Compared to driving a car, riding a motorcycle is a whole new experience. Being completely exposed instead of shielded inside a climate-controlled metal box, you are more attuned to your surroundings and get a chance to fully immerse yourself in it – feeling the rush of wind as you gain speed, taking in the scent of air around you, and reveling in the freedom as you traverse on your motorized two-wheeler.
Learning to safely drive a motorcycle isn’t difficult and can be a rewarding experience. However, a mistake that a lot of newcomers make is choosing a motorcycle that is not beginner-friendly and increases their risk of having a bad riding experience. If you are just out of the motorcycle safety class and looking to buy your first motorcycle, here are our recommendations for the best motorcycles for beginners.
Best starter bike
Engine: 1,140 cc (70 cu in) air- and oil-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC inline-four
Transmission: 5-speed (2010–2013), 6-speed (2014–present)
With the CB1100, Honda really outdid themselves. A café racer-inspired bike, the CB1100 combines both great handling and power, being able to quickly catch speed just as easily being able to maneuver through tight spots. With its robust triple disk brakes and an amazing well-balanced design, quickly (and safely) stopping the bike is no-hassle.
Being a popular Honda-make, the bike is highly durable and reliable, with parts easily available. It’s relative simplicity, and low maintenance needs also factor into why we rate it highly as a great beginner bike.
All of the above, coupled with its classic, timeless design, means that this is a motorcycle that you can definitely keep with you over the long haul.
Kawasaki Ninja 300
Engine: 296 cc (18.1 cu in) liquid-cooled 4-stroke 8-valve DOHC parallel-twin
Transmission: Slipper clutch, 6-speed, chain
Top speed: 171–192 km/h (106–119 mph)
Power: 29 kW (39 hp) @ 11,000 rpm
Say the word ‘sports bike’ and immediately, for most people, the first motorcycle that comes to mind is the Kawasaki Ninja. Added relatively recently to the Ninja lineup, the 300 is a lightweight, affordable yet surprisingly powerful little motorcycle.
Promising an easy ride, good handling as well as a great millage, the Ninja 300 is a great beginner-friendly sports bike. And, despite the aggressive sporty appearance, Kawasaki certainly did its homework when it came to the ergonomics of this motorbike, making it a comfortable ride, even on a long commute.
With a well-established community of Ninja enthusiasts, you will always be able to find answers and solutions to any unexpected problem you come across with the motorcycle. Although, provided you keep it well-maintained, you are very much unlikely to run into any.
Honda Rebel 300
Best starter cruiser bike
Honda Rebel 300
Engine: 286cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke DOHC; 4 valves per cylinder
Transmission: Six-Speed, O-ring-sealed chain
Arguably, for those beginner motorcyclists interested in a cruiser, the Honda Rebel 300 is definitely the most obvious choice. It packs adequate power and torque, is lightweight, and promises excellent handling and reliability. With a sitting position lower than that of most other bikes, riding it is also very comfortable, especially for a long commute. Its stopping power is also quite potent, making it a great choice for first-time bike enthusiasts.
With a blackout matte aesthetics, steel benders, and a design choice that brilliantly combines modernism with the old, the style of the Rebel is a notable highlight and a guaranteed eye-grabber on the streets.
Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883
Beginner Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883
Engine: Evolution V-twin 53.9 cubic inches (883cc)
Torque: 53.8 lb.-ft. @ 3,750 rpm
Harley Davidson is a brand that needs no introduction. Even those who know very little about motorcycles have heard the name. While this iconic American brand has gotten a lot of flak recently due to their perceived lack of innovation and rigid product lineup, the Sportster Iron 883 makes for a strong counter-argument.
The motorcycle is very friendly to beginners, offers good handlings, packs plenty of power, and a surprising level of reliability (given the brand’s notoriety in that department).
The motorcycle is also probably one of the most comfortable to ride on our list with a low and stable riding position. With a big front wheel and potent disk brakes, it stops quickly and with grace.
Sporting an old-school, very masculine ‘chopper’ style characteristic of a Harley, this motorcycle would be easily distinguishable on the road.
Purchasing the bike, you also benefit from entry into the long-establish Harley community, with owner clubs and organized events featured all across the country.
Best beginner bobber
Yamaha Bolt Cruiser/Yamaha XV950/Yamaha Star Bolt
Engine: 942cc 4-stroke air-cooled 60° V-twin
Transmission: 5-speed gearbox to belt drive
Yet another cruiser included on our list, the Yamaha Bolt is a nimble but powerful low riding motorcycle. Handling is simply awesome on this lightweight two-wheeler, and with a 3.4-gallon fuel tank, you can be assured that stops to a gas station on your daily travel would be relatively infrequent. Despite its tiny frame, the motorcycle carries a lot of power, featuring a 942cc V-twin engine that gives out 65 horsepower.
Style-wise, its aesthetics don’t particularly stick out, but they are necessarily bad either. Some might actually prefer it to be that way as not every rider on the road welcomes the attention.
With that said, with its naked bobber design, its body offers a blank canvas for extensive customizations, so you can build a motorcycle that can truly match your style preferences.
Predecessor: GW250 Thunder
Engine: 248 cc (15.1 cu in), 4-stroke, inline-twin, liquid-cooled, SOHC
Transmission: 6 speed Manual
A true jack-of-all-trades, the GW250 is a great beginner motorcycle that will probably be able to nicely handle everything you need as a new rider. It packs enough power to effortlessly cruise at highway speeds on long commutes also boasts high maneuverability that makes it a hassle-free experience to navigate through the sprawling urban jungle. It offers a comfortable ride, and reliability is exceptional.
Style-wise, its design is highly standard, so don’t expect any ‘prestige’ aspect attached to riding it. With that said, with a price tag of under $4,100 for a newly built, it is a highly affordable bike but also one that can withstand any punishment you throw at it save for dynamite. If you are after a sportier version of this motorcycle, there is also the GSX250R, also priced very affordably.
Which of the beginner motorcycles on our list would you be willing to buy? Had any experience riding one? Any other motorcycles you would like us to add to our list? Tell us all and more in the comments below. If you enjoyed reading our article, don’t forget to share it with others in your circle.