5 Great Cruiser Motorcycles For New Riders
(UPDATE: This article was originally published in 2014. We've decided to leave it pretty much untouched, in part so you can see how quickly the cruiser genre is evolving, despite some folks' claims to the contrary. To see a much more up-to-date list of our top picks for newbie cruisers, check out Best Starter Cruisers – 5 Bikes You Should Seriously Consider. – Chris Cope)
Here at RideApart, we don't give cruiser motorcycles a whole lot of attention (Uh, that's not really true anymore – CC). But for new riders or those interested in a more relaxed pace, a cruiser is often a choice worth considering.
Most rider training courses use lightweight cruisers as instructional bikes, and for good reason: upright riding position, forward foot pegs and low seat height inspire confidence in those who are throwing a leg over a bike for the first time. And for those who aren't frightened off after their initial riding class, a cruiser's confidence-building traits - along with manageable power and even the sense of security that loud pipes can offer - add to a new rider's sense of ease when taking to the streets for the first time. Here are five noob-friendly cruisers that entry-level riders should consider.
YAMAHA V STAR 250
Here's what we like about the V Star 250: it's got a bonafide V-twin, even if it's a small one. In fact, the V Star 250 is the only bike in its class with a V-twin engine. And while looks shouldn't be (very) important for new riders, there's just something cool about tooling around town on a V-twin bike for those who are looking to embrace the cruiser lifestyle. The V Star 250, as the name implies, sports a 249cc engine that is very inviting for the newest rider (and more experienced riders won't be embarrassed being seen on one). The bike's 27-inch seat height is a confidence-booster as well.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON 500 / 750 STREET
Time was, you'd Google the phrase "entry-level Harley" and the results would be page after page of articles about the Sportster. But let's be honest - the Sportster is far from a beginner bike. Yes, it's relatively light and maneuverable (for a Hog), but there's a reason that it was favored by Sonny Barger and is beloved by Sportster owners everywhere - the 883cc engine gives the Sportster some kick, perhaps a bit more power than many new riders can handle. New riders who have their hearts set on buying a Harley would be better off picking up either the new 500 or 750 Street. Aimed at new riders as well as riders who are looking to make the leap to a Harley, the Street models offer a lighter, city-friendly cruiser with open-road capability. We got the scoop on the 500 Street late last year, and our insider came away with decidedly mixed feelings about the test model he rode. RideApart contributor Jason Fogelson got to take the Street 750 for a spin, and found it to be an imperfect but solid entry to the Harley lineup. There have been concerns about build quality, and the 500 might be best suited for instructional courses, but if you're looking to join the Harley crowd, the Street might be your ticket.
SUZUKI BOULEVARD S40
No one will ever call the Suzuki Boulevard S40 an attractive bike (that said, the short drag-style bars are a nice touch). It's a basic, no-frills cruiser, but therein lies its strength - there's just not a lot to complicate things for new riders. The 2015 model is basically the same S40 that we've seen for the past couple of years. Noobs will appreciate the low seat height (27.6 inches) and lightweight (381 pounds wet), and its MSRP of $5,499 makes it affordable. (Used prices on earlier models are even better - and you're not missing out on much by buying an older version.) What makes it a better entry-level bike than Honda's similarly priced Rebel - the engine. The Boulevard S40 sports a 652cc single-cylinder powerplant that a new rider, with a bit of practice, will be able to handle.
Let the debate rage on: is this bike a cruiser? A standard? A glorified scooter? We're going to hang the cruiser tag on it, thanks to those forward foot pegs and upright riding position. There's no rule that says all cruisers have to be Harley knock-offs, and Honda has definitely not been shy about pushing the tradition design envelope with several of their most recent releases. The CTX700 and its variants have new riders squarely in the crosshairs; along with a low seat height (28 inches), riders can opt for Automatic Dual Clutch Transmission and ABS to increase their confidence. The CTX700 is powered by a 670cc parallel twin; again, enough to give the bike some depth without terrifying its rider. This isn't a bike that's going to turn heads at Sturgis, but it's a good option for new riders who don't care about their image and just want a useful and capable first ride.
READ MORE: HONDA NM4
The Bonneville seems to be the Triumph that gets pegged as the brand's entry-level model, but the folks at Triumph want new riders to take a look at the Speedmaster, in no uncertain terms. On the Triumph website, the bike is described as being "an engaging entry level bike". The Speedmaster is certainly not a gutless ride; Triumph claims that the bike's 865cc engine puts out 61 bhp at 6800 rpm. It's not exactly a featherweight at 551 lbs, and Triumph is not offering optional ABS for the 2015 model. But for level-headed new riders who are looking for a bike they can grow into at a reasonable price (MSRP is $8299), the Speedmaster would be a good choice.
READ MORE: 2014 Triumph Thunderbird Commander and LT
HONORABLE MENTION: INDIAN SCOUT
OK, we know what you're thinking. Should we really be recommending a bike with an 1133cc engine and a price tag of more than $10,000 to new riders? In all good conscience, no. (The Scout Sixty – which didn't exist when this article was written – is a better choice – CC) And yet, there will always be those new riders who are going to go out and buy a big heavy expensive cruiser no matter what anyone tells them. So if that's you, the Scout has a few things that actually make it a not-terrible choice for a first bike. One: it's relatively small, coming in at 558 lbs wet. Two: it has a really low seat height of 25.3 inches - about 2 inches lower than the Suzuki Boulevard's, and 3 inches lower than the Harley Street's. While it's not a light bike compared to a true entry-level cruiser, the Scout's low center of gravity makes for a less nerve-wracking ride. Just don't send us the repair bill if - OK, when - you drop it.
READ MORE: 2015 Indian Scout Review