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Best Motorcycles For Beginner And New Riders

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If you’re a new rider, then let me first say congratulations. You’re going to have more fun and enjoy life more fully than loads of people, and I genuinely hope that you savor every moment you’re on the road. There are a lot of things to consider now that you’ve made this decision, but one of the most important is the motorcycle you’ll ride first. An uninformed choice here can spoil riding by negatively affecting confidence and hindering the progression of essential skills. And it’s an easy mistake to make, considering the wealth of sexy machines on the market.

Rather than list off a selection of machines I am going to pose some questions and provide some answers, to help guide you along on your way to the perfect machine.

What Are Your Goals As A New Motorcycle Rider?

You won’t be riding like this initially, but if you want to get there starting on a sport-styled starter bike, the KTM RC 390 is a good choice.
You won’t be riding like this initially, but if you want to get there starting on a sport-styled starter bike, the KTM RC 390 is a good choice. (KTM/)

Just to ride, right? If you really give it some thought though, it might not be that simple. Will you be using the bike as a commuter primarily? Are you hoping to get some time off road? Are you planning a longer trip once you get comfortable? It will be helpful to sit down and really ask yourself where you want to be as a rider in six months, a year, two years. This will give you a better sense of the place you want to be, and working back from this can help dictate the bike that would be most fun and engaging to ride first. And if you’re not entirely sure, or if you have a lot of different places you want to be in a few years’ time, don’t worry. There are bikes, like the KTM RC 390 for example, that will provide you with a manageable commute and the ability to get proficient with more aggressive body positioning and feel through corners. Or the Kawasaki Versys-X 300, which will be a fine day-to-day bike but also provide some off-road prowess. If you’re a cruiser rider at heart and want to work up to your dream Harley-Davidson, spend a little time on a Honda Rebel.

For off-road prowess and on-road capability, a bike like the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 is a good option.
For off-road prowess and on-road capability, a bike like the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 is a good option. (Kawasaki Motors Corporation/)

Do You Really Have Prior Motorcycle Experience?

The Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 is a wise choice for day-to-day riders who want a little style while they learn the ropes.
The Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 is a wise choice for day-to-day riders who want a little style while they learn the ropes. (Motorcyclist/)

Riding a straight line out and back on a buddy’s dirt bike when you were in high school isn’t real experience. It may have given you an idea of what to expect as you let out the clutch and roll on the throttle, but that much will only get you through the first hour of a new rider course. If you’re this green, you’ll want to steer clear of high-performance machines that require more finesse and skill to ride, like a 600cc or 1,000cc sportbike (see the BMW S 1000 RR for an example of what I’m talking about).

For new road riders, or returning riders, that have a little more practical skill, the Suzuki SV650 will be a lot of fun.
For new road riders, or returning riders, that have a little more practical skill, the Suzuki SV650 will be a lot of fun. (Jeff Allen/)

If you’ve been riding dirt bikes on the farm for years and are comfortable on a motorcycle, you’ve just never been legal and on road, then maybe you can consider a bike in the middle weight range, like the Suzuki SV650. This also goes for riders who used to log miles but have been out of the saddle for a number of years. There’s a great write-up on this site for returning riders that you should check out, with points that also apply to new riders as well.

It’s easy to let bravado get the better of you when starting out as a road rider, and you’ll be much better off if you can be honest about your level of experience and skill with bikes before you choose a bike to start with. If you’re at a zero or negligible experience level, consider a small-displacement, lighter weight machine as your first. A Ducati Scrambler Sixty2, for example.

Set A Budget You Can Live With

The Yamaha MT-03 is a budget-friendly machine, great for commuting and able in the corners.
The Yamaha MT-03 is a budget-friendly machine, great for commuting and able in the corners. (Yamaha/)

If you’re one of the lucky few out there who doesn’t have to worry about a price tag, then disregard this section. But if you’re scraping together tip money from your gig at Applebee’s, know that reaching your bike goal doesn’t have to be a years’ long effort. There are a lot of great bikes that can be had for under $6,000, brand new. The Yamaha MT-03 starts at just $4,599 for instance. And there are a lot of even better deals on used bikes too. Since getting a new bike also means getting new gear, factor the cost of a helmet, jacket, gloves, pants, and boots (at the very least) into your equation so you’re not left having to choose between going on a ride in a T-shirt and jeans or not riding at all. The gear element is crucial for a new rider on the road, so don’t neglect this point.

Of course, financing options are available, but what if you decide that riding isn’t for you six months in and have to try and sell the bike for what you owe to break even? Or if you drop the bike and end up having to shell out for repairs in addition to your monthly payment? Are these hassles you’re willing to deal with? Answers to these questions should inform you as to whether financing is a worthwhile consideration.

The Rundown

So, to recap. If you can pinpoint your goals, even broadly, then you’ll be able to narrow down your search to one or two riding-style segments. Then, if you are honest about your experience level, you can scale down your search to a performance range, with lower cc’s being a fairly accurate indicator of a less aggressive performance range. Then, if you have a budget that works for your lifestyle, you can narrow down further to the bikes that fit the bill.

If there are two or three after all that consideration, try to get yourself to a dealership, or answer a few want ads and see the bikes in person. A motorcycle on screen can make a really big impact but fall flat in person. You’ll also want to have the bike you ride, you’ll want to be around it, to take care of it, and to enjoy showing it off. Once you have that bike, you’ll be much more likely to hone your skill and become a more proficient rider. When that happens, the motorcycle world is your oyster.

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