Full fat Sports Bikes are a dream but there are also excellent value options for a fraction of the price – these are Best Budget Sports Bikes
It’s easy to assume that, using the latest superbike, with state-of-the-art electronics and bike parts, an astonishing 200bhp+ performance, and, oftentimes, most sports bikes are out of reach for those on a lower budget.
OK, the Ducati 12 grand might expand the definition of a ‘sports bike ‘ a bit, but since the SuperSport is meant to be an introduction bike for Ducati’s sport machines – rather than a sport bike, we still find it worthy of mentioning here.
The SuperSport was introduced in 2017 as a real-world road sports machine and also as the cheapest sport bike in the Ducati lineup. It’s powered by a 113bhp version of Hypermotard’s chassis-mounted 937cc V-twin which, in addition to Ducati’s signature qualities, is also more upright and less intimidating than the company’s louder hard-core Bologna sportster. As a result, unless you’re a racer or racer, it’s actually probably all the Ducati sport bikes you need.
It’s fast and with character, sleek yet practical handling, sporty yet comfortable – and more than anything else, affordable. sort of. In fact, Ducati every day. And if you want a little more, there’s also an upgraded S version with Ohlins suspension and an upgraded quickshifter, priced at around £1500 more.
Sure, it may not be a true cheap sportster for first-time riders, but it’s a tempting entry point into Ducati’s full-fat sportsbike range if your budget is up to five figures. Plus, updates may mean great deals can be had…
Lexmoto LXR 380
The latest from best-selling sports bike budget brand Lexmoto, whose bikes are designed in Europe but made in China, is also the biggest for a marque that has showered its trade with affordable 50s and 125s. The LXR 380 is not only the largest but also the most powerful Sports Bike the brand has ever produced, mating the new liquid-cooled parallel twin engine made by Zongshen with the tubular steel trellis chassis and sporty bodywork of the LXR 125 Lexmoto.
As such it has sportier-looking inverted forks and twin wavy front discs, a six-speed gearbox and produces an A2-licensed 40bhp at 9000rpm, which the company says is good enough for a top speed of 91mph and back 80mpg.
Now let’s start talking. KTM’s Austrian dirt bike experts are nothing if not driven by performance and despite their off-road and adventurous heritage they are now starting to take over sport bikes as well – as evidenced by their recent victories in MotoGP.
However, following the RC8’s untimely demise, its sportsbike offering was limited to the RC390 – a full-faired version of the single-cylinder 390 Duke supermoto – an engine that is admittedly getting longer in the teeth but due for major updates in the next few months.
Until then, however, the recipe remains tantalizing: a 44bhp single-cylinder motor; ultra-compact and lightweight tubular trellis chassis adapted from the RC125; decent quality cycle parts (ie wheels, brakes and suspension) and… that’s about your lot.
The result is a sleek and compact Moto3 style (so avoid, taller chaps); ultra-light and punchy performance as well as extremely instant and agile handling. The smaller capacity, lightweight sports bike is no longer agile, in fact, and, if you’re fit, it’s a real blow to ride and a great introduction to the sport of equestrianism.
When it comes to sub-500cc, A2-licensed sport bikes there seem to be two minds – a very light single cylinder engine like the KTM RC390, or fatter, substantial and spin-hungry twins, like the Kawasaki Ninja 400 or, here, Yamaha. R3. The R3 was first introduced in 2015 alongside the MT-03 roadster, received its first major update in 2019 and is intended to be a compliant stepping stone to the A2 between Yamaha’s A1 YZF-R125 and its four-cylinder R6 600.
It does the job well too. It looks great, because every inch of it is a ‘mini-Rossi replica’, without being extreme or impractical; relatively easy and easy to drive; the clean, rotating 321cc parallel twin engine produces a respectable 41bhp with a husky soundtrack and an upgraded suspension and sportier riding position provides an attractive and sweet handling experience that is a great introduction to sports bike. As a first taste of a sports bike, there are several…
If we’re being honest, the GSX250R, as it was introduced in 2017, is a bit of an ‘all mouth and no pants’ – in other words, more shows than goes. That’s because, although the 250cc twin actually came from a very lackluster 250bhp commuter Inazuma and produced a pretty weak 25bhp (remember when Suzuki 250 twins, i.e. RGVs, made around 60bhp? How times have changed…).
But if your trip doesn’t require high-end oomph and you factor in the cost of the GSX being much cheaper than most competitors, then maybe that’s okay.
What the GSX does is: look every inch of the mini-MotoGP bike is Team Suzuki’s blue livery; proved itself to be a doddle to ride for A2 beginners or those up from 125; provides a credible introduction to sport bike handling and riding posture and proves to be very cheap to run with returning around 80mpg.
So if you don’t mind seeing the piece more than just demonstrating it, the Suzuki GSX250R is still a worthy addition in its class.
Kawasaki Ninja 400
Arguably even more desirable than the Yamaha R3, the Ninja 400 has a long pedigree in the junior sports bike class and a proven track (and road) record. The pedigree of this free-revving twin can be traced back to the 2008 Ninja 250R. It became the Ninja 300 in 2012, which, with its sharper looks and extra performance, quickly earned a reputation as the ‘mini ZX-6R’. .
The bike got a thorough update to become the Ninja 400 in 2018, complete with a sharper ZX-10R-like look (even with the option of a racer replica paint job), a 44bhp increase in power thanks to the current 399cc capacity, an upgraded chassis and more.
While it’s direct, engaging, fast, and entertaining, it’s also practical and easy. It is sprinkled with a quality touch and looks like a bee’s knee. The sub-500cc Japanese sports bike doesn’t get any sexier.
Now here’s what’s a little controversial, but be patient. Honda’s all-new, A2-specific three-power family of 500cc twins first launched in 2014 consists of the CB500F roadster, the CB500X adventure-style motorcycle and this, the sport variant. All have been updated many times since, most recently in 2019, and have proven to be very successful.
A big part of the reason for that is their shared 471cc 47bbhp parallel twin powerplant which, taking full advantage of the classification (rival Kawasaki and Yamaha twins are neither as big nor powerful) makes them top performers – easy and flexible for beginners but also with all the ‘top end’ rules allow.
The chassis is also wrong on the safe sports bike and beginner-friendly side, but the 2019 update sharpens its appearance to make it look more like a mini-Fireblade, its quality and specs are also improved and handling is an easy pleasure even more. Experienced riders will be entertained by through twisties.
The CBR may not have quite the poster bike appeal of the Ninja 400, but it’s a better ride for more people.
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
Again, along with the Ducati SuperSport, this arguably broadens the definition of ‘sports bike budget’. But because the latest version of the Kawasaki supersport is also the cheapest of the 600cc supersport types it still survives, four cylinders, and earns its place.
The Supersport 600s has always been a more affordable and practical springboard to a full-on 1000cc superbike and the same is still true today. This updated version of the long-lived Kawasaki ZX-6R (this model dates back to 1995) was last updated in 2019, and, priced under £10K, is by far the best value of any surviving 600s supersport – Yamaha offers , the latest R6, for example, is now worth over £12K!
For that you get great four-cylinder sensation, full 128bhp, 160mph potential, fully adjustable suspension and quality brakes, decent spread of electronics including two driving modes, and much more. The handling is sublime and the overall experience is every inch of the ‘junior ZX-10R’.
On the downside, £10K is still a bit of money, small and cramped, especially for larger riders, and has limited practicality. But if you want a more affordable alternative to the complete sports bike with superbike experience.
If you’re looking for reasonably priced sports bike that are also decent, all-round sportters, they don’t come any better than Honda’s latest CBR650R as recently updated in 2019. Simply put: it’s the only four-cylinder sport bike available. at budget prices.
Introduced as the CBR600F in 2011 and based on the 90bhp Hornet roadster engine but with a full fairing and a more sporty demeanor, it was Honda’s attempt to revive the spirit of the original 1990s CBR600F achieving a brilliant blend of practicality, sports bike entertainment and affordability – which is why it sells so well.
The modern version recreates that recipe well, although sporting standards have been raised in the meantime by highly focused and more compromising supersports machines like the Yamaha R6. Further updates came in 2014 (to 650cc) and 2017 (extra power and other refinements) and in 2019 it was renamed the CBR650R and got a style mimicking the Fireblade.
It also proved to be a huge success, recreating an excellent blend of fun, practicality and value for the original. The difference now is that there are literally no four-cylinder rivals. So if you’re on a budget and want a new four-cylinder sports bike, even if the CBR is a little soft and beginner-friendly, there’s only one!
Kawasaki Ninja 650
If the full-on four-cylinder Kawasaki ZX-6R is still too much, both as an experience and to buy, luckily the ‘Special K’ has an affordable and more relaxed alternative – but one that still delivers a lot of motorsport sensation.
The twin cylinder, beginner-friendly Ninja 650 but still 67bhp has been updated again for 2020 and is an updated version of what started out as the faired ER-6F in 2005.
Three major updates and a name change as it now effectively becomes the more mature, better equipped and sharper CBR500R. This 647cc twin cam twin loves revs, is fast enough and is still the basis for almost any minitwins TT racer. The chassis, while not at all as extreme and focused as the ZX-6R, is still a comfortable ride but still practical and comfortable too.
While, best of all, this latest update delivers a more modern dashboard, revised styling, which is more similar to the ZX-10R, and a more throaty exhaust. As an accessible, affordable and stylish step up the sports bike ladder, they don’t get much better than this.
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