Commuting means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. When you’re considering your next commuter bike, what do you want to be able to do on it? Do you have a short-distance, around-town commute, with no need to hop on any highways? Will you likely spend more hours in the saddle commuting during the week than you get to spend on fun weekend rides? Most importantly of all, how much stuff will you need to carry on a regular basis?
From short commutes to long hauls, these bikes are great options to get you where you’re going. Whether you add luggage or a backpack to store your stuff, you’ll start and end every single day knowing you have at least one ride in your immediate future. It may not solve all of life’s problems, but it will most likely improve your mental state. Isn’t that a good daily goal to have?
Seat height: 30.9 inches
Curb weight: 362 pounds
MSRP: The 2021 model starts at $5,045.
The smallest member of the BMW family makes a claimed 34 horsepower at 9,250 RPM, and outputs 20.6 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm. You have to absolutely wring the throttle wide open to get the most out of this bike, but it is so fun, rewarding, and nimble when you do. Slap a top box on the back and you’ll have plenty of storage space, while not sacrificing the narrowness that makes it easy to lane split where it’s legal.
Now, since it has a sportier riding position, the G 310 R is more a short-range commuter than a long hauler. You may want something with more relaxing ergos for longer commutes. Still, wouldn’t the sight of a 310 R waiting for you after a long day instantly ease any remaining workday stress?
Seat height: 30.9 inches
Curb weight: 363.8 pounds
MSRP: Both the 2020 and 2021 models start at $4,999.
If you like a compact, sporty commuter, but you want just a little more oomph, the Z400 ABS should be on your radar. While Kawasaki doesn’t give a horsepower figure for the second-smallest Z, it does claim 28 lb-ft of torque at 8,000 RPM. That’s almost 8 lb-ft of torque more than the G 310 R, on a bike that’s only about two pounds heavier.
You also get the aforementioned ABS, assist and slipper clutch, and that 2021 Pearl Nightshade Teal colorway that I completely love. It’s a strong contender, and it also won’t break the bank.
Seat height: 32.8 inches
Curb weight: 434 pounds
MSRP: 2020 starts at $6,699, while the 2021 starts at $6,999
If you’re looking for a little more adventure in your everyday commute, the CB500X may be a great place to start. While it’s definitely biased more toward the tarmac than the dirt, light off-road duty isn’t out of the question, particularly if you stick some more appropriate dual-sport tires on it. I mean, I don’t know what your commute is like, so that could come in handy.
It’s a little more upright, offers a more adventurous aesthetic, and is neither super heavy nor super expensive. What’s not to appreciate here for commuting?
Seat height: 36.8 inches
Curb weight: 317 pounds
MSRP: The 2019 starts at $6,749, the 2020 at $6,799, and the 2021 at $6,899
If you’re looking for a true dual-sport for your daily commute, the DR-Z400 may be just what you’re looking for. This bike packs the essentials into one narrow, nimble, lightweight package with adjustable damping up front and adjustable preload and damping in the rear. It’s simple, it’s easy to maintain, and you can have a whole lot of fun on a shiny new DRZ for under $7K.
Do you want to take the road less traveled to get to or from work? Do you want to avoid roads altogether? Short of riding off into the forest, never to return, this could very much be your bike. Heck, it’d be pretty good at that last option, too, but that scenario doesn’t really qualify as a “commute.”
Seat height: 31.7 inches
Curb weight: 403 pounds
MSRP: 2020 starts at $7,599, while the 2021 starts at $7,699
The middleweight Yamaha torque master is seriously fun to ride, and that excellent torquey feeling throughout the low rev range is very much the reason why. As long as you can figure out a good way to take whatever you need on your journey, this would make an extremely fun commuter.
Better still, it’s very much ready to pull double duty in the twisties on your fun weekend jaunts. That means it’s effectively two bikes in one!
Seat height: standard is 31.4 inches, with a 30.6-inch low seat available as an accessory
Curb weight: 417 pounds
MSRP: starts at $9,695
Since its introduction, the Ducati Scrambler has been drawing in new riders like bees to a field full of flowers. Sure, the seemingly endless array of customizations is nice, but at the end of the day, the Scrambler 800 is also incredibly fun to ride.
Not only that, but the Scrambler delivers its power in a way that is both extremely approachable and confidence-inspiring. Those traits can mean the difference between turning someone into a rider for life, and making a new rider give up far too soon in frustration.
Seat height: S: 31.8 inches; DS: 33.2 inches
Curb weight: S: 313 pounds; DS: 317 pounds
MSRP: starting at $10,995 for either one
Depending on the details of your commute, an electric bike or scooter could make a whole lot of sense. Since commutes usually involve spending a long time in one place, there’s often ample time to recharge while your bike is parked in any given location. Unfortunately, although electric two-wheelers are becoming more commonplace, they’re still not super affordable yet in America. (Yes, we know the Sondors Metacycle is allegedly coming later in the year, but we’re sticking to bikes that are currently available to buy in March, 2021 for this list.)
Anyway, both the Zero S and DS have a lot to offer for a price that’s in line with many middleweight combustion bikes. With claimed peak torque of 78 ft-lbs, and a claimed top speed of 98 mph, they’re tailor-made for daily highway commuting.
Range varies depending on how you ride it, as is the way of electric bikes. Combined city and highway mileage per full charge can be as little as 60 miles or as much as 68 miles, with your actual results varying depending on how much you do of each type of riding. The more city riding you do, the higher into the 80s you can push your real-world range.
As you may have guessed, the S is the more street-oriented bike, while the DS is an electric dual-sport. The biggest differences between the two are suspension travel, wheels, and tires. Unsurprisingly, you get more suspension travel on the DS, with front travel of 7.0 inches and rear of 7.03 inches, as compared to the 6.25-inch front travel and 6.35-inch rear travel on the S.
The S comes with 17-inch wheels front and rear, while the DS has a 19-inch wheel in the front and a 17-inch one in back. As for tires, the S is outfitted with a set of Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIs, while the DS comes shod in Pirelli MT-60s, instead. Since the price is the same, it’s really all about how you intend to ride the thing, as well as your general overall preference.