Motorcycles are amazingly diverse machines. They can deliver excellent fuel economy and a free pass to the carpool lane on weekdays and on the weekends take you for a thrilling canyon ride. But the best part of motorcycling is that bikes are, for the most part, fairly inexpensive. We've combed through all the new bikes to find 10 fun two-wheelers that won't break the bank.
10 Best Buys In 2013 Motorcycles
2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300Price: $4,799
Few bikes surprised us more than the old Kawasaki Ninja 250R. Here was a tiny bike that wasn't just a bargain machine, but also a blast to ride with sport-bike DNA you could feel. As good as the 250 was, though, with this newest entry Kawasaki decided to keep a stranglehold on making the most raucous entry-level sport bike.
The new Kawasaki Ninja 300 replaces last year's 250R. It may have lost the "R," but it's no less enjoyable to ride. Where the old bike still used a carb, the engine has now been given fuel injection. Kawasaki also updated the chassis and fitted the 300 with a slipper clutch and optional ABS. But what's really tantalizing about this bike is the engine's 13,000 redline and feathery 379-pound curb weight. Yes, this little ripper is more expensive than the old model, but it's still a great deal.
2013 BMW S1000RR HP4Price: $19,990
How exactly can we include a $20,000 motorcycle in a group of best buys? It's because BMW's new HP4 offers technology that no other motorcycle does—at any price. The HP4 model builds on the S1000RR's breakthrough electronics, which included Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), a system that allowed for tremendous performance and safety envelope. For the HP4, the DTC system has been massaged to operate more fluidly and now offers more than a dozen different settings.
The coolest tech here, however, is BMW's new Dynamic Damping Control (DDC). It's a semi-active suspension that adjusts on the fly in response to data about the rider's style and the bike itself. And if you prefer to make your own suspension adjustments, you can do so electronically as you ride. No more crawling underneath the bike to stiffen or soften the suspension.
The S1000RR HP4 is more than just advanced tech. It's quite possibly the fastest bike on the market, with close to 200 hp and astonishingly quick quarter-mile times well below 10 seconds.
2013 Victory JudgePrice: $13,999
The Judge badge was last seen in 1971, and it signified one beastly Pontiac. But now cruiser manufacturer Victory has taken inspiration from the muscle cars of old and has made a Judge of its own. Between the frame rails sits the company's familiar 106-cubic-inch V-Twin and six-speed transmission. What sets the new Judge apart is the styling: all-new bodywork that apes the cruisers of the past and takes a little inspiration from the automotive world, too.
Up front there's a plain old round headlight. And each wheel is wrapped with a fat, raised-white-letter tire. The controls are midmounted, not stretched way out as they are in some cruisers, so the Judge should be more fun in the canyons. Best of all, the Judge is one of Victory's least expensive bikes, at just under $14,000.
2013 Harley-Davidson Seventy-TwoPrice: $10,699
There's a certain romance to the idea of owning a chopper. We're not talking about one of those radically modern custom creations made famous by Jesse James and the Orange County Chopper guys. Our dreams are filled with choppers from the 1970s spindly little bikes with stretched out forks, metal flake paint, and all the attitude of "Easy Rider."
You could have a small custom shop weld together a duplicate of a real ‘70s chopper for big bucks. But the Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two captures quite a bit of that magic at just under $11,000. This factory Harley isn't a real custom, but we dig the Seventy-Two's Hard Candy paint, its whitewall tires, and those hanger handlebars. Underneath the style, the Harley remains just as rideable as any 1200 Sportser.
2012 Honda NC700XPrice: $6,999
Adventure-touring bikes have historically been hot sellers in Europe, and these days it seems buyers in the U.S. are starting to appreciate these versatile rides too. Honda's new NC700X isn't a hardcore adventure machine; it's more like a blend of bike styles that includes a serious dollop of entry-level naked sport bike.
For less than seven grand the NC delivers a smooth but modest 51 hp from its 670-cc twin. The NC is a sporty ride with generous suspension travel and upright riding position that make it perfect for battling inner-city traffic and hitting twisty roads on the weekend. The Honda shares its chassis with a low-slung scooter, So the area where the gas tank appears to be on this bike is in reality a giant (and handy) storage bin the actual fuel tank is under the seat.
The NC700X is a relatively inexpensive way to swing a leg over a bike that can handle lots of tasks, riding styles and conditions. Just be forewarned about the transmission: If you opt for the dual-clutch, horsepower drops by four while the bike's price rises by two grand. That's no small sum for not having to pull a clutch lever.
2013 Ducati Monster 696 AnniversaryPrice: $8,795 (2012 M696)
The Ducati Monster 696 made our list last year. It's back again, and not only because it's a great deal. This year Ducati is celebrating the iconic Monster's 20th anniversary with special editions of the 696, 796 and 1100 EVO Monster models.
To celebrate the legendary machines that helped to launch the modern naked sport-bike movement, the 696 Anniversary model will wear red paint, old-school mirrors, a bronze frame, a grey swingarm, gold brake components, and more. Mechanically, the Monster remains modern, retaining the current bike's 80-hp 696-cc twin and six-speed gearbox. If the lusty side of your brain has ever yearned to have a Monster parked in your garage, this might be the best excuse yet to pull the trigger.
2012 Yamaha Super TenerePrice: $13,900
Ask most gearheads to picture an adventure bike and the first image that likely pops into their minds would be one of BMW's legendary GS bikes. There's a good reason: BMW invented the breed nearly 30 years ago.
But today there are plenty of competitors building adventure bikes that bridge the gap between street motorcycle and off-road dual-sport, by offering decent off-road capability while still providing long-range touring ability. Think of them as the SUVs of the motorcycle word, only a lot easier to park and considerably more fun.
One of the newest is Yamaha's Super Tenere. Thanks to its 90-hp 1199-cc parallel twin, the Super Tenere is quick despite being one of the heaviest bikes in the segment. Best of all, this Yamaha costs less than many top-tier adventure bikes. Combine that with Yamaha's record of reliability and the Super Tenere is a great deal.
2013 Moto Guzzi V7 RacerPrice: $9,990
Moto Guzzi pays homage to its racing heritage with this modern interpretation of a classic cafe racer. It's got the right look, especially if vintage 1970's sport bikes are your weakness.
Don't expect to threaten many modern sports machines with this one. The V7 Racer uses an updated 744-cc V-twin with more compression and an improved fuel-injection system, but it's still a little underpowered at just 50 hp.
What makes this bike special is the feeling you get from the vintage touches: the little number plates, that tiny wind fairing, the suede solo saddle, and the leather strap on the gas tank. It's the kind of bike you'll stare at every time you open the garage. And for some, its just under 10-grand price tag is a bargain for a relatively rare retro machine loaded with personality.
2013 Suzuki SVF 650Price: $7,999
Few bikes are as beloved as Suzuki's SV650. The SV launched in 1999 and was the perfect bike to beginners who wanted their machine to grow with them as skills improved. The Suzuki was a fun and easy bike to ride hard, but expert riders could have a lot of fun on an SV, too, and many (this writer included) would keep one in their bike stable even after they'd long since moved on to more powerful machines.
For 2013, the spirit of the SV returns in the form of the SVF 650. The 645-cc fuel-injected V-twin remains largely the same as it was in the Gladius (the SV650's replacement) but now benefits from an improved intake and exhaust. Although the 447-pound curb weight isn't feathery by today's sport-bike standards, it's no heavyweight either. And at $8000, the SVF isn't quite the steal it was years ago. But it is still one solid value for a bike that can stretch throughout your riding career.
2013 Zero S Electric MotorcyclePrice: $15,995
There aren't many motorcycle brands dedicated to electric propulsion, but Zero has emerged as one of the leaders, pushing range and speed through evolving battery technology. We were among the first to ride their debut, the Zero X, back in 2008. Last year the $7695 Zero XU made our best-buy list simply because it was so inexpensive. But the XU's range of 42 miles wasn't quite up to the task of daylong rides.
The company's previous upscale S model delivered 114 miles on a charge and a top speed of 88 mph not too shabby. But improvements for 2013 have pushed the range to 137 miles and the top speed to 95 mph, thanks to the larger 11.4-kWh battery pack. This means that one could conceivably (and quite comfortably) take a weekend trip from Los Angeles to San Diego and return home after just one recharge and that this electric motorcycle is getting close to being as practical as a gasoline-powered one.