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The #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women, and Men Who Ride With Women

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. 

The motorcycles are listed by the categories in this order: cruiser, standard style, sportbike, alternatives, classics.


Honda Rebel 250

Beginner Motorcycle Honda Rebel

Displacement: 234cc
Seat Height: 26.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gallons
Weight: 331 pounds

Description: The Rebel is the consummate beginner bike encompassing size, looks and a price tag that has had many motorcyclists choosing it from Honda's lineup when it first introduced in 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 with its traditional cruiser styling, 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 2014 Rebel.  

Displacement: 249cc
Seat Height: 27 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gallons
Weight: 326 pounds

Description: 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 and a two-up seat. Read the WRN review.

 Suzuki GZ250

Beginner Motorcycles Suzuki GZ250 black

Displacement: 249cc
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. Read a review by a WRN reader. Suzuki makes two other 250cc motorcycles listed in categories below.

Suzuki Boulevard S40
Beginner Motorcycles Suzuki Boulevard S40

Displacement: 652cc
Seat Height:
27.6 inches
Fuel Capacity:
2.8 gallons
381 pounds

Description: The Suzuki 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

Beginner Motorcycles Kawasaki Eliminator 125

Displacement: 124cc
Seat Height: 26.8 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight: 291 pounds

Description: An 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. Read a review by a WRN reader.

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD

Beginner Motorcycles Kawasaki Vulcan 500

Displacement: 498cc
Seat Height: 28.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Weight: 439 pounds

Description: The midsize Kawasaki 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

Beginner Motorcycles Harley-Davidson SuperLow 2011

Displacement: 883cc
Seat Height:
25.5 inches
Fuel Capacity:
4.5 gallons
562 pounds

Description: If you want a Harley-Davidson as your first motorcycle, the Sportster SuperLow is the company’s entry-level model. Confident beginner who feel ready to start on a “real world” motorcycle (versus a small 250cc bike), might like the SuperLow. 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. In 2014 the brakes were upgraded and new colors added. 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 Iron 883 

Beginner Motorcycles Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883

Displacement: 883cc
Seat Height: 25.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Weight: 562 pounds
Description: Of Harley-Davidson's Sportster 883 motorcycles currently available, the Iron is the newest, debuting in 2009. It has the smaller "peanut" style fuel tank so it holds less fuel than the SuperLow. Its styling is edgier than the traditionally styled SuperLow with drag style handlebars, a chopped rear fender, and blacked out accents. The Iron gets beginners going with attitude! In 2014, upgrades were made to the Sportsers including new brakes, an ABS option and of course, new colors. Read a review of the Iron by a WRN reader. 
    Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low

Beginner Motorcycles Harley-Davidson 883 Low blue
Displacement: 883cc
Seat Height: 25.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Weight: 583 pounds 
Description: True to its name, this bike's seat height is a low 25.3 inches. The Sportster 883 Low originally replaced the Sportster 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 883cc motorycle 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. 

Standard Style

Honda Grom

Beginner Motorcycles 2014 Honda Grom Red

Displacement: 124.9cc
Seat Height: 30.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.45 gallons
Weight: 225 pounds

The Honda Grom, brand new in 2014, doesn't resemble too many other motorcycles, but that's OK with Honda. The company hopes to attract new, young riders who want something different, maybe a little funky. The four-speed fuel injected single cylinder 125cc engine packs a punch to keeps things just fun enough that experienced riders may want this little bike as an urban fun-mover as well. Seat height is on the high side for true beginners, but if height is not an issue, the Grom makes a fun choice on which to start your motorcycle journey.

Suzuki TU250X

Beginner Motorcycles 2014 Suzuki TU250X

Displacement: 249cc
Seat Height: 30.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Weight: 326 pounds

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. Not available in California.      

Beginner Motorcycles BMW G 650 GS black

Displacement: 652cc
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Weight: 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

Beginner Motorcycles Buell Blast black

Displacement: 492cc
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 in Harley-Davidson's 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. Read a review of the Blast by a WRN reader.
Suzuki GW250

Beginner Motorcycles Suzuki GW250 black

Displacement: 248cc
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gallons
Weight: 403 pounds  

The GW250 is a powerful 6-speed parallel-twin upright seating sporty motorcycle that was a late addition to Suzuki's lineup in 2013. Riders not sure if they want the full lean-over position of a sportbike can try the upright seating of the GW250 as a way to ease into this style of riding. The GW250 is cheaper than its Honda and Kawasaki competitors but offers just as fun a ride for beginners getting familiar with this style of riding.

Beginner Motorcycles Honda CBR250R

Displacement: 249.4cc
Seat Height: 30.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
   Weight: 357 pounds

: 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 standard for a sportbike, but the light weight of 359 pounds makes it manageable for smaller riders. Check out our story on the Honda CBR250R’s introduction.

Beginner Motorcycles Kawasaki Ninja 300 green black

Displacement: 296cc
Seat Height: 30.9 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
  Weight: 379 pounds

: In 2013, Kawasaki replaced the Ninja 250R with the all-new Ninja 300, billing it still as an entry level sportbike. Instead of continuing to upgrade what was becoming a technologically outdated model, Kawasaki created a new platform from the ground up. The Ninja 300 still sports rider friendly ergonomics, a more upright seating position, and is light weight—features beginners can appreciate—but it has many features and advancements from Kawasaki's more powerful motorcycles so beginners don't feel like they're riding a beginner motorcycle. For 2014, an ABS option was introduced. Read WRN's review of the Ninja 300 here. 

Beginner Motorcycles Kawasaki Ninja 250R green

Displacement: 249cc 
Seat Height: 30.5 inches 
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons 
Weight: 335 pound
Description: Up until 2011 (when the Honda CBR250R was introduced), this was the only sportbike under 500cc available from a major manufacturer. The Ninja 250R was Kawasaki's top-selling model in 2007, then it underwent a complete makeover in 2008 only to be replaced by the Ninja 300 in 2013. There are plenty of used Ninja 250Rs on the market as this makes an ideal bike for new riders who want a sporty ride. 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. 
Beginner Motorcycles CSC Babydoll pink motorcycle

Displacement: 149cc
Seat Height: 27 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3 gallons
 Weight: 240 pounds 

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

Beginner Motorcycles Kymco Venox 250

Displacement: 249cc 
Seat Height: 29 inches 
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons 
  Weight: 418 pounds 

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.

QLINK Legacy 250

Beginner Motorcycles Qlink Legacy 250

Displacement: 250cc 
Seat Height: 27.6 inches 
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gallons 
Weight: 260 pounds 

: QLINK has a small presence in the U.S., and those who've gotten their hands on a Legacy 250, an automatic motorcycle, have not been disappointed. We reviewed the bike in 2006, and shortly thereafter the model was discontinued. You might find a used one that makes for an ideal learner motorcycle for beginners not comfortable with the clutch. The benefit of learning on an automatic motorcycle is that a new rider can get used to the size and weight distribution of a two-wheeler without the distraction of the clutch and shifting gears. 

Classics (if you can find a used one)

Sportster XLH 883 Hugger

Beginner MOtorcycles Sportster 883 Hugger

Manufactured: 1988-2003
Displacement: 883cc
Seat Height: 27.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Weight: 486 pounds

Yamaha Virago 250

Beginner Motorcycles Yamaha Virago 250

: 2000-2007
Displacement: 249cc
Seat Height: 27 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gallons
Weight: 301 pounds

Yamaha Virago 535

Beginner Motorcycles Yamaha Virago 535

: 1987-2001
Displacement: 535cc
Seat Height: 28.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.27 gallons
Weight: 401 pounds

Suzuki GS500e
Beginner Motorcycles Suzuki GS500e

Manufactured: 1989-2002
Displacement: 487cc
Seat Height: 31.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Weight: 372 pounds 

Honda Nighthawk 250
Beginner Motorcycles Honda Nighthawk

Manufactured: 1982-2008
Displacement: 234cc
Seat Height: 29.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.3 gallons
Weight: 286 pounds

Honda VLX/VLX Deluxe
Beginner Motorcycles Honda VLX Deluxe

Manufactured: 1989-2007
Displacement: 583cc
Seat Height: 25.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.9 gallons
Weight: 452 pounds 


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 middleweights 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. Read a review by a WRN reader.
  • 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. Read the WRN review of the Vulcan 900 Custom.
  • 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. Read the WRN review.
  • Honda CBR500R: New in 2013, this middleweight is designed for riders transitioning from an entry-level sportbike, who are ready for more power in a sporty ride.

    Beginner Motorcycles Honda CBR500R
    Honda CBR500R

  • 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.

Reader Comments

Do you have a brochure you can mail to my house. It's very good. I really am impress for I am going to be a very new beginner.

Rosa Garcia
Indianapolis, IN
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Editor Response
Hi Rosa,
Unfortunately, we do not have a brochure of this page, but you are welcome to print out the page for reference. Good luck to you. Keep us posted!
Genevieve Schmitt, Editor
Don't forget the early 1980s Honda Shadow 500 and v30 Magna cruisers. Lots of them out there, virtually problem-free and enough power to easily take down a Sportster. Low seat height and low weight. Shaft drive and water-cooled. Magna was chain drive.

Norristown, PA
Friday, April 08, 2016
Thank you for this article! It led me through the process with ease and helped pick my first bike, a Star V Star 250. Do you have a guide for picking the next bike after a starter? There are so many out there and frankly, it's quite daunting. Do you have any suggestions?

Papillion, NE
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Editor Response
I'm so glad our Beginner's Guide helped you choose your first motorcycle. From here, there are so many options based on how comfortable you are on your starter motorcycle. One of the things our website does best is share information from current riders who have been in your same shoes. You'll need to spend time reading all these people's opinions to decide what route is best for you.

I invite you to continue spending time in our Beginner's Guide: Choosing a Bike section, and then spend time browsing our reader stories in the Your Stories section. Many readers like to share how they got started and the path of motorcycles they chose over the years. You can glean a lot of information that way.
Genevieve Schmitt
A couple bikes that might also serve as good "adventurous beginner" bikes:

Kawasaki Vulcan S: a 650 parallel-twin cruiser with a smooth throttle, moderately light weight (under 500 pouds), and easy (time-of-purchase) ergo customizations for seat height, bars, and peg placement. This is a peppy ride with ABS and can make a lifelong commuter as well as a good slab hauler -- and it looks pretty swank, to boot!

Moto Guzzi V7 II (2016+) series: A "modern classic" like the Triumph Bonnie, but 80 pounds lighter and with a narrower frame. The transverse flywheel effect (start it up and it rocks slightly to the right) may cause new riders to raise an eyebrow, but the revised gearbox is super smooth and accurate, plus it comes with ABS, traction control, and a nearly 300 mile range. A bulletproof bike with a very amenable throttle. Earlier models suffered from a mushy gearbox with a long throw for shifts, but can be had for a song. Best (or worst) of all, every old biker dude in a three block radius will want to chat you up!

Doug Erickson
Bothell, WA
Monday, November 16, 2015
Editor Response
Thanks for the great feedback Doug. I agree that these are good bikes for the larger stature of men to start out on, or confident beginning female riders. Riders interested can read our review of the Vulcan S here on WRN.
Genevieve Schmitt
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