What is a good beginner motorcycle? Congratulations! You got your motorcycle license, took the required safety classes, and you’re ready to buy a brand new (or previously loved) bike. The question is, which bike is best for a rider who is just starting out?
Before making an impulse purchase, check out our recommendations to learn more about what motorcycles are most suitable for beginners.
What Is a Good Beginner Motorcycle?
The first thing to determine is what you plan on using your motorcycle for. Is it for joyriding on the weekends? Will it be your primary form of transportation? Do you plan to go off-road? Once you’ve figured that out, you can begin narrowing your selection.
The biggest misconception when budgeting for a new motorcycle is how much you originally think you can afford. It’s important to take into account property taxes, insurance, new gear, and depending on your living situation, storage – essentially the total cost of motorcycle ownership.
Insurance is one of the hottest topics among riders. Make sure to work with your current auto insurance provider first, as they will likely have a multi-vehicle policy that will reduce your rates. The pro to being a newer rider looking at lower displacement bikes is that the cost to insure is almost directly correlated to the amount of power a bike has, so prices should be on the lower end.
Another tip is to look for motorcycle incentives, as many manufacturers offer savings to make the buying process more affordable. It’s also important to understand what motorcycle dealer fees you should expect to pay when going through the purchase process.
Once you’ve been able to determine the true amount of money you can spend on a bike, it’s time to take that number to the want ads, dealerships, craigslist, Rollick, or even your local bike meets.
Among the many heavily disputed topics in the motorcycle community, one that sits at the top of many riders lists is the acceptable power output a new rider should look to manage. From 250cc singles to 1600cc V6 monsters, the motorcycle industry offers hundreds of bikes and engine configurations.
For the first year of riding, we suggest sticking with a bike that has no more than 600cc’s of power, which is being delivered via a smooth and controlled throttle response. Most entry-level motorcycles are far less twitchy in their throttle response, translating to a more dull reaction from the engine when the throttle is twisted.
To some, this may sound negative, but in the first year of riding you’re still getting used to the incredible power-to-weight ratio that all bikes provide, so you’ll want a safety net in the event that you accidentally apply full throttle in a dangerous situation.
Our compiled list of 15 best motorcycles for beginners focuses on bikes in the sub 600cc power level that provides consistent throttle response through the rev range.
The heavier the bike, the harder they fall. This stands to be very true as a beginner when you’re still building up your skillset and find yourself potentially making little mistakes. Make little mistakes on a heavy bike and it would be magnified into much larger and potentially dangerous issues. So go with what you can handle!
Different styles of bikes tend to dictate the acceptable weight ranges of the bikes in their category. Choosing a bike that is relatively lightweight for its style will help you keep control in slow-speed situations, allows you to feel comfortable with feet down, and generally give more detailed rider feel.
My second sportbike was an Italian stallion Aprilia Tuono V4R. That bike spoke to me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t usable on a daily basis.
The abysmal 100ish mile range, the low and forward controls, and the overwhelming heat meant that it was more of a weekend warrior than the daily commuter that I was looking for.
Things like storage capacity, range, comfort features, and wind protection can make or break your decision to go on that moto camping adventure or whether you want to ride to work.
Being patient and dissecting all the features of a bike will ensure you get your money’s worth and increase your likelihood to ride. Using model specific forums, facebook groups, as well as online services like fuelly to determine various long term attributes to these bikes will help you decide what’s right for you.
Riding a motorcycle is significantly more fatiguing than driving and the last thing you’ll want to feel at the halfway point is a pain in your neck, shoulders, knees, or back.
With the naked bike movement coming into full effect, and manufacturers pushing out amazing standard upright motorcycles with as much power as their supersport brethren, there is less of a reason to sacrifice comfort for capability.
One of the main components of comfort is seat height. As a relatively short rider, I initially found myself discouraged by the rather high seat heights that come standard on many of the bikes I was interested in. O
ver the years I’ve not only grown my skills to adapt to higher seat heights, but I’ve seen manufacturers work hard to make higher bikes more accessible for everyone (i.e. lower seats, lowered suspension from the factory, lowering links available in the aftermarket).
How Much is a Beginner Motorcycle?
Beginner motorcycles typically range in price from $3,000 to $10,000. Based on the list below, the average price of a new beginner motorcycle is $5,550. And if you’re curious about your neighbors, the most popular beginner bike is the Honda Grom. The least expensive beginner bike in our list is the Kawasaki Z-125 Pro, retailing for $3,199.
Best Beginner Motorcycles 2023
From simple standards to speedy sportbikes, here are the best entry-level bikes that are built to last and provide thousands of miles of adventure. I’ve hand-selected bikes from experience and ranked them in order of his favorite for a beginner bike.
2023 BMW G 310 GS
BMW’s G 310 GS is styled after the brand’s overlanding overlord, the R 1250 GS. But instead of weighing about 550 pounds and being powered by a 1,254cc boxer engine (that is, the Bavarian brand’s iconic flat-twin engine), the G 310 GS weighs in at a lighter 386 pounds and uses a friendly 313cc single-cylinder engine.
The small GS’ seat height starts at 32.8 inches, but can be lowered to 32.3 inches or raised to 33.4 inches with the Original Equipment low/high seat. Additionally, the clutch and brake levers are adjustable to suit various sized hands.
If you plan to spice up your ride with some dirt road riding, there are some specs that are up for the challenge, namely in the form of a substantial 7.1 inches of suspension travel at both ends and 19-inch front wheel.
Swap out the tires for something with a more aggressive tread pattern if you ride anything more than fire roads. Pricing starts at $5,695, which is over 10 grand less than the 1250.
2023 BMW G 310 R
The lowest priced motorcycle in the BMW lineup is the 2023 BMW G 310 R with its $4,995 sticker price. With this machine you have the 313cc liquid-cooled single in a naked-bike-styled package. Like the GS, it has ride-by-wire and a slipper clutch for smooth throttle and clutch action.
The standard 30.9-inch seat height is lower than even the lowest setting of the GS mentioned above, and can also be adjusted 0.6 inch lower or higher with the OE seats, so riders of varying inseam lengths have a better chance at flat-footing and propping up the R’s 362 pounds.
2023 Honda CB300R
Honda’s 2023 CB300R is a solid performer in the class and its docile 286cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder won’t intimidate new riders. The bike is lightweight at a claimed 316 pounds and has a $5,049 price tag that won’t break the bank.
The CB’s smooth throttle response and balanced chassis impressed our team in the past, and though there aren’t any major changes for this year, it’s a bike that will still provide serious fun. If this flashy Pearl Dusk Yellow CB300R or its Matte Black Metallic version tickles your fancy, you can read more about it in our First Look.
2023 Honda Rebel 300 or Rebel 500
An MSF-course favorite and all-around solid choice for the new rider is the Honda Rebel 300/500. The Rebel 300 houses a 286cc single in the diamond-type steel frame whereas the 500 has a 471cc single. On our dyno we found the 300 good for 25 hp and the 500 provided 40.8.
Either option is great for newbies seeking a cruiser with composed handling, top-notch fit and finish, and bigger-bike looks. For the Rebel 300 you’ll pay $4,749 and the 500 is $6,449.
2023 Honda Grom
Want to keep your riding radius closer to home? The Grom weighs 223 pounds and is a light and lively machine for riding to/from campus, dinner, the store, etc. At $3,499 Honda’s latest Grom is competitively priced and its claimed 166 mpg makes for cost-effective commuting as well.
It is powered by a pint-size 124cc air-cooled single that is paired with a five-speed transmission (the fifth gear was new for 2022). We put the 31mm fork and shock to the test on city streets, a supermoto track, and dirt track in our recent review of the 2022 version (here’s the link to the video).
2023 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 or Vitpilen 401
Husqvarna attracted a heck of a lot of attention when it unveiled its futuristic Svartpilen and Vitpilen’s back in 2017. Both bikes look similar but represent two different branches of motorcycling, scrambling and cafe racing.
The Svartpilen 401 provides a slightly more upright riding position compared to the Vitpilen which hunkers riders down with its clip-on handlebars. The Svart also has more rugged looks with knobby tires and dark bodywork which contrasts with the Vitpilen’s road tires and bright white body.
A 373cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine thumps away in both machines and produces around 40 hp, and admirable WP suspension and 335-pound weight give both bikes the chops to snake the winding mountain roads or slice around street corners with aplomb. Both have an MSRP of $5,649.
2023 Kawasaki Ninja 400 or Z400
Team Green has its slew of approachable bikes and the first couple that are great for the new rider demographic includes the Ninja 400 and Z400. Both have a 399cc parallel twin that’s loads of fun, providing a lovely spool up of power that riders won’t get tired of easily.
ABS (aka antilock braking system) prevents wheels from locking up under hard braking on low-traction surfaces; the Ninja comes with it as an option ($5,299 without ABS, $5,699 with ABS), and the Z has it as standard equipment ($5,399). The Ninja has a full fairing kit, whereas the Z sports a streetfighter style with more upright ergos.
Seat height is 30.9 inches which makes both bikes easy to kick a leg over. Each bike weighs around 360 pounds. Both have new colors for this year which you can read more about in the Ninja 400 First Look and Z400 First Look.
What CC is good for a beginner motorcycle?
For beginner motorcycle riders, many people recommend an engine size of 500CC to 600CC. We would recommend an engine size of 250CC, 300CC, or 400CC. This size engine will give any beginner motorcyclist enough power. As a new rider gains experience and skill, they can move up to a larger CC-size bike if they desire.
What motorcycle should I get to start?
For beginner motorcycle riders, the recommended engine is 500cc to 600cc. The lower the cc figure, the easier the bike will handle, and the more forgiving it will be to the inevitable mistakes that new riders make. Just because a bike has a smaller engine doesn’t mean you can’t still ride fast.
How much should I spend on my first motorcycle?
Beginners typically spend around $5,000 to $10,000 for a motorcycle.
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