If you’re an experienced biker, you can ride nearly any type of motorcycle in the city. You have the training to navigate traffic and tight spots with ease so you can comfortably cruise around busy streets in urban areas. But ideally, the best commuter bikes are light, nimble, comfortable, and relatively affordable.
The best urban commuter motorcycles are also small and agile, which is particularly important if you’re a newer rider. These types of bikes concentrate on mobility and fuel economy and less on acceleration and speed (although those are excellent features to have as well).
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned rider, the bikes on our list will make your daily commute a lot of fun and all the cagers around you jealous. While we’re focusing on new motorcycles in this guide, there are also many used bikes that fit the criteria, so make sure you do your research.
But first, let’s break down some factors you should consider before investing in a bike for urban environments.
The best motorcycles for urban riding typically cost between $3,000 and $10,000 (although they can run much higher). If you’re new to riding, you may want to invest in a bike that’s on the lower end of the spectrum unless you know for sure that you’re going to commit to a lot of riding for the unforeseeable future.
When determining your budget, don’t forget to factor in storage options. Urban bikes don’t typically come with bags, but a variety of different types are available as separate accessories, either from the motorcycle manufacturer or as aftermarket options. While you could always use a backpack, it’s much more comfortable to store items such as a laptop in a saddlebag.
Finally, factor in the insurance premium. Some bikes are more powerful and are more costly to insure. But since many lower-displacement bikes are great for urban environments, this shouldn’t be a big issue.
- Fuel Economy
Whether you drive a car or ride a bike, you want to save money on gas. While most motorcycles are more fuel-efficient than automobiles, some have better fuel economy than others. Smaller bikes with single- and twin-cylinder engines are lower powered and often entry-level options, but they’re ideal if you want to get the most bang for your buck at the gas station and are great for city riding.
Larger bikes may be a little more thrilling when it comes to acceleration and speed, but that comes at a cost. Plus, as we already noted, they’re not ideal for urban environments. The best urban cruiser motorcycles let you go for miles without worrying about finding a place to fill up.
Bikes, like people, have different personalities. You can opt for a standard, cruiser, or sportbike, depending on your riding style. On a standard bike the rider is in a more upright position, while on a cruiser he or she is more laid back. On a sportbike the rider’s shoulders lean forward over the hips.
Something like a supersport motorcycle is probably not a great idea for a commuter bike because it’s simply not comfortable in a city environment. Also remember that you’re looking for something that’s light, compact, and nimble for darting in and out of traffic. So pick a bike that will perform well in those conditions and that has the styling you prefer.
The Best Bikes for Urban Riding
Honda CBR 300R
One of the best things about Honda motorcycles is their reputation for reliability, which is key if you’re using a bike to commute to work. The CB300R is narrow and lightweight (around 315 pounds) and a very city-friendly machine. It features a 286cc single-cylinder engine and is designed for intermediate and advanced riders.
The CBR300R has a low 30.7-inch seat height and anti-lock brakes, which help in rainy conditions. It features a passenger seat and under-the-seat storage for your wallet, cellphone, etc. The single-shock preload-adjustable rear suspension provides a smooth ride and excellent handling. The bike also gets approximately 71 mpg.
Base MSRP: $4,699
KTM 390 Duke
KTM describes this bike as “light as a feather,” which is one of the reasons why it’s ideal for city riding. It weighs just 306 pounds and gets about 50 mpg. Also called the Corner Rocket, the 390 Duke is nimble and provides an exciting ride.
The best part about this bike is that it’s easy to handle and is very balanced, which makes it a great beginner bike. It has a peppy single-cylinder 373cc engine and a 32.3-inch seat height. In addition to city riding, it’s also comfortable on the highway.
Base MSRP: $5,499
Harley-Davidson Street 750
Harley-Davidson markets this bike specifically towards urban riders. HD released the Street series in 2014, and the 750 was the company’s first lightweight motorcycle in over 40 years. The bike is designed to maneuver through urban streets without compromising on performance or power.
It features a 750cc liquid-cooled, Revolution X V-Twin engine and gets 55 mpg. It’s easy to lift off the side stand due to its low weight (514-525 pounds) and low center of gravity. It has a 28-inch seat height for a better reach, optional anti-lock brakes, and specially tuned shocks that accommodate the bike’s weight and geometry as well as the position of the rider.
Base MSRP: $7,599
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Ducati’s Scrambler line of bikes launched in 2015 in the United States. The bikes are characterized by their retro design, and the Sixty2 is an excellent bike for city riding (the company even launched it in Barcelona, Spain, to prove its urban mettle).
The Sixty2 has a 399cc engine with 41 horsepower. It features a 31-inch seat height, weighs 368 pounds, and gets 50 mpg. It handles well and comes standard with anti-lock brakes. It’s well balanced and overall very user friendly, making it a great bike for new riders and those who plan on traveling frequently around town.
Base MSRP: $7,995
Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS
If you want a bike with a little more power, consider the Ninja 650 ABS with a 649cc performance engine. This twin-cylinder bike comes with ABS, an assist and slipper clutch, and 31.1-inch seat height. The bike weighs 423 pounds, so it’s light enough to maneuver on congested roads.
It’s geared towards new riders as well as more experienced bikers who want something with more oomph on their daily rides. The Ninja 650 ABS is nimble and sporty and great for everyday riding. It features a comfortable and adaptable upright riding position, so you won’t get as impatient if you get stuck in traffic.
Base MSRP: $7,399
If you commute in an area where the pavement is a little rough and the highways aren’t in the best condition, then you may want to consider the dual-sport Yamaha TW200. It easily transitions from rural roads to city streets. This bike is lightweight yet sturdy and great for beginners. It features a 196cc engine, a 31.1-inch seat height, and it weighs just 278 pounds.
It’s not the fastest bike, but that’s not the top priority in an urban commuter. And while it gets 78 mpg, it has a small gas tank, so you may have to fill it more often compared to some other bikes on this list.
Base MSRP: $4,599
BMW G 310 GS
Easily tackle urban sprawl with this robust bike from BMW. What makes it such a great option is its versatility. The G 310 GS can tackle everything from rush hour to forest trails. It features a 313cc one-cylinder engine, and it gets 71 mpg.
The bike has a 32.9-inch seat height, weighs 350 pounds, and is designed with a lower center of gravity so it’s more comfortable and controllable. The G 310 GS borrows many features from BMW’s flagship adventure bike, so it’s a lot of fun to ride. It’s quick and responsive with a street-ready personality.
Base MSRP: $5,795
The Zero SR/F is the only electric motorcycle on our list. This type of bike gets much better mileage than its gas-powered rivals. On a single charge, it goes 161 miles, which can be boosted to 200 miles if you add the power tank, which became available in March 2020. And it only takes 80 minutes to recharge.
The bike has a top speed of 124 mph, goes zero to 60 mph in under three seconds, and boasts a 31-inch seat height. It weighs 485 pounds and has a slim chassis for maneuverability and rider ergonomics. But we can’t neglect to point out the biggest drawback with this bike: its price tag.
Base MSRP: $21,495
The Final Word
Navigating city traffic on a motorcycle requires certain skills, and it’s ideal if you have a bike that can react quickly to fast-changing conditions. The best urban motorcycles are slender and compact, so you can avoid potholes, aim for narrow openings between vehicles, and keep your wits about you when you’re on crowded streets. No matter what your riding experience, you need a bike that can handle whatever the city throws at it.
Smaller bikes are ideal for motorcycling through an urban jungle. They’re lightweight and more maneuverable than their larger counterparts. With so many options available, including the ones on this list, we’re sure you’ll find a city bike that’s perfect for your daily commute.