2017 KTM Duke 390

Base Price: $5,299

KTM might not be most familiar motorcycle brand to many American shoppers, but the Austrian company makes some of the sportiest and aggressive bikes around—both in terms of design and engineering. These bikes have roots that go deep into off-road racing, where the company has serious expertise building very potent single cylinder engines.

The freshened-up Duke 390 is packing a single cylinder 44-hp “thumper” of its own. We’ve always liked the personality of these engines. Since the Duke 390 weighs just over 300 pounds dry (without fuel or oil), it sure feels incredibly responsive and easy to ride hard on a twisty road. This bike might be priced for the novice, but it should prove fun to anyone that likes an organic, visceral ride. Enhancements for 2017 include an improved suspension, larger brakes, a taller seat, and some seriously aggressive styling.  

2017 Ducati Monster 797

Base Price: $9,295

The original Monster made its debut back in the early 1990s as one of the first modern “naked” sport bikes that ditched aero plastic for a bare chassis that let the mechanicals shine. The Monster was a hit. But over the past few years the engines have grown in size and the bikes have become more expensive. The new 797, however, packs much of the engineering and prowess of the larger Monsters into a more affordable bike with a smaller engine.

The midsize Twin produces 75 hp and 50.8 lb-ft of torque down at 5,750 rpm. While those aren’t big numbers, this is a machine that has plenty of low-end thrust that should help move the 425 pounds (wet) easily. If canyon riding is part of the weekend plan, then rest assured, because this is a Ducati and there are big Brembo brakes up front and an inverted Kayaba front fork. Best of all, the 797 looks similar enough to pricier Monsters that few will notice or care that this sweet machine is the less expensive one.

2017 BMW G310R

Base Price: $5,500 (est.)

You doesn’t typically think of BMW as “cheap” bikes, but the new G 310 R is here to change that. The new bike uses a 313cc liquid-cooled single cylinder that cranks out 34 hp up at 9,500 rpm. And that’s plenty because this little bike weighs just 350 pounds. But the thing that makes the new BMW such a standout in this smaller-class of sporty bikes is the high-level of craftsmanship with which it’s built. This doesn’t look or feel like a budget bike. And like the more expensive BMWs, this one is fitted with ABS standard.

We are particularly smitten by the bike’s style—especially when it’s wearing the classic old-school BMW white with red and blue stripes paint scheme. BMW hasn’t yet announced pricing, but competitors like Honda’s CBR300R and Kawasaki’s Ninja 300 come in around $5000, so don’t expect this one to stray too far outside that pricing neighborhood.

2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300

Base Price: $5,399

Picture a typical adventure bike and the image of a big, beefy, high-riding machine might come to mind—a bike loaded down with hard cases and ready for a dusty journey to remote lands. So why couldn’t this successful formula be scaled down to save a few bucks? It can, and Kawasaki has just the machine (and right now it’s the only player who does).

The new Versys-X 300 certainly looks the part. It has an upright riding position which helps the rider sit tall and have a great view through the windscreen, so it should be a fine commuter as well as a fun backroad explorer. Now, this is a budget adventure bike, so don’t expect serious suspension travel or super knobby tires for heavy-duty off-road excursions. However, the bike’s 7.1-inches of ground clearance means it can handle more than the average street bike.

Kawasaki’a Ninja 300 is one of our favorite affordable sports machines, and the Ninja’s engine has found a home between the frame rails of the Versys-X 300. It’s just as sweet here. Like larger and pricier adventure-class bikes, the Versys-X 300 can be fitted with a full catalog of accessories from hard bags to lights and even off-road crash bars. The Versys-X 300 is available in few colors but the one in our own garage would be painted candy lime green.

2017 Harley-Davidson Road Glide

Base Price: $19,000

The Harley-Davison Road Glide costs some money—that is without debate. The company’s biggest bikes always do. But here’s the thing, the new Glide is the least expensive bike Harley-Davidson offers with its massive, all-new 107 cubic-inch (1753cc) Milwaukee Eight V-Twin. It’s not often that Harley completely redesigns its engines, and this one is significant because it has to carry the company into the future tackling stricter emissions and noise regulations. Harley says the new motor delivers more torque (10 percent) thanks to the four valve heads and a bump in compression. Harley also worked to reduce vibration and heat while also improving fuel economy.

But the new engine isn’t the only news here, Harley has redesigned the suspension of the Glide to ride and handle better while also improving the range and ease of adjustability—we that new fairing ain’t bad to look at either.

Ducati SuperSport

Base Price: $13,000

Modern sportbikes have the technology, power, and sharp handling to seamlessly make the transition from road to track. But isn’t there room for a sportbike that’s just a little more comfortable? Apparently so. Ducati has created a sportbike that’s friendly to ride every day. The riding position is more upright so less of your bodyweight is focused down on your wrists.

Still, this is still a beastly-quick machine thanks to is 937cc liquid-cooled L-Twin that puts down 113 hp way up at 9,000 rpm. And with just 463 pounds to pull around, it certainly won’t be lacking when the road twists. The Supersport comes standard with a system that dials in specific riding and power modes (not unlike a modern high performance sport sedan) and includes traction and ABS.

And since it’s a Ducati—the Supersport is one good-looking bike. For those that need a little more, the Supersport S model ($14,795) adds high-performance suspension and clutchless shifting.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro

Base Price: $3,000

Honda broke new ground with its Grom minibike back in 2014. It was cute, fun, and quickly became cult hit. The bike was such a success, Kawasaki wanted a slice of that 125cc single-cylinder pie. The new Z125 Pro is ultra-compact and light (225 lbs.) Plus it undercuts that Honda in price. In fact, it’s the only bike on our list that dips below $3,000.

The low 31.7-inch seat height means it’s an easy machine for riders with nearly any stature. The Z125 certainly looks aggressive and has a sport-style suspension that should make it a blast around town. Of course, if you need to hit the freeway, this little Kawi won’t cut it. But it’s so small and inexpensive, we could see owning one and parking it right next to a full-size bike as a spunky little errand hopper. Best of all? The Z125 should return close to 100 mpg.

2017 Honda CBR500R

Base Price: $6,500

Honda’s middleweight sportbike, The CBR500R, is one of those rare bikes with wide appeal. It’s a great machine for first time riders as well as seasoned enthusiasts that appreciate the nimble size, low price, and solid handling.

The 471cc parallel twin is smooth and torquey and happy to rev, and the suspension is very comfortable and compliant, whether around town or in the canyons. The CBR500R benefitted from some substantial changes last year including a revised suspension, new styling, and both a new exhaust and intake. Translation? It looks and sounds even better than before. But what hasn’t changed is its status has a gateway to sport bike culture.

2017 Triumph Street Cup

 

Base Price: $10,500

Triumph has long proven that expensive bikes and classic style don’t have to go hand-in-hand. Last year the company completely redesigned and modernized the Bonneville lineup with several engine sizes and power outputs. The new Street Cup, based on that Bonne, is like a smaller, cheaper, and friendlier Thruxton. The Cup uses the mildly-tuned 900cc version of the parallel twin engine but engineers included a throatier exhaust system. The Street Cup was designed to look like a faithful recreation of a classic café racer.

And it works. The rider sits low and forward on this bike, thanks to the low handle bars, and hides behind a small flyscreen. But the Triumph crew made some special adjustments to the Bonne’s chassis to sharpen its handling, including a unique suspension. And don’t let looks fool you. The Cup might look vintage but Triumph has loaded it with modern tech like throttle-by-wire and ABS.