Let’s face it. Learning to ride a motorcycle isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would be riding them. So, by simply wanting to start riding a bike, you’re already a cut above the rest of the road users out there. By looking here for our choices of the best beginner motorcycles, you’re also showing that you’re approaching the selection of your first bike in a smart way. Kudos to you for not succumbing to the siren song of the latest, hottest high-performance machinery. There will be plenty of time for that. Right now, you want to focus on learning how to ride properly.
Here at Motorcycle.com, we’re big proponents of starting with smaller bikes before moving up to more advanced machinery. For example, I have written many times about how my first bike was a Kawasaki EX500 which I bought in 1989 when the small-bike options were relatively slim. Now, the manufacturers have realized that there is a market for smaller motorcycles – as long as they are built with the same care and attention as bigger, costlier bikes.
What follows is a listing, in alphabetical order by manufacturer, of the best beginner motorcycles we think budding MOrons should consider as their first motorcycle.
Although at one time the only 250cc adventure touring bike on the market, the CSC Cyclone RX-3 is beginning to face some competition in the form of the Honda CRF250 Rally and Kawasaki Versys 300-X (though without standard bags). Perhaps this is a segment that is set to come alive. Regardless, the Cyclone RX-3 would make a good beginner motorcycle for $3,895.
No matter what your styling preferences are, Honda has a 500 Twin for you in the form of the CB500F and the CBR500R. Delivering 43 hp on the MotoGP Werks dyno, the CB and CBR give you a choice of naked fun or sportier styling (for $500 more). Both bikes feature ABS options for $300 and a 30.7-in. seat height for confidence-inspiring operation. The CB500F retails for $6,099 and the CBR500R for $6,599.
Nobody ever said a first bike is required to have a small displacement. What is necessary, though, if a friendly demeanor. The NC700X comes in two varieties. The first has your traditional manual motorcycle transmission; the other, Honda’s cool Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT). When tooling around on the DCT version, riders have the choice of letting the bike choose the gear or taking control with the paddle shifter. Burns would scold me if I didn’t mention the capacious trunk where the gas tank normally resides. Yours for $7,699 ($8,299 DCT).
Gone are the days of the Rebel being the red-headed stepchild of Honda’s cruisers. The 2017 Rebel 300 has tons of style and a winning personality. Our review ends with a perfect summation of the Rebel 300’s character: “The Rebel 300 is a great package for new riders looking for a tame, comfortable, and maneuverable cruiser to gain their confidence on.” See your Honda dealer with your $4,399, or step up to the nearly identical Rebel 500 (except for its larger engine) for $5,999.
Remember way back in 2015 when the Kawasaki Ninja 300 won our lightweight sportbike shootout? Well, it did, and it remains an excellent entry-level sportbike. If you’re a budding rider who enjoys sporty machinery, you won’t go wrong with the Ninja 300 and its smile-inducing 34.6 hp. Along the way, you’ll get a bike that is easy to ride – and ride quickly if that’s what you want. Good things come in small packages for $4,999 ($5,299 ABS).
If you’re attracted to naked bikes, the Kawasaki Z650 has a lot to offer a newer rider – aside from being part of the style-of-the-moment. The Z650 shares its 649cc parallel-Twin engine with the Ninja 650, but it is tuned for more bottom-end and mid-range power which is right where newer riders want it. The riding position is ideal for urban use, as is the 30.9-in. seat height. The Kawasaki Z650 retails for $6,999 (add $400 for ABS).
If you’re a new rider with adventure riding dreams, take a look at the just released Kawasaki Versys 300-X. Weighing a claimed 386 lbs with its 4.5-gallon tank full of fuel, the 300-X delivers the bulk of its power in the bottom end where you’ll need it if you take it off-roading. This is a friendly bike for learning to ride both on and off the pavement for $5,399 (+$300 ABS).
The KTM 390 Duke has been impressing riders – both newbies and old hands – with its balance of style, performance and value for years. The updates KTM made for 2017 adds to its refinement and performance. It’s styling belies its $5,299 MSRP. It even has a TFT display! Then there’s its performance which can humble larger-displacement motorcycles. Take a look at the shootout link below to see how it compares with another one of the bikes on this list.
If the MO staff had a dollar for every experienced rider that got their start on the Suzuki SV-650, we could probably retire. Offering a special balance of functionality, performance, and styling is hard to pull off, but the SV is more than capable. With its 2016 update, the SV is back in the thick of the middleweight battle for a MSRP of $6,999 ($7,499 ABS).
Every time we throw a leg over a Yamaha R3, we come away impressed with its strong but manageable power. Riders of all levels will get a kick out of it – which might explain its popularity in lightweight racing classes. A low seat height and nimble chassis sweetens the deal for newbies. The R3 is a great place to begin your sport-riding journey for just $4,999 or $5,299 with ABS.