Budget Bikes - Cheap Motorcycles for Small Budgets
Working with your budget
So you have passed the various bike tests and you have got your licence, but how do you choose what motorbike to buy?
The first thing to do before buying a bike is to know exactly what it is going to be used for. Once you know this, options can be narrowed down and choosing becomes much easier.
There are a lot of different bike types available from 50cc scooters, to sports and off-road dirt bikes.
Buy a bike you are capable of operating safely. Basically, know your limits.
Insurance premiums for motorbikes will likely be higher for sports bikes and often insurance companies will not cover novice riders on a powerful bike. If you are a new rider it is wise to gain experience on a smaller, less powerful bike first.
Motorbikes can cost anything from a few hundred to tens of thousands of pounds. If you are on a budget, a smaller, less powerful bike will be cheaper to buy, run, tax and will usually have a lower insurance premium.
Many new riders buy a cheaper motorbike that they are just going to use until they gain more riding experience. They then move on to a bigger, more powerful bike.
Other riders just don’t have the funds to be able to spend big money on a motorbike.
When buying a second-hand motorbike, you should follow these basic tips:
10 Best Small Displacement Motorcycles In 2022
Small displacement motorcycles have many benefits: lightweight, frugal with petrol, cheap to buy and insure, great for beginners, and often with low seat heights suitable for shorter riders. But, none of that means they have to be boring, as our list of the top ten small-displacement motorcycles shows.
There’s a misconception that the bigger the engine in a bike, the better it is. While that might be true for experienced riders, not everyone has the skill or even the need to own a 1000cc monster. Another factor to consider is that, in general, the larger the engine, the larger the bike is physicaly. Not all of us are blessed with the height to make putting our feet on the ground when stationary a reassuring prospect. When that is the case, then ‘small' bikes are a practical consideration.
Luckily, nowadays, there are some brilliant small-engined bikes on the market, which not only look like big bikes, but have performance and a fun factor out of all proportion to their cylinder displacement. What’s even more important is that they are often great fun to ride: riding a ‘slow’ bike as fast as it can go can be more satisfying than riding a ‘big’ bike in fast - and often terrifying - bursts.
Here are our top ten choice of small displacement - and physically small - bikes on the market today.
If your cruiser simply has to have a V twin-engine, then your only choice is the Yamaha V-Star 250. Similarly, if your mini motorcycle has to be dripping in chrome and be fitted with spoked wheels, then again, this is your only choice.
The V-Star 250 is a perfect miniature of the traditional V-twin cruiser. The style is a classic cruiser, with a super-low 27-inch seat height and limited suspension travel. Although, with a relatively lightweight, the suspension won’t bottom too often.
A drum rear brake is a throwback to simpler motorcycling times, as is the surprising presence of a carburetor and not fuel injection.
Yamaha V-Star 250
Engine 60° V-twin Displacement 249cc Power 21 horses Torque 15.2 pound-feet Seat height 27 inches Price $4,599
Royal Enfield Meteor 350 - $4,599
Is a bike ‘retro’ if it hasn’t changed in 60 years? The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 might have been re-styled to cater to more modern tastes, but the overall recipe is one that RE has been perfecting for decades.
The single-cylinder engine is smooth and characterful, even if, at 17.4 horses, it isn’t particularly fire-breathing. The cruiser style isn’t as convincing as the Honda Rebel or Yamaha V-Star, but it offers the benefit of a low seat height.
Outside the normal city riding prowess, this compact motorcycle is at its best, taking the scenic route at a leisurely pace: the handling is safe and neutral, the seating position comfortable, and it feels as if nothing will fall off.
In that last respect, Royal Enfield has done a lot of work in recent years and it shows: the fit and finish are near-perfect and there is an air of quality that matches the name for appeal.
As honest as the day is long and something a little different to the hordes of Japanese entries in this list.
Royal Enfield Meteor 350
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 349cc Power 17.4 horses Torque 19.9 pound-feet Seat height 30.1 inches Price $4,599
It might look like a cruiser, but the engine size really limits this to city and urban riding, rather than pounding out the miles on the Interstate and there’s no problem with that: it’s a bit of a different style for your everyday riding needs.
What the style does give is a super-low seat height - 27.2-inches - and also the benefit of a spacious riding position. The engine pushes the 364-pound weight along nicely and there’s an overall air of Honda quality about it.
While Honda might not be known for making the most characterful motorcycles in the lower price bracket, there’s no doubt that they do what they do with efficiency and will last forever if looked after. The Rebel 300 manages to add some character to the sub-500cc bracket along with the style.
Honda Rebel 300
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 286cc Power 27.4 horses Torque 19.9 pound-feet Seat height 27.2 inches Price $4,599
Suzuki leading where Yamaha followed. Visually and specification-wise, there’s little to choose between the VanVan and the Yamaha TW200. The VanVan is even older than the Yamaha - from the 1970s - but built to exactly the same recipe: fat tires, go-anywhere rugged ability, low seat height practicality, and unintimidating to ride, but yet possessing a personality all of its own.
Retro-styled only in that its original design hasn’t been altered in nearly 50 years. It’s definitely built down to a price, but, with Suzuki, that still means bullet-proof mechanicals and easy-going nature.
A little more power than the Yamaha, but less torque, and, even more importantly, a slightly lower seat height. Is it a toy or a genuine off-road proposition? It’s what you want it to be and it will do both equally well.
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 199cc Power 12 horses Torque Seven pound-feet Seat height 30.3 inches Price $4,649
The TW200 has been around since the late 1980s, which must mean that Yamaha got it the right first time. The fat-tire look is more practical than you might at first think: great, obviously, for messing around off-road - and particularly in the sand - but, also great for less-than-perfect urban roads, where there is often more pothole than the flat road!
Low seat height - 31.1 inches - combined with reasonable suspension travel and good ground clearance make this a realistic off-road proposition, while the 70 mph top speed means it won’t be out of step with city traffic, and it is light and maneuverable in tight, traffic-congested places.
Having been around for so long, there will be plenty of expertise to solve any issues, not to mention after-market parts to improve your TW200.
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 196cc Power 16 horses Torque 11.1 pound-feet Seat height 31.1 inches Price $4,699
If you listen to the manufacturers, the CB300R and its rivals are modern takes on the cafe racer style. What they actually are, in fact, is simple, affordable, enjoyable naked bikes, with no cafe racer pretensions whatsoever and that’s absolutely fine.
The Honda’s strengths, apart from typical Honda quality and design, are its light and compact dimensions which make it perfect for the busy urban jungle. Super maneuverable and nimble, the low seat height gives confidence while the engine is smooth and more punchy than you might expect, meaning that when you reach the edge of town, you don’t need to stop and turn back.
The whole bike is a useful step up from a 125cc machine in both chassis and engine terms, and while the KTM 390 Duke might be more exciting, the Honda does everything just as well but with a bit more class and style.
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 286cc Power 31 horses Torque 20.3 pound-feet Seat height 31.4-inches Price $4,899
BMW’s first foray into the sub-500cc category has been a great success, the bikes being definitely built to a tight budget but managing to retain all the BMW traits that have made them so successful, including good specification and build quality.
With a claimed 34 horses on tap, it has decent performance to go with the solid handling and looks a lot bigger than it actually is. Seat height is a useful 32.8-inches, but when sitting on the bike, it feels spacious and tall enough to prevent tall riders from feeling cramped.
It was updated in 2021 with span-adjustable levers, slipper clutch, and new color schemes, but retaining the same power and torque figures. For many, having the BMW roundel badge on the tank is a symbol of quality and dependability, and being built in India does not seem to have affected those qualities.
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 313cc Power 34 horses Torque 21 pound-feet Seat height 32.8 inches Price $5,245
Something a bit different in the sub-500cc adventure bike class. The Royal Enfield Himalayan 411 has surprised a lot of people by being a very real alternative to the established stars of the class.
It’s simple and basic which is exactly what you need if your intentions are to take off into the wide blue yonder in search of adventure. Having said that, it does have ABS front and back and a four-gallon fuel tank giving fantastic range.
Best of all, here is a tall adventure bike with good suspension travel and ground clearance, but a low seat height, making it not only suitable for the vertically challenged, but also so easy to negotiate tricky off-road sections.
Lightweight, good, punchy power, simple, good looking, competitively priced, and capable. What more do you need?
Royal Enfield Himalayan
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 411cc Power 24.5 horses Torque 23.6 pound-feet Seat height 31.5-inches Price $5,299
The sub-500cc adventure market has blossomed in recent years with the BMW G310GS, KTM 390 Adventure, and so on. However, the adventure-sport class (adventure styling but with road wheels and tires) has been largely ignored by manufacturers, perhaps, because it is difficult to justify the ‘sport’ tag with less than 300cc.
Kawasaki is the exception to this rule and the Versys X300 is an interesting choice. Powered by a 296cc parallel-twin, it feels faster than its single-cylinder rivals on this list mainly because it is smoother, although it needs to be revved harder to access the performance.
Although missing the extra displacement that the same company’s Z400 engine enjoys, the 40 horsepower (claimed) is more than enough to give the Versys X300 sufficient performance to consider taking it out of the city on a longer journey.
It will tackle off-road situations, but rather think of this as a road bike with adventure styling and you won’t be disappointed.
Kawasaki Versys X300
Engine Parallel-twin Displacement 296cc Power 40 horses Torque 19.2 pound-feet Seat height 32.1 inches Price $6,099
Aprilia RS250 SP - $11,750
Just because we’re talking small displacement, doesn’t mean we are necessarily talking low-price or even practical! If a proper race-replica sports bike is your dream but 200 horsepower certainly isn’t and you still want to have fun on the track, then the Aprilia RS250 SP is the one for you, as long as you have deep pockets!
What Aprilia doesn’t know about small-displacement motorcycles, isn’t worth knowing: over 50 Grand Prix World Championships in 125cc and 250cc classes speak for themselves.
The RS250 SP might be track-only, but it’s worth it! What other 250cc motorcycle do you know that will do 140 mph and is fitted with the best of everything, from Öhlins suspension and Marchesini wheels to full race-spec Brembo brake calipers.
Small really can be exciting!
Aprilia RS250 SP
Engine Single-cylinder Displacement 249cc Power 29.9 horses Torque 16.2 pound-feet Seat height N/A Price $11,750
Q: What are Smaller Motorcycles called?
You would still call a small-displacement two-wheeler a motorcycle, as opposed to a scooter or moped. All of the bikes in this list are motorcycles.
Q: What is the smallest road legal motorcycle?
The smallest road-legal motorcycles currently on sale have a displacement of 125cc, although there are many 50cc scooters available.
Q: What is the best motorcycle for a five feet-tall woman?
There are many cruisers with very low seat heights: the Yamaha V-Star 250 and Honda Rebel 300 are great beginner's bikes with very low seat heights. Bikes like the Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 and Sportster S have low seat heights but are much heavier than the Yamaha. Even the really big Harley-Davidsons have low seats but the weight cold be a problem.
Q: Which bike is best for short height?
Cruiser-type motorcycles are always great for shorter riders as they have low seat heights. Adventure bikes are the worst because they are generally very tall, although suspension-lowering kits can be fitted, often by the factory.
12 Best Small Displacement Motorcycles of 2022
Here in the Western World, the motorcycling community has long had a propensity for big-bore powertrains, prompting most manufacturers to deliver increasingly large-displacement models with each model update. And while we can’t begin to deny the sheer thrills offered by literbikes, the reality is most small-displacement models are more than capable of handling the majority of riding applications, from track days to touring to freeway travel to commuting. Because these diminutive-engined models are so often overlooked by Western riders, we’ve scoured the segment to highlight a dozen of today’s most noteworthy scoots in this guide to the best small-displacement motorcycles.
Though we tend to focus primarily on displacement when poring over catalogs and spec-sheets, there are in fact a handful of equally important factors to take into account such as an engine’s layout, the number of cylinders, massaging and tuning, and engine cycle type, just to name a few. Below, we’ll be exploring our favorite picks from the sub-400cc class, as well as touching on some of the finer points to consider when in the market for a small displacement bike.
CCs & Cylinders Why Engine Size Matters Less Than You Think
Anything south of half-a-liter is considered to be of the small displacement variety here in the U.S. and typically isn’t viewed as a high-performance model. Over the last few years, however, as the small-bore market has rapidly grown in size and popularity, a select number of moto marques have been rolling out ultra-capable and thoroughly top-shelf motorcycles that are kicked along by quarter-liter mills. And, even with a 250cc displacement, if you give a bike multiple cylinders and/or a two-stroke cycle, some of these pint-sized machines can achieve surprisingly quick lap times and top speeds well into triple-digit territory. As such, these bikes tend to feature incredibly sophisticated chassis designs and are backed by some of the finest componentry that money can buy.
Focusing On The Ride Why You Should Consider Starting Small Or Downsizing
Larger motorcycles are heavier, more sensitive, less forgiving, and all-around harder to pilot and control. By opting for a smaller, more manageable bike, riders can spend more effort, energy, and concentration on form and technique, body positioning, throttle control, and other fundamental aspects of riding, rather than simply trying to keep the bike in check. In addition to being safer — and typically less costly to run whether on the street or the track — smaller bikes are objectively much more conducive to developing one’s skills and growing as a rider than your average bib-bore cruiser, liter-sized sport or superbike, or even a 600cc i4. At the end of the day, riding should be about having fun, and dollar-for-dollar, no other segment can come close to touching small-displacement bikes when it comes to the fun factor. Plus, as the old adage goes, “it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow.”
Small Bike Inspection 101 Final Factors To Consider When Small Displacement Moto Shopping
Obviously, the engine on a small-displacement motorcycle is of utmost importance and should be one of, if not the first area to consider when shopping around. After reviewing a power plant’s layout, the number of cylinders, and other basic elements, the next area to consider is the running gear and componentry, which at times can be markedly more top-shelf than your average small-displacement offering. Top speed and horsepower and torque output are also crucial areas to consider, as these figures give a much better sense of a motorcycle’s real-world performance capabilities than merely looking at the cylinder’s cubic centimeters. Lastly, some of these bikes have been bestowed with a myriad of features that are almost exclusively reserved for high-dollar, high-performance motorcycles such as traction control, launch control, and different programable fuel maps (aka “riding modes”).
Big Thrills In Small Packages The Best Small Displacement Motorcycles
Now that we’ve made our case for why you should consider going with a small-bore moto and shined a light on what factors and parts to consider when shopping, let’s dive into our picks for the dozen best small-displacement production motorcycles that are currently available on showroom floors.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 125
Arguably today’s most stylish entry-level motorcycle on the market, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 125 takes the Swedish marque’s acclaimed neo-scrambler design and bestows it with an easily-tamable eighth-liter single with fuel injection and liquid cooling. Despite the decreased displacement, the 125-spec maintains the high-end WP suspension, hydro-formed and robot-welded steel-tube frame, spoked wheels, Bosch two-channel ABS brakes, and LED lighting throughout its 401cc’d counterpart. In addition to wonderfully lending itself to urban riding applications, the bike’s top speed of just over 60mph also means Husky’s little street scrambler is good for short stints on the freeway.
Style: Neo-Retro Scrambler
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 124.7cc DOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 15hp & 9ft-lbs
Top Speed: 60mph+
First released in 2014, the MSX125 — better known simply as “The Grom” — is a modern cult favorite minibike that’s gone on to spawn an entire sub-genre of mini-naked models. And though the Grom’s been in production for several years, the latest iteration of the mini represents the most significant update the model has ever seen, with a new flat seat, a slightly retuned engine, and new quick-release bodywork that makes the already-modification-friendly Grom all the more ideal for two-wheeled customization projects — an area that’s furthered by the absolutely enormous range of available bolt-on aftermarket parts and body kits that exist for the Grom.
Style: Naked Minibike
Engine: Air-Cooled 124.9cc SOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 9.7hp & 7.75ft-lbs
Top Speed: 62mph
KTM Duke 200
With a lineage that spans back to KTM’s first Duke model in 1994 and sharp and aggressive KISKA-designed bodywork, the Duke 200 offers the appearance of a larger, more menacing machine in a smaller more approachable package. Similar to the Husky Svartpilen 125, the KTM Duke 200 is a freshly-released, smaller-displacement version of the Ready To Race brand’s existing naked 390 platform. Surprisingly, the fifth-liter naked’s sub-$4K MSRP gets you an array of premium components and running gear, and thanks to a top speed of nearly 90mph, the Austrian-built two-wheeler is entirely freeway-friendly, and can even offer its fair share of thrills at the race track or in the twisties.
Style: Sport Naked
Engine: Liquid-cooled 199.5cc DOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 25.5hp & 14.25ft-lbs
Top Speed: 88mph
Cleveland Cyclewerks Heist
Built around a Chinese-made air-cooled single, CCW’s Heist is an immensely affordable motorcycle that offers the presence and appearance of a heavily-modified custom bobber, while still remaining new rider-friendly and thoroughly utilitarian. The $4K bobber includes an electric starter, a five-speed transmission, 80mpg fuel economy, 26.8” seat height, and a nimble 60” wheelbase. Cleveland CycleWerks also offers a smorgasbord of optional add-ons to further customize the Heist and make it your own, so if you plan on modifying a bike, the Heist — or really any model from CCW — is a stellar ready-made shortcut to consider.
Engine: Air-Cooled 229cc OHV Single-Cylinder
Power: 15.4hp & 11.8ft-lbs
Top Speed: 70mph
Honda Rebel 300
Though the Honda Rebel 300 technically falls into the cruiser category, its 364lb curb weight and 58.7” wheelbase allow the Japanese two-wheeler to excel at urban riding duties. The bike sports an unmistakably contemporary take on the traditional cruiser aesthetic, with a bobber-inspired rear-end, peanut-esque tank, and LED lighting front to back. Available in two livery options and sold with or without antilock brakes, the Rebel 300 is a much more novice-friendly choice than larger so-called “entry-level cruisers” like the Harley Iron 883 or Indian Scout Bobber Sixty — and sold at literally half of the price.
Style: Urban Cruiser
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 286cc DOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 27.4hp & 19.9ft-lbs
Top Speed: 92mph
First released in the late 1980s and remaining mostly unchanged throughout its entire production run, the TW200 is a fat-tired on and off-road machine that is undoubtedly one of the best all-around all-purpose motorcycles, good for everything from commuting and grocery-getting to long-distance touring and trail scrambling duties. A sub-300lb curb weight, a 31.1” seat height, around 6” of suspension travel fore and aft, a ground clearance of more than 10”, and a skid plate-protected engine, mean the big-wheeled TW more than just looks the part and is genuinely capable of some serious off-road riding chops.
Engine: Air-Cooled 196cc SOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 16hp & 11.1ft-lbs
Top Speed: 70mph
The latest generation of Honda’s on/off-road enduro weapon, the CRF300L features an extra 36cc’s of displacement and numerous other mechanical tweaks over its 250cc predecessor that allow for around 10% more horsepower and 20% more torque. A better machine all around, the CRF’s lighter competition-derived steel frame and increased suspension travel make for a more competent bike in the dirt while new ergonomics, a slipper clutch, and revised sixth-gear gearing that now allows for higher cruising speeds result in a better performer on the tarmac, too. Big Red also produces an ABS-equipped version of the CRF300L, as well as an HRC-liveried “Rally” spec with a Dakar-style windscreen, massive skid plate and engine guard, and a slightly higher top speed and fuel capacity for only $750 over the base model.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 286cc DOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 27hp & 20ft-lbs
Top Speed: 82mph
Around the turn-of-the-millennium, the supermoto (or “supermotard”) scene began exploding in popularity, where riders equipped high-performance dirt bikes with a tighter suspension and smaller wheels wrapped in sticky street rubber. In response to the trend, a myriad of manufacturers began offering turnkey supermoto versions of their respective dirtbikes, including Suzuki with its DR-Z400SM (or “DR-Z400 Super Moto”). The 400SM’s unique setup not only makes it an ideal machine for tearing up the kart track, but the 40hp thumper also makes for an excellent hooligan bike for street riding. Plus, you can always swap out the supermoto wheels for some knobby-shod spoked hoops and you’re good to hit the dirt.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 389cc DOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 39hp & 29ft-lbs
Top Speed: 94mph
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Named after the year that Ducati Motorcycles originally released its first Scrambler model in the 1960s, the Scrambler Ducati Sixty2 is a small-displacement version of the Borgo Panigale brand’s popular neo-retro lineup that sees the standard 803cc model’s engine cut in half. And while it shares the same aesthetic design as its larger-engined siblings — including its iconic L-Twin engine — the Sixty2 does sport a more budget-array of componentry and offers relatively limited performance relative to its MSRP. There is however definitely something to be said for the Sixty2’s aesthetic design, its build quality, and the fact it says “Ducati” on the tank, plus it’s a great candidate for a custom project. Fantastic reliability and generous service intervals, too.
Style: Neo-Retro Standard
Engine: Air-Cooled 399cc Desmo L-Twin
Power: 40hp & 25ft-lbs
Top Speed: 100mph+
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R
Drawing inspiration from the high-revving multi-cylinder Japanese DM superbikes of the 1980s and ‘90s, Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-25R is an ultra-high-performance small-displacement supersport powered by a quarter-liter inline-four lump that spins to 17,000rpm. Not meant for novice riders, the 25R is capable of speeds well into the triple digits and corners almost as if on rails thanks to a WSBK-derived chassis paired with a Showa Separate Function Fork Big Piston front-end and mono-shock. The high-revving four-banger is also kept in check via the latest versions of Team Green’s adjustable ride modes and traction control. Put simply, the ZX-25R couldn’t be further from your average small-displacement motorcycle.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 250cc DOHC Inline-Four
Power: 43.5hp & 15.6ft-lbs
Top Speed: 117mph
Aprilia RS250 SP
With more than 50 world championship Grand Prix titles in the 125 and 250 classes, it’s safe to say Aprilia knows a thing or two about building ultra-competent small-bore track weapons. And the Noale firm’s latest and greatest quarter-liter racer is the ridiculously competitive RS250 SP (or “Sport Production”), a track-only race bike that’s designed by Aprilia and constructed by ultra-high-performance minibike marque, Ohvale. Offering the performance specs of a genuine Moto3 GP racer, every element of this 140mph 250 racer is thoroughly top-of-the-line with Öhlins suspension, forged aluminum Marchesini wheels shod in Pirelli slicks, an SC-Project exhaust, and race-spec Brembo brakes. And, on top of allowing riders to develop their on-the-bike skills, the RS250 SP was also engineered to be incredibly approachable for tuning and DIY upkeep.
Style: Race Bike
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 249.2cc DOHC Single-Cylinder
Power: 29.9hp & 16.2ft-lbs
Top Speed: 138mph
Vins Duecinquanta Strada
Based in Maranello and founded by a pair of ex-Ferrari engineers, Vins Motors is a boutique Italian firm building wildly-exotic, modern fuel-injected two-stroke supersport bikes. The firm’s Duecinquanta Strada (Italian for “250 Street”), tips the scales at a similar weight to a 125 GP bike, though puts down gobs of power, with a two-stroke V-Twin engine with bespoke expansion chamber pipes and servo-controlled exhaust valves, a custom-built clutch, double, contra-rotating crankshafts, and a removable six-speed gearbox. The lightest — as well as the most powerful — bike in its class by an enormous margin, this road-legal oil-burner is constructed around a carbon-fiber monocoque frame, draped in all-carbon bodywork, and paired with carbon fiber suspension with a Hossack-style front-end and a transverse-mounted mono-shock with pushrod linkages.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 249.5cc Two-Stroke 90° V-twin
Power: 75hp & 33.2ft-lbs
Top Speed: 130.5mph