Beginner's Guide: Motorcycles to Get Started On
WRN's guide to bikes for new women riders
For new riders, the selection of motorcycles on the market can seem overwhelming—especially when you're not sure where to start. Fortunately there are bikes out there that have proved time and time again to be good choices for new riders. We've compiled a list of those bikes with new women riders in mind.
At WRN, we generally recommend starting out on a smaller motorcycle, one
on which you can easily and confidently practice the skills learned in
the motorcycle training class. There are certainly other motorcycles out there—for example, some small displacement dual-sport motorcycles are often recommended as good beginner bikes. However, this list reflects what we've found are the most popular choices among beginning women riders. We did not list prices, as they vary from year to year. Also, in recent years some of these models have been discontinued but remain popular choices for beginners thanks to the ever-changing used market. Where applicable, we've made a note of that. Cruisers
|Honda Rebel 250|
Seat Height: 26.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gallons
Weight: 331 pounds
|Description: The Rebel is the consummate beginner bike. Many motorcyclists start on a Rebel because it's a solid starter
bike that has been in Honda's lineup on and off since 1985. There are
many used ones on the market, and it's a bike that generally retains its value. The Rebel hasn't changed much
looks-wise over the last decade or so. It has big-bike looks, including lots of chrome, spoke wheels, and a
twin-cylinder, four-stroke engine. This is a tried and true starter
motorcycle with many successful "graduates." Read a review of the Honda Rebel from a WRN reader, and check out our story on the new color options for the 2012 Rebel. |
Yamaha Star Motorcycles V Star 250
Seat Height: 27 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gallons
Weight: 324 pounds
This is the beginner motorcycle in Yamaha's Star Motorcycles brand
of V Star
cruisers. In 2008, the V Star 250 replaced the Virago 250 but retained a lot
of its predecessor's styling and features. There are many used Viragos now on the
market. Yamaha wants the V Star 250 to be as appealing as possible to
beginners, so the bike has many features found on bigger motorcycles, like
a V-twin engine, spoke wheels
two-up seat. Read the WRN review.|
| Suzuki GZ250|
Seat Height: 27.8 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight: 331 pounds
|Description: Model year 2010 was the last year Suzuki made the GZ250. It had been in the company's lineup for years because of its popularity with beginners. You'll find plenty of used ones on the market. The GZ250 features classic cruiser styling and is powered by a 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine driven by 5 gears. This motorcycle is often used in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course. |
|Suzuki Boulevard S40|
Seat Height: 27.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.8 gallons
Weight: 381 pounds
|Description: This S40 is the Boulevard line's entry level model. The number 40 refers to the engine size in cubic inches (ci), as opposed to cubic centimeters (cc). 40ci is equivalent to 652cc, an engine size some would consider too powerful for a beginner. However, the bike's light weight and low seat height make it ideal for beginners who feel that the 250cc bikes are just too small. The 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine has a 5-speed transmission. |
|Kawasaki Eliminator 125|
Seat Height: 26.8 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight: 291 pounds
entry-level bike that's inexpensive to own and operate, the Eliminator 125 is
Kawasaki's smallest cruiser. It was discontinued in 2009, so only used
models are available. The Eliminator 125 is a cruiser featuring an
air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine with a 5-speed,
chain-driven transmission. It has a seat height of 26.8 inches—low
enough that most riders can easily plant both feet on the ground at
stops. Weighing a scant 291 pounds, it is lightweight and easy for a
beginner or smaller rider to handle. |
|Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD|
Seat Height: 28.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Weight: 439 pounds
Description: The midsize Vulcan is a popular entry-level motorcycle that was discontinued in 2009 after a nearly 20-year production run. There are plenty of used ones to be had. The Vulcan 500 remained in Kawasaki's lineup for years because it was a top seller among women and first-time riders. We've seen many women under 5 feet keep this motorcycle as their end-all bike. Despite its smaller engine size, the Vulcan 500 LTD packs a lot of power into its six speeds and features classic cruiser looks, like its chrome-plated wire-spoke wheels, that never go out of style. Read a WRN Reader Review of the Vulcan 500.
| Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 SuperLow|
Seat Height: 25.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Weight: 563 pounds
|Description: If you want a Harley-Davidson as your first motorcycle, the Sportster SuperLow is the company’s entry-level model. If you’re a confident beginner and feel ready to start on a “real world” motorcycle (versus a small 250cc bike), then the SuperLow might be for you. Harley-Davidson has made many changes to its Sportster lineup over the last decade, tweaking, adding and discontinuing models, so you’ll find several iterations on the used market. The SuperLow is an all-new design that debuted in 2011. To learn more, read the WRN review of the SuperLow. If you’re interested in a different Harley-Davidson as a possible first bike, the company does make some of the lowest motorcycles out there that make it easier to get both feet on the ground. Check out our list of the Lowest of the Low motorcycles. |
|Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low|
Seat Height: 25.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Weight: 583 pounds
|Description: True to its name, this
seat height is a low 25.3 inches. The Sportster 883
Low originally replaced the
Hugger, popular in the 1990s because of its low seat. Now the 883 Low itself has been discontinued and replaced by the SuperLow (see directly above), so don't confuse the two. Like the regular 883, its sister
model that was also discontinued in 2011, the Low is
relatively light. It sports most of the same features as the regular 883, but
it comes with a
solo seat positioned to scoot the rider closer to the handlebars, which
are angled closer to the rider. As with the SuperLow, some may say an
should not be included in the same beginner bike class as the 250cc
motorcycles. However, we'd be remiss not to include it here, as
many riders want to ride a Harley-Davidson right out of the gate. We recommend the
Sportster 883 Low only for the most confident of new riders. |
Seat Height: 30.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Weight: 326 pounds
|Description: The TU250X was a new model for Suzuki in 2011. At 250cc, it makes an ideal beginner bike for riders who prefer the upright seating position of a standard style motorcycle. At 30.3 inches, the seat height is on the higher side, but the narrow profile will help shorter riders reach the ground with both feet. It has a 5-speed, fuel-injected, 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine with a decently sized fuel tank capacity of 3.2 gallons. |
BMW G 650 GS
Displacement: 652ccSeat Height: 30.7 inchesFuel Capacity: 4 gallonsWeight: 431 pounds
Description: With its single-cylinder engine and budget price tag, this is considered BMW's entry-level motorcycle. Because it's on the taller
side, we wouldn't typically recommend this bike as a starter motorcycle, but if someone wants to buy into the BMW family, this is
an affordable way to do it. A lower seat is available, dropping the seat height by more than 1 inch. While the BMW G 650 GS has the upright seating position of a standard style motorcycle, it's technically a dual-sport bike because it's equipped with tires that do well off-road on gravel trails as well as on pavement, making it a very versatile first motorcycle. Read WRN's review of the BMW G 650 GS.
|Buell Blast 500|
Seat Height: 27.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.8 gallons
Weight: 360 pounds
|Description: Buell Motorcycle Company is
no longer in existence, so production stopped on the Blast in 2009. However,
there are lots of used ones available. In fact, this motorcycle is still used
Rider's Edge motorcycle training classes. It makes an ideal beginner
bike for those not sure if they want a cruiser or a sportbike,
as its upright seating position makes it feel more like a standard style motorcycle. |
Displacement: 249.4ccSeat Height: 30.5 inchesFuel Capacity: 3.4 gallonsDry Weight: 357 pounds |Description: In 2011, Honda released this 250cc sportbike for beginners who prefer the sportier side of riding. This motorcycle is full of high-tech features in an affordable, lightweight package. At 30.9 inches, the seat height is pretty standard for a sportbike, but the light weight of 359 pounds makes it manageable for smaller riders. Check out our story on the Honda CBR250’s introduction. |
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Seat Height: 30.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons
Dry Weight: 335 pounds
|Description: Up until 2011, this was the only sportbike under 500cc available
from a major manufacturer. The Kawasaki Ninja 250R was Kawasaki's top-selling
model in 2007, and it underwent a complete makeover in 2008. The Ninja 250R is ideal for new riders (66
percent of buyers are first-timers) or experienced riders looking for a
fun and reliable commuter bike. It has six speeds and a
carbureted engine. Other features include a full fairing similar to that on the
Ninja ZX-6R and 10R supersport bikes, plus more aggressive styling that
goes head to head with big-boy sportbikes. This Ninja may not look like a
beginner bike, but it can act like one for those who are still getting used to the ride. Read WRN's review of the Ninja 250R. |
CSC Motorcycles Babydoll
Displacement: 149ccSeat Height: 27 inchesFuel Capacity: 3 gallonsDry Weight: 240 pounds |Description: CSC Motorcycles' Babydoll is the pink version of its “Classic” model. Though you may think "scooter" when you see a 150cc two-wheeler, this is actually a 5-speed manual-transmission motorcycle that can go as fast as 65 mph. To learn more, read the WRN review.|
Kymco Venox 250
Displacement: 249cc Seat Height: 29 inches Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons Dry Weight: 418 pounds |Description: Kymco stopped making the Venox 250 in 2009, but it remains one of the most capable beginner bikes out there because of its sturdy big-bike feel. Kymco is a reputable manufacturer that focuses on producing scooters. If you can find a used Venox on the market, it’d be a worthwhile investment on which to gain basic riding skills. |
Classics (if you can find a used one)
Motorcycles for Confident Beginners
The motorcycles below are considered middleweights, the level of motorcycle a typical beginner trades up to after spending time on a 250cc motorcycle. However, some beginning riders who are confident or on the tall side may feel like they overpower a 250cc motorcycle—or that, while the 250cc bike was great to learn on in the training class, they are ready for a “real world” motorcycle. Below is a list of recommended middleweight cruisers for new riders who fall into this category.
- Yamaha Star Motorcycles V Star Classic or Custom: Both of these bikes feature a 650cc engine and are similar to each other, except for styling and ergonomics. The Custom has a 27.4-inch seat height, and the Classic has a 27.9-inch seat height.
- Honda Shadow line (Shadow RS, Shadow Phantom, Shadow Aero, Shadow Spirit): All these models share the same 750cc engine—the main differences between them are styling and ergonomics. Seat heights on the Honda Shadow bikes range from a high of 29.4 inches for the RS to a low of 25.7 inches for the Spirit. Read WRN’s review of the Shadow Spirit, as well as a reader review of the Shadow Spirit. You can also read a WRN review of the Aero and a reader review of the Aero.
- Suzuki Boulevard C50T Classic: This is an 800cc middleweight with a 27.6-inch seat height. A low center of gravity makes this bike easy to maneuver around. Read the WRN review of the C50T, a similar model.
- Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom: In recent years, Kawasaki did away with its 750cc and 800cc motorcycles, refining its Vulcan line by introducing the 900cc Vulcan and creating a more powerful motorcycle for the higher end of the middleweights (although some will argue a middleweight goes all the way up to 1300cc). We’re listing the Vulcan 900 because it’s typically compared to the Honda Shadow, Yamaha V Star Classic and Suzuki Boulevard C50T Classic. Seat height is 27 inches.
- Triumph Bonneville: This classic is a favorite among women riders looking for something different. While the engine is 900cc, it’s a light and nimble bike with a narrow profile, which makes it a fun ride.
- Ducati Monster 696: Compact and rider friendly, this is a nice “entry level” for confident riders who want something different.
- Yamaha FZ6R: This is a cross between a sportbike and sport tourer, with a more upright “rider friendly” seating position that confident beginners who yearn for a sportier ride will enjoy. Read WRN’s review.
- Kawasaki Ninja 650: This bike was redesigned in 2012 for a sportier, more aggressive ride. We found the original Ninja 650R to be very rider friendly for riders who want a more powerful, “real world” ride from their beginner bike. Read the WRN review.
I'm 83 now and rode some in my younger days but it's start over time. Would like an older classic bike, a Honda Dream 305 would be great but they are hard to find anymore. If I were to get a larger bike maybe some side wheels would work.
Old Town, FL
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I was hoping for some advice on getting a shared beginner bike, one that would work for my 6 foot tall husband and for my 5-foot-5 short-legged frame. I was very comfortable on the Honda Rebel that I trained on in an MSF course, but my husband was on a Suzuki, which he didn't quite like, and we didn't have a chance to switch to see if another bike was better for us. He thinks the Rebel looked more comfortable for his longer legs. Any advice other than, go to dealers and try them out?
Monday, April 29, 2013
The Rebel is a very comfortable motorcycle for any size rider, but it is a "smaller" bike and a 6 foot tall person might feel cramped. Sitting on the bike at the dealership is the best way for a person to get a good feel for a motorcycle he or she will be riding. You could also opt for a used Vulcan 500 LTD
as it has a little bit more power, six speeds and is a little bigger size wise. Would be great for both of you to share. Genevieve Schmitt
I'm starting out on a Honda Rebel but have had my eyes on the Honda Shadow Spirit because it's a good fit for my 5-foot 3-inch height. I was at the local dealership recently and noticed how beautiful the 2013 Shadow Aero is in the metallic silver/pearl white. When I mentioned to the salesperson that I liked that color but the seat was too wide for me, he told me of a nearby upholsterer that can narrow the seat's width and/or slope the sides for better leg comfort. I would have never thought of that! I know that replacement seats are available but I so much liked the idea of modifying what's already on it than completely changing it out. Since I was so thrilled to hear of this option I thought maybe someone else might benefit from it too.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Yes, that is a viable option that riders have been doing for years. You just have to make sure you find a good upholsterer who knows what they're doing with a motorcycle seat, perhaps has some experience doing this before. If the dealer is recommending him/her, then it's probably a good recommendation and someone they have used before.
Wonderful to have all the advice. I am a 46 year old, 5-feet 8-inch woman who is taking my motorcycle's beginner test in three weeks. Years ago I used to sit on the back of my husband's bike and had no desire to ride myself. Two grown children later, my husband has other interests and hobbies, and limited time in which to enjoy them. I hope that I get the same enjoyment out of riding myself. Any advice is appreciated.
Comber, ON, Canada
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Hi, Marg—We're glad you enjoyed the article! Anytime you need additional advice, a great place to look is the WRN Forum
, especially the Beginner's Section
, where you can post your questions and get advice from your fellow riders (many of them also beginners). Good luck and happy riding!Amy Mortensen, Editorial Assistant
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