Best motorcycle by category for the street
What is the best motorcycle for you? Ask that question and get a thousand different answers but here are a few that many consider the best motorcycles for the street. If you are in the market for a slightly used or left over model from last years crop of motorcycles here are the best of the motorcycles according to Cycle World for 2016. The motorcycles are broken down into the following categories: best cruiser, best adventure motorcycle, best lightweight street motorcycle, best touring motorcycle, best standard motorcycle, best middleweight street motorcycle, best open-class street motorcycle and best super motorcycle.
Below you will find what Cycle World lists as their best street motorcycle and then a few of my favorites from each category. Also included are a ton of links to help you do some research on your own. After all it does not matter what Cycle World thinks or what I think if the bike is not right for you.
Are there others that should be on this list? Leave a comment below to tell me about some that you think should be on the list.
Best cruiser: Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
Starting price: $16,699
Why the Harley Davidson Low Rider S may be the best street motorcycle for you: You have to admit that the Harley Davidson Low Rider S is a good looking bike. In fact Cycle World called it the best cruiser that Harley has EVER made. That is pretty lofty praise for a manufacturer who is known for making some of the best cruisers in the world. The Low Rider S is a performance cruiser offering Harley's largest engine but in a compact frame that is designed to be lightweight and handle well.
Other cruisers to consider: (AKA cruisers I like)
Harley Davidson Street Glide – Part touring, part cruiser, totally cool. This is probably my favorite cruiser, the classic hot rod looks, integrated bags and a fairing full of electronics. If I bought a Harley this would probably be it. My test ride.
Ducati XDiavel – I put about 350 miles on one of these. At first I didn't get it, then I started to understand, then I really liked it. This bike is a true work of art as far as design. My test ride.
Indian Scout – If you don't want a large cruiser the Scout is a great option. Lots of power, good handling and the Indian Scout heritage. IMO gives the XDiavel a run for it's money on the design front with a more classic look.
Best adventure motorcycle: Honda Africa Twin
Starting price: $12,999
Why the Honda Africa Twin may be best street motorcycle for you: I don't remember another motorcycle receiving this much hype before. The Africa Twin has graced the front page of just about every motorcycle magazine. I have not ridden one yet but all the reports I read are glowing, the Africa Twin appears to live up to the hype. Honda proves that you don't have to have a huge, burgeoning motorcycle to make it in the ADV world. With a good balance of power and a lighter chassis the Africa Twin hits the sweet spot for those who really want a little off road riding with their adventure bike. The Africa Twin is also one of the few to offer a DCT (automatic transmission) if that is your preference. Before you snob at the DCT read the ADV Moto review below, they prefer it.
Other adventure bikes to consider: (AKA adventure bikes I like)
Yamaha Super Tenere – I own one, so I guess I have to put it on the list. For me the Tenere checked all the right boxes, reasonably priced, great build quality, great touring bike and mix in a little off road. It also did not hurt that the dealership I bought from seemed to really want to sell it, they offered the proverbial offer that couldn't be refused. It may not be the fastest on the street, may not be the best off road but it does everything very well. Truly a utilitarian motorcycle.
Triumph Tiger 800 – I considered buying a Tiger while in the market for an adventure bike. Really the only reason to not go this direction was I wanted shaft drive for my daily rider. I don't want to have to mess with chain maintenance on the bike I ride the most.
BMW S1000XR – If performance and street bias are your thing, the S1000XR is tough to beat. It could have been a consideration as well if it were not for initial price, overall cost of ownership and the dreaded chain drive.
Best lightweight street motorcycle: KTM 390 Duke
Starting price: $4,999
Why the KTM 390 Duke may be best street motorcycle for you: Cycle World gushed over the KTM 390 Duke due to it's light weight, compact dimensions, power and solid overall performance. They deemed it one of the most fun, affordable and flexible bikes they have ever tested. The 390 Duke features a 373cc single that makes 40hp, weighing in at 342 lbs wet. ABS is standard on the bike as well as adjustable pre-load for the rear shock and a 31.5 inch seat height. This is a great bike for new riders and experienced riders who understand that it is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow.
Other light weight street bikes to consider: (AKA light weight street bikes I like)
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 – The Scrambler sixty2 is Ducati's other Scrambler. It has a smaller engine at 399cc but still features the great Scrambler looks. I think where Ducati missed the mark with this bike is their price. The Sixty2 retails for $7.995, the base Scrambler is only $8,495. Not sure why you would get the smaller one when double the power is only $500 more?
Indian Scout Sixty – If classic cruiser styling is more your thing the Indian Scout Sixty retails for $8,999. The same styling as it's larger sibling with a 61 cu in engine. The Scout Sixty may push the boundaries on what is considered a “light weight” bike at 534 pounds. But it is smallish for a cruiser and too cool not to include on this list somewhere.
Best touring motorcycle: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Starting price: $TBD
Why the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT may be best street motorcycle for you: I'm not too sure if the Super Duke GT is a touring bike, adventure bike or sport touring bike, but it had to go on the list somewhere so I guess Cycle World put it in the touring class. This is a fully loaded motorcycle with all the gadgets, cornering ABS, traction control, cruise, TPMS, heated grips, slipper clutch, riding modes, self canceling turn signals, hill hold control, cornering lights, electronic suspension and more. The Super Duke GT has a 1290cc engine making 173hp and 106.3 pound feet of torque. This is not you're slow lumbering touring bike. For a touring bike this is lighter on the touring side but heavy on the performance side.
Other touring bikes to consider: (AKA touring bikes I like)
Harley Davidson Road King – If you like to keep it simple on your touring bike the HD Road King clicks a lot of the right boxes. Classic design, integrated baggage, cruise control and room for two. My Test ride.
Honda Goldwing – If you talk touring you have to mention the Goldwing. Only modest changes for many years but the Honda Goldwing is still a top notch touring bike. All the electronics you need, comfort, tons of storage and protection from the environment. It is still the standard that all other touring bikes are compared to.
Best standard motorcycle: Triumph Bonneville Street Twin
Starting price: $8,700
Why the Triumph Bonneville Street Twin may be best street motorcycle for you: The Bonneville Street Twin is a contemporary throw back motorcycle with some modern features like ride by wire, traction control, torque assist clutch and even a USB charging socket. It has a 900cc engine that makes 59 ft-lbs of torque. If simplicity and clean lines are you're thing the Bonneville fills a nice gap in the standard market.
Other standard bikes to consider: (AKA standard bikes I like)
Honda CB1100 – I rode a Honda CB1100 a few years back. It was a fantastic bike and one of the earlier of the throwback designs that have been all the rage over the last few years. 85hp and 65.5 torque, not bad for a retro designed standard. My test ride.
BMW R nine T – As far as looks go the BMW R nine T is hard to beat. Weighing only 461lbs with 96.5hp/76 pound-feet, it is fast. The biggest drawback for the nine T is the price, $15,095.
Best middleweight street motorcycle: Yamaha XSR900
Starting price: $9,490
Why the Yamaha XSR900 may be best street motorcycle for you: Yamaha says the XSR900 is “part sport, part heritage, total Yamaha”. Do you see a theme here in a lot of the bikes listed in this article? Retro is in. The XSR900 follows that retro trend with a design that reflects the past but built upon the triple found in the Yamaha FZ09. The engine is a 847cc crossplane crank three cylinder that is a blast to ride. The triple from Yamaha is lauded for it's sound and quick revving nature. Cycle World has called it one of the best powertrains available, pretty lofty claims. Currently Yamaha's 847cc three cylinder can be found in the XSR900, FJ-09 and the FZ-09, it may be my favorite engine of all time.
Other middleweight bikes to consider: (AKA middleweight bikes I like)
Yamaha FZ07 – Not sure if this bike fits neatly in this category but it really needs to be on this list somewhere. I own a FZ07 and it is a fantastic bike in every sense of the word. So far I have installed an exhaust pipe on my Yamaha FZ-07, added the some soft bags, put on a new seat and added a small windshield to the bike. The only other thing I would possibly do is put some stiffer springs up front. I wish the bike had ABS but that is just the MSF instructor coming out of me.
Suzuki V-Strom 650 – The V-Strom 650 has been around for a while. It features a 645cc v-twin engine, all day comfort and can fit well as a commuter, light touring and even some off-road use. The V-Strom 650 also has a group of very loyal customers who appreciate it as an economical do everything motorcycle.
Best open-class street motorcycle: Aprilia Tuono V4 1100RR
Starting price: $16,999
Why the Aprillia Tuono V4 1100RR may be best street motorcycle for you: Cycle World loved the V-4 and the sounds from the engine. They also liked the chassis, brakes and riding position of the Tuono V4 1100RR.
Other open class sport bikes to consider: (AKA open class sport bikes I like)
Yamaha FZ-10 – The Yamaha FZ-10 is a beast of a motorcycle with a comfortable riding position. Built off the engine from the super fast Yamaha R-1 the FZ-10 is the comfortable version of the Yamaha super bike. I rode the FZ-10 and it is one smooth, fast, beast. My only down side is the massive amounts of heat that come off that engine. I live in TX so the heat from the engine would be particularly bothersome in the DFW area during the summer.
Suzuki GSX-1000 ABS – Like the FZ-10 the Suzuki GSX-1000 is an upright version of the GSXR1000. More comfortable ergonomics, geared and engine mapped for the streets and not the track.
Best superbike: Yamaha YZF-R1
Starting price: $16,490
Why the Yamaha Yamaha YZF-R1 may be best street motorcycle for you: The Yamaha YZF-R1 is the street version of their MotoGP bike, well kind of. It has a lot of the electronic wizardry that Yamaha has learned from riding on the track, mixed with a potent engine, fantastic chassis and top of the line electronics the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a true super bike.
Other superbikes to consider: (AKA superbikes I like)
Ducati Panigale – Perhaps one of the most beautiful sport bikes ever produced (IMO). the clean lines, 205hp and 145 lbs-torque. The Ducati Panigale is as beautiful as it is pricey.
Kawaski Ninja ZX-14