2015 Classic Air-Cooled Motorcycle Shootout

MotorcycleUSA Staff | October 20, 2014

Affordable Single-cylinder bikes are the building blocks of motorcycling — the gateway into a thrilling life spent on two wheels. And after lengthy vacancies from showroom floors, old once again becomes new with the return of a couple classics from Royal Enfield, Yamaha and Suzuki.

The most storied brand in this contest is Anglo-Indian company Royal Enfield. Established in England at the turn of the last century, it’s since been re-formatted as a 100% India-based outfit capable of manufacturing upwards of 280,000 motorcycles annually out of its factories in southeast India. The Continental GT ($5999) is its premier model blending the elegant lines of a 1960s era cafe racer with modern conveniences like fuel-injection, disc brakes, and electric start. This year it comes to the U.S. as a 2014 model. It enters this contest as the heavyweight, sporting the largest air-cooled Single-cylinder engine (535cc), highest curb weight, as well as price.

It’s almost unheard of for a Japanese company to dust off cobwebs of old tooling and put a motorcycle from the past back into production. But that’s exactly what Yamaha’s doing with the re-release of its SR400 ($5990). The motorcycle is quite literally a carbon copy of the 1978 original—right down to the British-styled instrument gauges and kickstarter—giving Americans the chance to own a brand new piece of motorcycling history, complete with fuel-injection, and a one-year warranty. Equipped with a 399cc thumper, in many ways the SR positions in-between its competition, but will it finish that way on the scorecard?

Bigger is not always better. That’s what Suzuki’s out to prove with its Japanese-built TU250X ($4399). The TU has been an on-again, off-again model in the manufacturer’s U.S. line-up, however, it isn’t available in California due to the state’s stricter vehicle emissions requirements. Employing the smallest engine capacity (249cc) the TU is also the lightest on the scales measuring 52 pounds less than its nearest rival. But don’t count it out yet as it boasts attractive styling and most importantly a price that is over $1500 less than the competition.

Although it can’t be purchased in California, Suzuki was kind enough to let us romp around on theirs for a couple days. Filling seats on the Royal Enfield and Yamaha were racer Melissa Paris and European-born fashion model Ana Colja. Although both ladies earn their living in different ways, both were happy to spend a day soaking up sunshine and cruising the Orange County stretch of SoCal’s beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. After burning through a couple tanks of unleaded we rated each bike per our long-standing ‘Street’ scorecard to determine the clear cut winner, or so we thought…

MotorcycleUSA Staff