I am an avid Rideapart follower and I am interested in your recommendation for a motorcycle for urban use. I live in Guadalajara, Mexico´s second-largest city where traffic has gotten terrible over the last decade. The number of cars has grown a lot and local authorities have adopted a very European stance of giving priority to bicycles and pedestrians (reducing car lanes in favor of bike lanes and sidewalks). But unlike European cities we are far behind on public transportation solutions, hence the hellish traffic jams.
I am in my late 40s, I am a short, lightweight rider (5’-5”, 155 Lbs) with two back surgeries and my current rides are a BMW R-1250 GS and a 1957 Vespa. The GS is great for weekend riding and the occasional long tours (I had a splendid ride through the Baja in February) but it is quite heavy, large, and too tall for me to do any lane filtering in my city. The Vespa would work but is not reliable enough for the 11-mile commute to work and not suited to the heavily damaged stone streets that are part of at least 1.5 miles of my commute. My wish list is the following:
• Cool looking bike
• Nimble for lane filtering on city traffic and with a not too tall seat for my height
• Engine with good torque at low revs and enough power for short trips out of the city
• Suspension able to handle very bumpy streets
• Engine not too warm to avoid cooking my parts when stuck in traffic (Guadalajara has very nice weather but it does get above 85°F a good part of the year)
My finalists are:
1. Triumph Speed Twin 900
2. Royal Enfield Scram 411
3. Ducati Scrambler Icon 800
4. Triumph Bonneville T100
5. Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
6. Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
I consider all of them cool-looking bikes but the disadvantages I see on each of them are: on the Speed Twin, the Bonneville, and the Interceptor the suspension for the bumpy streets, on the Scram 411 the lack of power for any ride out of the city, on the Scrambler Icon the excessive engine heat and on the Svartpilen the very uncomfortable seat and its height…
I have only ridden the Scrambler Icon and the Bonneville T100 both of which I liked. I also did a very short ride on a Himalayan which I assume should be very close to the feeling of the Scram 411.
I am very interested in your opinion or suggestions.
Hey there, Bernardo! Thanks for writing in, you came to the right place. You have a pretty tall order here, so I called in the whole team to help out.
Reading through your specific needs and also being a rider of similar height (a little shorter than you, even), and who’s spent most of my life doing urban commuting on road surfaces of questionable quality at times, I have three new bike ideas that I didn’t see on your list.
The Yamaha Ténéré 700 immediately comes to mind as a narrow, nimble, capable, fairly lightweight machine with suspension travel to tackle those bumpy roads you mentioned. Stock seat height is rather tall, but it is narrow as well—and there’s a factory lowering kit from Yamaha that can hopefully make it a more comfortable experience for vertically challenged riders like us.
Looking at the other bikes on your list, I also wonder if you’ve considered either the Triumph Tiger Sport 660 or the Aprilia Tuareg 660 for this purpose? Both will have different characters from one another (and I also don’t know how you feel about triples) but seem as though they could offer the good all-around experiences that you’re looking for in your everyday commuting life, as well as your weekend fun riding life.
Given Bernardo’s urban commuting needs, I’d recommend the Kawasaki Z650RS. The retro roadster’s 31.5-inch seat height and 412-pound curb weight should suit his dimensions (five feet, five inches, and 155 pounds). Team Green’s plucky 649cc parallel twin provides enough light-to-light thrills with 48.5 lb-ft (at 6,500 rpm) and 67 horsepower (at 8,000 rpm), but liquid-cooling keeps engine heat under control during rush hour traffic.
Ultra-convenient fuel injection feeds that trusty twin from a four-gallon gas tank and an Eco Riding dashboard indicator rewards the rider’s self-control. Aside from the assist and slipper clutch helping maintain back-wheel traction, the throwback naked bike favors low-tech simplicity.
Guadalajara’s pothole-ridden streets meet their match in the Z650RS’s softly sprung 41mm fork and back-link rear monoshock. Primed with 4.9 inches and 5.1 inches of suspension travel (respectively), the Kawi should handle all pavement inconsistencies. Lastly, the Z650RS’s styling finds the ideal blend between retro and urban, between the commute hour and happy hour. Paired with Kawasaki’s storied reliability, it’s hard to find a better city bike for your buck.
Being from Manila, a city in the Philippines that’s notorious for having incessantly horrible traffic, I’m more than familiar with the benefits associated with a slim, easily maneuverable motorcycle when it comes to tackling the urban jungle. Now, you mentioned that your next bike ought to be a cool-looking machine that’s nimble enough for you to lane filter with ease. On top of that, you’d like it to have a torquey, responsive engine for snappy, effortless overtakes.
Given the list of bikes you mentioned, I’m inclined to recommend either the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 or the Triumph Speed Twin 900. That being said, given the fact that you’re also looking for something that’s a bit more chill temps-wise, I’m leaning more towards the Triumph. Based on my experience, the Svart has a tendency to get really hot in traffic and runs very lean at low revs. Given Guadalajara’s far-from-perfect roads, you may want to add the Triumph Scrambler 900 to your list of options, as it’s basically a Speed Twin 900 with beefed-up suspension.
Hey Bernardo, Earl here. I totally feel you on the traffic situation. Where I’m from, The Philippines, we live and breathe exhaust fumes and shimmy through hellish traffic every single day. As such, you did mention one very PERFECT city-slicking machine, The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401. I’m quite alright about your other choices, but the weight will get to you on the Triumphs and the RE Interceptor. Perhaps the Scram 411 is an ok bet, but it is dog slow on the highway and you already have an adventure bike (One of the best if I may add).
For some added Scandanavian flavor, go with Husqvarna. It’s a great mid-distance motorcycle in comparison to the balls-to-wall BMW R 1250 GS and your just-around-the-corner Vespa. It’s a light bike too, and its only con is the small-ish fuel tank at 2.5 gallons (9.5 liters). Although expect fuel economy figures of about 58 miles per gallon (25 kilometers per liter), so you’ll go down a quarter tank after every trip. If it’s perfect for many of us in the Philippines, it’ll be an ideal fit in Mexico, and I used to daily a 390 Duke, so I’m all for that Husky.
Honestly, Bernardo, I don't have much more to add to what my colleagues have said above. Every bike recommended here is good, and would fit your needs well, but I think Dustin's suggestion of the Z650RS would be your best bet. I rode that bike a few months ago in California and found it to be a great all-around bike suitable for commuting, weaving through traffic, and weekend excursions. It has the power you need without being too crazy, and it's a fantastic-looking machine. Plus, you know, as much as it pains me to say this as a dyed-in-the-wool Yamaha man, it's hard to go wrong with a Kawasaki.
So, there you have it, Bernardo. I hope this was helpful, or at least entertaining. Let us know what you finally decide on. Oh, and please send us some pictures of that Vespa of yours.