What kind of motorcycle should I get for getting around town?
I occasionally get into conversations about getting a motorcycle or scooter for transportation (as opposed to simple recreation). Below I will elaborate some of the things I typically tell people. My style in life is to put information out there so people can make the best decisions for themselves. Even if I express some bias on some vehicles, one of those still might be the best for you. This piece is also regionally biased to the United States and my region (SouthEast / Atlanta GA).
50cc -- quick and easy
The 50cc bike is a great way to travel around short distances at low speeds. You don't need a special motorcycle endorsement for 50cc* bikes, and they are also the most affordable to purchase new. Also, some states (Georgia included) don't require licence plates on these bikes.
The major players in 50cc scooters in my opinion are, Kymco, Yamaha, italians (Vespa, etc), and Honda (no better than the others). There are tons of other brands now and there's a lot of confusing info out there about them, but here's one person's opinion: http://motorscootermuse.com/chinese_scooters.php. To stay concise, do your research and caveat emptor.
If you live in a place with hills, definitely consider getting a 2-stroke scooter if possible. They will give you the torque uphill that a 4-stroke will not. This is not much of an issue in flat places.
Another interesting option if you want to do something different in the 50cc range is a moped. Tomos has some really neat vehicles out there, all 2-stroke. (www.tomosusa.com)
A consideration with all motorbikes but in some ways especially with 50cc machines is security. Locking them down is important if you can't park in a secure location, especially overnight. It's especially a problem for 50cc machines because a) they often don't have plates so are easy to use after stealing and b) they are often light enough to just pick up and put in a truck.
150cc -- A little more power and speed
If you want to go longer distances, on faster roads, or even some really short interstate travel, a scooter in the 125cc-150cc range might be right for you. They are pretty easy** to operate and get great gas mileage, but they aren't limited to 35pmh roads. Once you are over the 50cc size though you would need to have a motorcycle endorsement on your drivers license as well as plates and insurance.
If you are diametrically opposed to riding a step-through motorbike (scooter), you start to look at what some people cynically call "real" motorcycles. In this section, I would like to add a mention of 200cc dual-sport motorcycles (street legal dirtbikes) as there are offerings from the big 4 Japanese manufacturers as well as the economy offerings. Anything that isn't a scooter from this point forward you should assume is not an automatic transmission (clutch and changing gears) in case that's a show stopper for you.
Some machines I would like to mention in this section are:
Kymco Agility 125
Kymco People 150
(the People 200S is not exactly 200cc)
Aprilia Scarabeo 100
Honda Elite (108cc)
Kymco Quannon 150
Yamaha TW200 (for the price, might start looking in next section)
250cc and up -- Get your motor running
So, if you want more speed, real highway ability, or just that extra ooomph around town, this is where you start seeing tons more options. If you're willing to shift gears, everything you can dream of is on the table. However, I will focus on transportation needs before fun. (They're all fun though.)
Scooters of note:
Kymco People 250
Suzuki Burgman 400
Motorcycles of note:
Kawasaki Ninja 250!
Big 4 Japanese Dual Sport Bikes