All motorbikes are fun, built for freedom and adventures; some experiences can only be enjoyed on two wheels.
However, some motorcycles are more suitable for certain purposes than others, and who is to say that bikes can’t be as equally practical as they are fun.
I used to hate commuting to work, getting stuck in the mornings in my old Beemer, trapped in the school-run traffic and fighting in queues again to get back home.
That was until I bought my Mutt, and suddenly I found myself excited to get up in the mornings as I had a 30-minute ride to look forward to (more if I took the long way.)
My little 125cc was perfect for my needs, but it wouldn’t suit someone who had a motorway stretch as part of their commute.
So, what makes a good commuter motorbike?
- Fuel Efficient
- Sufficient Power
- Storage Options
Every rider will have different individual needs out of their bike for their commute.
I have pulled some of the best commuter motorbike options across different capacities and price ranges; to show you there is the perfect two-wheel weapon for everyone to spark some joy back into your commute.
Mutt Hilts 125/250
- Weight Dry – 125kg/140kg
- Engine – 125cc/250cc
- Max Power – 12hp/21hp
- Max Torque – 10Nm/18Nm
Just because you are commuting doesn’t mean you have to be boring, and it is safe to say the Mutt Hilts is far from boring.
Available in both 125cc and 250cc versions, Mutt caters to both riders on L plates and the fully licensed.
The 250cc version will give you that bit more power, so will suit riders that have some faster roads or dual carriageways to battle on their commute.
There is very little difference between the two bikes, other than the displacement and a little extra weight.
The Hilts is nimble, lightweight, easy to handle, and will glide through traffic when filtering.
You can push it around a car park without breaking into too much of a sweat, and the upright riding position is comfortable and gives you clear visibility of the road ahead.
It is a no-frills machine, so there is no tech other than linked brakes on the Mutt’s, and the company is in the process of fitting LED instrument displays.
The tank is big enough for a big tank bag, and a couple of pannier racks will have you covered so you can carry a change of clothes or your laptop, etc. for work.
Perhaps the selling point is that you can commute to work doing your best Steve McQueen impression on the Hilts without forking out Triumph prices.
Vespa GTS 125 or 300 Touring
- Weight Dry – 160kg
- Engine – 124.7cc/278.3cc
- Max Power – 13.81/23.8hp
- Max Torque – 11.1Nm/26Nm
I am perhaps breaking the rules a little here with this addition to the list, but you cannot simply ignore that scooters are incredibly practical commuters, and at least I’ve added the coolest of the bunch from the icons that are Vespa.
Once again, we have a GTS 125 and GTS 300, so there are two different capacities to suit learner riders and those that need a little more oomph. The 300cc is the one to shoot for if you have faster roads to consider on your commute.
Other than the obvious power difference, the 300 comes with Traction Control, unlike the 125, and the 125 comes with an innovative stop-start system.
The key factors that make the GTS Touring models great for commuting are that they are agile and lightweight, which makes them great for battling traffic.
They come packed with features that can make your commute super easy such as a USB port for keeping your work phone charged in the back shield locker.
An under-seat compartment is great for storing your work bag, and there is also a rack on the back if you have some extra equipment to lug around.
Additional accessories such as a windshield, hand protectors, heated grips, front rack, and a solid top box for the rear are available.
For 2021 Vespa has released a GTS 125 and 300 in a 75th Anniversary edition.
So, if you are a fan of Vespa’s legacy, the limited edition model would certainly add some sparkle to your commute in throwback 40’s style metallic yellow paintwork.
- Weight, ready to ride – 175kg
- Engine – 313cc
- Max Power – 34hp
- Max Torque – 28Nm
It is fair to say that the G310GS is one of my favourite bikes on the list, and of all times, I just think BMW nailed it with the baby GS and R model.
Even though they are both models made in India, there is no compromise on quality or performance, and frankly, for what you get, they are both a bit of a bargain.
The GS has 34 horsepower and is perfectly capable of city riding, negotiating traffic and then pumping out the power for a quick blast when you hit the dual carriageway.
It handles exceptionally well and precisely, feels sturdy yet nimble and ergonomically, it is very comfortable, putting you in an upright position. Being relatively tall, the GS will have you looking over cars in front with ease to see what is up ahead.
BMW has now made the clutch and brake levers adjustable in 4 different stages; this addressed an issue on the first edition model that the levers were not great for those with small hands.
LED lights are equipped all round, and the bike comes with ABS as standard.
A rear luggage rack is handy for storing your kit, and a small windshield will help keep the elements off you.
Being a BMW, there are a host of accessories that you can get your hands on that will make your commute even better, such as heated grips, GPS, bigger windshield, aluminium luggage sets etc.
Triumph Street Twin
- Weight, ready to ride – 216kg
- Engine – 900cc
- Max Power – 64hp
- Max Torque – 80Nm
The Triumph Street Twin is a variation of the Bonneville line, which goes back to 1959 when it was once the ‘World’s Fastest Motorcycle’.
It isn’t the fastest bike in the world anymore, far from it. Still, the Street Twin remains a solid, functional, good looking motorbike that has retained the Bonneville spirit combined with modern functionality.
The bike isn’t the most sophisticated or feature-packed in this list. However, it is best to view it as a blank canvas to truly make it your own.
Options are unlimited in how you can make the Street Twin work for you, throw over rear panniers, or full Kriega luggage may suit you for carrying your work kit.
You could put a small fly dart screen on the headlamp mount or a full-on large windshield, whichever best suits your needs.
ABS and Traction Control will help keep you right side up in all weather conditions and inspire confidence when riding.
The bench seat is great for comfort and moving around if your commute is a little lengthy.
Simply put, the Street Twin is incredibly versatile and suited to all sorts of riding. The 900cc engine is suited to rolling through town and then blasting down the motorway.
It is a bike you can ride to work all week, then load up and take away for the weekend for some serious riding.
It is also a bike that can be made A2 compliant.
Limited to just 1,000 units Worldwide, the Street Twin Gold Line is a looker; if you want to stand out on your commute with a limited custom, this is a cool option.
Royal Enfield Interceptor
- Weight, ready to ride – 217kg
- Engine – 648cc
- Max Power – 37 hp
- Max Torque – 52.3Nm
Perhaps the Street Twin’s biggest competitor is the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650.
The Interceptor has won MCN’s award for ‘Best Retro Bike of the Year’ twice in a row.
It is a classically styled twin-cylinder built to be low maintenance, reliable, and to put a smile on the rider’s face.
The Interceptor has less power than the Street Twin but weighs about the same; it handles very well, with precise steering and feels lightweight even at slow speeds thanks to its balance.
Fitted with a similar style bench seat, the Interceptor and Street Twin are ergonomically similar, putting the rider in an upright natural riding position.
One big bonus point for the Royal Enfield is that it is cheaper than the Street Twin while continuing that classic motorbike style, with no real compromises except a power difference.
Equally, you can treat the Interceptor as a blank canvas to fit it out to your needs for your commute.
- Weight, ready to ride – 200kg
- Engine – 645cc
- Max Power – 72hp
- Max Torque – 64Nm
The SV650 is a staple bike among motorcycle learning schools. It is likely the bike you learnt to ride on or at least very similar to it.
Why does that make it a worthy contender for a commuter bike?
Well, riding instructors choose them to teach new riders because they are reliable workhorses, comfortable, easy to ride, no-frills, lightweight and non-threatening bikes that are suited to all sizes of riders.
All of those features make the Suzuki an equally good choice for a commuter bike.
You will find yourself with enough power to tackle any road, but the power delivery remains smooth and won’t have you white-knuckled struggling to hold on.
The SV650 is an agile machine that can filter through traffic like its second nature and carry you and your work gear in comfort and stability.
Let’s face it, the SV650 gets a bad rep as being a boring learner bike, and perhaps when compared to other bikes on this list, it is a little boring.
However, it is a practical machine, and it is still two wheels with plenty of power for you to pull the throttle and take for a quick blast on country roads to go and get your lunch.
They are also fairly priced, low-maintenance and parts are easy to come by at perfectly reasonable prices.
Kawasaki Versys 650
- Weight, ready to ride – 206kg
- Engine – 649cc
- Max Power – 67hp
- Max Torque – 61Nm
The Versys 650 is a motorcycle that is built for all roads, specifically for touring.
As a result, the Versys makes a brilliant commuter.
It avoids being a big heavy, huge displacement machine by using a 649cc engine, which also boasts a reasonable fuel economy of an average 51mpg.
Power from the 650 isn’t limiting, though and will be more than adequate to get you to work on motorways if needs be.
The engine is tuned to be responsive and quick-revving, which is useful to blip away from traffic and then get you up to speed on faster roads.
Long travel suspension makes for a comfortable ride, as does the adjustable windscreen for weather protection to suit all riders.
There is a clean mount pannier system, which means that the bike’s lines remain clean when your panniers are removed.
The frame has also been strengthened, which Kawasaki state means the bike can have a bigger weight load carried on the bike.
This feature will be great for engineers, builders, decorators etc., that have tools to carry to work.
I know a plumber who goes on callouts on a Versys 650, and the luggage system which includes the Kawasaki top box, allows him to carry all his tools; turning up on a bike is way cooler than in a small white van.
Yamaha Tracer 7
- Weight, ready to ride – 196kg
- Engine – 689cc
- Max Power – 72hp
- Max Torque – 68Nm
Yamaha also has a mid-range touring bike to add to the mix that gives an alternative option to the Versys, and it has that bit more power.
The Tracer has a much more aggressive look to it than the Versys, and the half-fairing not only adds to that intense look but gives added wind and weather protection, topped off with a small windscreen.
Torque delivery is strong and linear, and the engine is the sportiest it has ever been.
The bike is equipped with LED lights all round and daytime lights, which make for excellent visibility. Being up and on the road early in the morning, especially in Winter, means it is dark and drab, so nice bright lights will go some way to keep you visible and safer.
Despite being more powerful, the Tracer is lighter than the Versys and the lightest in its class.
Precise steering combined with agility makes the Tracer a great option for beating traffic in the city.
Ergonomically, the bike is comfortable, and Yamaha has gone out of its way to ensure this with details like a contoured seat; further, the riding position puts you directly in command.
Want to carry a spare set of clothes, laptops, notebooks, lunch, and all the other bits you need for work? The Tracer will have no problem being fully loaded every day with a top box and panniers as it is more than happy to go long-distance touring too.
A 17-litre fuel tank means you can go further each week without having to top up all the time. Safe to say, I used to hate having to put petrol in just to get to work.
- Weight, ready to ride – 104kg
- Engine – 49.9cc
- Max Power – 3.9 horsepower
- Max Torque – 3Nm
Honda’s NC750X is a brilliant motorcycle, albeit non-traditional and is a great bike for a commuter.
It is a truly stand out motorcycle for its storage space where the fuel tank would normally be.
There are four riding modes to account for riding in all weathers and road conditions, and Hondas Selectable Torque Control ensures you are in complete control.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is that you can change between manual riding mode with a 6-speed transmission and a slipper clutch or an automatic mode.
For commuters, automatic mode is brilliant and makes riding to work that bit easier.
An ESS system (Emergency Stop Signal) also kicks in when the rider brakes hard.
This is a cool safety feature, particularly useful in rush hour and when school traffic is at its peak, as car drivers during this time are a little more sporadic and maybe less focused on the road.
Different packs are offered with the NC750X, including a Travel Pack, Adventure Pack and Urban Pack.
The Urban Pack is aimed at commuters with a top box included to increase the bikes storage capacity.
Additionally, you can add heated grips, a USB socket in the luggage compartment and foot deflectors for added wind protection; the NC750X is a force to be reckoned with on your commute.
- Weight, ready to ride – 219kg
- Engine – ZF75-10 Motor and ZF14.4 lithium ion battery lu
- Max Power – 110hp
- Max Torque – 189Nm
Lastly and perhaps another controversial machine based on its electric power plant is the Zero SR/F.
We cannot simply ignore that electric motorcycles are here and likely here to stay. For those that want to go electric sooner rather than later, the SR/F may be a good bike to take a look at.
The obvious benefit of this bike is the saving made on fuel, because, well, you don’t need any. Just charge the battery, and off you go, fully charged in 80 minutes.
On the flip side, the disadvantage is the price point. The SR/F is the most expensive motorbike on this list. Arguably the saving on fuel over so many years may make up the price difference, and there is no road tax to pay.
You will get a realistic 100-mile range out of the bike, which isn’t all that bad; if you are lucky, you might even be able to charge up at work.
The SR/F is a good-looking machine, too, with a naked sporty style and an upright, comfortable seating position, which puts you in ultimate control.
Being in control is essential as the bike is no joke when it comes to power.
110hp and 189Nm of torque are more than enough power for any situation you can find yourself in on the road.
The stripped back styling allows for customisable luggage options to carry your work stuff; you won’t find yourself restricted with what you can carry to work.