Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Your First Motorcycle

The question on every newbie's mind: What bike should I get?

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Another important factor to consider is the type of motorcycle to get. This may come down to a matter of personal taste and what kind of experience a new rider wants to have. But some motorcycle categories may be better suited to some riders than others. Let’s take a look at different motorcycle types and see what entry-level options are available.


One of the more popular segments, especially in North America, cruisers offer a laid-back, feet forward riding position and hands placed at a comfortable level. Cruisers also tend to have low seat heights, with most saddles less than 30 inches from the ground, which may help inspire confidence for new riders, especially those with shorter legs. Perhaps it’s for these reasons that manufacturers offer a lot of choices for entry-level cruisers.

SL-overall static

Harley-Davidson is almost synonymous with the cruiser segment for many people; for some The Motor Company is synonymous with motorcycles in general. For its 2011 lineup, Harley-Davidson offers two 883cc Sportster models, the Iron 883 and the SuperLow. As its name implies, the SuperLow has a low seat height at 25.5 inches, but the Iron 883 isn’t much higher at 25.7 inches. Both models start at $7,999.

2011 Star V-Star 250

If you’re looking for a smaller cruiser, other manufacturers offer more options. Honda’s Shadow cruisers are equipped with 745cc V-Twin engines and are priced from $6,999-$7,999, and smaller yet is the 234cc parallel-Twin-engined Honda Rebel at $3,999. Suzuki offers a single-cylinder cruiser, the 652cc Boulevard S40 at $5,099 while Yamaha’s Star Motorcycles brand offers the 649cc V-Star Custom at $6,840 and the V-Star 250, a 249cc V-Twin at $4,090. Korean manufacturer Hyosung also offers a couple of low-displacement V-Twin cruisers in the GV650 (MSRP $6,799) and the GV250 ($3,899).

Dual Sports

Another segment that offers plenty of choices for beginners is the dual-sport or on/off-road bike. That’s because a lot of these dual sports are based on off-road models, only made street-legal with mirrors and lights and other modifications. The Yamaha WR250R (MSRP $6,490), for example, traces its lineage to the Yamaha YZ250F motocross bike.

The Kawasaki KLR650 is a popular dual-sport model and a viable option for large riders looking for a higher-displacement model. The KLR650 (priced at $6,149) has a large following with a lot of options for accessories such as windshields and bags.

2011 Kawasaki KLR650

Dual-sports might not be a good option for shorter riders, however, as their off-road heritage tends towards longer suspension and increased ground clearance. The Kawasaki KLR650 has a seat height of 35.0 inches while the smaller Yamaha WR250R has an even higher seat height at 36.6 inches.


The editors at are big proponents of standards, especially naked standards. With a neutral riding posture and minimum bodywork to damage they make good options for beginners as well.

2009 Suzuki TU250X FONZ6271

Pete wrote a glowing review for the Suzuki TU250X when it was introduced. A throwback to the Universal Japanese Motorcycle template, the 249cc Single is also fuel injected, unlike a lot of small-displacement models. The newbie Suzuki TU250X also comes with a bank account-friendly $3,999 price tag.

For a larger displacement option, there’s the Kawasaki ER-6n, a 649cc priced at $6,699. The Ducati Monster 696 is another option, though it’s comes at a higher $8,495 price tag, but it is also available with ABS.


While experienced riders often caution against getting a 600cc or larger sportbike as a first motorcycle, new riders with the sportbike itch haven’t had many entry-level options to choose from.

For years, the Kawasaki has dominated the small-displacement sportbike segment with the Ninja 250R. The Ninjette is a priced affordably at $3,999 by the manufacturer, but it’s easy to find a slightly cheaper one used. Hyosung offers an alternative with its GT250R while Honda is entering the segment with the CBR250R. Both come with the same $3,999 MSRP as the Ninja 250R, though the CBR250R is available with ABS for $500 more.

061611-chris-blanchette-2003-suzuki-sv650f editors have had a longstanding love affair with Suzuki’s SV650, as it has an unbeatable combination of user-friendliness and sporting capability at a reasonable price. Chris Blanchette, one of our video editors, is a new rider like me, and he just picked up a used 2003 Suzuki SV650S as his first bike. The 2009 Suzuki SV650F retails at $7,499, with ABS available for $500 more.

Aprilia is also introduing its new RS4 125 sportbike later this year. Looking like a mini-RSV4, the 125cc four-stroke will be available with a quick-shifter fom Aprilia's APRC bag of tricks.

Decisions, Decisions

Every rider, regardless of experience level or skill, has their own factors to consider when buying a first motorcycle.

For me personally, I value practicality and economy in a motorcycle. I’ll be looking for an urban commuter that’s good for stop-and-go traffic. Low-end torque and would be more useful to me than a lot of horses at the redline. I would also prefer a fuel-injected engine than a carbureted one, because they offer better fuel economy and I wouldn’t need to spend as much time getting the engine to warm up

I may ride on the highway once in a while, so some wind protection would be nice. I don’t see myself doing any off-road riding however, so a dual-sport doesn’t appeal much to me.

As a larger rider – six-feet tall and weighing 230 pounds – a low seat height isn’t an important factor for me. The Humber College Motorcycle Training Center where I received my rider training uses Yamaha Virago 250s, now known as the V-Star 250. I found the low seat on the Virago a bit uncomfortable, while lowering my feet from the forward-mounted pegs did not feel natural to me.

Based on these parameters, the Honda CBR250R seems like a good choice to start off with. As we saw in the beginner bike shootout, the Honda’s single-cylinder engine offers decent torque at the expense of horsepower. Though it has sportbike looks, the seating position on the CBR250R resembles that of a standard.

A Stop by a Local Dealership

061611-2011-honda-cbr125rI'm fortunate enough to get chance to ride a Honda CBR250R press bike for a few weeks, thanks to the people at Honda Canada.

Because of that however, I missed out on one important part of a new rider experience, the relationship with a dealer. I took a moment to visit local Honda dealer, Markham Outdoor Power, and asked the owner and general manager, Daniel Lawrence, to talk about the new bike.

Lawrence tells me demand for the CBR250R has been outpacing the supply. We've been a it lucky up here because Honda Canada has been offering a 125cc sportbike since 2008, the Honda CBR125R (CN$3,499), a popular entry-level model that has national spec racing series, so there is already an established appetite for small sportikes. In fact, the entry-level segment might even be more competitive in Canada than in the States. While American Honda has priced the base CBR250R at US$3,999 to match MSRP of Kawasaki's Ninja 250R, Honda Canada has upped the ante by pricing the ABS-equipped CBR250R to match the Ninjette's CN$4,999 price tag, with the non-ABS version priced at CN$4,499.

Keep an eye out in the video below for the ABS-equipped Honda CBF600S (CN$9,999), another model available north of the border.

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But there are question marks about how the CBR250R will fare on the freeway and whether the 22.6-hp (as tested) engine will suffice for a larger rider like me.

We’ll address those questions in the next part of our Motorcycle Beginner series.

Related Reading
Choosing Your First Motorcycle - A Beginner's Guide
2011 250cc Beginner Bike Shootout 2009 Suzuki TU250X Review
Motorcycle Beginner: I Want to Ride
Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Riding Gear
Motorcycle Beginner: Rider Training
Motorcycle Beginner Diary: What I Love About Being a Motorcyclist
Motorcycle Beginner: 2011 Honda CBR250R Newbie Review
2011 Honda CBR125R Review

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