Although there are plenty of exciting, stylish, and fast motorcycles on the market, some are priced more like cars. And considering how affordable used cars, even sports cars, can be, it can be difficult justifying a bike purchase. Especially for something like a sport bike. The Suzuki Hayabusa may be fast, but it’s not exactly practical. However, there are a number of sport bikes that deliver thrills without high bills.
Creating this list
On the surface, sport bikes can all seem the same. The tucked riding position, full fairing, clip-on bars, and high-mounted, further-back pegs define the typical example, Cycle World reports. However, there are some subtle differences that make some bikes better on the street, and others better on a racetrack. Wanting to ride on either is a perfectly valid reason to buy a sport bike. Thus, why we list recommendations for both.
In addition, a sport bike above 600cc is often called a ‘supersport.’ Generally speaking, these bikes aren’t the best choices for beginners. However, more experienced riders, especially those who’ve taken safety courses, should still find plenty of performance to enjoy.
Finally, price. Affordability is always going to be different for every person. However, for this sport bike list, we looked at the price points of sports cars like the Miata, S2000, and Toyota 86. From there, we set a $10,000 limit for the bikes on this list.
Sub-600cc sport bikes for the street
If you’re looking for a good first sport bike or even a good beginner bike, it’s tough to do better than the Kawasaki Ninja 400. Although recommending it is almost cliché at this point, there’s a reason Cycle World named it the Best Lightweight Streetbike of 2018.
Its 399cc two-cylinder delivers 43 hp at the wheel and makes plenty of torque throughout the rev range. It’s also light, with a 371-lb dry weight, and offers solid, excellent handling. Plus, it comes standard with a slipper clutch, something few of its similarly-priced rivals offers. In addition, although Cycle World reports the Yamaha YZF-R3 was slightly sharper on track, the Kawasaki Ninja was better-suited for urban riding. And even with ABS, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 will only cost you $5,299.
If you prefer something slightly better-suited to longer freeway rides, Motorcycle.com recommends the Honda CBR500R. It’s slightly heavier than the Kawasaki Ninja 400, and its 471cc two-cylinder only makes a few more horsepower. However, while the Ninja has the handling edge, the Honda is arguably more refined.
Like the Kawasaki, it has a slipper clutch, Bennetts reports. But the CBR500R’s suspension is slightly smoother, and it vibrates a bit less at highway speeds. It’s also, Motorcycle.com reports, more fuel-efficient. So, if you’re after something slightly more GT-esque sport bike, the CBR500R may be for you. With the optional $300 ABS, it stickers at $6,999.
Sport bikes 600cc and over for the street
There’s also a Kawasaki Ninja available in the supersports segment, the Ninja 650. For 2020, Revzilla reports the bike’s 67-hp 649cc two-cylinder is unchanged, as is the chassis and suspension. However, the Ninja 650 has gained some tech updates.
For one, it gets Bluetooth, as well as a configurable TFT dash. You can monitor certain information about your bike through Kawasaki’s dedicated app. Kawasaki also changed the Ninja 650’s styling, added LED lights, and smoothed out the windscreen. Cycle World reports owners who do want to track it may want to consider upgrading the suspension. But for $7,799 with ABS, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 is an excellent budget sport bike.
Honda also has a supersport bike, the CBR650R. Unlike the Ninja, though, the CBR650R features a 649cc four-cylinder, which Cycle World reports delivers 80 hp at the wheel. And unlike the smaller CBR500R, this sports bike is noticeably sporty.
For its 2019 update, Motorcyclist reports Honda adjusted the CBR650R’s riding position, improving handling by shifting the rider’s weight slightly forward. The ABS-equipped model is also 11 pounds lighter than before, though it’s still about 35 pounds heavier than the Ninja 650. However, some of those 11 lost pounds come from lighter aluminum wheels, which makes the bike feel more nimble. Finally, Honda upgraded the bike’s suspension.
For 2020, the Honda CBR650R only comes in ABS-equipped form, with a $9,699 asking price. While that is more expensive than the Ninja, the CBR650R does offer traction control.
Bikes for the track
If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get on the racetrack, the KTM RC 390 is a great place to start. Although Cycle World found the Ninja 400 slightly more refined, the RC 390 was called “a baby Ducati Panigale.” Its Ducati-style trellis frame lends to that comparison. It also beat out the Yamaha YZF-R3 in that same comparison.
AT $5549, the KTM RC 390 is the second-cheapest bike on this list. It does have the smallest engine, a 373cc single-cylinder. However, it’s rated at 43 hp, just behind the larger Ninja 400’s twin-cylinder. And unlike the Kawasaki, the RC 390 comes standard with ABS, as well as an upside-down fork.
And just sneaking in under our $10,000 sport bike budget is the $9999 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. Although it shares the Ninja name, the ZX-6R is a different bike than the 650, Revzilla explains. Firstly, it has a different engine, a 636cc four-cylinder that Cycle World dyno’d at 112 hp. Secondly, think of the ZX-6R as the sharper WRX STI to the 650’s WRX.
Cycle World rated the latest model as one of its best bikes for under $10k. For that price, you can’t get ABS. However, the standard ZX-6R does have an electronic quick-shifter, LED lights, a TFT display, and a revised 6-speed transmission. Traction control is also standard, as is the fully-adjustable Showa suspension. Plus, for an excellent track bike, the ZX-6R also rides very well. Revzilla reports you could even commute on it with a simple suspension adjustment.
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