When you’re first getting into riding, there are many things you need to look at. You have a lot of information to absorb, from learning how to safely ride a motorcycle to picking the right gear to make your rides as enjoyable as possible.
What about your first bike, though?
Buying your first bike is about more than just picking the biggest, coolest, loudest bike you can find in your price range. You have some limitations as a beginner, and the bike you select has to match your skill level and riding ability. Not to mention a few other factors that you need to think about.
Instead of letting you head off to the dealership blindly, we’ve created this guide to the best motorcycles for beginners. The models on our list are easy to ride, provide a lot of bang for your buck, and are beginner-friendly for maintenance, daily use, and other factors.
Buying Your First Motorcycle: Things to Look for in a Motorcycle
Buying your first bike is about more than just looks or raw horsepower. Here are the essential traits you need to look at when window shopping for a motorcycle. Also, you’ll see later on that our list matches up with the objective items on this list.
Alright, it’s not all about appearance, but looks do count. You’re very likely to get attached to your bike, and you probably won’t want to invest in a new one for a while. So, make sure the bike has some aesthetic appeal that matches your personal tastes.
This is obviously a subjective thing. We recommend not going with anything too wild to prevent you from having a change of heart in the future. Save the flashier stuff for when you have more of an idea of what you like. However, this does not affect your ability to enjoy riding. So, it’s up to you.
Weight, Size, and Power:
It may seem like a good idea to grab an overpowered bike with some real heft to it right off the bat, but keep in mind that you don’t have any riding experience. You can get used to anything with enough practice, and there are perks to having a bigger, more powerful bike, but you can also get a bit overwhelmed at first. Suppose you can’t comfortably control and balance the bike. In that case, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous situation every time you get on it.
Try to pick something suitable for highways and real riding, but make sure you understand your own limits. Also, keep your size in mind. A 5’2″, 110-pound man can get behind the wheel of a lifted truck with no problem, but handling a monster of a bike might give that same man some major issues simply due to his size and lack of riding experience.
You want to keep the experience as pure as possible for your first motorcycle. You don’t want a ton of onboard features that do little more than confuse you or gather dust. You don’t really need a bike with tons of aftermarket parts installed by the previous owner.
Some motorcycle storage is good, and if there are helpful upgrades from the previous owner, that’s fine. However, you’ll likely spend more money than necessary to buy a bike completely redone by the first owner with fancy aftermarket parts. Not only that, but those aftermarket pieces can make at-home maintenance harder since your bike won’t be as easy to find online tutorials and guides for. They might even affect the prices you get at a mechanic if they need to replace one of the more expensive aftermarket bits and bobs.
In short, try to keep it simple and find a stock version of the make and model you want. If you do this, you’ll likely find in-depth guides and tutorials online to guide some of the more minor maintenance and repairs you have to perform. Getting a hold of stock replacement parts is usually far more straightforward.
Of course, price is a significant factor in any purchase you make. That’s no different with your first motorcycle, either.
The key to choosing one of the best motorcycles for beginners is to be reasonable. You can’t expect to find a secondhand bike for $1000 and not have problems with it, but you also don’t need to drop $30,000 on a top-of-the-line bike.
Keep in mind that, while it’s unlikely, you might lose interest in riding your motorcycle. The more expensive your bike is, the more likely you’ll have to finance it and get stuck with those payments. You’re also more likely to make mistakes such as dropping your motorcycle, getting into a minor accident that bangs it up a bit, or otherwise doing things that put your bike through its paces.
It’s better to iron out the basics of motorcycle care with a $5,000 entry-level model than with a significant investment like a $25,000 high-end model. You can always upgrade in a few years when you’re more comfortable with your bike.
Beginner-Friendly Maintenance and Minor Repairs:
Have you ever worked on a modern car compared to something made in ’95? Switching out a timing belt used to be a simple task for most people. In the past, it took about fifteen minutes on most cars. Now, you typically have fifteen other parts piled on top of it, and your best bet is paying a mechanic massive labor fees to do it all for you.
In some ways, the motorcycle world can be similar to that.
As a beginner, there will be things that you should leave to the pros. You don’t want to tear your engine apart, mess with your drive train, or deal with other complicated parts. Still, you should be able to replace your air filter, remove your gas tank, replace your tires, clean your chain, and do other basic things without dragging it to a mechanic for every little thing.
Some bikes are just overbuilt and complicated, and we recommend staying away from those. With a more basic bike, you can learn the basics of motorcycle maintenance pretty quickly, and operating the bike will be easier. You can build the skills you need to mess with the more complicated bikes later on when you know what you’re looking for and how to work with it.
The Best Motorcycles for Beginners: Our Top 4 List
This is our top 4 list of the best motorcycles for beginners. These are beginner-friendly bikes in a pretty affordable price range. They’re great for getting your bearings in the motorcycle world. While you can upgrade to a high-end model with all the latest bells and whistles, these beginner bikes are also reliable enough to be your go-to ride for years to come. They’re not some cheap starter bikes you’ll want to replace a year later. That’s for sure.
2020 Yamaha YZF-R3
The 2020 model of Yamaha’s YZF-R3 is made with the sportbike rider in mind. It has sleek, sharp lines along its body, a powerful yet controllable engine, and low overall weight to make it reasonably easy to ride for beginners.
If the sporty aesthetic catches your eye, you’ll be happy to know that the 321cc engine provides plenty of power to match its appearance. Still, it’s not quite powerful enough to overwhelm new riders with near-instant acceleration or other issues that can make the learning process difficult.
More importantly, that power is packed into an ultralight 368-pound body. In the gym, that sounds kind of heavy. Still, it’s exceptionally light for such a powerful vehicle. It makes balancing this slender speed machine an easy task, even for smaller riders. Not to mention, it’s a lot easier to pick this up if you accidentally topple it than if you were to buy a massive hog and tip that over.
Overall, the rider experience is well-known for being extremely high quality. It’s smooth, the engine is RELATIVELY quiet compared to other motorcycles, and it’s surprisingly comfortable for a sports bike. At just $4999 MSRP, it’s hard to beat such a solid starter setup, and while you won’t find any super-fancy features, it excels with the basics.
2020 Honda CB300R
If you’re looking for a lightweight, no-frills starter bike that’s perfect for getting used to the road, the 2020 CB300R from Honda is perfect. It has a very traditional look, a sleek, no-frills body, a single headlight, and not much else.
However, the 286cc, single-cylinder engine is great for learning. It has the pickup you need to drive on highways safely, but you’re not going to tap the gas and suddenly launch out of your driveway the first time you fire it up. As you develop as a rider, you may want something a little more powerful. Still, you’ll find that that is a personal preference and not an absolute necessity.
There isn’t much more to it. All of that is packed into a 317-pound body, which is even lighter than the Yamaha we previously mentioned, meaning it’s incredibly controllable.
With that being said, it only has a 2.7-gallon fuel capacity. So, you’ll have to refuel sooner on longer trips. Luckily, it gets incredible mileage given its less hoggish systems and minimalist approach.
You can pick the CB300R up for $4949 MSRP. Still, we’ve found that it can often be bought for even less from good dealerships and definitely on secondhand marketplaces. This makes it an inexpensive dive into the motorcycle world.
2020 Ducati Monster 797
With an 803cc longitudinal twin-engine, a 415-pound weight, and a nearly $10,000 price, this barely gets into our best motorcycles for beginners list. However, it lives up to its namesake without going too far above the average entry-level price.
The Ducati Monster packs tons of power into a reasonably small package. It’s just about 50 pounds heavier than the Yamaha, but it easily has more than twice as much power. This is a pro and a con. If you have at least some experience with dirt bikes and handling a two-wheeled motor vehicle, it can be a bit easier for you to get used to this. It’s also a good option if a skilled instructor teaches you how to handle the bike safely.
However, if you’re just running through the basics, tend to be a bit careless with the throttle, and have trouble controlling bigger bikes, you might get overwhelmed pretty quickly. It will also be much harder to pick up if you topple it. That can be a problem if you find yourself in a sticky roadside predicament.
This is one we recommend on a condition. If you are willing to take things slow and deal with the higher learning curve of learning on a bigger bike, it’s worth every bit of its high price tag. If not, go with one of the smaller options and work your way up.
2020 Honda Grom 125
Rounding off our list, we have a proper beginner bike. In fact, it barely falls into the real motorcycle category due to its low power, extremely low weight, and incredibly attractive price. The Grom is perfect for getting the hang of the basics, and we must admit; it’s pretty fun even for guys with high-end Harleys.
The Grom weighs just over 200 pounds, packs a 124.9cc single-cylinder engine, and holds roughly 1.45 gallons of fuel. Being just a bit more powerful than most dirt bikes, it’s definitely not something you want to take on cross-country trips or even on the highway that often. However, it’ll let you zip around town in style and steal those hard-to-get parking spaces even tiny Prius models have trouble getting into.
Also, it only costs $3399 MSRP. It’s even cheaper when you buy it second-handed. You can get a great bike for your work commute or navigate your local area for less than most people spend on their primary television. That’s a steal, and you don’t have to worry about banging it up with beginner mistakes.
Gear Up with The Motor Biker
The only thing left is to decide which one of these best motorcycles for beginners is actually the best for you.
Once you’ve picked your first bike, don’t forget all the gear you’ll need to protect yourself while riding. At TheMotorBiker, we have plenty of resources to help you maintain your new bike, pick the right beginner-friendly gear, such as the best motorcycle battery or battery charger, and ease the learning curve.
Of course, we always recommend starting with a motorcycle helmet!