Have you ever noticed that you can get to your destination so much faster when you’re on your motorcycle? Maybe it’s that you can zip through the traffic better on two wheels. Or perhaps it’s just the pure joy of riding that makes the commute seem to fly by. Whatever the reason, riding a motorcycle to and from work can be the highlight of the day.
This doesn’t mean you should hop on any old motorcycle, however. While you technically can ride anything you want, some bikes just work better for commuting. We have a list of the best bikes that should be at the top of your list when considering a commuter bike.
What Makes a Commuter Bike?
When looking for a motorcycle to commute on, you want something that is economical, versatile, and reliable. You need to think about all of these factors because you deserve something that is not only functional but also enjoyable to ride. Think about what your typical commute looks like and other stops you commonly make.
Sit on different bikes, and find one that has an easy riding position that makes you feel comfortable. An aggressive stance on a supersport bike may get tiring on your back. Or the high seat on a Supermoto off-road dirt bike could get frustrating in stop-and-go traffic as you struggle to touch the ground. You also need to think about what you plan to carry with you and your storage needs.
The Z650 is getting a ton of attention right now for its naked streetfighter looks. Motorcyclists appreciate that this bike has shed its fairings and is now an urban prowler sportbike. This makes it the perfect commuter bike for the sports bike enthusiast who isn’t willing to give up the exhilarating experience of being on a speed machine.
Powering the Z650 is a 649cc parallel-twin engine. It also comes with ABS brakes, which you’ll immediately fall in love with upon your first commute. The riding position of the Z650 is a bit more aggressive than other bikes on this list. This will help it transition from your daily commute to weekend cruising. This makes it a versatile bike.
Ducati Monster 797 or 821
There are actually two bikes from Ducati that are perfect for commuting. They are almost identical in style and design, but when it comes to performance, they start to differ. The Monster 797 produces 73 horsepower, 49 pound-feet of torque, and weighs 386 pounds. The Monster 821 jumps up to 109 horsepower, 63 pound-feet of torque, and weighs 398 pounds. Both bikes have aggressive and naked styling in red and black. The 821 also comes in a murdered-out, all-black version.
Despite the aggressive and sporty look, riding a Monster is incredibly comfortable. The slender tank makes it easy to maneuver. The rounded seat cushions your rear end for all-day comfort. The wide handlebars position your upper body a bit forward, but this makes the bike feel roomy and comfortable for riders of all heights.
There is plenty of storage on a Monster as Ducati sells a touring pack that you can mount on the bike. There are two hard case saddlebags and a tank bag. This gives you a lot of freedom and versatility in the amount of storage you can have. The tank bag is ideal because it keeps the weight centralized, and it doesn’t get in the way of riding.
KTM Duke 390
If you’re looking for a fun, lightweight bike, the KTM is sure to please. Styled with the classic KTM coloring of white and orange, this 373cc bike comes with ABS brakes, WP mono-shock, and a 43mm upside-down fork.
This bike is a bit heavier when compared to the similar Honda CB300R. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. KTM makes up for the additional weight with an extra 49 pounds of torque.
You have a lot of freedom in how you choose to ride your KTM. During your commute, you could choose to have a more upright seated position. Then on the weekend, you can lean forward and get low as you get out of the city and conquer the curves.
There is an up-top storage bin available for the Duke. However, it mounts on the very end of the tail. This is a terrible weight distribution placement. While the luggage bin can hold a decent amount, anything of weight will throw you off balance.
Kawasaki Versys-X 300
Take everything you know about sport touring motorcycles and throw it out of the window. The Versys lineup is sporty, agile, and versatile. The 300 is the smallest in the Versys family with a 650 and 1000 accompanying it.
The 300 is great because it uses an extremely fuel-efficient 296cc engine. It’s a great entry-level and commuting bike. This six-speed twin is on the same level as the Ninja 300 performance wise. The smaller engine is perfect for commuting through city streets, back alleys, and neighborhoods.
The styling of the Versys is super comfortable with a more upright seating position. The ERGO saddle is firm but has just enough cushioning to give your posterior comfort. It’s also lower for an adventure bike, which makes it easy to place your feet on the ground in stop-and-go traffic. There’s also a well-designed windscreen that will keep you protected from the wind.
For storage, you should opt for the 17-liter hard saddlebags. This will give you plenty of space for your belongings.
Suzuki VanVan 200
If you love the vintage look, then the retro-inspired VanVan will get your motor running. This 70 horsepower bike is sure to have you standing out in rush hour traffic with its unique charm. Powering this bike is a 199cc air-cooled, four-stroke air-cooled single-cylinder engine.
You’ll find that the tuning of this bike makes it easy to cruise and is very street friendly. It has more of a low to mid-range power delivery. New riders won’t find this bike intimidating.
Sitting on the seat, you’ll quickly realize that it’s nice and wide with pleating. Sitting on the VanVan is just like sitting on any other cafe racer out there. Your upper body is upright with your legs underneath you.
Storage is limited, and Suzuki doesn’t offer hard luggage bags. You can get soft-sided aftermarket bags. however. Just keep in mind that they’ll lack the security that lockable luggage cases can provide.
If you live in an urban area or downtown, then the Grom is going to have you prowling the city streets. This is a small bike and has a price tag to match. You can pick one up brand new for under $5,000.
Powering this bike is a 124.9cc engine. This sounds like a tiny engine, and you’re right, but everything is small on this bike. The seat is only 30 inches tall, and the total weight is 229 pounds. A strong man could pick this bike up and carry it somewhere.
The fuel tank holds about 1.5 gallons. Imagine that cheap gas bill! You’ll be able to get about 134 mpg. That means you could make it from New York to Boston or Kansas City to Omaha on a single tank of gas. We don’t recommend trying this, however. With such a little engine, it would be unsafe to take the Grom on the highway, as its top speed is just 73 mph.
Riding the Grom means you’ll be in an easy riding position. It’s a little sport, a little cafe racer, and overall a natural feel. There is a storage rack you can mount on the back of your Grom. Just be careful about putting anything too heavy in it, given how high it’s placed. Since it’s so lightweight, you can easily throw yourself off balance if you load the luggage rack up with heavy items.
The SR electric motorcycle is the most powerful of the Zero lineup and is meant for the city. While its horsepower is only 69, it’s the torque that’s impressive at 107.7 lb/ft, and it is available instantly. Think of it as the force of a full big-twin cruiser engine available at a dead stop. To put this in perspective, you’ll be able to out accelerate a Porsche 911. No more boring commute for you.
When it comes to size, the Zero is comparable to a 650 Suzuki or Honda in both stance and weight. That makes the weight around 450 pounds, which isn’t exactly low but still manageable for most riders.
For storage, it has a built-in compartment where the gas tank is typically located. It’s big enough to hold a few items, but not a full-face helmet. You can also get additional hard storage saddlebags and an up-top compartment.
Start Enjoying Your Drive to Work
If you love to ride, you can make your commute the best part of your day as you cruise to work on your bike. You’ll arrive refreshed and feeling good after you sling your leg over and stride into work. Then you’ll have the ride home to look forward to. Release the frustrations and pressures of the day as you cruise home on one of the best motorcycles for commuting. If you’re feeling especially stressed, take the long way home and get in a little extra moto therapy.