Best Of

Top 5 commuter bikes

For most, motorcycles are a passion, a leisure pursuit or a weekend toy. But that ignores the fact that for others they're also (or even only) a brilliant and effective form of transport. Powered two-wheelers were created in the first place, after all, to get from A to B quickly, efficiently and affordably. Only afterwards did people start racing them!

Words by: First published: 12th July 2018
And all of that is just as true today. While motorcycle dealer showrooms are packed full of the powerful and exotic there's still plenty of machines available that are designed more to simply be great, affordable, efficient commuter transport. Yes, modern twist 'n' go automatic scooters, of whatever size or style, are purpose-built to be brilliant commuter machines. But there are plenty of larger-wheeled and often more entertaining to ride motorcycles which make excellent commuters, too. Some provide simplicity, cheapness and brilliant economy - exactly what you need for a cheap, short-distance commuter machine. Others are more long-legged and more capable of easily transporting you over longer distances to work year round with larger engines, added comfort and increased weather protection. Then there are the more quirky offerings such as the brilliant NC750X which, thanks to Honda's pioneering 'Dual Clutch Transmission' (DCT) system, is the bike that drives like a scoot.

Of course most scooters are more than capable commuters, too - but we're not concerned with those here. These are the MOTORCYCLES that commute brilliantly, yet also deliver the full-sized motorcycle thrill. And which should you go for? Here's Autotrader's pick of the best…
Honda CB125F - the A1/125cc one, £2799
If all you want of a commuter machine is a no-frills, no-fuss, affordable, economical, accessible and reliable motorcycle, an A1-licence compliant 125 is where you should be looking. And Honda's CB125F is our pick of the bunch. Being an A1 class machine means that anyone over 17 can ride one (for a maximum of two years) on L-plates after completing their CBT. Introduced in 2015 it's brilliantly simple and effective. Its air-cooled 125cc single produces 10.5bhp which is good enough to judge 70mph and keep up with traffic on dual carriageways yet it also returns up to 150mpg making it exceptionally cheap to run. It's a doddle to ride, so light and nimble it scythes through city traffic and, being a Honda, is more reliable and durable than most, too. Great for short commutes it only starts to struggle over longer distances, if you need to take in motorways or prolonged poor weather (there's little by way of weather protection) and it's not exactly exciting either. But as a transport 'tool' our 'Best A1 bike of 2016' is brilliant.

Find a Honda CB125F for sale on Auto Trader
BMW G310R - the roadster one, £4450
If you decide an A1/125cc machine is a little too small and underpowered for your commuting requirements, the next class up is around 250/300cc with a variety of offerings including Kawasaki's Z250L, Suzuki's now deleted Inazuma 250 twin, Honda's brand new CB300R and Yamaha's MT-03 - for all of which you'll need an A2 licence. But our pick of the bunch is BMW's entry-level G310R. Introduced in 2016, made in India, powered by a 313cc, liquid-cooled, 'reverse' single cylinder producing 34bhp it has an appealing blend of unintimidating yet adequate performance (it's good for just about 100mph), is light easy and manageable making it both easy to ride and great at slicing through traffic and, best of all, has the kudos of the BMW badge along with the reassuring BMW dealer experience but at a comparatively bargain price. (Yamaha's MT-03, for example, is £500 more.)

Find a BMW G310R for sale on Auto Trader
Kawasaki Versys 650 - the 'do-it-all' one, £7099
Simply: few bikes do so much for so little money as Kawasaki's brilliant Versys 650. Basically a taller, adventure-style version of the old ER-6 parallel twin roadster, the Versys was first introduced in 2006 complete with slightly oddball fairing and more upright and roomy riding position and, despite those weird looks, quickly established itself as a value, middleweight all-rounder. It's since been updated and face-lifted twice to the extent that it's brilliantly refined and versatile yet still engaging and entertaining as a pure motorcycle and good value, too. The 649cc parallel twin now produces a useful 68bhp and is revvy, flexible and reliable; the chassis is sweet handling and effortless and, best of all, it's roomy and comfortable over the long haul complete with an adjustable screen and a large tank capable of well over 200miles between refills. We don't know of another mile-eater so good and so easy for so little.

Find a Kawasaki Versys 650 for sale on Auto Trader
Honda NC750X - the bike that thinks it's a scooter one, from £6860
Don't think of Honda's novel - and hugely successful - NC750X as a pure motorcycle. Instead it's a 'motorcycle-scooter hybrid' with the best from both worlds, and that's why it's a brilliant commuter - in fact it was our Best Commuter of 2016. First introduced as the 51bhp NC700X in 2012 it was enlarged and updated into this 54bhp version in 2014. Launched alongside the roadster NC700/750S and Integra scooter, what's novel about it is three-fold; First, all three use the same low-revving, car-derived twin cylinder engine which is both immensely flexible and easy AND impressively economical, easily returning well over 70mpg. Second, all have the same semi-scooter ethos, which is manifested most obviously with a useful luggage compartment in the dummy tank (the real tank's under the seat). And third, and most cleverly of all, both NC's come with Honda's unique, optional 'Dual Clutch Transmission' (or DCT) which, for £600-odd extra, is basically a semi-automatic gearbox which bins the clutch lever and turns it into a sophisticated 'twist 'n' go' - and which is ideal for commuting. A bike that looks and performs like a motorcycle (albeit not quite matching the dynamic performance of, say, the Versys 650, but with the ease and manners of a scooter? Yes indeed - and THAT'S why the NC750X makes a brilliant commuter.

Find a Honda NC750X for sale on Auto Trader
Yamaha Tricity 125 - the 3-wheeler one, £3849
Finally, here's a 'leftfield' one. You can't fail to have noticed the upsurge in 'three-wheeled' motorcycles and scooters in recent years, most popularly with scooters such as Piaggio's MP3 family and most dramatically this year with Yamaha's radical, MT-09-based Niken. The thinking behind all being to deliver added security and reassurance, particularly to new or unconfident riders by having two front wheels, which lean and steer via sophisticated suspension systems. But with the Niken costing over £12K and the Piaggios being scooters it's Yamaha's Tricity 125 we're going for here. Big wheeled, part-scoot, part motorcycle, A1-compliant with an economical 125cc engine, with a narrow track so traffic-splitting isn't compromised too much and yet all for under £4000, the Tricity has a lot going for it if you're only commuting short distances and want the added security of that extra wheel. Sure it might not be exactly fast, nor have the cheapness and frugality of more conventional offerings, but it's more reassuring than most bikes or scoots and far cheaper and traffic-busting than a car!

Find a Yamaha Tricity for sale on Auto Trader
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