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14 Best Beginner Motorcycles

14 Best Beginner Motorcycles
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You’re fresh out of the motorcycle safety class and itching to get out there and ride. You’ve selected the gear you liked the most. A new helmet, gloves, a good jacket, and everything else to follow ATGATT. The one place you’re stuck is on the first motorcycle. Which to buy? What type to consider? Which one is safest? There are a lot of options out there, and here are few simple questions to ponder as you enter the motorcycle buying process.

What is the Purpose of the Motorcycle?

Before thinking of what brand you want, the color options, or anything too in depth, decide on the purpose of your motorcycle. Is it for commuting? Pleasure riding after work or on weekends? A mix of on and off-road riding? How you use the motorcycle may dictate which you should consider and which you should avoid.

How Much Power Do You Need?

Once you have the type decided, then you will need to further refine your choices. Most manufacturers have multiple sizes of every type of motorcycle. While you’re still learning to ride a motorcycle well, you will want a motorcycle that can meet your needs without being too powerful to handle. You don’t want something too heavy, too tall, or with more power than you’re capable of handling well as a beginner, but something to accomodate your size.

How Much Are You Willing to Spend on a Motorcycle?

One other factor to consider is how much you want to spend on your first motorcycle. Do you have an option to buy a lightly used motorcycle that can ride for a year or two and then upgraded to something larger or more in-line with your long-term selection? If there isn’t a good, used motorcycle market where you live, should you buy a lower priced new motorcycle or go straight to your long-term vision of what you want? The reality is that you will most likely drop your motorcycle, gently fall over, or sometimes have an accident. How much can you afford to replace in bodywork or parts, even if you have good insurance with a deductible?

Features to Look for in a Beginner Motorcycle

Each motorcycle has a long list of features to consider, but we have narrowed it down to a handful that will help you choose the best beginner motorcycle. These are basic common criteria to look for in each motorcycle that should help you when you’re shopping for your new adventure.

  • Engine Size Less than 600cc

    A 600cc engine size is a general starting point for beginner riders. A 600cc cruiser may have half the horsepower of a 600cc sportbike, so it will be dependent on the rider to find where they are comfortable with the type of motorcycle they are interested in. Secondly, a larger rider may find a 600cc motorcycle is too small to fit comfortably, where a smaller rider may find the same motorcycle too large. Again, it is a starting point for consideration, but you as the rider need to find what fits best and works best for you.

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

    Most motorcycles will have a standard braking system that doesn’t involve a computer to keep the brakes from locking with too much application. Some models you’ll find will have an anti-lock braking system as standard fare, but most will keep it as an add-on feature if you want to purchase it. Why ABS is notable is that it will keep the tires and brakes from locking and skidding if you apply the brakes too hard. As a new rider, you’ll be more likely to over-apply the brakes than worry about not applying them enough in a panic stop situation.

  • Windscreen/Fairing

    Having a windscreen or fairing on the front of your motorcycle will allow you tuck behind it to stay out of the wind and weather. Having to lean forward to fight against the force of the wind as you ride makes you tired on a longer ride. The higher speed also equates to more wind force, so a highway ride without a windscreen may cause more fatigue compared to riding with something to block the wind. A windscreen will also block small rocks and bugs as you ride, like a windshield in your car. Overall, it will keep you cleaner and more energized on your ride than riding without.

  • Seat Height

    As a new rider, one of the things to keep in mind is the seat height and how it reflects on your inseam. When you reach a point where you need to stop and put a foot or both feet down, the seat height will need to accommodate the length of your legs. If the seat height is too tall, a shorter inseam will require you to lean the motorcycle over just to be able to put a foot down or possibly have to stand on your tiptoes to keep the motorcycle upright and stable. On the opposite side, a shorter motorcycle and a longer inseam may also be uncomfortable because it’s almost too easy to touch the ground. Finding the balance of seat height and inseam length is needed, and most likely they need to stay within a few inches of each other for a rider to feel comfortable with stopping and standing.

  • Handlebar Height

    Like seat height, handlebar height affects your rider posture which affects your fatigue level and comfort while you ride. You need to be able to reach the hand controls easily when seated on the motorcycle. You shouldn’t have to reach too far to use the controls, nor lean too far to reach the controls. Your elbows should be slightly bent when you sit on the motorcycle and reach for the controls, which will allow you to stay comfortable and alert as you ride.

14 Best Beginner Motorcycles

With all these questions looming, making the choice to buy new or used is always a tough decision. We have selected 14 best beginner motorcycles of 2018 for your review in case you can’t find the right used motorcycle to get your riding career started this year.

  1. Honda Monkey
    Motorcycle Type: Standard (Mini)
    Displacement: 125cc
    Engine: Fuel injected single cylinder
    Transmission: 4-speed
    Price: $3,999 – $4,199 (depending on trim)

    The Honda Monkey was a rage in Asia in the 1960s and has kept a cult following over the last 50 years that continues to see growth. The US market is finally getting their own version that now comes in a base trim level available in red or yellow and an upgraded trim level with ABS brakes.

    The Monkey is considered a mini, which has a low seat height and may be too small for some of the larger enthusiasts out there. It makes a great weekend adventure ride that allows for riders to experience both on and off-road sightseeing. It’s also a fun commuter at lower speeds but does not have enough power to keep up in heavy, high-speed traffic.

    Honda Monkey
    Honda Monkey
  2. KTM Corner Rocket (390 Duke)
    Motorcycle Type: Standard (Naked)
    Displacement: 373cc
    Engine: Fuel injected single cylinder
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $5,299

    The KTM Corner Rocket is a Standard type motorcycle that contains a naked frame and minimal fairing, but is capable of riding like a Sport motorcycle. The suspension is a bit more on the firm side, as it’s meant to handle heavy cornering duties of weekend touring and sport riding. With a simple single cylinder engine, the power is manageable for beginners and capable of reaching highway speeds.

    The Corner Rocket has a mid-range seat height due to the firmer suspension and it won’t give under the rider’s weight too much. It has an array of accessories for purchase for extra storage space and added customization.

    KTM 390 DUKE
    KTM 390 DUKE
  3. Harley-Davidson Street 500
    Motorcycle Type: Standard / Cruiser
    Displacement: 494cc
    Engine: Fuel injected v-twin (two cylinder)
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $6,899

    The Harley-Davidson Street 500 is the first step to your American motorcycle experience. The Street 500 is low slung with a 25” seat height. At a svelte 500 pounds, it can be handled easily by most beginners after they have graduated from their first safety course.

    The Street 500 is capable of daily commuting and weekend touring. With options to customize it with a large front fairing and saddlebags for extra storage, it can be an ideal long distance touring motorcycle. It also has an anti-lock brake option, which we recommend purchasing along with the security system option. Motorcycle theft is a constant threat, especially for Harleys, so having a little extra security won’t hurt.

    Harley-Davidson Street 500
    Harley Davidson Street 500
  4. Kawasaki Z125 Pro SE
    Motorcycle Type: Sport (Mini Naked)
    Displacement: 125cc
    Engine: Fuel injected one cylinder
    Transmission: 4-speed
    Price: $3,399

    The Kawasaki Z125 Pro SE I is a recent addition to the Kawasaki New Rider Endorsed lineup. The Z125 is a good motorcycle for weekend riding or daily commuting. It’s not too heavy to handle and the 125cc engine doesn’t have too much power to accommodate a beginner. One thing it doesn’t have is a front fairing, so you will feel a little more wind as you ride on your daily commute or weekend fun.

    The Z125 is listed as new rider friendly. It has a medium seat height at 31.7-inches tall but has adjustable components to adjust the ride taller or shorter to accommodate almost every rider well for comfort. Unfortunately, the Z125 does not have an anti-lock braking system available.

    Kawasaki Z125 Pro SE
  5. Harley-Davidson Superlow
    Motorcycle Type: Cruiser
    Displacement: 373cc
    Engine: Fuel injected single cylinder
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $8,699

    The Harley-Davidson Superlow is the essence of a low-slung cruiser motorcycle. You don’t ride on a cruiser, you really ride in one. The Superlow shares a complete line of accessories with the H-D model line-up. It features a low 25.5” seat height that can fit most riders. With easy ergonomics, you can ride for a few hundred miles a day without getting a cramp.

    The Superlow features a low 25.5” seat height that fits most riders easily. You can adjust the foot pegs and seat to accommodate larger riders, and it’s not a heavy motorcycle that you’ll have to worry about being too much to maneuver. The power isn’t excessive but offers enough to handle a long ride on an interstate or just a quick trip to the store.

    Harley Davidson Superlow
    Harley Davidson Superlow
  6. Honda Grom
    Motorcycle Type: Sport (Mini)
    Displacement: 125cc
    Engine: Fuel injected single cylinder
    Transmission: 4-speed
    Price: $3,399 – $3,599 (depending on trim)

    The Honda Grom may seem like a mini bike, but it has more sports features than you expect. The suspension and seat height are like a sports bike, and its affordability makes it a good starter motorcycle. The Grom doesn’t have enough muscle to do more than commute on the city streets, but it will get you there in style with a shiny blue, red, green, or orange finish.

    The Grom makes a good starter motorcycle as it’s more than capable of commuting and having some fun on the weekends and the taller seat height will accommodate most new riders. The Grom won’t handle highway speeds well, so be wary of trying to outpace heavy high-speed traffic. Otherwise, it’s a fun sporty ride that’s great for new riders seeking a little fun and excitement.

    Honda Grom
    Honda Grom
  7. KTM RC 390
    Motorcycle Type: Sport
    Displacement: 373cc
    Engine: Fuel injected single cylinder
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $5,499

    The KTM RC 390 is a great beginning sport motorcycle. Complete with a full fairing, the RC cuts through the wind with agility and corner carving prowess. Lightweight with a steel trellis frame and big wide tires, it’s just what you need to satisfy your corner carving on the daily commute.

    The RC 390 has a stiff suspension that is ready to handle every corner you can throw at it. The ergonomics are forward leaning to keep you in a crouch to evade the wind while you ride. The seat height is taller than average with high foot pegs to allow you to lean over the motorcycle in the tight fast corners, , so be prepared for shorter rides rather than hours in the seat at a time.

    KTM RC 390
    KTM RC 390
  8. Kawasaki 300
    Motorcycle Type: Sport
    Displacement: 296cc
    Engine: Fuel injected two cylinder
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $4,999 – $5,299 (depending on ABS system)

    The Kawasaki 300 is a simple, full-fairing sport motorcycle that is great for beginners. The motorcycle is capable of weekend sport riding, corner carving, or daily commuting. It’s lightweight and has enough power to keep up with traffic without being too much to handle.

    As with other sport motorcycles, you can expect the 300R to be slightly taller in seat height and have higher foot pegs to handle the tight cornering. One extra feature available for a little more than the base price is an anti-lock braking system that adds extra stopping capability. It’s a good value for the money and is a recommendation to scoop up the ABS over the standard base model if you can.

    Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS
    Kawasaki 300
  9. Yamaha V Star 250 Raven
    Motorcycle Type: Cruiser
    Displacement: 250cc
    Engine: Carbureted V-twin (two cylinder)
    Transmission: 5-speed
    Price: $4,349

    The Yamaha Cruiser line has a long history of innovation and keeping with that tradition is the Yamaha V Star 250 Raven edition. This low-slung cruiser features a stout 350cc engine that is meant to run for long periods of time. It features a plush suspension that provides you comfort through short and long rides to build your riding endurance and skills.

    The V Star 250 is a great first motorcycle for a beginning rider because it is low weight, low power, and has a low seat height that can accommodate most new riders. It has great fuel mileage that will give you the chance to really put some miles on the odometer and has a great lineup of accessories to match your individual style.

    Yamaha V Star 250 Raven
    Yamaha V Star 250 Raven
  10. Yamaha SR400
    Motorcycle Type: Standard (Naked)
    Displacement: 399cc
    Engine: Fuel injected single cylinder
    Transmission: 5-speed
    Price: $5,999

    The Yamaha SR400 features retro styling reminiscent of motorcycles back in the 1970s with a slim narrow frame and air cooled engine. Add t a fuel injected “thumper” engine that can get an estimated 66 miles per gallon and you have a recipe for a fun ride that will go all day. The 5-speed transmission is suitable for city and highway riding, but without a fairing, you’re going to feel all the wind and weather during every ride.

    Even without a fairing for wind protection, the SR400 is still a great motorcycle for a first-time rider. The seat height is set at just under 31-inches and will be comfortable for most riders on a plush wide seat. One unique feature that oozes old-school cool is a unique kick starter true to the history books. That’s right, no push-button starter. If you don’t have a strong right leg, you just might acquire one after kick-starting the SR400 before every ride.

    Yamaha SR400
    Yamaha SR400
  11. Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS
    Motorcycle Type: Touring (Adventure)
    Displacement: 269cc
    Engine: Direct fuel injected parallel twin (2-cylinder)
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $5,399 – $5,699 (depending on trim model)

    The Kawasaki Versys is a taller adventure model that has a little of everything to go almost anywhere you’re ready to ride. It features a medium windscreen on the front that will block a lot of wind and weather as you ride on your commute or on the way to your favorite riding trail. The two-cylinder has plenty of torque to keep you moving forward at low speeds while out playing in the dirt, yet can keep up with highway speeds if you travel on a long weekend ride.

    The Versys-X makes a good beginner motorcycle for those that can ride a taller bike, as the seat height is on the upper end. It comes standard with dual hard saddlebags to hold plenty of gear, whether that’s a change of clothes, some extra jackets, or rain gear. The suspension is supple to handle on and off-road riding and keeps you comfortable in any scenario. With the fairing and windscreen, it will keep you out of the oncoming wind and allow you to ride for miles and miles as you gain more riding experience.

    Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS
    Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS
  12. Suzuki GSX250R
    Motorcycle Type: Sport
    Displacement: 248cc
    Engine: Fuel injected two cylinder
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $4,549

    The Suzuki GSXR lineup started the sport bike scene in the 1980s with the Katana model, and it has continuously evolved over the three decades. Until recently, Suzuki only offered a capable sport bike in 600cc or more for the engine, but now have started to offer a capable motorcycle with a 250cc engine for entry-level riders. It features a low seat height at 31-inches and a full fairing and windscreen to divert wind around the rider.

    The rider ergonomics will mimic the larger displacement sport motorcycle with a slightly leaning forward style. The GSX250R also features an LCD screen that is easy to see at any time of day and also has dual LED headlights that allow you to see well at night, but also be bright enough for other motorists to see you at all times of the day. The reach to the hand controls is relatively short for most riders. The GSX250R does not offer an anti-lock braking option, but it does have a very capable dual caliper system that offers great braking performance for new riders ready to hit the road.

    Suzuki GSX250R
    Suzuki GSX250R
  13. Suzuki GW250
    Motorcycle Type: Standard
    Displacement: 248cc
    Engine: Fuel injected two cylinder
    Transmission: 6-speed
    Price: $4,099

    The Suzuki GW250 is a naked standard motorcycle that is capable of handling everything you need as a new rider. The GW250 has enough power to cruise at highway speeds or navigate the suburban jungle effortlessly. A small windscreen will direct the incoming air around you and keep you energized on every ride.

    One great thing about the GW250 is a lower seat height that most riders will enjoy. With a lower seat height of 30.7-inches and a short reach to the hand controls, every rider should feel comfortable on the GW250. It also features adjustable brake levers for more rider comfort. With the extra supple suspension and customizable features to each rider, the GE250 has enough power and low weight that will make it a great first motorcycle for a new rider.

    Suzuki GW250
    Suzuki GW250
  14. Suzuki DR-Z400SM
    Motorcycle Type: Super Moto
    Displacement: 398cc
    Engine: Carbureted single cylinder
    Transmission: 5-speed transmission
    Price: $7,299

    The Suzuki DR-Z400SM is a unique motorcycle at first glance. The SM stands for Super Moto. Think of it as a blended motorcycle with 80% motocross and 20% street riding DNA. Super Motos are designed to handle a mix of every type riding with a supple suspension that is able to soak up the bumps and jumps of urban riding with tires capable of highway speeds. It features all the lighting and protection of a normal motorcycle but has some extra suspension to go anywhere and do anything.

    The Super Moto has a taller seat height sitting at 35 inches to accommodate the suspension travel. It may be too tall for some riders but know that it does tend to sink lower to the ground under the rider weight. Why it makes a good beginner motorcycle is that is a great option for urban settings that see a lot of street miles without the need for a fairing to block the wind at highway speeds. It’s scantily clad with minimal bodywork, just as you would expect a street-based motocrosser. It’s lightweight, offers a torquey engine for daily riding, and it will keep you smiling every time you ride.

    Suzuki DR-Z400SM
    Suzuki DR-Z400SM

With these 14 motorcycles, you can see how many are out there in various types, options, and configurations. It’s a tough choice when you start riding. Just picking one type or one brand offers you more than you probably thought was out there. Each model selected has something different to offer from accessories, upgradable features, and a little extra once you know what you’re looking for. Give each a quick review, head to your local dealer, and start sitting on a few motorcycles. You’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in a first motorcycle. It’s just going to take some research and few seat checks to ensure you’re buying exactly what you want. Make sure to follow ATGATT and grab some gear while you purchase your first motorcycle and remember to stay safe out there!

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