Best commuter motorcycle is…

Part 1 : 8-9-14

There are plenty of motorcycles types and models to choose from in 2014 and choosing one is kind of difficult – even more so than past few decades. Thanks to the internet which can help or hinder your search dependent on your state of mind. Since I’m currently helping a friend on choose a new commuter motorcycle I decided to share with you the criteria I tend to go through.

Commuter motorcycles are a class that can be described as a model that you can ride to and from work, do some shopping or anything that envoles daily chores. The priorities listed in no particular order in the class should essentially are comfort in traffic, maneuverability, enough height, reasonable engine and power, electronic fuel injections, reliability, easy on petrol, look reasonable yet not be a theft magnet. Of course the more financial aspect include value for money to purchase (nothing to to with finding the cheapest motorcycle), easy and value for money to insure and keep registered and service.

In general any motorcycle can be a commuter but let’s be realistic you are unlikely to ride your rare Ducati or blinged up Harley Davidson or any exotic ‘dream’ motorcycle, in the rain, highways and by-ways very single day.  Sure you can ride these bikes if you want to but most would rather keep those for special rides! So a daily ride is probably going to be something a little more accessible hence anything in the value class or learner category is perfect and up to 600cc is probably the where to begin.

Part 2

The first choices for those wanting a commuter motorcycle – it would unlikely be a CBR 250/300 or even a Ninja250/300 purely because they are choice of learners riders and few want to be seen on one once their L’s or P’s are finished. The Ninja 250 in particular has undesirable carburettor characteristics when cold that would deter any experienced rider who ants start and go. However the newer models are great little motorcycles and both meet all the criteria for a commuter motorcycle. That said they are way too soft for anyone wanting sports bike handling. However for a traditionally sporty looking commuter these two are very good. The only way to avoid the stereotyping of you choose either motorcycle avoid them all together and choose something a little different.

The alternatives in 2014 are still few but are definitely worth considering. Based on current trends a cafe racer style motorcycle is a great choice and probably your best bet in terms of a bike having personality or style. A cross-over or Supermotard, the trend from early 2000’s is another class of look at. Aside from class, personally any of the 400cc motorcycles are probably the best choices.

Part 3

In general most Australian states/territories and other countries, motorcycles under 500cc attract a lower registration and CTP (compulsory third party insurance) as part of the registration. That said some have cheaper rates put to 700cc… regardless you need to check what the difference and capacities are. Other models of greater capacity are equally recommended but do cost a little more to keep on the road. To avoid getting bogged down into technicalities the 400cc to 500cc motorcycles offer the best performance/cost ratio for a commuter.

The best ones you can buy here are the Honda CB400, Honda CBR500, CBR500F, CBR500X, KTM Duke 390.

Part 4

Maintenance costs for motorcycles are generally not cheap regardless of brand. Furthermore there are not as many independent servicing outlets, countered by the fact that motorcycle are generally easier to service as parts are usually easy to access. based on my on experience a routine service is about $200-250 at a dealership. Any additional work will cost more eg. suspension fork refills, chain replacement etc.. A fair price considering the overheads.

If you commuting your tyres will require replacement more often unless your bike has extra hard rubber e.g.. 250cc The more performance your motorcycle has the faster it will wear through tyres mainly by squaring off. This applies to rear tyres and fronts usually last longer for obvious reasons. I only expect 6000 km for the rear tyre before replacing. Don’t skimp on tyre replacements as they are the only thing keeping you on the road.

There are quite a few different brands and types of tyres eg. race, road, touring and so forth and based on the sport ruing tyres which I always choose is $250-300 for a rear tyre (180-190 wide!). Of course having the DN-01 means I have to use 190 series tyre which is not exactly cheap. However if you choose a motorcycle that has 160 rears or less they will be cheaper costing under $200. If choosing a 250cc – 300cc motorcycle tyres can be even cheaper. If you plan on daily commuting on your motorcycle budget for 2 rear tyres a year and a front for safety purposes.

Part 5 : 5-10-14

Other things to consider when choosing to commute by motorcycle is insurance, fuel costs and parking. Motorcycle insurance can be expensive and there are so many variables like age, motorcycle type, where you live, riding history and so forth. As a result I’m not going to discuss costs but what I can tell you is that I do think motorcycle insurance is important to have when commuting aka on a daily basis for obvious reasons like theft and accidents.

In regards to fuel costs, motorcycles in general do not use much fuel. If you choose a motorcycle with a small engine it will be using less fuel a regular small car and probably even less than a best hybrid available in 2014.  Expect fuel consumption of around 4 litres per hundred kms regardless of traffic conditions. If you choose a larger sports bike it is safe to assume that it will use more petrol. The reason is simple – sports motorcycle engines produce lots of power and have performance very few popular cars have, in car equivalents lets just say the AMG Mercedes can ‘just’ keep up with a 600cc sports bike. However you can still expect great fuel consumption figures of 5-7 litres per hundred kilometers.

Motorcycle parking in many cities are difficult to find and some actually cost money. If you live in a city that makes motorcycle parking free and easy like Melbourne for example you should take advantage of that and ride more. Saves time in peak hour to and from work and time as you know is priceless!

As a result the best commuter motorcycle list actually changes to include second hand or a used motorcycle that hasn’t been trashed or abused by it prior owner/s could be a very cost efficient choice.

Part 6 : 2-11-14

One other factor that I often talk about in reference to other motorcycle is that they should reflect their status. Eg. A top range motorcycle should look exactly like it likewise the fastest motorcycles in the world should look like it even standing still. In this respect in terms of commuters I don’t think there is any sort of definitive design requirement since you can choose essentially any motorcycle class you want.

That said I have found that a narrow motorcycle (not necessarily small) is probably an important criteria you should  consider when choosing a commuter, afterall you want to easily ride past traffic, cars and truck parked or otherwise on the freeway in peak hour. However a motorcycle should also have road presence for obvious safety reasons. For example a Goldwing is not really a motorcycle to filter through peak hour traffic but it does have plenty of road presence. So something in between?

To be continued…next week!