52 comments on “What is the best motorcycle for a beginning rider?

  1. Thanks for reccommending the Kawasaki W650! A perfect bike to pick up driving After 30 years (and true to my love for classic models)

  2. Hello

    In the first bike section of the web site a The Lazy Motorbike you mention the disadvantages of a wind shield and fairing. How do you suggest one deal with the small rocks or pebbles that hit my cars windshield when I would ride a motorbike on the interstate to get to interesting country roads or the various bugs that hit my cars wind shield. I live outside Houston, Texas and we have these type of flying objects. Is a full face helmut and sturdy jacket and pants enough to shield one self from these hazards without a wind shield on a motorbike? What is your thinking?



  3. Thanks for a great writeup. A couple of minor details to fix :

    mandatiry -> mandatory
    confidenc -> confidence
    suprise -> surprise
    jugling-> juggling
    maneuvring -> maneuvering
    ansd so on -> and so on
    wgat type -> what type
    cuiser-type -> cruiser-type
    cyclinders -> cylinders
    optimzed -> optimized
    tensly -> tensely
    Triumoh Bonneville -> Triumph Bonneville
    The bike pulls from velow -> The bike pulls from below (from low revs ?)
    a rather sutablebike -> a rather suitable bike
    avator -> avatar (on the comments page)

  4. My first bike is a Yamaha Virago xv535s ’96.
    Loveable easy cruiser and a great learning bike, it isn’t the fastest, or the tightest in the corners.
    But it’s great when you want to practice braking and learning to ride long distances with a bike that has a personality.

    Only thing that should be known, they’re not made anymore and parts are getting harder to find.

  5. This is about 2 years since the latest comment so I hope it gets seen. I have just got my Motorcycle training permit and I have not yet purchased a bike. I’m familiar with dirt bikes and four wheelers so i feel good on 2 wheels, and I am looking at a Honda Shadow 750 for my first potential bike, preferably early 2000’s. As far as weight, power, and handling, what are you opinions on this choice if I were to move forward with it? Do you have any alternatives if you think the shadow 750 is a bad choice?

    Thanks! – AB

  6. Hiya,
    I’m thinking of getting a Honda gb500tt as a first bike. Can you please give me your opinion on this and any potential handling characteristics that may exist that would affect me as a beginner?


    • Hello James,
      The GB500 will probably be a very good bike!
      If it has not been ridden “hard”, it will not cause any troubles. The handling is what you want from a beginner’s bike: you will feel what you do, but it is a forgiving bike. The power is plenty on the road, but not too much.

  7. I am somewhat confused by your including the photo of the Yamaha SR500 at the top of this page with the caption “Unfortunately, this motorcycle is not for sale in most countries.” The caption leads me to believe this would be a bike that you would recommend as a first bike. However, this bike is a one-cylinder with pretty big cc (500)….so doesn’t that violate two of your rules for first bikes?

    • Yes, it does violate the rules.
      On the other hand, for a 500cc 1-cylinder it is fairly forgiving: it would be possible to use it as a forst bike.
      The “unfortunately” is because the bike is so pretty 🙂

  8. Love your website! Lots of great information. I think many people would be surprised just how usable a 250cc motorbike can be. After every salesman in town insisted i needed at least 1000cc to enjoy myself.I purchased my first, a Honda Rebel 250. I’m 6 foot 245lbs and it has no problems getting to 65mph is a hurry. The vibrations, noise and wind really do make you more aware of what’s going on, glad I read this article before I spent to much on to much bike.

  9. A great guide, I wish i’d seen it earlier. I felt like i was learning to ride again after buying my vfr800 and maybe could have done with a lighter more nimble bike to start with.

  10. Great article!

    I’m ready to buy my first bike and have more or less narrowed the field down to a suzuki boulevard s40 and the new honda cb500f. The s40 really appealed to me at first because used ones are cheap and easy to find and I am naturally drawn toward the cruiser style of riding. However, after sitting on one I feel it might be a bit too small of a chassis for me (I’m 5’11 and 180lbs with a muscular build). Although I’d have to buy the honda new, I can afford to do so and it would be cheaper on insurance given the 470cc displacement–which is rather ironic given it’s a heavier machine with more performance. I live in Canada where the honda is only offered with ABS…

    Note: I’m 23 so I’d ideally like to get a full two seasons of riding out of my first bike because I WILL be upgrading at 25 when my insurance premiums will be much lower (HD sportster or something of the like).


  11. One more question, please. One of the earlier posters mentioned the V-Strom 650. Your thoughts on this as a beginner bike – both the older version and new 2012 updated version (ABS standard)? Seems (from what I’ve read – never been on one) to fit most of your criteria — moderate two cylinder, smooth acceleration from throttle, not jumpy. Thanks

    • We don’t have personal experience with the 650 V-Strom, but seeing the specifications, I would say that that bike is equally good for a beginner as the F650GS. So you are right 😉

  12. Hello there,
    Really found this very interesting, and like all your subjects very well written and easy to understand, and has been very helpfully to me, and I am sure to many others. “Your never to old to learn”.
    I am what you call “A born again rider” at 65, and now I am retired my wife and I love our rides out on our bike, we spend the winter in southern Spain and take the Bike on the back of our motorhome.
    I have a SYM 300i GTS EVO (scooter), we have covered over 75000 Kilometres in the past 4 years, and I now feel ready for a change to something I have always dreamed of having, a nice touring bike, like the, BMW K1600 GTL, or the HONDA GOLDWING, and tour Europe in style and comfort, although I feel confident, I would be very grateful if you have any tips or advise on riding these big bikes, or have I left it too late.
    The Sym weigh’s 195Kg, and I have felt fine with it, but there is a big difference, both in weight and power, and it would be great to get advise from someone with experience.

    Many thanks
    Keep up the good work.

  13. I am 6’1″, 180lbs…I have been looking to buy a bike for a few months. I took the Basic Rider Training here and then borrowed a friend’s 1981 Yamaha Maxim 550 for about 5 or 6 rides around town and country roads. Two bikes that I rode and considering are: 1979 cx500 w/ 25,000 miles for $1100 or 2002 Suzuki Savage 650 w/ 6,000 miles, needs front & back tire very soon…I prefer the upright position than the cruiser style, but the bike is so much newer…got any tips/advice?

    Thanks & Peace.

    • The Kawasaki W800 springs to mind: classic-looking, but woth an upright position.
      But I don’t know is the height is ok for you. You could try it.

      • I am going to get the ’79 Honda CX500, only reservation is that it weighs 452lbs dry, much for a first bike?

        Thanks & Peace.

        • It’s rather heavy, but almost everything else of it is ideal for a beginners bike.
          And it’s indestructible as well: congratulations for when you have picked it up!

  14. Hi,have to comment for your page as a new rider : GREAT job, full of important info for me (just passing my exam).
    I am choosing for my first bike now and everywhere I listen CBF 600 will make the job. What is your oppinion, maybe cbf 600 is also good for that?
    Thank you in advance

    From: Jaro

    • In the first place, our list is not exhaustive, of course.

      The CBF 600 is a four cylinder; therefore, it is not included in our “ideal” firstbikes.

  15. No mention of the Suzuki V-Strom 650 which is superb as a all rounder. It is also much more flexible than an Africa Twin despite 6 gears.
    Unfortunately I will be selling mine,sadly, for physical reasons.

    From: James

  16. Thank you for explaining the differences in engines, handling and power delivery. This is really important when deciding on your first bike.
    Just because you twist the throttle different bikes deliver power in so many different ways, a novice rider will not have the experience to control this acceleration, any salesman who says a bike is only as fast as the rider decides it to be is to be distrusted and you should walk away immediately.
    There are plenty of motorbike sales garages find one that is interested in looking after you.

    From: Stewart Godfrey

  17. What a fantastic site!
    The only thing that troubles me is that your review of the Suzuki GS500 is a lot more positive (about road feedback) than on a respected web review site.
    I rode a Yam 125 YBR for a year and have just bought an old BMW F650 Strada. You are right about it “bucking” under 4000 rpm – it will take time to get used to that! But it’s nice to have a BMW – I’m automatically part of an invisible BMW club!

    From: Marije

    • The difference in opinion about the GS500 stems from the fact that, as we try yo explain, some of the properties that are appreciated inmodern bikes are not the best properties when you want to learn.

  18. I have read your entire site and as a new rider it has been very informative and helpful. Many thanks for all your work.
    I attracted to the Kawasaki W650 as a beginners bike, however (maybe because I am British!!) I prefer the Triumph Bonneville. What is your opinion of this as a beginners bike. I plan to ride with a pillion after a short time too.

    From: Robin Cassells

    • Ah that’s a tough one 🙂
      Allthough i like it Triumph has (after to many a Kawa based 3/4 cyl ripoff) revived the speedtwin/bonneville concept.
      But for a good educationally satisfying learnerbike, it’s way to powerfulleand heavy, the W650 is a better choice, and more than capable enough to haul you and the missus all aroud the world (think Jupiters Travels 🙂
      But one advice, don’t start to soon with pillion, first get acquainted with the bike real good because the added responsability for a pillion weigh a lot at first, and will hamper progression bigtime, if your still feeling a bit unsureish, the pillion will unonsciously to your wavering, making the ride awkward for both.
      A short spin to give her the feeling which burns yor hart so brightly, is of course no pbig problem, but real touring should wait till you have half a year or 5000 miles experiance whichever comes last…
      (it’s no binding advice, just the best and safest way, to get a lasting and more fullfilling bikelifetinme 🙂

  19. I took your advice and bought the w650. I am loving it and realise I have a lot to learn.
    I have taken the wife out a few times and understand what you mean. I am learning much more on my own.
    I have done 3000 km in 3 weeks and feel I need at least another 10,000 before I can corner well!
    The more I ride the more I realise the wisdom and knowledge within your site. Once again many thanks.

    From: Robin Cassells

  20. I once wrote to you a year ago. I am a Chinese woman in Hong Kong and I started riding more than a year now, first on a learning bike (Suzuki EN 125 2A) and then on a Virago 250. I am just 5 feet 2, weighs 100 pounds. I have riden for 8000km so far.
    I want an upgrade now and want to ride to work everyday. I am undecisive of getting a brand new bmw F650GS or a H-D XL 1200 nightster (my less preferable choice is Suzuki SV650). Please advice.

    From: Manching, Leung

    • The F650 is a good choice, reasonably dependable, but very pricey, the H-D will be a bit of a gamble, a lot of money, that will be ruined by daily abuse and possible high maintanance costs.
      Your least preffered choice would be my choice as a work horse, nice soft turning engine with real fluent power delivery. The F650 will be more fun on the backroads, but te SV will be the better commuterbike, and can be a nice blast on any sunday 🙂

  21. Awesome site, awesome articles!
    I only passed my test (new 2 module test in UK) about a month ago. I did my CBT on an ancient CG125 which although is perfect for this kind of thing, was horrible on the open road. Because i’m 6′4″ and nearly 18 stone the bike would barely move under it’s own power (bless it).
    Then on my first lesson i was put onto a CB500, and boy was i impressed about how these bikes go.
    I never expected it to have so much go and to handle so well! Just as i got used to this bike on my first proper lesson i was put onto another different bike for the rest of my lessons, a brand new CBF600 (due to the school replacing it’s old CB500’s with something newer).
    The first thing i noticed about the CBF600 was that compared to the CB500 it had virtually NO engine braking (hairy moment at first roundabout)! But from then on it was all good the CBF is an amazing learner bike, so easy to get comfortable on. I had 4 lessons in total before passing both modules with only 1 minor and i feel it was because the bikes were so easy to ride that this was possible.
    So after passing i jumped straight onto my BMW R1100RT that i had bought a month earlier and was just sitting in the garage waiting for me! Now yes i know this is not the ideal first bike as it weighs nigh on 300kg’s and is not nearly as easy to ride as the smaller bikes were, but as long as you respect the capabilities of your bike and realise that it can ride better than you can most of the time you should be okay.
    I havn’t had any close calls or near misses on it yet and don’t feel scared of taking corners but i suppose i know my own limitations and having only recently passed my test i know i cannot hope to be fast without firstly getting to know how my bike rides inside out and without firstly learning how to be smooth and safe.
    Enjoy your bike, whatever you ride and be safe.

    From: Martin

  22. thanks for this informative and lively article…
    I’m 55 and will be starting to take lessons this summer.
    Do you think that there is a big difference between the Yamaha YBR 250 and the Honda VTR 250?
    These are my two favorites, I’m hoping to purchase one soon (hard to find in Switzerland …)

    From: Mark

  23. Really great article. Thanks for the info.
    I’m looking for the ideal learner bike. I’m 23 (from the UK) and am 5′ 10″. I was thinking about the yamaha ybr125 as a learner or one similar to that but after reading this, I’m thinking maybe abit bigger than that around the 250 or even 500cc mark. What would you advise for me to look out for in that class to start on? Eventually I quite fancy a custom/cruiser style bike.
    Any help is muchly appreciated. Thanks alot!

    From: James Arnold

    • Ah, the YBR 🙂
      Its a little gem of a bike, not much spunk, but lots of fun on a budget, even flling up makes one smile…It’s a little small in modern traffic, but it shure will learn you to corner.

      A Cruiser is not the way to go, it looks nice, but it forces you into a (imho) awkward riding position, and riding style, which doesn’t give a lot of possibilities to find out the different modi operandi of een motorbike.

      Better stick to real “bland” motorcycles, were the rider has to put in the exctement, those will inspire the rider to do his best.

  24. I read your article and i found it really helpful.
    I am currently planning on purchasing a Suzuki gs500 i was wondering if the gs500f is any different and if it would still be a good beginners bike any feed back and advice would be really helpful. Thanks

    From: Asuf

    • As far as we know it is the same bike apart from its fairing , it just looks flashier, but beware, dropping a bike with fairing is costly, and still learning, you’ll have a high risk of stalling it, and tumbling over at near standstill, it even happens to me every few years at an awkward crossing uphill 🙂

  25. One big thing that needs mentioning is the height (the real height, as in seat height) and your position above the traffic around you- this was a big thing for me, sitting or rather laying on a sporty bike makes you loose the overview of the traffic happening around you- you are too busy getting used to the tiny mirrors, to the right use of your hands and feet..
    anyway, I bought a 640 ktm duke 2 and am very happy about her!
    I do not have the longest legs but I feel comfy holding her even if my feet do not reach the ground completely, she is not too heavy and if you are not a brain-dead freak you can control the throttle w/out 2 many unwanted wheelies.
    all the best, a girl from switzerland

    From: swiss ktm-girl

    • Ah, thats a good point to mention, something we missed without the experience of riding a sportsbike, now i understand why i dont like that cocooning kind of riding !
      It’s indeed just as in a Car the feeling of riding in a letterbox, the cramped view, and loss of oversight on traffic behind and next to one.

  26. Great article!
    I am looking for a new Yamaha YBR 250 and also for a BMW G650Xcountry. Which one is more suitable for a begginer? I’m 6ft15 tall…

    From: Horatziu

    • The YBR250 will be the better learner-bike, because it can’t compensate for judgement errors by pulling the throttle, so you will be urged to look farther ahead to keep up a given speed, and just that is the main clue to better and safer riding, without compromising enjoyment (or speed for that matter).

      A lot of learners a lured into the bigger bike syndrome (BBS) by friends and passers by. They tell the learner such a small bike will be short of pleasure, because they themselves never started on a small bike, and are now depending on *power* to supplement the speed they loose because of corner angst…

      And the most curious thing of all is, that corner angst is caused by former power, due to the throttle wrenching on the straights to catch up their riding buddies, they come on to almost every corner with way to much entry speed…

      So corner angst is induced, the brakes are slammed on, and the harmony in the bike is upset, and the corner will be wobbly wobbly by the simpel fact, that midway corner, the braking, which transferred al the weight on the front tire stops, the front springs unload, and the bikes geometry changes quite abruptly, from frontweel based to neutral. The bike wants to leave the corner to the inside, so extra steering input is needed halfway to compensate…

      But at that moment the riding buddies disappear in front of them so the throttle is opened again, but then another geometry change is induced, from neutral to rearwheel laden, tipping in the bike even more, so even more steering input is needed, or throttle taken back. Either way, the corner is becoming a lot of seperate actions, a hodgepodge of little wobblies…

      And then you see the occasional starter which took the lowroad, starterd on a 125 especcially and most budget driven staid some years on his “moped”, sure he was laughed at in first, but as time went by, he honed his skillz, by lack of entry speed he could learn to take corners at “full” speed, and watch him “Goooo” that number 46…

      Most pressing example is former world champion Stoner, who at first thought he with all his magic, could pass teh 125 schoolbenches and started in the GP250, but a year of crashes was the result, and back he went to school (back from 250GP’s to the 125 Class), and look were it brought him…

      And now you can see the difference, Rossi started on pocket bikes, and can handle the most reluctant bikes, and can cope like no other with the Pressure, but Stoner falters really easily if put under pressure, he just lacks the skillz Rossi has, and is dependent on all kind of electronic gadgetery to keep him upright. (that electronic throttle control ruins the sport in my humble opinion, BTW…)

      The beemer is unmistakably the nicer looking bike, but what is more important, being a skilled rider, having the most fun, or cruising around like a squid to be looked at (my choice is obvious i think… 🙂

  27. I am a 5 ft 2, 45kg middle age Chinese woman. My husband bought me a brand new virago 250 after I passed my motorcycle examination last week.
    I know Virago is not among your first bike list. But what are your comments? Thanks.

    From: Ninja

    • First of all, we give the ideal learner bikes in *our* opinion, so its not by any means that other bikes are not suitable for learners, just somewhat less optimal.
      Read the piece about geometry, to read about the shortcomings of the “chopper/cruiser” geometry, and watch out with high speed (120km+) when you’re as nice small and light as you are, because i know of the 535 (it’s bigger brother) that it has a tendency to get into a speedwobble at that speed.
      (should that occur, push yourself forward in the saddle so you don’t hang on the handlebars)
      But with the displacement of 250cc those speeds will be out of reach.
      We wish you many happy ride outs.And let us hear of your experiences in China traffic, as information for our readers, because we have no idea about China, and with latter day petrol price, it will stay that way for now 🙂

  28. I had a question, you know the Yamaha Tricker? Do you know if it’s available in the UK ?
    I was saving up for a bike and if I could i’d rather have a lighter one.. (I’m not exactly a heavy guy might be safer :P) and that one seemed pretty good..
    thanks for your time

    From: Saul Bowden

    • The problem with the Tricker is that it is no longer sold in Europe (they can’t get it through the emission rules). In the Netherlands, it was sold during two years, so from time to time there are second-hands for sale.
      I don’t know about the UK.

      We have one, but we don’t want to sell it 😉 http://www.sylviastuurman.eu/motor/yamahatricker/ .

      Hope this helps!

  29. I wish I’d found this website years ago. Your advice is spot on! I’m now using it to help a friend decide on his first bike.

    From: Dominic

  30. Yamaha Tricker isn’t available in the US. I saw one in Japan, and I sat on it, I couldn’t take it out for demo.
    The seat was the most uncomfortable motorcycle seat I’ve ever sat on. I logically concluded that this motorcycle would only be comfortable to ride if you were on the pegs all the time, i.e. you ride it much like a trials bike.

    From: Tiger Joe

    • Don’t judge a book on its cover. A somewhat harder seat, is much more comfortable in the long run than a soft one.
      If you slide a little back on it, it’s a surprisingly tourable litle bright bike. It brought us all the way to Romania and back again, and we rode 12000 km in a year on it… And the new one has made more than the 20k now.

  31. Wow, this page was just the thing I was looking for when I searched on Google. Thanks for the info, now I have a better idea.
    Thanks for keeping it simple yet informative, a hard thing to do.

    From: CK S

  32. Awesome, so glad I stumbled across this page.
    I feel much more prepared to make a decision on what my first bike should be. Thanks!

    From: Simon

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