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MD Bike of the Year: Smaller Displacement and Simplicity

Clockwise from upper left: Honda’s new Rebel 500, Suzuki SV650, BMW G 310 R, and Kawasaki Z125 Pro

MD’s Bike of the Year for 2016 isn’t a bike … it’s a mindset.  Why?  Because we sense a seismic shift from both ends of the industry, i.e., the manufacturers and the customers. A shift that promises to bring new riders into motorcycling just when they are badly needed. Baby Boomers with lots of disposable income cannot carry this industry any longer.

We also don’t see anything introduced this year any more important than the fact that several manufacturers are introducing simpler, lower cost and smaller displacement machines that are generally well accepted in the market. Sure, we have some higher displacement models that made a big splash (Honda’s Africa Twin comes to mind), but it is time to shift the focus to the other end of the market that, in our opinion, is much more important in the long run for this industry.

Models introduced in recent years such as the Kawasaki Ninja 300, Yamaha YZF-R3, Honda Grom, Honda CB500X  and KTM Duke 390, have been joined by new models introduced this year such as the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, BMW G 310 R, Honda CBR250RR, Suzuki’s revamped SV650 and Suzuki GSX250R. Additionally, Honda also announced small displacement, budget-priced cruisers in the form of the Rebel 500 and Rebel 300.

So this award is really to the industry as a whole, as well as new riders who view these models as an inexpensive, but attractive entry point into the great motorcycling experience we all cherish. We can’t fail to mention, as well, all of the experienced riders who will add a smaller displacement bike to their stable, and be reminded of the simple pleasures of motorcycling perhaps lost in the adrenaline rush of the past decade.

The Honda CB500X – updated for 2016


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113 Comments

  1. grumpy farmer says:

    Any one know if Triumph has any plans to enter this market segment?

    • mickey says:

      they had a prototype 250 2 years ago, but gave up on it I think. At least haven’t heard anything about it in a couple of years.

  2. WSHart says:

    For motorcycling to expand it must be affordable and fun. Given the cost of purchase and insurance that is two strikes. Factor in tires and you’re likely out. Service? Costly. Very costly.

    Hydraulic lifters would ease the cost of ownership. Tires that last longer than a few thousand miles make sense too.

    I really don’t see this happening anytime soon. Besides, have you looked at the typical Generation Nothing lately? Do you really want that sharing the road or as in Kommiefornia, revving their motor because you are in their way while they lane split? Its bad enough out there with the road cretins already licensed to spill.

    Scooters were once the hope of the industry, but you can get a nice used car for the price of either a Vespa 300, Burgman 650 or BMW 650GT. Yup. Reality be a bitch, huh?

    So now motorcycling (and many other industries) is courting the “hipster” crowd. The new Triumph Bobber is the poster bike of hope for that genre. I fear it will have the same ending as with Ducati ownership.

    Once the shock of the first major service wears off, so too does the glow of ownership. If that doesn’t do it, tires will. You must pay to have them balanced and installed. If I go to Discount Tire I don’t get charged extra for that and the tires last a whole lot longer than the ridiculously priced ones for motorcycles.

    And motorcycling in general is not a “sport”. It is more a hobby and if you are truly enthusiastic about it, a passion.

    But not a sport. It can be a skill on the track but a spill on the street. No athleticism is required as in track and field, basketball, football, etc.

    That light at the end of the tunnel? The freight train of reality.

    • Scott says:

      Always a breath of fresh air…

    • Aussie M says:

      “But not a sport. It can be a skill on the track but a spill on the street. No athleticism is required as in track and field, basketball, football, etc.”

      You are way out of touch with reality, WSHart. Motorcycle racers of all types have to be very fit or they would have no hope of being competitive. Even a brisk ride through the twisties on a road bike takes physical effort, unless you are very slow (like you). Dirt riding is one of the most physically strenuous activities there is. You should watch the motorcycle competitors in the Dakar. That event requires extreme fitness just to finish it.

      And what do you call golf, lawn bowls and darts. They can be highly competitive sports but they require little fitness and athleticism.

      • WSHart says:

        Golf is not a sport. Neither are lawn bowling and darts. Its more a skill but interpret as you see fit to fit your needs. A brisk ride takes physical effort, eh? Surely you jest.

        Riding on the street does not require anything but a modicum of intelligence. Speaking of which…

        Scott, your brevity is appreciated. You have a wonderful economy with words, kiddo.

        • Scott says:

          Brevity. You should try it sometime, grandpa.

        • Aussie M says:

          You are way out of touch with reality, WSHart. Perhaps it is dementia.

        • Lewis says:

          I am assuming you have never watched Motorcross or the Isle of Man TT. I have ridden hard on street rides. The roads we used to ride taxed the leg muscles, forearms and shoulders. Lots of braking and direction change requiring movement on the bike. If I did not hydrate cramps were not uncommon. Riding woods/off road can get even more physical. After these rides I found myself physically and mentally drained. I can tell you the concentration factor is far more demanding than when I played sports in high school and college. The better physical shape you are in, the better you will be at riding. So yes, athleticism is helpful in riding, just as it is in playing basketball. I bet it would also even help with lawn darts and golf!

    • todd says:

      I consider motorcycling my primary form of transportation. I’ve never involved myself with motorcycle sport, too expensive. Calling it a hobby suggests that it’s not something to be taken seriously as a vehicle.

      • Scott the Aussie says:

        I used to be a trials competitor Todd – you should give it a go Todd its a pretty cheap form of bike sport. And fun.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      All sports are hobbies unless you make money at it. That said, I do not.

      • Scott the Aussie says:

        Its not a sport unless there is a chance you can die doing it. All the rest are games.

  3. Grover says:

    I appreciate all levels of motorcycling as each has a specific application and believe that owning more than one bike is the answer. I’m not going off-roading on a Road King and don’t plan on crossing the country on a 250 Rebel. Each is fun in its own right and hopefully we continue to have lots of choices in the future. I also believe that the current trend in small bike worship has a lot to do with economics/old age and infirmity than a firm effort to bring new riders into the fold. If a kid wants to own a motorcycle he will look to the secondary market like most of us did and ride/drop/pick up/repeat until he can afford a more powerful machine to feed the performance desire.

    • Bob says:

      At the age of 68 and after 54 years of riding, I agree with your assertion that the trend towards lighter, smaller bikes is driven in no small part by aging riders. Weight now means more to me than any other detail on the spec sheet.

      • Aussie M says:

        Bob, I am 56 and have been riding for 44 years. I have lost interest in big powerful bikes because if I make use of more than a third of the performance they have I will lose my licence. I can’t legally ride fast, but I can legally ride quickly, and lighter bikes are better at that. This means being quicker through tight corners because of later braking and higher corner speeds, and being much quicker around town because the bike is more agile. The police have devices (radar) to detect illegal speed from a considerable distance. But it is much less likely that they will catch me drifting through the corners, or “backing it in” with the rear wheel in the air like Marc Marquez. And lighter bikes are better for that (Marquez rides a light bike). So I can still have fun without illegal speed. The reality is, big bikes are chosen by slow riders.

  4. MikeG says:

    Totally agree with the SV650 comments. I think it was inaccurately labeled a “beginner” bike simply because it wasn’t a 600 super sport race bike. In reality — as opposed to the “reality” that exists only in the average 20 year old American newbee — an SV650 is a potent backroad machine, with a midrange punch and handling potential designed to carve up mountain roads. Real riders know this….newbees just want to twist the throttle between stoplights and experience maximum coolness, at the expense of ever becoming a real motorcyclist.

    I’m hopeful this trend leads to an actual SV650 successor, something other than a Gladius with a quick makeover. My 2001 S model will remain in my fleet until they actually improve on it.

  5. Bigshankhank says:

    I’m down with this choice. I downsized in 2015 to a Duke 390 from my prior ride of a Ducati ST3 (as well as Harleys, litre bikes, vintage two strokes and everything in between) and I haven’t looked back. Obviously there was an adjustment to the different power available, but having toured, commuted and backroad blasted on the Duke I am loving it. I encourage everyone I know who is a rider or considering getting a bike to look into the growing variety of smaller displacement bikes.

  6. Starmag says:

    It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow.

    Personal experience. I have a ZRX1200 with “only” 122HP that I can rarely open the throttle on. Frustrating. I can afford any bike I want and I’m trading down. Probably to a V Strom 650.

  7. azi says:

    Good choice Dirck – small bikes are the perfect antidote for the tech overdose in current glamour bikes. They’re excellent reminders that anyone can have fun with just two wheels and an engine.

  8. Aussie M says:

    Here in Australia they hit us hard for any little speeding offence. They have taken away any reason to have a big powerful bike. Of course, there are still plenty of riders with over inflated egos and underdeveloped riding skills who want big bikes. The only skill they have is the ability to open the throttle in a straight line (which means they have no skill at all) so they still think that big power is important. But truly skilful riders have the ability to take advantage of the low weight and better agility of lighter bikes, and there is no law against that.

    • Scott says:

      Wait a minute… You can ride as fast as you want to, as long as you’re on a lightweight bike? Sign me up for that!

  9. Dave says:

    Then perhaps in kind, the Motorcyclist of the Year should be the Baby Boomers and other experienced motorcyclists who can help enthuse & mentor a new generation of riders. Being new to riding is not always age specific. This can be passions deferred to later in life experiences. Either way, it’s always great to have friendly helping guidance towards a safe and enjoyable experience.

  10. Philip says:

    I’m a used bike buyer but I have purchased 2 brand new small displacement bikes within the last 4 years. In owning these bikes I have come to realize the bottom line for me is that I like riding motorcycles, can appreciate them for what their intended purpose is and not ask more of them than that. I like this years MOTY choice.

  11. AlohaTerry says:

    I think you guys hit it on the nose…as an aging baby boomer myself it hard to get new people into motorcycling with new bigger bikes the equal of a yearly salary of many kids we are trying to get into our sport…I welcome the new smaller bikes that offer FUN at great price and hopefully they all add another generation to the motorcycle scene we all love and enjoy. Welcome new kids, welcome!

  12. red says:

    I totally agree with the assessment and also sense the “seismic shift”. We’ve ridden the upgrade escalator for years/decades progressing in cc’s/power, tech, weight. Now it seems all at once a large segment has said whoa. I like it. There’s still room in my garage for a big highway traveling bike, but just beating around town/backroads for the afternoon the little ones are fun and less drama.

  13. Andrus Chesley says:

    I read about and go look at all the newer bikes and have been doing so for over 55 yrs. sigh! Just don’t think I’m going to be replacing my old 48k miles A14 KLR or 81K miles 07 1250S Bandit with anything out there at present. They are just getting too much electronics on them now days.

  14. Derek says:

    I recently bought a Royal Enfield 500 Classic and love it. Coming off a series of big single dual purpose bikes (lots of spectacular backroads here in NZ) I wanted something capable on gravel and tracks but also a traditional motorcycle I could enjoy for its intrinsic character and visual beauty. Honest, lusty power where you need it and delivered in a way only a long stroke, heavy flywheel single can along with a glorious boom, throb and clatter. Very mechanical. I get bored with open road riding and this thing suits New Zealand backroad riding so well. It has proven to be very reliable, also. I can hire a modern two wheeled appliance if really needed for serious distances but I am loving owning this bike. Great fun on many levels!

  15. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Am I alone in being a bit disappointed that an actual bike was not named BOTY? Yes, the smaller, simpler trend is important but its not that new..why not choose a bike that exemplifies the trend AND is the best bike…a bit of a journalistic cop-out if you ask me (I understand that nobody asked me)

    • MGNorge says:

      Nothing wrong with the feeling. But name one that exemplifies the trend you see and either stands above the rest or defines it most closely.

    • Tank says:

      I don’t think of it as a “journalistic cop-out”. I just think the trend is a lot more important than any single bike. Anybody remember last year’s BOTY?

    • Scott says:

      I don’t think there’s a class in Journalism School called “Items of the Year – 101: Choosing Properly”…

      (Come to think of it, from what I see in the local news websites they don’t have classes for spelling or grammar, either…)

  16. Mike Simmons says:

    I think the return to common sense and smaller bikes is long overdue. I have a Honda NT700 which I purchased new 6 years ago and now have 71K miles on it. It has carried me thru 31 states with a full load of luggage at any legal highway speed and gets 55+mpg doing so. What’s not to like? I remember when a 750 was a big bike.

    Mike

    • todd says:

      As far as I’m concerned, a 750 still is a big bike. It’s, at least, at the bottom end of the big bike scale nowadays but a big bike nonetheless.

  17. Martin B says:

    In New Zealand, the bike market is stagnating because (a) Young people have their eyes glued to their cell phones, and they’d rather walk or take public transport; (b) We import used Japanese cars at comparatively low prices, and motorbikes cannot compete on price; (c) Our insane Environment Minister slapped a huge increase on ACC levies for motorcycle registration, currently $580 per year, which is way beyond what poor people like me can afford, for fraudulent reasons which have since been refuted thoroughly.

    I have a Suzuki 650 single which is all I need, but I can’t raise the money to get it legally registered, and I also have frequent health problems which would prevent riding anyway. But there are days I would love to zoom off somewhere if I could afford the petrol. Only older bikes more than 25 years old, or scooters under 50cc are affordable to legally ride. Sigh.

  18. ONE UPPER says:

    Lets introduce a few more models. Benelli 300 and the 600!Hyosung GD 250R !SSR Razkull 125!SSR Buccaneer 250 !

  19. Denny says:

    On subject of “simplicity”…

    there is no more any simplicity on motorcycles. It used to be coil, spark plug and set of breakers; all is in history.

    I was amazed when taking away side panel on my CB500X. There are all kinds of parts which I have no idea what they are exactly for. They are mostly electronics and air induction components, but also a charcoal canister, among other ‘useful’ stuff. The exhaust has catalytic converter added to it, plus oxygen sensor controlling fuel mixture. Lots of stuff; not simple at all. You need diagnostic instrument to find if something is not right.

    • Aussie M says:

      Denny, the next bike I want to add to my fleet is the Suzuki DR650. It does have electronic ignition (a desirable feature IMO) but other than that is pure simplicity. I like to have one bike that is reliable, quick and easy to maintain, and has the ability to take me anywhere (including places that a lot of other bikes can’t go) with no hassles.

      • Denny says:

        I believe what you say; that is especially useful in Australia. Those 650 singles are excellent bikes for nearly everything. One fella I worked with had Honda 650 dual-sport bike – be swore by it. What impresses me on both of those is their suspension/ rims/ wheels and of course rigid frame and beefy engines. That is kind of quality you do not see on street bikes.

    • Tim C says:

      I’d start by removing the charcoal canister. I took mine off after realizing some starting/running issues were likely caused by it being clogged, and discovered not only was it indeed the problem, it’s also an alarmingly heavy chunk – I would’ve pulled it off years ago had I known….

      • Denny says:

        You are right, I will take a look at it. Now I am out of warranty anyway. Actually, what I remember as a youngster was that every bike after it was ridden smelled beautifully by gasoline. The way it is supposed to.

        • Tim C says:

          Heh it shouldn’t be that extreme. I never smell anything. But I certainly think it’s a pointless complication considering the number of motorcycles on the road isn’t exactly going to lead to an environmental apocalypse without the damn canisters.

          Now, my first bike was a Ninja 250 that had been jetted, and friends that rode behind me remarked that it smelled like a mower (also the kind from our youth). It ran better than any carbureted N250 I’ve seen; even my shop in SF remarked on this.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I guess perspectives differ based on what you are accustomed to. In my mind, the things I need a computer to fix are the easy ones

      • Denny says:

        Well, mostly it is not a magic, once you have a clues. I know shop people get around it quite good; I am in good terms with them.

  20. Frank says:

    Along with all these 250-300’s that tack about 9K or more on the highway, let’s have some 375-450’s for commuting. They would be welcome compared to larger commuters for many reasons…gas, insurance, weight, buy-in cost, handling…etc. A Versys 400 for example would make a much more practical, comfortable, and acceptable highway commuter then the current 300.

    • Lonerider says:

      Me, too, i’d love to see a Versys 400 or something similar. It would be relatively easy i suppose for Kawa. But, here in Canada, the Ninja 400 was a poor seller. Global market call to 250, not much for 400.

  21. Tim says:

    Most baby boomers got their motorcyling start on small, reliable, inexpensive Japanese bikes in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Once you’ve ridden a motorcycle, it is hard not to fall in love with them, so the trick is getting people to take that first ride. Once they do, they’re hooked. Eventually, you will crave more speed and power, but only if you get your foot in the door and experience the thrill of riding first. This is a good trend, no question about it.

    Besides, with some boomers now in their 70’s, many will to want to replace those heavy bikes with lightweight bikes they can still handle. Don’t be surprised to see older people buying a lot of these smaller bikes as well.

    • Dirty Bob says:

      Tim you are speaking for yourself. I like a big bike with power for comfort. Little bikes are for little kids. But everyone got their start on small Jap-Bikes. Everyone needs reliable transportation when they reach 12 yrs. on. So get a 50 cc and live to ride!

      • Tim says:

        Dirty Bob, I have a 160 HP, 800+ lb V6 BMW, so I was actually speaking for others. I’m 57 years-old and at the tail end of the baby boom generation. That BMW is a chore to get on and off of the dolly and move around in my garage, and has been since the day I brought it home, but I’ll hang in there as long as I can. I too am addicted to power.

        When I’m 70 or 80, I’m thinking I may have no choice but downsize. I want to keep riding as long as I’m physically and mentally able to. I’d rather risk going out at age 85 in a high speed crash than go out at 90 or 95 with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.

        • Tim says:

          Obviously, I meant in-line 6. I’m so conditioned to saying V6 in relation to cars I invented a BMW motorcycle motor that doesn’t exist.

    • MGNorge says:

      I agree with you Tim, set the hook first before expecting to land them for life. I started riding motorcycles at 11 and the experience was intoxicating. But we also had many places in the dirt to ride back then. Street riding was waiting for those wishing to, some of my friends stopped riding much after being on the street for awhile and marrying and starting families, etc. I had a lull in my college years but have ridden since.
      Without good off the road places to learn and love motorcycling the experience is going to be different for new riders today. I do see some scooters but I think the current crop of 250/300 sized bikes are a good start in city riding, easily keeping up with traffic. That may satisfy many if freeway use is limited but it varies by rider.

      • Tim says:

        I hear you, MGNorge. I grew up in a small town. The city Marshall let me ride my minibike around town at age 8, provided I stayed off of the two busiest streets. We also had a lot of rural dirt roads to ride on, which was a blast. I got my first motorcycle, a Kawasaki 90, at age 12, which I’ve restored and ride occassionally. I can’t imagine my life without motorcycles.

  22. Vrooom says:

    This is a good thing. A few years ago, OK 9 years ago, I was 42 at a race and got the youngest rider award. The bike world needs new blood constantly. 250-300cc is the right way to do it.

  23. Lonerider says:

    The market for small bikes now is interesting. Most of them don’t look cheap and don’t have boring style. The small adventure models will be a solution for taller people. I’m surprised with the minding that bigger is better. But, wait, i was thinking that when i was in my 20’s and 30’s.

    Of course, here, beginners would be the target. But some experienced riders could be buyers too. A small bike makes a great second bike. And for people who makes just a few thousands miles per year, a small bike with extra room like the Kawasaki Versys 300 could be the only bike to own.

    All small engine don’t have to be put into a frame made for people under 5′-5″. Give us decent suspension and ergonomics. And don’t forget the excitment factor.

  24. Wendy says:

    Too bad about that gas tank on the Rebel.

  25. mickey says:

    Let’s hope it works and it brings some fresh blood into the sport. Heck kids my grand daughters age (17) are not even i terested in getting their drivers lic, preferring instead to let their parents shuffle them around. They don’t want to get hot, or cold, or wet, or up too early. By 17 I had already been riding a street bike for 2 years, A 50 cc Aermachhi two stroke, and was on the road at first light. Stuffing my army peacoat with newspaper if it was cold. We are dealing with a different generation, with a different mindset. I really hope the i troduction of smaller lighter bikes gets some of them off the couch and onto two wheels.

    I trust though, that like most of us, if they do take to two wheels and find out they like it, that they will move up the cc scale just as we did for more comfort, speed and the ability to travel comfortably. Especially here in the U.S.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Heck kids my grand daughters age (17) are not even i terested in getting their drivers lic, preferring instead to let their parents shuffle them around. They don’t want to get hot, or cold, or wet, or up too early.”

      precisely, today’s “yoot” are already disconnected and disaffected from the “better mouse trap” otherwise known as the automobile. while the nature of life will invariably bring about an attitude adjustment/course correction in this regard, this same “course correction” ultimately works to the detriment of the niche business of motorcycling same as it’s always done, or more specifically, has been doing for the past 50 years.

      re: “I really hope the (introduction) of smaller lighter bikes gets some of them off the couch and onto two wheels.”

      sorry it won’t, be they male (or female) a dearth of sub 600cc kit has NEVER been a deterrent to anyone whose interest in motorcycling was genuine.

    • WJF says:

      If its not a cell phone or doesn’t have wifi, no one is interested anymore
      Its a shame on many levels
      the garage tinkerer is a dying breed

      • TexinOhio says:

        Include cell phone integration, wifi and a the ability to look for pokemon on the dash and they’d be all over it.

        • Buckwheet says:

          It’s a serious concern for our sport as a whole in this country. Is this the case with other markets as well?
          Marketing to the youth will require an entirely new mindset as well which will require different people than those of us old schoolers who have the passion to pass along.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “the ability to look for pokemon on the dash”

          apparently Candy Crush is one of our new “robot overlords”, who knew…?

          • WJF says:

            There is a part of me that would like to fix the world, mend the younger generation….and then there is a part of me that wants to ride away and let them figure it out

  26. Stuki Moi says:

    While miniaturization is a nice trend, you should still have given the nod to the Africa Twin. Which is a “smaller and simpler is better” choice in it’s own way.

    Not my choice of adv., but by being the first bike to realistically dethrone the GS as the alpha-advers steed of choice, it cements even the technogiganticised Adv class’ trend towards simpler and lighter. From “how much can I load on my bike and still not sink into the ground between here and Patagonia,” to Husaberg Enduro team, so to speak.

    • Dave says:

      ADV bikes are still a premium niche. They’re selling some bikes, but it’s not bringing any new riders in.

      I like the explosion of small displacement, US capable (read: highway) bikes. I hope it attracts some new riders and helps to revive lightweight transportation in the US. With urbanization taking place at such high rates, we’re certainly ripe for it.

      I’ll agree with others. If MD is not going to name a Bike of the Year, then this article needs a different title.

  27. JR says:

    Since you are talking about simple, light weight, motorcycles.. how about one that started production, now going on 31 years ago. The Suzuki 650 S40. 40 cu.in. single cylinder, air cooled, two intake and two exhaust valves that have screw adjusters, electric start, carburetor fed, five speed with a clean and simple rear belt drive. Also, 31 hp / 37 torque, plus 50 to 60 mpg. All with a wet weight of 381 lbs. Sounds like what goes around comes around in the market place. I know.. I own a 2014 model.

  28. CrazyJoe says:

    Kawasaki and Bmw coming out with adventure bikes a good street able 300 hundred cc engines the rest of the manufacturers will soon follow. Looking at Ducati s new desert sled gives me hope a less plastic small displacement bike could follow. I’m not to sure the adventure bike is for every one but a stripped down bike like some of the scramblers would be more fun. Two of my favorite bikes are the Tu 250 and the Sr 400 are winners in looks alone and are not highway bikes.

  29. peter h says:

    Nice thought , but this has been going on since at least 2013 with the intro of Honda’s cb500s. Probably earlier with the ninja 250 update, the cb250 etc etc.

  30. Matt G says:

    Some might say cop-out. I however applaud your choice as being both inspired and wise. This is the segment that will introduce people to the wide world of motorcycling. Those added numbers will benefit development of every segment in the market as the newbies move up to “bigger and better things”

  31. clasqm says:

    This goes beyond “beginner riders”: it includes me, and I’ve been on the road for forty years. I sold my Suzuki C109 and bought a Triumph Bonneville Spirit this year – the last of the air-cooled models. And I found a new joy in riding. Instead of manhandling an 800 lb monster around corners, you just think “turn” and the Bonnie is already doing it.

    But the Honda CB500X? I recall when a 500 was a big bike!

  32. Provologna says:

    My friend/ex-coworker ex-Marine aviator asked for advice for a new bike on which to commute in San Francisco, and for light off road use. Based on Dirck’s road test report, I suggested Honda’s modern 250cc dual sport. He loves the bike, and still thanks me for the suggestion.

    I should have given credit to Dirck.

  33. Montana says:

    The question is, do today’s riders want a two wheeled horse to explore the world, or a two wheeled rocket to scorch it? Nice to see the trend going full-circle.

  34. downgoesfraser says:

    Mostly throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.

  35. Jeremy in TX says:

    I got in to street bikes by accident… I moved away from a rural setting and needed an easy way to get the dirt bike to the trails. The answer was a dual sport. That eventually led to me using the bike to ride to campus and around in general until I decided I should get a dedicated street bike.

    Choices for small machines were appalling in the late 1990s. I just got a much more powerful and heavy (and expensive) machine than I should have, and I almost scrapped the whole street bike thing altogether. I would have loved to have had today’s options back then.

  36. Tank says:

    The success of the Grom got manufacturers to rethink smaller bikes.

    • MGNorge says:

      And remember all the young riders who cut their teeth on Honda MiniTrails and the like! In their day they were like very sophisticated minibikes that stayed glued together and were actually a blast to ride all over. They sold like popcorn!

  37. atlantarandy says:

    Oh, let me count the ways. Honda SL70, XL250, CB350, CB400F, SL350, XR200R, Kawasaki G3 90, F8 250 enduro, A7 Avenger 350 twin. All this before I “graduated” to 500’s, 650’s and on and on. For the past 20 years, KIDS buy 650’s with 100 HP as their STARTER bikes. I for one am thrilled to see that elementary school is back in session. Maybe it will save some lives. My formative years could not have been more fun. Do you know that the little SL70 was a wheelie king? It had a perfect balance point and I uni-cycled at ten MPH a thousand times. Of course, the local “constables” were a LOT different in the 70’s. They let kids be kids. They considered our horsing around as “just good clean fun”. Wish it were the same today!

  38. Jonny Blaze says:

    Honda Wave 100cc – 2 units, KSR 110 – 1, KLX 140 – 1, CRF 250M – 1, Street Twin 900HT – 1.

  39. Rocky V says:

    More bike the better
    I miss the hay day of on- off road bikes Ts 250 Dt 250 ect every body had one 50’s 90’s 125’s 250’s 360’s 400’s 1970 –1975
    lots of things were going on —

    • Geoffrey Hill says:

      Agree. ’72 175cc F7 Kaw.

      • Scott the Aussie says:

        I had a Yamaha CT2 of indeterminate age…..it was great!

        • Curly says:

          The CT2 was also a ’72 model. Not as fast as the F7 but lighter and a bit better in the woods.

          • Scott the Aussie says:

            Wish I had it today Curly. Sadly my father lent it to a freind of his who blew it up while I was away at university. And then Dad gave the bike away…..

            And my TY175 was perfect…wish I had that one now as well.

  40. GoodlyRun says:

    After owning an FZR 400 for the past 18 years I have to agree.

    • Ron Gordon says:

      Nice machine.

    • Pacer says:

      I think a rebirth of the performance 400cc class would be awsome. Fun on the street, not outrageous on the track, and they could make the other versions (naked etc) off the same platform. Slightly larger triples and twins. That would excite me.

    • Curly says:

      The FZR400 is still on my top 5 list of all time favorite Yamahas. Magical handling.

      • Scott says:

        And what happened to all the FZR400’s? It seems most of them had 600 engines stuffed into them and ended up on race tracks. Magical handling, yes. But not enough power for the US. Has that attitude changed?

        • Lewis says:

          I have an 89 FZR 600 and would love to acquire a nice FZR 400 to stuff the engine into. I believe it is a direct bolt in. I did ride a friends stock 400 and it had enough power, but you had to wind it up and keep it on the boil. I think the 600/400 swap would be wonderful.

      • todd says:

        Definitely. The SRX-6 was the first (modern) Japanese bike I liked and then came the amazing FZR400. If I was ever able to find one in decent shape today it would definitely stay a 400. The 400 was so much more fun to ride because of its handling AND that glorious little engine! The 600 was faster but just didn’t have the same sweetness to it.

  41. whisperquiet says:

    I am an older, much travelled rider with 45 years of experience………looking for a smaller motorcycle, but they normally don’t work for me with the tighter, smaller cc bikes for the ergos of a 6’4″ rider with tired knees, hands, and hips. I currently own a Super Tenere and a (my 9th KLR650)….I am more than ready to ride smaller, LIGHTER, motorcycles than fit me properly. The common complaint among my friends is: where is the 450 lb 450-650 cc adventure sport at. If Honda, Suzuki, or Yamaha would ever sell a 450 cc single with a wide ratio gearbox, I would be first inline.

  42. J Wilson says:

    This sort of thing will eliminate what I faced 10 years ago when I looked around to find what kind of bikes I could use for a ‘first bike’ following my BRC and getting my license: It was grim, I could either pick a Rebel or 250 Ninja, a Supersport 600, or take my chances in the (very) used market. It was almost enough to talk me out of the whole thing.

    The best part of this is that these sorts of bikes are the entry into the motorcycle world, and a lot of them, in time, will turn into trade-ins on large, more capable bikes for more experienced and prepared riders. That has been missing for a long time, and I’m glad to see it rectified.

    • Stuki Moi says:

      I though “everyone” in your situation back then just bought an SV650.

      • Pacer says:

        I think a rebirth of the performance 400cc class would be awsome. Fun on the street, not outrageous on the track, and they could make the other versions (naked etc) off the same platform. Slightly larger triples and twins. That would excite me.

        • Stuki Moi says:

          From what I gather, after years of beating the drum for 400s and 600s, is that they are literally too small. As in, the manufacturer with the best performing bike, will be the one with the least scruples about making the bike fit solely for those 4 foot 9 or shorter.

          The Big4 lost interest in 600s in favor of liters when ever larger riders, and ever greater ability to make bikes compact, clashed.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        The SVs were pretty beastly for someone who has never ridden a motorcycle. A great choice for anyone with a little experience or coming from a dirt background, though.

        • Tim C says:

          THANK YOU. Man, EVERYONE says “SV650” as a good first bike – no! (The most recent offenders would be over at Lanesplitter/Jalopnik…ugh, I can’t get into it each time I hear it.)

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Yes, I would never recommend an SV to a first timer. The SV is a potent motorcycle. It is fast and wheelies with ease. Even the brakes, which many of us more experienced riders criticise as being barely adequate, are quite strong and have enough initial bite to quickly put a new rider with an untrained hand on his/her head.

            Besides target fixation, the most common mistakes I’ve seen new riders make both in the dirt and on the street are panic braking and something (usually an obstacle or sloppy clutch/throttle work) that causes the bike to lurch and the rider to yank the throttle as they try to hang on. Panic throttling. An SV650 is very unforgiving in either of those scenarios, though ABS helps with straightline panic braking. Also, the more powerful the bike, the more likely a new (and experienced) rider will overcook a turn. And an SV is plenty powerful.

      • todd says:

        I always thought the EX500 or GS500E were excellent beginners if you were too big for the 250s. The Suzuki Savage was ideal for short-legged cruiser types too.

        I never limited myself to what was available new at the local dealer. There were decades of really good beginner-friendly bikes in the 12 to 40hp range to choose from. They were usually a few hundred bucks and a new set of tires cheap also.

    • Tim C says:

      Heh, more like the Ninja 250 was the lone soldier that kept things from being completely grim!