What’s the sweet spot for small displacement motorcycles? Is it 250cc? Perhaps 400cc? Ask any internet forum and you’ll likely hear some BS like, 600cc sportbikes are the smallest I would EVER recommend for a beginner. Idiots. Darwinism at its finest. What do we think? We think there are a lot of variables to consider for this question, but the 300cc category is still filled with solid options of bitchin’ motorcycles. Many look at these small-displacement bikes as great options for beginners as well. Which motorcycle is best for a beginner? It all depends on what kind of riding you’d like to do. Any of the options on this list provide a great starting point for new riders. What’s even better is that there are plenty of great bikes in this category that spans multiple genres of motorcycling such as sportbikes, adventure motorcycles, and naked bikes. If you’re interested in entering the world of two wheels check out these great starting points.
Here’s Motorcycle.com’s list of the top six 300cc motorcycles on the market.
Honda is one manufacturer who has absolutely saturated its model line with plenty of 300cc and below two wheeled offerings. The 286cc liquid-cooled Single found in the CB300R is used in three other models itself. Not a fan of the neo-retro look of the CB300R? Maybe you’re looking for a nice standard bike like the CB300F or perhaps the sportier CBR300R. The CB300R looks the spitting image of its big bro, the CB1000R, which means this is one sexy lightweight motorcycle, not to mention that the 300 gets some choice upgrades for under five grand. A 41mm inverted fork, upgraded Showa shock, and radial-mount brake calipers are a few of the items that set the CB300R apart from others in the class, and in the Honda family.
Of course our next pick would also be a Honda! They have so many to offer! The Honda Rebel has been around since the ’80s, ushering in new riders with its small stature and approachable, but nearly anemic 250cc single. Well, guess what!? Honda plonked it’s 286cc Single in the Rebel as well, giving the little cruiser a modern mill to compete with the times. Not to mention the Rebel is also available with a 500cc motor, if you’re feeling frisky. The 300 starts at $4,399 and is available with ABS for 300 extra smackers. If you’re feelin your inner Fonzy, but still aren’t entirely sure where the clutch is, maybe it’s best you start with the Rebel 300.
We’ve had a lot of fun on the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 here at MO. From the seashores of old Mexico, to the San Bernardino mountains, the Versys-X 300 has trailblazed its way through forests and beaches. That’s the great thing about the Versys, the versatility. We’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of miles on the wee Versys and the sewing-machine-smooth 296cc Twin has kept us coming back and choosing it as the winner in multiple shootouts. The reigning champ you could say. If you’re ADV-curious, but want an adventure bike that’s smaller and easier to learn on than most of the 13,000cc 6-foot tall behemoths on the market, peep the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 for a base price of $5,399.
Yamaha’s R3 just received a full upgrade that we covered before the brand’s presentation at AIMExpo. Initially built to rival other 300cc sportbikes, Yamaha was one of the last to build a bike for the entry-level class, after Kawasaki and Honda had shown significant success in the burgeoning market. The new R3 gets a host of upgrades with an inverted fork, styling reminiscent of the R6 and R1, and a slightly revised rider triangle, all of which you get at the same price point as the 2018 model, starting at $4,999.
One of our absolute favorites here at MO. The KTM 390 Duke was the model that made us reconsider the term entry-level. The 390 Duke can be an entry-level motorcycle, but it offers a level of finish, attention to detail, and performance, that’s hard to match in its class. Yes, the 373cc Single is plenty larger than many of the models on our list, but hey, it’s our list and we do what we want. From the Duke’s torquey 373cc Single, TFT display, three way switchable ABS (including Supermoto mode!), in-your-face styling, and WP suspension, you get a lot of motorcycle for $5,299.
The BMW G310GS had some big shoes to fill for a model carrying the GS moniker, maybe that’s why I came away from the launch of the bike with mixed feelings. The motor felt underpowered and the suspension undersprung, but maybe I was holding it to too high of a standard. When we compared the wee GS to the Royal Enfield Himalayan and Versys-X, the playing field was level and made me appreciate the bike for what it was, a solid entry point to the BMW brand as well as a great looking adventure motorcycle platform for those starting out. At $5,695, it’s certainly a worthy contender in the market.
Technically, the 399cc Kawasaki Ninja 400 doesn’t fit into our self-imposed 300cc cap, but if we’re going to break our own rules and include the KTM 390 Duke, then the Baby Ninja deserves an honorable mention. We’ve written a lot about the littlest Ninja because, frankly, it’s an excellent motorcycle for both the new/inexperienced rider, and the veteran looking for a fun learning tool. The 399cc Twin hits that sweet spot in terms of power – feeling neither anemic, nor overwhelming – meaning riders of all skill levels can have a good time on it. Combine that with its good looks, capable handling, and $4,999 base price, and you can understand why this Green Machine earned Motorcycle.com’s Best Value and Best Lightweight awards for 2018.