If you’ve never experienced the freedom of motorcycling, whether it’s open-road touring, off-road adventure or street carving, you’re betraying at least four of your senses (five if you like to lick the inside of your full-faced helmet). Now that the riding season is under way in many parts of the country, it’s time to sign up for riding lessons and start thinking about the machine that’s best suited for you.
The hard part is getting started. You’re not going to strap yourself to a Hayabusa or drop half your savings on a Goldwing, right? Picking a good starter bike is far more intimidating than buying a car, especially since you’ve been driving on four wheels
poorly since you started getting acne. Once you find your way to a certified beginners’ motorcycle course and get your license, you can start visiting local dealerships for test rides. Just don’t try to show off your skills with a kickstand. No one will be impressed.
Browse through the slideshow above to find our five best picks, or find more details about each of the five best starter motorcycles on the next page.
Best Bike for the New Road Carver: We get that you’re probably not in a rush to jump on the first crotch rocket you see while wearing a homemade tank top and flip flops. You have brains, after all. Well, if you just happen to like superbike looks, but you don’t want to kill yourself as a beginner motorcyclist, the Honda CB500X is a perfect option. A more than manageable 471ccs mean you’ve got decent power but not so much that the bike will get away from you. This sport tourer has a great upright riding position, providing more comfort and confidence than the sport-bike superman pose. It should perform nicely for beginners in both city and open road riding; the adjustable windscreen also aids in riding customization. You’ll also be glad that this beginner bike doesn’t make you look like a bona fide sissy.
Best Bike for the New Off-Road Rider: This is a great starter bike, largely because it makes you feel comfortable and is quite possibly the easiest motorcycle to ride for beginners. Its low center of gravity, small displacement engine and big tires won’t set any records, but you also won’t take dirt nap with it (unless you think you can keep up with 80 MPH traffic).
The TW200 isn’t exactly what we’d call stylish or powerful, but it’s perfect for nervy beginners since it’s incredibly stable and compact. Plus, the frame dimensions and chubby knobbies make it good for dirt — you should be familiar with off-pavement riding, anyway. Helpful niceties like push button start, engine counterbalancer (to reduce vibration), long travel front fork, wide front fender, and a very affordable price point make the TW200 tempting. Just don’t look for entry into any motorcycle gangs with it.
Best Bike for the New Urban Rider: This bike just looks good. With classic bike aesthetics and a 249cc four-stroke engine, the TU250X will help you get through the beginning phases of riding while keeping you urban chic all the while. Low-end torque helps you work through city traffic, and the digital ignition provides solid throttle response. The ride height is also a comfortable 30 inches, so you won’t feel nervous about keeping your feet planted when you come to a stop or try to pull away from the light securely. You’ll spend more time practicing and less time looking for a pump thanks to a 3.2 gallon fuel tank and a miserly thirst. Plus, you can get Triumph Bonneville T100 looks for about half the price of admission.
No Shame: A Motorcycle Alternative
A scooter should never really be on a man’s list of coveted vehicles… unless it’s one that doesn’t reduce your testosterone levels. Don’t think diminutive college transportation with cookie-sized wheels. The BMW C 600 Sport has motorcycle-like displacement (647, to be exact) and enough techno bits to give Bill Gates goosebumps — a CVT, adjustable storage, disc brakes with ABS — and a top speed of 109 MPH. No one will laugh. Really.
Brammo Enertia Plus
Best Bike for the New Eco-Conscious Rider: Just because you’re new to motorcycle riding doesn’t mean you have to opt only for petrol. Brammo’s Enertia Plus proves that your new steed can flick the birdie to fossil fuels with its 13kw, 29.5 lb-ft engine that nets you an 80 mile city range and 485 mpg-e. The unique solid profile, sleek futuristic looks and high-end touches like Brembo brakes and Marzocchi forks means it doesn’t look like it was built in a tree-hugging hippie’s garage.
BMW G 650 GS
Best Bike for the New Adventurer: If you’ve started motorcycling with the goal of multi-terrain adventure riding, the G 650 GS is a great place to start. 50 horsepower and 44 lb-ft of torque along with an enduro chassis make for potent riding power and comfort on and off the pavement. The 31.5-inch seat height means that just about anyone can ride comfortably, especially with the lowered suspension option. You can also add side cases and handwarmers to extend both the length of your trips and the riding season. The yellow and white paint options also ensure that you’ll be seen, and not just for your good Teutonic bike looks.