Could MPG Alone Get You On A 250 Cruiser?

At $4/Gallon It Might Be Time To Look Closely At These 250s

Did you ever wonder why there isn't a readily accessible source of motorcycle fuel economy figures? Although every four-wheeled vehicle on Earth is extensively probed by government and private agencies to determine their MPG to the inch-ounce, the best sources you can find of motorcycle fuel economy are anectodal. Most of the manufacturers don't even discuss MPG figures!

Why? Because motorcycle fuel economy is abysmal. Sure, you can get 80 MPG or so by easy cruising on a 125, but try to ride anything much larger than that (or weigh more than a scrawny student) and your fuel economy will plummet. You might even see 100 MPG on a 50cc scooter, but I'd likely break a scooter in half if I sat on one.

Many one litre sport bikes will only return about 25 MPG and that's if you don't crank them. And how many sport bikes are used for sober, laid-back cruising? 25 MPG for an engine that only has to propel two wheels and one person down a highway is inexcusable. My rusty old Bronco II SUV has a 2.9L V6 and I'm getting exactly 27.5 miles per US gallon of unleaded regular. There's enough metal in my Bronco to make at least a dozen motorcycles. So why are bikes such gas-hogs?

The onus on motorcycle marketing and development has always been on performance. Sport bikes are tuned within an inch of their lives to produce the best power-to-weight ratio this side of a missile silo. Cruiser bikes are set up to deliver ungodly gobs of torque so that the rider feels that trademarked "mighty heave" taking off from a stoplight. When was the last time you saw a motorcycle ad that stressed economical commuting? They're all about doing wheelburns and carving around corners so far leaned over that the handlebars are scraping the ground.

The manufacturers in the American markets have almost been embarrassed by their smaller offerings, touting them as “entry-level” so that you can learn to ride before buying one of their “real” bikes.

With gas prices heading north of $4 a gallon, that might just be a marketing strategy that requires urgent revision. There are a lot of people just like me that would be very happy to plunk down their hard earned cash for a motorcycle that:

1) Fit a real-sized American adult.

2) Had reasonable cruiser styling and ergonomics.

3) Didn't cost as much as a small car.

4) Returned 75 MPG+.

When these factors are keyed into the CosmicMotorcycleComputer, nothing really comes out as a perfect match. The closest are the current cruiser models in the 250 class but none of them really hits the mark. Almost every manufacturer offers their version of a quarter-litre cruiser but they're really nothing to get overly excited about. The Chinese-originated ones are largely cheesy and have the life expectancy of a gnat; the Korean ones feature bizarro styling and embarrassing names; and the Japanese ones are mostly rehashes of the exact same model they were selling in 1976. Of the Japanese, Kawasaki isn't even offering a 2007 250 Cruiser, which I think speaks volumes about how important this market segment isn't. At least not yet.

Most of these 250s will return about 65 MPG at a nice easy 60 mph on a level road and it would help if you had a tailwind. In general mixed city/highway use, you'll likely see around 40-45 MPG unless you have a very gentle throttle hand. If you place two sizeable American butts on the seat or try to wring these bikes out to 70+ mph you'll see your fuel consumption skyrocket. I'm not even sure the Chinese Virago-clones can hit 70 mph!

However, there is simply no way that I'm going to go drop five figures at my local motorcycle dealer for some behemoth bike that gets worse gas mileage than my SUV, so with the ever escalating gas prices, we may be forced to look at the 250cc class. I can't say I'm overly excited.

With a bulky engine that simulates a Ducati 900, this Kymco Venox at least looks the part of a real cruiser. In the engine bay only, however.
With a bulky engine that simulates a Ducati 900, this Kymco Venox at least looks the part of a real cruiser. In the engine bay only, however.
The only real styling success in the field, the Vento V-Thunder wraps some very impressive cosmetics around the cheesy unreliable Chinese Virago-clone lump.
The only real styling success in the field, the Vento V-Thunder wraps some very impressive cosmetics around the cheesy unreliable Chinese Virago-clone lump.
Hyosung Aquila proves the point that Korean stylists really don't quite grasp the Cruiser Aesthetic yet.
Hyosung Aquila proves the point that Korean stylists really don't quite grasp the Cruiser Aesthetic yet.
My high-school girlfriend rode a Honda Twinstar 185 in the '70s that was basically the same bike as this Rebel 250. The motor is based on the 1967 CD175! 40 years is too long to keep cranking out the same bike. Shame on you, Honda!
My high-school girlfriend rode a Honda Twinstar 185 in the '70s that was basically the same bike as this Rebel 250. The motor is based on the 1967 CD175! 40 years is too long to keep cranking out the same bike. Shame on you, Honda!
The Suzuki GZ is a competent quarter-litre, but with restrained faux-Cruiser styling and that dirt thumper engine, it's a bit of a miss.
The Suzuki GZ is a competent quarter-litre, but with restrained faux-Cruiser styling and that dirt thumper engine, it's a bit of a miss.
If you're going to buy a Virago engine, might as well get the original. Yamaha's V-Twin is the basis for all Chinese twin clones.
If you're going to buy a Virago engine, might as well get the original. Yamaha's V-Twin is the basis for all Chinese twin clones.
This Lifan is not just cloned from the Yamaha Virago above, it's photocopied! However, keep in mind that they didn't xerox the reliability. The Chinese clone motors are well-known to be overly fragile.
This Lifan is not just cloned from the Yamaha Virago above, it's photocopied! However, keep in mind that they didn't xerox the reliability. The Chinese clone motors are well-known to be overly fragile.



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Comments 72 comments

EDSdroid 9 years ago

Look at a BMW F650. It's a standard (actually rather enduro-like) and the fuel injected versions get over 70 mpg at commuter speeds, while still managing 85 mph freeways with plenty of passing power in reserve. Not cheap, not quiet, definitely not a cruiser, but a very good ride.

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Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

Hi, EDSdroid. I really love that Rotax engine in the F650. I would be absolutely ecstatic if Beemer pulled a Suzuki Savage and wrapped that lovely thumper in a cruiser version where at least I would stand a fighting chance of getting both feet on the ground. I'd need a stepladder to get on that F650! :)

Peter Fritsch 9 years ago

The problem I have with these bikes is my commute is a constant 75mph and these bikes just don't go that fast safely. What is the best bike fuel economy wise that can handle these speeds? Anyone know? My best guess is like a honda/yamaha type street cruiser around 500cc, also the more recent models seem to have better economy. Also, there is a fuel economy guide at a website called something like, just search "motorcycle fuel economy" on google and it is the first thing that comes up. It is far from complete and alot of info comes from owners, so the info could be inaccurate, but it is what i have been using.

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Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

Total Motorycle's MPG figures are about as unscientific as any volunteer poll can be, but they're likely in the ballpark. There really isn't any other comprehensive site of motorcycle MPG information which is really a stunning revelation in these days of energy-efficiency. Personally, I wouldn't really be comfortable on the highway at 75 mph on anything short of an 800 V-twin and unfortunately their average fuel economy is nothing to get excited about. I did the East Coast to West Coast and back trip once on a 750 Yamaha Triple, and that was just barely enough bike to handle it.

Kzac Hawk 9 years ago

I disagree with the comments about fuel mileage. I have owned many bikes and driven them with many different attitudes, just to see how they would perform. My 600RR sport bike always returnd mileages in the 45 - 50 mpg range, even when pushed hard. My XS 1100s always were in the 42 - 48 mpg range, My 650 turbo was always in the high 30s to low 40s, even the XS 1100 would return 32 mpg when driven very hard.

So I don't understand the 25 mph comments for sport bikes. Many of the folks at work ride R1s and they are in the high 30s to low 40s. I would agree that all my encounters with carburetor manged fuel systems were bested in fuel mileage by fuel injection managed fuel systems.

Now on to the bike comments. I have ridden 250 cc motorcycles and have found them lacking in the control and breaking departments. Additionally a very lignt and poorly powered bike like a 250 is very dangerous on major highways and innerstates. Entry level 400 - 600 machines have the chassis, brakes, and engine to provide a decent, safe experience for most motorcycle riding.

I did consider a Virago 250 as I saw fuel prices rise past $3 per gallon with no end in sight. but a few miles on a 250 had me setteling for a 650 instead. Now I have enough mass to cruse on the Highway and I can keep up with 70mph traffic. I have no regrets about loosing the slight fuel mileage for the gain in safety. Next I would like to try one of the big scooters, and compare them to my bike.

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Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

Hi, Kzac Hawk. You make some excellent points, and my experience with my own coast to coast to coast to coast XS1100 bears your figures out. I tend to be an "easier" rider than most so I tend to squeeze a couple of extra MPG out of anything I ride, regardless we are right in the ballpark. The sports bike figures in the twenties come mostly from Total Motorcycle and also from some of my own seat of the pants experience. The 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1 that I came within about two and a half seconds of setting a new course record at Mosport was returning close to 30 MPG on the general running around, but fell to 20 MPG at the track. That is not unusual, especially when we consider that it was hauling my considerable bulk around the race course and that I was literally riding the wheels clean off of it.

I don't know if I would have the cojones to get on a 250 twin and head out on the Interstate. Not only because I'd look like a beach ball on a bicycle, but I really wouldn't feel safe at all. As for the larger scooters, I've had the chance to take the 650 Burgman and the 600 Silverwing out for a spin and came back ashen-faced. I may be used to having a gas tank between my legs, and I'm sure that accounted for much of my difficulties in deriving some confidence inspiring handling out of those things, but the small wheels really add to an amazing sense of instability and the feeling that the center of gravity is somewhere around your helmet. That is WAY too much power to be putting into a small-wheeled stepthrough and you won't be seeing any of them in my garage anytime soon. Besides, given the engineering implemented, I can't see why a 650 Burgman would have significantly different gas mileage than an SV650. Even though the SV is ugly as hell (yes, we're having a real fun flame war over on my Top 10 Ugliest Bikes Hub with irate SV riders), I'd still would take it well over a Burgman with that frightening space between my knees!

vulcanSteve 9 years ago

I bought a new Kawasaki Vulcan 500 in March 2007 and I've been tracking my mileage for every tank. I commute 22 miles to work every day and average about 54 mpg doing that. In June I went down to the Florida Keys and back (1300 miles round trip) and got about 52 mpg. But during that trip I discovered that going 85 mph for two hours got me 45 mpg. During the 500 mile "break-in" period, I kept it under 45 mph just like they told me to. I got 61 mpg then, so I know it can be done. My point is, I think that the reason that there isn't published figures is the huge variability based on riding style. I researched the Kawasaki 500, Yamaha 650, and Honda 600 and 750. It turns out that my 500 has more balls than any of the others, and gets better mpg at the same time. And from articles I've read, it could go heads up with many 800 to 1000cc cruisers.

Now, about the other topics: I'm 6'-0" and the Vulcan's pegs are just a little close for me on long trips. And Kawasaki has been making this bike (previously the 454 ltd) for a long long time. The engine is used on the 500 Ninja too. I love my bike, but it's time for Japan to make something new. 

My 2.4 liter Toyota Camry gets 29 mpg , I think my 1/2 liter kawasaki should get 100 to 120 mpg.

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Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

I am aware that the Kawi 500 is a gutsy bike, but the fuel mileage it's getting is in line with the other bikes. You are absolutely right that you should be getting 100+ mpg mileage. The fuel mileage on most motorcycles these days is much lower than it should be. The defunct and lamented (by MPG enthusiasts) Geo Metro XFI's mileage is significantly better than your Kawi 500!

brewminator 9 years ago

My Honda 600 VLX routinely averages between 53-55MPG when commuting in stop-n-go traffic to work. On long rides I have reached 59MPG if I keep it at 65MPH.

I have made several trips on the Interstate in excess of 120 miles hauling a large dufflebag and cooler and it performs just fine up to 70MPH - though I wouldn't recommend it for trips longer than that.

I bought it used a year ago with 22,000 miles and have racked up 12,000 miles of my own. I live in Georgia and rode it year-round. I have ridden this thing to camping trips hauling a tent, cooler, stove and I have strapped a 4cu foot bag of peat moss coming home from the hardware store. I routinely pick up my 200lb son from school on the way home from work. (Yeah, I know it looks strange.) There isn't much I haven't used this bike for. If it could tow my camper I would sell my pickup truck.

I added a plexifairing windshield so I don't know what my mileage would be if I took the windshield off. I'm 6'2"/190 pounds and have loaded it up with bags and still get about the same mileage. The biggest factor affecting my mileage seems to be the MPH and stop/go traffic.

I have considered getting a 250 for the improved MPG, but I believe it would limit my uses to just commuting.

To be honest, I have considered getting the new Kawasaki 900 in order to take longer trips. I know two guys that have one and they routinely get 45MPG. Even at $4 per U.S. gallon, the difference is $161 per year for the 12,000 miles I ride.

charlie burkholtz 9 years ago

it amazes me how an article on 250 cruiser gas milage morphed into 500 to 1100cc comments. but that's okay, i learned bunches from all the comments. i'm gonna disagree with some of this stuff with the understanding that my quarter liter chinese v-twin only has about 2000 miles on it. i bought it because the 155cc scooter i owned just didn't cut the mustard. i'm 6'7" 312# so i guess i was really dreaming when i bought the scooter. i commute about 10 miles a day and spend many obligatory "gotta kill some bugs with my face" moments on this cute little bike. fuel economy is consistant at 97 to 102 KPG. near as i can figure that's about 80-85 MPG even with my overly large butt astride (guess you can say all the miles accumulated so far have been 2 up miles). handles well, rides well and will do 65-70 mph without strain. only complaint so far is availability of parts and accessories. even though it is a virago clone, the local yamaha dealership doesn't stock alot of stuff. been waiting on a clutch lever for 2 weeks now(it walked out from under me during a burnout-go figure(did i mention that i'm 61 going on 16). the only thing that remains to be seen is how it holds up over time and miles.

Jesse 9 years ago

I just bought a Lifan LF250 because I couldn't yet afford a Virago 250 and all the stuff I need to ride comfortably and legally. I was actually looking for something in the "previously owned" 350-450cc category, which should get me in the mid-to-high 70s on mpg; however, my best friend told me about his Suzuki GZ250 Marauder that returned 84 mpg and propelled him to speeds significantly above legal (70 mph) Interstate limts. He is 6'1" and 250 lbs; I'm 5'10" and roughly 260 lbs -- so I figure he and I should be at least in the same ballpark on fuel economy. I'm sick of $60-75 fillups and 21 mpg. I commute at least 75 miles per day -- and as much as 3 times that distance if I go shopping or have errands, etc. The bike will pay for itself in fuel savings over a couple of years, at which time I will probably be able to sell it for a significant fraction of what I gave for it (and perhaps then upgrade to a real Yamaha).

Xavier Rodriguez 9 years ago

I own a VENTO V-THUNDER 250cc for over a year now. It is a great bike if you do not forget it is a $4000 bike. I just finished a 2100 miles ride with my wife and myself on that 250cc bike and it was perfect. We had an average speed of 65 mph and top speed of 75 mph. Just remember it is not a $16000 Harley, it is a $4000 bike and should be treated as one

Chopdoc 9 years ago

I have to wonder if Hal has ever ridden a motorcycle.

"The Chinese clone motors are well-known to be overly fragile."

Actually, just the opposite. The motors are well known to be quite stout. The rest of the bikes are questionable, but hardly the motors.....especially from Lifan.

"My high-school girlfriend rode a Honda Twinstar 185 in the '70s that was basically the same bike as this Rebel 250. The motor is based on the 1967 CD175! 40 years is too long to keep cranking out the same bike. Shame on you, Honda! "

Why has Honda continued to build on success? Because their designs and quality are superior in general. As for the little CMX250C really need to look again. The whole lineage of that motor has been a monsterous success. Twinstar? Great bike.

Yoy jump all over the industry for their marketing and mileage etc....and then criticise them for selling the EXACT bikes that answer your questions!


jay gunn 9 years ago

is this guy an idiot?! i'm really doubting he's ever riden a 250cc bike in his life, because for some reason he thinks they get better milage on the highway than in the city. it's the reverse!

stop-n-go is where 250 bikes shine in then MPG department. i check my rebel's milage every fill up, and i average 80mpg in the city, with 97mpg being my best (driving with a light hand) and 72 being my worst (late for work).

i can't believe he thought they would get around 45mpg! what the heck? going full throttle with two ridders and luggage at 74mph i still get 60mpg!

it's no conspiracy by big companies to give motorcycles terrible highway milage. it's called PHYSICS. motorcycles, ALL motorcycles are as areodynamic as a shoebox, and the only way around it would be to have a rigid, full enclosure system, and i'm not sure i would like that.

david lee 9 years ago

If North Americans weren't so damn fat, they'd get far better fuel economy.

If a motorcycle manufacturer shaves 20 kg off the weight of one of their models, it's greeted with a hallelujah ... yet the riders are often carrying 40 kg + of extra weight right up high.

I know I'm sort of trolling, but I'm also obviously and verifiably telling the truth.

Charles White 9 years ago

I ride a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster and have monitered my highway mileage at 60mpg. I keep it at seventy mph and have added a Yost Power Tube (jet) in the carb. No other modifications have been made. Considering the various sizes of HD's, they tend to get better mileage due to having a single carb and the injected versions seem to do a little better om fuel.

Chad Gertler 9 years ago

Good discusion. If everone keeps talking about it maybe the manufacurers will listen! I bought a Kawasaki Ninja 250 this fall. It's suppose to get 70+MPG. I haven't broken it in yet and haven't checked. But it seems to be a very nice ride. I had a Buell 1200 when they first came out and I got 55MPG. Not bad for 1200cc.

Someone needs to produce a conservative, economical, and practical motorcycle for those who want to commute not look cool or speed on.

Jay Scholten 8 years ago

I owmn a 2000 Suzuki GZ250, I love the fuel mileage at about 85mpg there is nothing to complain about there. But ergenomics are another thing. I am 6' 220# and cannot sit comfotably in this bike for more than 15 miles. I am currently looking for a replacement but still want good mileage. My wife at 5'2" fits perfect on this bike and can handle it very well, so it will be her bike for now. I thought about the Vento V-Thunder but have yet to see one in person and want to see how it feels under seat before making any decisions....

Doclariv 8 years ago

I have a 2002 model virago 250. I can say for sure is that despite comments to the contrary, this bike goes plenty fast on the highway and gets great mileage. I haven't had to tap into my reserve tank yet because I don't feel like pulling over to flip to reserve. I have a mixed city/highway commute with highway speeds ranging from 70-80 MPH. City is very stop and go and as of my last fill up, I am at 120 Miles on the trip odo and not into the reserve yet. Since I have a 2.6 gallon tank, the .6 being reserve, I am getting a minimum of 60 MPG. I am very heavy handed on the throttle.

I am sure that some more upshifts at lower speeds and a little more conservative driving put me into a realistic 80 MPG. That being said, I feel comfortable on the higway. The bike is light but safe. The handling is ok. If you are looking for a cheap bike that gets good gas mileage buy this. I bought mine used with 3000 miles for 1800 dollars, changed the oil to a good motorcycle synthetic and cleaned the air filter. Runs perfect.

I am taking it on a 140 mile highway trip tomorrow going about 75 the whole way, I expect to use about 5 gallons of gas round trip for a total of 15 dollars for 280 miles of driving. Well worth it for those of us who don't feel like filling up all the time. There is no better feeling than paying under 6 dollars to fill up with regular at the pump, take my word for it. I am going to post my highway mileage when I return.

Phil 8 years ago

I just bought a 2001 Suzuki GZ250. On gravel with a bit of stop and go I averaged 62 mpg. I used to drive a Suzuki Swift car that, if I babied it, would get 55 mpg. I think most motorcycles today should be able to get much better fuel economy.

Mark 8 years ago

I road for several years when I was young (17 yrs ago) and quit. I started up again and wanted something nice looking, respectable, and with quality! I ended up buying a 2004 Yamaha Virago 250, 1150 miles, for $2100.00. The bike is beautiful, has been mistaken for a 500 to 600cc bike LOL!

Now to get to the point... The bike was great in town, hated the mirrors, changed them out, enjoyed the low end torque. BUT... there was something missing. I was getting anywhere from 70 to 85mpg riding it liberally but I wanted a little umph! I started to research the engineering of the bike, stats, and what it lacked against the competition. I created a hole through the baffle and gutted the intake (I know, what were you thinking!). Well, taking advantage of being a 3rd generation engineer and rider, I managed to get the bike up to 95+ mph on the highway and getting about 60 - 65mpg. That is riding the bike hard but it handled it without an issue. To dig a little deeper, I am 5'9, 175lbs (good condition, LOL!), before the free mods the bike dies at 65mph as stated, after the FMs, at 70-75mph I could down shift into 4th and get up to 85mph even in a head wind, though, when I shift into 5th, it dies in the head wind because 5th is geared to high in comparison to HP/Torque, but you need 5th to get the gas mileage, so I decided to ride off the draft of other vehicles to see if this would change, it did! I am looking to install a Yost power tube for it, not sure if it will be a good idea...

Now if you dont mind what you ride, the Kawasaki 250 is really a nice bike. The wife wanted a crotch rocket, so I got her one. Defintely a fun bike, not as good on gas (55mpg) but has the ass to get you through highway traffic.

Bottomline, the Americans built Japan back up after WWII, and they instilled our quality that now, at times, we lack. Japanese bikes are good, Harleys are nice, but if a group of individuals invest in an inexpensive, quality bike, that fits the dollar conscience person, they will be rich!

Chrys 8 years ago

I'm riding a Virago 250 - I'm 5'5" and weigh 250 lbs. It gets about 70mpg in the winter (I ride when there's no ice and above freezing) and 90 in the summer. I don't baby it and there is no flat ground here. Bought it used with 3000 miles on it. Now has 10,000. It struggles with 75 mph on the uphill in 5th, but otherwise gives me what I want. This bike is nothing like the bikes I rode in the 70s. It's comfortable, sits low to the ground, and is balanced. I, too, am often asked if it's a bigger bike. I do the interstate, but I'm a little insane in that department. Also bought a 650 Vstar that I drove from GA to PA. It gets 55 to 60 mpg and has all the power I need (not all I want). It's heavy enough to ride on the interstate and not get blown around. I've put about 7000 miles on it in the past 8 months. It has just over 10,000, also. They aren't Harley 1250s, but they only cost $3000 apiece and they get good mileage especially all the local running I have to do.

Ron 8 years ago

I agree that it is ridiculous that motorcycles are getting lousy MPGS for their size and weight.

According to, some internet serching and anecdotal comments on this forum the bikes that get the best gas mileage are:

Honda Nighthawk 250 70 mpg

Yamaha Virago 250 70 mpg

Kawasaki Ninja EX250R 72 mpg

Honda Rebel 250 50 - 80 mpg

Suzuki GZ 250 82 mpg

Lifan LF 250 90 mpg

But enough of this small potatoes stuff, how about 256 MPG!!! Now that's more like it.

I can't account for the accuracy though.

Here's an LA Times article on the subject:

episty 8 years ago

You need to lobby Honda to import the CG125. 100 mpg. Unavailable in the USA.

Brian in St. Louis 8 years ago

I've got to say that this author seriously had to have MADE UP most of these mileage figures ... 25mpg? I've owed many of these bikes, and they may actually get only 25mpg, but that would be at track event!! Ride these on the street, at legal velocities, and the bikes he is talking about are getting 35-50mpg... How about you take your PRIUS to the track and keep the go pedal SMASHED for 4 hours... lets see your fuel mileage then - and we'll use that value as the apples-to-apples comparison for the values in this article.

Matt 8 years ago

Brian is right. These figures weren't compared correctly.

Personally, the only motorcycle I've owned that got 25mpg was an 87 Yamaha FZX700 with MAJOR carb issues. It was constantly blowing smoke because it ran so rich.

Since then I've owned a Yamaha Roadstar 1600 which constantly awarded me 45-49 mpg (not bad for a 700lb cruiser with a 5 gal tank and more power than you'd ever need), and a Yamaha FZ1 that gets me from 35-45mpg. I only get 35mpg out of it when I flog it and I'm constantly on the throttle, and this is a bike that can rocket me to 160mph with ease.

I would never consider one of these little crap cruisers. Why not look into getting a new 250-450 dualsport? They have some of those nifty supermoto bikes out with street tires which would outpower/outhandle/outbrake any of these 250 cruisers and be a heck of a lot more fun (and cool, too!).

Also, while Kawasaki might not offer a 250 cruiser, the writer failed to mention that they offer some of the best beginner bikes on the market - the Ninja 250 and 500 - both of which return excellent fuel mileage and have GREAT reliability.

Bob 8 years ago

The point is, if my 2000lb + civic 1.6Litre can get 40-50mpg, then certainly a 300lb bike with < 1L engine, hauling around one person should be able to maintain mileage in direct proportion to that. They don't. They could be made more efficient.

John 8 years ago

I can't believe no one has mentioned the Buell Blast - at 500cc and 70 MPG think it's the best option available now.

J. R. 8 years ago

I'm 350+ and commute 19 miles each way to work, mostly surface streets, mostly at 55 mph to work in the morning, 45 mph home in the afternoon (more traffic). I get 75-82 MPG on my Virago 250. I have taken the little guy on the freeway a few times but I think the prevailing 75 MPH traffic flow is too much for it to sustain for more than a few miles. For freeway riding, I prefer the Virago 1100 which gets a solid 45 MPG at 75 MPH. I'd like to see more 500 cc models in a cruiser feel (only the Vulcan presently) but I may also look at the Aero 750 when it's time to let the little guy go. I've heard they get about 50 MPG. Let me know if you find something with more biscuits than the 250 Virago that can deliver 80 MPG with a relaxed riding position, I'd sure like to see one.

MarkC 8 years ago

I have a 2008 Virago 250. I ride 43 miles to work one way mixed riding of highway 65mph and stop and go traffic. I am 5'7" and weigh 245. The bike has no problem with 65mph speed and averages 70 miles to the gallon. If I stay around town or on back roads and never go above 45mph I get 80 miles to the gallon

allpapajohn 8 years ago

While I don't ride a cruiser I do ride a litre V-twin. I have a 98 TL1000R. I wring its neck. And still get at least 45 MPG. I mean once I get over 7000 RPMs the second injectors kick in. I tend to keep it in that range most of the time. Unless I am just hiway riding then I will go to 6th. Now my wife rides a ninja 250 and it gets on its worst tank of fuel 55 MPG. And I have been able to ride 2 up and go 60+ MPH. Get a clue dude.

JS 8 years ago

Well I own a CBR600RR and a Yamaha Fz6. The FZ6 gets around 45mpg and the CBR gets around 35MPG. Those figures are with me pinning the throttle.

Jeff 8 years ago

Thanks to everyone above. Nothing better than to hear it first-hand from people who ride. Any comments on the Hyosung GV250 as far as MPG and dependability? I'm torn between the Hyosung GV250 and the Yamaha Virago 250. The motorcycle will be used primarily for city commutes of about 25 miles a day. I would like the flexibility though to use it for occasional short trips on the interstate. Thanks.

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Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

No comparison on the reliability front between the Hyosung and the Yamaha, Jeff. Hands down the Virago wins due to its generally bullet-proof nature. I know of a 250 Virago with over 100,000 miles and it's still humming.

Greg 8 years ago

Some of you may have forgotten the Piaggio BV 500 scooter. It gets at least 62 mpg and will hold highway speeds all day.

Steve 8 years ago

The Buell Blast does get fantastic mileage. I used to have another 500cc single-cylinder bike, the Honda GB500 and also got 60 mpg+ riding hard. Singles like these are very efficient. I would guess that only having one cylinder and related hardware reduces friction in relation to displacement. They are also great at low-end torque.

I also used to have an 883 Sportster and don't think I ever got less than 50 mpg on a tank. Believe me, I know because the tank only held 2.2 gallons so I always had to keep an eye on my range! The Blast uses essentially one cylinder from the Sportster motor... seems that pushrod motors are actually quite efficient from a fuel-economy standpoint, though not in terms of HP/liter in most cases. Even the Corvette with a pushrod 6L V8 gets over 25 mpg on the freeway.

I think many of the numbers here are out of whack. It's rare to find a motor scooter that gets >100 mpg, so I wouldn't expect a 250cc motorcycle to exceed that figure, but they are not where as inefficient as the article says. Don't forget that bikes also create less wear and tear on the roads and take up a lot less space when riding or parked.

Frank 8 years ago

I have a '99 Harley Sportster 883 which I use to commute and I get 45-58 MPG, depending on how I late I am getting to work. I'm 6'2, 220 and have a small faring on the bike. A coworker has a Piaggo 500 and just raves about it. He notes about 70 mpg, which falls above 75 mph

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Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

The Sportster has historically provided excellent fuel mileage, often at the top of its class. I'm not an engineer so I can't begin to explain why, but the pushrod hypothesis is as good as any. However, always remember that there are a myriad of reasons why MPG figures can vary wildly from bike to bike and rider to rider. A CB125 that is returning 90+ MPG when meekly driven by a high school cheerleader will plummet to half that when pressed hard by a 300 lb. linebacker.

gkll 8 years ago

People are pretty fussy, I think. Oil prices nor gas are going to be coming down, they are in fact going to continue to rise (with a blip here and there, try in time for the election wink wink) and expectations about what is 'acceptable' for the highway will change as oil eases toward $200 bbl....

I live in Alberta Canada and commute 65k one way to work, 2/3 highway. On a 2006 250 virago. Previous bike was a GSXR 750 so quite a change... anyways dump the AIS system (left pod) put a K+N on where the right pod was, punch out the exhaust, change the needle height and one step richer on the main and it will do an honest 140k, after regearing to make 4th equal to the old 5th. Obviously it reaches top speed in 4th at about 9k rpm, new 5th is overdrive only.

The good part is where the mileage improved with the mods, you can hold highway speed with less throttle and the new radically taller 5th is a useful overdrive. Before mods but with gearing only 5th needed too much throttle opening to make improved MPG. Imperial MPG last tank (commute but VERY careful driving) returned 104, that is about 86 mpg US, or 2.7 l/100k. Bike has taken me on 1500k plus trips with camping gear, through the mountains in some of the windiest country in North America. Get real and get with the gas situation gentlemen, I did.

My 2c

Steven DeZalia 8 years ago

i have to say you are way off. I just purchased a 2007 honda shadow spirit 750 and i am getting ~62mpg. my gf has an 81 honda cm400 and she gets about the same ~59mpg.

Wonderbird 8 years ago

I have a 2006 Honda CBR1000RR. Capable of some insane performance. Generally get about 43mpg as long as I keep the speed below triple digits. Even if I didn't it would still get high 30s... (If you flog the sport bikes really hard on the track a skilled rider can drop them into the 20s for MPG but doing so on the street would probably get you put in jail or morgue...)

I am thinking of getting a thumper (dual sport Honda XL650R, Kawasaki KLR650, or a Suzuki DR### - They all are reported as being capable of sustaining highway speeds while still getting over 50mpg)

Ben 8 years ago

Ok whoever wrote this is a moron... a very large, more than likely obese, moron. I have a KLR250, its fun as hell to drive, its indestructable, can go anywhere, and its cheap (1800 bucks for an '02) I weigh 180lbs at 6'2"(Sorry excuse me for being healthy *ahem*) Heaven forbid this obese man + rider, burn some of his/her fat to lighten his potential motorcycles load. I get 60mpg easy having all the fun in the world driving it and parking it anywhere. I have taken it 90 MPH but usually keep it at 70ish so the power is there don't want to hear it. Do I mind being seen on a dualsport? I let the MPG do the talking if anyone tries to give me crap for it.

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Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

According to the extensive comparison of web and magazine test reported MPG figures found on the Kawasaki GPX250 gets 51 MPG (your KLR is not listed). However, if you baby your bike it is feasible that you get 60 MPG for it. Motorcycles are extremely sensitive to load, state of tune and riding style.

... and BTW, I may be fat, but you're ugly, and I can diet! :)

Lemiarty 8 years ago

I have a 2007 Honda Rebel 250. I weigh in at 225lbs without my biking gear (heavy leather jacket, etc) which was enough that I cranked the rear suspension up a notch. I would never carry another person on the bike as the weight max is only 350lbs which means the only people I could carry on the back would be one of my children which isn't going to happen.I've been averaging 74.5MPG since I started commuting on this bike (I was only getting 10mpg in my SUV). It's been fairly consistent even if I take the back roads and don't get on the freeway. Freeway, now there's another problem. At 70 MPH (10 miles over speed limit) I'm at roughly 80-85% throttle. There is not much additional power, though I have had the bike well over 75MPH (Max safe speed, so I hear) on flat ground and can pull the hills on my route and still maintain 70 MPH.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

Every 2005 Honda Virago ever built has an engine that falls out of the mounts.

Oh... ok... that's because if you try to fit a Virago engine into a Honda it won't go. :)

I'm having a bit of fun with you. There is no Honda Virago. But you may be referring to the Yamaha Virago and the Honda Shadow. Both of them are superlative motorcycles and should be at the top of the reliability charts!

shawn 8 years ago

heh. yeah i realized i accidentally typed in honda because i was also thinking about the rebel so i confused the two. anyway, would you recommend a new one or used? they seem fairly cheap new, a 2005 was going for like $3500 new? are there any real differences from 2001? it would be my first bike. i don't really like the idea of buying anything used but i also don't like the idea of dropping my bike or hitting something with it and ruining it either.

shawn 8 years ago

do you recommend the virago over the rebel? they look almost identical. just wondering which one is better overall.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

It really is a matter of preference. The Rebel has the 250 vertical twin engine which dates back to Honda's Benly days. It's hard to believe, but that engine was designed almost half a century ago and it's still going strong. The 250 Virago has a V-twin engine and you'll find that engine style is the choice of most cruising motorcycles all the way up to the gargantuan Kawasaki Vulcan 2000. Therefore, the differences will just be on whether you like most cruiser enthusiasts prefer a V-twin configuration, or if you're happy going with the older vertical twin. Both the 250 Virago and Rebel have little if any differences year to year so that the 2001 and 2005 models will be essentially identical to each other.

Niche Content profile image

Niche Content 8 years ago from BiContinental

I don't know much about bikes, but we had a Ducati dealership in our village. Those bikes were hella sexy.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

Ducks are hot bikes. I love 'em. Too bad they never made a righteous chopper! :)

Jesse 8 years ago

I commute 60 miles a day on Southern California freeways on a Kawasaki Ninja 250. I keep up with traffic and have no problem going 80+ to avoid close-your-eyes-and merge drivers

dave 8 years ago

i own a yamaha virago 250, and its absolutely bomb proof. maxes out at 135 kmh but with a few mods (bored out exhaust, intake and running on good oil and bp ultimate) ive hit 160kmh on a cold morning.

not many 250s can compare with that. and ill tell you now, its excellent on fuel. your not gona find a any bike for AU$6000 which gives you


-awsum mpg

-enough (not plenty, but enough) power for all riding

-decent good looks.

you just need to know how to tweak the beast and treat it rite ;)

John 8 years ago

I have had my 1995 Virago 250 for about 2.5 years, and have put about 20,000 miles on it. I love this bike. I consistantly get 80plus mpg average, and can easily get up into the 90smpg if I really take it easy(hypermiling). This is a great bike. It's fun and easy to ride, plenty of power for what I want to do(v-twin), enough mph for freeway comfortably for me (65mpg is easy), very reliable, and easy to maintain. I coulld not be more pleased with this bike.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

Hey, what can I say? 250s are great bikes that can suit the vast majority of riders who don't need a couple of litres of internal combustion between their legs to prove anything to anyone. And yes, my Harley is LONG gone. I miss it, but the age for those sorts of bikes is long gone!

Thriller954 8 years ago

Motorcycle MPG's aren't nearly as low as the writer believes. I have an 03 954RR and it returns 42mpg average every tank. And I hammer on it as much as I can. I agree the bikes don't get nearly as good as economy as they should but a litre bike doesn't get 25MPG.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

Check out

It's the definitive list of motorcycle MPG on the internet and (if I say so myself) the most accurate! :)

travis 7 years ago

i own a 2008 ninja 250, and it's by far the best 250 you could buy, period. liquid cooled, six gears, a 13k redline and a real top speed of 100mph, with a center stand and disk brakes in front AND rear, and the sticker price was $3000. almost all the cruiser 250s are air cooled, with a rear DRUM brake, top around 75mph and can't fit an average sized person, and had HIGHER sticker prices at the time!! The only bike BELOW the $3k mark at the time was the kawasaki eliminator 125.

having said that however, there are days that i STILL wish i'd considered the suzuki gz250 or the honda rebel a little more, because the riding position on the ninja is not very comfortable. i've put 12k miles on mine, and i still feel the strain in my lower back from the almost-sport riding position.

btw, i average 55-62 mpg. 70mpg on the ex250 simply does not seem possible. even when i top at 55mph for a whole week of commuting, i still only reach 62mpg.

thanks for the great article!

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Any of the 250 cruisers listed would make me puke in my helmet!

What the hell is a 250 cruiser anyway. Where would you cruise to? After 10 minutes on one of these I would prefer shanks pony!

There have been many good quarter litre rides over the years, but the ones on this hub are truly orrible.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Hey, you cruise on down to the high schools and check out the cheerleaders! I do that all the time, but I have to admit that the lingo of the youth these days has me a bit confused. Is: "Grampa Perv Beachball on a Minibike" a compliment? :)

Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

I would love to save money by riding a cruiser. But once you have kids things like that are the first to go, even if they do get great mileage.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Try a sidecar! Kids love 'em! :)

Gibran Rezavi 7 years ago

I have a 2000 Vulcan 808 for the past 9 years. With the exception of the occasionally organized runs, it is mostly short distance city riding in Chicago and hence only 5k miles. I think I may have made a mistake that when I first bought it, I installed Vans & Hines on them and I have never been able to get more than 35 MPG. Given Vulcan's small tank. I have to tank up with 3 gallons every 100 miles. It kinda sucks and is truly embarassing on the longer runs. On the other hand, it sounds great and feels like a much bigger and powerful bike. Can't really use a bike in Chicago to commute. One winter I rode it consistently with my winter gear (snow on the ground). Everyone thought I was nuts ! Good discussion guys !

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

The Vulcan 800 is a great bike and the perfect motorcycle for this day and age. More than enough grunt to keep anyone happy, solid engineering, and stunning looks. Personally, I'm in love with the Drifter version. Although I don't think I'd ride any bike in snow! You're a better man than I am, Gibran! :)

Nick B profile image

Nick B 7 years ago from Normandy, France

250's are underpowered and oversized, trying hard to be what their larger counterparts are and failing miserably.

Sure they have the looks, but like the 535 Yam Viagra-alike, it just doesn't have the performance to keep up with anything and as far as that's concerned, I would far prefer to be able to get out of something quicker than I got into it.

I can't fault the fact that you say these little machines will fit a full-sized human, but in order to keep up around town, you're going to be having to wang it most of the time and that's where the fuel economy goes down the swanny.

Having spent the last thirteen years commuting to work, I know that small engined cars are not really any more economical than the bigger ones and I know that to be true of bikes too.

Get a real bike and have done with it is what I say and try not to try and do the standing quarter off the lights every time they go green. That definitely keeps the consumption down...

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

By all means responsible riding habits can work wonders on getting the best MPG out of any motorcycle, but I do wonder how the vast majority of the world, such as Asia, Africa and South America manage having the average bike be around 125cc. If they can do it, we should be able to do it too! :)

jon neet 7 years ago

I have three motorcycles right now.My 2007 Royal Enfield 500 Bullit;my 2006 HD XL883 Sportster;and my 2007 Yamaha XT225.The Bullet gets about 68-75 mpg;the XL883 gets from 42-60.75;and the Yamaha gets from a low of about 75, to a high of 105 mpg.They all get the worst mpg when riding my 15.5 mile round trip commute in the cold winter, and the best on a long cruise.The Yamaha just got 92.4 a week ago on an 85 mile back road ride at speeds of 50-55 mph.It will cruise at 55-65, and I have taken it on freeways.Is it my first choice for freeway riding? Hell no.But I find with a minimum of thought I can plan my route to take back roads, which are more fun and scenic anyway.

By the way, for someone looking for a good general purpose motorcycle, check out the dual sports.That way you are also leaving open the option of riding off road which is a great way to begin your riding experience.Thats how I started riding motorcycles 48 years ago.Yse, I've been riding for a very long time and owned over 20 motorcycles, and I still enjoy the hell out of riding.For those of you brainwashed into thinking you must have a "big" motorcycle, too bad.Your missing out on a lot of fun.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

I agree fully. You can have a great time on a 250 unless you plan on touring the continent two up pulling a trailer!

edis 6 years ago

Very good writing. Have been surprised, as well, finding my car's 1,33L engine consume less, than 660cc of bike, which is even later by its year. Of course, engine on bike is "proven by impressive track record".

edis 6 years ago

And speaking of smaller engines - I more often find myself grabbing Yamaha YBR125 for a trip. It is so-so made, as to plastics and bits (sure, they must be chinese to get that astonishing pricing), but engine, seat, weight and overall impression are just fine. Fuel economy can be called contemporary on this one - occasionally it is reported to be far, far over 100mpg.

Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Komodo Gear: Yes, as the displacement gets smaller the riding style, weight, conditions, and load, make more and more difference.

edis: Thanks. The 100 mpg commuter answers are right in front of us, but the US Government is too busy piling billions of dollars into slugs like the Chevy Volt that cost over $40k and don't run if it's hot or cold out! SHEESH!

JoeH 6 years ago

My 1942 WLA chop gets 60mpg(70mpg if a take it easy) and will do highway speeds all day long. It's got a 34mm mikuni VM carb. Starts first kick every time too. Hell, my 1950 chevy sedan gets 25-30mpg, better than my My brother's 2004 Aprilia RSV Mille only gets 40mpg!! That's unbelievable to me. I have a 2-gallon wassel-style tank with no reserve and he has 5.4 gallon tank that goes to reserve after 4 gallons and when we ride together we're damn near filling up at the same time, but it only costs me 7 or 8 bucks to do it. Silly when you think about it.

thehands profile image

thehands 6 years ago

Man, didn't realize they got such crappy gas mileage.

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