Spring is finally upon us- and, for many of you, that means you’re feeling the urge to head out to the garage, unplug the Battery Tender, pull off the covers, and hit the road on two wheels instead of four. Once you get out there, though, you might find that you don’t actually own a motorcycle.
It’s a horrible situation to find yourself in- especially considering that motorcycles are typically a cheaper, faster, and sexier alternative to cars. In fact, you could argue that motorcycles are genuinely greener than cars, requiring fewer materials to make, ship, and maintain than cars- even the green ones! Luckily for you, it’s 2016- and 2016 is a great year to go out and finally buy yourself that brand-new bike you’ve been dreaming of.
As such, Gas 2 has once again put together its annual list of the best fuel efficient motorcycles you can buy. Like last year, this one is divided into categories and the “winner” is selected as much for its “green” cred as its street cred. So, check out our choices, below, then tell us which ones we got right- and which we got wrong!- in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!
Honda Grom 125 | 100+ MPG
Repeating its 2015 win, Honda’s hot-selling, 50 MPH new-age monkey bike is utter bats*** insanity wrapped around a solid, reliable 125cc Honda dirt bike engine that won’t leave you stranded. The 125cc, manual-transmission Honda Grom remains a lightweight fun machine that’s still small enough to sneak onto the bike lane without attracting too much negative attention.
Sure, there is some new competition in the “Honda Grom” segment (more on that, later), but a strong, emerging aftermarket for Grom parts and 100+ real-world MPG work together to ensure the Grom keeps the top spot here.
Motoped Pro 50 | 100+ MPG
Another repeat winner from 2015, the built-to-order Motoped Pro can transition from bike lane, to street, to sidewalk at a moment’s notice, allowing its riders to take the path of least resistance out of the bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour grind of major cities.
Motoped buyers can opt for the BMX-inspired “pro” version shown, above, or go for the more outdoorsy “survival” model meant to whisk you away from the city and deep into the forest primeval, where you’ll be forced to face down hordes of flesh-eating zombies. Or, you know, glampers. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Zero S ZF9.8 | 357 MPGe
Standard / Commuter
The case for electric motorcycles got a lot better late last December, when
Santa Claus Congress approved a mammoth $1.1 trillion dollar spending package that authorized a federal tax credit equal to 10% of the purchase price of a qualifying plug-in two- or three-wheel vehicle … and Zero’s all-electric 2016 S model is a qualifying vehicle!
The 2016 Zero S perfectly embodies the comfortable, upright riding position of the UJM while offering plenty of low-end electric torque for dicing with city traffic. With a 60-90 mile effective range, the Zero is no day-tripper, but as a commuter? It should be all you need.
Triumph Thunderbird | 66 MPG
That’s right, kids- the big, bad, Rocker-friendly Triumph Thunderbird is my pick for best fuel efficient motorcycle in the cruiser category for 2016. If I could go back in time, in fact, it would also be my choice for 2015. That’s because the Triumph Thunderbird has a bigger engine (by 700cc), that’s more powerful (it makes 98 HP and 115 lb-ft of TQ), and more fuel efficient, delivering 66 MPG to the Star Bolt’s “paltry” 61 MPG.
Granted, the Yamaha may have the edge in terms of real-world reliability, but the guys I talked to at a few dealers told me the Triumphs have come a long way in recent years. And, sure, you should take anything a dealer says with a grain of salt- but this was a Yamaha dealer!
Honda GoldWing F6B | 35 MPG
Touring / Big Cruiser
35 MPG may not seem like much, but there’s almost nothing out there that’ll give you better fuel economy with better performance. Much like the mechanically-similar Honda Valkyrie that was our pick for 2015, the GoldWing F6B has a better power-to-weight ratio than many supercars, with 0-60 performance to match- and they don’t get 35 MPG!
Vespa 946 Emporio Armani | 100+ MPG
Small Scooter (under 150 cc)
That’s right, kids. When I went looking for the best sub-150 cc scooter you could buy I picked the most expensive one, which begs the question: can a scooter that costs nearly $14,000 out-the-door really be the best choice for this list?
Yes. Yes, absolutely.
If you are a practical person with any kind of fiscally responsible head on your shoulders, you might take issue with this choice. You might, for example, argue that you could buy five or six Honda Metropolitans or Genuine Buddys for the same price- and, while you’d be absolutely correct, I would argue that this list is about the best fuel efficient motorcycles money can buy, and “best” isn’t always a bang-for-the-buck proposition, you know?
To that end, I highly recommend the Vespa 946 Emporio Armani edition. The paint is gorgeous- as good as you’d get on any Ferrari or Lamborghini. The leather work is equally flawless. Look high and low, you won’t find a more thoroughly designed and expertly executed scooter. It’s the best one, gang- and, in this world, you have to pay to play.
BMW C650 GT | 51 MPG
Maxi Scooter (over 150 cc)
Packing more power and speed than last year’s winner, the BMW C650 Sport is the quicker, nimbler, funner version of the C650 GT. Despite its class-leading sporty cred, however, the C650 Sport is actually competitively priced- meaning you can ride home on a German-engineered BMW for just a little more than Suzuki/Yamaha money … and the BMW manages to deliver a few MPG more than either the Burgman or the TMax!
Kawasaki Z125 | 100+ MPG
Built as a direct rival to Honda’s Grom, the Kawasaki Z125 looks every bit as fun and toss-able as the Grom without being the same bike that everyone else has. That uniqueness has its merits, sure, but it won’t last- and, once the novelty wears off, it’ll just be Kawasaki’s version of the real-thing Grom. There is one thing that the Kawa has that the Honda doesn’t, however: an automatic transmission.
The availability of a twist-n-go version makes the Kawasaki Z125 more accessible than the manual Honda Grom, and its small size and non-threatening nature should make it a great starter bike.
Zero FXS | Electric 357 MPGe
Supermoto / Motorcross
It’s quick, fun, and has enough real-world supermoto chops to take on the bar-setting Suzuki DR-Z400SM a heads-up contest. And win. There’s no question, then: the Zero Supermoto electric motorcycle is the one to get- especially now that there’s a hefty tax break on the thing!
Honda RC213V-S | Doesn’t Matter
The electric bikes have been closing in on their ICE cousins for a few years now- especially at events like the Isle of Man, where the TT Zero guys have been pushing hard!- but they haven’t caught up, yet. This year, however, the electrics will find that the ICEs have set the bar, thanks in part to Honda’s $184,000 RC213V.
You read that right. Honda wants a full one-hundred-eighty-four-thousand US American dollars, plus tax, before it will give you this motorcycle.
That’s a lot of scratch, but when you mortgage your home on a new Honda RC213V you get a bike that’s built in an exclusive workshop in Honda’s Kumamoto factory. One that’s powered by a compact, 90-degree V-4 engine featuring ultra lightweight, indestructible titanium connecting rods. You get a bike with highly centralized mass and race-ready features like an under-seat fuel tank and carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic fairing
Honda claims that many of these top-shelf parts come directly from the company’s championship-winning MotoGP skunkworks, and that the swingarm, the slipper clutch, the magnesium Marchesini wheels (17 inch for the RC213V-S), the Öhlins fork, the adjustable footrests and foot controls, plus most of the Brembo brake components are directly interchangeable.
To help you ride this awesome machine and, you know, not die, Honda has fitted the new RC213V-S with advanced throttle-by-wire technology, multiple selectable power modes, engine-brake control, and an advanced traction control system with with position-detection technology … all of which roughly translates to: Sell the house. Sell the kids. Sell the dog, if you have to, but definitely buy the new Honda RC213V-S.
Morgan EV3 | Electric 150+ Mile Range
Three Wheeler / Trike
Whether you’re a fan of big-engine hot rods or the hottest, high-tech LeMans racers, the tiny British carmaker, Morgan, has had something to get your attention. This year is no different, as the company rolls out a new, sporty, electric version of its Harley-powered three-wheeler called, appropriately, EV3.
Unlike some other three-wheeled carmakers out there, Morgan actually has a long history of things like, you know, taking orders and delivering cars to customers in exchange for their about forty thousand of their dollars. Morgan also uses renewable materials like wood in the construction of its vehicle frames, and delivers on the fun-loving promise of the EV3’s sporty styling in spades. So, if you’re looking for an in-the-open motorcycle experience that’s as car-like as possible, the Morgan is the only real choice out there.
Original content from Gas 2. Photos and EPA fuel economy figures courtesy of the bikes’ manufacturers representatives (via text or email), or their respective websites, unless otherwise noted and linked to in the text. Special thanks to Fuelly and Total Motorcycle.