Top 10s

The Top 10 Most Underrated New Motorcycles on sale right now

We all know about the brilliant best sellers, but whch slip under the radar? Here's our countdown of the 10 Most Underrated New Motorcycles on sale right now

Most motorcycle fans know the best new bikes currently available – they’re the ones at the top of the best seller lists, after all: machines like Yamaha’s brilliant MT-07, BMW’s class-defining R1250GS adventure, Honda’s excellent A2 CB500 family or, when it comes to superbikes, Ducati’s V4 Panigale. 

But what about the ‘hidden gems’? Great bikes that somehow are out of fashion, don’t get the publicity they deserve or are for some other reason simply overlooked?

Here, in no particular order, and with the sole purpose of highlighting some of the greatest current bikes you may have forgotten about, is our pick of the best of some of most overlooked current new bikes, across all categories and manufacturers and you may be surprised by what’s in there…

10. BMW R1250R (from £11,520)

To kick things off one of the most obvious: the unfaired, roadster version of the German marque’s latest boxer twin is famously over-looked in the UK whereas in its homeland it’s the best selling model – so what are we missing out on, and why? 

Always a decent performer (the last, 1200 version remains the basis of the hugely popular RnineT, after all), the argument for its anonymity in the UK was always that, being unfaired, it lacked the touring practicality us Brits mostly associate with the brand (hence the popularity here of the GS and RT versions) and was a little drab and conservative for a roadster when you could have a Speed Triple or Monster instead. 

But with this latest, 1250 ‘ShiftCam’ version, as introduced in 2019, it might be time to think again. Now with 134bhp it has all the real world performance most need; its sharper looking than ever with more classy touches than most; is comfortable and actually reasonably practical and, being a BM, can be specced up to whatever level you want. 

And, with prices starting at just over £11,500 (or not much more than, say, a Yamaha Tracer 900 GT), as an entry into classy BMW ownership the R1250R’s surely got to be worth a second look.

9. Triumph Bonneville T100 (from £8999)

With, at the last count, a full TEN different variants of its retro roadster Bonneville in its ‘Modern Classics’ line-up at the last count, you’d certainly be forgiven for failing to be fully aware of all versions of Triumph’s class-defining twin. But that also means that some don’t receive the credit and recognition they deserve.

 Café racer Sir? How about one of the Thruxtons or the Speed Twin. Something more rugged? Try one of the three Scramblers. Cruisers? We’ve two Bobbers plus the Speedmaster. And even if you want a straight, classically ‘60s style roadster you’ll probably see the 1200cc, 79bhp,  twin disc-ed range-topping T120 and not notice the smaller T100 at all. But you’d be missing out. 

Although using the smaller 900cc engine, the slightly softer performance barely matters for this type of machine, nor does the single disc, while all-round proportions are exactly the same. But being a full £1600+ cheaper might prick your ears up, especially when you start thinking about all the lovely Triumph retro accessories you could be spending that on instead…

8. Kawasaki Z900 (from £8549)

In case you’ve missed it, Kawasaki have been going through something of a reorganisation and ‘rebrand’ with their line-up and one by-product is some confusion and over-looked bikes. Roadsters are now prefixed ‘Z’, faired sports machines Ninja – hence the renaming for 2020 of the Z1000SX to become the Ninja 1000SX. Got that? Good. 

At the same time, however, Kawasaki now has a Z650, Z900 (which used to be the Z800) and Z1000 – and it’s the Z900 that misses out most in that similarly-styled Zed soup, mostly because it’s neither the more clearly defined novice-friendly middleweight twin (Z650) or full-bore super naked (Z1000) but somewhere in-between. And that’s something of a shame. 

First introduced in 2017 as the successor to the old Z800 with a decent 123bhp, lighter and better equipped chassis and improved quality and equipment it was uprated again for 2020, largely with a tweak to satisfy Euro5 plus a fancy new dash.

The result is an excellent, all-round naked that’s also pretty good value. On the downside, being based on a sleeved-down Z1000 motor doesn’t help distinguish it from its bigger brother, nor does Kawasaki’s very uniform Zed family styling…

7. Yamaha MT09 SP (from £9747)

It might seem odd to pick out a version of Yamaha’s hugely successful roadster triple as being ‘underrated’ or overlooked, but with the arrival of other MT variants such as the Tracer and retro-styled XSR, the SP version has become somehow forgotten – and, again, that’s a shame. 

While the base 113bhp triple roadster, which kicked off Yamaha’s MT revolution in 2013, was already a popular success story, if a little budget around the edges, Yamaha addressed those criticisms in 2018 with this SP version which got a fully adjustable Ohlins shock at the rear, new, now fully-adjustable KYB forks at the front and a tweaked paintjob. 

And the result, for still under £10K, or less than a grand more than the standard version (and even more affordable on a PCP deal) elevates the MT-09 from being ‘merely’ a lively, entertaining, punchy, reasonably practical and affordable roadster, into one with a thick veneer of class thanks to its cultured ride and adjustability. 

An affordable roadster for the connoisseur? We should say so. The only slight downside is that it doesn’t conspicuously look like one…

6. Harley-Davidson Street Rod (from £6895)

It’s fair to say that Harley’s all-new, entry-level, affordable V-twins have had a slightly rough ride since the introduction of the original, Street 750, back in 2015, largely due to their Indian build, slightly uninspiring 43bhp performance, unconvincing styling with 15in rear wheel and some reports of dubious quality. 

But the uprated Street Rod, which arrived in 2017, changed things dramatically. With 18% more power, a sportier chassis including inverted forks and 17inch wheels and more café racer styling, it’s a big improvement and now represents a decent, entry-level Harley at still affordable money, even if build quality isn’t quite what it could be. 

Of course, the trouble with that is that most layman probably haven’t even noticed – even the name is little different. But, for those that do, it’s a decent bike, at a decent price with arguably the best badge in all of motorcycling…

5. Suzuki GSX-R125 (from £3899 - *Including current £500 offer)

If you’re 17, qualify for an A1 class 125 and are after a sports 125 there’s probably only one bike you’re dreaming of: Yamaha’s brilliant, recently updated and, in full-race replica livery £4874, YZF-R125. And that’s bad news for decent alternatives such as Kawasaki’s Ninja 125 (introduced in 2019) and Suzuki’s GSX-R125. 

And it’s the latter which, arguably, is most underrated, which is probably a mistake when you realise it’s currently a full grand less than the top spec Yamaha. Yes, the Suzuki may not be quite as flash and full size as the YZF, but with its MotoGP replica livery and bodywork it certainly looks the part. 

Its regulation 15bhp is no less than the Yamaha’s and has a smooth, novice-friendly delivery. Its suspension may be more basic but offers a decent ride and its decently made and ticks all the right boxes.

 To put it another way: turn up at McDonalds on the Suzuki and you’ll in no way be the poor relation to the Yamaha while still receiving a great learner experience. Besides, after a year you’ll want something bigger. Isn’t that worth saving £1000 for?

4. Honda CB650R (from £7199)

Launched as the CB650F in 2014 and updated twice since, the Honda roadster has been largely overshadowed by arguably sexier, more modern twin cylinder alternatives such as Yamaha’s MT-07 and Kawasaki’s Z650 – but you could be missing out. 

Not only is the Honda (basically it’s a roadster version of the faired, affordable CBR600/650F first introduced in 2011) unique in being the only Japanese four-cylinder offering in the class, and as such not only meatier and more substantial for larger riders but also a great stepping stone to larger capacity fours, it’s also a great bike in its own right. 

Smoothly styled, most recently (2019) to adhere to Honda’s ‘Neo Café’ range (when it also changed from an F to R suffix); nicely proportioned with typically brilliant Honda ergonomics; with a smooth but brisk 92bhp performance and also more than decent handling, the CB650F wants for little – especially if you’re after a four cylinder one. Best of all, it’s great value, too.

3. Ducati Multistrada 950 (from £11,895)

It must be difficult being the younger, little brother to a global superstar, especially when you’re talented in your own right. But that’s what’s happened with the ‘junior’ 950 version of Ducati’s world beating Multistrada. 

The original, 1200cc version in 2010 was a true world-beating game changer thanks to its superbike performance, adventure bike proportions and practicality and, most of all, its sophisticated, adjustable electronic riding modes. That bike went from strength to strength through successive updates with Ducati all the while insisting a smaller version wasn’t on the cards. 

So when a 950 arrived in 2017 the 1200/1260 had more than marked out its territory. Today, think ‘Multistrada’ and everyone still thinks ‘1200/1260’. And, again, that’s a shame as the 950, using the 937 Hypermotard’s 113bhp V-twin, has more than enough performance for most (does anyone really need the 1260’s 160?), the same proportions and most of the same experience but for a full three grand less. 

Besides, if you want to up-spec it some, there’s also the 950S and new spoked wheel version, too.

2. Indian FTR1200 (from £11,899)

Truly one of the great, under-appreciated bikes currently on the market. Revived American brand Indian have done much that’s commendable since being bought by automotive giant Polaris in 2011 and relaunched with a whole family of Harley-rivalling cruisers from as soon as 2014. 

But while its big twins are classy, its junior, Sportster-rivalling Scouts, with punchy performance and a distinctive style all their own, are better yet. But it’s the flat-track styled FTR1200 introduced in 2019 which, based on enlarged Scout mechanicals with a lively 118bhp, uprated Monster-rivalling sporty chassis and more that stands out – or at least it would if you knew it existed and had tried it. 

We urge you to do just that. That ‘American Monster’ tag isn’t far off; its cycle parts are top notch; it’s an absolute hoot to ride and, best of all, it’s got an image, badge and degree of exclusivity a Monster simply can’t match. 

Oh, and again, if you want more, there’s the more hi-spec S version, with TFT screen, fancier suspension and more…

1. KTM 1290 Super Duke GT (from £17,199)

We’ve saved the best for last and, in case you hadn’t heard (and many, still, haven’t) the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is definitely the best: sports-tourer that is. 

The first version, launched in 2016 and based on the Austrian firm’s 1301cc, 175bhp Super Duke super naked, was already a sensation, adding comfort and practicality in the form of a fairing, revised ergonomics and luggage options, to what was already a ballistic, fine-handling and sophisticated V-twin. But this new version, introduced in 2019, takes things up another level entirely. 

Improved electronics, added refinement, accentuated electronics all operated via a slick new full colour TFT screen, tweaked styling including new LED lights and more put the GT at the forefront of sports-tourer tech. Its 175bhp super naked performance, too, is at the top of the class. 

The handling is V-twin light and lithe, comfort far better than it looks and, as a road bike it does – brilliantly – everything you could want. 

The downside? It’s a KTM, so many – still – aren’t as aware of them, or their dealers, as longer established brands. The GT, though, could change all that…
 

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