Know what’s awesome? A comfortable motorcycle with good weather protection. Know what’s not awesome? Trying to maneuver a heavy bike through traffic, a tight road or around your garage. This is the happy middle ground, the five best distance bikes under 500lbs.
Selecting these bikes was actually a hard to make. What’ the first, realistically compact touring bike that comes to mind? 2014 Honda Interceptor? Well that thing weighs 525lbs once you fill it up with gas. 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000? Again, over 500lbs. Honda CTX700? Same thing. Crazy, right? Bikes have grown so huge that even supposed middleweights and learner cruisers are tipping the scales beyond our arbitrary line in the lard. But, you can get away with a genuinely comfortable, genuinely practical, genuinely distance-capable bike that’s both lightweight and affordable. Those two attributes seem to go hand-in-hand; the most expensive bike here is a $13,000 Ducati.
Suzuki V-Strom 650 — 472lbs (wet)
We have yet to find a bike which is more comfortable than one of these, when equipped with the optional comfort seat. Even its big brother, the 502lbs (wet) V-Strom 1000 isn’t quite as comfy, suffering from a too-low screen and a too-hard seat. Don’t be fooled by the 650’s limited capacity, this is a smooth, flexible motor that’s more than capable of hauling you, a passenger and both of your luggage.
Honda CB500X — 430lbs (wet)
The little Honda that can. I did 1,000 miles in two days on one and not only did it not miss a single beat (and return 60mpg), but it was plenty comfy for those 500 mile days in cold weather. A slightly taller windscreen (available in the aftermarket) would make it even better. The parallel-twin revs high on the highway, but it’s so smooth it doesn’t matter.
Ducati Hyperstrada — 450lbs (wet)
The most fun bike on this list. We picked it over the 494lbs Multistrada 1200 simply because the smaller bike is more manageable and much slimmer, making it as good in traffic as it is on mountain roads or the highway. It’s amazing what an upright riding position, spacious ergonomics and a tall windscreen can do.
Triumph Tiger 800 XC — 474lbs (wet)
A large, flat seat leaves plenty of room to move around, low pegs leave tons of room for your legs and a large screen (an even larger one is optional) and the handguards do a good job blocking the wind. The triple is smooth, but still has character.
Kawasaki Versys — 454lbs (wet)
Probably the least comfy bike on this list, largely due to its vibey, 649cc parallel-twin. The seat, fairing and ergonomics are otherwise ideal, so owners have taken to filling the bars with lead shot or expanding foam in efforts to dampen the vibes. Fix that and you’ve got an affordable, practical, comfortable bike that’s pretty fun to ride too.