The Best Small Sportbikes Any Rider Will Enjoy

It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast.

You've heard it before and you'll hear it in perpetuity, it's more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow. That's not to say that any of these small sportbikes are slow, they are plenty quick and can get you into hairy situations if you let them, but they aren't setting sub-10-second quarter-mile times. These motorcycles are perfect for beginners to learn on and develop great riding habits. They have enough acceleration power that you can access while riding on the street—meaning you don't have to take these bikes to the track to have fun.

If you're an experienced rider, you should grab one of these bikes, especially if you are interested in trackdays. Instead of worrying about controlling 150 hp at the rear wheel, you can focus on picking the best line and practicing proper body positioning. These bikes are easy to control, affordable, and are less expensive to maintain, making them a great first bike or smart second bike choice.

2020 Honda CBR300R ABS

The lightweight and low-displacement Honda CBR300R ABS is great for any rider, no matter their skill level.
Team Red’s smallest sportbike option, the 2020 Honda CBR300R ABS.Honda

Small but mighty, the 2020 Honda CBR300R continues to be one of the lightest and easiest-to-ride small sportbikes on the market. At the heart of the CBR300R is a thumpy 286cc single-cylinder engine, which is the exact same motor found in the CB300R. It bangs out a respectable 27.5 hp and 18.7 pound-feet of torque—more than enough to shuttle you to work or around a track. Vibrations may be uncomfortable maintaining highway speeds, but you can always change the gearing to alleviate this. The 2020 CBR300R has a trim option with ABS and another without—cutting the price down to $4,699.

2020 Honda CBR300R ABS price: $4,999 ($4,699 non-ABS)

2020 Honda CBR500R ABS

The Honda CBR500R adds a cylinder and displacement to be the middle option of Honda’s sportbike lineup.
The middle middleweight, the Honda CBR500R is a step up from the CBR300R, but not as powerful as the CBR650R.Honda

The middle child of Honda's sportbike lineup, the 2020 Honda CBR500R is a great option for someone completely new to riding, or for someone who wants to downgrade from a larger bike. The CBR500R is powered by a 471cc parallel twin that puts out a claimed 49.6 hp and 31.7 pound-feet of torque. Receiving a slew of updates in 2019, including motor and bodywork changes, and the addition of a slipper clutch to aid in smooth up- and downshifts, the 2020 model remains unchanged. ABS for the 500R is a $300 option that is well worth it.

2020 Honda CBR500R price: $6,999 ($6,699 non-ABS)

2020 Honda CBR650R ABS

A bump in displacement, different engine configuration, and added electronics make the Honda CBR650R stand out in Honda’s sportbike lineup.
All-new in 2019 and coming back for 2020 is the Honda CBR650R.Kevin Wing

Although it has some extra displacement, the 649cc-powered CBR650R was designed as a friendly gateway sportbike. The largest bike in Honda's sportbike lineup is the CBR650R, which was a replacement for the CBR650F in 2019. To coincide with the addition of the R, Honda redesigned the 650 to be sportier, with a more aggressive rider geometry and styling that mimics the CBR1000RR superbike. On the dyno it made 80.1 hp and 41.7 pound-feet of torque, which is a far cry from the CBR300R's 27.5 ponies. The CBR650 has a slipper clutch—like the 500R—and it adds Honda's Selectable Torque Control, which manages the power available to the rear wheel. Unlike the other two models, the CBR650R only comes in an ABS trim. If you are looking for the sportiest of the three options from Honda, then the inline-four CBR650R is your pick.

2020 Honda CBR650R ABS price: $9,699

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS

The 2020 Kawasaki Ninja remains the same from the 2019 model, except for an updated color scheme.
Since updated in 2018, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 has proven its place as one of the best beginner bikes on the market.Kawasaki

The 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400 is one of the best beginner sportbikes that you can purchase. Largely unchanged from the 2018 introduction model—which won our Small Sportbike Shootout and Cycle World's Ten Best Lightweight Streetbike category—the Ninja is a valuable tool in anyone's garage. The 399cc parallel twin produces 43.4 hp and 24.6 pound-feet of torque, with power peaking right before hitting 10,000 rpm. When compared to other bikes in its class, it's clear to see why the Ninja 400 stands out. The power is more usable, the ride is more comfortable for street usage, and it's not too shabby when thrown around a track. Whether you're new to motorcycles or want a small sportbike to refine your trackday experience, the Ninja 400 is one of the best options. The 2020 Ninja 400 comes in ABS and non-ABS trim levels, and a KRT ABS special edition with different paint on the bodywork.

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS price: $5,299–$5,499 (non-ABS $4,999–$5,199)

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400 KRT ABS Edition price: $5,499 (non-ABS $5,199)

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS

The 2020 Kawasaki Ninja remains the same from the 2019 model, except for an updated color scheme.
Since updated in 2018, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 has proven its place as one of the best beginner bikes on the market.Kawasaki

Originally unveiled back as a 2006 model as the Ninja 650R, the Ninja 650 has received two major updates since then. In 2012, Kawasaki dropped the R from the Ninja’s name and updated the styling and engine, and in 2017 the Ninja 650 received an entirely new trellis frame and moved the shock from the side to the middle of the swingarm. For 2020, the Ninja 650 has received another styling update, with a revised upper cowl and windshield, and new passenger seat. LED headlights now come as standard. The 649cc parallel twin produces 58 hp and 42 pound-feet of torque, so a little over 10 hp when compared to its little brother. Also, the seating position is more upright compared to the little Ninja, making the 650 more comfortable over long distances. The 2020 Ninja 650 is going to set you back $7,799 for a model with ABS and $7,399 for a model without.

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS price: $7,799 (non-ABS $7,399)

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS KRT Edition: $7,999 (non-ABS $7,599)

2020 KTM RC 390

Taking what it learned from the RC8, KTM developed the RC 390 to be a competitive small sportbike.
The Austrians have created a contender for one of the best small sportbikes with the 2020 KTM RC 390.KTM

If you search KTM's website, you'll see the 2020 RC 390 model looks nothing like the spy photos that we nabbed of what looks like an RC 390 testing. This could either mean that KTM has an ace up its sleeve, or that we won't see an updated RC 390 until the 2021 model year. Well, that gives us something to hope for with next year's EICMA. The 2020 KTM RC 390 has an updated paint scheme, otherwise remaining unchanged from the 2019 model year. The 373cc single-cylinder cranks out 42.5 hp and 24.4 pound-feet of torque, almost 1 hp less than the larger Ninja 400. The RC 390 features a slipper clutch and a Supermoto mode that allows you to disengage rear-wheel ABS and keep front-wheel ABS active. If you're looking for a small-bore European sportbike, then your options are limited to this candy-orange Austrian.

2020 KTM RC 390 price: $5,499

2020 Suzuki GSX250R ABS

The Suzuki GSX250R sits as Suzuki’s beginner, small-displacement sportbike.
The baby of the family, Suzuki’s GSX250R gets beginner riders interested in the GSX-R brand.Suzuki

Instead of releasing another race-inspired sportbike into an already saturated market, Suzuki decided to go another way with the GSX250R. More Katana than GSX-R, the GSX250R features an upright seating position and an engine designed around longevity, not squeezing every speck of power out of the 248cc parallel twin. With the 2020 GSX250R, you get 20.6 hp and 15 pound-feet of torque available at the rear wheel, which means it makes the least amount of power out of the group. Back in 2018, our test rider found the steering geometry to be quick but the suspension to be easily overloaded under hard braking. With the Suzuki GSX250R, you are getting a small sportbike riding experience for the least amount of money.

2020 Suzuki GSX250R ABS price: $4,899 (non-ABS $4,599)

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3

The Yamaha YZF-R3 featured a radical update in 2019 including styling, chassis, and suspension updates.
The YZF-R3 from Yamaha is the smallest sportbike that the tuning fork folks offer, but is plenty fast.Yamaha

Revitalized in 2019 with styling, suspension, and chassis updates, the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 is the last on our list but not last on our minds when thinking of the best small sportbike that you can buy. The 2019 model was featured in a head-to-head duel with the Ninja 400. During the dyno test comparison, the YZF-R3 put down 36 hp and 19.8 pound-feet of torque. During the comparison of the R3 and the Ninja 400, test editor Michael Gilbert noted the Yamaha's nimbleness, that the Yamaha could make steering corrections midcorner when needed, and that aggressive side-to-side transitions were accomplished better on the YZF-R3. While it's down on power compared to the Ninja 400, its light weight, chassis feel, and track and street capability make it a smart choice for a novice or experienced rider.

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 price: $5,299 (non-ABS $4,999)