Few things in life can deliver the joy and thrill of cruising through the curves on your own two-wheeled machine. Motorcycles are considered by many to be dangerous, but it’s more accurate to say that riding a motorcycle has risks. When you think about it though, life is about managing risks, and owning a motorcycle is no different. Each individual has to manage their own risk, and on the flip side motorcycles offer a sense of excitement and freedom that is unparalleled by any other method of transportation. Also, motorcycle riding has been shown to be the least stressful method of commuting. Riding calls for quick reflexes coupled with a keen mind and sharp skills. The rider has to be capable of handling hair-raising situations, but the exhilaration is truly one-of-a-kind.
It can be overwhelming if you’ve decided to make the plunge into riding, especially if you’ve never been around motorcycles in your life. Due to the unique demands inherent with riding a motorcycle, it can seem difficult to get started. First, you should realize that there is no clear category for beginner bikes, but there are certain factors you need to take into consideration while seeking your first bike. Here’s what to look out for:
The bike’s weight matters for a number of reasons. Heavier bikes are designed for highway riding, and some feel they are a little more difficult to maneuver. One thing that is also bound to happen if you ride long enough is that the motorcycle will drop while riding or get knocked over when parked. You will want to be able to get it upright without relying on someone else’s help, because the drop may happen when you are alone. Be sure you are prepared so when the time comes, you have the strength to handle your machine’s weight. Don’t be too worried, because with practice and the right technique an average person can get a behemoth heavy machine upright.
Whether a beginner, novice, or really any skill level the seat height is very important. Both your feet should be able to touch the ground when sitting on your bike at a stop. Conversely, a bike with a low seat will make a tall rider appear silly and definitely feel uncomfortable. To gauge the ideal seat height for you, find the height of the inseam of your leg from your groin down to the bottom of your foot. A bike taller than your inseam is too tall. A better tactic is going to a dealership and try out lots of bikes to find the one that feels the most solid while sitting. When you find one that works well, you can ask about the seat height for that motorcycle, and then look for other bikes near that height.
The size of the engine of a motorcycle is almost always measured in cubic centimeters, which is often abbreviated as cc. This defines the volume inside the part of the engine where the fuel and air mix to create the explosion that powers the bike forward. A greater volume doesn’t necessarily mean that a bike is faster than one with a smaller displacement engine. What will make a motorcycle outgun another is a precisely engineered and well-tuned motor rather than just a casual setup. The approximate size of the engine often is part of the name of the bike so if you notice a number in the name, it probably refers to the engine size, though it is not always the case.
Picking a Class of Motorcycle
Apparently, the first ever gasoline powered motorbike was built by the legendary German designers Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler back in 1885. Since then, they have branched to countless directions with different machines designed for different purposes. Here is a quick run down on every single thing you need to know to get you out of the cage straight onto the road including five of the basic classes that will lead you to your desired choice of motorcycle.
This category takes into account the mutts of motorcycles whose DNA contains elements from several different types of bikes. Most of the common motorcycles you are likely to encounter fall into this camp. Generally, they have an upright riding position and the size of their engines will vary from one brand to another but they do not usually edge into the desired range. Standards are at the top of the list for beginner riders not just for the ease of maneuverability but also because they are very easy to find. Unlike other bikes, they do not pose a danger or hindrance to new riders as they are learning the ropes. However, they are often good and all round, which accounts for the needs of rookies and veterans alike.
Sport bikes, often called crotch rockets, are fairly popular especially with younger riders. They are finely tuned machines capable of high speeds and great performance. Beginners should stray away from these bikes, at least for a few years, unless they really know what they are getting themselves into. It takes some time to train your body to adapt to handling a motorcycle, and you could end up in a deadly situation if you take on a sport bike that is too powerful too soon. Other classes of bikes can be just as much fun, so at this point, you probably don’t need a sport bike.
Dual-sport motorcycles are basically street-legal dirt bikes. Dirt bikes are are normally illegal to ride on public roads, but these have been slapped with some lights, mirrors, and other required equipment. Their tires are knobby, but a few variations such as supermoto bikes come with street-only tires. Since dual-sport bikes are lightweight and often have significantly smaller engines, they make a great option for first-time riders. However, they have seats that are very high and if you can’t get both feet down when stopped, it is too tall to ride safely. But all hope is not lost, because there are some amazing options for beginners which are not exactly powerhouses. It is also very possible to buy a lowering kit for some models, and a few models actually come with preinstalled lowering kits.
Unlike dual sports, these motorbikes have low seat heights with a more laid back position. Often, they are equipped with large engines but are not always. They are not designed for super-high performance situations that you shouldn’t find yourself in most of the time and are therefore not recommended for racing. They are still well-equipped for riding at any speed necessary on the street. Cruisers are popular in the United States, many are made in America, and are designed for comfort and ride-ability. Two of the oldest and most popular manufacturers of these types of motorcycles are Harley-Davidson and Indian. You will generally find most major manufacturers produce some kind of cruiser as well now.
Touring motorcycles usually come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but they all have the common purpose of long distance travel. Some of these varieties come fully loaded with luggage trunks, GPS, stereos, windshields and large fairings. Others are more stripped down with high seats, because having a high clearance will allow for off road riding. Bikes in this category deliver an amazing riding experience but they might not be a great choice for new riders especially due to their heavy weight and high price but they make the best option for riding long distances in comfort. If you decide to go big right out the gate, there are plenty of ways to finance your motorcycle too.
New or Used
Most reviews will point you to new bikes. However, if you are just getting into motorcycles, you will not necessarily want to purchase a new one, at least until you have a few more riding hours under your belt. The reason behind this is that you are probably going decide you want a different style or model. There is really no need to buy a brand new motorcycle only to change your mind or damage an expensive bike while learning. You spend less money, and after learning how to ride you will have a better idea about the kind of bike they really want. That being said, buying a new bike has its perks. The motorcycle is virtually guaranteed to run great, and it likely comes with a maintenance plan and a warranty. If you have a small to moderate budget for your motorcycle purchase, a used one is the way to go.
Where to Buy
If you’re on a budget and going the used route, there are virtually endless online classified ads for used bikes. You may also opt for your local Craigslist, but beware of scams and con-artists. Ensure the bike has a clean title, includes good tires, and that it can start quickly and easily. As a beginner, you may want to identify someone who has more knowledge regarding motorcycles, and take them with you when going to check out bikes. Once you spot the one you like, compare it against other used bikes of the same year, make and model to be sure you aren’t getting ripped off. Do this before you set out to meet the seller, so you aren’t wasting either person time. Plus, once you see the bike in person in all its glory it may be difficult to turn down.
For more ideas on places to find a motorcycle and the benefits and pitfalls of each read our article: Where to Buy a Motorcycle.
Picking a Motorcycle Model
Here is a selection of the motorcycle models that we recommend for beginners for their reliability, relatively affordable prices, and a fun riding experience:
Honda Rebel CMX 250
This bike is not only a great starter, but it is also quite good looking. It is comfortable with low maintenance costs. It has just the right amount of power for a beginner. This would be an all-around reliable solid bike for first-time rider, and its durability will ensure it lasts a while.
Moto Guzzi V7 Stone
The key attributes on this bike are its solid look, reliability, and comfort. It’s exactly what you want for your new bike as it looks old but feels new. The V7 Stone is light, but not too light, and it has a big tank that you won’t need to fill up often. It works well on the open road and the city alike with a good grip and a firm and durable stature.
Cleveland Cycle Werks Misfit
It is a café racer motorcycle with reference to a specific kind of design with racing handlebars. This bike is beautiful and packs a punch with a large and solid front section, perfectly complemented by sturdiness that will ensure it doesn’t knock you down. The fork is constructed to absorb terrain and bumps more easily to allow you enjoy a smooth ride.
Yamaha XT250 is a dual-sport bike that carries with it a heritage of awesomeness. It constitutes a very wide range of great features including a hearty thumper engine that gives an amazing amount of get-up-and-go. It may not be as fast as most of the motorcycles on the list but it is buckets of fun, durable, and lightweight that will make a great companion especially when you wish to hit some dirt from time to time.
A fantastic all-around motorcycle, this is the kind of bike you get to keep forever. It has a powerful engine for a beginner bike, allowing you to ride for miles without going wrong. Handling it isn’t much of a problem either as it is very comfortable, even after hours on the saddle, yet very easy to ride.
It may be quite hard to find this one, but you’ll be glad if you do. It is relatively new and seems to be more of Honda’s answer to the Ninja 250. There’s lots of features shared by the two models and the price tag on both is more or less the same. Those who have taken a ride on one of these highly recommend them for beginners and veterans alike.
Kawasaki Ninja 300
This will be almost every beginner’s favorite due to its masculine appearance. It seems like a sport-bike at first glance but it will definitely not kill you the first time you hit the throttle. With an amazing powerband of up to 10,000 RPM, you can have some fun long after your newbie days are gone. They are fairly cheap and of good quality, and a used one can even be cheaper.
Finally, even more significant than your bike is safety while riding.
First up is your gear. It is highly recommended that beginner riders religiously abide by the code of all gear all the time. Sure it is quite the ordeal to put on gloves, pants, a helmet and a jacket every time you ride, but they can save your life. Also, in many states wearing a motorcycle helmet is actually the law. Unlike bikes, buying a used helmet is not recommended because upon heavy impact during an accident, they become less useful. There are many options for helmets, and most important is that it fits well and is DOT approved. A full face helmet offers the most protection, but some riders find them too constricting and feel they limit their vision and hearing.
Next, you’ll want check your state requirements for insurance. Some states don’t require it at all for motorcyclists, some have different requirements depending on if you’re wearing a helmet. Even if the law doesn’t require you to have insurance, most would agree that it’s a wise idea to at least get a few quotes and see if it’s in your budget. Learn more about how to get motorcycle insurance, and you may be surprised how affordable it can be.
Finally, motorcycle riding requires getting an endorsement on your driver’s license. The process varies from one state to another, and you should consult your local Department of Motor Vehicles for details. A written test, road test, and a motorcycle class may all be requirements to getting your permit or endorsement. Once you’ve got your motorcycle, your gear, and your endorsement you’ll be part of the biker community. Ride safe!