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These Are The Best Small Standard Motorcycles For Beginners And Experienced Riders

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Small-bore bikes are everywhere these days, and small-bore standards are available from many of the major manufacturers. These are sub-500cc bikes designed with upright ergos, neutral ride positions, and mid-mount controls, designed to be effective in just about any street riding scenario. This segment is ideal for new riders looking for cost-effective, approachable bikes. And as the available options grow, features get more and more sophisticated, making many of these machines amenable to riders with more experience as well. Below are seven of our favorite small-bore standards currently available, each one a fine choice for riders seeking comfort, versatility, and affable manners on the road.

2020 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2

The Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 has unmistakable style.
The Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 has unmistakable style. (Ducati/)

The Ducati Scrambler line is immensely popular and includes an entry-level option for those not yet comfortable with the idea of an 803cc machine. The Scrambler Sixty2 is a gentler choice, powered by a 399cc air-cooled L-twin. It retains the hip look of the line and has ergos that are great for riders of all sizes. The Showa fork and Kayaba rear shock (fully adjustable) provide a smooth ride and its 403-pound weight is easy to handle on the go. “You become almost instantly comfortable with the little machine even in low gears,” our reviewer explained when the bike first debuted back in 2017. It’s a little spendy compared to the other bikes on the list at $7,995, but it’s worth the cost if you’re looking to get a well-built, eye-catching, easy-to-handle motorcycles.

2020 Honda CB300R ABS

For a lightweight, mild-mannered ride experience, the Honda CB300R is unmatched.
For a lightweight, mild-mannered ride experience, the Honda CB300R is unmatched. (Honda/)

Honda’s CB300R ABS is a 286cc single-cylinder standard that unites modern streetfighter aesthetics with performance capabilities squarely aimed at new riders. The engine produces mild, easy-to-manage power, and the bike utilizes a clutch that’s smooth and reliable. It’s a feather-light machine that tips the scales at 317 pounds (with ABS) and it handles effortlessly. It’s got a decent suspension package for an entry-level bike and provides a notably smooth ride on slightly rough roads. It also has a cockpit well-suited to the full-size rider, so even if you’re coming to bikes later in life, you won’t feel cramped on the 300R.

2020 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

Ride the future on the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401.
Ride the future on the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401. (Husqvarna/)

The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is the most distinctive-looking bike on this list, blending standard ergos with unique lines to make a bike that will turn heads wherever you go. It’s got a 373cc single-cylinder engine that puts out 44 hp, trellis frame, WP suspension, ByBre braking components, Bosch ABS, and loads of additional upgrade items to make it truly unique. Its road-going chops are enough to keep even experienced riders satisfied.

2020 Kawasaki Z400 ABS

New riders and experienced riders alike will find joy on the Kawasaki Z400 ABS.
New riders and experienced riders alike will find joy on the Kawasaki Z400 ABS. (Kawasaki/)

The latest Kawasaki Z400 ABS brings you into the 21st century with its naked sport aesthetic and modern refinements aimed to maximize usability. It’s powered by a 399cc parallel-twin engine, has ABS, a slipper clutch, and well-balanced mass resulting in a machine that’s extraordinarily easy to handle. “Every component of the Z400 conveys lightness,” one reviewer claimed during his first ride aboard the 2019 edition. And yet, its 43 hp and 24 pound-feet of torque provide a remarkably spirited ride. For new riders, this well-mannered machine provides an ideal entry point to the world of motorcycles. For more-experienced riders this bike can provide an exhilarating experience when pushed to its full potential.

2020 KTM 390 Duke

The KTM 390 Duke is one of our favorites in the segment.
The KTM 390 Duke is one of our favorites in the segment. (Jeff Allen/)

The KTM 390 Duke shares the same engine architecture as the Svartpilen 401, but has been around long enough to establish itself as a leader in the category. The mill provides a spirited ride and its lightweight build makes it a breeze to handle. Adjustable WP suspension, ByBre brakes, and Bosch ABS contribute to its flickable, composed manners on commutes or when ripping in the twisties. Its cockpit was a little cramped for taller riders during this naked bike comparison, but the positive note about the ergos is that they provide a racier feel. When compared against the Vitpilen 401 and CB300R, the KTM “offers the best overall bang for the buck.”

2019 Suzuki TU250X

The Suzuki TU250X embodies the nostalgic UJM aesthetic.
The Suzuki TU250X embodies the nostalgic UJM aesthetic. (Suzuki/)

The 2019 Suzuki TU250X is a true beginner’s bike. The 249cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled motorcycle carries on the UJM tradition with its classic styling, and its mechanical simplicity is great for riders who are just learning the ropes in the garage. It’s not going to win any races, but its smooth power delivery, stable feel, and forgiving transmission are confidence-inspiring to less-experienced riders. The TU250X is by no means the most exciting small-bore standard on this list, but as a neutral, approachable machine it represents the core idea of what this segment is all about.

2020 Yamaha MT-03

The Yamaha MT-03 is new to the States in 2020.
The Yamaha MT-03 is new to the States in 2020. (Yamaha/)

Yamaha has enjoyed a lot of success in the standard segment with its MT line, and in 2020 adds a small-bore MT-03 to the roster in the States. It shares the same 321cc parallel twin as the YZF-R3, which has become a favorite platform in the small-bore segment for us over the years. It’s a balanced engine that provides a surprisingly sporty ride while maintaining the fuel economy and manageable delivery riders expect from the entry-level ranks. It also provides some upspec pieces compared to others in this realm, including USK KYB forks, and preload adjustable rear shock.

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