For most Americans, motorcycles are considered expensive toys. But in much of the world, motorcycles have become practical everyday transportation. And with gasoline prices on the rise, some motorcycles stand a chance of finally being considered practical here in the USA.
For a motorcycle to be considered practical in 2012, it needs to meet certain criteria. We'll steer clear of racing bikes and factory customs and stick with bikes that are easy to ride, require the least maintenance, good in town and on the highway, cheaper to maintain, get good gas mileage, simple to work on, reasonably priced, still in production or only recently out of production, easy to find parts for, etc... Good, inexpensive, reliable transportation. And with the help of the gang at XS650.com I've decided to put together a list.
I would love to add my XS650 Yamaha to the list but 30 year old anythings simply aren't practical. Were the XS650 still in production today it would certainly make the list.
Now granted, there are a number of not quite practical motorcycles that could be made practical with some modifications. Take the Yamaha XT660 for example. While the XT was designed as a dual-purpose on/off road motorcycle that is a little too tall for most riders to manage in city traffic, it could be lowered and tires changed to make it perform better on pavement and thus more practical. Several of the various dual-sport motorcycles could be made practical if you know enough about motorcycle mechanics or happen to be tall. Of course, if by chance you live 50 miles from the nearest paved road, then the XT660 is probably as practical a motorcycle as you can own. We'll call the dual sports as provisional and mark them as **.
The old Honda CB 350 and CB 450s were mentioned as being practical but that was then and this is now. Both bikes would be practical today were it not for the fact that both have been out of production for many years and parts are hard to come by locally. Fact is, there are probably more once practical motorcycles out of production than currently in production.
We avoided several popular 4 cylinder motorcycles because they are difficult to work on but some of the most dependable motorcycles ever built were and remain inline 4s.
The only current Harley-Davidson motorcycle that comes anywhere near being practical is the 883. And even it is pushing the edge between practical and too much motorcycle to be practical. I love Sportsters and Hogs but like so many popular motorcycles, they are both too big and too thirsty to be considered practical. A lot of bikes failed to make the list because they were simply too big or too powerful. We're talking motorcycles, not trucks.
I also steered away from what is commonly called, starter bikes as many are in the 250cc range and while great for short distance commuting, can be difficult and stressful on America's Interstate Highways. That said, several of the starter bikes are capable of more than 80 miles per hour and would have no problem with short highway runs. Just don't expect them to cruise 70 plus for hours on end.
The List of Practical Motorcycles
Suzuki Boulevard S40 and LS650 Savage.
BMW F650 single
**Suzuki V-Strom 650
Newer Triumph Bonnevilles
Suzuki Bandit 600S
Suzuki Bandit 650
To be continued...
I was hesitant to add any electric motorcycles to this list for 1 reason. None that I know of will travel 100 miles at highway speeds (55-75 MPH.) without stopping to recharge the batteries. That said, if you're talking commuter bike and would rather drive the car on out of town trips you should certainly give electrics some thought.
If you have suggestions for this list you can add them below and I'll consider adding them to the list.