While it’s often said that any motorcycle makes a good commuter, some bikes are just better equipped to handle the daily grind. Desirable daily riders offer compact footprints, the ability to thread through crowded streets, and excellent fuel efficiency, but it also depends where and for how long you’re traveling. Longer-distance rides add features like better seat padding, panniers, and windshields, while urban-focused rigs adhere to the time-tested formula of less is more. Where applicable, we offer our own as-tested mileage figures as well as those from crowdsourced sites, which offer aggregated data from multiple users.
Our list of bikes proves that commuting capability can be had without breaking the bank, even taking weight, maneuverability, and comfort into account.
2024 Suzuki V-Strom 650 | 57 mpg (claimed) | $9,199
Suzuki’s V-Strom comes in a variety of trim levels, but we think the 650 base model strikes the right balance between affordability and capability, and better targets the commuting mission. Powered by the familiar 645cc liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin derived from the SV650, the Strom 650 delivers a nice combo of reliability, efficiency, and comfort, and there’s no arguing with its sub-$10K price tag.
That well-mannered Vee gets high marks for its smooth delivery, churning out a claimed 70 hp (65.2 hp on our dyno) while the Strom’s slim chassis and relatively low 470-pound weight make things controllable at low speeds or in adverse conditions. The standard V-Strom 650 doesn’t boast a ton of gizmos, though dual disc front brakes, ABS, traction control, and ride-by-wire throttle are welcome features here. The bike rolls on 19/17-inch street-biased wheels and carries a robust 5.3-gallon tank; owners report between 50 and 60 mpg, making for a relatively solid 260 miles between gas stops, a boon for commuting or touring.
With a new parallel-twin-powered model waiting in the wings, the “V” in V-Strom might not be around much longer, but for now it’s still a bike that hits all the right notes.
2023 Honda NC750X | 53 mpg (tested) | $9,399
Honda’s not-exactly-exciting but incredibly capable NC750X regularly makes top commuter bike lists, and on paper, it’s hard to argue with the specs. There’s a hella smooth, fuel-sipping 745cc parallel-twin engine good for a claimed 67 mpg, throttle-by-wire, a slipper clutch, ABS, traction control, and an automatic DCT transmission with three riding modes—and the NC still rings in at under $10,000.
Another feature that makes the Honda supremely suited to urban stints is a handy, lockable “frunk,” aka a 23-liter compartment big enough to conveniently swallow a full-face helmet and assorted groceries.
That eight-valve parallel-twin engine provides tractorlike off-idle acceleration that easily chugs through the midrange, and while power delivery isn’t exactly sporty, it is smooth. In top gear the NC spins at around 4,500 rpm, which partly explains that superb fuel economy; we recorded an average of 53 mpg during our testing, while Fuelly.com users reportedly averaged over 60 mpg from the 3.8-gallon underseat fuel tank.
Although the 750X clocks in at a 493 pounds wet, we still think the simplicity of the automatic transmission and the practicality of its creature comforts make it one of motorcycling’s better all-rounders.
2023 Triumph Tiger Sport 660 | 52.2 mpg (claimed) | $9,695
For commuters in search of more sporting performance in the same price range, the Triumph Tiger Sport 660 is definitely worth a closer look. In addition to being easy on the eyes, the Trumpet’s sporty three-cylinder 80-hp engine is sure to get your blood pumping with a nice balance of low-down torque and a rush of top-end power along with a seductive soundtrack.
With its exposed tubular steel frame, stubby tailsection, comfortable seat, and tall bars, the Tiger should provide plenty of all-around entertaining performance, and its upright ergos position your sight lines well above traffic while providing good leverage. Triumph claims 52 mpg, but riders have reported an average of 60 mpg from the 4.5-gallon tank, which should result in a respectable 270-mile range as well. Those numbers plus the adjustable screen and comfortable two-up saddle make the Tiger a good candidate for daily in-town stints as well as longer commutes with a passenger. The Tiger’s host of safety features and electronics are impressive too, with standard ABS, a slipper-type clutch, a multifunction TFT instrument panel, two ride modes (Road and Rain), and on/off traction control. And the Tiger’s 455-pound wet weight is the lightest here.
2023 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT | 42.5 mpg (tested) | $10,099
Kawasaki’s Versys 650 brings entertaining power, stable handling, and comfortable, upright ergonomics, and even with saddlebags (included with LT trim) is still offered at a wallet-friendly price. The Versys 650 shares the V-Strom 650′s road-biased approach, but it’s the only luggage-equipped bike on this list that comes close to $10K pricing.
There are no surprises in the engine room, with the Versys’ tried-and-true 649cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine packing approachable, engaging power delivery. On the in-house Motorcyclist dyno, the 650 LT produced 59.3 hp at 8,300 rpm and 41.5 lb.-ft. of torque at 7,100 rpm, which sounds modest until you experience that linear delivery and flat torque curve in the real world. It makes for supremely tractable power and flexibility on the street, and an in-command rider triangle adds to an engaging riding experience aboard the Versys. Dual front discs with ABS front and rear and switchable traction control come standard, and the LT model also receives wraparound hand guards for wind protection as well as 28-liter side panniers.
The 650 Versys LT also packs a 5.5-gallon tank (the biggest here) and the reasonable 500-pound weight make it a well-built, comfortable, and enjoyable motorcycle for any type of commute.
2023 Zero S | 477 mpg (claimed equivalent) | $12,995
Although Zero’s SR and its lesser-equipped S sibling are both designed for street riding, for daily commuting, we’d pick the cheaper and lighter S, one of Zero’s barer-bones and most affordable models.
Hear us out: The S is equipped with the firm’s Z-Force 75-5 permanent magnet motor with energy coming from a 7.2kWH lithium-ion battery, which Zero claims gets 89 miles of range in the city. That should be plenty for daily skips to the cubicle farm; most studies insist the average US commute is no more than 20 miles each way.
The S brings upright rider geometry too, with the relaxed footpeg locations making daily rides less tiring. Like most electrics, the S offers excellent throttle response and instant torque, with the direct drive eliminating the need for clutch work or shifting in fast-paced urban scenarios. Finally, the S’ naked styling means less bodywork and fewer surfaces to ding up in the urban jungle, and its low 313-pound weight makes for easy handling.
Zero says juicing the battery to 95 percent will take 5.2 hours on a standard household outlet, but other than that, your maintenance requirements are minimal. That and the S’ (relatively) low buy-in—MSRP is $12,995—puts it on this list.