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Motorcycles For Beginners

Chaparral Motorsports
January 27, 2015
Last Updated: October 5, 2020

If you want to choose a dirt bike for your first bike, make sure you check out these common beginner dirt bike mistakes. If you're looking for a more classic look like a chopper, here's our guide to buying your first chopper.

Every spring, motorcyclists in colder climates remove their bikes from storage and pull off the covers to get ready for another great riding season. Some riders might have spent last year getting their licenses but plan to make their first big purchases on a new bike this season.

If you're just getting started on your first bike, there are some really important tips to follow, but most importantly, you need to know what kind of bike fits you.

When it comes to motorcycles for beginners to be ridden on the street there are many different styles to choose from. The different style of bikes typically lend themselves to a specific type of riding. The five most common types of motorcycles are: sport bikes, standard, cruisers, dual sports, adventure motorcycles and touring motorcycles.

Sport bikes are the most aggressively styled with sleek body work and tucked and forward leaning riding position and engine displacements that range from 250cc to more than 1100cc.

Standard motorcycles are have a more upright riding position with the arms forward but slightly bent and feet placed almost directly below the knees to create an almost 90 degree bend in the knee/leg. Engine displacement varies from 125cc to 1000cc. These are some of the most popular motorcycles and the styling various from retro to extremely modern.

Cruisers have the most relaxed riding position with an upright riding position, with the arms stretched out and the legs often resting on controls located towards the front of the engine. Engine displacement for cruisers often range from 300cc up to about 2,000cc.

Dual sport motorcycles are similar to dirt bikes in style and riding position, however they are street legal so you can travel on public roads and highways. Dual sport motorcycles are lightweight like a dirt bike however they are built and tuned differently so they can comfortably travel at higher speeds than dirt bikes. They also have larger fuel tanks so they can travel longer distances. Engine displacement varies from 250cc up about 790cc.

Adventure motorcycles are the big brother to dual sport motorcycles. They are heavier, taller, have larger fuel tanks and larger engines than dual sport motorcycles. Theses bike typically range in engine displacement from 800cc up to 1250cc.

Touring motorcycles are similar to cruisers but are geared for long distance riding with tall fairings for wind protection and saddlebags and sometimes trunks for gear storage. Riding position is a relaxed upright position with the feet either placed directly below the knee or pushed slightly forward.

Choosing the right motorcycle can be a daunting task especially if you are just starting out. What you really need is to spend a full year riding a good beginner bike to get used to motorcycling and establishing good riding habits. While the decision isn't the easiest because there are so many options, here are five great starter motorcycles that are geared toward first-time riders:

1) Yamaha YZF-R3

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3

For those looking to get their feet wet with a new sportsbike, plenty of options are affordable and have an appropriate amount of power for a first-time rider. The biggest mistake numerous first-timers make is spending a ton a high-power sportsbike that they simply don't know how to ride yet.

Instead, try the Yamaha YZF-R3, which brings plenty of power with its 321cc, fuel-injected, inline-twin cylinder engine. The bikes has a low 30.7-inch seat height and weighs 368 pounds making it easy to manage for beginning riders. The bike's sporty full fairing gives the look of a true sportsbike. The YZF-R3 makes about 50-hp and tops out at triple digit speeds upwards of 115 mph.

2) Kawasaki Versys-X 300

2020 Kawasaki Versys X300

If you see yourself tearing up the highway for years to come, the Kawasaki Versys X300 could be the perfect bike to gear you toward being a true road warrior. The Versys is an extremely versatile bike and great for new riders. Load it up with saddlebags or a top box and you can take off for weeks.

Based off the same engine that power Kawasaki's sporty Ninja 300, the 296cc twin cylinder engine in the Versys 300X puts out around 40 hp and can roll to a top speed of around 90 mph. While it has a low seat height at 32 inches X factor in the Versys 300X is that it's fully capable of taking you on some off road adventures down fire roads and back country trails. Tipping the scale at less than 400 pounds makes for a bike that's easy to maneuver on or off road which plays nicely into the motorcycles versatility. With its mild displacement and lightweight the Versys 300X could be considered part of the quickly growing segment of entry-level Adventure bikes.

3) Honda Rebel 500

2020 Honda Rebel 500

Honda is notorious for beginner bikes, the Honda Rebel 500 is one of the best solutions for riders searching for a smooth cruiser style motorcycle with lots of attitude. Stripped down to resemble a modern take on a bobber, this 500-cc bike is just begging to cruise the streets. With it's extremely low seat height of only 27.2 inches the Rebel 500 is a comfortable fit for short riders and provides that "in-the-bike-feel" often found on fully customized motorcycles. The 471cc liquid-cooled parallel twin engine churns out 45 hp. Combine that with the Rebel's rather light 408 pounds and the bike can achieve can a top speed of nearly 100 mph.

Additionally, Honda is great for longevity, and while the bike might be more geared toward beginner riders, it could be enjoyed for many years and easily be passed down to future riders in the family.

4) Suzuki DR-Z400S

2020 Suzuki DR-Z400S

If a more dirt inspired motorcycle sparks your interest then the Suzuki DR-Z400S should be right up your alley. Tipping the scale at 317 pounds the Suzuki DR-Z400S weighs nearly 100 pounds less than the Versys. A lightweight and nimble dual sport motorcycle the DR-Z400S is easy to handle when navigating tricky off road trails--as long as you can manage the 36.8 inch seat height. The high ground clearance makes it a real goat when playing off road.

On the highway the lighter weight may allow the bike to get pushed around a bit--especially around big rigs or on extremely windy days. Maxxing out the 4-stroke, single cylinder, engine on the DRZ-400S to hit its top speed of around 100 mph may be a bit much for some riders. But if you're just looking for an around town errand runner or something that you can commute to work on and then explore with on the weekends, the DR-Z400S is a great choice.

5) KTM 390 Duke

2020 KTM 390 Duke

Falling under the sport bike unbrella the KTM 390 Duke is referred to as a naked bike because well, unlike a sport bike it has a lot less skin and more exposed bits--most notably the frame and engine. The nakedness of the 390 Duke enables the bike to slide onto the scale at 328 pounds, 40 pounds lighter than the Yamaha YZF-R3. With a seat height of 32.6 the 390 Duke does sit two inches taller than the Yamaha, however, with the more upright and relaxed riding position will be much appreciated by those that feel a sport bike riding position is too confining.

On show for the world to admire, at the center of the 390 Duke's steel trellis frame is a 373cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine that makes 43.3 hp. Wind out the six-speed transmission on your way to the bikes top speed and you'll see the TFT display hit almost triple digits topping out at about 93 mph.

We barely scratched the surface as to what some of the good beginner bikes are, but provided you with a well-rounded selection that covers pretty much all the different styles of bikes. If you want to see even more motorcycles for beginners then head over to

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