Whether it is your first motorcycle or another addition to your garage, choosing an urban motorbike is not easy. Most companies specializing in motorbikes have already realized that big city dwellers are a vast, almost unexplored customer niche, so the market has been getting more and more saturated with city-friendly motorcycles in recent years. This is great because you have a lot of options to choose from, and healthy competition promotes innovation and improvement. Still, settling on just one model when there are so many alternatives can be tough.
We’ve decided to test some urban motorcycles to help you make that important decision. To us, an urban bike absolutely has to be agile, compact, and economical. Preferably, it is also beginner-friendly, as the urban commuter is likely going to be the first motorcycle for a lot of people. Finally, we wanted our top picks to be reasonably well-rounded and versatile, giving you the opportunity to take them off the beaten track and into the wild if you wanted to. Here the top 10 urban motorcycles that satisfied all or most of these criteria.
If you’re new to the world of motorcycles, you need one that won’t make you feel like you’re trying to ride an untamed wild horse (or about a dozen of them). The BMW G 310 R is a great motorbike for “beginners” because it is easy to mount, has very responsive steering, and can be taken on fun rides outside of the city if you want to.
The first impression from the BMW G 310 R is definitely a positive one. The motorcycle is very well-designed, so it looks great regardless of the color you go for. A closer inspection reveals that it is also well-built; you won’t be able to find any small defects in the paintwork or around the switches and footpegs. This comes as no surprise since the G 310 R is a BMW Motorwerks product, and the German manufacturer is known for paying attention to the smallest details.
Riding the G 310 R is a fun and uncomplicated affair. Admittedly, there are motorcycles out there that offer a more fun riding experience, but riding them in a city would be pretty tough as well as inefficient. With the G 310 R, you can cruise the city streets effortlessly, and making your way through congested traffic is a breeze, too.
As good as this little BMW motorcycle is, it still has some flaws. One major issue we have with this bike is that it lacks some features that its competitors in the same price range do offer. For instance, you don’t get the option to turn off ABS on this motorcycle, and the Ride-by-Wire throttle isn’t to be found, either. We think it would actually be a good idea to add these features even if that would cause a price increase, but the G 310 R is nevertheless a solid option for the beginner motorcycle aficionado.
Yamaha is among the first brand names that come to mind when you think of motorcycles. The Japanese company has been producing outstanding-quality vehicles for over 60 years now, so we had pretty high expectations for the new MT-07 model. As it turned out, this little motorcycle offers so much bang for the buck that our expectations were pleasantly surpassed, and the MT-07 happily made our list.
A follow-up to the extremely successful FZ-07 model from 2015, the Yamaha MT-07 has kept many design features from its predecessor. However, a keen observer will be able to spot some differences, as Yamaha went for a simpler, more minimalist look with the MT-07. Of course, this is purely a matter of preference, but we think the straightforward design of the newer model is slightly more attractive.
You are only able to fully appreciate the MT-07 once you’ve taken it for a ride. We wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the ideal city bike, but if we held a competition, it would be pretty close to snatching the first prize. The bike is very easy to control, the gears shift very smoothly, and you can almost feel the power trapped in its 689cc engine. What’s more, its speedy acceleration makes it a great choice for city streets, where you frequently have to stop or decelerate for traffic lights, pedestrians, and other vehicles.
As far as drawbacks go, we could try to complain about the non-adjustable front forks, but it would be fairly difficult for you to take us seriously at this point. With this performance and specs, Yamaha could’ve demanded a significantly higher price for this motorcycle, and it still would’ve sold pretty well. With the very reasonable price tag that it currently has, the Yamaha MT-07 feels almost like a steal, so we would readily recommend it to anyone looking for a new urban motorcycle.
As much of a bargain as the Yamaha MT-07 is, it still may not be within the limits of your budget. Or maybe you want an even smaller motorbike, one that comes with all the practicality of a scooter yet feels like a full-fledged motorcycle. Well, we can’t promise you that riding the Honda Grom feels like riding a Harley Davidson (in fact, we can promise you it doesn’t), but if your trips are going to be happening almost exclusively within the city limits, the Grom might be exactly what you need.
Design-wise, there’s really not much to say about the Grom. It features a standard look with no cool or innovative deviations worth mentioning. However, what you do have to know about this motorcycle is that it looks tiny compared to other motorcycles you’re used to. This is the smallest motorbike we’ve tested for this review.
The top speed of the Grom is officially 75mph, and on a good day, you might even be able to actually achieve that speed. For all practical purposes though, you should count on it being able to go at about 65mph per hour. Given this speed limit, it’s easy to figure out that riding the Grom isn’t in any way an overwhelming or ground-breaking experience. Yet, Honda managed to somehow make the Grom a very fun motorcycle to ride. We can almost guarantee that you’ll want to take it for longer rides than just commuting to and from work, and it does hold its own in the countryside surprisingly well.
For the price, we can’t really complain about any aspect of the Honda Grom. It’s a very compact, economical, reliable, and, most importantly, fun motorbike. Unless you have unrealistic expectations of this machine, it won’t disappoint you.
While we’re on the subject of Honda, let’s take a look at another motorcycle from the Japanese company. After all, you don’t get to be the world’s largest motorbike manufacturer since 1959 unless you really know what you’re doing. Honda may not produce the coolest or most desired motorcycles, but Honda machines are very well-made and reliable, and that alone deserves respect.
The CB300R is Honda’s newest city-friendly motorbike. At first glance, it kind of looks like an oversized Grom. Once you start to take in the details though, you can see that the CB300R is both conceptually and substantially a full-fledged motorcycle. It’s not a sportbike, so it doesn’t look too sleek and powerful, but it’s a good enough design to turn some heads as you’re passing the oh-so-slow pedestrians by.
Riding the CB300R may get challenging at times, which is why we’d rather recommend it for people who have at least minimal experience with motorcycles than for those who are completely new to the whole thing. Of course, you could still make the CB300R your first motorbike and successfully learn to ride it, but we felt that some other models on our list were more beginner-friendly. The Honda CB300R rewards a good riding technique, so you’ll feel more confident and have more fun on this motorcycle if you learn the ropes on something else.
As for drawbacks, we couldn’t find many. Seeing as the Honda CB300R is apparently more geared toward intermediate to advanced riders, it could’ve had a more powerful engine. Still, you don’t want to go too fast within the city limits, and this is primarily an urban bike, so we wouldn’t consider that a serious disadvantage.
Even if you’re absolutely new to the culture surrounding motorcycles, you’ve probably heard of Kawasaki motorbikes. Produced by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Motorcycle & Engine from Japan, they are solid bikes that deliver a lot of bang for the buck. This is proved by the extremely popular Kawasaki Ninja product line. Let’s take a look at a bike that could easily have belonged to that line, the Z650.
The Kawasaki Z650 is based on the Ninja 650, a well-balanced and fun motorcycle that has won the hearts of many motorcycle enthusiasts. If you compare them just by their specs, it might be difficult to tell them from one another because they have the same engines and even the same disc brakes. However, once you actually take a look at the Z650, it becomes very easy to tell it from its Ninja cousin. The Kawasaki Z650 features a naked design that is inspired by sportbikes. This makes it look very cool, and on the practical side, it is lighter than the Ninja 650, allowing for less fuel consumption.
Riding the Z650 is quite easy even if it’s your first time on a motorcycle. It has very smooth, predictable handling that is just responsive enough not to feel too slow. At the same time, it’s not hyper-reactive, almost making you feel dizzy with the slightest turns. This ease of handling persists through higher speeds too, so you can take this motorcycle for highway rides on weekends and still feel comfortable riding it.
We were hard-pressed to find any serious issues with the Z650. Okay, so maybe the design isn’t really for everyone, and the engine is a bit too powerful for what most people need from an urban motorcycle. Still, those looking for a versatile motorbike that does well in big cities with lots of traffic won’t be disappointed.
Many urban motorcycle models are smaller, lightweight versions of full-sized off-road or sports bikes. This means that they weren’t built from the ground up with the city conditions in mind. The Zero DS, our next pick, wasn’t designed specifically as an urban motorcycle, but it has some smart programming built-in that allows you to activate the city-friendly Eco mode with just a touch of a button. Oh, and did we mention it is also powered by electricity?
The Zero DS motorcycle has “Black Forest” in its full model name, and we think that suits its optic very well. If you go for the darker version, you’ll get a beautiful matte black frame with some contrasting chrome elements, such as the disc brakes. Some people are bound to find this almost exclusively black color scheme a little boring, but we loved the minimalist yet silently chic look of the Zero DS. It does look somewhat clumsy with the battery power tank attached, but we found we can live with that.
On the road, Zero DS feels just as fun and easy to ride as the best motorbikes with combustion engines we’ve tested. If it’s your first motorcycle, you’ll learn to ride it with ease, and your skills are going to be applicable to just about any other bike you choose to ride. You can also take it off-road with the Sport mode that optimizes the bike’s performance on anything other than smooth asphalt. Just make sure your travels don’t take you too far from a power outlet, and have fun.
The most obvious disadvantage of this motorcycle is its price. You could get two or even three regular urban motorbikes for the price of a single Zero DS. Is this investment worth it? That mostly depends on your initial budget. Charging the DS is ridiculously cheap, so your rides to work and back are going to be almost free. In addition, this e-motorcycle doesn’t need as much maintenance as a regular motorbike, so that is going to save you money over time as well. All in all, we’d say go for it if you have the money at hand.
If you weren’t impressed by the electricity-powered Zero DS, don’t worry; we still have a couple urban motorcycles with a traditional gas tank up our sleeves. Another product of a Japanese company, the Yamaha TW200 is a great motorbike for people living in cities where the streets could use some maintenance. It is also the ultimate commuter motorcycle for those who live in the distant suburbs and may have to ride some rougher roads before they make it to the highway.
We were really impressed by how awesome the Yamaha TW200 looks. Don’t get us wrong, the cool factor is definitely not the most important thing in an urban bike, but isn’t it nice to swing your leg over a gloriously powerful motorcycle every morning rather than something that seems to have borrowed its aesthetics from a scooter? Just one piece of advice: go for the darker color scheme if you want the most impressive looks. Of course, you can also get the beige-colored one, but we found that it looks kind of old-school and loses a lot of that cool dirt-bike aesthetic.
The TW200 is a very beginner-friendly motorcycle. It is very lightweight, so it’s easy to pick up if you happen to drop it. Also, it is sturdy, so you won’t feel as bad dropping it as you might feel damaging the plastic fairings on some of the shinier bikes. It handles very well, so you won’t have to wonder how to properly execute a basic turn. All in all, it’s great for beginners, and you might even consider taking your motorcycle license test with it. It won’t be easy for you to outgrow this bike, either. As your skills improve, you’ll find that there are many cool things you can do with the TW200, and riding it on rough terrain might become your preferred way of spending the weekends.
The Yamaha TW200 is a very good motorcycle, but it’s not perfect. Its low weight is achieved with a few sacrifices, one of which is a smaller fuel tank. This could be a deal-breaker if you don’t want to develop a mental map of the nearest gas stations every time you ride your motorbike. It is also quite slow even for an urban motorcycle, which is good for beginners and works very well with those fat tires on rough roads but may end up being disappointing once you get good at riding it. Still, we don’t think that these disadvantages are critical for a city motorcycle, and we’re sure that the TW200 can make some riders very happy.
We knew this list could never be complete without mentioning a Ducati motorbike, and with “Urban” in this model’s name, we immediately knew which one we had to test first. Hailing from Italy, Ducati motorcycles are mostly oriented toward speed and fun, but the company does have some “downtuned” models that can take on the city streets and come out victorious.
We’d say the Urban Enduro is a well-rounded motorcycle that performs well on the city streets but doesn’t shy away from some off-road fun either. The one issue we could have with it is the price. At more than two times the price of the conceptually similar Yamaha TW200, it may not be worth the investment if the TW200 drawbacks aren’t that important to you.
Well, speaking of motorcycles and investments, how about a motorbike that comes at double the price of even the Ducati Urban Enduro? That kind of price may seem like overkill, but wait until you take a look at the motorcycle in question. It’s the city-friendly, yet undeniably classy and charming Road Glide from Harley Davidson, a motorcycle that’s all about the experience rather than merely the end result of getting from A to B.
Harley Davidson motorcycles are great performers, but they also tend to feature iconic looks that are associated with the whole biker culture. The Road Glide purposefully looks like an older motorcycle that was built in the 70s or 80s. However, a quick ride is enough to make you understand that beneath this stylish retro frame you’ll find modern components that work together in perfect sync to make every mile as enjoyable as the first one.
Yes, the Road Glide is that good. Make no mistake, you’ll still need to make an effort riding this motorcycle, probably even more effort than you need with any other model on this list. However, it pays off, as riding the Road Glide is a very, very enjoyable experience. The bike is very stable, and it offers a smooth ride regardless of the speed. The Road Glide actually welcomes higher speeds and almost wants you to get away from the city streets crammed with other vehicles and rush into the unknown. We don’t recommend you do that until you’re completely sure you know how to control your Road Glide though, as the handling may get challenging at times, especially for those without much experience riding motorcycles.
All in all, Harley Davidson Road Glide is a high-quality urban motorcycle with some flaws. The first one is the sheer size of this bike, which means that it’s not that agile in congested traffic and needs a proper parking spot. This could be a deal-breaker if you need to get to your downtown office past what feels like millions of cars and don’t have your own designated parking spot. The second problem you could have with this motorcycle is the price. So, we would only recommend the Road Glide to people who already have some experience with motorcycles so that they are fully aware of what they want from their daily urban commuter bike and what they’re going to be getting from the Road Glide.
KTM AG is an Austrian company that produces motorcycles and sports cars but is best known and recognized for the former. KTM motorbikes are fast, aggressive, and fun to ride, but the needs of city dwellers have convinced KTM to come up with a bike that feels at home on the busy, sometimes narrow city streets. Of course, the company couldn’t simply set aside all its past experience designing motorbikes for highways and off-road use, so the 390 Duke is a lot more than a humble commuter machine.
Just looking at the 390 Duke makes you think that this is a bike that means business and won’t tolerate inexperienced riders. Well, appearances are deceitful, as this Duke actually is very beginner-friendly, but we’ll get to that. The combination of black, gray, orange, and white colors makes this motorcycle look like it just came out of a motorcycle race that it probably won. Of course, this is a purely subjective matter, but we do love the 390 Duke’s aesthetics and find that some of the bikes on our list could borrow an idea or two.
Once again, beginners don’t have to feel intimidated by the 390 Duke. It’s a lightweight, agile bike that’s very easy to handle. This means that you’ll be navigating the traffic lanes like a pro on this bike in no time. Thanks to the low weight and solid mid-range 373cc engine, the 390 Duke is also reasonably fast. Overall, it’s a very balanced motorcycle that feels at home on the city streets, on a highway, and even on a mean rural road that’s never heard of asphalt. This versatility means that it will take you a long time and a lot of skills to outgrow this Duke, so this bike is a very solid investment.
We were very impressed by the KTM 390 Duke, so we almost didn’t want to look for any possible shortcomings. As it turned out, there really aren’t many, and the biggest problem we could find is that even when pushed to the limits, the 390 Duke is probably not going to go as fast as you might want it to. This is going to take some fun out of your rides as you gain more experience, but it also makes this Duke a little safer for newbie riders and saves you money in the long run thanks to lower fuel consumption. The KTM 390 Duke is fun, versatile, practical, and affordable. What more could you possibly want from a good urban motorcycle?