The seven best motorcycles to buy right now

2018 Africa Twin Adventure Sports

Fall’s here, and most Canadian riders are looking at putting their motorcycles away for winter (except for the lucky buggers in southern British Columbia, who always smugly remind us that they can ride year-round).

Even dealerships will soon clear their sales floors, taking two-wheelers away and bringing in snowmobiles.

No reason to cry, though. Now’s a great time to buy a new-to-you motorcycle, especially with show season just around the corner, when new-for-2020 models push out some of the 2019 machines. That’s extra incentive for some dealers to sell off this year’s bikes instead of storing them.

But keep in mind, many machines are already pretty low-priced these days, particularly in the beginner segment. The margin on those bikes is so small that a dealer doesn’t have much room to move before losing money. Don’t expect $1,000 off a Ninja 400.

Also remember dealerships are making money from financing arrangements; a loan means more money in their pocket, a cash sale means less. Don’t expect to get mad savings because you’re waving a fat stack of bills around a dealership. Cash is no longer king.

Even if a dealership can’t move much on the price, they’re also clearing out helmets, jackets and so on at this time. If the margin on a bike is so low that they can’t offer significant savings, you may be able to work out something else, like new riding gear, or skid plate/handguards/tailbag or other farkles for your adventure bike, or a classy chromed skull air filter cover for your cruiser … you get the idea.

With all this in mind, here are some machines we suggest you check out.

If Suzuki brings out a new Hayabusa soon, you may experience some regret over buying the current model … unless you got a smokin’ deal, of course.
Suzuki Hayabusa

Rumours of a new Hayabusa have been circling for months now. That might make it difficult for some riders to get excited about the current model. Why buy the machine that hasn’t changed in years, when a much more exciting bike could be just around the corner? But while a faster ‘Busa may indeed be coming down the pipe, there’s nothing slow about the current model, either; if you negotiate a bargain basement discount, you can spend your savings on a turbocharger, extended swingarm and all the other silly stuff the aftermarket offers. This is one of Suzuki’s most expensive models. For that reason, you may find more wiggle room on Hayabusa pricing than some other Suzuki machines, which tend to be priced pretty much as low as they can already go.

Long a bargain-basement entry in Harley-Davidson’s lineup, the Superlow is supercanceled for 2020. If you like the look of it, buy one now, and see if you can save a bit of cash.
Harley-Davidson Superlow

The Superlow has long been an attractive option for shorter riders who want a Harley-Davidson. The Motor Company must have felt there was model overlap in the Sportster lineup, because the Superlow is canned for 2020; the Iron remains, and with H-D putting better paint on it, it should have no trouble filling the void. But if you want a Superlow, buy one now, while there are still some left. You’ll have a hard time getting a screaming deal on this bike, but you may be able to get a bit of a break on MSRP in the fall.

If you can save a big stack of money on a leftover Africa Twin, you’ll have more money for traveling the world, or tipping the barista at Starbucks.
Honda Africa Twin

The new CRF1100L will be here for 2020. Who’s going to want to buy an expensive leftover 2019 model then? If you want a solid adventure bike, then now’s the time to start pestering your Honda dealer about getting a discount on the current model Africa Twin, so they’re not stuck storing it all winter. It’s a pricey bike, so there’s savings to be had here, you’d think, especially on a DCT-equipped bike. This is a machine where you might be able to negotiate a deal on the farkles as well.

Okay, so you might not save a lot of money, or any money, off the sticker price on a leftover KLR, but these are still a great deal, even at full MSRP. Buy it now, before it’s gone forever.
Kawasaki KLR650

Although 2018 was the last year for the KLR650, Kawasaki imported an absolute crapload of them into the country in the final months of the year, knowing fans would be looking for these machines after production ended. For that reason, you can still find a brand-new 2018 KLR fairly easily. It’s not a leftover so much as an extra brought in to meet anticipated future demand. The KLR is probably the world’s all-time best bargain on an adventure bike, and there are plenty of prospective buyers still out there (Jeremy’s heading to South America on one at this moment!). However, the supply will not last forever. If you want a brand-new KLR650, you need to get one sooner rather than later, even if it does mean paying sticker price. Compared to the competition, it’s still a very well-priced adventure bike that won’t be available much longer.

Buy a leftover Yamaha WR250R and do what Zac did: ride it around Labrador. On second thought, don’t do that. But if you decide to follow his example, spend the savings on a bug suit and insect repellent.
Yamaha WR250R

The WR has never been a big seller for Yamaha. Although it has a tough-as-nails engine and fairly well-sorted suspension, it’s gutless, and expensive for a 250. For that reason, it’s been rumoured to be on the chopping block for a while now. At this point, it’s not on Yamaha’s Canadian website as a 2020 model. If you want the Yamahammer’s blend of a mild-mannered motor with a best-in-class dual-sport chassis, now’s the time to strike. The high price might mean a bit more wiggle room on this machine than most 250s (they’re still listed as high as $8,000 at some dealers).

You see more GSs in Canada than S1000 XRs, but they’re a fantastic street machine. All the better if you get a deal, then!
BMW S1000 XR

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but BMW is expected to debut a new version of its S1000 XR this fall, with a Shiftcam engine, featuring variable valve timing. With that in mind, you might be able to negotiate a few bucks off a 2019 model, particularly at this point in the season. While a Shiftcam version might be exciting, the current model is a pretty potent weapon on its own, with tons of power and up-to-date electronics. And it’s a proven performer, with no worries about teething problems on a new model. It’s worth a look, if you’re aiming to pick up a road-oriented ADVer. This is an expensive bike, too, so there might be room in the margin for some decent savings.

Leftover Victory Cross Country touring bikes are still available, and you’d think the pricing would be much more attractive by now.
Victory Cross Country

Yeah, Victory has been out of business for a couple of years now, but some dealers are still sitting on leftovers. Buying a Victory could be tricky; the parts supply won’t dry up anytime soon, but if you want to sell the bike down the road, it will likely be tough to convince someone else to take a chance on a Victory. But if you’re not concerned about that, and you just want to get a good price on a reliable, high-quality touring bike, you can probably talk your way into a discount on a leftover Cross Country. They’re still out there, and you can bet dealers are sick of looking at them β€” it’s a lot of money tied up on a showroom floor.

You likely can’t beat a dealer down far on a new leftover CBR300. There just isn’t enough margin. But on a used, good-condition trade-in? You might find yourself a smoking deal on a beginner bike like this.
Other thoughts

While dealers may not be able to move on prices of new bikes as much as you’d like, it’s also worth asking about used models in the showroom. Those are less tied up with the vagaries of finance companies, and dealers would probably be happy to see them gone, especially if they’re a couple of generations old (say, a pre-liquid cooling BMW GS). And of course, as we said earlier, now is an ideal time to negotiate hard on a private sale. A seller who’s already struggling on payments is likely not going to want to also cough up cash for winter storage.


  1. When did this “car financing” become a bike thing, especially on lower priced entry end models ? I walked out of a dealership after they added $600 to the advertised price of year old Yamaha R3 because I didn’t want to finance. Fact is I’m retired and can’t finance but I sold two bikes and had the cash to cover the advertised price, freight, PDI and taxes. WTF

  2. “It’s gutless, and expensive for a 250.” While I suspect that most would agree that the WR250R is expensive for a 250 (just compare its price to a CRF250L or KLX250) this is the first time I’ve read anywhere that this bike is “gutless”, especially for a 250. Just read virtually any online comparo review that pits this bike against all other 250cc dual-sports and the consensus from dyno data, top-speed runs (90 mph) and seat-of-the-pants experience indicates that this bike is far from being gutless. Which other dual-sport 250s have more power?

    • Maybe the author meant “gutless for an expensive 250”. And since many seem to be using the WR for adventure duty, a bit more power would be nice.

      • Yes – everyone seems to want more power. And it would be hard to say no to – let’s say – a WR350R. Still – at least from my own personal experience – I rode my WR250R from Thunder Bay down to Ozark, Arkansas last year and back, and at no point did I feel I needed more power. An even larger tank maybe – but not more power. On the way back we cruised on the Interstate almost the entire way – and did it in 3 days – quite often cruising at 112 kph (GPS) – and I still had plenty of throttle left. I did this trip with others who could vouch for the speed we were going. We executed some passes where I looked down and saw 135 kph (GPS). I also had a 47T rear (43T stock) at the time. Once the revs are up, the bike has surprisingly good power for a 250. And with an 11,500 RPM redline you have the flexibility to gear it down a bit – which makes it even better for the trails. And at those speeds it’s pretty vibration free – unlike any KLR650 or DR650 I’ve ridden that were unbearable “paint shakers” by comparison. Ironically – I have loads of respect for anyone that can survive a long trip on those large shaky singles. I much prefer the smooth, refined power of the WR250R for the highway. I guess I’m a wimp that way. Granted, the seat is still pretty terrible for long-distance riding, and I still haven’t found one that provides that extra measure of comfort. So the bike is far from perfect.

    • GDC I agree with you. I extensively researched 250 dual sports last year before I bought the KLX 250. The WR250R was consistently described as the best 250, in every category. For me it was too tall, too expensive and above my newbie (to gravel/trails) skill level. Top level dirt bike with signals. I believe even reviewed as such by CMG. My other point is that the Ninja 400 is very discounted new in Alberta right now, 5 grand. The new Ninja 300’s are cheap, the used 300’s are almost worthless. I know because I own one, and no way would I sell it, maybe get $1,500 bucks. And it kicks the backside of the Honda single in every way. Seriously are you guys being paid by Honda? The Honda 300 is always the lowest rated of the Ninja, R3, Duke 390. Only beats the even more crappy Suzuki 250. Overpriced and underperforming, like all Honda’s now. They have become the boring Toyota of the motorcycling world. Mark Marquez is an alien, otherwise they would be nowhere in racing as well. Oh sorry, that Goldwing gets my heart racing!! LOL. Yawn. Cool stylings of Kenny G indeed, perfect description. The motorcycle to cure insomnia. Cam

        • I do love my WR250R, and it’s fairly snappy when it’s just me on board, but the edge over the Honda is not as big as it used to be. And when you add luggage and a big fuel tank, it just doesn’t have enough jam on the highway.

          • Zac – have you tried gearing it down a bit? The 47T rear seemed to be a pretty good compromise for highway vs trail riding. I ended up changing it out for a 45T once I installed my Madstad screen – because I just found it to be much more aerodynamic with the large screen – and so the taller gearing still provided enough jump on the highway – at least for me. On my ride to Arkansas described above – I had it loaded up with Kriega US30 (30L) panniers on both sides, a Givi E55 (55L) top case, and a Kriega US10 (10L) tankbag. That’s 125L of total storage. And it was packed tight and heavy. Yet – I had no problem with power and highway speeds as mentioned with the 47T. And I ended up netting the best fuel economy ever on Hwy 61 north of Duluth, MN on the return to Thunder Bay (about 75 mpg at 95 kph) – but I suspect a good tailwind may have helped….

      • Bucket list bike. I test drove one back in the day, still remember the little card that said “3300$+taxes”. Nice ones are bringing triple that today…

    • I owned one. It was gutless. The trade off was it had the 40000km valve clearance check interval of Yamaha street bikes, not the interval measured in hours of the more powerful WR series. I agree with the author that its price is too high for the power level offered. Yamaha even offered an Italian made big bore kit with ecu for a while…

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