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Discussion Starter #1
The Best Commuter Motorcycle

There are some threads here on this topic. Some ask about one specific bike. Some focus on saving money by using a motorcycle instead of a car.

I'd like to look at what is a commuter bike, and consider all options. Riding to save money is iffy, at best. You've to buy a bike, gear, tires, insurance, valve adjustments (on some models), and belts or chains and sprockets (on most models). A small wreck on a bike may be more costly in medical bills than a small wreck in a car. Not all, but most, motorcyclists still have a car. Then, there's all the farkles. Motorcycle owners love the farkles. My focus isn't on saving money. I like to ride. Work to ride. Ride to work. It's a thing. There's even a logo for it.

Let's look at what some websites suggest, and comment along the way.

Motorcycle dot com
*Honda NC700X. I'm looking hard at the CTX700N, manual. Honda's 700s come up on list after list as good to great choices as commuters. Commuter customer reviews agree. This line of bikes has a lot of what I'll outline later as my best commuter bike criteria.
*Zero S. An electric bike! Awesome idea! But, I've range anxiety. I'd need the best, and most expensive, battery pack to begin feeling comfortable commuting on any of the electric offerings.
*Kawasaki Ninja 1000. A liter sport bike? Well, you know it can handle interstate speeds.
*Aprilia Mana. ???
*BMW C650 GT. People seem to either love or hate BMW bikes.
*Ducati Hyperstrada. ???
*Kawasaki Vulcan 900 LT. A mid size cruiser. I was commuting on a Suzuki C50. I can tell you, mid size cruisers work well as commuters.
*Suzuki TU250X. Not to knock 250s. Not at all. I just don't think they'll work as the "best" commuter motorcycle.
*Triumph Bonneville. Another cruiser.
*KTM 690 Duke. ???

Cycle World dot com
*BMW F700GS. Another BMW.
*Honda NC700X DCT ABS. Again with the Honda 700.
*Kawasaki Versys. Another top internet choice.
*Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS. This one also holds a top slot as a commuter bike in internet articles. The 1000, too.

Wired dot com
*Honda NC700X. See!?! There it is, again!
*Moto Guzzi V7 Stone. ???
*Honda CBR250R. It's a sport bike 250, but still a 250. And still not knocking 250s. Roll one out. I'll kiss it to prove I don't hate them.
*Cleveland CycleWerks Ace. These bikes are built by a small independent company. They make 250 to 450 cc bikes. I was surprised to see them on the list. If factory custom bikes, and small bikes built with owner customization in mind are your thing, have a look at these. They are really cool looking.

So, what do I want in a commuter motorcycle?

*Low cost to buy. Under $10,000. Maybe up to $11,000, if it's the best of the bestest best commuters. But really, under $10,000. Call me cheap. It's okay.
*Low cost to own. This means low and easy maintenance. If it needs valves and final drive work as routine maintenance, the intervals need to be far apart, and either cheap to have done or easy to do at home.
*Durable. Commuter bikes get rode, a lot.
*Someone local to provide parts and work on it. This is sometimes referred to as, "Having a good dealer network". A one off, built from the ground up, custom bike pieced together from hand fabricated parts found only in distant galaxies is not something you can drop off at any bike shop to have worked on when you, for whatever reason, can't do it yourself.
*Good fuel mileage. 45 mpg or better.
*Sized and weighted for both easy slow speed maneuvers, and interstate use. Commuting means stop and go city traffic and parking lots. It also means interstates. Not just 55 mph two lane highways on the edge of small town America. Full on 70+ mph super slab interstates. I need to cross the DFW like I mean it.
*Power for the interstate. A 250 (so not knocking them) is not going to like life doing 70+ mph every day. The rider may not care much for it either. I need to get to work without wringing out the bike for all it's worth everyday. I need a throttle response that can keep and get me out of trouble. I'm thinking 600 cc or more. I know a guy who rides a 600 cc cruiser on a longer commute than me. He does okay, but is looking for more oomph. At the same time, I do not commute across the Bonneville Speedway. I don't need a super sport.
*Comfort. Reasonable comfort. I don't expect a Barcalounger, like a Goldwing or HD alphabet king glide. It still needs to feel better than a smoldering 2x4. And none of this boots behind my butt stuff. I don't like that.
*It has be able to get wet. Rain happens. Exposed air filters are right out. Show bikes, gorgeous as they are, need not apply.
*No more wire spokes! Wire spoke wheels, for the most part, mean tubed tires. Tubes can be repaired on the side of the road, but not as easily as tubeless tires. You can buy a plug it and go kit, including CO2 cylinders to re-inflate, for tubeless tires without taking the tire or wheel off. This was not a problem in 45,000 miles of commuting, but it was on my mind. The best commuter would have tubeless tire wheels.
*Good size wheels and tires. No bicycle tires. No knobbies. I know, "But it's an adventure bike!" That's great. Knobbies do not provide extra traction on pavement.
*Storage. Sometimes I need to get more than just my butt from point A to B. I don't want a two wheel Winnebago, just someplace to put a few things. Honey needs to pick up a gallon of milk on his way home, and he'd rather not use a back pack. Did that. Done.

So, what motorcycle is it?
 

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Well, l don't know if it would be YOUR ideal commuter bike, but l have a 2004 SV650s and l absolutely love it.

*Cost to buy - I bought my bike for $3000 with just over 5000 miles on it. I think l got an exceptional deal, as l have yet to see a better deal on one come along, but you can find clean ones for under $4000 all day long.
*Low cost to own - I have only had it for a couple of months, but according to my owner's manual it looks to be very low maintenance, mainly changing the oil and filter, and the plugs every 6k, and lots of inspections/replace as necessary items. First valve clearance inspection is at 14,500.
*Durability - this is a tough one. A lot depends on how you treat it. I went with a big 4 bike because my experience has been that Japanese bikes are the most dependable. It's early yet, but l have had no problems.
*Network - There are a lot of these bikes around and l believe there are 10 dealers and another 10 independent shops within an hour's drive that could service it.
*Fuel mileage - I get about 45 city and 50 highway.
*Size and weight - its is not a big bike by any means; l think it weighs about 425 wet with a full tank. It is super easy to ride...l putt around the gate at work at a solid 5mph all day long. One good romp on an onramp in 3rd gear brings you to highway speeds, and it does 70 mph at about 5200 rpm's in 6th gear. I love the throaty twin sound, it is a blast to ride! If it has a drawback on the freeway it is a little too light, and the wind is more of a factor than l would like it to be. We get a lot of blustery weather here.
*Power for the interstate - I do great on the interstate. I never feel like l wish l had more power. I can pass trucks at will. The other bike l was considering buying was an EX500, and this is twice the bike.
*Comfort - Not a touring bike, that's for sure. The seating position is more forward than l would like. I have plans for a handlebar riser kit that should make things much better. The stock seat, from what l understand, was hard as a rock. Previous owner replaced it with an oversized seat that is pretty good. It isn't a Corbin, but fine for the hour or two that l spend on it regularly.
*Wet weather - l live in Seattle and it is just fine. Need l say more?
*Tubeless tires
*It has an average front tire and a fairly fat rear. I felt the same way and l do not feel like l am on a 10 speed bicycle.
*Storage - It didn't come with any storage, other than a little under the seat compartment that l don't use. I picked up a pair of small saddle bags that are easy to throw on if l want them, l could leave them on all the time but l don't. I also have a magnetic tank bag that would hold a loaf of bread or a bag full of McDonald's. Givi's would be easy enough to mount, but would be an added expense.

I am planning a trip to the Southwest in the Spring and to be honest, l am toying around with the idea of buying another bike that would be better suited for touring. But l will likely still keep this bike for commuting because it suits my needs really well, and it is more fun than most. Someone said that it is funner to ride a slow bike fast than riding a fast bike slow. This bike is kind of like that...it is super responsive, yet it isn't intimidating. I had a long checklist before l bought it and it met almost every criteria l asked for. Upright seating position was the main one that it doesn't have. I found a great handlebar riser kit with braided steel lines and high dollar handlebars for about $425 that will make it more comfy to sit on.
 

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The Honda NC, CTX or any variations using the parallel twin engine are fantastic for the money and a good commuter choice.

Google their forums and look at very satisfied comments.

I know several owners from my time owning 2 NT700's.

The engine makes it special: Screw and locknut valve adjustments that with the cylinders canted forward are easy to get to, for the owner or for the shop.

It has a single F/I throttle body and that means no syncing between cylinders. It has a shared exhaust cylinder head port that exits as one exhaust pipe.

If you 'Google' the engine you'll read how very advanced the design is.

Fuel mileage of over 70 mpg is normal.

There are a lot of faster bikes but they are normally labor intensive and use more gas.

Be aware, the CTX series has 'feet forward' footpegs, like a cruiser and some folks don't like that.

There is also an automatic trans and ABS available for both bikes.

Sam:)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The Suzuki Vstrom and Vstrom like 650s, Kawasaki Versys and Honda's 700s are all the rage in commuter bikes. I've been looking at their forums, especially the Honda's. There is a love affair going on.

The Yamaha Bolt gets a few mentions, too. People are also eying the Harley Davidson Street 750. HD's 500 is not getting as much attention since the 750 is not that much heavier or costly, and it's a 750.

Mid size cruisers, like the HD 883, Suzuki C50, Vulcans and some Star (Yamaha) bikes also make good choices as commuters. But come on, lets get some solid wheels on there. Spokes should be a glamor option, not the standard. That may not be the most popular opinion.
 

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Bike

Something to consider is the insurance brackets.
Up here a 400 cc bike is a lot cheaper to insure than a 650. So for the winter months I ride a Yamaha 400.

If I was to have just one bike, it might be a dual purpose Suzuki 650 single.
They weigh less than the Kawasaki. You can get street tyres or dirt tyres, depending where you ride. Seat height is another consideration. If you have ducks disease like me, some of the bikes are not good. Especially if they are heavy and have a high seat.

Nicest bike I ever rode around town, was an old BMW 500 with Earls forks. Super smooth and comfortable. Awful handling over bumps and around corners.
Next best was a Honda 400 four. Real sweet bike. Better all round than the Beemer but just did not have the style.

I think Honda makes an XR650 type. Big singles are simple and easy to ride. If you want to be more sporty and go faster, the V twin 650 Suzuki is a sweet bike.

Unkle Crusty*
 

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If you are an experienced rider looking for a commuter, why not look at the Victory "steel frame" bikes? One 3 or 4 years old will fit your budget and maintenance couldn't be easier. You basically do an oil and filter change every 5000 miles, adjust the belt with each tire replacement, and do things like spark plugs or air filters at typical bike intervals. The oil change is just one hole, unlike that 883 on your list. The valves are hydraulic so no shims like you run into on many Japanese bikes.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Victory is temping, just because, Victory. The Indian Scout is still on my mind, too.
 

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No consideration of a maxi-scooter, like a SilverWing or Burgman 400?

As I get older, getting on/and off a scooter is a heckuva a lot easier than climbing up onto a big sport cruiser.

And that makes scooters ideal for errands after work...
 

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Do you miss the gears Wade? that's what l immediately think of when l consider getting a scooter..."But l don't get to run through the gears"
 

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Discussion Starter #10
A maxi scooter may fit the role. It's not what "I" want, and a scooter is not a motorcycle is not a scooter, but the big scooters do meet some criteria. Storage being one of them. The maxis have grocery bag storage under their seats. Scooters with that front shield from the deck to the handlebars (like a Vespa) probably offer some weather protection, too. And they certainly get the gas mileage.
 

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Do you miss the gears Wade? that's what l immediately think of when l consider getting a scooter..."But l don't get to run through the gears"
Hold the front brake, rev the motor when the opposing light turns yellow, then release the brake when the light turns green or even a few milliseconds before. Observe sport bikes / Corvettes in rear view mirror....

Downshifting into a corner's the only part I miss. Not having to go up and down and up and down in an increasingly desperate search for neutral approaching a light ...jeez, is that ever nice. (I usually end up just giving up, leaving it in first, holding the clutch in and then using the Kawasaki's neutral-finder once completely stopped...
 

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If it's inside the city .. I would get a 400cc street-legal dirt bike.
For California, where lane splitting is legal, they are nearly ideal. Narrow profile, easy to weave through stuck cars, good visibility because you are sitting pretty high above the asphalt.

go practical. think about what you do need ... not all the possible things you MIGHT do with the bike.

good luck and hope it works out for you.
And BTW - DON'T have any accidents!!

dT
 

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Take it from a guy who only had a motorcycle for 3 years....500cc+ but was than 1000cc, the mentality of "trying" to control the speed is exhausting as a commuter. Also you really want something with cruiser style suspension. Sports bikes hurt after a while.

I no I'm only 24, but the best of both of these elements is katana600-750, sv650, fz07 or fz09, and anything from harley. Boulevards, shadows and vulcans are great bikes too, but get pricey afte all the packages lol. Happy commuting!
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
California is a unique case. California is the only US state where lane splitting is legal; or not illegal. The CHP and DMV has shied away from endorsing or advising on the practice.

The whole state is not like San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego. The are miles of California which are no more congested than the spaces between Nebraska corn fields.

Still though, microenvironments are something to consider when choosing the best commuter motorcycle for each individual.

I would not want to take 183 or any of the main highways or interstates through the DFW on a 400 cc street legal dirt bike. Houston traffic is rough. I don't think I'd do it there. New Orleans or Baton Rouge, either. Well, maybe the downtown areas. It might kick ass in the Quarter or CBD surface streets. But that would be very site specific.

And, I dunno. Lane splitting. My butt muscles got twice as strong just thinking about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Okay. More brain storming.

650-950cc engine. That's a wide range of displacement, but it's enough power to commute anywhere and get out of its own way while doing it, with the right gearing. It's also the range of the best mpg, and not a heavy weight. Lightness matters on a commuter. So does fuel mileage. Gas hogs suck as daily drivers. Maybe 750-950. This is the ultimate commuter, not the ultimate townie short trip maker.

Liquid cooled. It adds a level of complexity to the vehicle, but air flow ain't much in stop and go traffic. At least put an oil cooler on it. Maybe with a fan.

Six speed drive with tall gears. It's not about getting to top gear and top speed as fast as possible. It's about having a lot of room in each gear for varying speed limits, minimizing shifting, and being comfortable on the interstate.

Shaft drive. Dang near maintenance free and durable. So it sucks up a little power. This ain't a race bike. Belt? Maybe.

Disc brakes front and back. ABS as an option. Stop and go traffic requires stopping.

Beach bars or some type of pull back bars or risers. This is about comfort and maneuverability. Flat bars aren't the most comfortable, and apes aren't the most maneuverable.

Short rake. Choppers ain't commuters. Lots of tight turns to make when commuting.

Big, bright lights. Getting to and from work for a lot of people means some dark driving.

27-30 inch seat height. Flat footing is helpful in traffic.

A stout, adjustable suspension, because pot holes.

Panniers. Groceries and gear gotta go somewhere. Backpacks get old.

A quiet exhaust. Loud pipes wake neighbors. I'd like to be able to hear traffic and still be able to hear when I get where I'm going.

A windshield. If not stock, make it easy to put on an aftermarket.

Mid or forward controls. This is so much preference. You need to be comfortable in traffic. Highway pegs are not for traffic.

Tubeless tires. They're the easiest to repair on the side of the road.

4+ gallon fuel tank.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
The Honda Deauville comes close, very close, but they don't make them anymore. The top complaint I found was some people thought them to be tall and top heavy. New MSRP was over $10,000. Used, in good shape, I see them for the same or higher price as the new CTX700s. They're chain drive, though.

The HD Street 750 is also a contender. Belt drive.

If the Suzuki C50 had better brakes, and they'd use the drive from the C90, like people are putting on in their garages anyway...

Or Honda puts a 6 speed on the Shadow.

Any wealthy venture capitalists want to kickstart my new motorcycle factory? :)
 

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Designer

This also happens when folks are asked to design a sail boat. It does not exist, and will not exist. Bike or boat.
Last point. Tubeless tyres. Have you ever removed a tyre off a bike? I think you will find that drive shafts add complexity, and difficulty for removing the rear wheel. No tube will not allow you to pump up the tyre with road side equipment. By that I mean stuff you carry on the bike.
Folks that drive the Alaska Highway put tubes in their tyres so they can fix flats on the go.
You say a smaller engine does not have enough power. You are going to have to rethink your horsepower and torque theories. The new 3 cylinder 800cc Yamaha makes 104 hp at the back wheel.
Interesting you are from Texas and you use the word panniers, which is correct. I have been calling them saddle bags for the mostly US folks here.

Buy something and go riding, but you can dream until next spring.
Buy three bikes, all a bit different. Learn to love them all.
And buy a 250 to 450 dirt bike and go riding in the dirt.
If I only had one bike, and I wanted to ride on gravel roads, the highway, and around town. It would probably be a 650 Suzuki single. You can bolt on all kinds of stuff. I did that on my 83 XS400 Yamaha.
Your welcome.

Unkle Crusty Snippets*
 

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Discussion Starter #19
800cc and three cylinders sounds like quite an engine. I had two cylinder engines in mind. I think of three cylinder bikes as more super sport, sport or sport touring than commuter, not that one could not commute on that. I could commute the heck out of that. But what's in a name? It seems some of these categories are as made up as jackelopes.

Panniers are hard cases. Saddlebags are soft.

The Suzuki VeeStrom (Weestrom) 650 does come up a lot in discussions about commuters.

Buy three bikes! I like how you think!
 

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Suzuki

I used to own an SV650 which I believe is a Vstrom, real sweet bike. Had not been riding for a while ( Ex wife did not like them and some of my other nasty habits ) and that was the first bike I bought to get back at it. Did I mention she is my ex as EX wife. But I had been used to more of a thunder chicken, so I bought the SV1000. The 650 motor is smoother than the 1000. These things are not as comfortable for long boring freeway rides, as a more upright sitting bike. For around my Island and in and around town, the 650 is a better bike.

The 3 cylinder Yamaha is getting great reviews, and is reasonably priced. Has modern styling which is a bit funny, but then it is not the only new bike I think that looks funny.

Correct again on the saddle bag panniers description, but often common wrong usage slips in.

I have three bikes, would typically have 5. 1 for the dirt, 2 for the track, 1 for the highway and 1 for around town. I may have mentioned my EX wife did not like bikes.

Buying the Vespa for my current main squeeze. She wanted a yellow Morgan. I checked the price. She is getting a yellow Vespa called Morgan.

Good luck with finding a bike. Unkle Crusty*
 
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