Noob Tales: Choosing The Perfect Starter Bike

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Noob Tales: Choosing The Perfect Starter Bike

Let’s get this out of the way: I write for a very popular website about motorcycles, and yet I know next to nothing about riding them. I know a bit about writing about them; I’d just spent the past 9 months working as a writer for a well-known American cruiser manufacturer’s website (not Harley – the other one). I’d penned a few dozen articles about bikes, riders, and what riders do to and with bikes. My employer paid me to learn to ride; I took it upon myself to learn as much about motorcycles as I possibly could. And what started off as another freelance writing job quickly morphed into a lifestyle choice: I wanted to be a motorcycle rider.

But it’s hard to do that without a motorcycle. I needed to get a ride.

Where to start? I emailed my buddy Paul, an experienced rider, for some pointers. “It’s been a few weeks since I did my rider school,” I wrote, “and I’m worried that I’m going to forget everything. I’m nowhere near able to buy a bike. Any suggestions?” (This was clearly a leading question – I was hoping he’d loan me one of his, or at the very least invite me to go riding with him. I surf, and surfers lend each other their boards all the time. Of course, if one falls off of a borrowed surfboard, the odds of one completely destroying that surf board and/or sustaining massive head trauma are fairly low.)

“You’ll remember what you learned, but try to practice,” he replied. “And don’t practice in heavy traffic. This is why the term ‘starter bike’ was invented.”

Noob Tales: Choosing The Perfect Starter Bike
Honda CB500X

I’d done a fair amount of research on starter bikes. It seemed to me, though, that there was a bigger choice to be made: what kind of rider did I see myself becoming? Working for the cruiser company made that an obvious choice: a big, loud bike with a low seat height seemed…safe? Probably not the best word, but certainly as a guy in his mid-forties, going at a reasonable speed in a straight line on a big, loud bike with a low seat height presents less risk than tear-assing down the 805 freeway weaving in and out of traffic on a crotch rocket. But sportbikes offer maneuverability and a manageable size and weight – which, given the ridiculous traffic one finds in southern California, also might save me some skin and bones. And then there are the Adventure Bikes, which seem to fit right in to my outdoorsy, surfing-hiking-camping lifestyle. (Plus the BMW G 650 GS has anti-lock brakes – yeah, I know I need to learn proper braking regardless, but why not stack the odds in my favor?)

I had narrowed down my choices, and wanted to get Paul’s thoughts: “Think I’m going to decide between a CBR250R and a CB500X.” The BMW was still on the radar, but the more I read about these two bikes – and their suitability for entry-level riders – the more I liked them. They seem as safe as motorcycles can be, neither are very expensive, and they both look like a lot of fun to ride. I felt like I’d chosen wisely.

Noob Tales: Choosing The Perfect Starter Bike
Honda CBR250R

Paul felt otherwise. “Those are both good choices – but what I’d get is something called a TW200. It’s a bitchin’ start bike. I used to own one.” I Googled it. And was underwhelmed. The thing looked like the plastic battery-powered minibike my ten-year-old asks me to buy him every time we wander down the toy aisle at Target. Paul sensed my hesitation. “I have a buddy with a TW200 for sale. Granted, it’s not a sexy beast, but it’s The Best Starter Bike In The World. He wants $1500 for it. You could buy it, ride it for a few months and get some seat time, then flip it for the same price. You’ll learn faster and be safer than you would with the other bikes. And you can ride the TW on dirt during your training time.”

Noob Tales: Choosing The Perfect Starter Bike
Yamaha TW200

This all made perfect sense, coming as it did from a guy who’d been riding for years. And $1500 seemed like a good deal. But in the end, I didn’t buy that TW200. I had a list of reasons (or excuses, if you prefer) – chief among these was wanting to get some seat time on a variety of bikes before pulling the trigger on one – but in the end, it just didn’t feel like the bike I wanted for my first. It may sound a bit metaphysical, but I want to believe that your bike chooses you as much as you choose it. And so my search continues.

What’s the perfect bike for a new rider? Tell us in the comments!

  • ookla_the_mok

    Cb500x , as you already mentioned.
    Not too powerful, yet powerful enough. Not too heavy, not too tall. Best of all, it bridges enough rider types (commuter, tourer , sporto, even some gravel roads) to help you have a feel for which riding you like most, which could guide your next bike choice. In contrast, the cbr250 leans slightly too sporty to provide the same broad experience.

  • http://batman-news.com Aaron

    Something in the “standard” or “naked” area. I’ve had a Softail, a GSX-R 600 and finally the bike that is perfect (for me), a Triumph Street Triple. 3 Cylinder, torque, handling, comfort. I have it all (to me) with this bike.

    • http://batman-news.com Aaron

      I should mention, my choice is not necisarily a “starter” bike but an all around you may be able to start on. Something like a Honda Nighthawk 250 would be perfect.

  • BobasBounty

    Honestly, if you like the 500X, you might as well save some cash and get the 500F. The way you’re talking, this is going to be a bike you own for a year and upgrade. The “adventure look” of the X is as far as it goes into adventure.

    That said, if you plan on doing any weekend rides with a good bit of highway, I’d go the 650GS route. They are about the same from the dealer, but have vastly more aftermarket support than the CB500′s. Want a windshield? Good luck with the CB. Want wider pegs for off-road or general comfort? Good luck with the CB.

    I have the F, and it is great for 5500 bucks as a city bike. Anything else and you will be left wanting more.

  • RickBlasty

    I just bought the 500F. and I’m a noob. and I ride in heavy Manhattan traffic. Go with it.

    • RickBlasty

      @Rickblasty on Twitter and Instagram

  • neevnav

    Just picked up a Honda Rebel 250 as my starter bike, with the same intent, ride it for the summer, then flip for something bigger.

  • Joseph Zarrella

    I started with an 03 SV650. Great bike for me. put 12k miles on it without a single issue.

    • Jonathan Booker

      +1 I had my 03 sv650 for 6 years and put 44,000 miles on it. I just kept upgrading things like the suspension and exhaust and such. Most reliable vehicle I’ve owned.

    • Justin McClintock

      I started on an 03 SV650 as well. I’d still have it if it hadn’t been stolen. So I replaced it with a 03 SV1000S. I’ll probably get rid of it….never. That said, I’m not sure I’d recommend it to just anybody as a first bike. Some do fine with it (obviously). But it certainly has enough power to get somebody who doesn’t respect it into trouble REALLY quick.

    • akaaccount

      Sore subject. My 70k mile 03 SV650 was totaled in a rear end wreck less than two weeks ago. During the 50k I rode it, I never had an issue. Period. Nothing. Greatest motorcycle ever.

    • Ryan

      Came here to say SV650 but you beat me to it. I love mine. Enough power to have fun but certainly not overwhelming. Perfectly linear throttle response, forgiving suspension, and easy to flick around.

    • clark

      I started riding in 2011 on a 2004 SV650. Currently my everyday ride.

    • Joseph Zarrella

      I should say i still have it. I also added a 2012 DL650 to my stable last year for daily commuting. I keep the SV for weekend fun. Nice thing about it is that I picked it up for about the same as a Ninja 250.

  • timdnml

    I like the TW200. Good to learn and practice on, but you’ll soon be wanting more (ditto for the Rebel). Personally, I wouldn’t go for a 650 as a starter bike. You’ll spend your first year learning what you don’t know and then be better equipped to make a more lasting choice. In 40 years, I’ve owned everything from a CB100 to a Triumph Rocket 6. I could buy whatever is out there, but now I’m strictly a scooter man (two stroke smoke, F*YEAH!) Ride whatever you want to, have fun, ATGATT, and we’ll see you on the other side.

    • Jack Meoph

      Is that a Stella? Your pic, when clicked on is the same size as in your post. Digging the flames. I’m holding out for a Vespa, even though the old shifty Stella’s are on sale for super cheap.

      • timdnml

        Good eye. 2004 Stella Atomic Fireball. The pic is off the internet, but mine is #023/150. Also have a ’12 Vespa GTS 300 Super and a ’81 Honda Passport (a Haitian taxicab).

    • Jack Meoph

      Is that a Stella? Your pic, when clicked on is the same size as in your post. Digging the flames. I’m holding out for a Vespa, even though the old shifty Stella’s are on sale for super cheap.

  • Doug Herbert

    The CB500x is a good choice because it is light enough to be safe, not so powerful that it will be dangerous, yet big enough that you won’t outgrow it. ABS is also available, which is a good thing for new riders. I bought one after I had been riding for 6 years as a second commuting bike, foregoing the ABS option to keep the price down. My big sport tourer is great when the Mrs. wants to go, or I’m doing long distance. Running to work and around town, the CB500x is great. It gets 65 MPG, can do interstate duty when needed, and has a comfortable riding position. I also happen to like the looks. I put heated grips and hard bags on mine, which makes it a better around town bike and easier on cold mornings.

    For those who say it is not an adventure bike, what are they comparing it to? Is it a KLR or a DR or a CRF? No it is not. Can it keep up with a Tiger 800 or a F650GS or a V-Strom? Absolutely it can, and may be a bit better due to the lower weight. I took mine through an adventure riding school in Hoosier National Forest, and did about 150 miles of serious gravel, mud and water with it. Was it the best tool? No, not the best. Did I have a blast and learn some new riding skills? Yes, absolutely. I did choose to add a radiator guard, fender extender, and crash bars for a bit of protection. The size of the 17″ front wheel is the biggest limitation, a 19″ or larger would go a long way to making it better.

    The only concern I have in recommending the CB500X to a new rider, is that shorter riders might not be able to flat foot it. If this is an issue, the CBR500 or the CB500F may be a better choice for the slightly lower seat. I am tall, and prefer the looks and riding position of the CB500X, so I went that route.

  • Glen

    Honda GL pro for me (indonesia only) thinking of upgrading to a ducati either diavel or monster next year

  • SneakyJimmy

    I started on a Honda 350 scrambler and a Vespa when I got back into riding. I think I’d go with the 250 because of the light weight or a 250-300cc scooter.

  • Ryan Kiefer

    It was a CBR250R for me. And now, it’s for sale. Not to upgrade, but because life forces the sale.

    :(

    Anyone in the midwest want to buy a 6800-mile 2012 CBR250R?

  • appliance5000

    I started on the cb500fa and it is a wonderful bike. In fact, the main issue is that it will spoil you when you get your next bike. It is quick agile and has a wonderful engine. After you break it in, and it loosens up,( about the time you start feeling more in control) you’ll find yourself ripping along the back roads between 4 and 8k with a nice little roar and a smile. The controls and ergos work for you and are “just right”. It’s a frisky willing puppy of a bike.

    Get the ABS and feel no guilt. In the modern texting age of driving I wouldn’t be without it.

    I tested 2 other bikes while I had it – an f800st and a duke 690. The BMW was stunningly dull – I was expecting the thrill of a large displacement bike and – well – it wasn’t there. The duke is for a different type of rider – a beautiful thing but not one I could exploit.

    I’m riding a hyperstrada now- and we’re still in the bonding stage. I live in a city surrounded by highways and wanted a little more reserve, but I will say this – pound for pound – dollar for dollar – the honda is a better bike. You can’t go wrong.

  • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

    There is no one perfect bike. The question I would ask is what type of riding do you think you want to do? Back roads, dirt roads, combination riding, touring etc. Then you can narrow down a selection of bikes to choose from. You want to try a lot of bikes, I suggest trying a lot of varied riding. Find a starter bike that allows sport riding, yet can go on some gravel and dirt comfortably, maybe take a short trip, and commute on. Then you can see what you like the best and zero in on your next bike.

  • Paul M Bowers

    That Paul guy- somesortagenius!

    I’ve been a rider for over 40 years. I’ve done track schools at various raceways, dirt schools in the dirt, toured the Alps, tossed a perfectly good motorcycle cartwheeling into a canyon. I currently ride a 990ADV and a 500EXC both on and off road.

    And of all the bikes I’ve ridden, the awkward and embarrassing TW200 is one of my favorites.

    It’s obviously not because of its cool factor- it’s because of the incredible potential the bike has for new riders. I believe if a fresh n00b rides a TW200 for two excruciating months (a full-face helmet is an advantage here) they will be a far more confident, safe and effective rider, ready to progress in skill level than if they start on a higher-performance bike. Yes, even a Rebel 250, which counts as a higher performing bike.

    Why?

    Because with a TW, one spends a lot of time *within an envelope of confidence and safety*. Easy to flat-foot, difficult to whisky-throttle, forgiving of bits of gravel and wet pavement, it allows (forces?) a more contemplative approach to what can be a very dangerous pastime. Smooth and linear (yes, dismally slow) throttle response, decent brakes and a WHOLE LOT OF TRACTION with its oafish fat tires. These factors give our n00b a fighting chance to learn all the skills needed for a bigger bike BEFORE swinging a leg over one. It can dodge traffic in the city, and build skills in the traffic-free dirt roads.

    As we all know the two most lethal times of the rider experience are in the first 60 days of their riding career, and the first 7 minutes of borrowing an unfamiliar bike. (yes, I made up the 7 minute thing, but there are numbers somewhere, and any experienced rider has seen this first-hand). I can’t loan a n00b either of my bikes, any more than I’d introduce them to drugs with a Belushi Speedball. Loaning a high-performance bike to a n00b is an irresponsible act by those who care little for their buddy and the sport in general.

    I vote with that Paul guy…

    • JasonAvant

      You should totally talk to my friend Paul. He’s some sort of motorcycle savant.

  • tobykeller

    I don’t get all the hair pulling over finding the “perfect” starter bike. The point of a starter bike is that it _isn’t_ perfect… in short order it’ll feel slow, small, too street, too dirt, whatever. A first bike is a road, not a destination… it’s what will teach you, through experience, what you like and don’t like in a bike. You’ll find strengths and weaknesses both that you never suspected from reading reviews, and after a while you’ll be in a much better position to buy the bike you really want.

    So just buy one, and find out.

    • Jack Meoph

      Nailed it. Buy what you can afford, not what you want. Get on it, ride it and keep riding it until you know that riding a motorcycle is something you want to do, and then decide in what direction you want to go with your riding. That will determine which motorcycle you’ll be buying next.

    • scott

      Perfect reply, about a year ago I bought an 07 Star Classic, I wanted to make sure I was not experiencing some sort of male midlife crisis and be stuck paying for a $10K bike. The bike had 3500 miles on it, I now have almost 7000 miles on it and love riding. Because of this I will be getting a sportbike(NOT supersport), probably a 600cc, but might even opt for the Ninja 1000

    • http://motocynic.wordpress.com/ Scott Otte

      I agree that there is no perfect bike there are bikes that are more suited to a new rider than others. Things like seat height and reasonable power etc. and cost. I list out all of my suggestions in my blog http://motocynic.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/my-advice-for-buying-a-first-motorcycle-because-you-asked-for-it/

  • RyYYZ

    Used 250 cc dual purpose bike, assuming you can reach the ground comfortably, is the ideal beginner bike IMO. Cheap, and won’t be damaged by a little rough handling. Fast enough to manage a little highway riding if necessary. Upright riding position. Plus, yes, it can be taken off road, and off road riding is something most beginners could really benefit from.

    I can’t see any point, really, in buying a brand-new CBR250, Ninja 250 or 300, or similar bikes for a beginner, unless they really think this will be the bike they’ll stick with. It will be easily and noticeably damaged (since it’s new) if dropped, and will probably suffer some deprecication on resale.

    The CB500, while a fine bike and probably a great choice for a new rider’s first “big” bike, is still too heavy and powerful (and easily damaged in a drop) to be an ideal first bike, IMO.

  • Austin Sorenson

    I took the MSF course and then started on a 95 Kawasaki ninja 500 that was a street fighter style. I got it for 1500 and sold it the next year to try a cruiser style. The ninja was not heavy and allowed me to learn well and still get to 80 when I needed. I think cheap used bikes are the way to go as you can drop them, and never worry about the full coverage insurance costs. Getting riding time in, and really finding the style you like are most important I think.

  • Justin McClintock

    If you’re tall enough….DRZ400SM. Done. Enough power you won’t feel underwhelmed, reliable, good fuel economy, more aftermarket support than just about anything without a Harley badge on it, great suspension, good brakes, able to shrug off parking lot drops, easy to handle, lightweight, good on the street and in the dirt. As long as you’ve got the inseam for it, it’s really a fantastic first bike.

  • LS650

    Ninja 250: great little bike for both newbies and experienced riders.
    You can find an older one in good shape for under $2000 – what a bargain!

  • motoenthusiast

    I rode a TW200 during my MSF course and had a freakin’ blast. Even now, a few years into riding my 600, I still want to pick up a TW to screw around on both on and off road.

  • john james

    Maybe I missed this but what was the point of this article? Let’s summarize – “I work for a bike company” –> “I need to learn to ride” –> ” I need a starter bike” –> “I’ll ask my experienced rider friend” –> “I don’t like the bike he recommended so I didn’t buy it”…. You didn’t even tell us which bike you bought or why! This site has fallen so far since the days of Wes and Jamie.

    • http://motocynic.wordpress.com/ Scott Otte

      I agree this site isn’t as good as it has been in the past, but did you miss the last paragraph?

  • LG Thomas

    So…I started on a 2010 ZX10R. Yes, I know. Not the best bike for a noob. I grew with that bike, learned a lot on that bike. Was riding track within 6 months of ownership on that bike. 3 years after purchase, I sent it across the desert (at the track) at triple digits. I ride and race an SV650…and that bike has taught me more than the big Ninja ever did. It’s making me a better rider, so I’ll have a better idea of what I want on my next machine. I love my SV. It’s worth considering for anyone who wants to learn.

  • Ransom

    The TW200 is hard to beat for a starter bike. Besides being very easy and relatively safe on the streets, it works great off road too. And off road is one of the best places to pick up skills that will help you in daily riding. It’s a fun bike, but don’t expect to keep up with Interstate traffic on it.

  • Tom U.

    I started riding a few months ago and bought a used Suzuki TU250x. Nine times out of 10 I’m riding back and forth to work in city traffic, and it seemed like a small displacement standard bike was the right way to go. It’s not the fastest off the line by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s sturdy, gets me where I need to go, and the price was right for me.

    • KC

      Great choice and a classy looking motorcycle. When you don’t have a lot to work with you learn to make the most of it. Those skills will transfer to the next motorcycle. I downsized to a CBR250R and it’s like re-discovering the fun of riding all over again – except with water cooling, wind protection (fairing) and great gas mileage.

  • zion

    Here’s what I tell any “graduating” student from my MSF class. As long as the ergonomics make you feel comfortable on your first bike, the rest will fall into place.

    My “personal” humble opinion is stay simple and flip the bike after you’ve had sufficient saddle time. Most of the bikes noted already are fine choices, just go with what feels right for you and that will “fit” where you’ll be riding.

  • http://motocynic.wordpress.com/ Scott Otte

    So many options… I like naked bikes since less to fix when you drop it.

    More advice on my blog if you’re interested http://motocynic.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/my-advice-for-buying-a-first-motorcycle-because-you-asked-for-it/

  • motorock

    A Suzuki TU250 should do you good. If you want something higher, the CBX is good. Or the Duke/RC390 when it comes stateside- you will never get bored of it even when you graduate to bigger bikes.

  • Peter

    DR 650 for sure.

  • chris ordanez

    I rode a TW200 for my MSF course. I could never remember the model and this article helped jog my memory.

    I remember that I didn’t like the ergonomics of the Honda Rebel the instructors initially put me on. The TW was sitting unused, so I asked if I could switch bikes — it was much more to my liking. It was a fun, easy to ride and confidence-inspiring bike.

    I may have to keep an eye out on Craigslist for one of these.

  • Paolo

    A turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa of course….

    • PaddingtonPoohBear

      Haha!

    • Doug Erickson

      dude!!! he should start small, with a sick — that means liter, of course — gixxer. (not a 600, that’s a girl’s gix.) after six months and countless pairs of flip-flops, he can get the busa.

    • JasonAvant

      I was thinking a Confederate R135 Wraith Combat.

  • Aya

    1973 honda CB125. best starter bike ever. so manageable that even when i got sloppy or panicked while learning i never dropped or crashed it. low seat (i’m 5’4 and can flatfoot), super light at 200lbs, with enough power to get you moving but not enough to get you in any trouble – what more could you ask for?

    i’ve since bought a second bigger bike – a 1987 yamaha FZX700 fazer. i had planned to sell the honda immediately but after realizing that handling a 440lbs, frighteningly fast, difficult to park larger bike wasn’t all that i had hoped it would be, i decided to keep the honda.

    i got used to the fazer and love it now, but my experiences with it served to highlight the practical benefits and sheer fun of my much smaller, slower honda, especially around town. i ride both regularly and couldn’t be happier.

    so i guess the point is: enjoy your starter bike. choose something that you would want to keep if you can afford it. don’t always assume that bigger is better in the motorcycling world – the fun part is developing a high level of confidence with and control of your machine. it just so happens that for most people, this is easier to accomplish if the machine isn’t a 1/4th ton fire-breathing race horse!

  • PaddingtonPoohBear

    Ninja 300. Screamin’ high redline @ 13k, you can get ABS on it and it comes standard with a slipper clutch – which this newb has greatly appreciated when downshifting. The only thing I dislike about it is the seat gets kind of uncomfortable after a few hours.

  • Eric

    I started on an Suzuki LS650 Savage, I have a pretty lame reason for picking that bike as my first. I went to a bike shop hoping to find a used scooter to save money on gas, didn’t find any, saw the Suzuki on consignment for $1,300. I knew nothing of motorcycles, I had no ambition to ride, but it was priced right. I needed something to commute to work with as we were in the middle of a gas shortage and sky high prices. So I bought it on impulse. I do mean on impulse too, I didn’t even sit on it, didn’t even start it. Just bought it right then and there. Lucky for me it was mechanically sound and a good runner, was pretty comfortable too, torquey but gutless. Got a quick lesson from my boss who used to ride in the 70-80s and got the bug hard. I didn’t save anything on gas that Summer, but did put on 30,000 miles that year. I promised myself to stay off any busy roads for the first year, stuck to backroads with low traffic. Also promised myself to ride whenever it was safely possible, figuring practice and experience would pay off. It has, was a pretty good bike for a beginner. Light and low, felt a bit like riding a bmx bike and could really muscle it around when you had to. The belt drive made for simple maintenance and never had any break downs with it.

    • LS650

      Nothing wrong with the LS650!

  • Tom327Cat

    I bought a TW200 as my first bike and will never sell it. I currently have a larger bike for daily commuting, but the TW cannot be beat for weekend adventures. I can ride it out to trails on the hiway, trail ride all day, then ride home. No truck or trailer required. All my children learned to ride on it and I still use it for learning new techniques. You just cannot push it outside it’s envelope. If I can just figure out how to mow my lawn with it, I would sell my mower.

  • Michael Howard

    I think one of the best qualities for a beginner bike is that it can be dropped without suffering major (expensive to repair) damage. Many bikes with full fairings can easily sustain over $1000 in damage just from falling off the sidestand.

  • Mr.Paynter

    Paul is definitely a savant!

    12 years, and 6 bikes later, buying my first house meant cash tightened up, and I bought a TW for my short commute and some trips down to the beach for waves. Best. Bike. Ever.

    Blast through traffic, on beach sand and everything inbetween, ring it’s neck and it just keeps going. I love it!

  • Alexander Caliva

    I bought a 1982 Suzuki GS550 for my first bike. It came with a bunch of problems but man do I suddenly know a lot more about how engines work. I have to say, starting out on an old UJM is nice because the machine is simple enough that a novice can wrap their head around the way it works and there is almost definitely some things you can do to make it work better with a few parts and some youtube videos which will not only improve your ride but foster a sense of kinship between you and your bike.

  • James

    I started on a Honda CB125e. Stunningly mistreated by its previous owner with some pretty decent cosmetic damage but in good running order. It is drastically underpowered, doesn’t pull any looks, has the absolute lowest price & lowest (legally acceptable) quality components and it needs filling up with petrol every 4 days thanks to its miniscule 10L tank.
    Its the best bike a n00b could ever want.
    Hit a curb? who cares. Drop it? pick it up. Try lane filtering – easy as. Buy it cheap, get some hours up then sell and upgrade when skill levels are better and the risk of damaging either it or yourself is a lot lower.

  • KC

    That looks like my CBR250R, except that I have the ABS model. If you’re “compact” enough for it (I am), it’s a very good, quick and nimble motorcycle. I “downsized” to it and I’m enjoying every second riding it. Here’s one factor many first time riders overlook: aerodynamics matter. After years of “naked” motorcycles with tiny windscreens, I’m done with trying to punch a hole through the air with my body.

    These are great times: we’re seeing some fine small motorcycles that aren’t ancient tech and aren’t stripped down. I hear the Honda 500′s are good, but they look a bit bland and generic to me.

  • KC

    There’s a lot of “buy it cheap and because you’ll bash it” here. That’s not very inspiring. Hopefully a first time rider won’t “bash it” or get hurt.

    A new rider with a first motorcycle is going to come to terms with how fast fast is – real fast, even on a Rebel, a Savage/S40, Star 250, or something with a little more punch, like a CBR250R, Ninja 250/300, any number of dual purpose motorcycles. A good reasonably powered motorcycle will teach you a lot about riding. There’s a lot of technique to pick up to get the most out of a lightly powered motorcycle. If a motorcycle isn’t quite “it”, get a scooter. Those little things can move with the right rider working them.

    I like my motorcycles small these days. The last one I had was bigger/heavier. It was nice, but pointless, for the riding I do most often.

    • Michael Howard

      “There’s a lot of “buy it cheap and because you’ll bash it” here. That’s not very inspiring.”

      It’s also not very inspiring to damage a pristine new(er) bike when you drop it in your driveway or a parking lot because you were still unfamiliar with the way motorcycles like to fall over (and how surprisingly heavy even small bikes can feel) when you use the front brake with the handlebars turned. ;)

      A new rider may not drop their new bike. But they probably will. Best to not be shocked or disappointed in yourself when/if it does.

      • KC

        My first motorcycle was new and I only had a little street riding experience. Nothing keeps you as focused on getting it right like not wanting to even scratch a new motorcycle. Yes, I tipped it over and snapped a brake lever in the early days. That was the last time that motorcycle hit the ground (until a few years later – I was hit head on by a left-turn fool). Come to think of it, only one other motorcycle I’ve owned has gone down. That was a dim moment on my part. I parked in a gravel lot and lost my footing. There was no damage – it went down easy.

        Maybe it’s just my perspective on riding, but if you buy a “beater” you’ll probably treat it like one.

        • Michael Howard

          You make a good point. Still, I think most people would rather drop a $700 bike instead of a $7000 one.

  • ben

    by an old CB… they’re fun, they’re maneuverable, if you drop them there are a thousand different parts available to help you fix it and when it stops working you’ll have a project.

    Actually, don’t do that… I did that, and now I have nothing to ride and a living room with a motorcycle in it. Get the TW200… seriously, buck up and be a man… you don’t have to look at it while you’re on it, so just don’t get off of it.

  • http://motorraderdreams.blogspot.com/ Eyvind Mondragon

    I had two starter bikes both bought 2 months apart. A 2009 HD Sportster and 2006 K1200R.

    The Sportster is a very friendly bike for a noob. The first day I did 80kph and I was terrified and ready to quit. After a long (at the time) ride of 120km, I felt better. Things got better and better.
    Then I bought the K1200R with its 163hp and 92lb-ft. It was ridiculous power. It was so fast and unwieldy, that I was mostly afraid on that bike. So, I kept alternating back and forth with the Sportster.
    I started doing more and more and more time on the K12R, and I loved how stable, and planted on any surface at speed. And the brakes. Those brakes are amazing.
    The Sportster lost its charm for its inability to brake as good as it accelerated.

    I did it all wrong of course. I should have never started on 1,200cc engines, lest on one with that ludicrous amount of power. I think I’ve picked up a lot of compensating behaviors from trying to wrestle so much power. The only good thing is that my throttle control is very good. You learn that very quickly on a K12R with no TC.

    I should have started on a smaller bike… even a DR650, or a TW200 to get familiar with the bike.

    My GF is learning tomorrow. No, she won’t be learning on my Honda CB550F. I rented a 200cc beater bike for the weekend. $10 for both days. I want her to learn, not to be scared.

  • atomicalex

    The CBR250R is so hilarious to ride that it should be illegal. It’s like “whee! Let’s just hoon all day! Let’s be as stupid as possible! And look! No one will ever notice!” OMG. There is nothing bad about this bike.

    But the TW200 is like that plus you can roost a bit of sand. Which means even more hoonage!!!

    • verboten1

      Ive never ridden a T-dub, but I was searching for one for Riley, mostly because I want one!

    • rudedog4

      ^the lol is strong with this one! :) +10000000000000000000

  • FortuneFavorsTheBold

    Buying your first bike is a tricky process, becasue you don’t have any experience actually buying a motorcycle, to go on.
    So you have to accept that it may be something less than a complete success, but still a good learning-experience.
    You’re making good progress in learning how to ride and getting experience with different bikes without actually *buying* a bike and you really want to keep this up for as long as possible before you actually buy something. There are plenty of places that will rent a bike to you, and even more that will let you demo a bike: make good use of these resources. I think the biggest mistake that people make when buying their first bike is thinking that they won’t be able to handle it. Second-biggest is buying a bike that is incapable of making them happy. Third is trying to get it PERFECT. Buy something that is in the ballpark of what you want, of what will make you happy, find a good deal, leap in and see how it works out. If it doesn’t work out for you, repeat and see if you find another bike you want to buy instead, and go for that. Beyond that my suggestion would be something upright that you can both control well and ride comfortably for a few hours at a stretch, that has “decent” power (and anything under a literbike is going to seem slow, eventually) and of course that looks ok, as you have to ride it and it’s not like a first-date that you can just walk away from. Something that you can split lanes with, fairly-easily, isn’t super-complicated and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to repair. And really, preferably, used, inspected and in good condition. I’d recommend something generic like an FZ6R for a street-bike, and if you want an off-road or DP bike go with a supermoto bike. The hole ADV thing is too complex to really get into for a starter-bike. Now you’re going to learn to ride both offroad and on-road iwth the same bike? Spare yourself the trouble and just rent a dirt-bike or if you have to, rent a few different ADV bikes. Rent anything you’re really thinking of buying before you actually buy it. Or just leap in with both feet and see what happens. It’s not going to actually kill you. And ultimately regardless of whatever you get, it’ll still be just a motorcycle, and all motorcycles share the same basic strengths and weaknesses.

  • Dani V.

    I totally agree with that Paul guy! I am a very new rider – and quite honestly a very small woman. I had bought a Burgman 400 as my starter bike – and was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size and difficulty I had in controlling it in any aspect other than straight line. My husband wanted to get a TW 200 as a play toy (he rides a Versys) and I thought that the size and sheer cuteness was perfect – not to mention the reasonable cost. I learned how to master first and second gear almost immediately, started tearing around our property, and now not only am I very comfortable on that bike – I can handle my huge scooter with ease. I HIGHLY recommend to any other new rider to try out these little bikes with the monstrous tires for themselves!

    • HoldenL

      Wow, how interesting! I ride a Versys, my wife bought a used Burgman 400, and her reaction is similar to yours (she’s about 5-foot-4). I’ve thought about getting a Grom. Maybe I’ll look for a used TW200 for us both.

      • Dani V.

        Our tw 200 is crazy fun. Between the 2 of us, we have torn up the majority of our 5 acres. :) (My burgman was bought used but looking brand new)

  • Von

    @JasonAvant:disqus, I think the Honda CB500X/F models are perfect for you. I’m from the mentality that anything under 250cc is dangerous for the street. You need some power available to you when trouble comes your way. You also want more power to have some sort of fun once you get the basics of riding down. I prefer the CB500F to the R or X. It’s power is linear and mild, yet has enough to be fun and get you out of trouble. The seat height is low. The riding position is upright and comfortable and gives a great vantage point in traffic. It’s a cross between a sport bike and dirt bike as far as handling goes. Bike is plenty fast and comfy for the freeway. Plus, it’s a Honda, super reliable and economical. Some, like the RA guys, would argue that the CB500X is the better bike, but to each their own. I don’t like the ADV styling and prefer the lower seat height since I’m short. The naked styling looks so much better. If you are already pretty set on the X, get it! There’s a reason why both the CB500F/X models earn high marks and awards on this website, they’re great! I think the CBR250 shouldn’t be considered, since the CBR500R exists now, get that if you want a sport-styled bike. The R model never seems to be as highly praised as the F and X models, however. You should want to ride your motorcycle, so get something you like and WANT to ride! With all due respect to your buddy @paulmbowers:disqus, this is your bike, not his, get what you like. He is right that in loaning you one of his bikes would send you to an early grave, those are some bad-ass dual sports! My buddy’s first bike was a 1000cc Buell (not recommended) and he’s still alive to talk about it, so even though there are both wise and not-so-wise choices for a first bike, bottom line is you want something that you look forward to riding! It’s no easy feat buying a bike just to have for six months or a year and then trying to sell it when you out grow it and have to buy another, bigger, bike. I say buy a bike you can grow into, but not kill yourself with, that’s why I recommend the CB500F/X (and not a 1000cc Buell).

  • Maymar

    I still wouldn’t totally discount the TW200, or anything that doesn’t fit the idea of what you want for your first bike. I ride an ancient Rebel 250 that I got for free from my in-laws. There’s nothing cool about it – ugly stepped seat with buttons in it, giant battery box that looks like a grade 9 shop class project, and frankly, I’m not sure anyone, ever, aspired to a tiny cruiser. Plus, even with a 30 inch inseam, the ergonomics are still a little small for me. But I still enjoy riding it. I mean, it’s a motorcycle, so right away, that counts for something. And, it’s unintimidating enough I can get away with all kinds of stupid things with just a gentle reminder that I should be more talented rather than any unpleasant incident to scare me off.

    Honestly, the TW is probably closer to something I would’ve bought for myself (I had my eye on the Canadian market Honda CBR125 as well), but I’m happy just to be riding.

  • charlie

    The bike I ride (my first) isn’t small but it was in great condition and at an amazing price. Not really into the sportbikes. Just wanted something upright that I can commute with and work on.

  • HoldenL

    I think Paul gives a good recommendation. If you don’t want to follow his advice, do what I did and buy a used Kawasaki Ninja EX500. You can buy them cheap, they are reliable and simple, and it’s not financial armageddon when you drop it (and you *will* drop it).

    I started on a 5-year-old EX500 in 2009, and learned a lot. I took it on a 3,000-mile solo motorcycle camping trip, did quite a bit of frugal customization (mostly to the suspension), and then upgraded to a Versys 16 months later. That Ninja sat in my driveway for three months before I sold it because I didn’t want to let it go. Now it probably belongs to a narco-assassin in Nicaragua (I’m not kidding, based on the sketchy guy who bought it).

    The EX500 has a fairly low saddle and enough power to have fun. It can get you into trouble — I got mine up almost to triple-digit speed — but you have to really try. You can buy it and sell it for roughly the same price, and the EX500 online community is extremely helpful with instructions and advice.

  • polvinoj

    I am a new rider with one full year under my belt. I started with a Yamaha 250 that was great, but it was not big enough or fast enough so I upgraded to a Yamaha FZ6R 600 a few months later. This was necessary because I use my bike to commute when I can, and the smaller 250 could not hang with the traffic. (Trucks and cars blowing me around and zipping by me.) I think the first thing to ask yourself is; What is my primary use going to be for this bike? -That way, your choice can be appropriately made based on the situation.

  • pahammer

    I took my MSF course on a Buell 500. First bike I ever rode. I knew right away that it was too small for me (6ft1). So I went and sat on a bunch of different styles and makes. Ended up I bought a 3 yr old Suzuki DL650A with 1800 miles on it and haven’t looked back. At this time, I can’t imagine another bike I would prefer to ride. I love the neutral ergonomics, the peppy performance, the predictable handling. But its only the right bike for ME. Before I tried them all for myself I imagined myself on pretty Triumph America but when I swung a leg I realized it wasn’t right for me. Best thing you can do is sit on a bunch of different ones and see what feels right.