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Economical Commuter: What Should They Build?: MD Readers Respond, Part 3

Here’s more from our readers regarding their thoughts on economical commuters, and what they think the manufacturers should build. Part 2 of the series can be found here.

  • First off I think the “economical commuter” should be designed with that purpose , and not try to do all things e.g. sport riding, touring, on-road/off-road.
    Cruising speed – the EC should be able to cruise comfortably on the interstates – 75-80 mph
    Range – 200 miles per tank
    MPG – the designers should make every attampt to achieve very high gas mileage. A target of 90 mpg would be nice.
    Service interval – oil changes every 6-10k, and made simple and easy.
    Other service every 20k.
    Wet weight – under 400 lb
    Transmission – optional, manual or automatic
    Tires – 20,000 mile life expectancy
    Price – less than $3,000
    Country of origin – China (not mandatory, but who else would bother?)
    The way I see it, the EC would not be the motorcycle enthusiast’s prime bike. The low price would make it less painless to keep one for the commuting role. A light weight , modestly powered EC should be very easy on tires – 20 kmi should be achievable (and tires should not be very expensive).
    The Kawasaki Ninja 250 come pretty close to my ideal of a good EC.
    Unfotunately, regardless of the capabilities and economies of the EC, I just don’t think there would be a large market for the bike in the US.
    It’s would appeal would be limited to the same people that ride motorcycles and scooters.

  • The Big Four all have current street legal, high mileage bikes for sale that are perfect commuters:
    Honda CRF230L
    Yamaha XT250
    Kawasaki Ninja 250R
    Kawasaki KLX 250S
    Suzuki DR200SE

  • I own a 2001 Triumph Sprint.
    I live in Western Colorado, so I can expect to commute about 7 months out of the year or so, with a couple of those months still being rather cold.

    For me, the Sprint is a great economical commuter. The well-designed fairing provides protection from the elements, and I get about 50-52 mpg on average as long as I don’t beat it up. The 955 engine is definitely not stressed, provides great power and great gas mileage. Many of my 50 miles each way are on an Interstate, so I do need something that can easily keep up with traffic at 75 mph, and I like to have some power at that speed to get out of a situation if one arose.
    I’m not in the market at this point, but if I were looking for a commuter, I’d be looking for something around these lines. My priorities are in this order:
    Safety (I would include reliability & enough power to get out of my way in this category)
    Comfort/protection from the elements
    Gas mileage
    There are great commuters out there already.

  • I’m a die-hard traditionalist, I want a clutch to pull, a shifter to row, and a tilt of the horizon to observe, and if needed, a paramedic to thank.
    If an 68 mpg, automatic transmissioned, fly by wire, bubble canopied, three-wheeled, totally enclosed, air-conditioned bike floats your boat, welcome to motorcycling.
    But hey, my idea of comfort, air-conditioning, and mpg, is flogging a supermoto over Angeles Crest Highway through the smell of pine trees – what do I know.

  • American Culture doesn’t “permit” the use of motorcycles / scooters as commuting vehicles. They are, and will always remain, recreational vehicles except for a very small percentage of our population. Make them as cheap as you like, it won’t make any difference. Most commuters will always take their vehicles — sitting in traffic — on the cell phone — drinking coffee — and staying dry / warm / cold / whatever (Note: I ride a bicycle or DRZ to work every single day of the year).

  • Having a 100 mile round trip commute everyday, this is something that I have given some thought. I’m a 25 year old sport bike enthusiast that needs a bike that can pull “double duty”. The primary function would be transportation and secondary function would be weekend cannon carver (both important).
    You mentioned an automatic motorcycle or scooter. Unfortunately, that would not meet the criteria that I have set forth. The experiences of hitting redline and banging the next gear is too important to go without. I realize that centrifugal automatics have infinite “gears” which is always optimal for the type of driving / riding your doing (mpg) but just like a car with a “CVT” (continually variable transmission) there is something that makes me uneasy about increasing speed and watching the RPM drop. It just not natural!
    My commuter bike would be a sexy, torquey, 100 bhp, 60mpg hooligan bike with optional soft luggage and a descent riding position. I’m lucky that what I’m looking for is starting to be considered a “market” for some major manufactures. Buell’s xb series, Ducati’s new Monster and even Suzuki’s new B-king (though extreme) is in the same market segment. I can only hope this trend continues to expand and develop. While the fuel economy is important with a commute like mine, I would not buy a unit just because it was rated at 80 mpg. Unless it could, with a twist of a throttle, put a grin on my face!
    It my humble opinion motorcycles are already a great economical option for commuting. You just have to find your riding style and determine what you expect from the machine. That does not mean that I don’t expect substantial gains in the technology that is used. I love to see companies like Brammo Motorsports who are pushing technology and design with there all electric Enertia. That’s very important for the development of our sport.

  • As crazy as it seems, pure motorcyclists are not going to cross-over to the scooter realm without a fight. Perhaps it has to do with the image, or the fact that they are usually priced the same as a comparable sized motorcycle. I believe a good commuter would be a economically priced dual sport with removable hardbacks that come as standard equipment. Mid-sized, air cooled and capable of running comfortably at highway speeds. I always thought that the Honda XR400 would have been a good platform for the bike in which I write. It would be capable of both on and off-road travel, low maintenance, highway travel, cheap to insure, and have the ability to carry cargo. A luggage rack, center stand, windshield and handguards would be nice options. Economy is best defined by one motorcycle capable of many functions.

  • I was one of the few who was able to get their hands on the first year SV650 (only 2000 units made). I loved that bike, but it was quickly stolen and most likely ended up as a track bike.
    From Day 2, I thought that Suzuki would have a winner if they added a full faring and some hard luggage. The bike would have to retain the traditional handle bars instead of the clip-ons of the S model. This would give a nice up right riding position. The 650 is very thrifty on gas, though maybe a slightly larger tank would be nice for longer runs.
    The level of effort to make this happen is quite small considering that the bike is already complete. Some minor mods to the S fairing to allow the taller bars is all. Aftermarket could get involved for the body work. In fact, at one time Corbin was working a set of beetle bags for the SV, but they never materialized. Givi’s work on the bike I believe.
    In the “Keep Dreaming” category, I keep thinking that interest in 3-wheeled vehicles, and smaller cars might make it possible to get DOT approval to run 4-wheelers or even Yamaha Rhino’s or Polaris Razor Side-by-Sides on the street. The Razor would be perfect for my commute.

  • MY 1983 Honda CB 1000 Custom is the perfect commuter bike.

  • The closest to a perfect commuter bike would be:

    1. Yamaha FZ6,

    2. Suzuki SV650,

    Both bikes have the following qualities which make them great commuters:

    1. Comfortable enough to do 100miles a day.

    2. Agile enough to weave in and out of traffic

    3. Aftermarket bags and windshields available

    4. Fast

    5. Light weight, sub 400lbs

    6. Japanese reliability

    7. Good fuel mileage, at least 40 average.

    8. Fun in the turns

    9. Good looking

    An Even better commuter would have the above list of qualities plus enduro style suspension for hopping curbs or bombing down fires roads. Basically I need someone to build a bike that can do it all. Can it really be that hard? If one of the big manufacturers would contact me, I could help them design the perfect bike. COME ON, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE?

  • The Kawi 250R with 20 more HP and 120/70 front…180/55 rears……70MPG in style at about 4 grand.

  • It’s already been built. Kawasaki 650 Versys parallel twin. I understand it’s mileage is better than 50mpg and it works well as a sportbike as well as a small touring bike. Hard bags are even available. It probably could be tuned for even better mileage if that were the goal.

  • Nothing beat my MZ Baghira Black Panther Supermoto!
    With a dead-reliable Yamaha 650 motor getting 50 mpg, styling from SuperMoto’s street future, plus the sheer versatility of upright bars, a cushy seat, and a decent wind-screen…that bike has it all!

  • I’ve been commuting on sportbikes for years (currently on a 748), but the place I work recently moved, and I no longer need to use the freeway. I plan to ride my bicycle, but if I were to use a motorcycle, I’d get a supermoto bike. Although I think I would saw off the ends of the handlebars to make them narrower so I could squeeze between lanes of traffic at stoplights downtown.
    More than what kind of bike I would ride, though, is where would I park it? I think, and this is important, that we motorcyclists should put forth a national effort to get free parking areas in downtown city centers in order to encourage more people to ride bikes. This would not only lead to less gas consumption as a nation overall, but less congestion during rush hours, too. If the AMA were at all competent, and it seems as if they’re starting to make the changes necessary to become so, they’d take up this cause. Sadly, they still seem fixated on helmet laws. National lane splitting and free parking downtown make more sensible causes, as far as I’m concerned, since both would encourage commuting on motorcycles.

  • For urban/shorter distance commutes, lightweight maneuverability and durability are the key needs I see. A modified supermoto could really have some appeal. Lower the suspension to make it easy to paddle through stalled traffic, parking garages and even over sidewalks. Put on some aluminum adventure touring bags (not too wide though) and/or possibly a top box and you’d be able to carry a laptop and change of clothes if necessary. If the bike gets bumped in traffic or knocked over while parked, the durable plastic bodywork would be able to take the abuse. Keep the dry weight down around 300# and 45 rwhp or so should be adequate while returning great mileage. A modern, properly tuned and geared 450 four stroke single should fit the bill. A small twin like Aprilia’s could be even better. Such a bike could handle short blasts on a freeway, but if the commute is predominantly on roads with speed limits 45 mph or less, it would really be in its element. If it’s a second bike and the entire commute avoids the freeway and is on urban streets, a 250-350 four-stroke singe could even work. Chugging through slow moving traffic on a 450#+ bike does not have much appeal for me. Zipping through and around slower traffic on a lightweight, seemingly indestructible bike on the other hand sounds like something I could be interested in…

  • I think it is possible to live in both worlds.
    Both my bikes are well under 1,000cc’s and they are loads of fun, and 50ish mpg (04 Bonneville, 07 FZ6). What keeps them from being commuter bikes is that I live in the city. That makes a big difference in dealer maintenance costs. I experimented with getting a bike outside the city a few years ago and my maintenance costs dropped considerably, but the distance was very impractical. City dealers have so many customers that they control their rates and repair calendars, I have waited up to two weeks to get a repair time.
    Either of these bikes could be great commuters. The Bonneville gets reasonable tire mileage, but more frequent scheduled maintenance. The FZ valve adjustment is out to 20,000+ miles, but has sporty tires, an impossible to reach battery, and other normal maintenance issues.
    If I could combine the best of both, I would use that bike everyday. I still manage to ride about 8,000 miles a year as a hobby.

  • My buddies and I have been holding off on buying a new bike. We are waiting for one of the big 4 to build a thumper sport bike. There is no real need for a 4cyclinder 600cc rocket for everyday use. I would love to have a 450-600cc thumper in place of my 600cc 4 in my 06 ninja. Especially after getting a 4 point ticket last summer.

  • Let’s not reinvent a bicycle or motorcycle for that matter. There are already proven commuter bikes out there. Please tell Honda to bring their CB125 line of bikes that they sell everywhere else in the world but USA. Easy shifting 5 speed should be just fine — please no automatics -not even an automatic clutch. The MSRP should be about $1800 same as most 125 scooters and since this bike has been around forever there is no additional cost to Honda in terms of development expenses which meant it should really cost way less then the scooters. I am not exactly sure what the technical aspects are but I believe a commuter can easily get 70 mpg and a top speed should be around 65 mph. It will not be a highway cruiser since the US restriction is no motor vehicle under 250cc is allowed on an interstate. However for most rural or metropolitan areas like Chicago I can’t see anything more practical for a regular commute.

  • A standard scooter would not be a good idea where I live and work. Maybe one of the new higher-end so-called touring scooters might be OK, but not your typical small scooter. I live out in the country and my commute to work is on US and State Highways, with a posted speed limit of 55MPH, which is typically exceeded by almost everyone. Combined with trucks, hills and curves would make a little scooter a sitting duck. Any bike would have to be able maintain highway speeds with the ability ot accelerate out of danger when needed.
    The subject of MPG is interesting. Fellow riders NEVER discuss mileage because riding a motorcycle is so much more than how many miles to the gallon we get.
    If a non-rider seems to be taking an interest in riding simply because they want better gas mileage than their SUV, they’ll ask me “So, what kinda mileage you get on the BMW?” (I get about 40 MPG.) But they never, ever end up on a bike. These people don’t want to give up their cup holders and AC to ride a motorcycle.
    As I said, I get 40MPG on my K-Bike. Sure, there are smaller bikes that can get 70, 80 MPG with no problem. But my Emergency Backup car, a 1987 Chevy Sprint POS Winter Beater gets 40MPG, too! And it only has 3 cylinders! But getting 40MPG on the K is fine with me, compared to my Main Car, the Blazer at about 20MPG.
    The point is, I don’t think your average commuter around here will ever keep a bike very long, even if they buy one. Not unless they fall in love with riding.
    I don’t think it is in the best interests of the Riding Community to get a herd of people on bikes for the simple excuse of getting better gas mileage. I think the accident rate and resultant bad publicity would NOT be good for us riders.
    But again, I live and work in a rural setting. People who live and work in towns and cities would have a totally different set of circumstances to consider. If I lived/worked in town, I would consider a small scooter for my daily commute and keep the big bike for trips and cruises. And sure, an automatic would be perfectly fine in town as long as I could keep up with traffic and not endanger myself too much. All I’d need was a place to store my sammitch for lunch and I’d be good to go…!

  • It should be a multi cylinder as I think they do a little better than singles on gas consumption; basically a Super Moto type of bike with a twin cylinder engine, V or parallel configuration. It should also have good bags (removable of course), good brakes w/ ABS, good acceleration, proper lighting, great suspension able to handle the potholes of the modern urban environment, decent protection so it’s good in all weather and above all, it should be reliable and comfortable.
    I think I just described BMW’s new GS 800. I’m not sure of its mpg figures but that bike looks pretty nearly ideal. It will easily handle freeway speeds and if traffic is locked up, take it off the road!
    With the variety of bikes currently available, I am sure the ideal commuter bike already exists for all levels of riders. We now have Yamaha’s new 250 street legal adventure/motard style bikes for beginners all the way to KTM’s and BMW’s bruiser big bore motards and adventure bikes. I bet you can get nearly 75 mpg or better with what’s already in showrooms.

  • I live in Maryland and drive my 2002 Honda Civic about 20 miles (in each direction) to get to the “METRO”, which I then ride for 40 minutes, into Washington, DC. My two-wheeler is a 2005 Yamaha Road Star Warrior, which I ride, once-in-a-great-while to the METRO station instead of my car. They even offer free motorcycle parking at the METRO Station, which is nice. I get pretty good mileage, better than the Civic, from my Warrior, and although I have a set of throw-over bags for long distance trips on the Warrior, it is not the ideal commuter bike. For that I would be looking for a motorcycle (I am not a big scooter fan), along the lines of a V-Strom w/hard bags or the new Suzuki Bandit with its hard bag option. I could probably live with a 650 to 800cc engine to keep the cost down, but it sure is nice to have the extra power that comes with a 1000cc engine when driving on I-95 between Baltimore and DC. And then there are the winter months, which is a day to day motorcycle riding schedule. I have the heated vest, etc, but remember I only drive to the Metro station, which means carrying the extra winter gear on the train with me or having lockable hard bags, to store these items. I believe that there are bikes already in production that would work well as a commuter bike but I think that the lockable hard bags, as standard equipment, are a must.

  • The Honda XR650L. This motorcycle is one of Honda’s hidden gems – exceedingly versatile, fun to ride, and real-world practical for commuting in everything from city traffic to country roads. Oh, and it gets over 50mpg while easily outrunning the killer SUV. What makes this motorcycle particularly brilliant is its time proven rock solid design, a purity of engineering that only the Suzuki DR650 shares.

  • 400cc Burgman. I’ve four bikes. The Burgman is easiest for the city and a commute. Storage underseat is great as is wind protection. For those truly horrific flooding days, when the Burgman will not get there then it’s time for the ’86 XL250.

  • It already exists…..the Kawasaki Ninja 250R. In commuting mode it will get around 60mpg, and lists for $3500…..cheaper than most scooters. This year it got a sexy new body makeover also.

  • The commuter I’m waiting for is an SV650ST. It would have the same ergos as the naked version, a full, or three quarter fairing, mounting points for hard luggage, passenger erogos that my wife will accept (lower foot pegs) and an upgraged electrical system for heated riding gear. Build it Suzuki, and I will come…again.

  • I would never buy a commuter with automatic tranny but my wife would, it would have to be something reasonably priced with good hi-way capabilities, safe handling in the twisties and fair wind protection as her ride to work requires speeds of 60mph to keep up with traffic. In my opinion the current crop of scooters fall short in some these categories, mostly in the speed and handling departments. For us, her ride would also have to be something that doesn’t look totally out of place parked at the coffee shop when she joins my buddies and I for a weekend ride.
    So lets see, to categorize what she would want.
    1…sustainable cruising speed 60 mph
    2…reasonable handling abilities in the twisties 3…fuel mileage of 70mpg or better 4…luggage capacity not an issue 5…wind protection 6…curb appeal, can’t look out of place when parked with a bunch of sport bikes
    After writing this, except for the fact that it has a standard transmission.
    Looks like the 2008 Ninja 250 would be her perfect commuter!!

  • No doubt that automatic motorcycles would draw more riders. I bought a Piaggio BV500 because it is automatic. Even though I’m getting 50 – 60 miles per gallon, this ride is probably more expensive than a small car as the maintenance of the cvt type transmission (parts and service), tire cost and replacement frequency, and riding gear (one time cost) exceeds by far what a small car needs these days. Just a ‘for instance’, some of my car tires have gone 80,000 miles (previously owned Saturn) and no service or problems with the engine (except for oil and filter changes) and transmission for over 250,000 miles. The bike solution is to use an automatic transmission that rarely needs service and rugged tires that last a lot longer. There is something to be said for the initial acquisition cost difference, as long as we’re not talking Gold Wing to Kia. Perhaps you guys could work out a comparison of a medium bike to a Corolla or something over a period of about 50,000 miles.

  • I think a Turbo Charged Diesel bike along the lines of a ZRX-1200 would be my choice , but with MPG being more important than out right performance.

  • Step-thru Scooter with 16″ wheels, +/- 600cc, CVT tranny, FI with triple (economy/cruise/sport) maps, lots of carry space. Mileage should range between 40 and 70 depending on the rider and map setting. Fat 16″ tires for longer wear.. Several companies already build something along these lines but no conscious “economy” efforts.
    Dan Gurney’s Eagle has some of the right ideas.

  • I just picked up a BMW F650GS as my 10th bike, and while I’d never have guessed it before owning one, it may well be the perfect commuter, if not the perfect motorcycle.
    Light and narrow for maneuvering through city traffic; wide, comfortable seat and plenty of luggage for highway commutes and trips (even two-up); plenty of ground clearance and a 19″ front wheel for getting off road confidently; heated grips and handguards work well against the elements; switchable ABS (just in case); and the kicker : a smooth single with plenty of torque, a 100mph+ top speed, and a steady 60mpg+ even in mixed use.
    I’ve commuted on just about everything (including a Stella and a Burgman, as well as plenty of big dual sports and sportbikes), and the F650GS seems to be the perfect middle point for economy vs. overall ability.

  • I currently own a Suzuki Burgman 650 automatic scooter. I have been debating whether to go back to a standard cruiser (1300cc to 1600cc range). I have about 3,000 miles on the Burgman and find it provides faster acceleration than most cruisers, has more storage and great wind protection. I get 50+ miles per gallon and with a 4 gallon tank have a range over 200 miles. I would like another automatic bike with similar qualities to the scooter, maybe a mini-Goldwing. You mentioned that Honda may come out with an automatic Golwing in 2009. Would love an automatic 1300cc bike like a Goldwing with a few less accessories (don’t see any need for an audio system, would rather have better brakes (abs), navigation system, heated grips, automatic windshield, and more storage).

  • I think the most fun should be combined with the best fuel economy. In a word: Motard. In a couple of words: Small cc, fuel injected motartd.
    I’m not sure what the new 250cc machines get in mpg when commuting, but I do know that my 650 KLR uses about 1/2 of my 4 cylinder Volkswagen.

  • Build a 600 – 800cc turbodiesel inline triple in a standard style chassis for the traditional motorcyclists and build a step through version with a CVT for the rest. This should give a sizable fuel economy advantage with enough torque to be fun.

  • I would say they already build it: The Suzuki V-Strom 650. I have a 1000, which I love, but if I were to use it only for commuting, and not 2-up touring, then the 650 would be an ideal bike – it comes with a luggage rack that can easily be fitted with a top trunk, it has a tall riding position for good line of sight and visibility to other drivers, it can handle potholes with ease, and it has a fantastically fun and time-proven engine – and my guess is that it gets 50+mpg, since my 1000 was getting mid to high 40’s before I installed a Power Commander. Granted, you can get more economical, but it’s hard to beat the WeeStrom for a balance of economy and fun. I think the only thing missing for ideal commuter status might be shaft drive…

  • I had bought a leftover 2003 Sprint ST in 2004. I rode it for 2 years and put 45000 miles on it and it regularly got 58mpg. Not bad for a 955cc engine with that kind of power. I currently have a 2006 675 (48mpg), 1982 Yamaha XZ550 (42mpg if I’m lucky) and a 95 Ducati M900 that gets around 55mpg. I guess I can’t see why we can’t have higher performance level bikes that get 50mpg or greater. Had it not been for the deer who wanted my piece of the road, I’d still be riding the sprint every day.

  • Having bought my first bike in 1964, I took a sabattical from riding while my 3 children were growing up. So, from the late seventies to the early nineties, I was without a motorcycle. That’s not to say that I didn’t keep up with developments as I read all the mags and watched what coverage there was of competiton. Then one day on my way home I saw a rider peel off the highway onto a lovely S-shaped off-ramp. It brought back all my memories of riding in Vermont and New Hampshire and kindled an unresistable urge to ride my own motorcycle again. It changed my commute from a boring chore into an experience I looked forward to. Commuting on two wheels can prolong your career!

  • Having to wear pants, dress shoes and a tie everyday, I would prefer an auto-transmission to keep my toe from wearing off from the shifter. It would have to have some sort of shell over it to keep me dry (not that I’m afraid to get wet, it’s the road grime that you get covered in). It would have to accelerate 0-60 in less than 6 seconds and easily cruise at 70-80mph. Be able to carry a decent size lunch and laptop. And most importantly, not look like some pieced together overgrown futuristic scooter.

  • I think something like the old Nighthawk 750 with a parallel twin like the new BMW 800 and no adjust lifters and a belt or driveshaft would be just the ticket. If it was under $6000 like the new Kawi KLR650 it’s be a home run except everyone in America wants a big muscle cruiser or replica-racer, not a Economical Commuter. Acually that sounds a lot like the Suzuki VX800 and it was a flop.

  • My R1 remains to be the highest MPG R1 made per SPORT RIDER tests.
    I think the tire thing is negligible given I have run my PP 2ct’s now into their 3rd year. I focus on being smooth and less on wheelies.
    My bike is a daily driver/commuter, and I canyon cruise on it frequently to see family in Malibu from here in Venice.
    I do ride differently then most, as I am not a throttle junky, but like anyone get on it time to time; but I do get 45-48 mpg with some rwhp that still humbles and scares.
    It would be cool to see a CVT tranny on a more sport derived scooter (what happened to those cool Italjet scoots?) With some sized down form factor of sport bike older brothers….

  • A user friendly commuter would need built-in luggage, full fairing, adjustable windshield, and very light weight. How about crossing a Suzuki SV650 with a Honda ST1300. Just downsize the ST1300’s fairing, wrap it around a small v-twin and make it auto transmission. Hopefully something like this could reach the $6-7k price tag. Of course Honda made a bike similar to this, minus the auto-trans. The Honda Pacific Coast and that sure flopped.

  • Commute? You should narrow the field a bit. Discuss just commuting to work or in general everything you do in a car within a specified distance? Also, have to think of those needing highway ability.

    I think the manufacturers do a fine job of filling the ‘general’ gaps. Everyone’s needs and requirements are different. Such is life. Get some aftermarket bags, backpacks, etc to suite your needs, and your golden. Just pick the two wheels that suite you and ride.

    I have commuted on traditional motorcycles/sportbikes from 250 to 1000cc and a 125cc scooter (80+mpg) with centrifugal clutch. The scooter definately has the mpg and underseat storage cards here, comparing stock to stock with standard motorcycles. Throw your cool points out the window when riding it and forget about the highway, but backway ventures to the office, movies, etc are grin-inspiring on a simple scooter. Storage enough for a few groceries and a six pack or that laptop you may have to carry. For more storage, wear a backpack. It’s how I get my carry-on when commuting on the sportbike.

  • I think if they build a 250 cc or 400 cc plug in hybrid scooter it would be a great compromise for commuter transportation at least until better battery technology allows for greater range from a pure battery powered scooter. The automatic transmission and storage capacity of scooters are more user friendly as well for people just getting into the sport. It should be able to easily get 75 to 100 MPG or better with acceleration greater than most cars and handling that is better as well. Build it and they will come especially as gas prices continue to climb. Electric looks like the wave of the future though. (The Vectrix scooter and Tesla sports car are good examples.)

  • Well first we have to understand that the average American rider doesn’t consider MPG or cost of operation when deciding on a ride. I guess I am atypical. My current work vehicle is a 2006 DL650. I put a ladder rack on it and GIVI bags and boot plus a couple of other minor changes and off I go at 53MPG vs. 13 for my Dodge RAM.

    What would I like to see as the ideal bike, well the DL is a great first step but I would get rid of the pretense of being a dirt bike. That is actually a detriment as it raises the center of gravity and makes it harder to control in construction sites and close quarters. I would like a shorter seat height by 1 to 1.5 inches, better wind protection and work on better tire wear. I would like a belt drive and a slightly shorter wheelbase. I want as quiet a bike as possible and as little wind noise as possible. The DL doesn’t have enough alternator capacity for electric clothes and a GPS and telephone with only 50 watts or so to work with.

    As for automatic transmissions, who needs them? They waste fuel and add weight. I would like a standard 6 speed as is delivered with the DL650. It works well, is efficient, and is easy to use. Power beyond the DL650 is a waste for a commute bike. In fact I would sacrifice a little power to get the MPG to 60.

  • From Dominican Republic, here is almost 5 USD, I currently have a gsxr1000 that drinks gasoline and eats rear tires every oil change almost. I think that the best solution would be a big scooter type of bike, with at least a 15″ tires to handle the holes.

    A simple engine 600cc 4stroke parallel twins so it can do long trips, watter cooled, FI. automatic transmission or belt drive. Vehicle fitted with tires that can last as long as 20K miles, capacity of 2 helmets compartment, fuel gauge, watter temp, trip meter, etc.

    Sport bikes are not the solution, they eat tires for lunch, have 4.5 gallon tanks that in hi powered ones last only 180 kms. Sport Turing are better but they are sometimes big and expensive. cruisers don’t have the handling you need to move around traffic.

    The solution is a bike that you can get at least 80mpg, can overtake fast, you can carry a lot of stuff, do not worry about tires and be cheap like 6K USD.

  • I think the biggest question is what percentage of us is truly willing to accept a 100% practical solution to our daily commuting/errand running needs? If it were purely a logical choice I would probably be commuting to work on a Suzuki Burgmann 650 scooter. Plenty of power to cruise on the freeway, great gas mileage, fairly inexpensive to insure, lots of storage space etc. But I can honestly say that a bike like that does nothing for me on an emotional level. It’s the 2 wheeled equivalent of a Prius. I presently have a Suzuki Hayabusa which gets 40+mpg in this same roll and I must say it fulfills the aforementioned emotional void quite well. On the 4 wheeled front I have to give a thumbs up to the makers of the Tesla Roadster. Although a bit pricey (!) at the moment, here is an Electric car which also has some pretty sporty pretensions at the same time. 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, 1/4 mile in 13.6 seconds and a range of around 250 miles. Plug it into your house at night and you can commute all week long on a mere pittance and still be able to smoke the punk in the Camaro next to you. Now that’s an alternative! When someone comes out with a 2 wheeled version of the Tesla I would imagine people would be very interested indeed. I have seen a few Electric motorcycle concepts lately but none at the level I think consumers would truly embrace. The Vectrix would be the closest to this concept. I could not imagine life without the visceral thrill of my Hayabusa but if it means sticking it to Hugo Chavez and his fellow OPEC bottom feeders then I may have to rethink things. Until this happens I could definitely see some small displacement Turbo or supercharged sportbikes running around getting terrific mileage and providing all the fury of current superbikes. It’s been tried before but things have progressed a long ways since the old Suzuki XN85 and Honda 500/650 Turbo days. Perhaps it’s time.

  • Suzuki already makes it…the V-Strom 650. All they need to do is slim it down so that it’s closer in profile and attitude to the Versys, and I’d have one in my garage.

  • Ask yourself what would you recommend for your kids? I would recommend a used economy car. A used Toyota Echo, or a Honda Fit (with less than 70,000 miles) for $8,000 will outlast any 8,000 dollar bike, I know I have one. Rain or snow, I’ll drive the car thank you. I have been riding motorcycles for 46 years and have never been without one since my driving years. Please do the math, Smart Car vs. motorcycle or scooter for 100,000 miles. You want a economical commuter? Get a BICYCLE.

  • I commute across SF on a 98 Ninja 250, and I’d consider a new one if a) they added fuel injection and b) the tach got resized back to a proper size (hint, as big or bigger than the speedo, not as small as the gas gauge) – these are the only real issues I have with the new 08 model. This is plenty of bike for the city (and even highway, really)(and I am 6’2”/180 lb), only thing it could use would be stiffer stock suspension (don’t feel like messing with modifications). Anyway, the practical upshot is the “good commuter” question was solved long ago! The bike’s frugality (mpg as well as insurance cost etc) is well-documented….

  • What’s old is new again. Commuters need a 350cc-500cc standard-style 2-cylinder motorcycle. An upright liquid or air-cooled twin with underseat storage, no expensive bodywork, traditional handlebars and controls. Hydraulic valves for low maintenance and a centerstand for chain cleaning and lubrication. Cast alloy wheels and a low muffler as seen on Buell models (or the new Honda CBR1000) would make add-on luggage possible also. That’s what is needed for commuters.

    Simple. Direct. Inexpensive. Something like the Honda 350-450cc bikes of the ’70’s-80’s or the Yamaha Seca bike without the plastic. With modern manufacturing techniques it could be sold for around $4000. With aftermarket fairings and luggage it could be used for basic touring. Very versatile.

  • I’m a daily motorcycle commuter who rides a 2006 Suzuki V-Strom DL650. I ride 135 miles a day 5 days a week. I’m riding in Southern California on the 15,91,55, and 405 durning rush hour.

    My ultimate commuter would be:

    650cc – 800cc V-Twin (50hp – 80hp)
    Standard Riding position
    17″ wheels (range of tire choices)
    300 mile tank range (gasing up every day sucks) 450 pounds wet including a full tank of gas Full fairing with integrated crash guards (I have to be able to run over road debris/small mammals and get some wind protection on rainy days.)
    6 speed trans
    low center of gravity
    $7000 out the door cost.
    Single seat with integrated storage at least the size of a full-face helmet.

    Suzuki is almost there with a standard SV-650 with full fairing, bigger tank and fancy seat.

  • Thanks for keeping this topic going! My Bay Area commute consists on alternating days of a 40 mile highway (I-280) run, and a 3 mile weave across San Francisco. On good days, I take the long route home on Skyline Blvd. I think there are a couple of bikes out there that are very close to ideal, including the Multistrada 690 and the V-strom 650. What I’d love to see is both of them drop about 50lbs, run leaner for better MPG and emissions, and have high-quality suspension options. Maybe Triumph will come out with a Tiger 675?

    Another thought is with modern engine controls, I don’t see why we couldn’t have two power settings with one running rich for joy rides.

  • Probably something like the Kaw Versys with a top box/side bags would be about right for price, weight and mileage. That’s for someone who’s already into bikes. If you’re trying to lure a gal out of her Honda Civic a scooter with auto trans. might do the trick. The only thing that bothers me about scooters like the Burgman 400 & 650 is that they’re pretty large and heavy.

  • My version of a bike in this category would be something like a Honda CBR F4i but modeled around a 450cc single.

    The site shows some bikes like that except the are converted dirt bikes. Create a “smaller” frame around the 450cc single motor, and give it more “real world” ergonomics. I would prefer a motorcycle capable of 80 mph and 80 MPG.
    Of course, scooters might be able to achieve the gas mileage, but how really puts them on the Highways with the Trucks and SUVs.

    Thanks for the excellent work at your e-zine.

  • Check out the high mileage section of Craig Vetter’s website. His high mileage tourer still looks good now.

  • Having commuted on both a standard motorcycle and a high-wheel scooter, I can say that the automatic transmission is a definite must-have for stop-and-go traffic. The best approach for an economical commuter bike would be something like the formula for a commuter car. Take a small, efficient motor with just enough zip, put it in a decent handling-yet-cheap chassis packaged to carry a passenger and more stuff than you would think just looking at it. Make all maintenance items (tires, oil/filter etc) standard and widely available items, and easy to access and work on. The result would be something like a 400-sized PC800 with an automatic trans.

  • Regarding your assumptions, it’s possible to get a commuter car for much less than $20K. I’ve seen PT Cruisers & Nissan Versas at <$12K, and econo-cars from Kia & Hyundai for <$10.

    Also, I agree tire prices are an issue. I’d like to see cheaper motorcycle tires available. I don’t see any barriers to this.

    Regarding “what should they build”, I’d like to see luggage in a form-factor that better supports laptop computers. Perhaps only 3″
    thick, but at least 16″x14″. Something with a handle that clips on.

    I’d also like to see production bikes with the form-factor of the Gurney Alligator. I’d think these could be higher MPG due to better wind resistance.

    Lastley, make them cheap. What are the barriers to a sub-$4K bike?

  • If you’re asking, that’s a good sign. It’s sign of things to come.

    Right now, in 2008, despite phenomenal leaps in technology: metallurgy, composites, and batteries, motorcycle design improvement has stagnated. We have only seen incremental improvements, rather than breakthroughs. It’s time for a breakthrough. But that’s difficult when so many riders are still in love with ancient and classic designs that were penned 50 years ago. There is no substitute for aesthetic appeal, and it remains in the eye of the beholder. But if the industry is ready to offer a new 2 wheeled vehicle that favors practicality, rather than aesthetic appeal, it’s a big step in the right direction.

    In a new, practical 2 wheeler, I’d like to see the following:

    -Full-size wheels, although I understand a smaller size could be more practical, to ensure more internal cargo area. Like the Burgman’s wheels.
    -Variometer or automatic transmission
    -An optional cheaper version with a standard transmission
    -A decent amount of built in luggage. It would have to be even more than what the Burgman scooter offers. Maybe another 10-15 liters more.
    -A minimum of 2 optional engine sizes. Flat twin probably.
    -Decent weather protection that could possibly be removed, as in a removable windscreen.
    -It would probably lean towards more of a scooter-style look than a traditional motorcycle look. But it would not necessarily have to be a step-through design.
    -The rear pillion should have a hideaway or foldable back rest.
    -Integrated floor boards that protect the rider’s feet.
    -Sufficiently long wheelbase to ensure comfortable riding on the highway.
    -An option of adjustable suspension, going from soft, to regular, to hard.
    -Pre-wired for an MP3 player. Optional built-in speakers. And not Bose! They’re ridiculously expensive!
    -Removable luggage rack in back.
    -Center stand AND side stand. Probably an option for the center stand because of added cost.
    -Sufficiently large fuel tank good for 300km on the highway.
    -Muffler located underneath engine, ideally.

  • A motorcycle has about 1/3 the frontal area and 1/6 the weight of a car. So it should get at least three times the fuel mileage, i.e. about 75mpg. In fact very few, if any, motorcycles get this good a mileage.
    They are just not engineered and tuned for fuel efficiency. To be fuel efficient they need fewer cylinders – many small cylinders produce more
    internal friction. They need streamlining. Current motorcycle
    fairings really don’t do much to reduce drag; just check your top speed with and without the fairing. Going to “dustbin” fairings would give a big boost to fuel efficiency. It’s unfortunate that these have been banned from racing. They were banned from racing because they were sensitive to cross winds at high speed. If they had not been banned, factories might have developed ways to stabilize them.

    So I would like to see something like a 500 single or twin with counterbalancers for smoothness. It should have a dustbin fairing. It should have a tail trunk and removable side luggage, all capable of taking full face helmets and/or grocery bags. It needs to be comfortable cruising at 85mph – the common traffic speed on a lot of CA freeways. A diesel engine would gain about another 25% in mileage.

  • Personally I think there are plenty of commuter platform bikes already available to the world but just not to the U.S. market. Every time I go to the European dealer websites, I look at them with envious eyes, asking why don’t they sale those here. We’ve all heard the excuses the dealers say “The customers aren’t pushing for those styles of bikes in the U.S. market.” Well I have yet to see a motorcycle commercial where they emphasized the savings in price, fuel economy, cheaper maintenance, and etc involved in getting a motorcycle. Here in the U.S. motorcycling is advertised as a past time activity, kind of like ATV’s. They really don’t advertise the practicality a motorcycle could offer an individual. Until then I think in the U.S. motorcycles will remain as is.

    I do see limiting factors involved however, something that a lot of commuters are not willing to risk that the rest of us motorcyclist have accepted as part of the riding experience. Commuters are not going to want to give up the comfort, security, and all the high tech gadgets offered in the latest vehicles. If motorcycle manufactures are going to want a piece of this green pie they need to offer a motorcycle that provides all the convenience involved with driving a car.

    To list off a few:
    -It takes about 5-10 seconds to get into a car and start driving.
    -Protection from all natural elements.
    -A.C. and Heater.
    -Plush leather bucket seats that recline and adjust to accommodate many different physical dimensions.
    -5 Star safety ratings; Safety systems, that maintain vehicle stability, reduce risk of crashing, and protect you in the event of a crash.
    -Cheaper to “Insure”
    -No need to wear special protective clothing, or Helmet that will destroy my hair that I just spent a hour preparing.

    The list can go on.
    One motorcycle type vehicle that I think could have a chance against cars and attract more to the two wheeled world or should I say three wheeled world is the “Carver One” made by Vandenbrink, a Dutch company, and another three wheeled vehicle called “Venture One” made by a California company . I really think that the three wheeled platforms offered by those two vehicles, if advertised properly, could really be a hit in the U.S. and to all the “GREEN” people out there. If Yamaha used this similar platform with their R1 motor and styling, you’d have a pretty sweet ride.

  • The bike you’re talking about is already available. Suzuki Burgman 650. It easily cracks 50+ mpg. It’ll zip through town seamlessly and unlike “little” scooters or electric vehicles; you can go anywhere as the bike willingly cruises 70 mph or more. Throw in built in storage for two full size helmets and other stuff. It even has gear final drive vs a belt like on conventional scooters for more longevity.

    The only problem this particular bike has is it is styled like a scooter so most won’t respect it for what it’s actually capable of. The bigger issue is most Americans, hell even most motorcyclists, don’t consider motorcycling as a viable commuter option in the first place. I don’t see that changing any time soon regardless of the cost of gas.

  • This is easy:

    Start with a good basic bike platform like the Ninja 650 or the SV650.
    Offer it is midsize (650) and 1000/1100 class sizes.

    Standard equipment:
    1) A decent sized 1/2 fairing (like BMW F800S)
    2) Adjustable seat height (ala BMW R11RT)
    3) Good wide-placed mirrors
    4) Chain drive or better belt drive or shaft drive
    5) Standard forks and single shock rear suspension with adjustable ride height front and rear suspension capable of being adjusted at least 1″ down front and rear from standard position.
    6) UJM “standard” seating position
    7) Adjustable handlebars so that they can be moved forward and back and up and down at least 1″ and preferrrably 2″ in all directions. Could be accomplished by adding/removing spacers to move handlebars around.
    Alternatively could be accomplished by using several aftermarket standard handlebars that are already offered by a given handlebar manufacturer.
    8) triple disk brakes – use off the shelf components no new tech here
    9) fuel mileage of 55 MPG for the 650 with saddlebags
    10) Fuel tank capable of 250 mile range including at least 1/2 gal “reserve”
    11) electrical system capable of handling electric clothing, auxiliary electronic devices (GPS, intercom)
    12) Styling to be along the lines of the SV/650 Ninja and not adventure bike like the BMW GS, Kaw Versys, or Suzuki DL as those styles turn away too many people. Think more like the Suzuki Bandit styling as a starting point.

    Factory options:
    1) Fairing lowers with good leg coverage – not just cosmetic.
    2) Wider/taller windshield
    3) Heated grips
    4) ABS
    5) Hard saddlebags capable of enclosing a laptop computer in its case
    6) Top case capable of enclosing 2 helmets and yet integral enough to not stick up so high above the seat

    Most of this is already exists in various bikes but not in one model.

  • I ride a 2006 Honda Shadow Spirit 1100 for the love of riding. The fact it averages 45+ mpg’s is a bonus. The “cost” of riding my bike is far less than the cost of my truck. How many $200 tires can I buy for the same amount it takes to fill my truck twice a week at $60 each fill up. My commute is 90 miles round trip, five to six days a week. I get 180 miles to a tank on my bike, $12 to fill up today, I get 400 miles to a tank in my truck, $56 to fill up today. Gas is a getting to be a major expense for everybody, thank God I can at least enjoy that expense on two wheels instead of four.

  • The main thing I would suggest, is to bring back the PC800.
    luggage and protection not unlike the goldwing, but a much more reasonable commuting-sized engine. Actually I imagine most commutes could be done comfortable with a 4-6 hundred cc twin.

    Next up, and so few people are taking it there, is a diesel.
    100mpg would not be an unreasonable goal for a commuter’s bike — It’s been done a few times, but seems to not quite make it to the road, such as the 125cc 2stroke transverse flat twin that “had crankshaft problems” and never got built though they were trying with a 250cc 4stroke diesel. Sorry I forget the company (eCycle?)

    There once was an ad I saw, from Finland I think, in which they had taken the lupo engine (VW’s 2.2L TDI) and wrapped a heavily modified GSX-1000 frame around it. Not quite a commuter shape, but that engine would make a good goldwing competitor engine.

  • The greatest jack of all trades bike (including commuting) out there is the V-strom 650. It is a bargain, and it is already available!

    One thing is for sure: if the manufacturers build an affordable, efficient commuter bike and want anyone to see the thing anywhere in the motorcycle media, they had better put CBR or Ninja stickers on it or a bunch of chrome and leather tassels, because if it isnt a sportbike or lame cruiser, it will get no coverage

  • here’s another tack: the moped. The reason it’s not suitable for commuting currently, is that it doesn’t offer excellent protection from the elements, its small tires make it squirrelly at speed, and the motors typically chosen don’t let you get up to speed.

    So the bergman 650 should be a suitable trend in this regard though something about that particular model just doesn’t quite speak to me.

    OK, so here: take 18″, very wide cruiser tires (same front as back to keep it economical to some extent. 140/60H18R ?) the 500cc single from Buell, attached via CVT or at least an automatic like from honda…and keep the whole thing as low as possible, with as much fairing and luggage space as can be stuffed onto the frame. Maybe even a fold-up roof to keep rain out. I’d be happy to see something like that on the market.

  • I really like the Gilera DNA. Scooter ease of use and economy with sport bike looks.
    However my teenage daughter who reeeally reeeally wants a “yellow scooter” when she
    gets to license age said “That’s not a scooter!” when I showed her a picture.

  • Even though I am a diehard “two wheel” guy I truly think that if manufacturers want to tap into the commuter market and be extremely successful they need to begin to think seriously about a mass produced three-wheeler. Something much along the lines of the “Stallion” which is currently produced by Thouroughbred Motorsports but with a more budget-minded, everyday working person in mind as their target customer. If it were presented as an alternative to the gas guzzler SUVs with an emphasis on economy yet fun to drive like a sports car it would be a hit. We Americans want our cake and eat it too. We love our big powerful gas sucking hot rods with plenty of power but we complain about spending $70 to fill them up. We want economy and performance too. Something that so far, car companies have not been able to provide very well all in one package. There are plenty of non-motorcyclers out there that have a fear of things on two wheels with motors that would absolutely go for a stable three wheeler with car like seats, pedals and a steering wheel. Not to mention fantastic mpg and whiplash performance power. Even if not to satisfy the gas budget-minded commuters they would be a huge hit with people who cannot physically handle a two wheeler. If they build we will buy.

  • … or maybe a fuel-injected version of the Honda CX500 or CX650, with that bulletproof transverse V-twin engine, shaft drive, a frame-mounted fairing, and big hard cases.

  • Having an off-road bike background makes me somewhat biased but my ideal commuter would be a 400 or 450cc single with the obvious upright seating position with quality wheels/tires/brakes ala super-moto but not necessarily of racing quality . The Suzuki DRZ 400 comes to mind but with more protective fenders nicer seat etc. and of course a more robust rear fender carrier arrangement to carry lap top , brief case etc. on your daily commute .

  • My only bike is a Suzuki Burgman 650. It’s a fine commuter. I like the automatic transmission, the 55 liters of under-seat storage, the weather protection, and the step-thru frame; but it’s, as the English say, “lardy.” If I had the luxury of a dedicated commuter ride, I’d take a Vespa GTS 250 with a top-case.

  • For a commuter, I’d definitely go for a scooter, auto transmission, 500cc or bigger, single or parallel twin. Lots of storage is a must. The only thing that bothers me about scooters is the small tires. I think Aprilia or Piaggio makes a 500 w/16″ tires, but there are no Italian motorcycle dealers for 320 miles. I currently ride a 97 Honda Shadow Spirit VT1100C but have test ridden both Suzuki Burgmans & would rather have the scooters. Lighter, faster, more wind & weather protection, more comfortable, don’t have to swing a leg over, storage helps lower the center of gravity because if its location, & I’m sold on CVT transmission. So my ideal commuter would be like a big Burgman but with 16″ tires, bigger windshield, lower seat, & more storage like a GIVI trunk.

  • I commute daily on an ’05 Yamaha FZ1. Sportbikes (like the now old GSXR-1100) have been my daily commuters since about 1978. I do now take a car on rainy days to maintain my wife’s sanity (and the fact I have a 9 year old daughter). Although for many years I guess I offset the gas savings as my only car was a 1970 HemiCuda.

  • I commute now on my ’99 Kawasaki Concours (unless snow and/or ice are on the road). It works well — good weather protection, ample luggage space — but, in the commuter role, doesn’t have *great* fuel economy. I usually get around 35-37 (10-12 better than my Buick).

    But as I age, the weight of the bike kind of looms as a factor. Something under 450# would be great. I would be interested in a 650-850cc bike. If Honda imported the Deauville, I’d think *real* seriously about that. The BMW F800 series, either the ST or the GS, would be interesting, but they’re relatively expensive.

    The Honda “sport-cruiser” looks interesting, but I wonder about weather protection and would prefer a more upright position. At this point, automatic transmission doesn’t appeal a whole lot, but that might change if I were to find myself in stop-and-go-traffic.

  • Mass produced cheap diesel KLR650 with tubeless tires and lowering kit as options. Ultimate commuter bike for $10 per gallon universe.

  • I commute, when it’s not winter, 80 miles a day. Easily 80% is on a 4 lane, not in a major urban area. I run from a small Upstate NY( the other NY )city to just outside Syracuse NY. As much as I’d like to stay off the 4 lane I’m on it to avoid 30 mph traffic ,untold intersections, driveway and business entrances, all danger points. However I do accept an interchange of 2 red, white and blue routes with additional intersecting state routes. That danger zone only lasts a couple mile and making it through that twice a day provides me with a wonderful sense of well being. Yes I ramble. Feel free to edit. I want a standard position bike that can run at a GPS’d 75 to 80 mph and still get 50+ mpg. I need to be able to carry lunch and enough gear to deal with the changing weather that Upstate NY can offer over the course of a spring or fall day. I’ve got this now in a sport bike, not a super sport, but would prefer a standard. Oh yeah 500cc will work.

    PS Sufficient electrical power for gloves and jacket at a minimum, more would be better. Just look at how little power a Wee makes, that’s crazy for a bike that looks nearly, almost perfect.

  • I suppose a scooter makes sense in an urban environment, but I think Honda’s DN-01 makes more sense and is more advanced than a system of belts and pulleys.

    I think bikes like Suzuki’s GSX650F and Kawasaki’s Versys are new up-to-date bikes that make good commuters. But neither is perfect, the Kawasaki lacks power and the Suzuki is WAY overweight.But both I’m sure get 50+ MPG on the road. and are fast enough for most people.

    (hey, how about a road test of the Suzuki GSX650F they’re already in showrooms!)

    These types of bike need GOOD weather and wind protection.

    But will they sell in big numbers the USA? No, not unless gas hits $6.00/gal and stays there. It could happen…..

  • The Honda Deauville with an electically adjustable windshield would be ideal, automatic or not.

  • If bike was just for city commute there is no need for large cubic inch engine. One of the large scooters would work well.

  • A good commuter motorcycle would be lightweight, with good, aerodynamic, wind protection and removable luggage. 750-900cc with between 60 and 90 horsepower should be plenty and also good for touring. Lighter weight with today’s tires should improve tire mileage.

    Tuned for higher mileage instead of peak horsepower would better match realistic use. Strictly city riding could certainly be addressed with a much smaller machine, even regular or electrically assisted bicycles should be considered. Dependability and easy, low maintenance should be taken for granted.
    Bigger, faster and louder is getting tiresome and innovation needs to go in a new direction.
    Motorcycles have been big enough, fast enough and loud enough for decades. When small cars are getting better mileage than motorcycles, something is wrong.

    We don’t need two wheeled SUV’s. We just want to buy the motorcycle, they can keep the masculinity. When I started riding, bikes routinely achieved at least 50 mpg and cars were only good for maybe 20. Quieter, smaller bikes may also earn improved acceptance by society and be granted special privileges such as parking and lane priorities like they do in Europe.

  • It is not what they should build, but more like what should they import.

    Many of the smaller displacement bikes/scooters of yesteryear are cult status these days. I am speaking of everything from the Honda line of CT70’s, to VF500’s to NT650 Hawks to the CB-1. I hear of Bandit 400’s being made into track bikes whenever they are found on Craigslist or in a barn somewhere. The XT350’s and DR350’s bring good money as the perfect dual sport for size and comfort. Who would pass on a nice air-cooled Sherpa? Many of those exact motors are still being produced today in markets other than the US in updated model bikes. They are just not being imported here.

    While scooters are not for everyone, as gas prices increase – they will be. The 50cc campus commuters are well represented and are fine for around town. The much larger 250 CC Reflex and 400CC Bergman and up are represented too and are well received by those in the know. For the suburban communities that define America, there are gaps. The 125cc line of scooters is nearly global due to graduated licensing. Nearly, except here in America. Unless you buy a Vino 125 (or a bit pricier Italian version), there is nothing in that class here – and nothing with a wheel larger than 10 inches. All other markets are saturated with 125 cc scooters and bikes. The thoughts of a 150cc – 200 cc scooter with a classic design (and a 14 inch wheel or larger) that can cruise comfortable at 62 mph uphill with 80 mpg with an MSRP of around $3000 is appealing.

    Cheap oil and a bull market allowed many to fill garages with heavy cruisers and inefficient sport bikes. Those that live at or below their means though have been buying great bikes all along. The Ninja 250, Burgman, Vino 125, XT225 and SV/DL 650 sell pretty well considering the expanse of this great country. These offerings are right-sized and right-priced models with excellent efficiency (MPG, insurance, tires). More of them in this size two-wheeled arena with options like fuel injection, adjustable suspenders and lockable storage should be welcomed with open arms at $100/barrel oil and bumper to bumper traffic.