It’s a mystery to us but for some reason, middleweight cruisers get no respect. It almost defies logic. They usually occupy the sweet spot when it comes to price point; they’re designed to have easily accessible ergonomics, and even from a performance standpoint, they’re a step up from the baby beginner 250 class. Some of them even rock advanced safety features like DCT and ABS. When you think about it that’s a slam dunk for recreational or first-time riders, whether they’re old hands looking for reentry into the riding world or newbies just starting out (but needing more grunt than 250cc pint-size rigs can deliver). Making things even more enticing is the fact there’s a pretty good swath of options out there, both on the low end and higher rungs of the middleweight market. So if a 250 or 300 or 500cc bike is simply too small for you, take heart—these 650s should do the trick without breaking the bank. Let’s pull out the magnifying glass:

The Honda CTX700, Kawasaki Vulcan S, and Suzuki S40 occupy pretty much the same part of the middleweight, entry-level spectrum, and have plenty of appeal for casual riders. Honda’s surprising Rebel was a huge hit for Big Red last year, though the larger, middleweight CTX has plenty to offer too. But if American V-twin fans aren’t cool with the CTX’s futuristic styling, they’ll have an easier time cozying up to the Vulcan S, Kawasaki’s smallest-displacement cruiser, which hits most of the classic notes when it comes to cruiser looks. And if you really want old-school cool, there’s the stuck-in-time, bare-bones vibe of the S40, the single-cylinder Suzuki that’s as choppery a stock bike as you’ll find anywhere.

Honda CTX700N
With modern tech features like DCT and ABS and performance to match, the CTX700N is bona fide wolf in sheep’s clothing.Honda

Look, no one is going to call the CTX “badass” or “sexy” or any of those other annoying descriptors—Big Red has been known to throw us a few styling curveballs over the years. But for the new, reentry, or female rider the CTX is a pretty sweet option, with a low seat height (28.3 inches), low center of gravity, and unintimidating power delivery. There’s even an optional Dual-Clutch Transmission for riders spooked about the thought of figuring out a manual motorcycle transmission.

The last time we rode the CTX , our editors said it felt lighter-handling than you'd think a 500-pound bike would be (the non-DCT models weigh 478 pounds). In motion, the CTX has neutral steering and a low center of gravity, which is especially handy at slower parking-lot speeds. The engine is pretty forgiving too, but it'll give you the grunt when you need it, so you can blast away from stoplights incredibly easy, especially on the DCT model. (The CTX's 670cc parallel-twin mill also has a higher compression ratio than the Vulcan's 650.)

The multi-mode, fully auto or manual-shifting transmission is a pretty attractive deal. In Drive mode, turn your brain off and ride the thing like a scooter, or if you want complete control, just use the paddle shifters. Even if you choose the base model, the CTX is feature-rich, and the base CTX700N will set you back $6,999. Upgrade to the DCT/ABS-equipped version for an additional $1,000.

Pros: Performance and safety features, along with a good dose of modern tech
Kawasaki Vulcan
The Vulcan S brings a Ninja 650 engine, wraps it in traditional cruiser lines with modern accents, and adds adjustable ergonomics.Kawasaki

Meanwhile, the Vulcan S offers a few unique points of its own. For one, it rocks a liquid-cooled sportbike engine pulled from Kawasaki’s own Ninja. The 649cc mill has eight valves per cylinder means smooth power throughout the rev range (and a 9,500-rpm redline!), while a six-speed gearbox gets you down the highway comfortably. Its styling doesn’t quite go down the Harley road—although it does have a hint of mini V-Rod in it—while the pegs are mounted to be narrow and high, so you can get in some good cornering runs.

The Vulcan S also brings in the Ergo-Fit feature which allows you to choose various seat and handlebar options from the factory tailored to your body size. There's a nice range of adjustment from the standard three-position footpegs and levers, while accessory items help riders fine-tune their fit. The low-slung exhaust means you won't have to deal with dragging side-mounted pipes on sharp turns, while our editors felt the engine delivered plenty of poop without the overkill of a large V-twin when they rode it last .

Meanwhile, the 27.8-inch seat height will surely appeal to riders with a short inseam. The brakes are the big event here, and the Vulcan's stopping power is the best of the three bikes, with the 300mm single front disc brake hauling the 498-pound bike down with authority. Kawasaki lets you choose between three flavors of Vulcan S; there’s the Vulcan S, the Vulcan S SE, and even a custom version, the Vulcan S Café. The base model Vulcan S (non-ABS) will run you $7,099, while the top of the line Café (with ABS) retails for $8,099.

Pros: Lively performance, cruiser looks, adjustable ergonomics
Suzuki S40
You could call Suzuki’s S40 a modern vintage bike at this point, with its stone-simple single-cylinder engine and choppery good looks.Suzuki

Jump on the 2016 Suzuki Boulevard S40, and if you’re a longtime rider, you’ll probably feel right at home with its mostly Stone Age technology. But it’s all good. Sometimes we need to be reminded that riding motorcycles is all about fun, pure and simple. The S40 got its start 30 years ago as the LS650 Savage, and soldiers on pretty much as it was. The only significant functional changes since 1986 have been the upgrade from a four-speed to a five-speed tranny in 1993, the addition of different, flatter-bend bars, and the name change in 2005 from Suzuki Savage to Suzuki Boulevard S40.

Yessir, the OG tech includes things like an air-cooled motor, a Mikuni carburetor, wire wheels, and, yes, a rear drum brake. You won’t find any fancy-pants traction control on the S40, and that’s just fine with us. We do wish it had chain drive rather than a belt to keep things simple and consistent, but that’s life. The Suzuki’s single engine sports a perfectly square design—a 94mm stroke and 94mm bore—for a good balance of power.

The riding position on the S40 is compact, and riders taller than 5-foot-8 will probably feel cramped. Forward pegs and drag bars usually mean an instant backache, but because the S40 is a small bike—the wheelbase is more than an inch shorter than a Harley Iron 883—the reach isn't that far. A 27.6-inch-high seat means shorter riders will be grinning, but the saddle isn't all that comfy. The 381-pound wet weight and low center of gravity make the Boulevard S40 easy to move around; when we last rode the S40, we found that all the torque, low weight, and compact chassis made for stress-free in-town riding. Best of all is probably the low price of $5,750.

Pros: Simplicity and price