The Best Motorcycles For New Riders

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The Best Motorcycles For New Riders

Honda NC700X
This jack of all trades is one of the most easy-to-ride bikes there is. With an engine based on that of the Honda Fit hatchback, power delivery is torque and the redline low. The payoff is easygoing performance and, at 64mpg, excellent fuel economy. Equally at home loaded down for a cross-country ride as it is on a twisty road, the NC700X is surprisingly good off-road too, where that low center of gravity and ease-of-use make more expensive bikes look positively silly.

Moto Guzzi V7
Why didn’t we include a Triumph Bonneville in this list? Because this Moto Guzzi is 100lbs lighter, has much more character and even a lower seat height. As its designer Miguel Galluzzi says, “The V7 is just a great bike for riding around on.”

Kawasaki Ninja 250
The archetypal learner motorcycle is available cheaply in the used market. Originating all the way back in 1984, it’s certainly not the nicest motorcycle you can buy, but it is cheap, easy and accessible.

Kawsaki Ninja 300
An update to the 250 uses the same basic platform, but the larger engine means more power and the aggressive styling will appeal to riders who eventually want to upgrade to a full-on sport bike.

Suzuki TU250X
This little retro is surprisingly small, making it a great option for riders of smaller stature. It’s not available in California due to emissions regulations, but elsewhere, new riders will find it utterly unintimidating.

Honda CRF250L
Thinking of taking in some fire roads, camping trips or just getting a little dirty? The CRF250L is fun and easy off-road and surprisingly capable on-road too, where it can tackle highways or blitz through traffic jams.

Suzuki DR-Z400SM
Plan mostly on short trips through the city? This supermoto makes traffic and bad roads a breeze while offering an extremely fun ride. The tall seat and commanding riding position offer great vision, too.

Star Bolt
Dead set on the cruiser thing? This is a friendly, stylish, reliable, safe and affordable option. The Bolt has better performance, a plusher ride and is just friendlier and easier to use than equivalent Harleys.

  • James Walker

    great suggestions, and pretty much exactly what I tell my friends that want to get in to riding when they ask me for suggestions. Truth is, you’re likely to drop the thing a couple times in the parking lot, so you might as well drop a lighter, cheaper bike. The deals are so great in the used market though I’d never recommend buying new, you can pick up an old ninja 250, rebel, or DR-Z for just a couple grand. Probably sell it for about the same in a year.

  • Spiros Psarras

    duke 125/200?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Again, not available in the US, so we haven’t ridden them and can’t speak to their ability.

  • Apple

    When’s the CB500X review coming?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Should be next month.

  • Gerardo Astroball

    What about the new KTM 390 Duke.. with ABS.. seems like the no brainer..

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Not available in the US.

      • dingo

        Yet. Though who knows the price point even given the exchange rates.

  • Kevin

    A bunch of nice bikes, I’ll take one of each!

  • Lourens Smak

    I would not recommend a NEW bike for novice riders… buy used. Value will remain better if you want to sell it after a year or so because you want something faster/bigger/different. (depreciation will be fast with some of those new bikes above…) and the first scratch won’t matter so much if it already has a few blemishes. ;-) Also, you can get more bike for the same amount of money, of course… a 250 may be cheap but it’s as cheap as a 600 a few years old. (which will remain interesting to the rider for a longer time…) Also, a big (no pun intended) problem with those small 250cc bikes is that they only really fit small people…

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      If someone really is 6′ 6″ or more and therefore can’t get comfy on one of the smaller bikes, we’ve included several models that are great for taller riders such as the DR-Z and NC700X.

    • carbureted

      You’re right, Lourens. You can get a MUCH more powerful bike in the used market. The thing is though, you won’t learn skills in the same way as you would by having a smaller bike first. When I first stared riding, I had a larger bike, and I was simultaneously fixing up a 125cc. While I did learn to ride on the bigger bike, it was when I got on that 125 that I soon discovered knee dragging. After that, I was suddenly able to do it on the larger bike where I had always been too timid before. Small bikes are good, and at average height (5’10″), they have always been just fine for me.

      • Lourens Smak

        Small is good I agree, I started riding on a 50cc Zündapp moped that I loved… but overhere in Europe I’d say 125cc just isn’t enough. You can have fun on back roads yes, but riding the highway will be dangerous and scary and not much fun, riding in the truck-lane near top speed all the time. In real life you need to hone other (traffic) skills more than knee-dragging.

        • Afonso Mata

          I don’t think you’ve read the whole article, Lourens.
          It’s starts with the ‘get your DMV permit’ thing and then it says, and I quote:
          “It’s probably best to borrow or buy a small, cheap, likely crappy bike and toodle about on that for a few weeks while you get over your new rider nervousness. You’re going to drop a bike a few times during that time, doing so on something crappy is relatively consequence free. Not until you feel you’re riding with confidence, skill and safety is it time to buy something nicer.”
          So, buy something used and cheap, and then if you want to/can afford to buy a new bike, these are pretty great for newbies.

          On the 125cc subject, I also have to disagree. It may not be the most enjoyable thing on the highway, but it’s not like you’re gonna die. Although it ain’t a pretty good idea to ride the bike at top speed all the time, 70mph (110km/h) is a pretty good speed for a 3 lane road where the legal speed limit is 75mph (120km/h).
          I own a 125cc scooter, and for the last year I’ve put roughly 7500 miles (12000km) on it, commuting and doing pretty much everything on it (apart from taking my pregnant wife to the doctor).
          I’ve learned a lot from it, and although I can’t drag my knee (there’s only so much lean angle before the center stand touches the ground), I can do pretty much anything any other bike can do, only slower. (that includes falling. and i guess it’s commom sense that a slower fall involves less injury)
          They say it’s much more fun to ride a slow bike fast, than ride a fast bike slow, right? On that note, I’ve seen some far more experienced guys on far more powerful bikes having a hard time keeping up with a lotta 125ers when it comes to lane splitting. (not my case, I’m pretty cautious while splitting lanes)

          Of course now I’m saving some money for a bigger engine (I’ll probably buy a Vespa 300 or a Yamaha X-Max 250), but as a beginner, as a learner, you can’t rule out 125s (or 150s in California).

          • Lourens Smak

            Actually in my country, since 2013, if you have the new A1 license for novice riders/bikes up to 125cc, you aren’t even allowed on the highway… (it seems to be some kind of strange national exception to European rules though)

            • Afonso Mata

              Where are you from? Here in Portugal, it is pretty loose. If you have a driver’s licence B and you are over 25 years old, you automatically have the A1 licence and you can ride 125cc on the highway.

              • Lourens Smak

                Netherlands. You can only ride the MP3 scooter (and similar) with B license, because of some legal loophole which means it is a car.

    • Mill0048

      Used makes sense as dealer fees can quickly turn that $4,300 CBR250R into a $5,500+ machine. Same with any bike really, it’s just more noticeable on a cheaper bike. You can pick them up second hand for $3,300 or so all day.

      I’ve had a 600 for 9 years now and just added the CBR250R to my garage earlier this year. I’m 6’2″ and slender and I fit fine on the bike. It’s 70lbs lighter than my 600 and it feels it. I can’t drive it enough and every time I do, I hate getting off it.

      • Mr.Paynter

        Bargain them down on dealers’ fees!
        If they want the sale, they will make a plan!

        I got my last new bike purchase down from $100 or so to $30 or so, or in South African Rands, R1000 to R300.

    • Lee Scuppers

      A used 250 is even cheaper than a used 600. Just spent $1650 on a Virago 250. I’m six feet tall and it fits me fine. In my MSF class they put me on a Nighthawk 250 and that fit me OK too, except that it was a bit of a strain to keep my right wrist down at the right angle (not a problem on the Virago, with the higher bars). It’s louder than I care for, but whatever. It’s not a lifelong commitment.

      I tried out a Rebel, which was like a clown car for me. Knees kept hitting my elbows.

      • Piglet2010

        I (with a 33½” inseam) fit fine on a Ninja 250 or Yamaha TW200 (both of which I own) and the Suzuki TU250X, but feel like a circus bear on any of the 250cc cruisers.

        • Lee Scuppers

          The TU250X was a good fit for me too, and I love the way they look. The engine sounded and felt like a lawnmower to me, but you can’t have everything. I wish I’d found one used.

    • Piglet2010

      A 600cc super-sport is a HORRIBLE choice for a new or inexperienced rider; and are also poor bikes for anything other than racing, track days, and street rides on low traffic, low traffic enforcement, winding roads. I made the mistake of getting a CBR600F4i with about one year’s riding experience, but just traded it for a Ninja 250 that is a lot more fun to ride on both the street and track days. And I do not feel cramped on it either (6′ with a 33½” inseam).

      • Lourens Smak

        I was more thinking ER-6, MT-03, Gladius, CB500F, NC700S, F650GS, etcetera, when I wrote “600″.

        • Piglet2010

          Yep, all much better choices than a super-sport.

  • Yellowjacket

    Wes. It was you guys first video with the cbr250r that finally got me to cave in and learn to ride. Got the cbr250r and it is so darn forgiving of doing something wrong. So yeah thanks. Riding is pretty much the best

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Congrats dude, glad to hear you’re loving it.

  • Sean

    No Bonneville?

    • http://hangaround.tumblr.com/ hangaround

      Was thinkin’ the same…

    • Mugget

      Nope, no Bonneville. Just like the article says – no Bonneville. Do you know what that means?? NO BONNEVILLE!

      • Lee Scuppers

        I don’t understand. Are you saying… no… Bonneville? I… no. I’m sorry. I don’t… I don’t understand.

    • Juan Manuel Handal

      not only no Bonnie, no Kawa W650 or the new W800, great bikes all that you guys in the U. S. don’t get….

      • equ

        We got the w650 in the US, for ’00 & ’01. It was my second bike after 500 miles on the tu250. Trusty W did me well for 3 years… Their values are high here due to their rarity. Just sold it to a beginner. I hope he keeps the shiny side up like I did.

    • Piglet2010

      I have a Bonnie and love it, but it is built like a tank – I would put a new rider who likes the style on a TU250X for a few thousand miles before moving up to the Bonnie.

  • Beale

    What, no Tee-Dub? A Yamaha TW200 is a total gateway drug into motorcycling, both on road and off. And as much as I despise cruisers, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Honda Rebel. Both are small displacement bikes with low seat heights that are dead reliable and can be re-sold very easily when a rider is ready for a bigger bike.

    • Piglet2010

      The TW stands for “Training Wheels”.

      OK, actually it is “Trailways”, but since I own a 2010 TW200, I get to make fun of them. :)

      Only bad thing about the TW200 is that the clutch is very abrupt instead of progressive, which makes brake-torque riding more difficult to learn.

  • Eric

    How about beginner bikes that turn you into a mechanic? I’d like to nominate the 2003 Sportster 883.

    • Twin Verb

      lol

    • Christopher Rector

      How about any of them, They all eventually lead to the wrench. I was never a mechanic and after owning several bikes, I’ve found it easier and cheaper to do a majority of the work myself.

  • imprezive

    Personally I would appreciate an article on actually buying a new bike. As I look to buy my first new bike it’s taken me time to understand the pricing structure with the dealer prep and assembly fees being a significant portion of the cost vs a car. That’s not to mention things like not being able to buy a new bike out of state in CA or discount programs like Costco. Understanding the incentive cycle of manufacturers would be nice too. I would imagine bikes tend to be cheaper in winter but that’s just a guess.

    • Ken Lindsay

      Costco has plans for Kawasaki! At least they did a year ago… Also, if you want to buy almost new, check Craigslist. There are always almost new bikes, at least here in San Diego, for sale. Less tax, no set-up fees, no destination fees…. Motorcycle warranties aren’t all that great to begin with.

      • imprezive

        Yeah I’m looking to buy a Ninja 650 so that’s why I know about the Costco program. There is white one on display at my local store. I currently have a Ninja 250R that I bought lightly used so I know it’s smarter to go that way. I want a white 650 so it’s 2013 only which means buy new or wait. I appreciate the advice though.

  • Jason 848

    My GF wants to transition from pillion to rider slowly over the next year. I took her to sit on most of these bikes between stealerships and the motorcycle show. At 5’2″ she found the tu250 to be the most unintimidating and liked its unique style in the market. My vote was the V7 after reading an article Wes wrote a while back for best commuters under 10k. It’s way lighter than it looks.

    • equ

      Same with my gf. She loved her (originally mine) tu250x. I learned on it, then she learned on it. She has ridden other bikes but never got into them as she did with the tu. She’s 5’5″ and light, found the v7 cafe a bit hard to handle at stops, perhaps the classic/stone have better leverage due to the bars.

  • runnermatt

    March of last year (2012), at the age of 32, I took the MSF course and got my motorcycle license for the first time. The MSF course was the first time I had EVER ridden a motorcycle. Other than a few coworkers and friends who live out of state I don’t know anyone who rides. That said I didn’t really have anyone to turn to for advice on what to buy or look for in motorcycles. Because I wouldn’t know what maintenance or lack thereof to look for when buying a used motorcycle I decided to buy a new bike. I figured if the bike was new I wouldn’t have worry the potential safety problem of wheel falling off, engine locking up, etc.

    After looking at reviews online I decided on the CBR250R. I bought a 2011 model with zero miles in March of 2012. I now have a little over 4150 miles on it and haven’t had any problems. Ridden it to and from work in the rain twice (unintentionally, should have checked the weather better). I have yet to drop it, but came close once (strained my groin stopping it from falling over). And even when I do eventually drop or come off it I have seen that the price of a fairing is around $75 and the gas tank is around $200.

    I now am finding myself wanting to take another course to improve my skills and become more comfortable on the bike.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Awesome man, welcome to the club.

      • runnermatt

        Thanks, being a long time car nut I’ve found motorcycles to be a whole new world… and I love learning about it.

    • Afonso Mata

      Great stuff bro! ;)
      Ride it more often in the rain. I’ve learned a lot about riding and grip and bike control during the last (european) winter on my daily commute ;)

      • JerseyRider

        Are there any other bikes you could suggest to those of us who feel like they’re ready for the next step in motorcycling? I’ve racked up a ton of miles on a 250 and would really like some advice. I respect the opinion of this page but sometimes I feel those of us in between beginner and expert levels of riding get excluded.

        • Christopher Rector

          Depending on what you’re looking for in a bike, there are a lot of options. First off what do you ride now? That would give a big indicator as to what style of bike you like or are comfortable with. Let’s just say for instance your 250 is a Rebel or Night hawk. You could move up to the Boulevard Line or Star Bolt on the 950cc range and weight wise it wouldn’t bee too far off what you’ve been riding currently. Or of you’re more of a sport bike person, and start on a CBR250 or one of the smaller Ninja’s you could easily move up to the next bike in the line. You could also even try one of the Dual Sports like the V-Strom or Super Tenre (I know it’s not spelled correctly). That kind of gives you the best of both worlds, sporty look’s and cursing comfort.
          Christopher
          MSF Instructor from Illinois

          • JerseyRider

            Well right now a tu250x. But I really want a supersport next, as those tend to be lighter and more agile then something in the cruiser category. Also wouldn’t mind a naked. I do a lot of commuting and I know something like the nc700 would probably be ideal but it’s so ugly lol and I’d want something with more oomph.

            • Christopher Rector

              you may want to look at the Ducati Monster 696 or 797. If cost is an issue look for the Suzuki Gladius bikes, very similar to the Ducati, but much lower cost. A good starter sport bike if you can find on in good shape is the Suzuki SV-650. Those are great bikes and can be found very reasonably priced. The Gladius replaced the SV for Suzuki. You could also go with the CBR’s or Ninja lines, I’d probably avoid one of the higher end bikes to start with and go with something middle range to get a feel for it. I’ve seen too many people go out and jump right into the ZX series or GSX-R’s and put them down because they under estimated the power or over estimated their skills. Just be careful with what ever you choose to move to it’s going to be a pretty big jump from the TU to a sport bike in handling and performance. Although the TU’s heave extremely good front brakes, I’ve never seen a bike that could stop as well as that bike could. We use them as training bikes on our ranges here in Illinois.

              • JerseyRider

                Yeah I had to put those brakes to the test today lol. Thanks for the advice Chris.

              • Piglet2010

                I took the MSF BRC as a refresher when getting back into riding and used a TU250X. Fits reasonably tall people too, and I (at ~240-lbs in riding gear) even ended up doing some stoppies during the braking drills.

                • Christopher Rector

                  We had a student running a TU during our skills evaluation a few years ago. It was the first year that we had that bike in our stable. It was the only bike that we had that could meet her physical requirements. Let’s just say that she was a rather short but large woman, I’m guessing 350+. She did the quickstop eval and stoppied the bike, lifting the rear wheel about 18″ to 20″ off the ground. She stuck the landing, we nearly dropped our jaws to the ground. That bike has really great brakes, almost too good for a beginners class.

              • Piglet2010

                The Gladius is now back, but called the SVF-650.

            • Piglet2010

              Unless you are track riding, something along the lines of KTM Duke 690, Ninja 650, or Suzuki SVF650 will be a better choice than a super-sport 600 race-replica. Due to the gearing and low to mid-range torque advantages, they will actually out-accelerate a super-sport up to most legal speeds. Unless of course you are insane, and think riding at a racing pace on the street is a good idea – then get a race-replica.

              • JerseyRider

                No, I’m not insane. In fact the real reason I want a super-sport is to take advantage of the slipper clutch, traction control, abs, and fairing options. I mean who doesn’t want to ride fast every now and then? But what intrigues me the most is the safety features. I’d probably end up putting higher bars on something like a ZX-6R or maybe a Street Triple.

                • Piglet2010

                  Well, you can get three of the four on a Ninja 300 – and the Ninjette hardly needs traction control. :)

                  Of course the “Stripple” is not a race-replica, and of course it works better than the Daytona 675R it shares much with everywhere but the track.

                  And a slipper clutch is a crutch for poor technique, that even I do not need – rpm management and downshifting for corners is the two things I did well during my last track class.

                • Pete Rowley

                  I keep seeing this idea that traction control is not needed either on small bikes, or even on larger ones. One of my (few) crashes on a bike was on a little suzuki 125 back in the

                • Philip Brown

                  If you want something “sporty”, why are you looking at a street triple? Get a Daytona instead!

          • Piglet2010

            Yamaha Super Ténéré

        • Mugget

          A bike only goes as fast as you twist the throttle. ;)

          Get whatever bike you want! But depending on your riding goals, then the recommendation could change significantly.

    • Yellowjacket

      This is so similar to my story. Same bike and even staining my groin from keeping the bike from falling

      • artist_formally_known_as_cWj

        Those groin stains can be…embarrassing.

        ;-p

    • Christopher Rector

      You should look into taking the intermediate or experienced rider courses. The intermediate class is a one day course using range bikes, and the experienced or BRC2 class is a half day class using your own bike. From your comment you may want to consider the BRC2 (experienced) class. It will teach you how to control your bike better and what you can really do with your own bike.
      Christopher
      MSF Instructor from Illinois.

      • Beale

        Excellent advice. I’ve been riding for 39 years and I still take classes on occasion. There’s always new things to learn (and unlearn). There’s worse ways to spend your time than riding and talking about bikes with other riders.

      • runnermatt

        Thank you for the advice. I haven’t yet had the time to look into it myself, but now I have a direction to look. When I took the MSF course the instructor mentioned a local (I’m in Virginia) sport bike course, but I don’t remember the name of it currently.

        • Piglet2010

          I highly recommend the Total Control ARC 1 and 2 courses once you have a couple of thousand miles of riding experience. More relevant than a track school to street riding, but at the same time you learn skills that will make a track school later on more beneficial.

          http://www.totalcontroltraining.net/

  • Dennis Bratland

    Pretty good list. Terrible ratings.

    The Ninja 250 is a 4??? TU250 is a 5? The Moto Guzzi is an 8!? For beginners? Those ratings don’t mean anything to a new rider. I can see maybe you would have given a low score to the cheap bikes with no ABS, but then how come you’re handing out 8s and 9s to expensive bikes with no ABS?

    The mentality behind many of these more expensive bikes here is to go straight to posing. The only thing a beginner should be thinking about is getting the bike that’s going to turn them into a decent rider. Spending two times what you should, or compromising for a weird bike that’s going to have headaches and gochas, is not what beginner bikes are about. Simple. Reliable. Parts and service everywhere. Everywhere.

    Of course you’re going to want something else after one or two years. That’s the point: after one or two years you won’t be the same person any more. You’ll have turned into a rider. That guy a couple years from now is going to have a whole other set of priories. Save your money and focus on becoming that rider.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      You’ll see that three of the cheapest bikes (CBR250, CRF250L and Misfit) are also the three of the highest rated.

      Ratings compare bikes to other similar ones. The Ninja is basic and cheap, which is good, but also makes it, well, basic and cheap. In some cases you do get what you pay for.

  • Alex

    I’ve ridden 30,000+ miles on my Ninja 250, 3,000 miles across 10 states in the past month. It’s a great little bike that is capable and forgiving. I’m really excited about the Honda CB500F, It’s the sort of bike I’ve been waiting to hit the market.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Grab a test ride, they’re really great.

  • lordkenyon

    Good luck trying to get a CCW in California. Had a deposit on one for months and finally gave up. Their distributor (Scooter City in Sacremento) has indicated that the 2013 bikes are sitting in a warehouse but CCW hasn’t paid for the air resources board approval (CARB) and they’re stuck until CCW can get their act together.

    Be great for HFL to get a comment from CCW considering the amount of coverage on their story.

    • Beale

      I did see a Heist sitting out front of Jim Specialties in Fullerton a few months ago. I’ve been meaning to stop in and see if they were now a dealer. I haven’t seen one in quite awhile, though.

  • luxlamf

    Not 1 bike on this list would make me excited to ride, Do what I did, see the bike you Want and learn to ride it, if you cannot, you shouldn’t ride at all. Most people warned me and Blah Blah Blah about “Starter Bike” nonsense, If I listened to them I would have had a bike I didn’t like and would never of rode. Instead I bought the bike that sparked my interest in the 1st place and 106miles on it (and 25K on other bikes in 7 years) and I still love that 1st bike over all the others I have seen. Buy a bike you don’t like you will lose money and interest in riding.

    • Michael Howard

      And if you buy the cool/exciting bike you WANT instead of the safer beginner bike you NEED, chances are quite good that you’ll hurt yourself badly enough that you’ll not want – or be able – to ride again.

      • luxlamf

        I disagree, I am a prefect example, as I said if I had listened to people like you I most likely would have given up on riding long ago and be stuck with a bike I don’t like or sold at a loss. I see this a lot when people ask about this and want to buy a slightly larger cruiser etc… and the Bike Police show up immediately to shoot them down “No You Must buy a small bike and ride it” etc… If you cannot handle a bike you shouldn’t be riding. My 1st bike is considered Way too Big and Powerful by the Motorcycle police. Still have that 1st bike because its what I wanted and I learned to ride it.

        • Lee Scuppers

          “If you cannot handle a bike you shouldn’t be riding.”

          Translation: “If you weren’t born knowing everything, you shouldn’t learn.”

          • luxlamf

            And that’s the ignorance I am talking about. Where did I state you Do Not need to Learn? Yes you Should learn but why should you Learn on some little crap bike you didn’t want in the 1st place? should everyone learn to drive in an 89 Civic? Now if you are idiot in everyday life and buy a 1198 as your 1st bike or a 883 HD you will most likely have the same out come as idiots usually do. I don’t believe in “Luck” especially when it comes to MCing. I bought the bike I wanted and took my time with it learning how to ride it. Took the course etc.. Not everyone has to start off in class 101 its not brain surgery riding a motorcycle, actually its quite easy. I was told “No you cannot start with that” by all the oldmen like its a fraternity and you “Must pay your dues as I did” is crap. I hear this same argument over lane splitting, those who cannot are usually very against it while us who do it as a normal day of riding love it.

            • Lee Scuppers

              The thing you have to remember is that incomparably superior human beings like you — supermen, as it were — know who they are. Like you, they don’t need advice and they don’t listen to it, because they can handle anything due to their inhumanly superior physical and metal capabilities. When you first thought about getting a bike, you already knew more than the experts, so you knew not to listen to them. They recognized your greatness too, of course. They probably tried to crush your dreams and ruin your biking experience out of sheer jealousy. Can you blame them? Only once every few decades does a man like you enter our drab, mundane little lives. Sure, we’re all a little intimidated. I don’t mind admitting it.

              But don’t worry about the danger of a man of your extraordinary qualities being deceived into getting the wrong bike. Nobody on Earth could deceive a man like you. The guys who were born able to handle absolutely anything, they never listen to anybody, just like you. Take a deep breath and relax.

              • Piglet2010

                I wish I could click the *like* button more than once.

        • Michael Howard

          Yeah, you’re a “prefect” example of someone going against advice and coming through unscathed. But many don’t. In fact, I’d say the vast majority of motorcycle riders are, everyday, riding above their actual skill level and are getting by on sheer luck instead of training and ability.

    • Brett

      I’ve never heard of a bike I didn’t like.

  • Chris Cope

    Glad to see a CCW on the list. I like their story. Though, I’d go for one of the Hondas myself. I have just recently started riding, as well. After the rigorous (read: “tedious and inclined to kill motorcycling with its red tape”) learning process required in the UK, I’ve bought a CBF600. I don’t think it’s available in the US, but basically it’s a detuned CBR600. It’s very forgiving, has ABS, and doesn’t drink too much gas. You bet it’s used. Had I had the money, the bike I would have wanted is the NC700X. I’ve had a chance to sit on one of those and the weight is so perfectly placed that it feels as light as a 125.

    And add me to the list of dudes who have gotten a bike as a result of RideApart (nee HFL).

  • Michael Howard

    I HIGHLY recommend David Hough’s “Proficient Motorcycling” for anyone who rides. Read it. Learn it. Apply it. And re-read it every year or so as a refresher.

  • Geert Willem van der Horst

    Good stuff! I started out on a ’95 Kawasaki ZZR 600 (I think that’s a ZX-6 in the US) and it never gave me the confidence I needed (lack of front end feel). Besides that I was always worried about the costs if I were to drop it. I should have started on a easy handling cheap machine (ER-5, CB 500, GPZ500s). Unfortunately I made the same mistake again last year… After a couple of years without a bike (needed a car for work) I fell in love with a ’02 Triumph Speed Triple 955i. It’s a beautiful machine and it souds awesome! But again I don’t feel completely in control. That said, it gives me way more confidence than the Kawa. Long story short: don’t be as stupid and stubborn as I was/am.

  • Derek Bayer

    I originally wanted to buy a cbr250r/cbr500r but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy a brand new bike as my first and I’m not really crazy about the styling anyway.

  • Corey Lloyd

    Best bike for a beginner is a used bike sans fairings, and not because they’re going to lowside hooning around the Dragons Tail, It’s because they get dropped, startled, they’re unsure with the clutch on a hill, or don’t read an oil spot at an intersection.

    In the great Ninja 250 run of 2008, we could sell them $1,000 over retail they were in such demand for new riders. I don’t recall one that wasn’t dropped or wrecked out of the whole lot, and those fairings are expensive. You would see completely viable vehicles with enough plastic damaged to end up being totaled.

    Perhaps change the articles scope to entry level bikes in their respective class, rather than implying learner bikes, or first bikes.

  • alex

    cbr 600rr – super reliable, light weight and fast enough even for experienced riders – don’t dump money into a psuedo bike when a real bike and rider courses would be superior

    • Piglet2010

      And a CBR600RR is a horrible bike for most street riding, and a poor bike to learn track riding on. Skip the super-sports (and of course super-bikes) completely for street riding, and for track riding until you are highly competent on a smaller bike (best piece of riding advice I got from Jason Pridmore).

      And if your friends make fun of you for not riding a REAL BIKE™, tell them I said to sod off.

      • alex

        so waste 5K riding a glorified scooter for 2 years instead? – also your other argument doesn’t hold water I’m 6’2 220 pounds and the 600rr was my first street bike and I’ve done 500+ mile canyon trips on it many times – christian bale had one to when he was at CSBS learning to ride for movies in 010 and he looks to be about my size….

        • PaddingtonPoohBear

          I realize I’m a little late to this discussion but I have to comment. I wouldn’t call bikes like the Ninja 300 a “pseudo bike” or a “glorified scooter.” I’ve been riding one for several months now and it’s an absolute blast! My previous bike was an old Rebel 250 so it’s been a godsend to me – fuel injection, slipper clutch, etc. and it feels even more nimble than the Rebel. 600′s and 1,000′s are faster in a straight line but so what? I’m old enough to have outgrown the need to be the fastest guy on the road and I like the fact that it’s lighter, cheaper to own and maintain, and (hopefully) less likely to get me into trouble.

  • Cheeseville Husker

    The Guzzi is likely to spend more time at the mechanic than on the road… an 8? Seriously?

    Also, have you actually ridden the Bolt?

  • Errol Smith

    This is a good article with a lot of great recommendations for first time riders. I would like to add that most people will get bored with a 250 very quickly. If you are a smaller or lighter rider then it will still be a good bike for you to keep for a couple of years however larger riders will need something more substantial. I’m glad you’ve added Honda’s new line of midsize bikes (the CBR500, CB500, and NC700X) but an SV650 or Ninja 650 would be good additions to the list. While they have a bit more power, the delivery of that power is smooth and easy for beginning riders. These bikes will also remain fun as the new rider’s skills improve. SVs and Ninjas can be purchased used for a really good price and both bikes enjoy a large and diverse aftermarket so the rider can customize these bikes to their liking.
    The only other point I would make (and this is purely personal preference) is that ABS will make a rider more complacent in their braking. Electronic aids can be extremely helpful but they lock you in to purchasing future bikes with the same or similar systems.

    • Piglet2010

      I just bought a 2004 Ninja 250 and love it. Doing laps at the track and keeping the engine on the boil (downshifting at 11K rpm) is an utter hoot.

  • Piglet2010

    Many professional road racers ride bicycles to keep in shape.

  • R Decline

    The CCW Misfit would make a great first bike.
    It’s dirt cheap…priced inline with used bikes but new. So you are not inheriting someone’s problem they didn’t tell you about. And easily accessible to learn to work on.

  • Guest

    This is my first comment on the RideApart site, and first I want to say you people are doing an admirable job at keeping the practice of motorcycling relevant and appealing to current and future generations of riders. Keep up the good work!

    In response to this thread, I have a few comments:

    Fit is an important and oft-overlooked variable when considering a motorcycle purchase. Veterans often joke about how “the bike broke me in”. I think it is a gross misstep by motorcycling manufacturers that do not offer more adjustability in fitting a bike in lowering/raising the seat height, lowering/raising the peg height, and swapping out handlebars. Does it makes sense that a 6′ 3” person with a 36-inch inseam (like me) should be sold the same Ninja 250, SV650, CBR600RR or Triumph Bonneville as a 5′ 3” individual with a 28 inch inseam? Part of being a safe and attentive rider is also being comfortable enough to not my thinking about your aching legs, your overstretched hip-flexors, your numb hands our your burning shoulders.

    To that end, there is a website that helps a little with this problem: http://www.cycle-ergo.com. The problem is that it merely spits out numbers without any tangible reference point. I strongly believe, the motorcycle industry and motorcycle culture needs to pay more careful attention to fit just as much as we do customizing suspensions to rider needs. Imagine showing up at your local dealer to pick up that new ride of your dreams and having them throw you on a modular fit station, figuring out where the pressure/stress points are on your body and then adjusting the stock bike to suit your body size, flexibility and riding requirements. In an ideal world, this would be offered at no-cost and would simply be a beneficial plus of purchasing a new motorcycle over a used one.

    I ride a 2001 Triumph Bonneville. It’s my first bike and I love it. Beyond all the suspension modifications I’ve made to make the bike more comfortable, what would really be helpful would be to gain an extra 2” in seat-to-peg distance. After a 200 mile ride, I feel like a partially squashed daddy long-legs spider.

  • Aakash

    This is my first comment on the RideApart site, and first I want to say you people are doing an admirable job at keeping the practice of motorcycling relevant and appealing to current and future generations of riders. Keep up the good work!

    In response to this thread, I have a few comments:

    Fit is an important and oft-overlooked variable when considering a motorcycle purchase. Veterans often joke about how “the bike broke me in”. I think it is a gross misstep by motorcycling manufacturers that do not offer more adjustability in fitting a bike in lowering/raising the seat height, lowering/raising the peg height, and swapping out handlebars. Does it makes sense that a 6′ 3” person with a 36-inch inseam (like me) should be sold the same Ninja 250, SV650, CBR600RR or Triumph Bonneville as a 5′ 3” individual with a 28 inch inseam? Part of being a safe and attentive rider is also being comfortable enough to not be thinking about your aching legs, your overstretched hip-flexors, your numb hands our your burning shoulders.

    To that end, there is a website that helps a little with this problem: http://www.cycle-ergo.com. The problem is that it merely spits out numbers without any tangible reference point. I strongly believe the motorcycle industry and motorcycle culture needs to pay more careful attention to fit just as much as we do customizing suspensions to rider needs (albeit, in the aftermarket). Imagine showing up at your local dealer to pick up that new ride of your dreams and having them throw you on a modular fit station, figuring out where the pressure/stress points are on your body and then adjusting the stock bike to suit your body size, flexibility and riding requirements. In an ideal world, this would be offered at no-cost and would simply be a beneficial plus of purchasing a new motorcycle over a used one.

    I ride a 2001 Triumph Bonneville. It’s my first bike and I love it. Beyond all the suspension modifications I’ve made to make the bike more comfortable, what would really be helpful would be to gain an extra 2” in seat-to-peg distance. After a 200 mile ride, I feel like a partially squashed daddy long-legs spider.

    • Piglet2010

      Funny thing is you will get fitted almost exactly that way if you buy a pedal-bike at a decent shop.

      • Aakash

        Exactly. I’m pretty well versed in bicycle fitting (I used to work on bicycles before getting into motos). While fitting a bicycle is important not only for comfort but for efficiency of the transmission of power as well, I think it is shame that motorcycles are not as adjustable as a bicycle for fit. I understand this is for reasons of the complexity in linkages, cables and wiring that could result if a large range of adjustments were allowed for in fitting a motorcycle, but I do think the almost complete lack of adjustment (beyond angle of levers, rotation of bars, etc) points to desperate area for improvement. In addition to squeezing out 200-hp out of a 1 liter engine and iterating on electronic rider’s aids, manufacturers should be spending a bit more time in research in development on figuring out how (technologically and organizationally) to make motorcycles more attune to the physical characteristics of individual riders thereby making riding more enjoyable, comfortable and practical for more people.

  • Nick Napoda

    I agree with the Suzuki TU250X and Moto Guzzi V7, because these were my first two bikes! The TU250X may have been an unnecessary step, but the V7 was lots of fun, easy to ride, and could fill many shoes with it’s versatility from doing weekend trips to doing track days! The 2013 V7 appears to have fixed all the problems inherent in the 2009 model I had, and I completely agree about the comments comparing it to the much heavier, much blander Bonneville.

  • ryd

    What about having a M696 for a first bike? I’ve admired the Monsters since 1995 and still don’t own one until this day. I would hate to buy a motorcycle that isn’t the one I’ve always wanted and I only want one fully stock.

  • ryd

    What about having a M696 for a first bike? I’ve admired the Monsters since 1995 and still don’t own one until this day. I would hate to buy a motorcycle that isn’t the one I’ve always wanted and I only want one fully stock.

    • ryd

      No answers? I would love to hear some opinions. It would help me decide if I should get a bike at all or not.

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        We’ve been travelling heavily this week…

        The 696 is a solid first bike. Kinda like an expensive SV650.

  • Boyd

    I started with a V7 Stone and have loved it so far. BTW.. what jacket is in the picture? Looking for a nice retro leather one.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Take a look at Vanson and RSD jackets.

  • Mark D

    When your suspension is a wet noodle, your throttle/clutch control becomes very…fine tuned. Good for technique training, not so good on a shady blind decreasing radius turn that hasn’t been repaved since the Nixon administration.

    • Piglet2010

      The Ninjette also makes you work at proper body positioning – a 320-pound bike really moves around under 240 pounds of rider and gear, as was made clear from the video the instructor made following me around the track.

  • Ed Hunt

    I love my VStar 650. It’s dead simple to ride, dead simple to maintain, looks like a big bike but rides small. It’s not my first motorcycle, (I had Honda CB twins before this, ) but it is a very easy ride and forgiving. Get a used one and learn to wrench on it.

  • Livia Lucie

    I bought a H-D Sportster superlow as my first bike. Fits me perfectly especially as I’m a small 55kg 6’4″ gal and I handle it fine. I’m amazed at just how comfortable I am with it and I LOVE IT!!

    When I mentioned to people I was getting a sporty as my first bike I got ‘it’s too big, too powerful, to heavy for you’ etc over and over again. And well… it’s quite nice to shove that back in their faces. Have a little faith. Sure… it’s heavy when you’re not moving but all bikes are pretty damn heavy. That being said I can pick it up with the butt technique lol.

    I think a shorter lady would have issues with many bikes on this list.

  • Eric

    I sat on a Star Bolt the other day, cool looking bike. One massive gripe about it, that airbox sticks out way too far and I’m not exactly a small dude at 6’5″. Even if my name was Paris Hilton I couldn’t spread my legs apart enough to clear the airbox. Wasn’t impressed with that.

  • willoughby cross

    DRZ400SM Shoul NOT be on this list. The S model is much more suitable for beginners. The SM is a beast that screams to be ridden hard!

    • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_SgRlM0sDWJI/R4Zrki-3osI/AAAAAAAAAW8/WOaLxbOOLws/s400/zoolander.jpg Sean MacDonald

      same engine with better brakes and a slightly lower seat height…sounds like a pretty good match to me.

  • Orin O’Neill

    That the TU250X has been on the market for three years and is STILL not available in California (America’s biggest motorcycle market) is yet another example of how the U.S. motorcycle industry is doing everything it can to kill itself. By the year 2050, the only motorcycles on American roads will be vintage bikes ridden by old people…

  • thegreyman

    The Star bolt is a fine choice for a new rider. Ample power, great looks, and reliable. I don’t own one, but I have test driven it- and I think it’s a great ride.

  • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

    1400 is entirely too large. All that weight will just work against you and it’s a cruiser, so it’s not like it’ll actually be any “faster.” Just buy something small, cheap, light and simple.

    • DH Bennett

      I get your point, my thing about CC’s is an assumption about torque and not MPH. I learned to drive stick on a truck, which was helpful in traffic because I didn’t always have to be in the right gear. Oppositely, the next manual I drove was a beetle and it felt like we were gonna die any second because we had no power to maneuver. make sense?

  • Chris Dang

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the Bonneville seat height 29 and change while the Goose’s seat height is 30 and change (with the lowered option)?

  • HardLookAtReality

    “Always ride within your skill level,”

    I still think that’s about as vapid as you can get, in terms of advice for noobs.
    They are noobs. They do not know what their skill-level is. They are, in general, the epitome of overconfidence.
    Then they gain some experience and become even more overconfident.

    Plus there’s nothing wrong with noobs trying to keep up with “faster riders” if the faster riders are also safe riders and the noobs are good learners.
    Unless, of course, the noobs have some fundamental problems with their riding-technique, and usually that doesn’t become clear
    until they try to keep up with riders with better technique.

    Stupid noobs with bad technique are going to wreck regardless.