If you are looking for the best beginner motorcycle, you have come to the right place. By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge necessary to go out and shop for your very first motorcycle, safely. I know, the safety part has nothing to do with the act of “shopping” for a new motorcycle. That part is generally pretty harmless, save for the unruly biker that might run into along the way (just kidding). The choice of a beginner motorcycle may be a life or death decision. That being said, it should be a fun and educational experience. So let us get started shall we?
So you have decided that you want to join the masses of people who come out of the woodwork on the first warm day of spring, smiles from ear to ear, riding their iron horses all over god’s creation. Great! You may have just found a life long hobby/love affair. But like most love affairs, if you start out on the wrong foot, it could spell disaster. I won’t go into details, but you get my point. Motorcycling is an art. Take everything you know about driving a car and throw it out the window. Experience in a car does not translate to experience on a bike. If you drive a Porsche 911 Turbo every day, don’t think that you can hop on a CBR1000 and command it with the same consistency. Bikes are a whole new animal. Just think of the physics behind it, two wheels versus four, handlebars versus steering wheels and a twist throttle. Nothing similar here save for the combustion engine part of it. If you are new to motorcycles, I highly recommend reading Keith Code's Twist of the Wrist: The Motorcycle Roadracers Handbook (Vol 1).
The first thing that you want to do is take a motorcycle safety course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation runs free courses all across the nation. They provide knowledgeable instructors, educational materials and of course, motorcycles. One of the motorcycles featured below, the GZ250 is the most widely used motorcycle in these courses. Talk about a great opportunity to test drive your first bike! The safety course consists of a classroom portion as well as a two day road course, capped off with a license test. Grab a friend and give it a try. You will gain knowledge about the two wheeled world that you never would have thought of on your own. Once you leave, assuming you pass your test, you will legally be allowed to ride motorcycles on the open road. Talk about a great feeling. Oh, and again, it’s FREE! Take advantage of it.
If you are the type who is attracted to sport bikes, please, steer clear of the 600cc super sports for your first bike. Hey, you may beat the odds and live to tell about it, but why temp fate? These bikes are purpose built for the race track and produce power that was once left only in the hands of professional riders. Instead, get yourself on a Kawasaki Ninja 250. If it’s the look you’re after, then you will be pleased with the 2011 and 2012 models. They are nearly impossible to differentiate from its super sport bigger brothers. What you will get is a relatively inexpensive (New for $4,000) lesson in how to ride a motorcycle safely. This is the best beginner motorcycle available to the sport bike enthusiast. And even better, the resale value of these is incredible, since the demand for beginner motorcycles is and will always be strong. Ride one for a season or two and then pass it along to someone who wants to learn the right way like you did. You will not regret it. And anyone who tells you that you are a wimp for starting on such an “under powered” bike is not someone you should associate yourself with.
If you prefer a cruiser style bike, well you’re in luck, there are a ton of beginner motorcycles out there for you as well. The last thing you should do is go out and buy a Harley. I know, you WANT a Harley. We all do. But do you WANT to live to see your next birthday? I’d say we all want that more than we want a Harley. Suzuki makes a bike called the GZ250. Sure, it’s not a Harley Fat Boy (not even close) but it doesn’t look all that bad. What is lacks in looks it more than makes up for in rideability. This bike is extremely light and maneuverable. It will allow you to get a feel for the road on a tamer bike that accepts user error with a mild reaction. Blip the throttle unexpectedly on a 1300CC Fat Boy and you might be in for some trouble. Do the same on this GZ250 and you will scare yourself a bit, but that’s the worst of it.
If you have an itch for older bikes, you are in luck. Most older bikes with larger bore engines produced power numbers similar to today’s 250cc motorcycles. The best beginner motorcycle in the older bike class is the Honda CB550. The Honda CB550 series motorcycles were built from 1974 to 1979 and are a favorite of Café Racer enthusiasts. This bike produces 55 bhp and is a great machine to learn on. It may be a bit heavier than some of the other bikes mentioned here, but it’s a great bike to guide you down the path of motorcycling. Furthermore, these bikes can be found for under $1000 which makes them an automatic play for a lot of starters. Warning however, older bikes tend to be less reliable than their later counterparts. You’d better be handy if you want to jump on one of these and go for a long ride. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Remember, ATGATT. All The Gear All The Time. Helmet, Jacket, Pants, Boots, Gloves. The helmet should be full face, the jacket should be leather. Some jackets come with plastic armor in the elbows and back. I’m a big fan of these. The boots should go over your ankle and should be leather as well. I know not many of you will acquiesce to wearing leather pants, so at the very least wear jeans. I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees out. Shorts have no place on a rider.
Oh yeah, and go have some fun!