2015 - 2020 Suzuki DR200S
Suzuki brings dual-sport capabilities to the entry-level sector with its DR200S. A heavy emphasis on off-road performance defines the overall look; and a 199 cc engine drives it over hill and dale, as well as down the road with all the appropriate lighting for safety and legalities. The end result is a functional, if plain, bike that provides a stable ride and moderate power with a humble overall bearing. A carry-over for the last few years, it hasn’t changed much, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
2016 - 2020 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
Pitting the fuel-injection fans against the carburetor fans, we score a point for the latter with the DR-Z400S and DR-Z400SM from Suzuki. Fuel injection hasn’t yet made an appearance in Suzuki’s dual-sport lineup, which was a good thing or a bad thing, depending on which side of the fence you’re on. For 2020, the DR-Z siblings haven’t yet been touched by the FI update. Sharing the same engine as the 500EXC from KTM, the DR-Zs come on a different chassis with progressive-link rear suspension. The “SM” — the SuperMoto of the family — and the “S” feature a six-liter air box with quick-release fasteners trouble-free access to the air filter and special low profile mirrors that rotate hoping to avoid damage, both are pluses when you’re playing in the dirt.
2015 - 2020 Honda CBR300R
Honda shows us that big isn’t always better with its CBR300R. As the small-displacement sportbike bracket fills in from every quarter, the CBR300R with its 286 cc engine has the aggressive look and feel of the bigger bikes – like a Fireblade you left in the dryer too long — but in a commuter-friendly version that could be a stepping stone on your way up the displacement ladder.
2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
The value of indoctrination is not lost on KTM, evidenced by the fact that they updated and generally spruced up their entry-level unit, the 390 Duke in 2017, and those improvements carry straight over into the 2020 season. New upside-down stems float the front end along with larger, more powerful brakes to help manage the energy from the 44-horsepower engine and 328-pound dry weight. Ride-by-wire makes an appearance for a bit of tech you normally don’t see at this price point. Add to this a fresh new look and you have a recipe for success.
2017 - 2020 KTM RC 390
KTM’s RC 390 saw a major revamp ahead of MY2017, and the Austrian giant carries that revised model through into 2020 as the smallest starter-super to be offered in the U.S. market. Don’t be fooled by the small displacement; this is a proper racebike trainer with all the handling performance you’d expect from larger machines.
2017 - 2019 Suzuki VanVan 200
The VanVan from Suzuki comes equipped with a 200 cc engine, which is an upgrade from the old 125 cc model still available in other markets. In typical scrambler fashion, the VanVan 200 is the dirt-road/gravel-road/loose-dirt ride that qualifies it as a “sandbike” because of the fat rear tire to keep you going. Better than an ATV in some situations, the Vanvan is lightweight and capable, perfect for a jaunt around the ranch, a quick run up the trapline or an excursion on the beach, anywhere the ground is loose and four wheels just won’t do.
2021 Honda ADV150
Honda expands its adventure-bike range downward into the scooter category with the early release of its 2021 ADV150. Subtle off-road touches join fairly robust rider-protection features to make this bike viable as both an urban commuter and a backroads explorer with long-stroke suspension and ABS protection to support those different modes of travel. All of this comes with the usual twist-and-go operation and a price tag under $5k.
2020 KTM 390 Adventure
KTM builds on the success of its 790 Adventure with the new 2020 390 Adventure model. The 390 Adventure borrows elements from its larger-displacement siblings for much of its design DNA. It’s built with a definite off-road bias, but with the promise of good road manners. A torquey thumper provides the power with the bare minimum in the way of safety or ride-quality features to deliver an essential riding experience.
2019 - 2020 Honda CB300R
Honda expanded its Neo-Sports Café lineup with the new-in-2019 CB300R that brings more of the same café-tastic vibe as with the CB1000R, just in an entry level-size package. This naked little pocket crotch-rocket — or “Sport Naked” as the factory has dubbed the style — looks to pull in younger riders with a user-friendly, 286 cc powerplant and lightweight design. After a race to the bottom of the usable displacement range for the sport and naked genres, Honda is refining its bottom-tier rides.
2019 - 2020 Honda PCX150
Honda’s metro-tastic PCX150 scooter was on the receiving end of an upgrade last year. It included a facelift from stem to stern that further polishes its ’luxe metropolitan looks to bring more of the swank and swagger associated with the marque, and it comes paired with a more voluminous underseat storage area to increase its ’commuterability’.
2017 - 2020 Kawasaki Z125 PRO
“Cheap thrills” takes on a whole new meaning — or maybe just a revitalization of the old meaning — when it comes to the Z125 PRO from Kawasaki. It’s small and relatively fast for the thrills, good fuel economy, and a bargain-basement price. Sure, as a fun bike, it has that hands down. It’s also a commuter if you have to navigate congested thoroughfares because it’s small, lightweight, and narrow so filtering through traffic is a breeze. As a first bike for someone new to two wheels, this is a completely approachable bike, not intimidating at all and without the electronics that frequently get used as a crutch. On this bike, you learn how to ride.
2019 - 2020 Vespa GTS 300 HPE
The Vespa division of the Piaggio Group expanded its footprint in 2019 with a brand-new powerplant for the GTS scooter line with the GTS 300 HPE. Fans of the brand rejoiced at the news of the most powerful engine to make it onto a Vespone descendant, and for many, this is the engine they’ve been waiting for. Safety comes standard with a few traction-protection subsystems as part of the stock package, plus it features LED forward lighting to help you see and be seen. Best of all, it remains faithful to the design progression that began right after WWII, so it has that classic look that really seals the deal.