Choosing the right bike for starting your motorcycling career is a very important decision. It’s like your first girlfriend, you’ll remember that bike forever and you want those memories to be good ones! The suitable bike will also help you develop the right habits from the very beginning. Follow me along and I’ll show you how to start off on the right foot.
Riding positions and personal preferences
There are a lot of different riding positions on motorcycles, each of them is connected to a certain type of bike. Basically there are three different positions.
- The forward leaning position, which is typical for sport bikes.
- The upright position, typical for touring and dual-sport bikes.
- The backwards leaning position with the feet extended forwards, typical for cruisers.
The best riding position for beginners would be the standard upright position. But I think it’s more important that you try out the different types of bikes and find out which one is most comfortable for YOU! The next really important thing is which type of bike really turns you on, it’s important that you choose a bike you like. I don’t think you’ll be happy if you always wanted a sport bike and someone convinces you that you should start out with a cruiser. If you have absolutely no preferences yet, I would personally recommend a dual-sport.
New versus Used
I would always recommend that you buy a used bike in the beginning. The reasons are simple:
- You’re most likely to drop your bike a few times when you start out so you don’t want to afraid of ruining a new and shiny bike.
- A new bike will lose quite a good amount of value the moment you ride it out of your dealership, if you later decide motorcycling is nothing for you or that you didn't pick the right bike, you can sell your used bike with very little to no loss.
- You will learn how to care for your bike and how to fix smaller problems.
- And last but not least, if you save money on your bike you can buy better protective gear, which I highly recommend to anyone riding a bike. Don’t be one of those organ donors who ride around in trainers and t-shirts.
I would recommend that you don’t spend more than 2000 – 3000 dollars on your first bike. However if money doesn’t matter to you go ahead and buy a new one, that will maybe save you some hassle and being the first one to ride a bike is a very special feeling
Engine and Bike Size
If you have decided on a special type of bike, the next question is how big the bike and the engine should be. A good size for a beginner motorcycle is in the 250cc – 500cc range. This gives you enough power to enjoy riding and some room until you reach the limits of the bike while also not completely overwhelming yourself. On the other hand most bikes with less than 250cc will get boring pretty quickly. So you want to find a good compromise between having enough power while still being manageable.
You should be able to reach the ground with both feet and the lighter the bike the better. A good rule of thumb is that your bike should weigh less than 350lbs (160kg).
These tips should be seen as a guideline. It’s more important how the bike feels than what weight is printed in the spec sheet. There are also bikes with 450cc I would never ever give to a beginner. And if you’re extremely short, there won’t be a bike out there on which you will easily reach the ground with both feet, just choose accordingly and don’t take the biggest bike.
Let’s get to the interesting part. Here I’ve got some specific bike recommendations for you and to be honest I think you could take any of these without thinking about it too much. However I strongly recommend that you do some research on the bike(s) you’re interested in and absolutely test ride them before buying. (The prices are estimates for a good deal on a used bike.)
Suzuki DR 350 SE
The DR 350 SE is one of the best beginner motorcycles if you don’t have a lot of money in my opinion. It’s a rugged bike which you can drop nearly as often as you want without breaking too much. Oil-cooled and with a very robust motor, there is really not much which could cause you major problems. There’re a lot of these bikes out there so you might really get a good deal. However since they were only manufactured until 2001 a lot of them may be a little worn out. You also want to check that you really get the SE Model with the E-Starter.
Price: less than 2000$
Yamaha WR 250 R
A really good 250 with fuel injection and 6 speed gearbox. Very light and fun bike to ride. If you have a little bit more money to spend I would absolutely recommend this bike. Just watch out that you don’t accidentally buy a WR 250 F which is a completely different bike. However if you like Super-Moto you can also get the WR 250 X which is the same bike, just with Super-Motard wheels. Another great thing is that it consumes very little fuel (Yamaha claims on their website you get about 71mpg (~3.3l/100km) with this bike).
Price: about 3000$+
Even if they are a little bit out of our recommended engine size range, but they are great bikes and there’re a lot of them around. They’re heavier than the other recommended bikes, but they are also very forgiving to a beginner. (Accidentally got the wrong gear? No big deal!) Another great thing about these bikes is that you don’t feel like you’re riding a beginner’s motorcycle and want to trade it in as soon as you get some riding skills. If you like to tinker on your bike, there’re also thousands of aftermarket parts for these bikes. If you come across a great deal on one of these, just take it.
Other bikes to look into: Yamaha TW200, Yamaha XT250, Kawasaki KLR250, …
Sport Bikes - Naked Bikes
Kawasaki Ninja 250 R
A great looking bike with a six speed gearbox. If you want a sports bike with which you won’t kill yourself in under a minute, that’s your bike. In my opinion that’s the best choice you can make when you always wanted to drive around on a cool sports bike and don’t have the skills yet to ride one of the bigger beasts.
Price: around 3000$
Suzuki GS 500, Honda CB 500
Great bikes for beginners. Because of the big number of these bikes there’re also some great deals on them. If you are on a tight budget or just want a good forgiving naked bike definitely take one of these.
Price: around 2000$ for an older model, around 3500$ for a newer one
Other bikes to look into: Honda CB 250, Honda CBR 250 R, …
Honda Rebel 250
A simple and easy Cruiser, with great fuel economy. It’s used in a lot of riding schools and that should tell you what a great bike this is for beginners. There’re also a lot of them around so you should be able to get a good deal on one of these.
Price: around 2000$
Suzuki Boulevard S40
This is another great air-cooled bike for beginners. It has a lot of power for a beginner bike, so you will able to keep up with most other bikes and you won’t get bored easily. It’s another bike which you would have no problem with keeping after your first learning period. If you ask me it’s also quite good looking.
Price: under 3000$
Other bikes to look into: Yamaha V Star 250, Honda Shadow 250, …
Thanks for reading and I hope I was able to help you get started with motorcycling. If you have any feedback, other great beginner’s bikes or completely disagree with me, please leave a comment!