It’s been almost three years to the day since we posted the 10 cheapest bikes of 2014, and, my, has the landscape changed since then. So much so that we thought it necessary to update the list for 2017. Generally speaking, cheap bikes have gone small. Partially due to the uptick in 125cc playbikes sparked by the Honda Grom, but also due to the proliferation of Chinese motorcycles all powered by little engines. Those two clues should give you an idea of the kind of bikes you’ll see in the coming pages.
For this list, just as we did three years ago, we decided to keep things relatively simple and stick with street-legal motorcycles. Also included is the country of origin. Other things of note: Only Kawasaki is represented among the major Japanese manufacturers, as the mighty Honda Grom at $3,299 would have qualified at the number 11 slot. And unlike three years ago, where a loose limit of $4000 covered all the bikes, now just $3200 is needed to purchase any bike on this list – with change to spare! So which bikes are they? Listed from most expensive to least, here’s our list of the cheapest street-legal motorcycles. . .
We have yet to ride the Snake Eyes, but it looks like a machine dreamed up by greasers of yesteryear – not that that’s a bad thing. As far as style points go, it’s definitely one of the cooler-looking bikes on this list, with its spoked wheels, solo saddle, and fuel tank mimicking a hand-built unit made in a buddy’s garage. The trellis swingarm and exhaust exiting from under the engine look trick, too, and based on our impressions of other SSR models we’ve ridden, it should be of decent build quality for a Chinese motorcycle. Power comes from a 250cc air-cooled Single, with a carburetor and five-speed transmission. SSR claims it makes 19 hp.
Another from the SSR family, the XF250 is available in both dual-sport and street trims, varying only in their wheel/tire fitments and color. What you see above is the dual-sport version, with its 18-inch front, 17-inch rear wheels and knobby tires. The street version gets 17s at both ends and appropriate tires. Power comes from the same 250cc air-cooled, carbureted Single used in the Snake Eyes, though their applications couldn’t be any more different. SSR claims fuel mileage from its 2.6 gallons at a rather impressive 75 mpg.
One of the few holdovers from our 2014 list that still made the cut, the Symwolf Classic looks, well, classic in its simple and modest design. That little Single sitting in the middle of the bike displaces only 150cc, making it freeway legal – but only just. Sym says peak power is 14.75 horses and top speed is 65.5 mph, meaning, sure, you could go on the highway, but in reality you probably shouldn’t be on it for very long. At least Sym says the bike will return a respectable 85 mpg. And hey, if Andrew Dost, member of the band FUN. endorses it, then it’s gotta be good… right?
Kawasaki’s answer to the Honda Grom, the Z125 Pro has similarly small dimensions like the Grom, 12-inch wheels and a 125cc, air-cooled Single, but the two bikes are actually quite different. Pegs are higher on the Kawi and tires aren’t as wide, making for a motorcycle that’s more eager to bend into turns. Power is also more top heavy on the Z125 compared to the Grom. But the Kawi’s price is better, and like the Honda, it shares the same quality, reliability, resale value, and dealer support. If you’re looking to graduate to other members of the Kawasaki Ninja family, the Z125 Pro is a good place to start.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been nearly five years since we last rode anything from Cleveland Cyclewerks – Tha Heist and Tha Misfit, to be specific – and we’re happy to say the company is still around. There are even new models, including this, the Ace Standard. With a modest $2,895 price tag, what you get in return is a 229.5cc, air-cooled Single paired to a five-speed box. It’s the same Single powering both of the previous two CCW models we’ve ridden, which put out 11.5 hp and 10.5 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel when we ran Tha Misfit on the dyno. Not mind-blowing numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but CCW takes pride in the design and affordability of its bikes rather than its dyno numbers. And it’s hard to argue against this Ace Standard looking cool.
It’s cafe styling has elements of Triumph Bonneville and old-school Harley Sportster. To help meet the low price point, wheels are chromed steel, front fork is traditional, not inverted, and the rear brake is drum. For an extra $500, the Ace DeLuxe gets you aluminum wheels and triple trees, inverted fork, twin-piston brake caliper (vs. single piston on the Standard) and a larger brake disc.
Not quite dirtbike, not quite mountain bike, the FXr is likely Cleveland Cyclewerks’ most provocative model as it blends the two genres into a single category. Powered by a 123.7cc Single, it holds its gas in the frame, features an inverted fork, single shock, and 21-inch wheels with off-road tires. The headlight, turn indicators, brake light, and license plate bracket give it just enough to meet road-legal status, but a cheaper, not street-legal version, the FXx, is also available for $200 less. CCW’s hooligan bike of choice, the company already has a few choice accessories for the FX line, including a performance exhaust and 17-inch wheels for street rubber.
Three years ago the Qlink XF200 (and its sister model, the XP200 with dual-sport tires) took top honors on this list with its sub $3,000 price tag. Powered by a 199cc air-cooled Single, claimed to put out 15 horses, the XF impressed MO alum Pete Brissette during his time with it, although admittedly his bar wasn’t set very high. Nonetheless, the Qlink does feature dimensions more similar to other full-size motorcycles, so if you feel the Grom-type playbikes are too small for you, then the XF could be a viable option.
Here’s yet another dual-sport motorcycle from China, this time the CSC TT250. We’ve had relatively good experiences with CSC products in the past, having tested both the RX3 adventure bike and RC3 sport bike, but we have yet to ride the TT250, CSC’s least expensive offering. Featuring a counterbalanced, carbureted, air-cooled 229.5cc Single and five-speed transmission, the TT250 is by no means a speed demon. However, it does get a new digital speedometer for 2017, so you can keep track of the modest speeds its claimed 16 hp and 13.5 lb-ft will get you. An 18-inch rear and 21-inch front are fitted with knobby-ish tires, ready for some light-grade off-roading.
Like the Qlink in the previous spot, if a full-size motorcycle appeals to you more than the mini bikes like the Z125, and bottom dollar is key, then the TT250 is also worth a look. And unlike other bikes on this list, which may have questionable after-sale support, CSC has an office space and warehouse in Southern California, ready and eager to send parts and offer servicing advice if you need it.
Now we’re playing in super inexpensive territory, where less than $2000 will get you a new motorcycle. In this case, the Kymco K-Pipe 125. For those especially on the cheap looking for a bike with something resembling big bike dimensions, the K-Pipe is it. Its 17-inch wheels give it a taller seat height than others in its category with 12-inch wheels, but we were let down by the K-Pipe’s anemic 125cc air-cooled Single. Weak even for its class, the meager 7 hp and 5 lb-ft it puts down to the ground are less than awe-inspiring. That said, its semi-automatic transmission will keep the engine running while in gear even at a stop – making the clutch seemingly trivial. Experienced riders might scratch their heads at this, but new riders could find this a huge benefit.
Sharing the top spot on this list for cheapest street-legal motorcycle of 2017 with the Kymco K-Pipe is the SSR Razkull 125, though we put it at the numero uno position because we genuinely enjoyed riding it. For $2,000 you can get a fun and attractive 125cc playbike with a dollar left over. Pay no attention to the fact I’m wearing leathers and dragging a knee on the Razkull in the photo above, the thing to take away from the Razkull is that it’s supremely easy to ride and not the least bit intimidating. It’s also pretty stylish, too, with its mini Ducati Monster resemblance. Yes, its Chinese build quality means it’s not as well refined and put together like the Kawasaki or Honda, but it’s not half bad. Plus, for $2,000 does it really matter?