Best Lightweight/Entry-Level Motorcycle Of 2016

John Burns
by John Burns

Best Lightweight/Entry-Level Motorcycle Winner: KTM 390 Duke

From EiC Duke’s initial ride of the littlest Duke in Thailand, we knew this small KTM was going to be special and it is. From the pointed profile of its front Pirelli to the tail-end bark from its 40-horsepower 373cc Single, this one does nothing to let down the family name, and on top of that, it’s one dollar less than 5,000. And that’s including ABS.

At 326 pounds all gassed up, it’s one of the lightest sportbikes we’ve ever flogged and as such it’s ridiculously quick in the twisties. It’s plenty powerful enough to break the Ton. And on top of that, its engine counterbalancer and standard ergos make it a bike you could ride every day to wherever you need to go (provided you don’t mind arriving pre-caffeinated due to its slightly jarring ride and hyperactive persona). Dashing down yon freeway at 80 mph-plus is no problem at all, and it’s even fun when ridden on a racetrack. There are a few minor cost-cutting miscues like the cheap hand levers and hand grips, but then you remember the price tag and go for a ride and all is forgiven.

Little Tearers Comparison: Honda CB500F vs. KTM 390 Duke
2016 KTM 390 Duke Long-Term Review

Guess what? It won this category last year too, and we haven’t ridden anything so far in 2016 that comes close to unseating the Duke 390. Except the…

Honorable Mention: Honda CB500 Platform

The CB500F was already a sweet-enough 43-hp Twin to win the Value MOBO upon its introduction in 2013, but Honda upgraded it anyway for 2016 with svelte new bodywork and exhaust, better suspension and an improved shifting mechanism. What you wind up straddling is possibly the most ergonomically correct, smoothest-riding motorcycle on the planet for $5,999 (add ABS for $300 more). When codgers ask, what ever happened to the inexpensive little all-arounders we used to ride?, show them a picture of the CB500F and dredge up the consumer price index from 1982; the new made-in-Thailand CBs are probably less expensive than the original.

The amazing thing is that the new CB, especially the ’16, reveals your cheapskateness to the world not in the least, not even really to you. Suspension is surprisingly fluid, systems integration is world-class, there’s an adjustable front brake lever, LED lights… and at 57 mpg, the new 4.4-gallon tank will take you well over 200 miles between fill-ups. And it only weighs 414 pounds, which makes it super maneuverable.

2016 Honda CB500F Review

Matter of fact, we so love the 500F that we’re going to honorably mention its sister ships too, though tragically we haven’t yet had the chance to ride them this year: The adventure-styled CB500X got the same 2016 upgrades as the F, and starts at $500 more – a great choice for taller adventurous misers.

Finally, the CBR500R is the fully-faired sportbike of the group, complete with all the same upgrades as the other two for 2016. It gets you a lower-handlebarred, sportier riding position than the F, for the same $6,499 as the X. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with any of these three Hondas. Best of 2016 Categories
John Burns
John Burns

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  • SerSamsquamsh SerSamsquamsh on Aug 07, 2016

    Regarding the cpi - $6300 today is approximately $2500 in 1982.

    If somehow, possibly by converting the entire galaxy into pure energy to power your time machine, you could take a modern cb500 back in time it'd be no contest. Expect we would all be rapidly effervesing quarks or something.

    You're welcome!

  • Douglas Douglas on Aug 07, 2016

    If all mfrs would just get rid of those noisy, messy, dinosaur chain least on half-liters & 83 500 Virago was a shafty and quiet & trouble free. Even a belt would be good on these two.....I think chain drives belong in there w/kick starters, squeeze-bulb horns, acetylene headlites, et al. That's what I think, thankavurramuch.

    • See 4 previous
    • Coinneach Fitzpatrick Coinneach Fitzpatrick on Sep 01, 2016

      Chains, noisy? Mine runs silent and clean, and it's reliable and simple to maintain. All of my bikes except one have been chains and on all of them the chain was the least problematic component.