There’s one major problem with feeding your motorcycle jones – they don’t come cheap.
Given a valise full of American Cash Money, each and every rider could head out to the dealership and buy the exact bike of our dreams, but not everyone has that access to wads of cash, so what do you do?
It usually comes down to buying what we can afford, and your mechanical knowledge of bikes and your access to tools and a place to work can make a difference as well. If you’re not mechanically inclined, you’ll probably want to avoid the used bike market, and that leaves you looking for an affordable new machine.
Typically, bikes are compared according to their engine displacement, engine type, or some other physical characteristic which determines how well suited it is for a particular style of riding. Not everyone is rich, and price is often the determining factor when it comes to choosing which bike is right for you. If do have budget limitations (and most of us do) a little shopping around can help you find a bike which performs and travels down the road as well or better than some models with a much higher price tag.
Staying within our parameters here, namely getting the most in a new bike for a limited budget, we scoured the current crop of new cruisers to help you find something which fits your need for speed and your resources. Our criteria? All the bikes we looked at needed very strong dealer support, access to parts locally and at least some kind of looks and performance above the scooter category. We didn’t factor in styling and looks, but instead focused on performance as any bike that doesn’t leave you stranded by the side of the road looks great once you’re back home in your garage.
UNDER OR NEAR $5000
You have the option of buying a sport bike, but what you’ll get might leave a bit to be desired in terms of performance. These models, while they’ll probably be all you need if you’re a first time rider or sport a lighter weight frame, will quickly be outgrown as your skills improve. They’ll also be hard to unload on the used market.
You’ve been warned…
Kawasaki 250 Ninja $3699
Kawasaki 500 Ninja $4899
Performance on a tight budget
You can still find reasonably powerful and comfortable bikes – essentially new – by searching dealer inventories and looking for deals on machines that just didn’t move off the floor for one reason or another.
Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD $4699
Kawasaki KLE650CAF $4,995
Strong performance and a modest price are what you get in this modest package. You need at least some power to take on the highway, and most of the smaller displacement machines can leave you wanting more when it comes to acceleration and top speed.
The Kawasaki’s Vulcan 500 LTD vertical twin featured a powerful liquid-cooled, double-overhead-camshaft, eight-valve engine that make some serious horsepower and is more than highway ready. The motor – basically half of the 1000cc Ninja sportbike engine from the 1980s – gets put on the road via a six-speed gearbox. They’re hard to find with low miles or new, but you might get lucky.
The KLE pretty much delivers it all and then some, but boy, is it ugly.
Other Possible Choices
Honda VLX $4999
If you’re looking for a cruiser, Honda’s 600cc VLX line is about the most bike you can buy for around five grand. It’s good-looking, boasts a ton of aftermarket support, and you can find lots of accessories to improve looks and performance. As a bonus, it has just enough juice to run down the highway without causing you undue embarrassment.
Honda VT750 Shadow Spirit
Slightly better looks and performance than the VLX, you can still find these, albeit a couple of years from the assembly line, at dealerships around the nation. Hard to lose with this combination of styling and performance as there are just enough of each to keep you from being sorry you bought one.
Yamaha V Star 650 $5,399.00
We just spotted a 2009 on Ebay for just over $5K, and you just can’t beat that. This is the best looking, handling and performing of the sub-750 bikes you can get your hands on, and the one we saw offered a Buy It Now and zero miles on the odometer.
Suzuki DR650SEL $4,995
You can buy one of these brand new as well, though once again, it might be a couple of years old but with no mileage on the odometer. A solid choice, it has dual sport pretensions, and you might like that as you figure out what you’re looking for in a motorcycle.
Royal Enfield C5 Bullet $5,500
If you don’t mind lacking a little in the performance department in favor of a more vintage or classic look, the 500cc, fuel-injected Bullet delivers looks and dealer support – as long as you live in a major metro area. The Bullet also offers a whole bunch of performance and styling upgrade parts you can purchase online, and you get all the style of a classic British-looking machine without the top-dollar price.
Warning: this bike is not fast in any way. You’re buying looks and a modicum of reliability here, not speed an handling…