There’s an unmatched sense of freedom and exhilaration that comes with riding your own two-wheeled machine, effortlessly carving through curves on the open road.
While some perceive motorcycles as dangerous, it’s more accurate to say that riding involves risks. But life is all about managing risks, and motorcycle ownership is no exception.
The excitement and liberation that motorcycles offer are unparalleled by any other mode of transportation. In fact, motorcycle riding has been shown to be the least stressful method of commuting. As a rider, you’ll need sharp reflexes, a keen mind, and honed skills to navigate thrilling situations, but the rewards are truly incomparable.
This beginner’s guide will help you navigate the world of buying a motorcycle and start your incredible journey on the open road.
Taking the First Step into the World of Motorcycles
Diving into the world of motorcycles can be overwhelming, particularly if you’ve never been around them before. Riding a motorcycle poses unique challenges, making it essential to carefully choose your first bike.
While there’s no specific category for beginner bikes, there are certain factors to consider when selecting the perfect ride. Let’s take a look at them.
The weight of a bike matters for several reasons. Heavier bikes are designed for highway riding and can be more difficult to maneuver for some riders. It’s also inevitable that your motorcycle will drop or get knocked over at some point, and you’ll need to be able to lift it without assistance.
Make sure you’re prepared to handle your machine’s weight when the time comes. With practice and proper technique, an average person can lift even a heavy bike.
Seat height is crucial for riders of all skill levels. Both of your feet should touch the ground when seated on your bike at a stop. Conversely, a low seat can make a tall rider look and feel awkward. To find the ideal seat height, measure the inseam of your leg from your groin to the bottom of your foot. A bike taller than your inseam is too tall.
It’s best to visit a dealership and try out various bikes to find one with a comfortable seat height. Once you’ve found a suitable option, inquire about its seat height and look for other bikes with similar dimensions.
Motorcycle engines are typically measured in cubic centimeters, often abbreviated as cc. This refers to the volume inside the engine where the fuel and air mix to create the explosion that powers the bike.
A larger volume doesn’t necessarily make a bike faster than one with a smaller engine. It’s the precision engineering and fine-tuning of the engine that determines its performance. The engine size is often included in the bike’s name, so look for a number that could indicate the engine size (though this isn’t always the case).
Exploring Different Types of Motorcycles
Since the creation of the first gasoline-powered motorbike by German designers Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler in 1885, motorcycles have evolved into various types designed for different purposes.
We’ll look at each of the five basic motorcycle types to help you find your perfect ride.
Standard motorcycles are hybrids that incorporate elements from several different types of bikes. They generally have an upright riding position, and their engine sizes vary across motorcycle brands.
Standard bikes are ideal for beginner riders due to their ease of maneuverability and availability.
They offer a well-rounded experience for both novice and experienced riders without posing a danger to those still learning.
Sport bikes, or “crotch rockets,” are popular among younger riders. They are finely-tuned machines built for high speeds and impressive performance.
Beginners should avoid this type of motorcycle for a few years, as it takes time to train your body to handle a motorcycle safely. There are other equally fun classes of bikes to explore before taking on a sport bike.
Dual-sport motorcycles are street-legal dirt bikes equipped with lights, mirrors, and other necessary components. They are lightweight with smaller engines, making them a great option for first-time riders.
However, their high seats can be a concern for those who can’t touch both feet to the ground when stopped. Fortunately, there are beginner-friendly options available, and some models can be lowered with kits.
Cruisers have low seat heights and a more relaxed riding position. While they often have large engines, they’re not designed for high-performance situations or racing.
Touring motorcycles are designed for long-distance travel and come in various sizes and shapes. Some models are fully loaded with luggage trunks, GPS, stereos, windshields, and large fairings, while others have minimal features and high seats for off-road riding.
Touring bikes offer an incredible riding experience, but their weight and price may not make them the best choice for new riders. If you’re set on a touring bike, there are plenty of financing options available.
Choosing Between a New or Used Motorcycle
Although many reviews highlight the appeal of new bikes, as a beginner, you may find that a used motorcycle is a more suitable choice. The primary reason for this is that your preferences for style or model are likely to evolve as you become more experienced in riding.
It’s not advisable to spend a significant amount on a brand-new motorcycle, only to discover later that it doesn’t match your taste or you might damage it while learning. Likewise, it’s probably not the best time to invest in an expensive, collectible vintage motorcycle.
Opting for a used bike is a cost-effective decision, and as you learn how to ride, you’ll gain a better understanding of the type of motorcycle that truly appeals to you. That being said, purchasing a new bike comes with advantages, such as a maintenance plan, warranty, and a guarantee that the bike will operate smoothly. If you’re working with a limited budget for your motorcycle purchase, a used bike is a sensible alternative.
Where to Buy Your Motorcycle
When you’re on a budget and opting for a used motorcycle, there is an abundance of online marketplaces for pre-owned bikes. You could also consider checking out your local Craigslist, but be cautious of scams and fraudsters. Make sure the bike has a clean title, good tires, and can start quickly and easily. As a beginner, it’s helpful to bring along someone with more knowledge about motorcycles when you go to inspect potential bikes.
Once you find a motorcycle that catches your eye, compare it to other used bikes of the same year, make, and model to ensure you’re getting a fair deal. It’s best to do this before meeting the seller, so neither party wastes time. Plus, it might be hard to walk away once you see the bike in person and are captivated by its charm.
Do you still have questions? To learn about the detailed pros and cons of each option, read our post on where to buy a motorcycle.
Picking the Right Motorcycle Model
Let’s break down the motorcycle models we recommend for beginners, considering their reliability, affordability, and enjoyable riding experience.
Honda Rebel CMX 250
This bike is not only an excellent starter but also quite stylish. It’s comfortable, with low maintenance costs and just the right amount of power for a beginner.
Honda is one of the top Japanese motorcycle brands and is known for their quality and reliability. It’s no surprise, the Honda Rebel CMX 250 is a reliable, solid choice for a first-time rider, and its durability ensures it’ll last for years.
Moto Guzzi V7 Stone
Key features of this bike include its solid look, reliability, and comfort. The V7 Stone is lightweight, with a large tank that doesn’t require frequent refilling.
It performs well on both open roads and city streets, offering good grip and a sturdy build.
Cleveland Cycle Werks Misfit
This café racer motorcycle sports a specific design with racing handlebars. The bike is beautiful and sturdy, with a solid front section and a fork designed to absorb terrain and bumps for a smooth ride.
The Yamaha XT250 is a dual-sport bike with a range of great features, including a hearty thumper engine for excellent performance. While not the fastest on this list, it’s fun, durable, and lightweight – perfect for occasional off-road adventures.
A fantastic all-around motorcycle, the Suzuki SFV650 is the kind of bike you’ll want to keep forever. With a powerful engine for a beginner bike, it offers a comfortable ride even after long hours on the saddle and is easy to handle.
Though it may be challenging to find, the Honda CBR250R is worth the effort. A relatively new model, it’s similar to the Ninja 250 in terms of features and price.
Highly recommended for both beginners and experienced riders.
Kawasaki Ninja 300
This model is a favorite among beginners due to its sporty appearance. It looks like a sport bike but is much safer for new riders.
With an impressive powerband of up to 10,000 RPM, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 remains enjoyable long after your beginner days are over. They are affordable and good quality, with used models available at even lower prices.
Prioritizing Safety While Riding
Safety should always come first when riding a motorcycle, even more so than the bike itself.
As a beginner, it’s crucial to follow the “all gear, all the time” rule. Although it may be inconvenient to wear gloves, pants, a helmet, and a jacket every time you ride, these items can save your life. In many states, wearing a motorcycle helmet is mandatory.
Avoid buying a used helmet, as they lose their effectiveness after heavy impact during an accident. Choose a well-fitting, DOT-approved helmet—full-face helmets offer the most protection, but some riders find them restrictive and feel they limit vision and hearing.
Review your state’s requirements for motorcycle insurance. Some states don’t mandate it for motorcyclists, while others have varying requirements depending on helmet use. Even if it’s not legally required, it’s wise to obtain insurance quotes and consider including an average in your budget. Researching motorcycle insurance can reveal surprisingly affordable options.
To legally ride a motorcycle, you need to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. The process varies by state, so it’s essential to consult your local DMV for specific details.
You may need to complete a written test, road test, and motorcycle class to get your permit or endorsement. Having the proper permit ensures you’re well-prepared and knowledgeable about safe riding practices.
Embarking on Your Motorcycle Journey
As you start your motorcycle journey, prioritizing safety, choosing the right gear, and finding the ideal beginner motorcycle are essential steps. By considering factors such as budget, style, and where to buy, you can make an informed decision that will lead to an enjoyable and rewarding riding experience.
With the right motorcycle, gear, and permit, you’ll become a responsible and confident member of the biker community. Enjoy the open road, and always remember to ride safely!