Lightweight motorcycles have seen a resurgence in recent years, with many manufacturers spotting a gap in their lineups for bikes below 600cc.
The rumor mill is swirling that even giants like Harley Davidson and Triumph are looking into producing some 300cc machines, targeting the Asian market and the growing European trend.
Here are a few points as to what makes lightweight motorcycles so great compared to their bigger siblings:
- Easier to handle
- Good fuel economy
- Less expensive
- Capable of more types of riding
- Great for new riders. Especially those moving up from a 125cc but not quite ready to jump to a 600cc or above.
You could be forgiven for thinking that lightweight machines lack something, whether it be performance or style, as for a while, that was the case.
However, I am here to prove you wrong.
Quality oozes out of some of these bikes, and they can hold their own against all the big boys in a line-up, proving themselves not only capable but a whole lot of fun.
Best Lightweight Motorcycles
Let’s take a look at 10 of the best lightweight motorcycles across different categories.
- Weight, ready to ride – 104kg
- Seat Height – 800mm
- Engine – 49.9cc
- Max Power – 3.9 horsepower
- Max Torque – 3Nm
There is one scooter that rules the lightweight class; the Peugeot Speedfight.
The Speedfight is a sporty addition to the scooter world and was first introduced back in 1996. Peugeot has sold half a million of these little scooters worldwide, and there is no sign of demand slowing down.
Safety is at the forefront of the design with a Shuricane radial disc brake usually seen on much bigger motorcycles. 13” wheels provide ultimate stability while aiding agile, precise handling.
Ready to ride, the bike only weighs 104kg and has under-seat storage for one full-face helmet.
The Speedfight is loaded with just enough tech to get a 16-year-old going, like a full LCD dash and USB charge point. The LCD dash sits above a smartphone holder attached to the forks.
Sporty styling, sharp lines, and aggressive outlines in the paintwork give an overall intimidating look to the scooter, which naturally lends itself to being the perfect choice for a rider’s first set of two wheels.
- Weight, ready to ride – 99kg
- Seat Height – 860mm
- Engine – 50cc
- Max Power – 2.4 horsepower
- Max Torque – 3.2Nm
If you are looking for a geared 50cc bike, the only one that stands out as the winner is the Aprilia SX50.
The SX50 design comes directly from Aprilia’s success in off-road competition.
The tall seat height of 860mm means it may be out of reach for some new riders in terms of feeling comfortable and not being able to flat-foot both sides.
However, weighing in at 99kg, the lack of weight counteracts some of that fear as the bike is very manageable and easy to handle.
Sleek styling with integrated headlight into the fairing, compact saddle, completely new digital dash, and tidy cables make for an attractive package.
The geared SX50 actually has less power than the Speedfight scooter, but it is a great way to get new riders into learning how geared motorcycles work and get some practice in for bigger bikes.
It is just that bit cooler than a scooter, in my opinion.
- Weight, ready to ride – 140kg
- Seat Height – 780mm
- Engine -125cc
- Max Power – 12 horsepower
- Max Torque – 10Nm
I’m completely biased when it comes to 125cc motorcycles. I had a Mutt S-54 for 2 years, and I would have another tomorrow.
Therefore, not only does the Mutt Mongrel win the award for best lightweight 125 but also the best lightweight retro.
Mutt’s line-up has expanded in the last few years, and there are now several bikes in their range of 125’s and 250’s.
It all started with the Mongrel.
A stripped-back, blacked-out throwback to the days when the West Midlands was a hub for BSA, New Imperial, and Triumph.
Yes, the bike is predominantly made in China; please stop scoffing and hear me out. The bike is then put together in Birmingham, upgraded with better quality parts, and sold to dealers.
It is the perfect 125 for those who don’t want a sportsbike rep or a baby cruiser. Many of Mutt’s customers are gentlemen with full licenses who remember the good old days of racing their BSA Bantams and want to inject that feeling into the present.
The Mutt is the full-package, hand-stitched leather seats, excellent paintwork, quality, and performance. Put the maintenance in, and it will look after you as good as any other.
They have gained a bit of a following for customisation and would make a great start point for those that want to hone their modification skills with a wrench.
- Weight, ready to ride – 175kg
- Seat Height – 835mm
- Engine – 313cc
- Max Power – 34 horsepower
- Max Torque – 28Nm
When BMW released the G310R, followed by the G310GS, I was very excited; I thought it was a risk at the time for BMW to push out a 300.
They proved me wrong, priced it right, marketed it with a package that included a full riding kit and your license with the purchase of the bike, and today the bikes are still going strong.
I will admit that unless I speak to a GS rider whose luggage has stickers on from a whole load of countries, I am a bit judgemental.
They are for the ultimate adventure, not for a Sunday bimble to the coffee shop. Ironic because I get judged for my love of old 3 Series Beemer’s. Each to their own.
The G310GS is another animal altogether; it is an accessible, lightweight, purposeful, and usable Adventure motorcycle. I love it, and trust me; I really didn’t want to.
Built for the Urban Jungle and with the notion that adventures don’t need to be big. However, if you are like me and think small bikes are the ultimate touring machines, having a purpose-built small ADV/tourer, you will be super keen to test the limits of this BMW.
Ride-by-wire, slipper clutch, ABS, LED front and rear lights, plus a luggage rack as standard, the baby GS is ready to go wherever you fancy.
BMW offers a range of accessories for the bike to kit you out for commuting or some longer touring options.
Despite being made in India, the GS has the BMW stamp of quality and attention to detail all over it.
- Weight, ready to ride – 168kg
- Seat Height – 780mm
- Engine – 321cc
- Max Power – 37 horsepower
- Max Torque – 29.6Nm
When Yamaha released the MT range a few years ago, there wasn’t a day I wouldn’t see one on the roads. The MT-07 Hyper-Naked took the world by storm, a torquey hooligan machine.
Therefore, it was no surprise that Yamaha rolled out the MT style into all different capacities, including the MT-03.
Unless in the know, it is hard to tell the different bikes apart, as no expense has been spared to keep the edgy ‘dark side of Japan’ style on any of them.
The MT-03 is no exception; with an aggressive silhouette, twin-eyed headlights, upside-down forks, and wide tank, it is a bike that demands attention.
A mass-forward body design combined with an ergonomic riding position keeps the rider comfortable and in full command.
LED lights, LCD dash, ABS are all features that add to the big on quality, small package feel of the MT-03.
Yamaha states, “the MT-03 combines big bike status with lightweight versatility.”
KTM RC 390
- Weight, ready to ride – 165kg
- Seat Height – 820mm
- Engine – 373cc
- Max Power – 44 horsepower
- Max Torque – 35Nm
There are even a few lightweight sportsbikes to choose from, including the Yamaha R3 and Kawasaki Ninja 400.
With Kawasaki struggling to develop the Ninja to meet Euro 5 standards for 2021, the category’s winner had to go to the KTM.
The RC390 is a pure sportsbike with everything a rider would need and nothing they wouldn’t. It is the sportiest option available for riders with an A2 license.
The engine is lightweight and compact, has plenty of power on tap for road use, and packs a punch if you want to take it to a track.
Ergonomically the bike is built for exceptional handling; the clip-on bars attract the rider to sit in a supersport position, making tackling corners a breeze.
Aerodynamics have been thought through with sporty fairing and compact rear end, whether cutting through traffic or swerving bends, the whole build of the KTM is confidence-inspiring.
It is true that you don’t need 1000 cc’s to have a lot of fun.
- Weight, ready to ride – 141kg
- Seat Height – 807mm
- Engine – Z-Force® 75-5 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent magnet, brushless motor
- Max Power – 46 horsepower
- Max Torque – 105 Nm
It’s a bit of a curveball this one, but whether we like it or not, Electric Motorcycles will play a role in the market in the not-so-distant future.
Therefore, I have chosen to embrace them and include them; this isn’t exactly challenging when Zero Motorcycles are offering bikes like the Zero S to the market.
If nothing else, just take a look at the torque on this beast 105 Nm.
It takes 5.2 hours to charge the bike fully, and in return, you will get a city range of 89 miles (combined with a highway around 60 miles).
Admittedly the range isn’t amazing, and I would suspect improvements will be made on this in the coming years. However, it is enough to do your daily commute, and the bike has a top speed of 98mph, so it is no slowpoke.
Styling-wise, this model is a naked bike somewhat similar to the Honda CB500F. The riding stance is similar too, with an aggressive position over the tank but fairly neutral and upright.
It is the ideal ergonomics for city riding, giving the rider full control and command of the bike.
You get a standard 2-year warranty which is 1 more year than most major manufacturers provide, without any paid extension period. You also get a 5-year warranty/with unlimited mileage on the power pack.
Royal Enfield Meteor 350
- Weight, ready to ride – 191kg
- Seat Height – 765mm
- Engine – 349cc
- Max Power – 20.2 horsepower
- Max Torque – 27Nm
When I heard the announcement of the Meteor 350, I waited for its release with the utmost anticipation. Increased only by the fact that Royal Enfield was running a competition for artists to design their own – unfortunately, this was limited to India, so I put my pencils away.
A thumping single-cylinder engine ready to offer stiff competition to the Honda Rebel 500 as the best lightweight cruiser.
8 colour options from traditional black and two-tone paint schemes, the Meteor has options for all tastes.
Besides ABS and LED lights, the bike is stripped of tech, opting for a traditional cruiser vibe of just getting on and going for a ride.
A low seat height makes the bike extremely easy to maneuver at low speeds, and for new riders, there will be no fear of not being able to put both feet down.
The Meteor doesn’t produce a lot of power, but that isn’t the point of the bike.
It is built to cruise.
It will happily plod along all day, and the rider will do so in comfort with an optimal neutral riding position and windshield, reducing fatigue from battling the wind.
With an average claimed 101mpg and a 15 litre fuel tank, the Meteor is ready to run for many, many miles; you will likely get tired before the bike does.
The single-cylinder machine will even accommodate a pillion with a pillion pad and backrest.
Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- Weight, ready to ride – 162kg
- Seat Height – 835mm
- Engine – 373cc
- Max Power – 44 horsepower
- Max Torque – 37Nm
Something a little different to add to the mix is the Vitpilen 401 from Husqvarna, a quirky lightweight roadster.
“Its surefootedness, light weight and immersive riding position guarantee helmet-hidden smiles. You don’t ride it as much as guide it with feather-light inputs.”
The engine powering the Vitpilen is shared with the KTM Duke 390 (and RC390), and so it is lightweight and compact, allowing for the 401 to be true to its streamlined design.
ByBre hydraulic disc brakes grace the front and rear for plenty of stopping power which is useful given the bike is packing plenty of power.
Styling is progressive and somewhat futuristic; it won’t be mistaken for anything else on the road, that’s for sure. The mono-shock and bench seat follow a long, stretched, angular tank that flows into the bodywork.
It is sleek and mean-looking, with light handling and top performance in the class; it is quite a bike for the money.
- Weight, ready to ride – 142kg
- Seat Height – 880mm
- Engine – 286cc
- Max Power – 26.9 horsepower
- Max Torque – 26.6Nm
I am a big fan of the CRF250, so it only makes sense that the CRF300L appeals to my senses.
Built for both the trail and off-road this Honda truly is a motorcycle that can do it all. The single-cylinder has enough oomph to keep up on the roads and equally enough grunt to get through muddy passes while greenlaning.
“The qualities that make it so good off–road – slim proportions, peppy throttle response, agile steering and supple suspension – also make it brilliant around town.”
The model has been updated with an even lighter chassis and improved boosted power and torque coming from the engine.
Plenty of ground clearance will keep you out of trouble when tackling the mud, and narrow fuel tank and saddle means the bike can get you filtering through the traffic or woods with absolute ease.
You can now have a bike that you can ride to your off-roading spot, get caked in mud, and have a blast before riding it home again.
For the new model, a gear indicator light is included on the dash, which is particularly helpful for new riders, especially if they want to give things a go off-road.
If you want a more dual-purpose machine, the CRF300 Rally is the alternative option, with the ‘L’ model being more stripped back.
The Rally comes with different bodywork, windshield, and headlights, making it more appropriate for longer rides on the road.