Experienced riders will get asked “what’s the best first bike?” hundreds of times, but probably won’t get asked what the worst first bike is. Good thing, too: you could spend all day listing bikes an inexperienced rider should avoid. Of course, if they want one of the listed examples, they won’t listen to you anyway, but here’s what we think new riders should stay very, very far away from.

Too Big

Maybe when you were a kid you got a hand-me-down sweater from an older sibling or cousin that was a size (or three) too big. “Roll up the sleeves and stop bothering me” said your mom, and you complied. In just a few short years it was a perfect fit. You could do that with your first motorcycle but you’re likely to drop it in an embarrassing, painful, or just plain expensive-to-fix kind of way.

You should be supremely comfortable and confident on your first bike, so struggling to keep the bike balanced when it’s stopped because the seat is too high, or having to call a tow truck (or your uncle) because you can’t pick it up when it falls over won’t help you learn, and may even frustrate or scare you so much you quit for good.

Too Fast

“Oh, I’ll be careful until I learn my limits,” said every guy who went on to crash his first bike ever. Learning to ride safely is difficult enough without having to learn how to manage a powerful, hypersensitive, peaky powerband. Believe it or not even motorcycles with as little as 15 or 20 horsepower can be plenty fast to ride on most public roads, even enough to get you up to 70 mph or faster. In general, really-new riders should try to avoid sportbikes – even alleged “beginner” ones like the Ninja 300 are covered in fragile and expen$ive bodywork, they may make great first bikes to ride, but they also make lousy first bikes to repair when a newbie drops them at a stoplight.

Sure, you know guys (and gals) who “grew into” their 600 or 1000cc sportbikes – you can find them all over the Internet – but our experience is learning that way makes you a slower, less safe rider. That’s because it’s harder to explore the limits of your ride, or you’ll get too comfortable exploring the limits. With your current lesser amount of riding experience, do you really want to try to push the limits of a 115 horsepower motorcycle? Experience tells us you should not.  If you have to think hard about that one before answering, here’s another question: do you have the maturity and good judgment to ride a motorcycle?

Too Expensive

You want your dream bike, we get it, but learn to ride first. What if you don’t like riding? What if you decide you don’t like cruisers or sportbikes or adventure bikes or whatever it was that piqued your interest? New motorcycles can lose a third or more of their value just by being registered, and inexperienced buyers tend to pay too much for used bikes and lose even more money when they resell.

Buy something cheap, small, widely available and easy to fix. Don’t focus on what you might ride someday. That’s not your role in the motorcycle world right now! Learn how to ride, own and maintain a bike, and you’ll get a better idea of what kind of riding you want to do. In six months or a year, you may decide you need an entirely different kind of bike than what you thought, or maybe what you really wanted to do was figure skating.

Too Old

Yes, you have a beard, Red Wing boots, selvedge denim jeans and a rodeo-champion belt buckle, but you’re not from the Olden Days. That means you probably don’t know how to balance carbs, set points, lap valves, adjust spokes, patch inner tubes or do the thousand other things your granddad had to learn before he could hope to ride 100 miles without having to abandon his Bonneville behind a tree. Sure, you could buy some pile of crap and learn how to do all that stuff, but do you want to be a rider or a 1960’s motorcycle mechanic reenactor? Buy a modern, reliable bike from a trusted seller. If a car breaks down you can just call a tow truck, but mechanical failures on motorcycles can be painful – or even deadly.

  • LimitedGovernment

    I had a dirt bike for a bit when I was 22, but I bought my first real bike when I was 56. It was a Ducati Multistrada. Big, fast, and expensive. I haven’t regretted it one bit.

    • Johnny Blue

      Why did it take you so long?

      • LimitedGovernment

        Life got in the way. Should have jumped back in sooner.

        • michael32853hutson@yahoo.com

          and that is exactly the reason it is now my #1 priority(at 64 if i don’t do it soon,i might not be able to) Started riding in 1964,the first”biker” in my family;but as you said,somewhere along the line ,life got in the way…so ,for me,now is the time and the time is now!

    • Joe Smith

      I had a dirt bike for a bit when I was 15-22, but I bought my first real bike when I was 41. It was a CBR250R ABS. Small, fast enough, and inexpensive. In 2.5 years and 7500 miles it was never down on anything but the kickstand. I haven’t regretted it one bit.

      I sold it for a used CBR500R and put in another 2.5 years. This last year I got a used ZX-6R ABS and track season can’t come soon enough.

      • LimitedGovernment

        My MultiStrada was too much bike Initially. I rode very cautiously for quite a while and have finally gotten good enough to take advantage of what it has to offer. Took it on the Cherohala Skyway and Tail of the Dragon this summer and got my money’s worth.

        • michael32853hutson@yahoo.com

          with that last sentence you not only got my attention,but accurately described my current ambition! maybe not with that much bike though!

    • But not old!

      • LimitedGovernment

        It’s the guy riding that’s old.

  • cmartishere

    My learner bike (five years ago) was a 1989 Yamaha Vmax. Big, fast, old. Oops.

    • But not expensive! (at least I hope)

      • cmartishere

        No, not especially expensive. But I was called crazy for it.

  • WPZ

    “balance carbs, set points, lap valves, adjust spokes, patch inner tubes
    or do the thousand other things your granddad had to learn”
    Who you calling “grandad”?

  • Ken

    This article seems more like an exercise in trying to be clever at writing (though poorly executed) than any real help for a new rider. Maybe it’s goal is just to get readers to click on all of the embedded links that pay the site per click.

    • What? Make money on a website? Those evil bastards! Please excuse me, I have to go poorly execute the rest of my day.

      • Roger

        I enjoyed the well written, informative article. Maybe because I’m old. First bike: hand me down 1952 James; lots of learning (LOL?).

        • OMG I had to Google “James Motorcycles.” What was the farthest you rode it without breaking down?

          • Roger

            About 30miles. Biggest problem was that unleaded (called “white gas”) had to be schlepped from a station that kept it in a 50 gallon drum then hand mixed wwith oil. Ususual roadside repair was to clean carb. My dad bought me a new 1954 BSA Bantom, 125cc, 5 hp, 30mph which would go as far as 50 miles.

    • Tinwoods

      What are you talking about. All their points are spot-on. And I have no problem with them trying to be cute and clever about it; otherwise, they could state these handful of points in as many lines.

    • Jason

      I agree, just click bait without any real substance. I guess this site is farming out the writing duties to part time Starbucks workers who think their hipster wit and recent community college degree can pull off any article by dazzling those who don’t pick up on the true motive of spam articles. And by the replies you got for pointing this out it sounds like the author has his man-bun wound too tight.

      • Man bun! What is this, 2013? Please.

      • And by the way, my day job is Uber/Lyft driver. Starbucks indeed! Hmmf! Good day sir!

        • John A. Stockman

          At least you’re not working for OnTrac! Take the worst of Uber and Lyft, add in delivering packages like UPS/FedEx that never get delivered, then lying about it on the tracking info. Good write BTW, no hipster wit or man-bun sarcasm intended.

        • Jason

          Oh my bad, didn’t mean to call into question the qualifications to write on a motorcycle industry page by a Uber/Lyft driver. I take back everything I said.

          • I also road raced 9 seasons and wrote professionally for a dozen different publications for 12 years (including MO, Motorcycle Daily, Motorcycle USA, Cycle World, Rider, Roadbike, American Iron and many others) and worked elsewhere in the motorcycle industry for a dozen years as a salesperson, sales rep, instructor and school administrator. Of course, that’s just a shadow of your depth of motorcycling experience, I’m sure.

            Turns out driving for Lyft pays better. Who knew?

          • Jason

            A shadow? Maybe.
            32 years in the MC industry, former MSF RiderCoach, powersport shop owner… blah blah. I’ll leave it there so the comparisons don’t become an awkward circle jerk for you. But thanks for the resume, sorry to hear it has only led to driving businessmen to the airport. Best of luck to you.

          • Jon Jones

            OMG!

            You’re SO great!!

          • Born to Ride

            That is a sad realization considering that I have received far more entertainment from your articles over the years than any Patreon supported youtuber pulling down a living off of ad revenue.

          • Thanks for saying that! But have you watched “Fred”?

            https://youtu.be/YjVKYzy4ek8

          • Born to Ride

            I made it through 7 whole seconds. Beat that lap time bitch.

          • 7? Lame. Qualifying time is 9 seconds. I made it to 15 seconds before I hurled my iPad through my bedroom window.

          • Born to Ride

            *hangs head in shame*

    • Johnny Blue

      … its goal, not it’s goal… but what do I know?! English is my second language.

  • michael32853hutson@yahoo.com

    on the other hand,if you “shoot too low” you will certainly want to trade up immediately; maybe aim for the sweet spot in the middle?

    • Immediately? Really?

      • michael32853hutson@yahoo.com

        i think i was thinking of a Honda Rebel,or maybe an 883 Sporty vs. the 1200 version; and i wasn’t really being fair,because there are folks who’d be perfectly happy with either-or both!

  • QuestionMark666

    The perfect starter bike, a Royal Enfield!
    See your local dealer today!

  • Jack Costa

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/430546e220479058cad4f9abf6f8f1c2dbefa3178394071da603a2d125b96c52.jpg First bike was 05 HARLEY Road King Custom. 88 cu. in. Motor. Great first bike and didn’t out grow it. Now I own a 14 Street Glide Special. Has a 103 cu. in. motor. Recommend to take a MSF Rider safety course to get your license and practice with any bike u get in a parking lot. Basic circles, figure 8’s right & left, emergency braking @ various speeds and look where you want to go while riding. Keep your eyes where u want to end up!! RideSafe!!

  • Leo Douglas

    Back in the early sixties when I started, most of us started with a tiddler. We had to learn to ride defensively and alertly and when we fell off (and everybody did, and does) it didn’t cost us a ton to fix what needed to be fixed. Today what is being touted as a beginner bike (a 600, say) has way too much power. A 140mph beginner bike? Did you learn how to drive at the wheel of a Ferrari? After a long hiatus, the manufacturers are bringing back 125’s (that won’t outperform a 125 from 1961) to fill the slot. I think this is where someone should begin, and it’s where my grandkids ARE beginning.

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  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    Slow news day at Motorcycle.com I guess….

    • Tinwoods

      And yet here you are. Still, most of these online articles they post are repeats anyway.

  • jjjjjjay

    KTM Super Duke with a pipe! Probably a full exhaust. Don’t worry about fueling changes… or no wait, of course! ‘Busa. Then head to the tightest curves I can find, as faaaaast as I can…

  • Bmwclay

    I had a 65 Honda S90. Never adjusted chain, never added or changed oil, and didn’t know what points were. Just kicked it and go. Got me through high school, most of college. Purred like a cat. I didn’t learn much though. That happened when I traded it for my Norton.

    • Goose

      For me is was Trail 90 to BSA. Same result.

  • Patrick Callahan

    I was born in SoCal and started riding when I was about 10 on mini bikes and small motorcycles, that was 50 years ago!
    Today I ride a 1000cc super-naked. Had a lot of bikes over the years, both dirt and street.
    It is best to start out on a 300~ 500cc twin, then graduate to something larger/faster once you developed some skills. 600~1000cc super sport bikes are not beginner bikes. Neither are big tourers, or large adv bikes. But more importantly, use common sense!

    • Chris Stallaert

      I started out on an 1100 cc touring bike.

      Dropped it three months later and sold it for scrap, while still in the hospital…haven’t ridden since. Looking to get back into it this summer 35 years later. With a 500, or smaller.

      Very good advice start our slow and smart.

  • symun buuntw

    Make sense.be considerable.reliable& competents from learner to experience.money can buy wht ever bikes&gears to desires yor life..

  • Ron H

    Bridgestone 175, right out of the Spiegel catalog. Most fun I’ve ever had with a motorcycle!

    • oldrepo56

      mine was a 90 cc bs sport

  • AndyMacHRC

    Great article. Coming from the Sportbike side of our motorcycle equation I’ve had this “argument” with numerous guys who want to run before they can even crawl. Top Gun fighter pilots don’t start out on F22 Raptors, they fly single engine Cessna’s. No one does their driving school in a 488 Ferrari, it’s in a Civic. And neither Rossi nor Marquez started racing 990cc Prototypes, they started in 50cc. It’s that way because thats the best way.

    The “argument” then pivots to “well so-and-so started on a Gixxer Thou and he’s just fine” and then the others who managed to pull off this feat against the odds chime in with their posts and support: “If I can do it, so can you”. Well… I might be able to take up a heavy cocaine habit tomorrow and still function in society or I might be able to run blindly across 6 lanes of freeway traffic without getting hit too – but my “success” still doesn’t make it a good idea.

    I bought a CBR1000RR and stepped up to the litre class this year after 14 years of sportbike riding. I also stepped up to the “entry class” and bought a CBR300R to commute to work on. I’d honestly be hard pressed to tell you which one I enjoy riding more. I just wish all these stylish, well made, small displacement bikes were available when I was learning!

    • Johnny Blue

      Good reasoning.
      I’m also thinking to get a 390 Duke for commuting. I’m just killing my 954 RR riding slowly in traffic. I’m afraid though, that I’ll like the 390 too much and the Fireblade will be parked most of the time.

    • John A. Stockman

      I started riding again after a genetic abnormality destroyed my joint cartilage by the time I was 14. In 1983 I bought a KZ250, after numerous joint replacement surgeries and hellacious physical therapy for atrophied muscles. I threw my crutches away and put 38,000 miles on that KZ250 in two years. 1985, I moved up to a KZ440 and had 3 in succession. They were easy to modify for my unique requirements, mostly foot peg locations, handlebars and rear brake. My welding skills came in handy, along with what I learned about mechanical prowess from my dad and grandfather. Nothing wrong with starting out on a bike like a KZ250, or something similar from the current models. Yes, I got a lot of BS from others, like telling me “you can’t ‘tour’ on a bike like that”, yet there I was on my 250 in Westlock, Alberta, from Olympia, WA and no truck or trailer around. Some over-the-seat saddle bags, a small deflector screen and a sheepskin cover on the seat for my bony behind. When I got the 440, I really started to pile on the miles, going much further from home for longer periods. Some of the same accessories I had on the 250 were transferred to the 440. Many of the best roads, trips and memories were riding the KZ250 and KZ440. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/95057c464477da673dc60a2ad992e1e939c252dcee391ef634149bcd5fe2adbc.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/660ba9aafc14972c9e29c96a9885a253b79a4514d9be9b49bb844ae3786a079c.jpg

      • Jon Jones

        Good times!

  • di0genes

    So what should the beginner in too big have chosen, a Honda 250 CRF Rally? Just asking.

    • It really depends on the rider’s comfort, skill, size and budget.

  • John Gregory

    Started riding on a Yamaha 100 in 1972. The first bike I owned was a ’78 CX500. Sweet ride! My last was the fabled VF500F MiniCeptor, sold in 1987. Of those I’ve tested, I like the VTR1000F best. Add braided brake lines and better pads, and I’m all in. (I almost binned the bike I test rode because of the spongy front brake – Only my learned reflex of finding a way out instead of looking at the problem saved me and that wonderful bike)

  • there are no beginner bikes. there are beginner riders.

  • DickRuble

    “you probably don’t know how to balance carbs, set points, lap valves,
    adjust spokes, patch inner tubes or do the thousand other things” — speak for yourself — and learning all of these won’t make you a worse rider.