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Upgrading from a 150cc commuter bike: Which motorcycle on a 4L budget

I can afford to run a machine that gives above 20kmpl, is priced under 4.5L (don't want to finance the purchase) and should be serviced under 10k per year on an average.

BHPian kedar3223 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

A short background - I've been riding 2 wheelers for around a decade now. I currently ride a 150cc commuter that does the duty as my ride to office (about 50kms to and fro, on narrow countryside roads) and doubles up as my weekend warrior. Apart from the daily commute, my bike sees monsoon rides to waterfalls (with some last mile trails), weekend hangouts on the outskirts and a few (3-4 per year) 1000-1500km tours spread over 4 5 days.

Need for upgrade - my current bike is close to a decade old. It has been a great companion but I have outgrown it in terms of my capabilities with what's on offer. The bike continues to be fuss free for my commutes but is found lacking during the tours and joy rides. It's time for an upgrade/2nd bike.

About me - I'm 170cm tall, around 65kg. I would term myself as a enthusiastic but defensive rider. I value a bike that has good suspension, braking and something that can do 7/10 8/10 of its performance limit all day long. I find myself doing highway cruise at around 100-120kmph and sparsely populated village roads at 70 kmph. Off roading for me takes a lot of concentration and I'm usually borderline scared.

Limitations - Tall motorcycles are a bit difficult for me to handle in parking/tricky off-road/bumper to bumper traffic scenarios. Never really got an opportunity to ride a tall bike for extended amount of time and scenarios to see if I'm able to adjust myself. This has resulted in me not wanting to get a tall bike for daily commutes.

Financial situation - I can afford to run a machine that gives above 20kmpl, is priced under 4.5L (don't want to finance the purchase) and should be serviced under 10k per year on an average. Time wise, I would prefer annual or bi annual service schedules (I would be doing around 1300-1500kms a month)

What I would love to do motorcycling wise in the near future:

  • Tour in relatively more comfort and with better safety.
  • Learn a bit of off-road riding techniques.
  • Tour/commute with a significant other in a year or so.

Bikes I've test ridden/are being considered:

Naked/roadsters

  1. Ktm Duke 250.
  2. Ktm Duke 390.
  3. Triumph Speed 400.
  4. Upcoming RE roadster 450

Scrambler / ADV

  1. Ktm adventure x/std.
  2. 2025 adventure 390.
  3. Triumph scrambler 400x
  4. RE Himalayan 450
  5. Xpulse 200 4v.

I have a few permutations that I can go for:

  1. Keep my 150cc as my commuter and get a tall ADV/scrambler bike to learn/tour. If it works awesome, else I would have to take a hit and sell off the bike.
  2. Keep my 150cc as commuter and hone my skills on a xpulse 200 4v. Upgrade to a single bike after 2 years as per the outcome. Though this seems logical, it also means that I'm stuck with low powered machines for a long time.
  3. Sell my bike, buy a naked/roadster (Duke 390) and be done with it. Keep the thinking to another day.
  4. Sell my bike, buy a naked/roadster (Duke 250/speed 400) under 3L and get a used xpulse/411 to learn off road riding.
  5. Sell my bike, buy a naked/roadster (Duke 250/390/speed) and get 2nd ADV / scrambler a few years later if need be. Not sure if the off road 'keeda' will survive till then.

My impressions of the bikes:

  • KTM Duke 250- lovely machine, constant and minute buzz but no harshness. Chassis, brakes and tires were excellent. Suspension was firm but pliant, crashing only on sharpest of bumps. Loved the size and where my head is placed relative to the front of the bike. Excellent quick shifter. A little lacking while climbing slopes when in a gear too high. Cruises well at 100-110, 120 too is nice and smooth but the engine note makes it presence felt.
  • KTM Duke 390- very buzzy at lower rpms. Did not like the asthmatic sort of sensation around 3-4k rpm before it wakes up. Mad, ballistic and superlative beyond that. Goes like a sting, cruises effortlessly till 130(max i dared check). Suspension adjustability had a good range. Not a fan of the color scheme mostly the orange wheels(can live with it though). Quickshifter didn't work smoothly the first time and had failed completely on the latest test ride. Is this a know issue?
  • Triumph Speed 400- felt similar to d250 only faster and way more torquey. The d250 had constant mild buzz but the speed is buttery smooth at low/mid revs but felt harsh at higher revs. Loved the heft and build finish. Looks classy but a little meh, but I guess it would age the best. Missed the quickshifter.
  • Upcoming RE roadster 450- unknown

Scrambler/ADV

  • Ktm adventure x/std- tall, I'm on my tippy toes. Engine woke up only after 5k rpm. Quickshifter was not working well. Loved the riding stance and space. I guess it's a no brainer for 2 up touring. Plus point is the light weight. But then given that the Duke's have just 1.5cm less gc and 2cm less suspension travel, this didn't feel like a sensible choice.
  • 2025 Adventure 390- expecting great things from this after tasting the d390.
  • Triumph Scrambler 400x- I'm on the balls of my feet. A speed that felt little cumbersome but more rugged. Great riding stance and presence. This felt like the most well rounded single bike to own. But then again, given that the GC and suspension travel is similar to the Duke's, not sure if the compromise is worth the supposed gain in off road ability.
  • RE Himalayan 450- leaning tower of Pisa. Was a shocker when I tried to nonchalantly lift the bike off the side stand. Didn't get a good enough test ride to form an opinion. Engine felt very KTMish but would get above the 4th gear during the test ride.
  • Xpulse 200 4v- felt like I could learn a thing or 2 on this. Great suspension, if not for the tube tire would have been my choice of commuter as well.

Queries:

  • For someone who likes to keep his bike/car for long, does it make sense to compromise on getting the best available naked/roadster(outright equipment and performance-duke390) to get a slightly compromised but equally capable bike (Duke 250/speed400) to accommodate a used xpulse within the budget?
  • Considering touring, what kind of difference can I expect between a 400cc naked/street naked vs an ADV / scrambler? Can street bikes be accessories with windshield and luggage racks to make them equally capable?
  • Most importantly, am I fantasising off road riding and advs? Is the 2cm extra gc on scrambler/current adv390 worth the hassle? Only the xpulse and Himalayan have 200+ gc with the xpulse being manageable. The Himalayan with the stock seat felt very top heavy. Not sure how much mud bashing I would do on a 4L 200kg machine.
  • As per current test rides, I love the way the 250 duke and speed 400 felt over the Duke 390. It was mostly to do with the low end fueling. Is this due to my lack of experience? Going by popular mantra, will I outgrow these linearly performing bikes and yearn for a duke 390 a year or two down the line?
  • Anyone who's ridden the Duke 250, Duke 390 and Speed 400 extensively, what's your take?

Here's what BHPian ajay0612 had to say on the matter:

As an all rounder bike, my suggestion would be Speed 400 or 400x (it should not feel too tall to you).

As they cost less than KTMs and are not as edgy, they will age well and you can spend the savings on quality accessories (tail rack, top box, fly screen, tank bag, rechargeable pump, paddock stand, etc.) and safety equipment.
It does most things what KTM 390 can do, but in a tad mellower and relaxed manner. Why spend more on a depreciating asset?

Personally I own Speed 400 and enjoying every moment with it.

Here's what BHPian shancz had to say on the matter:

The 250 Duke is an outlier, a Duke unlike the Duke. KTM should disown it and paint it black  On a serious note its an excellent motorcycle across.

With recent updates I would either go with the 400X or the 250 Duke as a single bike garage. Check MotorInc's YouTube channel for related videos.

Here's what BHPian Harikrishnan_13 had to say on the matter:

There is always a great bike being launched in the next quarter. So I would recommend not waiting for the purchase but going in with what is available in the market. The only exception to this is when we KNOW for a fact that something great is being launched at our price point within one or two months.

With your criteria I would recommend a test ride of the Himalayan 450. Duke 250 is a sweet bike but 390 as it stands is really aggressive and may not make a great commuter. Speed400 and scrambler 400 are both brilliant fit and finish wise and would also be good city bikes.

Lastly, I would always recommend single bike ownership instead of multiple bikes unless you are having a litre class or atleast a 650+ cc bike since they make rather poor commuters. Simple reason is the cost of ownership (insurance, service cost, parts cost all double) and the fact that most of us don't put too many miles on our odo even with a single bike, so splitting them between two machines doesn't really make much sense.

Here's what BHPian pv5 had to say on the matter:

As for the vibrations in speed 400, may be others can vouch for it as well, it melts away beyond 120, may be it is the wind etc. YMMV. It makes for a great 80-100 bike, with enough juice in 6th gear to make a spritely overtakes at 120/130.

Its a great package for daily commute and weekend breakfast rides or for doing a night ride on bypass roads & outer ring roads.

Since you are looking for some oomph factor & also there is enough bandwidth w.r.t. pricing, why not look at a few exotic twin cylinders(Kawasaki, Yamaha & Aprilia) and then take a call? You can go for used if you are very keen on the number or save up in the next few months and buy the bike you really enjoy.

As many will attest, the anticipation & delayed gratification is one of the best feeling you can get & will make you enjoy the bike even more.

Read BHPian comments for more insights and information.

 
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