In terms of value, these are some of the best motorcycles money can buy. Each one possesses the power and performance to put a smile on the mug of any motorcyclist for a price or monthly payment that doesn’t break the bank. The list encompasses a variety of models including sportbikes (of course), adventurers, and cruisers, so there’s something here for almost anyone.
Note the bikes listed here are placed in descending order of MSRP, not according to our personal favorites. Were that the case, #10 and #1 would most likely swap positions.
10. Suzuki GSX-S750
Those of a certain demographic (40+ years old) will most likely argue that a 750 was and always will be the best balance of power and weight. Suzuki is the only manufacturer that has continually offered a 750cc sportbike (GSX-R750) since the demise of the class when superbike racing switched to 1000cc displacements more than a decade ago. The GSX-S is the naked bike version of the GSX-R and a much better choice for a sporty bike intended for use only on the street. It may not have won our Gentleman’s Hooligan Comparo against the Kawasaki Z800 ABS, but that bike didn’t make this list due to its inflated retail price ($8,399). The Z also weighs 70 pounds more than the Suzuki.
9. BMW G650GS
If you’re interested in a middleweight single-cylinder bike from BMW, this might be your last chance for a while. We’ve heard rumors that 2016 is set to be the last year of the G650GS, the smallest-displacement motorcycle in BMW’s lineup until the G310R arrives later this year. Without the G650 there’ll be a large displacement gap between the G310R (313cc) and BMW’s next smallest model, the 798cc displacement of the F700/800GS (unless you consider the 647cc of the C650GT, but that’s a scooter). It’s been a few years since we last rode a G650GS, but we always appreciated its well-rounded nature. “Our time with the G proved that you don’t need to shell out beaucoup bucks to get a highly versatile and competent adventure-styled motorcycle,” Kevin Duke said in 2011.
Honorable Mentions: Honda XR650L $6,690, Kawasaki KLR650 $6,599 , Suzuki DR650S $6,499
8. Yamaha Bolt
The Harley-Davidson 883 Iron the Bolt is modeled after didn’t make this list because it costs $849 more than the Bolt. Harley’s $7,549 Street 750 did (see #6), but the Bolt offers more performance than either H-D model. Born a Star, the Bolt now falls under Yamaha’s Cruiser/Touring umbrella, whereas the Bolt C-Spec is listed in the Sport Heritage segment along with the VMAX, XSR900, and SR400. Regardless the name or its whereabouts in Yamaha’s lineup, the Bolt is the largest-displacement bike on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Honda Shadow Phantom $7,499, Shadow Aero $7,499
7. Yamaha FZ6R
When last we tested Yamaha’s FZ6R in 2014, the very-long-in-the-tooth sportbike shocked everyone involved by winning the Middleweight Intermediate Sportbike Shootout against the then brand new Honda CBR650F and Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS. The FZ6R also won a previous shootout in 2010 against the Suzuki GSX650F, and Ninja 650R (2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Vs. 2009 Suzuki GSX650F Vs. 2010 Yamaha FZ6R). So, a two-time champion sportbike under $8k has to be on this list!
6. Harley-Davidson Street 750
If you want to know how good Harley’s Street 750 is, just ask John Burns. The Burns clan, including JB’s kid, Ryan, may have put more miles on a Street 750 than the remaining combined staff of MO. (Check out Ryan’s take here.) Somehow, the Street 750 has managed to cross the generational divide by endearing itself to both the old man and the millennial. Now, with markedly improved braking performance, the 2016 Street 750 is a much better motorcycle, but not quite good enough to defeat Triumph’s pricier ($8,700) new Street Twin in our Retro Roadster Gaiternational Shootout.
Its styling is somewhat polarizing, and its low-revving engine performance something to get used to, but the 61 mpg the CTX700N delivers is a frugal motorcyclist’s dream. In our Midsize Post-Modern Cruiser Shootout the CTX700N was barely defeated by Kawasaki’s Vulcan S (see #4). “The CTX is the most polished, comfortable and easiest-riding package. Some say ‘appliance-like’ as if it’s a bad thing. And even if you ordered up the Dual Clutch auto transmission/ABS option, MSRP $7,599, it’s still a little cheaper than the Harley,” says contrarian editor, Burns.
Honorable Mentions: CTX700 & NC700 $7,499
4. Kawasaki Vulcan S
The Vulcan S, Ninja 650 and Versys 650 all make use of the same parallel-Twin engine format, but the Vulcan S does so for the least amount of money. The Vulcan S also makes available Kawasaki’s Ergo-Fit program that allows customers to customize the fit of the Vulcan S to their own personal preferences. When initially reported in Evans Brasfield’s First Ride Review, there were 700 Ergo-Fit Centers at Kawasaki dealerships nationwide to provide prospective customers the chance to experience the different riding configurations.
Honorable Mentions: Ninja 650/ABS $7,199/7,599; Versys 650 ABS $7,999
3. Suzuki SV650
Hot off the press release wire is the announcement that Suzuki’s 2017 SV650 will retail for a surprisingly affordable $6,999, and be available in Suzuki dealerships next month. SV650 racerboy, Troy Siahaan, is attending the press launch next week, so we’ll soon know if the new version of the original cult classic lives up to the SV’s heritage – the SFV650 (Gladius) seemingly did not. If you’re as biased as editor Siahaan, or fondly remember the original SV650, or just really like Top 10 lists, be sure to check out Troy’s Top 10 Reasons The Suzuki SV650 Is A Great Bike.
2. Yamaha FZ-07
Yamaha’s FZ-07 was our choice for Best Value Motorcycle Of 2015. Like its larger-displacement counterpart, the FZ-09, the 07’s combination of light weight and appealing engine performance make it a hard motorcycle to defeat, even in a six-way shootout that included the likes of KTM’s 690 Duke (2014 Middleweight Mash-Up Six-Way Shootout!). “We believe the Duke’s a great stable pony for the well-heeled enthusiast who has another bike or three in the garage more suited to the everyday slog. But if money is an object, and you’ve got to pick one bike to do it all, you really can’t do better than Yamaha’s new FZ-07,” said Burns in a brief moment of reasonable opinion.
1. Suzuki Boulevard S40
It doesn’t seem quite fair to the newer bikes on this list, but to get to roots of Suzuki’s Boulevard S40, one must travel all the way back to the bike’s origin as the LS650 Savage in 1986! Tooling for this motorcycle was paid for so long ago that Suzuki should axe the retail price and only charge customers freight and set-up fees. Nonetheless, the Boulevard S40 is the most inexpensive bike here by a wide margin, while still offering 652cc of displacement. Nothing comes close to the S40 in terms of bang for the buck. And, it you don’t particularly care for cruisers, Ryca will happily change your S40 into cafe racer, scrambler or tracker.