With British rail fares among the most expensive in Europe and increasing by an average of 3.6% for 2018, there has probably never been a better time to start thinking about commuting by motorcycle.
With bikes available for less than £1000, a year commuting by motorcycling (even taking into account insurance, servicing and riding gear) can work out significantly cheaper and hassle free for a large number of commuters.
But what to ride? We took a look at the wide range of bikes out there that can easily and economically tackle the daily commute. Here are eight of our favourites…
A perennial topper of the UK’s best seller list, the YBR125 is a long time learner favourite chosen by riding schools up and down the country for a good reason. They are strong, reliable, easy to ride and cheap. Because it’s a 125, it can be ridden on a provisional licence (with L plates) and there are plenty out there on the second hand market, with prices from a few hundred pounds, and there’s also a lower version, called the Custom. The YBR was discontinued last year and replaced by the slightly updated YS125, which brings more of the same and comes with a new price tag of £2899.
Also consider: Honda CBF125, Lexmoto ZSF125
If a twist and go scooter is more your thing, Honda’s super selling SH125i is well worth consideration. Light, agile and with no gears to worry about, these things are literally everywhere in Spanish and Italian cities. Petrol is sipped, rather than gulped (Honda claims 130mpg) and there’s more storage (thanks to the underseat area) than on a traditional geared motorcycle. New they’re available for £3249, or £89 a month on Honda finance (at the time of writing). Second hand, 10 year old pre-injection bikes (the SH125) can be yours for around £750.
Also consider: Honda PCX125, Yamaha NMAX, Piaggio Liberty 125
Introduced late 2017, the sporty looking GSX250R offers a bit more power than the entry level 125s while remaining easy to ride and delivering more than 90 miles for every gallon of unleaded.
At £4299, the Suzuki costs less than an annual season pass from Cambridge to London. The 248cc parallel twin engine is also used in the equally new V-Strom 250, which retails at £4599 and brings a more upright riding position and greater luggage capacity.
Also consider: Honda CBR300R, Kawasaki Ninja 300
Herald Classic 250
Once dismissed (and often rightly so) and cheap and awful, Chinese bikes have increased massively in quality and popularity in recent years.
The main reason for this is the influence of British companies controlling the quality and direction of the products, with Cambridgeshire company Herald being a prime example.
These bikes start life in China but are built to Herald’s own specification and quality standards. The British company changes many of the components, such as the tyres, chain and shock absorbers with components expected by western buyers and the result is range of retro styled models that are right on trend.
Herald’s £2750 Classic 250 is their basic 250cc model. Powered by a well proven Suzuki GN250-based air-cooled engine pumping out 21bhp, there’s more than a whiff of old school Norton or Triumph about it. Other models in the range take the concept in scrambler and café racer directions and, for a budget commuter looking for a bit of added style, the Herald is starting to gain a real following with British bikers.
Also consider: Lexmoto Tempest, Mash Roadstar
BMW F650CS Scarver
Ok, so this one’s a bit left field but if you fancy a bigger bike that’s great in the city for not too many bucks, why not try to seek out BMW’s quirky F650CS, known as the Scarver.
Based on the single cylinder F650 platform, the Scarver (a portmanteau of street and carver) featured futuristic styling, funky colours and great onboard storage. With a low maintenance belt drive and low seat, it was designed to attract new riders to motorcycling.
Despite that, the Scarver was a relative sales flop when new. It’s been off sale for over 10 years now but makes for a great second hand buy that’s starting to gain more of a following. These bikes can, literally, carve through congested city streets and do so with a dash of style. Prices start at £1000, with the best examples fetching double that from dealerships.
Also consider: Honda NC700S, Kawasaki Versys 650, Aprilia Moto 6.5
It may not be the most glamorous bike in the world, but Suzuki’s venerable SV650 ticks all the boxes as a commuter.
That punchy motor runs a V-twin configuration, meaning that the whole machine is narrow and perfect for diving in and out of traffic. The latest incarnation was introduced in 2016 and provides plenty of motorbike for less than £6000. Early bikes (from 1999) can be picked up for buttons although, with plenty of ex club racing bikes and courier hacks out there, older bikes can be risky. Previous generation bikes are also available with a useful half fairing too.
Good fun, easy to ride and plentiful – for riders looking for a first big bike or everyday ride the SV650 is well worth a look.
Also consider: Honda CBF600, Kawasaki ER-6n, Yamaha MT-07
Triumph Street Twin
If the budget stretches to a new bike, Triumph’s 900cc Street Twin provides plenty of street cred and an iconic name on the fuel tank.
Introduced in 2016, the £7800 Street Twin is Triumph’s entry level classic. It’s as simple a motorcycle design as it gets but comes packed with technology (think traction control, ABS brakes and ride by wire throttle) that belies the 1960s styling.
At 198kg without fuel, the Triumph is a bit porky – even if it doesn’t feel it. The low seat, torquey motor and generous steering lock makes it a cinch to ride around town and, with over 150 accessories to change the look, performance and comfort of the Street Twin, there’s plenty of room to personalise your steed.
Also consider: Harley-Davidson Sportster, Yamaha XSR700, Moto Guzzi V7, Ducati Scrambler
If the other bikes on the list are just too common, how about going electric?
Electric bikes are still a rare sight on Britain’s roads but with a government grant of up to £1500 and a rapidly improving charging network, they will surely become a more common sight in coming years.
American company Zero is the biggest manufacturer of electric bikes. This, the S, is a neat roadster that does almost 90 city miles between recharges while delivering a stonking 106Nm of torque. At just under £9000 (after the grant), its not cheap but running costs are minimal, with Zero claiming it uses just 2p of electricity every mile. It’s also exempt from road tax, meaning that the high initial price should be clawed back over the years. Also available as an 11kw version, which can be ridden on L plates.
Also consider: Evoke S, BMW C Evolution
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