Best Lightweight / Entry-Level Motorcycle of 2023

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

Best Lightweight / Entry-Level Motorcycle of 2023: Kawasaki Eliminator

During our debates about this year’s MOBO awards, the lightweight/entry-level category may have been the most contentious, with several new beginner-friendly motorcycles worthy of consideration.

In the end, one competitor separated itself from the pack, thanks to a combination of its low seat height, sub-400 pound weight, an engine tuning that’s accessible for new riders but still offers room to grow: the Kawasaki Eliminator.

In his review of the Eliminator, Tom Roderick described the Kawasaki as “a great choice for beginner motorcyclists, but also for intermediate riders, and will even keep an experienced sportbike jockey like myself entertained.”

The engine is the latest iteration of the Parallel-Twin powered previous MOBO lightweight winners and runners-up, now at a 451cc displacement and claiming 45 hp at 9,000 rpm and 31.7 lb-ft. at 7,5000 rpm. With a claimed curb weight of 386 pounds (388 pounds with ABS), the Eliminator offers a decent power-to-weight ratio, and the 28.9-inch seat height (with an even lower accessory seat available) is a boon for those new to riding.

What also played a factor in us picking the Eliminator to win this category, is knowing the same engine is powering a new Ninja 500 and Z500 models, and hopefully a Versys-X 500. That’s a whole generation of potential future MOBO lightweight/entry-level competitors coming our way over the next few years.

Best Lightweight / Entry-Level Motorcycle of 2023 Runner-Up: Royal Enfield Hunter 350

If there’s one criticism about picking the Eliminator as the best lightweight or entry-level motorcycle, it’s how the Kawasaki is a case of displacement creep. What was once a 250 engine became a 300, and then a 400, and now a 450, though Kawasaki is marketing the latest Ninja and Z models as 500s. Sure, it’s still Kawasaki’s entry-level tier streetbike engine, but after a certain point, how big is too big?

That’s one of the reasons we picked the Royal Enfield Hunter 350 as the runner-up in this category. The Hunter is powered by a counterbalanced air-cooled SOHC Single, which is about as simple as they come these days. The Hunter 350 isn’t going to impress on the dyno, claiming a peak of 20.2 hp at 6,100 rpm and 20 lb-ft. at 4,000 rpm, but in his review, Evans Brasfield found the J-series engine offered “a surprisingly perky bottom end for pulling away from traffic at stop lights”.

With a claimed curb weight of 400 pounds, the Hunter 350 is 30 pounds lighter than the Classic and 21 pounds lighter than the Meteor, two Royal Enfield models that share the same engine. While that is impressive, this is one area that the Hunter does fall behind the Eliminator.

The 31.1-inch seat height is also good for shorter riders, but again, the Eliminator holds the edge there.

The Hunter 350 does have an advantage in one area though: the price. Starting at $3,999 with ABS standard, it comes in $2,650 less than the non-ABS Eliminator. That’s an important factor for a beginner bike, and we suspect it will help the Hunter fare pretty well in another MOBO category…

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Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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4 of 17 comments
  • Mogman Mogman on Dec 05, 2023

    Best Lightweight / Entry-Level Motorcycle of 2023???

    Dennis, with all due respect to your motorcycle background and intellect, when in the name of honesty did 400 pounds become the top end of lightweight motorcycles? Good grief, are we as MC owners, to look seriously at an over 300 pound motorcycle as LIGHTWEIGHT? I still have REAL lightweights that weigh under 300 pounds and can do 100 mph. They are old, very old.

    I don't aim to beat you up, instead the MC public has been lulled into accepting heavier and more

    technically intricate conveyance that suits the need of regulators and insurance companies. That leaves you holding an overweight selection of costly bikes to review, as if they were relevant at nearly $6,000 dollars with taxes, insurance and tags.

    Maybe you could do a 'Way Back' article on the 125cc to 250cc bikes available from 1960 to1970 such as Ducati Diana, Bultaco Mercurio, Sears, Gilera, Triumph & BSA 250cc - 500cc, H-D 350 and a few others you may find. Some are two stroke but the bottom line was lightweight and easy care but right side shift. The Ducati 125, Gilera 150 GP and 175 cc Bultaco Mercurio were at various times peeking out of the trunk of my 1970 Maverick and off to the race track. A real hoot and still are.

    Thanks &

    Best to all.

    • 91LT250R 91LT250R on Dec 20, 2023

      Modern motorcycles are heavier because of all the safety and emissions junk. The times have changed...

  • Mogman Mogman on Dec 21, 2023

    91LT250R..... Yes, times have changed with MC manufacturers shlepping through the years bowing to insurance companies and self appointed government regulators to gussy up burgeoning bikes.

    From my industrial design viewpoint there is no excuse for the weight going up other than adding tech aids and power to compensate weight rather than a redesign to cut weight and improve fuel milage. Current design practice is slightly reducing the cost to produce the bikes and maintain margin and has nothing to do with a paradigm change. Minimal change year to year keeps costs down and the marketers tell us we should be grateful.

    Except for Erik Buell, true innovation has ceased both ICE and electric. Weight is crucial to a small speedy motorcycle. The true test is if a 105 pound average female can easily right the bike from laying on the ground. That same MC should be able to easily transport a185 pound male at 70 mph, being economical and easily maintained by both owners.

    The 1970 Ducati, Bultaco, Yamaha, Suzuki and others set that standard of 300 pounds or less for a lightweight MC. The MC press has not held them accountable and allowed technical gimmickry to replace sensible and responsible design. Statistics from Bikez.

    • Imtoomuch Imtoomuch on Dec 21, 2023

      I agree the manufacturers should have grown a set and pushed back, but too late now so they have to follow the rules they didn't fight.