First motorcycle
A lot of first time riders ask, what type of motorcycle is best for them. There’s no single answer, but on the background of my personal experience, here’s a few things I think you should consider.

Which motorcycle type to choose?
Sports bike, cruiser, touring, dual-purpose or street bike, there’s a lot to choose from and you will probably already know what type of motorcycles you are into.

As a first timer I wouldn’t recommend buying a brand new sports bike. Sports motorcycles are build to take you to insane speeds very fast, and little mistakes can have fatal consequences. So start out with something a little more forgiving. Not to mention the cost of replacing the Tupperware, when you drop it in a parking lot. That stuff is blood dripping expensive. If you must have a sports bike (hey! who wouldn’t), choose an older model or at least stay below 500cc. You can always sell it, and buy a smoking hot Rossi replica, in a year or two when you have more experience.

In the cruiser/touring category one of the big sausage wagons like the Electra Glide and the Goldwing might be a bunch to handle if you don’t know how, that doesn’t mean you have to be big to do it though. Other than that, I don’t see a specific type of motorcycle being best for beginners, that all depends on your taste and preferences.

New or used motorcycle?
I recommend buying a used bike the first time. Especially if the motorcycle you are considering has been on the market for years, you will most likely be able to find one a couple of years old that is just like new. If you buy a used motorcycle it won’t hurt as much when you drop it (we’ve all done that once or twice). You won’t loose a lot of money realizing you bought the wrong type of bike and want to sell it to get another one, or when you want something with more power and in a year or two.

Keep an eye on the price for a few used models you are interested in, and buy one that you can sell off without loosing too much money on it. Remember to check insurance rates for the models you’re considering, there can be a huge difference. Mileage is not that important, if I could save a grand on a motorcycle that have run 2000 miles more than the other one, I would. Main thing to look for is that it has received the love and care it needs. If the seller couldn’t be bothered washing it before you come to see it, he probably haven’t bothered keeping service intervals either.

If you fall in love with a new model, that you for obvious reasons won’t find used, so be it. Riding motorcycles is a lot about passion, and taking the sensible approach can be a bit tough when your mind is set on that shiny new motorcycle winking at you in the dealer’s show room. This year it could be motorcycles like the Yamaha MT-03 or the Kawasaki ER6n which I would consider good entry level motorcycles. But consider your self warned; the first scratch in the paint hurts like hell.

Making the final decision.
Try before you buy. Go to various dealers and ask for demo rides. When buying a used bike, don’t buy it if you can’t try it. Also try motorcycles that you normally wouldn’t consider, so that you can compare them to the models you are considering (e.g. if you want a cruiser, try a street bike, and vice versa).

Buying a new motorcycle is a grand experience; you should enjoy it, and take your time. Go to trade shows, visit dealers, and try as many motorcycles as you can get away with.

After you buy your first motorcycle.
Once you get your first motorcycle, take as many riding classes as you can afford. You should also try an instructed track-day, that’ll be the most fun you’ve ever had (read about my first here). It will make you a better rider, you’ll ride safer, and you’ll have more fun riding.

Drive safe, have fun, and wear a freaking helmet you moron.

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24 Responses to “Choosing your first motorcycle”

  1. James - WhyBike.com  June 28th

    Good point on trying motorcycles you might not ordinarily consider. A lot of people are on the wrong kind of bike for them just because of style.

  2. Jesse  June 30th

    Awesome points. You always see someone injuring themselves because they ride a sport bike before they know how the handle it.

    Riding on the dirt is the best place to learn motorcycle skills. The varying degrees of traction off-road have a way of teaching you to keep your balance on two wheels. Also, the dirt gives you the slide factor at much slower speed than a streetbike, this gives you the chance to make a correction before a slide reaches the point of no return. Besides you have to watch for many distractions when you ride on the street… such as traffic, oily spots, may be hot girls… In the beginning you would have a less chance on concentrating on your ride on the street. In addition to that off-road bikes have less speeds, they tend to be slower and dirt is way softer than concrete.

  3. Jesper  July 4th

    Thanks, Jesse.
    I have very little experience with dirt riding on motorcycles. But I think you have a good point.

  4. Ben  August 14th

    Well a very good point.
    As a first bike i bought one of those Grey import japanese bikes. The VFR400
    Had it for a while and after riding it for about a year nearly every day i got me a gsxr750. Still second hand. When i sell the gixer i might opt to go for a new gsxr1000. but for the moment, i do not see the need for more speed than the 750 offers. Those things are insane and defenately not for a beginner!!

  5. Dynamike  August 17th

    Well, I get people asking me that questions with a specific brand in mind, Harley.

    I tell ‘em to make a list of the bikes they like best by visiting a dealership and sitting on as many bikes as they can. Once they have their list, they should start from the top and work their way down, renting each bike for a weekend and riding it silly!

    I’d much rather have spend $300 renting a bike I don’t like than buying a $20,000 bike that will end up collecting more dust than miles.

  6. Jesper  August 18th

    Yes, if it’s possible to rent the motorcycle you’re considering. If a free demo ride is not possible, I’d do that as well. Might save you a lot in the end.

  7. Damien  April 20th

    Well I just turned 18 and I don’t have a death wish or nothing but I took my MSRP and everything to learn to ride safe and everything, and since I like the sports bikes mostly out of all of them. I have been saving for awhile and bought my first bike which is an 07′ Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, my personaly opinion is if you start easy and slow and take your time, it’s a great bike to start on, and you won’t out grow it as fast as say a 250 or 500, it’s got power if you wanna use it but be careful.

  8. Jesper  April 20th

    Good luck with you ZX-6R, Damien, it’s a sweet machine. As long as you use your brains, and don’t get too throttle happy, you’ll be fine. If there’s supervised track days in your area, I recommend trying it out as soon as possible. Not only will you become a better rider, you’ll also have heaps of fun on that bike.

  9. Edwin  July 2nd

    Hey Damien,
    I never rode a motorcycle before and just finished one of those safety motorcycle classes. i was thinking of getting a Ninja ZH-6R as my first bike. how’s it going so far? does anyone here recommend against getting that as a first bike? since it’s classified as SuperSport, i wonder how comfortable it is riding compared to a regular sport bike, and if the tires included will be ok to handle in the rain. thanks in advance.

  10. joseph  March 9th

    yh edwin that bike is a great bike to start out with if your sensable enough, i have previously owned a kawasaki zx6r and boy are they fast, a better bike for a beginner i would say is the honda cbr 600 and was my overall first choice bike for about three years… i have now moved on to the hyabusa gsxr1300 and am loving every day spent on it, for all experiencend motorbike riders that is the bike to get,it may be a little costy but it is well worth it.

  11. How you can easily help out new motorcycle riders | Helmet Hair - Motorcycle Blog  March 15th

    [...] Choosing your first motorcycle [...]

  12. Sabine Pyrchalla  March 18th

    Jesper,

    Great Article with some really helpful tips. And despite that – there always has to be someone “bucking” the trend…

    My first bike, bought the end of 2003, the week before I decided to get my license? A 2003 Harley Heritage Softtail Classic.

    I saw the bike – and I knew it was mine. I never even sat on it before signing on the dotted line. And I didn’t regret it one minute.

    This bike “fits” like it was made for me. Size, weight and cc’s were/are no problem.

    Guess I got lucky….

  13. devin  March 18th

    I got my first bike a few months ago as a christmas gift from my girl. i thought it was sweet- yamaha radian 600. it has been nothing but a headache. i bought a 97′ suzuki bandit 1200s a few weeks ago, and i love it. i couldnt get comfortable on the radian, but the bandit fits me like a glove. i know its probably more bike than i need as a beginer, but i respect the machine and im hoping everything will be ok. does anyone know where i can find aftermarket parts for the 97′ bandit… i seem to be having a hard time finding many.

  14. Jesper  March 18th

    I did something like that when I bought my first bike, Sabine. Did sit on it though. But I wasn’t as lucky as you. Replaced it less than a year after.

    Devin, I’m not strong on the 1200 bandit. But I know that the bandit has been a favorite of street fighter builders in Europe for years. So there must be plenty of after market parts around.

  15. Robbo  April 4th

    I love gixers. The Suzuki GSX-R1000′s dominance are simple. Sublime, lithe ergonomics and handling, radical styling and full-on usable power. The bikes looks good too. Im thinking of buying one. gonna check out some bike insurance quotes to see how much this beast is gonna cost me to get on the road. then i’ll have to sweet talk the wife into letting me have one.

  16. craig  April 23rd

    Is there anything that I should watchout for when buying a 97 bandit 400? im upgrading from my 125 after many years of use (02-08), the thing has been lying around for around a year and the guy said it may need a new ignition coil or something…. whatelse should i look out for?

  17. Jesper  April 28th

    Craig, if it doesn’t run perfectly don’t buy it unless it’s dirt cheap.

    Always check brake discs and chain when buying used. These parts wear out and can be pricey, so you have to calculate replacing them into the price if needed.

    But I guess you know what to look for after riding for 6 years. Otherwise I strongly recommend bringing a friend who does.

  18. Yasser  May 23rd

    Hi,

    i’am 34 old, with kids, and never been on bikes before.
    i am looking for a bike that it would be good for biggners and will give me power and speed.
    for the time been friends recommended me the CBR 6004Fi or the CBR 900.
    could any one help?

  19. Kenny  June 1st

    Bought a 2000 Bandit 1200s the other day at an estate sale for $2000. It only has 4000 miles on it and has a carbon Yoshi can and stage 2 Yoshi cams. I’ve never ridden a bike. Today was my second day riding…all day long. Respect the right hand and you’ll be fine.

  20. Jonathan  June 3rd

    Yasser,

    I bought my first bike last year at 40, never on a bike until the MSF class. I was hooked immediately. Make sure that you take one.

    I looked at the CBRs and a Suzuki GS500. In the end, I went old school with a BMW/7.

    My biggest concern was out growing the bike after the first season. Get something in the 600cc range. It’s a good learning size and as your skills increase, it will have enough power to keep you rolling through the turns.

    Check out http://www.totalmotorcycle.com/buyersguide.htm there’s a lot of good advice and a ton of reviews for new and old bikes.

  21. Jason B  September 18th

    Hey folks I advise you to bookmark this website since there’s truly useful content right here.

  22. Vinay  November 10th

    Really good article and responses, good to see so many experienced people guiding others. I’m here to seek some advise too.

    I have been on motorcycles for 5 years now. I had a Honda CBF150 for 2 years and noe ride a Honda CBR 125R for the last 3 years. Ocassionally have been on 250cc bikes. never higher than 250 though.

    I am looking at upgrading to a Yamaha R6. Love the way it looks and also the reviews are great. My main use will be daily commute.

    I am a lean- not so tall-bloke, will i be able to handle the bike is my question? I am confident of being sensible with the throttle.I have dropped my bike only once so far.

    Thanks in advance

  23. Eric  March 13th

    Great article. I have been looking for a good first bike. I have very little experience on bikes but I love the Naked/Standard styled bikes. I have had my eye on a 2006 suzuki sv650 and a 2002 Ducati monster. I like the sv650 but I love the Ducati 750. I get comments form others telling me to go with the cheaper maintenace bike, sv650. But I just keep looking out for the duc 750! Any help would be greatly appreciated as I am prepared to purchase…

  24. Jesper Bram  March 14th

    If you are worried by the money go for the sv650. It’s a good bike. If you are in love with the Duc, go for that. Try and see if you can get to take each bike for a short spin, and then see how you feel after that. Both are good bikes, and I don’t know the difference in maintenance costs. I’d say follow your heart and go for the one that keeps you awake at night. But seriously try to get a ride on them both first.

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