reputation of motorcycles as fun, inexpensive modes of transportation.
While Japanese OEMs – apart from Honda and its two (possibly three) new 500cc models under $6k – struggle to offer much in the sub-$6k price range, Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers have sprung up to fill the void. Between them we managed to find 28 models from which to choose that cost less than $6k. Where possible we provided a link to a review of the current motorcycle or a review of a relatively recent model.
Kudos to Honda’s analysts for realizing a gaping hole exists in the U.S. motorcycle topography. Until now new bike buyers were given no choice, outside of purchasing a used model, other than jumping from a four-thousand-dollar 250cc to an eight-thousand-dollar upgrade such as an FZ6 or SV650. Most sub-$6k motorcycles have an engine displacement of less than 300cc. With its three new 500cc models, Honda has effectively doubled this category. Hopefully Big Red will enjoy success with these new models and prompt other OEMs to bring similar bikes to market. We’re still waiting on an official MSRP for the CB500X but it should be priced comparable to its R sibling. Look for full reviews of all three soon.
All things Honda on Motorcycle.com
QLINK dealers are few and far between, but with four Chinese-built models (possibly six) the company boasts the second largest inventory of motorcycles below the $6k threshold. QLINK might not be a household name in the U.S., but the distribution company has a presence in Mexico, Brazil, Hungary, Nigeria, Taiwan, and of course, China, where the bikes are built. And according to the company’s website, it has three stateside distributions centers: Dallas, TX, Los Angeles, CA and Edwardsville, PA.
Hyosung is one of the better known non-Japanese manufacturers and made headlines years back with its SV650 impersonator, the unfaired GT650. A fully-faired GT650R exists, but its $6299 MSRP was too expensive for this list. We’ve tested numerous Hyosung models over the years and have determined them to be affordable alternatives to their Japanese counterparts.
All things Hyosung on Motorcycle.com
The addition of the new-for-2013 GW250 brings Suzuki’s count of affordable models to four. Styled after the now defunct B-King, the naked sporty bike powered by a 248cc parallel-Twin engine complements the cruiser, standard and enduro models in Suzuki’s sub-$6k lineup. Another solid choice from Team S is the TU250X, a throwback to the Universal Japanese Motorcycle template. Unlike many competitors, the 249cc Single powering the TU is fuel injected.
Having spent time aboard the cafe racer-esque, tha Misfit, and its hardtail cruiser counterpart, tha Heist, we’ve become familiar with CCW’s bikes. For 2013, the Misfit has received several small upgrades that address many of our criticisms of the bike. And Cleveland CycleWerks is developing a new platform using a liquid-cooled 450cc Single – the Hooligun 450R and 450X models. Although pricing isn’t confirmed, CCW tells us it’s shooting for an MSRP of $5995 for either model.
If you count Yamaha and Star as separate entities, this means Yamaha has only two models and Star only one in the less-than-$6000 classification. The two from Yamaha are enduro bikes, while the V Star 250 is the long-running competitor (formerly the Virago 250) to Honda’s Rebel. While the XT250 receives a fuel-injection upgrade for 2013, we’d like to see more effort from the tuning fork company in the bargain category. Yamaha said in a recent statement the company plans to introduce 250 new models across its various lines, including motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile, marine and powered bicycles. These new models will also include new low-priced electric motorcycles.
Team Green broke the mold with the introduction of the Ninja 300 this year. The 50cc increase in displacement gives the diminutive Ninja better power – an advantage over its rivals such as Honda’s CBR250 and Hyosung’s GT250R – while maintaining its inviting beginner-bike status. Kawasaki now just needs to add to its fold of inexpensive models because two just isn’t enough. A sports roadster version of the Ninja 250 was recently unveiled in Indonesia, and it’s possible we might see a 300cc version in Europe and North America.
Royal Enfield has six models in its lineup, all of which do not exceed $7k in retail price, but the Bullet 500 B5 is the only model under $6k. Not only is the Bullet B5 inexpensive to purchase, Enfield claims a high return of 85 MPG from its 499cc, air-cooled Single. For 2013 this modern classic boasts a new unit construction engine, improved suspension, better handling and higher cruising speeds. Sounds as though we need to get our hands on one!
Only Cleveland CycleWerks’ tha Heist has a lower asking price for a small-displacement cruiser than Vento’s V-Thunder XL. But then, consider the V-Thunder comes equipped with rear suspension whereas tha Heist does not, and the Vento’s engine is a 249cc Twin compared to tha Heist’s 229cc Single.
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