The Best Motorcycles For New Riders
Just got your motorcycle license and want to buy your first real bike? Here’s 12 of the best new motorcycles for you. They’ll help you develop skill, save money and have fun.
How To Learn To Ride
Visit your local DMV to obtain a learner’s permit, then sign up for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation or equivalent class. Depending on which state you live in, that two-day course may serve as your practical exam, but even if it doesn’t, it’s the best possible way to learn.
After that, you’re still going to be extremely…green. 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.
Motorcycling isn’t something you just buy into either. Even riders with decades of experience are still trying to improve their skills. Start small and work your way up and you’ll be a better, faster, safer rider who gets much more enjoyment out of doing this than someone who insists on riding a bike that’s too big or too fast and who likely just ends up being terrified the entire time. Riding with skill is cooler than just buying something flashy.
How To Stay Alive
Wear full safety gear; refer to our Beginner’s Guide To Motorcycle Gear for how and why.
Always ride within your skill level, don’t try to keep up with more experienced riders or bite off tougher conditions than you can chew. Go out when there’s little to no traffic, practice in quiet parking lots or on dead-end streets. Allow yourself time to practice.
Buy a copy of Nick Ienatsch’s Sport Riding Techniques, read it through, then go through and pick individual skills to work on one step at a time. Then, go out and practice that individual skill until you’ve mastered it and move on to the next. Seriously, practice, practice, practice. Devote a day a week to just that and, before you know it, you’ll get good at this bike thing.
READ MORE: The Easiest Motorcycles for Shorter Riders
Chose a bike with ABS brakes. They really will help you stop faster and safer and with more confidence. Especially useful in bad weather or on rough urban streets.
Which Bike Is Right For You?
In America, the bike market is polarized into extremes — extremely large cruisers, extremely fast sport bikes — but there's actually a happy middle ground of bikes that just sort of do everything well. By starting on on of the bikes listed here in place of something more ridiculous, you'll be able to gain riding experience on something suitable for learning while developing an informed position from which to decide what style of motorcycling is right for you. With a few miles under your belt, you'll be in a better position to make that decision in a way that's good for you rather than simply the product of misinformed mainstream media or bad advice from friends.
A stunningly complete motorcycle, this little Honda will give a new rider everything they want and more. Heck, even experienced riders will enjoy the care-free nature of the thing. Whether you’re commuting through dense urban traffic, learning the skills necessary to go fast, just getting around or looking for fun ride, the CBR250R is easy to ride, faster than you’d think and extremely economical to run. As long as you don’t want to go off-road, you can just skip the rest of the list and get one of these.
Chinese production leads to an extremely low price, while Cleveland, Ohio based design and quality control ensure a stylish, reliable ride. Basic in the best possible way, this is a bike you can both learn to ride on and learn to work on at once. A great platform for customization too.
This do-it-all naked is upright and comfy and has more than enough power to blast past highway traffic or head for mountain roads to have some fun. Much higher quality than the $5,500 price tag would suggest, the CB500 is everything you want from a motorcycle in one, extremely affordable, economical package.
The fully-faired version of the CB500F is a better choice for those planning lots of highway models or who prefer the sporty styling. Ergonomics remain all-day comfortable and the performance remains accessible. A great tool for learning the skills necessary to become a fast rider.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.