Top Five Motorcycles Under $5000

August 9, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

Recently, while riding the new 2019 Honda CB300R, I stopped and thought to myself how great a time it is to be a new motorcyclist. The field of entry-level motorcycles is stacked, with options to satisfy nearly every desire, whether you fancy a sportbike, a cruiser, or anything in between. Better still, nearly every manufacturer is building entry-level motorcycles at price points those on ramen diets can actually pay off – maybe even before they graduate. This got me thinking: Just how much motorcycle can a person get for under $5000? We’ve done similar lists before, but never with a cap so low. Plus, since affordable models are popping up frequently now, we thought it best to revisit the subject.

So, borrowing the Forbes Magazine idea of the Top 30 Under 30, wherein they highlight the top 30 leaders, entrepreneurs, and stars under 30 years of age, we bring you’s Top Five under $5000.

5. Benelli TnT135 $2649

2018 Benelli TNT135

If a fun city runabout is calling your name and you have no need to hop on the freeway, you’d be hard pressed to do better than the Benelli TnT135 (assuming there’s a dealer near you). Cut from the same mold as the Honda Grom ($3399), Kawasaki Z125 ($3399), etc., the 135 is not only less expensive than the Honda and Kawi, but we’d argue it’s a better motorcycle, too. Its 135cc engine is not only bigger than the Grom and baby Z by 10cc, it also features twin spark plugs and four valves. Better still, it also has a five-speed gearbox compared to the four-speeds on the others. Add in the handsome design clearly “inspired” (some might say stolen) from the MV Agusta Brutale, and you’ve got a cool little machine that packs performance and won’t put much of a dent on your wallet.

4. BMW G310R $4750

2018 BMW G310R

If you’ve always fancied owning a BMW (car or motorcycle) but believed they were out of your price range, allow the G310R to change your mind. This fun little roadster is powered by a 313cc Single and is delivered with the fit and finish we’ve come to expect from a premium brand like BMW – all for under five large. An inverted fork and Brembo-designed brakes are items even some big bikes lack, and having that BMW logo on the tank is sure to inspire at least a little pride in ownership. If more adventure-type riding is your thing, the G310GS is largely the same basic package with a more off-road tilt. However, it’s $5695 price tag disqualifies it from this list.

2017 BMW G310R First Ride Review
2017 BMW G310R Review
The BMW G310R Versus The World
Euro Naked Singles Title Bout
Three Amigos 300cc ADV Bike Comparison

3.Honda CB300R $4649 (and variants)

For the longest time, the two choices you had when it came to entry-level motorcycles were the original Kawasaki Ninja 250 (or EX250 for the purists) and the Honda Rebel. Both might have looked attractive when they were new (though that’s also debatable), but after two decades new riders wanted to graduate out of those ugly bikes as soon as possible. With the 2019 Honda CB300R, the Neo Sports Cafe styling (Honda’s term, not ours) looks sharp and modern. To us, it’s a motorcycle design that will easily hold up to the next five or ten years. Its 286cc Single might feel anemic to heavier or experienced riders, but its featherlight curb weight hovering just over 300 lbs means the little engine isn’t pushing much.

If the CB300R doesn’t catch your fancy, Honda has other variants all worthy of this list, like the CBR300R ($4699), CB300F ($4349), and even the Honda Rebel 300 ($4449) for those wanting a cruiser and who value being able to customize to their heart’s content.

2. Yamaha YZF-R3 $4999

There’s lots to like about the Yamaha YZF-R3. It’s light, it’s nimble, and it’s equally at home running about the city as it is scooting along a racetrack. The 321cc parallel-Twin is a spritely little engine with plenty of pop for those wanting something more than what the Honda’s 286cc engine offers. It won’t leave you feeling like a sitting duck in traffic, and its narrow stature makes it easy to slice and dice through the urban jungle. Should you also want to learn how to drag your knee on the ground, the R3 is the perfect learning tool for doing that, too. Had we written this list a year ago the R3 would have been at the top of our list. However, that distinction now belongs to…

1. Kawasaki Ninja 400 (non-ABS) $4999

Long story short, for under $5000 it doesn’t get much better than the Kawasaki Ninja 400. Technically you would need to get the non-ABS version to qualify for the sub-$5000 prize, but we’ve heard from actual owners who have told us they were able to walk out of the dealership floor with an ABS model for under $5k. Either way, we’re smitten with the Ninja 400. How Kawasaki are able to produce such a potent and fun small-displacement motorcycle for this price point is beyond us. What we do know is the 399cc parallel-Twin has enough power to keep experienced riders entertained, but it’s gentle enough not to scare newbs. New riders will also be happy to know it’s easy to touch the ground from the saddle, and all the traits we said the Yamaha R3 excels at, the Ninja 400 does even better. It’s crazy how good this motorcycle is.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 First Ride Review
2018 Lightweight Sportbikes Shootout

Honorable Mentions

Whittling down this list to just five bikes was difficult, especially because there are some models that are a hair above the $5k threshold. Not mentioning them wouldn’t be fair, so in case you’re curious, here are three that almost made the cut.

Royal Enfield Himalayan $4499

Technically, at $4499, the Royal Enfield Himalayan qualifies for this list. When Burns, Brent, and Ryan rode the RE down to Mexico and back they were pleasantly surprised by the Indian bike’s performance. At 411cc, the Single cylinder in the Himalayan is the largest here, but it’s still a bit antiquated compared to the rest. That said, it wasn’t much of an underdog during our Three Amigos test. Its biggest issue, however, is a faulty transmission that refused to engage first gear by the end of the trip. Those kinds of reliability concerns are a big setback, and ultimately kept the Himalayan off our list. However, if you’re handy with a set of tools and want something completely different in the little adventure bike category, the RE is an option.

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 $5399

The winner of our Three Amigos adventure bike test, the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 comes in above our price cutoff, but is worth mentioning if you’re able to spend a little more and want something off-road capable. It’s a shame the Ninja 400 engine doesn’t power the X (though we can’t imagine it’ll be that way for long), but the prior Ninja 300 Twin performs admirably pushing bike and rider along. It’s got the fine fit and finish we expect from Kawasaki, and bigger/taller riders should also feel right at home on it.

KTM 390 Duke $5299

This one was particularly hard to keep off the list, but the rules are the rules, and the KTM 390 Duke’s $5299 asking price was too much. That said, we adore the 390 Duke equally as much as the Ninja 400. If a sportbike isn’t your thing, the 390 Duke is a fantastic alternative. Its styling looks great and is matched by an equally responsive chassis/suspension combination. Niceties like ride-by-wire and full TFT display are simply things you don’t see in this price range, so its inclusion on the KTM is impressive. The 373cc Thumper is a fun and lively engine, though we’re still leery about its reliability. KTM is said to have addressed the issues related to the engine, and trusted sources we know claim the updates aren’t just fluff. If true, we’d rate the 390 Duke as tied with the Ninja 400 as our dual favorite motorcycles in the sub-$5500 category. Over the course of a loan, $300 extra is basically nothing.

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2018 Adventure Bike Shootout Primer

August 7, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

This week you might notice being a little quieter than usual. The reason is because most of the MO staff are out riding in our Sorta Annual Big Adventure Bike Shootout. For 2018, we’ve gathered seven of the biggest and baddest adventure machines out there. The plan? To put them through their paces on both the pavement and the dirt. To prove we’re serious about the dirt part, each of the contenders here comes to us with wire wheels, except for one, which we’ll get to in a moment.

 2016 Wire-Wheel Adventure Shootout

So who are the contenders? In (mostly) alphabetical order, we’ve got the BMW R1200GS Adventure, Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports, KTM 1290 Super Adventure R, Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT, Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa, and Yamaha Super Tenere ES. All of them are designed to explore both the beaten and unbeaten paths no matter where you are in the world. They’ve got big engines, bigger gas tanks, tall seats, loads of technology, and in this case, a lot of MOrons piloting them.

The outlier in the group (except for the MOron part) is the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S. Its cast wheels won’t do it any favors in the dirt portion of our test, but it was the only Multistrada Ducati had available – we had requested the smaller-engined but properly-wheeled Multistrada Enduro, but the previous borrower gave it a good whacking, leaving Ducati with the repair bill and MO high and dry. It was either Multi 1260 S or nothing, so we bent our self-imposed rule. Rest assured, once the Enduro gets fixed, it’ll get its proper shake against whoever wins this shootout.

For your bench racing pleasure we’ve included a spec chart below so you can see how our contenders stack up on paper. Keep in mind we asked the manufacturers to equip their machines with whatever off-road accessories they wanted from their own catalogs and this is reflected in the “as-tested” prices listed for each machine. You’ll see there’s a wide price variation between the bunch, with the $15,145.83 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT the least expensive, and the $24,090.00 BMW R1200GS Adventure almost 10 grand more.

All seven motorcycles are packed with technology, with tech like Hill Start Assist, Cornering-ABS, and electronic suspension sprinkled across the lot. In this regard, the tech we’re most intrigued by, especially in this adventure setting, is the Dual Clutch Transmission fitted to the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports. Can it really perform just as well – or better – than a traditional transmission off-road? Honda seems to think so, since we gave them the option to submit either traditional or DCT model for this test. Honda clearly stands behind the technology, and it appears riders feel the same way – Honda reps tell us that DCT sales are nearly 50% between models available in either DCT or regular variants.

Of course there’s a lot more one can glean by studying these specs, but we want to leave the rest of our words for the main story. In the meantime, Dennis and Burns will be manning the MO ship while the rest of the crew are out this week. If you have questions about any of the bikes, leave them in the comments and we’ll address them once we return to civilization.

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2019 Honda CB300R Review – First Ride

August 2, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

2019 Honda CB300R

Editor Score: 81.0%
Engine 16.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 7.5/10
Brakes 7.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 8.5/10
Overall Score81/100

Honda’s all-in when it comes to the small-displacement category, perhaps more so than any other manufacturer out there. With the popularity of the Grom, CBR250R, CBR300R, CB300F, and Rebel lines – and recent introductions of the forthcoming Monkey and Super Cub – it’s no wonder Team Red is proud to introduce its latest addition – the 2018 CB300R.

In case you doubted the importance manufacturers place on small-displacement motorcycles, consider this: Since 2011 Honda has sold over 50,000 250cc-500cc sport models. In case you missed the italics, this means Honda isn’t counting the Rebel, Grom, CB500X, or CRF250L/Rally into this figure. That’s big, y’all. And, depending on the displacement category, more than half of those buyers are buying their first motorcycle.

Styled after the CB1000R. Little siblings, like the CB300R, always want to be like their older brothers.

When it comes to motorcycles in this category, a few things stand out. Easily accessible performance is at the top of the list, but other factors like price, reliability and dealer support weigh on the minds of new or returning riders also. In the case of the CB300R, forking over $5,000 will get you a solid motorcycle with the performance, reliability, and support you expect from Honda. You’ll also get some change back, too. A little more if you don’t opt for ABS (not recommended), a little less if you do (recommended).

That new new

Not just a CBR300R or CB300F with a funky gas tank and round headlight, the CB300R is an all-new model that just happens to share the 286cc Single in the other 300 models. The look is modeled after the CB1000R, with its sharp, almost futuristic lines and shapes. Honda calls it Neo Sports Cafe styling. In person, it just looks cool – which is refreshing to see since I’ve long wondered why small displacement motorcycles have always looked so…blah.

New for 2019, the CB300R gets an inverted fork, radial-mount caliper, and a wave-like, hubless, floating 296mm rotor.

Go beyond the obvious styling differences, and the CB300R distinguishes itself from the CB300F in other ways. The R models get an inverted 41mm fork and an improved shock from Showa, and as you work your way down the fork leg, you’ll notice a radial-mount brake caliper, too. The brake disc itself is a single 296mm wave design with no center hub; the full floating rotor mounts directly to points on the wheel. As mentioned, ABS is an option, and Honda has even gone so far as to incorporate an IMU (yes, really) into the ABS to detect and mitigate rear wheel lift.

From there, the differences are a little harder to spot. Being an all-new model means there has to be something significantly different, and with the CB300R, that difference is the frame. The new trellis frame has reduced tube thickness and still uses the engine as a stressed member, but it’s mated to a separate pivot plate used to mount the swingarm (itself more rigid by 15%) and shock. On the engine front, there’s not much new to talk about here other than a redesigned intake tract offering a straighter shot into the throttle bodies.

The 286cc Single might be the same, but everything around it is different, highlighted by a new frame and swingarm.

One of Honda’s many goals was to make the CB300R as light as possible, and miraculously, Honda says the non-ABS version comes in at 313 lbs fully fueled, ready to ride – that’s a whopping 35 lbs less than the non-ABS CB300F. ABS versions weigh 317 lbs – 38 lbs less than a similarly equipped CB300F!

The little engine that could

Having been spoiled by the Kawasaki Ninja 400 I’ve been riding lately, it was tough to gauge what to expect from the little Honda. Its 113cc displacement disadvantage wouldn’t do it any favors, but its featherweight status is a definite advantage. This becomes instantly clear the moment you sit on the CB. It’s so easy to pick up off the sidestand. If you aren’t ready, a good lunge might pop you over the other side. At 31.5 inches from the ground, the seat isn’t particularly close to the ground, but being light should help reduce the intimidation factor for those who struggle in the inseam department.

You’re sitting high and in command on the CB300R, perfect for running about in the urban jungle.

The other thing instantly noticeable is just how hard the saddle is. Comparing motorcycle seats to wood slabs is common in this line of work and for good reason – the metaphor is instantly relatable. The CB300R’s seat feels like a wooden slab covered in leather. It’s hard, but at least Honda positions this bike as a short- to medium-distance motorcycle, so no one’s getting fooled.

Once rolling, the 300R feels instantly familiar. It’s not the fastest motorcycle on the planet, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it could get up to 65 mph. It’ll go faster, but don’t expect to get there in a hurry. Again, this is just another sign of Honda’s intended placement for the bike – an urban runabout also capable of a quick freeway blast to the local mountains. Through it all, though, the little single cylinder hardly transmits any offensive buzz to the bars. This despite having to run northward of 7,000 rpm on the highway.

The CB300R might be an entry-level motorcycle, but it delivers feedback even expert riders can appreciate.

Speaking of mountain runs, Honda’s 113-mile route for the assembled press to sample the CB300R took us from Honda’s Rider Education Center (a must-see if you’re even thinking about joining the moto ranks, dirt or street) up to Big Bear, which would be bringing us as high as 8,000 feet in elevation. Throughout the climb, the 286cc engine performed admirably – steadily chugging along even in sixth gear. If a slightly more rapid ascent was needed, a downshift was enough to scoot along without worrying about car traffic.

Get to the twisty bits along Highway 38, and the new chassis and suspension components come into their own. The 300R is so light, a few of the journos found ourselves having to recalibrate our turn-in points – that’s how quickly and easily we could toss the bike into corners. The beefier fork helped keep the front Dunlop planted and gave good feedback, and though some might view the meager power as a negative, none of the assembled journos, myself included, shared that thought. Modest horsepower means the rider has to master the fundamentals like proper shifting and maximizing momentum, which is exactly what a new or returning rider should be doing. In that regard, the CB300R nails it.

The CB300R goes through squiggly roads like a bicycle. It’s as light as one, too.

Just to make sure my feelings were justified, Honda also brought along a CB300F to ride back-to-back. You sit “in” the F model as opposed to “on” the R model, though the F’s seat is more plush. Pegs feel higher on the F model, and the bars are a bit narrower, too. Most noticeable of all is the weight difference. The F is far from heavy, but when hopping off one and onto another, the brain has to recalibrate for the extra mass.

As good as the CB300R is, there are some blemishes. First is the aforementioned plank of a seat. It’s hard and uncomfortable but tolerable for the medium distances it’s intended. While they work well enough, the brakes also deserve a wood analogy. I expected more bite and more power when squeezing the lever, which made it a little comical when remembering the ABS is equipped with an IMU to keep the rear end down. “Don’t think we’ll need that!” I scribbled in my notes. The CB300R has an elegant LCD dash that looks more modern compared to the CB300F. However, its black background with white lettering is harder to see in broad daylight than the F’s traditional white background with black lettering. Lastly, and this I’m certain is a result of our test units only having 100 miles on the odometer, shifting felt just a touch notchy. With more miles to break-in, I’m confident this won’t be an issue.

An elegant LCD gauge display is a nice touch for a sub-$5000 motorcycle, but it’s a little hard to read in direct sunlight.

What to do, new rider?

Coming in at $4,649 ($4,949 as-tested with ABS), the CB300R is a fun motorcycle, ideal for students or urban dwellers who don’t need to ride long distances at a time. That said, at the conclusion of our ride – which went beyond the 113-miles originally intended – we returned with two bars still showing on the gas gauge for the 2.7 gallon tank. It looks cool, goes well, and will likely turn some heads on campus with its styling. If you’re past college age, it’ll still look equally as cool in front of the coffee shop or in front of the office.

The competition is stacked in the small displacement field, but if the looks of the CB300R appeal to you, putting one in your garage will be a decision you won’t regret. Available in either Chromosphere Red or Matte Gray Metallic, they are arriving in dealers now.


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Harley-Davidson Announce 2018 Q2 Earnings

July 24, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

Harley-Davidson today announced its net income for Q2 2018 at $242.3 million, a drop of 6.4% compared to this time last year. The news comes on the heels of the European Union’s announcement earlier this year that it would be imposing tariffs on certain U.S. products – Harley-Davidsons included – in retaliation for President Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Harley-Davidson also reports revenue at $1.71 billion, down 2.9%.

Globally, worldwide retail sales are down 3.6% compared to last year, though the sequential sales rate is improved compared to Q1 2018. In the U.S., Harley-Davidson reports new motorcycle retail sales are down, which reflects an ongoing trend throughout the industry. Interestingly, The Motor Company is seeing an uptick in sales across western Europe, specifically behind the Softail line. Sales are also slightly up in countries like Brazil and Mexico. Meanwhile, apart from the slump in sales in the U.S., sales remain soft and/or stagnant across Japan, Australia, and Canada.’s Best First Rides of 2017

Harley is crediting the Softail line for helping with European sales.

Looking long term, Harley-Davidson’s objective is to have international sales make up half of its annual volume by 2027. To do this, it’s looking to expand its dealer network, convert riders currently on other brands, raise awareness through apparel, and leverage the lower pricing afforded to them via its Thailand operations.

While Harley-Davidson’s total revenue is down, the company isn’t feeling quite the same hit it would have a year ago thanks to its tax rate also decreasing (24.1% vs. 34.4% YTD) as a result of 2017 tax legislation under President Trump.

Lastly, Harley-Davidson is planning an announcement on July 30, 2018 in which it will reveal its accelerated strategy to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders. This three-pronged approach includes broader access to the brand through a multi-channel retail experience, stronger dealers to welcome new customers to the Harley-Davidson family, and of course new products to keep current riders engaged and inspire new riders to join the brand. This keeps with the company’s objectives of building 2 million new riders in the U.S. and launching 100 new “high impact” motorcycles by 2027.

Harley’s vision to introduce 100 new “high impact” models by 2027 is ambitious, but models like the all-electric Livewire could lead the way.

What those new models may be is anyone’s guess at this point, though Harley CEO Matt Levatich gave hints that the brand may reach in new directions as he stated, “Our plan will redefine existing boundaries of our brand – reaching more customers through new types of products and channels and doing so in a way that reinforces all we stand for as a brand and as a company. We’re out to secure the legacy of Harley-Davidson freedom for the next generations of riders.”

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Shipping a Motorcycle Across The Country Is Easier Than You Think

July 20, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

Pardon me for a moment while I take you down memory lane. The year was 2007. I was racing my beloved Suzuki SV650 at the Barber Vintage Festival in Alabama, with intentions of going further east afterward and tackling the high banks at Daytona International Speedway with the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA). The Barber round was great – I had some decent finishes to my name, and better yet, I came away from the event in one piece and with so many happy memories. Meanwhile, one kind competitor even agreed to take my SV to Florida!

Fast forward a few weeks, and the situation has unraveled. I accepted a job in Los Angeles – and my motorcycle was waiting for me in Florida. Needless to say, I never did make it to Daytona. And for the past 11 years life has taken me on several other twists and turns. All the while, my poor SV650 sat in a basement in Pensacola.

The last time I rode my SV650. Barber Motorsports Park, 2007. She wasn’t pretty then, she’s even worse now. Photo: Laura Trigg

I thought about that bike often – it was the motorcycle I lusted after when I got my license. It was also the motorcycle I rode the first time I touched a knee down. At one point, I could practically pull it apart and put it back together. Almost everything I know about two wheels I learned on that bike. Needless to say, I have a soft spot for middleweight twins, and whenever I test one for MO, I always think back to my SV.

I figured my bike was long gone. I had given my buddy in Florida permission to do with the bike as he pleased. I’m a motojournalist now. I get to ride everything! There’s no reason to have my SV anymore. Eleven years on, and I had a wild thought to contact my friend to see if he still had the bike. I’d been getting sentimental about it, but surely my 18 year-old motorcycle had moved on to greener pastures. I was hoping it had, so I could have some closure and move on.

“Yup, still here,” read his text. “People have asked about it over the years, but I didn’t want to let it go without your permission.” Clearly he forgot my prior blessing to do with it as he pleased.

Now that I’m at a more stable point in life, those sentimental thoughts took over. I returned his text.

“Ok. I’m getting it back.”

Who ya gonna call?

Enter Clint Lawrence, founder and CEO of Motorcycle Shippers. He’s been moving motorcycles around since the early 1990s, and started Motorcycle Shippers in 1994. Originally, his business model was to facilitate the sales and transport of motorcycles all over the country in an age before the internet. Today, Motorcycle Shippers still helps people buy, sell, and transport motorcycles to and from far away places, but Lawrence also says he’s seeing business from folks who’d rather ship their motorcycles to rallies. Other clientele include movie sets, celebrities, and even OEMs. With a network of trucks and drivers across all 50 US states and Canada, with the ability to ship a single motorcycle, or an entire fleet, Lawrence is able to transport motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, and even snowmobiles and jet skis.

There’s my trusty SV650 now, in its Pensacola home of 11 years. Probably the first time it’s seen light in some time.

In talking with Lawrence, it was clear his heart is in the right place. Motorcycle shipping isn’t exactly glamorous, but this company has survived for 24 years (and counting) because the guy on top cares. Lawrence and his team developed a special skid to transport motorcycles quickly, easily, and safely – it doesn’t matter if it’s a sporty bike like my SV, an adventure bike, or a chopper. They’ve seen – and transported – them all. On top of that, they’ve developed a sort of curriculum for its drivers so they know the unique challenges that come with transporting a motorcycle.

The booking process was incredibly simple. A dedicated page on the Motorcycle Shippers website asks four basic questions: Where is the bike currently located? What kind of motorcycle is it? Where is its final destination? And how did you hear about the company? Talking to a live human is also an option, which was what I did because I wanted the full experience.

Awoken from its slumber, it’s time the ‘ol girl came home.

This is where Ed Merati comes in. A true professional, Ed asked me all the questions above, then eased my fears and answered my questions about the process. Seeing as how my SV had been tucked away for more than a decade – and it was put away already banged up – I wasn’t concerned if there were a few marks. However, most customers rightly expect their pride and joy to show up pristine. Ed explained that the drivers attach the bikes to the special skid with soft ties around the triple clamp and that a $7000 valuation is included with each shipment with no deductible. Higher valuations are also available.


Feeling good about the process so far, the inevitable question about price came into the picture. The cost will obviously vary depending on the distance between point A and point B and the type of motorcycle being transported, but for a small motorcycle like the SV650, the cross-country trek from Florida to California would be roughly $700 (before tax) – extremely reasonable in my opinion. Cheaper, in fact, than me trying to drive my own vehicle out there and back. Better still, the cost quoted is the cost paid for door-to-door service. There are no hidden surcharges, fuel charges, or toll fees. Transparency is the name of the game.

No, the forklift was not taking the SV to the trash heap.


With cost agreed to and paperwork filled out, all that was left was the actual transport. For a trip across each side of the country, Merati estimated about five working days once the motorcycle was loaded and on its way. It’s asked that both the pickup and drop-off party allow a three-day window prior to arrival in the event of unexpected delays. A phone call is placed 24 hours before pick up and drop-off to ensure someone will be available when the truck arrives at both locations. Pretty standard stuff, really.

What caught me by surprise was the tracking service offered. Much like you would get when shipping anything else, my package was assigned a tracking number, so I could go to the Motorcycle Shippers website and see exactly where my SV was on its journey. It’s a nice touch adding extra peace of mind for those anxious worry-warts out there.


Five days after leaving Florida, this nice man rolls up to my house at 8:30am – a half hour before he was scheduled to – with my motorcycle. Talk about timely.

Once the truck was on its way from Florida to California, all that was left to do was wait. True to Merati’s estimate, I got a phone call from a dispatch office on day four to confirm I would be home the following day between 9am and 4pm. I cleared my schedule to ensure I would be around. Seeing as I live on a narrow, dead-end street, I asked the dispatcher if this would be a problem. “Not at all,” they said. Sweet.

Lo and behold, the next day – day five – my phone rings at 8am from the driver. “I’m 30 minutes away, will you be home?” A little earlier than I had expected, but having my motorcycle delivered to my house early is much better than waiting all day like I do for the plumber or cable guy… The drop-off process was a breeze. My SV was the only bike in the truck, and the driver clearly had loaded and unloaded motorcycles before. He knew what he was doing.

The special skid Motorcycle Shippers uses, soft ties are used around the triple trees in front and typically the subframe for the rear. Lockable casters in all four corners allow the entire skid to move or stay in place during transport.

With a copy of my autograph, the cross-country shipping of my SV650 was complete. I couldn’t have asked for a more painless and easy process. I realize most of us would rather ride their motorcycles wherever they need to go, but that’s not always possible. In those cases, I can’t recommend Motorcycle Shippers enough. Fast, friendly, efficient, and reasonably priced, I’ve seen first hand the reason why Clint Lawrence and his team are still going strong after 24 years.

Project SV

Eleven years on and I’m happy to have my SV650 back, but as you can see here she’s missing a few pieces – bodywork, fuel tank, carburetors, and exhaust chief among them. This isn’t any fault of Motorcycle Shippers, but rather the result of me giving a shop across the country permission to do with my motorcycle as they wanted. I allowed this to happen, so I’m not mad about it.

I had no idea this could happen to a brake caliper from just sitting in a basement for a while.

Meanwhile, more than a decade in a Pensacola basement has taken other tolls on my bike. Rust has found its way to nearly every bolt, the Öhlins rear shock I installed years ago looks petrified, and even the anodizing on the GSX-R brake caliper is peeling away. Needless to say, I’m wearing gloves when I start working on this bike.

While some may get angered, for me this is actually a blessing in disguise. All along, my plan has been to restore my bike into the SV I’ve always wanted it to be. I was going to replace the missing parts anyway (they were all fairly damaged and destined for the trash), and the items still remaining are the ones actually worth something (at least to me). This is going to be a big undertaking, but there’s something poetic about getting reacquainted with an old fling.

To quote The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

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The Benelli TnT300 and TnT600 Might Be The Best Bikes Coming Out Of China Today

July 16, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

Say what you will about Chinese motorcycles; in most cases the MO team would probably agree with you. When your core market is the Asian continent simply looking for cheap transportation, as a manufacturer you stamp out cheap motorcycles by the truckful to meet the demand. Transport nearly any of those motorcycles to the U.S. – where the expectations are entirely different from the Asian market – and we’re going to be severely let down. Moral of the story: a cheap bike is a cheap bike.

The mistake, however, is assuming every Chinese motorcycle is junk. Enter the Benelli TnT300 and its bigger sibling, the TnT600. Benelli is likely a name most moto junkies are familiar with, as the Italian marque has a storied history dating back to 1911. Today, Benelli is under Chinese ownership from the Qianjian Group, with design still taking place in Italy and production occurring in China.

The TnT300 (right) and TnT600 proudly wear the “Made in China” badge.

SSR Motorsports, importer of Benelli Motorcycles and its own self-labled motorcycles (which have their own contingent of knock-offs in other markets), has been bringing motorcycles into the United States since 2002. Dirtbikes were the original offerings, but the company is expanding its portfolio with street motorcycles. has reviewed several of these models already, including the TnT300 and TnT600, but during a recent press ride, SSR/Benelli wanted to remind folks what each model was all about.

2017 Benelli TnT 300 Review

2017 Benelli TnT600 Tornado Review

Small displacement, big punch

A word Michael Lee, Benelli’s marketing manager likes to use is “outlier.” As in, Benelli (and SSR by extension) are placing itself as outliers in the respective markets its models compete in. In the case of the TnT300, the 282cc parallel-Twin distances itself from the small displacement competition in a few ways.

First off, it’s the only model in the class with a 360-degree firing order, meaning one cylinder fires after each complete revolution of the crank. The result is a cool, raspy exhaust note unlike anything else in class. It’s claimed 32.2 hp (we haven’t had a chance to put one on our own dyno) and 18.4 lb-ft. puts it near the top when compared to similarly-sized competitors in class like the Honda CB300R and BMW G310R, but when stacked against slightly larger motorcycles like the 373cc KTM 390 Duke, it feels a little outgunned.

The most significant way the TnT300 stands out, however, is its $3,999 price tag. Less expensive than all the models listed above and others like the Suzuki GW 250 ($4,099), GSX250R ($4,499), and Honda Rebel 300 ($4,449), the TnT300 looks even more attractive now that Benelli is offering a $300 rebate on top of its class-leading price.

The TnT300 is a surprisingly fun motorcycle to toss around in corners. An upgrade in rubber would go a long way in upping the fun factor. Though you can’t argue with the name “Cordial” on the sidewall.

Short of repeating everything John Burns spouted when he reviewed the TnT300, I’ll go ahead and point out some of its high and low points. The first thing you notice about the 300 is it’s a physically larger motorcycle than its competition. Lee tells us this is because the 300 is intended for larger physiques, but in the case of the 300, it fits regular-sized adults very well whereas the other models in this class can be considered toy-like for anyone over 5-foot-7.

Springing the switchblade key open (a gimmicky-yet-cool feature) and bringing the 300 to life exposes the rider to the surprisingly raspy exhaust note. The clutch pull is a little stiffer than a lot of other bikes in the class, but it scoots along surprisingly well for such a little engine – just be sure to keep the revs between 6,000 and its 11,000 rpm redline. You’ll want to do this anyway as the baby TnT sounds really good wound out like this, even with the stock exhaust.

Despite the huge under engine collector necessary for EPA reasons, the TnT300 still has an intoxicating exhaust note. Something as simple as a slip-on exhaust would make it sound even better. Note also the twin, 296mm wave rotors up front. While they look cool, stopping power is decent at best.

Steel-braided brake lines and four-piston calipers are a nice touch, but the twin 296mm wave rotors are a tad small and get overworked when you really start pushing the bike. On the handling front, an inverted fork is a plus for this price and having rebound adjustability at both ends is also a surprise. Nicely spaced bars give decent leverage, but the bias-ply Cordial tires (yes, the tire name is Cordial) aren’t the most communicative.

As a general commuting machine, however, the TnT300 is quite impressive. Ergonomics feel comfortable, and the little bikini fairing pokes just a big enough hole in the air to divert a decent amount of wind away from your chest at highway speeds. All things considered, the TnT300 is the one I prefer between it and the 600. Read on to see why.

6(hundred) of one, half a dozen of the other

Visually, the aesthetics of the TnT600 have largely withstood the test of time. It’s an attractive motorcycle in the middleweight naked bike category, with its trellis frame and sharp angles. Though the main styling component clearly showing its age is the undertail pipes. They harken back to 2006 and a time when undertail exhausts were all the rage. Coincidentally, this was about the time the big TnT was announced. Like the TnT300, if you want the full scoop on the 600, check out Tom Roderick’s review here.

The TnT600’s four header pipes are hard to miss at this angle. What’s a little odd is seeing them route up and back towards an undertail exhaust. To quote my teenage niece, “That’s so 12 years ago.”

Looking at the TnT600 in pictures is one thing. In person, the 600 looks large and in charge. Like the 300, the bigger brother is physically larger than the competition. This was fine for the 300, as the added girth made the bike feel like a “real” motorcycle. When you sit on the 600, its wide fuel tank makes it look like it has love handles – that is, once you muscle the hefty 509-pound (claimed) motorcycle off the sidestand in the first place. From there, the wide tank is met with pegs that are a tad on the high side, making for a slightly awkward riding position. To put it in plain English, the 600 is a big motorcycle.

As the name implies, forward thrust for the bigger TnT comes from a 600cc inline-Four making a claimed 67.1 hp and 38.4 lb-ft of torque. These aren’t staggering numbers by any stretch, and the TnT doesn’t really start to feel motivated until the revs kick in past 5,000rpm. It’s not a slow motorcycle by any means, but others in its class like the Kawasaki Z650, Suzuki SV650, and Yamaha MT-07 feel more lively, sporty, and responsive.

This view gives a good look at the steel trellis frame. Below it is a cast aluminum lower frame. Together, the two cradle the wide four cylinder engine and dial in just the amount of chassis flex the Benelli engineers wanted.

The 600 benefits from a 50mm inverted fork, which does help give the front end a feeling of stiffness the other bikes don’t quite match, but the extra heft the TnT carries practically negates that advantage. Stopping power is fairly good; two 320mm discs up front get paired with radial-mount four-piston calipers for pretty decent stopping power. But again, you also feel the extra weight when stomping on the stoppers.

If it’s not obvious by now, the other bikes in this category have a leg up on the Benelli for one simple reason: less weight. Up to 112 lbs lighter in the Yamaha’s case. Couple that with more power and torque, and the TnT600 is hard to defend.

However, we need to go back to Lee’s catchphrase: Outlier. While Lee didn’t admit to the same pitfalls for the 600 as mentioned here, he did admit to its $6,999 price tag giving it no advantage in the marketplace. For 2018, the TnT600 sees a significant price drop from $6,999 to $5,999. Dropping the price a thousand bucks puts it well clear of the $6,999 Kawasaki, $7,049 Suzuki, and $7,599 Yamaha. In fact, it even drops it below the $6,099 Honda CB500F.

With its reduced price, suddenly the TnT600 makes you stop and think about which financial choice to make between it and its similarly-priced rivals.

If cost is your biggest deciding factor, then the 600 poses a great value for performance. That is, if you don’t mind its extra weight and girth. Personally, since Benelli’s own research indicates models in the 600’s class are at least partially financed, I’d opt for either the Z650, SV650, or MT-07; the extra cost isn’t much when spread over the life of a loan.

Alternatively, you can opt for the TnT300 at $3,999 – a price range Benelli says consumers typically purchase outright without financing – and have a motorcycle that’s more entertaining than the 600 without a payment every month.

In the end, the TnT300 makes a stronger case for the best bang-for-the-buck between it and the TnT600. But with such strong competition in both categories, neither is the one we’d ultimately park in our garages.

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Watch Niccolò Canepa Destroy Mere Mortals Around Suzuka

July 13, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

Niccolò Canepa is a bit of a journeyman in the racing scene. With stints in both MotoGP, Moto2, World Superbike, Superstock 1000, and Supersport 600, the Italian has now found a home in the Endurance World Championship, where he’s riding the factory GMT94 Yamaha R1. In this video, you can see why Canepa has raced in virtually all of the top-tier classes the world has to offer. In this practice session for the Suzuka 8 Hours, Canepa takes you on board as he slices and dices his way past lesser riders – all of whom would likely smoke the biggest hotshot at your local trackday.

The EWC enters its season finale on July 29 with the Suzuka 8 Hours – the largest endurance race for all of the Japanese manufacturers. For 2018 Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are all fielding factory efforts with riders from both the World Superbike and MotoGP paddocks making a special appearance to take part in this race.

As for Canepa, we promise this video isn’t sped up – he’s simply riding the wheels off his Yamaha. Amazingly, during the practice sessions at Suzuka, Canepa and the GMT94 team aren’t the fastest team. In fact, GMT94’s fastest practice time so far – a 2:09.315 – is more than three seconds off the official Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s time of 2:06.273, set by mult-time Japanese superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga. Nakasuga, along with his World Superbike teammates Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, are the defending champions of the Suzuka 8 Hours and are looking to keep the crown for a second consecutive year.

Among the teams regularly competing in the EWC, YART Yamaha is leading the other FIM EWC full-season teams with a 2:08.005 quickest lap. This was good enough for 7th-quickest of the teams on track in testing, ahead of Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda’s 2:08.070 best lap. F.C.C. TSR Honda France set a 2:09.186, ahead of GMT94 Yamaha, and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (2:10.581).

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8 Things I’d Change On The Kawasaki Ninja 400

July 12, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, we – err, at least I – really love the Kawasaki Ninja 400. Ryan came off the bike at its press intro and was happy as could be. He’s such a fan that he pointed out the 10 things he specifically likes about it. Then, once we stacked it up against the KTM RC390 and Honda CBR500R in our 2018 Lightweight Sportbike Shootout, the Ninja 400 came away a winner, yet again. As far as lightweight sportbikes go, this one is sweet. It’s a great entry-level motorcycle for the new or returning rider, but has plenty of performance for the experienced rider to exploit.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 First Ride Review
Top 10 Features Of The 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400
2018 Lightweight Sportbikes Shootout

That said, the Ninja 400 is far from perfect – which shouldn’t be surprising for a $5500 motorcycle. Now that we’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the Kawasaki, we have a pretty good idea of things needing some attention. Here are eight things I’d change on the Kawasaki Ninja 400.

1. Wider Bars

For some strange reason, the bars on the Ninja 400 are angled inward toward the rider quite a bit. We’re not sure why as, even at full lock, there’s plenty of space between the bars and the bodywork. When you’re riding, it almost feels like you’re doing the chicken dance with how close your arms are to your body. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of exaggeration, but bolting on a set of aftermarket bars and opening up the angle would be high on my list of changes to the bike.

2. Different Subframe or Tail piece for More Room to Scoot

Ryan pointed this out during his First Ride of the bike, and it’s also one of the first things we noticed about the 400 during the Lightweight Sportbike Shootout – there’s not much room to move about in the saddle. Unfortunately, the subframe looks to be welded to the motorcycle instead of bolted on, meaning modifying it would still be possible, but irreversible. If carrying a passenger or luggage was a priority, then I’d extend the subframe even further. If solo riding were a higher priority, I’d find a way to revise the bodywork to give the pilot more seat room. Either way, there would be some extensive modifications needed to have some space to scoot back without knees touching elbows.

3. Exhaust

One of the first things anybody does to their motorcycle is change the exhaust, and the Ninja 400 is no different. While I’m not particularly a fan of the sound coming from parallel-Twins (Yamaha MT-07 excluded), I am a fan of opening up a motorcycle’s airways and letting it breathe. As a performance-oriented guy, the extra power and reduced weight an aftermarket exhaust brings is a nice benefit.

4. Mapping

Of course, simply adding an aftermarket exhaust is only part of the solution. Making sure the engine receives the proper air/fuel ratio to accommodate the new exhaust is also key to a properly running engine. With the Ninja 400 in particular, the engine will spin up to 12k rpm, but seems to hit a flat spot once it approaches those engine speeds. I’d imagine a few clicks on a computer with some clever re-mapping would waken the 399cc screamer all the way to redline.

5. Suspension

One of the easiest ways for manufacturers to bring the cost of a motorcycle down is to equip it with basic suspension. Unfortunately, the Ninja 400 is not immune to these tactics. That said, the standard suspension on the baby Ninja is quite good considering how bare bones it is. But if there’s room for improvement, it would definitely be here. If this were primarily a street bike, the biggest change I’d make is to soften the high-speed compression – the Ninja’s stock dampers have a hard time dealing with stutter bumps on the roads, transmitting a lot of those jolts to the rider. For a track machine, I’d make everything fully adjustable.

6. Lower Pegs

Apart from having a cramped seating quarters, the pegs are also fairly close, creating a relatively tight seat-to-peg ratio. In all honesty there are much more uncomfortable motorcycles, but since the majority of Ninja 400 owners will likely never bring their bike to the track having pegs that high doesn’t make much sense. With a set of lower pegs and more space to move in the saddle, the Kawasaki could pull off some light-duty touring.

7. Quickshifter

Maybe I’m spoiled, but once you ride motorcycles with quickshifters you never want to go back.

8. Brakes

One of the easiest, most cost-effective modifications you can make to nearly any motorcycle is to equip it with steel-braided brake lines (if it doesn’t already come with some from the factory). The little Ninja is another motorcycle needing of the modification. To be fair, the standard brakes are actually quite good – rubber lines and all. But they could be better. That’s where steel lines come in. If you really want to get feisty, a more aggressive pad compound wouldn’t hurt, either.

With these eight changes the Ninja 400 would be transformed. It may not win many drag races, but it would be the bike that could nearly do it all, especially impressive considering its displacement category.

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The Pikes Peak Hill Climb Is Crazy. Heres How Carlin Dunne Was Able To Win It

July 12, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

It goes without saying that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the most dangerous motor races in the world. I should know – I flew off the mountain and lived to tell about it when I raced Pikes Peak in 2013. Coincidentally, Carlin Dunne was there that year, too. In fact, he was the fastest two wheeled machine up Pikes Peak on the motorcycle we now know as the Lightning LS-218. The year prior Dunne won the race on a Ducati Multistrada, setting a course record that stood for five years.

After 2013, Dunne took a break from competing on the mountain. He even had a stint being a rider coach to all the Pikes Peak newcomers. Then, in 2017, when Chris Fillmore aboard his KTM 1290 Super Duke R, broke Dunne’s record, Ducati wanted to get the title back. In the five years since Ducati last held the record, the Multistrada evolved into the Multistrada 1260 – an even more potent weapon for the mountain. Who was the natural choice to ride the bike? Dunne, of course.

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The 2018 edition of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was a dramatic one, with Dunne in an extremely tight battle with another KTM-mounted rider, Rennie Scaysbrook. In the end, Dunne’s time of 9:59.102 was just sixth tenths of a second faster than Scaysbrook. It wasn’t the record-setting time they were hoping for, but the conditions on the mountain simply weren’t good enough to reclaim the fastest motorcycle time ever. And when the risk is this high, sometimes you have to take what you can get.

Being a big deal for Ducati, of course there were several cameras (still and video) surrounding the team, the bikes, and the riders. If a new record were to be set, Bologna wanted to be sure the world knew about it. Even though a new record wasn’t set, the folks in Borgo Panigale still wanted to honor Dunne with his victorious run aboard the Multistrada 1260 – a motorcycle Dunne and his team hardly modified to make it Pikes Peak worthy. The result of all this footage is a sort of mini documentary chronicling the challenges of Pikes Peak, and the unique circumstances the 2018 race threw at Dunne and the rest of the competitors. It’s an intense ride up the mountain, told by someone who’s known for keeping his cool under pressure. Enjoy the video.

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Riding Slow Bikes Fast – Laguna Seca Edition

July 5, 2018 Troy Siahaan 0

You’ve heard the adage a lot if you’re a consistent reader – it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow – and with our recent Lightweight Sportbike Shootout we’ve gone ahead and proved it. By now we’ll assume you’ve already read the shootout, seen our conclusions, and also drawn your own; but what exactly do these three motorcycles look like at speed around Laguna Seca? This is your chance to see for yourself, as we’ve captured a quick lap aboard all three bikes, courtesy of Yours Truly.

“Quick lap” is relative, of course, considering the relative lack of power these bikes make and because getting a clean lap without traffic was next to impossible. Still, these on boards reveal quite a bit.

Honda CBR500R

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In the case of the CBR500R, I regret to inform you that the lap is far from exciting. But in many ways it is revealing. What it reveals is its excellent street manners, even while being taxed on a racetrack. There’s no sense of urgency with the Honda – a point most dramatically displayed as the CBR climbs the hill entering the famous Corkscrew. As it’s gaining speed, the power simply arrives in a linear fashion (albeit not very quickly), with hardly a peep coming out of the exhaust. It doesn’t get the heart pumping on track, but it’s sure nice to experience on the road. Though quiet, a quick glance at the speedo shows speeds far exceeding anything The Boys In Blue will let you get away with on normal roads.

Kawasaki Ninja 400

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The Kawasaki Ninja 400 is quite the opposite of the Honda in the fact that it loves to rev. Just listen to it in this video as it carries revs all the way to its 12,000rpm redline! The 400 does flatline a little near the top of its rev range, which is something I’m sure the aftermarket is working on sorting out. A gear position indicator is also a nicety in this price category, which is also a curious omission on the Honda. Back to the Kawi and you can also see the Ninja’s ability to carry a line fairly well. This is more impressive considering its non-adjustable suspension it carries from the factory.


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It’s difficult to notice in the video, but the KTM requires its rider to be on top of their shift points. You can see the shift light is illuminated nearly the entire lap in the video; this is partially because we were constantly revving the bike near its limit, but also because the light on our particular test bike was set artificially low – possibly to limit the kind of abuse we gave it. Still, you can argue the KTM gains speed faster than the Kawasaki, though without a clean lap for each bike it’s a little hard to definitively determine. The KTM definitely has the chassis advantage though, as the RC390 with its wide bars can practically be put anywhere the rider chooses.

The adage is true

Riding the Honda CBR500R, Kawasaki Ninja 400, and KTM RC390 around Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca was an absolute blast for several reasons. First, riding motorcycles that don’t make 50hp is a lot less taxing on both the mind and body. Second, it also forces us to rely on the fundamentals – carrying corner speed key among them – to put in a decent lap time. And when you feel like you’re mastering the motorcycle instead of simply hanging on for dear life, riding becomes a whole lot more fun. Lastly, we can’t lie; passing other riders on our stock machines – complete with headlights, mirrors, license plate, turn signals, and even a horn(!) – does come with a little twinge of personal satisfaction.

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