I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time on a motorcycle. My regular commute is over 50 miles round trip and my son used to commute 120 miles a day. We both do it on motorcycles. Now,we all know people that use their bikes as their sole transportation no matter what the weather. What do they ride? Would you ride a Ducati 916 on the freeway, in traffic, 120 miles a day? NO. How about a customized Harley with ape hangers? NO. Well wait, I’ve seen some that do..you see everything in Southern California.
So what does make a good commuter bike? Well, it’s got to be easy to ride, reliable as a rock, good gas mileage, easy to park and able to carry a small amount of luggage (your tank bag, briefcase and maybe a bottle of wine on the way home). What else does it need to be? Here in So Cal it needs to be freeway legal, you pretty much can’t go anywhere without getting on the freeway, being inexpensive wouldn’t hurt either.
So here are some of my thoughts. Here in the good old USA motorcycles are mainly considered toys, throughout the rest of the world motorbikes are transportation. In Mexico your pizza is delivered on a specially designed Honda 125, the police ride 125’s too and your mail comes on a special little 125. In Europe scooters and small motorbikes are king. When I was in Italy a year ago small bikes out numbered big bikes it seemed like 100 to 1. Why don’t we see that here? Yeah I know, it’s a big country, lots of wide open space etc. But I’m talking about cities and suburbs where a small, easy to ride, quick little two wheeler could make your life a lot easier. Again I’ll go back to the theory that here in America motorcycles are toys not transportation.
If you were going to get your self a commuter bike to scoot around town what is out there? Actually quite a few. I’ll focus on small bikes this time. They are all fun and easy to ride and pretty cheap for all you get. Most seem to hover right around that $3500 range and get great gas mileage. The first one that comes to mind is the Honda Rebel and Nighthawk, little 250’s that have been around forever. If you want something a bit sportier, Kawasaki has revamped the Baby Ninja 250 into first rate little sportbike that would be fun for dodging traffic. Suzuki has their GZ and TU 250’s. Like the Honda’s, they come in kind of a cruiser style and a standard model. Hyosung out of Korea (who does a lot of work for Suzuki…thats why they look similar) also has a couple great little 250’s. That’s actually a good selection. There are also some very good 250cc Dual Sport bikes that would fit the bill although a little pricier.
I know most people consider all of these motorbikes for beginners or girls, but for getting around town easy and cheaply, you can’t beat ’em. Some of them you could even take on a trip ( if you are into self abuse) they are capable. A few years ago while on a trip of my own, I ran into a couple on their way home from the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota, the wife was on a Yamaha Virago 250!! L.A to Sturgis and back on a little 250.
I think that as traffic gets worse, the streets get more crowded, parking is harder to find and more expensive these little bikes are going to start looking a whole lot better. They do in the rest of the world.