15 Best Beginner Motorcycles: The Definitive Beginners Guide 

Written by Jordan Stokes, Carolyn Jackson, & Matt Bombaugh.
 

Introduction – What is the Best Beginner Motorcycle?

Looking to buy your first motorcycle? We’ve rounded up the 15 of the best beginner bikes for every type of rider, as well as 5 things to consider before you hit those want ads.
 
As a moto vlogger and general motorcycle enthusiast, I find myself giving advice about bikes to beginner riders at least once a day. Whenever asked, my first question to them is, why do you want to ride? For me, it was escapism.
 
The ability to get on a motorcycle and fully immerse yourself into the experience of riding and let all your worries fall behind you. The feeling of the temperature changing as you traverse mountainous paths, the smell of fresh-cut grass as you rip through suburbia, and the true connection you feel to your surroundings is nothing short of a dream to me. Riding a motorcycle feels like freedom and I crave that feeling every day.
 
A motorcycle is the epitome of adventure, and with these 15 best motorcycles for beginners, you’ll be out exploring in no time.
 

Buying Your First Motorcycle: First Steps

There’s a laundry list of things to consider when looking to purchase your first bike, and a fair amount of these items happen before you even get your first look. First and foremost, do you have a motorcycle license?
 
Growing up in the suburbs of D.C. there was little chance of getting away with anything like riding without a license, but many of the people I’ve met on two wheels started their journey without the proper training or legal certifications. When I was ready to transition from dirt to street I looked no further than the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), which works with local community colleges and organizations to provide the fundamental knowledge of how to ride a motorcycle on the road. I’ve seen people with no prior riding experience enter the MSF course and on the third and final day have the proficient skills and knowledge to ride safely.
 
After you’ve received your M classification on your license, it’s time to get serious about finding your first bike.
 
Looking back, I remember how exciting and albeit confusing a time this was. To make things a little clearer for you, here are the 5 things you should consider:

  • Budget
  • Power Output
  • Weight
  • Usability
  • Comfort

 

Pro Tip: You should also think about frequency of use and what style of riding you plan to take part in.

 
Choosing the beginner bike that fits these components best for you, will not only make your riding more enjoyable but will keep you safer during the process. The best bike is the one that fits you best. Now let’s break down some of these factors.
 

5 Things You Should Consider Before Hitting the Want Ads

 

  1. Budget

The biggest misconception when budgeting for a new motorcycle is how much you originally think you can afford. It’s important to take into account property taxes, insurance, new gear, and depending on your living situation, storage – essentially the total cost of motorcycle ownership.
 
Insurance is one of the hottest topics among riders. Make sure to work with your current auto insurance provider first, as they will likely have a multi-vehicle policy that will reduce your rates. The pro to being a newer rider looking at lower displacement bikes is that the cost to insure is almost directly correlated to the amount of power a bike has, so prices should be on the lower end.
 
Another tip is to look for motorcycle incentives, as many manufacturers offer savings to make the buying process more affordable. It’s also important to understand what motorcycle dealer fees you should expect to pay when going through the purchase process.
 
Once you’ve been able to determine the true amount of money you can spend on a bike, it’s time to take that number to the want ads, dealerships, craigslist, Rollick, or even your local bike meets.
 

 Pro Tip: Knowing what you can afford to spend will help you narrow down your options in a big way. We recommend first time riders spend no more than $7,000 all in, on both their bike and expenses.

 

  1. Power

Among the many heavily disputed topics in the motorcycle community, one that sits at the top of many riders lists is the acceptable power output a new rider should look to manage. From 250cc singles to 1600cc V6 monsters, the motorcycle industry offers hundreds of bikes and engine configurations.
 
For the first year of riding, we suggest sticking with a bike that has no more than 600cc’s of power, which is being delivered via a smooth and controlled throttle response. Most entry-level motorcycles are far less twitchy in their throttle response, translating to a more dull reaction from the engine when the throttle is twisted. To some, this may sound negative, but in the first year of riding you’re still getting used to the incredible power-to-weight ratio that all bikes provide, so you’ll want a safety net in the event that you accidentally apply full throttle in a dangerous situation.
 
Our compiled list of 15 best motorcycles for beginners focuses on bikes in the sub 600cc power level that provides consistent throttle response through the rev range.
 

  1. Weight

The heavier the bike, the harder they fall. This stands to be very true as a beginner when you’re still building up your skillset and find yourself potentially making little mistakes. Make little mistakes on a heavy bike and it would be magnified into much larger and potentially dangerous issues. So go with what you can handle!
 
Different styles of bikes tend to dictate the acceptable weight ranges of the bikes in their category. Choosing a bike that is relatively lightweight for its style will help you keep control in slow-speed situations, allows you to feel comfortable with feet down, and generally give more detailed rider feel.
 

  1. Usability

My second sportbike was an Italian stallion Aprilia Tuono V4R. That bike spoke to me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t usable on a daily basis.
 
The abysmal 100ish mile range, the low and forward controls, and the overwhelming heat meant that it was more of a weekend warrior than the daily commuter that I was looking for.
 
Things like storage capacity, range, comfort features, and wind protection can make or break your decision to go on that moto camping adventure or whether you want to ride to work.
 
Being patient and dissecting all the features of a bike will ensure you get your money’s worth and increase your likelihood to ride. Using model specific forums, facebook groups, as well as online services like fuelly to determine various long term attributes to these bikes will help you decide what’s right for you.
 

  1. Comfort

Riding a motorcycle is significantly more fatiguing than driving and the last thing you’ll want to feel at the halfway point is a pain in your neck, shoulders, knees, or back. With the naked bike movement coming into full effect, and manufacturers pushing out amazing standard upright motorcycles with as much power as their supersport brethren, there is less of a reason to sacrifice comfort for capability.
 
One of the main components of comfort is seat height. As a relatively short rider, I initially found myself discouraged by the rather high seat heights that come standard on many of the bikes I was interested in. Over the years I’ve not only grown my skills to adapt to higher seat heights, but I’ve seen manufacturers work hard to make higher bikes more accessible for everyone (i.e. lower seats, lowered suspension from the factory, lowering links available in the aftermarket).
 

Pro Tip: Never buy a bike sight unseen and if possible, always take the potential purchase on a test ride in slow and high speed situations. If possible, use motorcycle rental services like Twisted Road or Riders Share to rent the bike you’re looking at purchasing for a couple of days. This will give you the chance to ride in the daily conditions you’d most likely use it in.

 

How Much is a Beginner Motorcycle?

Beginner motorcycles typically range in price from $3,000 to $10,000. Based on the list below, the average price of a new beginner motorcycle is $5,550. And if you’re curious about your neighbors, the most popular beginner bike is the Honda Grom. The least expensive beginner bike in our list is the Kawasaki Z-125 Pro, retailing for $3,199.
 

15 Best Motorcycles for Beginners 2020

From simple standards to speedy sportbikes, here are 15 of the best entry-level bikes that are built to last and provide thousands of miles of adventure. I’ve hand-selected these 15 bikes from experience and ranked them in order of his favorite for a beginner bike.
 

Pro Tip: In order to tell which class a bike belongs in, you can look at the rider position. For example, on a standard bike your shoulders will be right over your hips, on a cruiser they will be laid-back behind your hips, and on a sportbike your shoulders will be leaned over your hips.

 


 

  1. 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 – The Best Beginner Motorcycle Under $5,000

2020-Yamaha-YZF-R3

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Why the Yamaha YZF-R3 is a Great Beginner Bike:
There are a lot of amazing bikes on this list. Most of which push the boundaries of the entire entry-level genre, but there can only be one that I would personally buy, and it’s this. The riding experience on the Yamaha R3 is akin to listening to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time. It simply transcends time and space. I’m not sure how Yamaha packed so much punch into this 321-pound rocketship, but they did. Maybe more impressive than the power delivery is the outstanding rider position and suspension feel. If you want to learn how to ride a motorcycle on a track… Start here.
 
Watch the test ride of the 2019 R3:


 


 

  1. 2020 Honda CB300R

2020-Honda-CB300R

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Why the Honda CB300R is a Great Beginner Bike:
At just 317 pounds and sporting some big boy Showa suspension, the 2020 Honda CB300R is the real deal. Turn in feels firm and responsive, while acceleration from the 286cc single provides confidence for city and highway riding. Beyond the incredible dynamics of the engineering, the overall design no longer screams, “look at me, I’m a beginner” instead giving newer riders a platform to grow into and love, no matter how experienced they are. You can read my review of the 2019 Honda CB300R here.
 
Watch the Honda CB300R 2020 Test Ride:


 


 

  1. 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400

2020-Kawasaki-Ninja-400

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Why the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a Great Beginner Bike:
How… how in God’s name did they get so much power out of a 399cc parallel twin? Someone at Kawasaki deserves a raise, because the Ninja 400 put the industry on notice a couple of years ago when it first debuted. Years later it continues to dominate the entry-level class in power to displacement ratios and give riders enormous value for money. I’ll take one in KRT livery, please.
 
Watch the 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400 Test Ride Here:


 


 

  1. 2020 KTM 390 Duke

2020-KTM-390-Duke

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Why the KTM 390 Duke is a Great Beginner Bike:
It hurts me to write about a KTM Duke, sitting here thinking about my dear, my love, my old 1290 SuperDuke. That pain is love and that love extends to the mini Duke. With low-end torque and an upright riding position, you’ll be a member of the 12 o’clock boys before you know it. These highly efficient KTMs make for incredible beginner motorcycles, and lend themselves to even the most advanced riders looking for something to wring out on Sunday morning rides.
 


 

  1. 2020 Ducati Monster 797

2020-Ducati-Monster-797

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Why the Ducati Monster 797 is a Great Beginner Bike:
Drool. The Ducati Monster is not for the faint of heart, and the 803cc twin will remind you of that almost immediately. Now that I’ve given my PSA I can implore you to ride and bike this bike. Something beautiful happens when a platform has been around for as many years as the Monster has. The 2020 Monster 797 condenses years of experience to create a riding experience that no bike on this list could replicate. It’s a sensational entry-mid level motorcycle.
 


 

  1. 2020 Kawasaki Z400

2020-Kawasaki-Z400

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Why the Kawasaki Z400 is a Great Beginner Bike:
Take a legendary 399cc twin and throw it into a crowd-pleasing naked style motorcycle and the 2020 Kawasaki Z400 is born. I’m currently on step 9 of 12 in my addiction recovery from this incredible platform. With competitors like the Honda CB300R getting updated styling, the power-hungry Z400 has some stiff competition for 2020, but where there is competition, innovation follows.
 


 

  1. 2020 Yamaha MT-03

2020-Yamaha-MT-03

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Why the Yamaha MT-03 is a Great Beginner Bike:
OMG, no freaking way! That’s what I said when I found out that the US market was getting a 300 class of the incredible MT line-up. I have loved each and every MT I’ve ever ridden. With the same dedication to engineering excellence and a fanbase that loves getting what they ask for, the 2020 MT-03 is destined to be amazing. I can not wait to throw a leg over one of these. Will the MT continue to stand for Master of Torque in this 321cc example? God, I hope so.
 


 

  1. 2020 Suzuki SV650

2020-Suzuki-SV650

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Why the Suzuki SV650 is a Great Beginner Bike:
If you’ve been around long enough you’ve either owned or come very close to owning a Suzuki SV650. I personally have never ridden the swiss army knife of motorcycles, but with such a storied past and enough power to really get yourself into trouble, I had to include it on the list. Whether you’re commuting to work or setting lap records at your local track, the SV650 is the old timer that will always have your back and by far the best touring motorcycle for beginners on this list.
 


 

  1. 2020 BMW G310GS

2020-BMW-G310GS

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Why the BMW G310GS is a Great Beginner Bike:
The tiniest of BMW GS models does not sacrifice function over form with 313cc’s of dirt spitting power. I’ve got one word for you. Warranty. WIth a 3 year 36,000 mile industry leading warranty, the additional cost that BMW brings with it is dwarfed by the highly professional network of dealerships at your disposal. That being said, this bike speaks for itself. If you’re working your way up to the illustrious R1250GS Adventure, look no further.
 
Watch the test ride here:


 


 

  1. 2020 Suzuki DR-Z400SM

2020-Suzuki-DR-Z400SM

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Why the Suzuki DR-Z400SM is a Great Beginner Bike:
Another tried and true original gangster, the DR-Z400SM is a hooligans dream ride. Dirtbike looks combined with street rubber equal an unforgettable first ride. I will deny this in any other situation, but I may or may not have taken a DR-Z400SM off many a loading dock at my local mall in the days before DukeOfDC. You’ll be blown away with the capability and reliability from this OG.
 


 

  1. 2020 BMW G310R

2020-BMW-G310R

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Why the BMW G310R is a Great Beginner Bike:
For standard or naked style motorcycle fans, the BMW G310R comes in almost $1,000 under it’s offroad focused counterpart and still lets you experience the impressive 313cc single. Sitting a little on the heavier side for a bike of this displacement and class, you’ll still be able to flick through the twisties and ride comfortably on highway stints.
 
Watch me test ride the 2018 version:


 


 

  1. 2020 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2

2020-Ducati-Scrambler-Sixty2

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Why is the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 a Great Beginner Bike:
Owning a Ducati as your first motorcycle is like showing up at your high school prom with a supermodel. In this case, that model is the 2020 Scrambler Sixty2, and with a 399cc twin, low seat height, and extensive parts department you’re looking at a genuinely great beginner bike. If money is no option and you love scrambler styling, this is the one.
 


 


 

  1. 2020 Honda Grom 125

2020-Honda-Grom-125

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Why the Honda Grom 125 is a Great Beginner Bike:
The 2020 Honda Grom is without question the David to the other 300cc entry-level bikes Goliaths. With an engine that you would sooner find powering a lawnmower, you can’t expect to break any land speed records on this little dude. That being said, you will grin ear to ear while you buzz around the neighborhood, park where no bike can park, and grow your Grom Gang to an unprecedented level. If you’re an aftermarket nut looking for a perfect second bike, the Honda Grom is a winner winner, chicken dinner. Read my full review of the 2019 Honda Grom here.
 
Or watch me take it for a spin:


 


 

  1. 2020 Suzuki GSX250R ABS

2020-Suzuki-GSX250R-ABS

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Why the Suzuki GSX250 ABS is a Great Beginner Bike:
Suzuki’s iteration of the ever-popular 250-300cc supersport entry motorcycle is looking a little long in the tooth, but game respects game. This is where it all started folks, and although the industry has left this bike in the dust, it’s still a wonderful platform for any and all beginners. If I was a betting man, I would say a 400cc updated GSXR is coming soon to a theater near you.
 


 

  1. 2020 Kawasaki Z125 Pro

2020-Kawasaki-Z125-Pro

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Why is the Kawasaki Z125 Pro a Great Beginner Bike:
Not a Honda fan, but love the idea of a smaller, scooter-like first bike? Well, have I got the perfect Grom substitute for you. With an engine that you would sooner find powering a lawnmower, you can’t expect to break any land speed records on this little dude. That being said, you will grin ear to ear while you buzz around the neighborhood, and park where no bike can park all in the cool Kawasaki packaging. Want to learn more about the Z125? Read my full review.
 
Or watch me try to take it on the highway:


 
 

Best Used Motorcycles for Beginners

We know a lot of shoppers like to start on the more affordable side, so here are three used bikes that would be a great fit for beginners.
 

  1. 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300 – Best Used Sports Bike

Sitting as a direct competitor to the Yamaha R3 and 300cc sportbikes alike, the Ninja 300 is a lightweight, inexpensive sportbike, perfect for new riders. Featuring a 296 cc (18.1 cu in) liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 8-valve, parallel-twin engine, 6-speed transmission, and a top speed of 106-112 mph.
 
A new version of the Kawasaki starts at $5,299 with ABS and combines big-bike styling with lightweight and efficient entry-level ergonomics. However, you should be able to save $800 – $1,000 off the original MSRP by purchasing it used. Weighing 383 lbs (wet), boasting a 4.5-gallon tank, and an estimated 60+ mpg rating, you can ride all day with ease. Kawasaki offers a 12-month limited warranty with Protection Plus extensions available.
 

  1. 2018 Honda Rebel 300 – Best Used Cruiser 

This bike is blacked-out and all about style. Manufactured by Honda, the Rebel 300 was built with a 286cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke engine and a 6-speed transmission. It offers a midrange power that’s well suited for all levels of riders, especially beginners, and it can be customized. With a shorter wheelbase than most cruisers, at just 58.7 inches, you’ll have no issues maneuvering this ultralight 364 lb (wet) bike. A 2.96-gallon fuel tank and an estimated 78 mpg will make even the most efficient of hybrids run for the hills. As a used bike, you can typically save between $500 and $1,000 off the original MSRP.
 

  1. 2016 Honda CB500F

Honda has been producing some of the most reliable, comfortable, and downright great motorcycles for generations. The Honda CB500F fills these historic shoes with ease.
 
With an original MSRP of $5,999, you should be able to save close to $1,000 off this price. The 471cc parallel-twin delivers superior smoothness in a very comfortable upright riding position. With a 30.7in seat height, 414 lb curb weight, and 4.4-gallon tank, practicality has never been closer to home. This bike has been in production for years, so you can hit the want ads and find your way into the Honda family at a heavily discounted rate.
 

Conclusion

Purchasing your first ever motorcycle should be exciting and fun. The recommendations above are some of the best in the game and will provide you with a high-quality experience out on the road, guaranteed. But remember, there is more to riding than just looking and feeling cool (although that is a huge bonus). You need to be safe and knowledgeable about how to ride and the bike you end up purchasing. Do your research (which clearly you’re dominating that step if you just read this), ask questions, and be patient. The right bike is out there and it’s waiting for you.
 

GoRollick Buying Experience

When you’re ready to find your perfect motorcycle, be sure to check us out at gorollick.com. You can:

  • See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
  • Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired vehicle
  • Receive special offers on both the vehicle, as well as additional accessories
  • Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience

 

More on the Duke of DC

You know, my father tells me that one of my first words was “carburetor” and after my 8th car and 5th motorcycle in my relatively short time on this earth, I’m starting to believe him. I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 15 years old, and when I started DukeOfDC it was during a really difficult time in my life. I’m just an average Joe that loves anything on two wheels and wants to share that passion with the world. Check out my YouTube channel and follow me on Twitter.
 

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