The Most Fun You Can Have For Under $10k

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Is there any other vehicles that can deliver as many smiles-per-dollar as the motorcycle? Here’s the RideApart staff’s pick of the most fun motorcycles you can buy for $10,000 or less.

Photo: Schedi R/KTM

Triumph Street Triple R

At $9,999, this 675cc, three-cylinder roadster barely squeaks into the running, but it’s a good thing that it does. Its punchy motor, light handling and upright ergonomics make it one of the most fun bikes on sale today.

KTM 690 Duke

Weighing just 330lbs (wet), the Duke’s single-cylinder motor hits hard, delivering 67bhp and 52lb-ft. That’s more torque than most 600 super sport bikes make, delivered at just 5,500rpm. Together, those features make the Duke an urgent, aggressive bike, particularly at lower, non-licence-losing speeds. Just don’t let them see you wheelying, you’ll be doing that a lot.

Yamaha WR250R

Probably the closest thing you get to a real enduro that’s still fun to ride on-road, the WR250R’s slim dimensions and tall, 36.6-inch seat make it equally at home slicing through rush hour traffic as it is flying down single-track.

Suzuki DR-Z400SM

The only real supermoto available from a major manufacturer, the DR-Z is light, responsive perfectly suited to urban riding, where it’s wide bars and sharp handling make it fun on the kind of rutted, potholed, congested streets that tie bigger bikes in knots.

Triumph Scrambler

A 270-degree crank transform’s Triumph’s parallel-twin from efficient and just a little bit boring into something that feels much more alive. Add in the commanding riding position and classic looks and you’ve got our pick of the Modern Classic range.

Suzuki V-Strom 650

Is there any better feeling than embarrassing someone on a supposedly much faster, much more expensive bike? Where most things with clip-ons and huge horsepower numbers are faster on paper than they are in the real world, the Suzuki simply flies down any road, in any weather condition, even two up. The motor’s willing, the vision from the seat empowering, the brakes hugely confidence inspiring and the suspension capable of keeping the tires planted over even the roughest of surfaces.

Aprilia Shiver 750

Bold, striking graphics and strong colors make this thing a looker, while the high-tech, 95bhp, liquid-cooled, ride-by-wire v-twin gives it a surprising turn of speed. Sounds good too. The most affordable way to put an exotic, boutique Italian badge between your legs.

Ducati Monster 696

A real Ducati for less than ten grand? The air-cooled v-twin is as basic as it gets, which complements the Monster’s elemental appeal. A great way to get around town and a great way to learn real riding skills on a manageable bike.

Triumph Bonneville

Ask the average person to sketch you a motorcycle, and nine times out of ten, you’ll end up with something that looks like a Bonneville. The base Bonnie is also the funnest, most capable bike in the range, complete with 17-inch wheels and sporty tires. This thing will put a grin on your face every time you hop on.

Honda CRF250L

Tiny, light and slow, you have to pin the CRF250L’s throttle absolutely everywhere. Which is why it’s so much fun to ride; there’s no other bike out there that combines genuine capability with this much time spent at wide open throttle. That’s as much fun in town as it is on a trail, plus you’ll be getting 73mpg in the process, so fuel bills pretty much become a thing of the past.

  • Corey Cook

    I was curious if it would be possible for you guys to enlist the services of smaller “test rider” for your reviews. I know that Wes and Sean are both well over 6 feet tall and this tends to leave your reviews a little biased in one direction or another. As a small person I often have very different perspectives of nearly every motorcycle you guys get your hands on. Seeing that your average review is from the perspective of someone nearly a foot taller than myself (or most women) I think you can see where I’m coming from. Small people enjoy motorcycles too, and we could use a little insight from someone who understands the inherent difficulties we encounter with motorcycles built for the “average American”.

    Just some food for thought.

    • Jason Ip

      that would be great, I’m 5’6 and the first spec I look at on ANY bike is seat height

    • JP

      They consider the DR-Z400SM a beginner bike LOL.

      • Chris McAlevy

        are you sure? because i’m pretty sure this is an article about “most fun bikes under $10k”, not “beginner’s bikes”.

      • sean macdonald

        DRZ is a great beginners bike. Relatively cheap, low maintenance, runs great, decent power, easy upgrades. Just because you don’t feel comfortable with the height doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people this is a great first option for.

        • Piglet2010

          At Road America they have rental DR-Z400SM bikes for the SuperMoto classes.

          • sean macdonald

            i’m afraid i don’t see your point.

            • Piglet2010

              Just that the DR-Z400SM is considered to be a suitable bike for teaching students who have never ridden a SuperMoto bike and/or track before, and that they are also reliable and low maintenance – not things that are all necessarily true for some of the higher-strung European SuperMoto bikes.

              • sean macdonald

                ah, in that case i agree

      • David

        Uh, I consider it a great beginner’s bike too…. but you are welcome to disagree!

    • Chris Cope

      Read the reviews from British sites. They don’t seem to comprehend that a person could be over 6 feet tall.

      • Corey Cook

        It’s not just an issue of height, rider weight is also a big factor. If you weigh less than 150 pounds (yes it’s possible) the stock suspension on most motorcycles simply will not properly. It’s not just a matter of adjusting preload anymore when the motorcycle was not intended to be ridden by a person your size. Example. A friend of mine (5’1″ 105 lbs) just bought an MV agusta Brutale 675 and the suspension physically does not work when she’s riding the bike.

        So as I stated earlier, there are bigger issues at stake for smaller people.

        • Piglet2010

          The suspension issue can be solved for most bikes for a few hundred dollars, e.g. Race Tech will change out springs to get the correct sag for a particular rider.

          • Corey Cook

            I’m well aware of how to fix the problem and have done so with all my motorcycles. However most people are completely clueless when it comes to this, they assume that it’s just like the suspension in a car and it will work for everyone. You know, and I know, that this is not the case. That is the problem.

          • alex

            A rebuild service from them alone costs around 600 bux not including springs and fluid.

    • eviladrian

      A while back I was reading a Japanese scooter magazine that had 3 test riders, and was immensely gratified to see their “big” reviewer was the same size as me (5’8″, 155lb).
      I then bought a Japanese scooter, so the system works!

  • Random

    How about buying any 600cc sport bike for ~$5k, another $1k in gear and then $4k on track days*?

    That’s about how I’ve spent my first $10k for my motorcycling career. Its been a blast so far.

    *or hospital bills… but we won’t talk about that.

    • Piglet2010

      That is why I got a Ninja 250 for just over $2K – less chance of hospital bills and less expensive to fix or replace when crashed at the track.

      • roma258

        A $2500 track prepped SV might just be the best value in motorcycling, if you’re gonna get a dedicated track bike that is…

    • Davidabl2

      You can bet your butt that most people don’t include hospital bills in the cost of ownership..
      even if it means that they’re just in denial.

      • Isambard

        This x 1000!

  • Brian

    what about the CCW bikes that you guys were hot on, like the Hooligun?

    • Wes Siler

      They’re great, but a little beginner bike isn’t going to really be as FUN as a Street Triple, is it?

      • Brian

        no, not going to be as fun as a street triple for me, but some people ( depending on your definition of course) will have a helluva lot of fun on something simple that can run it to its limits. remember the adage, more fun to ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow, especially considering not all of us have access to “the Snake” or the “Dragon” at will to go and rail on at more than the posted limit like a free track or to have the accessibility to actually go to a track. so fun is a matter of perspective or perception, but in the end, being on 2 wheels is and should always be fun!

        • Wes Siler

          Which is why we included bikes like the DR-Z and CRF250L.

  • Guest

    In the immortal words of Randy Newman, “Short people got no reason to live…”

  • Xiao

    Re height, I’m 5’7″ and own a KTM950 Adv and a WR250R, and I take them through Death Valley and the like. My friend who is another inch shorter than me is borrowing the WR and is liking it. Don’t dwell on it. Go explore the many facets of motorcycling. Go ride dirt or dirt track.

    I’ve never bought a new bike or spent more than 6k on a bike. Get something reasonable, ride it, crash it, fix it, ride it some more, sell it, get something different, and repeat.

  • Toly

    Dudes, why no luv for the CBR500? Is Bonnie that much more fun?

    • TRR

      In a word, YES. Try one and you will understand.

      • Toly

        Can U spare a paragraph pls :) Also, maybe Wes could chime in?

        • Wes Siler

          The CBR500R is a great little all rounder that’s a ton of fun. The Bonnie is a little faster and just captures a little more of the romance of riding.

          • Piglet2010

            On the other hand, if you do not want attention every time you park the bike, one of the new Honda 500s would be better.

            But the Bonnie is a lot of fun, especially when you learn to deal with the hot starting (intermediate setting on the fuel enrichment keep the bike from firing then stalling) and center-stand (have to grab under the seat at right place and pull at the right angle) quirks.

  • Reid

    I’m just wrapping up my first week of ownership of a 690 Duke and I can unequivocally say that it is an absolute joy to ride. I would feel comfortable recommending this bike to ANYBODY, regardless of their experience level. It has just the right balance of power, fuel efficiency, brakes, looks, and most importantly VERY LOW WEIGHT for easy handling at any speed. If you have enough scratch to make the purchase and aren’t trying to kill yourself by riding way over your ability then this is even a good bike for noobs like me. I couldn’t be any happier.

    • P-A Clement

      I’m really happy to read your comment ! I’ve set my eyes on the KTM Duke 690 as my first bike. As you told, I think this bike could be a very good first bike if you have a cooled head and ride it in pair with your ability level. The light weight, the ABS and the Brembo brake are elements that make me think this is a good choice. I fist wanted a Suzuki DRZ 400-SM (seem a very fun bike) but the Duke seem to be offering a lot more for the money and I think I could keep it longer before getting bored. The limited power of the DRZ is deal breaker for me because I know I will feel more safe and confident on the freeway with some additional power to avoid some situation. Also, I’m not interested in all speed bikes, standard bikes or custom bike so this shorten the list of choice…

      • Reid

        Thanks for reading my comment! I’m glad it could be of some use to you. Looking back on my first year with the Duke, I can only reiterate everything I said in the above comment. It’s simply a fantastic motorcycle. The only areas in which it will let you down (somewhat) are when you want to go on a longer ride. The lack of wind protection, the upright ergonomics and the single-cylinder vibrations all add up to make a bike that doesn’t really want to go on a long-distance tour. However, I can’t fault the Duke for short commutes and all kind of sporty riding – it truly shines in those arenas. Even rides of a few hours round-trip are easily within the realm of possibility. The fuel economy is excellent, even when the bike is ridden aggressively. I have yet to have any problems with the brakes, and I have yet to feel the ABS even on a few “emergency stops,” so don’t worry about the ABS being too obtrusive. The low weight and consequently high power-to-weight ratio is the big selling point of the Duke, as you pointed out. You don’t need 100 horsepower to have a great time on a lightweight bike like this, but you’ll see what I mean when you go for a ride. However, after a year or so you may get kind of bored with the 67 or so horsepower it makes. I can’t say that it ever feels as though the engine doesn’t have enough power for any situation, but as your skills and confidence improve you will probably want a little more OOMPH to play with. As I wrote 11 months ago, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of your happy purchase of a Duke is going to be the price tag itself. It’s a good bike, but for the same money you could get a much more powerful machine, and for less money you could get a bike that will do almost everything the Duke will, if not as good. But if money is no object then by all means go ahead. I know I still enjoy mine to this day and don’t regret the decision to buy it. It all depends on what you want out of your motorcycle.

  • Justin McClintock

    Honestly, of all my bikes (including an SV1000S and a DRZ400SM), the most fun might be the 1978 DT175 I bought used for $500. It’s easy to wrench on and you can wring it’s neck without fear of a speeding ticket in most places. Just an absolute blast to bomb around on.

  • FastPanda

    No CBR250R?

    Or did you arbitrarily stop at ten?

    Also interesting to see the RideApart mood pendulum swing between the Bonneville and the Guzzi V7 from week to week or so.

    • Wes Siler

      When thinking about fun, things like performance do come into it. While we feel the V7 is a better choice for new riders, the Bonnie is a little faster and a little more capable. Complete with the retro looks, that’s fun in our book.

  • Peter H Hoffman

    Just some numbers… A height of 6′ 1″ makes a man taller than about 84% of all 30 year old men. If you consider women as well, the percentage of people who are shorter than 6′ 1″ is much higher (the 95th percentile height for 30 year old women is 5′ 9″) and 6′ 1″ doesn’t even register on the chart.

    It seems like “only a couple of inches” until your feet don’t reach the ground.

    A tall friend of mine once commented that they don’t paint the top edge of public bathroom stall dividers. I commented that they don’t paint the bottom edge either.

    • sean macdonald

      i have short legs if that helps??? i’m about 97% torso.

  • Wes Siler

    Well, basically your size, but 1.5 inches taller and 30lbs heavier. Also, I’m not a paraplegic, my legs are capable of lifting my body and other things off the ground.

  • Clay F.

    No discussion of the KLR? It on/offroads better than the V-Strom, nearly on par with the BMW GS, is more reliable than either bike, and at less than 7K out the door, is probably the best value in motorcycling. Just one man’s opinion, but if you’re including the V-Strom & DR-Z400, the KLR deserves a big mention.

    • Wes Siler

      Old, heavy and slow is the opposite of fun.

      • Piglet2010

        Is the Triumph Scramble really more fun than the Husqy Terra (yeah, I know you are tired of people asking about the Terra)?

        • Wes Siler

          Seriously, stop asking about the Terra.

          A) It’s just a re-badged G650GS, which is like the most boring bike ever.

          b) It’s made by a dead brand that, even under BMW, sold like a bike-and-a-half a year.

    • Stuki

      The KLR is awesome, as long as you remember it’s all about the destination, not the journey :)

    • Colin Samuel

      Since when is anything “more reliable” than the V-Strom? That bike is just about bulletproof.

  • alex

    too bad ridepart hasn’t implemented a street price feature – that would open up the r6 / cbr category too

  • E Brown

    Funny about the complaints about the testers being too tall; I’m 6’1″ and to me it seems all bikes are built for people about 4″ shorter than me.

    • runnermatt

      Short people can’t reach the ground and the pegs and grips are, I’m assuming, too close for tall people.

  • runnermatt

    Saw this story yesterday… “Motorcycling makes you happy” from Visordown–general-news/motorcycling-makes-you-happy-fact/23066.html

  • Stuki

    If you set the limit that low, the answer becomes too dependent on exactly which week you happen to pull up to look for your new bike.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    I hope that you will add the FZ-09 to this list very soon. :) MSRP is $7990 and it makes more power and torque than a STriple.

  • Adam

    It seems like the Honda 500 series should occupy a spot in this list given the recent positive reviews.

  • ThinkingInImages

    Some good choices here. Of them all, I’d take the 690 Duke.

    Height/weight is an issue in a lot of ways. I’m a 5’7 and 140lb gent. Many motorcycles are too tall AND too heavy for me. I can deal with tall and light, or low and heavy, but tall and heavy is just not good. At my weight most motorcycles are too stiffly sprung.