10 Best Summer Travel Options on Two Wheels

NEW YORK MainStreet -- Hear that roaring and buzzing outside your window? That's every scooter and motorcycle in a five-mile radius telling you summer's here.

Gas prices have dropped below $3.90 a gallon and are down from this time last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even if you could get a gallon of gas with pocket change, though, rising temperatures would put two-wheelers on the road.

That said, there are some cycles and scooters out there that are clearly ahead of the pack. We took a look at the best the market has to offer and found 10 motorcycles and scooters that cut through beach and mountain traffic more capably than the competition. What we didn't find, however, was a Harley Davidson or Vespa that could make the cut:

BMW K1600GT
Starting price: $20,900

The last six-cylinder motorcycle engine in production boasts 1649ccs and 160 horsepower, but it's the little toys that help this big touring bike earn its price. An adaptive headlight that can peek around corners, electronic suspension adjustment, GPS, Sirius-XM satellite radio and electronic adjustable windshield and multiple controllers on the handlebars make the K1600 a luxe dream.

Ducati Diavel
Starting price: $17,495

The brand of choice for those who lust after a sexy European sport bike, Ducati is unafraid to trim the weight of its standard Diavel below 500 pounds, crank the horsepower up to 162 and take its bike from zero-to-60 in less than three seconds. That fat 240-millimeter rear tire just pushed Ducati out of crotch-rocket superbike territory and into the loving embrace of recreational riders and retirees with a need for more speed than a hog can provide.

Suzuki GSX-R750
Starting price: $12,200

This has all the looks of an A1A South Florida street bike, but 121 horsepower that would be just as much at home on the track. Not the bike you want to try to beat off the line when the light goes green.

Honda CB1000R

This nearly 1000cc standard isn't the most powerful bike in its class or the flashiest, but it's a workhorse with a lot of torque and a really comfortable ride. It's not going to win you an interstate shootout, but it'll get you from Point A to Point B on a sunny summer day in style.

Triumph Thunderbird Storm
Starting price: $14,800

It turns out the Brits know more than a little about building a highway beast of their own. With 1700ccs, 97 horsepower and a giant steel-horse frame that eschews chrome for a matte black finish, the Thunderbird Storm looks like it could handle a rally in Sturgis just as easily as a summer in Brighton.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000
Starting price: $11,199

At one time, "Ninja bike" was the genericized trademark for any speedy, candy-painted race bike that buzzed by. The Ninja's grown up a bit since and now lures the more mature rider with its 500-pound frame, 130 horsepower and optional hard saddlebags, top box and heated grips.

Zero Motorcycles S ZF6
Starting price: $11,495

The electric motorcycle or e-bike is still in its infancy, but Zero has come the closest to perfecting its technology. It's only about as punchy as a 150cc to 250cc model (about 30 horsepower with a top speed of 67 mph), but it recharges in any 110- or 220-volt outlet and has a roughly 60-mile range.

Genuine Stella 4-Stroke
Starting price: $3,699

If it looks like a Vespa, it's because the Indian company that partnered with Piaggio build it in the vintage Vespa style and never deviated from the original plan. The 148cc toy cost less than its 150cc Vespa counterpart and boasts nearly 148 miles per gallon while providing the same fun Euro-style ride.

Kymco People GT 300i
Starting price: $5,400

The Taiwanese scooter maker has built a reputation by putting its European and Japanese competitors to shame. This model continues that trend with a zippy fuel-injected four-stroke engine with 29 horsepower that's as good for getting around the city as it is for short trips on the highway.

Triumph Speed Triple
Starting price: $11,800

Though a bit costly and ugly for a standard bike, the Speed Triple cranks out 120 horsepower and is a brute compared with competing Hondas and Kawasakis. It's also a lot more compact, so it looks less like Fonzie's bike and more like something appropriately fast and furious.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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