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Beginner's Guide: Motorcycles to Get Started On

WRN's guide to bikes for new women riders


For a new rider, the selection of motorcycles on the market can seem overwhelming, especially when you're not sure where to start. Fortunately there are bikes that prove time and time again to be ideal choices for new riders. We've compiled a list of those bikes with the new woman rider in mind. 

At Women Riders Now, we recommend starting out on a smaller motorcycle, one on which a newly minted rider can easily and confidently practice the skills learned in the motorcycle training class. There are certainly other motorcycles beginners can learn on—for example, some small displacement dual-sports—however this list reflects the most popular choices among beginning women riders. 

Except for the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 models included in our list, we don't recommend learning on a motorcycle that is more powerful than that so we list only motorcycles with engine displacements less than 500cc, with a few exceptions. The only reason the Sportster 883s are listed is because they are long considered Harley-Davidson's entry level model before the Street was introduced. Because the majority of the female riding population rides a Harley-Davidson it's necessary we include the Motor Company's "entry level" model that many women have started on over the years. 

Other than that, all these motorcycles fall into the small displacement category with a few exceptions. Again, it's worth stressing that historically these are the motorcycles that women have had the highest chances of success learning on and practicing with before trading up to a bigger motorcycle. That is the premise of this list. 

Two sections where you can read first-hand from women on what motorcycles they started on, including their successes as well as their "bumps in the road," are the Your Questions Answered, and the Your Stories sections. 

We do 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 used market. Where applicable, we've made a note of that. If there is no new or updated model from a manufacturer in a particular category, then one doesn't exist. For example, currently Kawasaki offers no current model year beginner cruiser style motorcycles. 

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

Cruisers

                       

Honda Rebel 300 and 500
 
beginner bikes honda rebel 300

Displacement: 286cc and 471cc
Seat Height: 27.2 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.96 gallons
Weight: 365 and 408 pounds


   
Description
Introduced for model year 2017,
the Rebel 300 and 500 provide a modern, 
urban twist on its predecessor, 
the Rebel 250. Styling is a mix of old and 
new school in a minimalist's package 
designed for both beginners to practice 
newfound skills, and others who simply 
want a fun, easy to ride motorcycle they 
can customize to match their personality. 
Six speeds and big-bike looks are reasons
riders may want to hold on to the bike
long after they've moved past the 
learner stage.  
 
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 entry-level bike encompassing size, looks, and a price tag 
that continues to attract new riders since Honda introduced it 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 two decades with t
raditional cruiser
styling, lots of chrome, spoke wheels, 5 speed transmission, and a twin-cylinder four-stroke engine. This is a tried and true starter motorcycle with many successful "graduates." 
It's not uncommon for a woman to sell
her Rebel to another beginning woman rider. 
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
For model year 2016, color options 
and specs remain the same. 
For 2017, Honda replaced this stalwart 
with the all-new Honda Rebel 300 and 500, featured next. The bikes are so new as of this writing, we have not reviewed it.

 Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750

beginner motorcycle harley davidson street 500

Displacement: 494cc and 749cc 
Seat Height: 25.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gallons
Weight: 489 pounds

Description
Introduced as an all new model in 2015,
the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750
are the Motor Company's newest entry level motorcycles that far surpass the
Sportster line as a beginner bike. The 500 is
the model being used in Harley-Davidson's
Rider Academy
 New Rider Course,
replacing the Buell Blast previously used in
what was called Rider's Edge. We recommend
the 500cc for true beginners getting
used to what it feels like to handle a
motorcycle. The low seat height and upright seating position allow new riders
to easily learn what it feels like to 
become "one" with the motorcycle.
Read our story on the bikes' introduction.

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



Description
This is the beginner motorcycle in
Yamaha's V Star cruiser lineup.
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

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, so you may 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
Weight:
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 is mated to 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

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



Description
Before the launch of the Street model, the Sportster SuperLow was Harley-Davidson's
entry level model. Confident beginners 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 manufactures 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 motorcycle harley davidson 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, and one
only two 883 models now available. It
 has the smaller "peanut" style fuel tank
so it holds less fuel than the SuperLow.
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, 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 has 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 motorcycle 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, and Sportster line has long been regarded as 
the entry into the Harley-Davidson family.
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 


Description
The Honda Grom, brand new in 2014, doesn't resemble too many other motorcycles with its 12-inch tires and full size frame, but that's OK with Honda. The company is attracting new, young riders who want something different—maybe a little funky. The 4-speed fuel injected single cylinder 125cc engine is so unique that experienced riders are choosing this as an urban "fun-mover." Seat height is on the high side for true beginners, but if height is not an issue, the Grom makes a "different" choice on which to start your motorcycle journey. For 2017, the Grom's been redesigned for a sharper,
more aggressive look. 
 

Suzuki TU250X

Beginner Motorcycles 2014 Suzuki TU250X

Displacement: 249cc
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. 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.

    
Sportbikes
               
Suzuki GW250

Beginner Motorcycles Suzuki GW250 black

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

Description
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




Description
In 2011, Honda released this 250cc sportbike for beginners who prefer the sportier side of riding with a seating position to match.
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. No changes have been made
to this bike since 2013.



Honda CB300F

beginner bikes honda cb300f

Displacement: 286cc
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
   Weight: 348 pounds  

Description
Not to be confused with its sportier, aggressively styled racetrack inspired cousin, the CBR300R, the CB300F has a roomier upright seating arrangement, is lightweight with nimble
handling that inspires confidence in beginners who want a real-world sportbike as their first motorcycle. While it shares the same electronic fuel injected single cylinder engine as
the CBR300R, the power delivery has been
tuned for riders still getting comfortable with riding a motorcycle. No changes have been made
to this motorcycle since 2015. We are not
listing the CBR300R here because the
aggressive seating and power delivery is not
ideal for those new to riding a motorcycle.  

Beginner Motorcycles Kawasaki Ninja 300 green black

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



Description
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. 
   
  
Alternatives 
               
Beginner Motorcycles CSC Babydoll pink motorcycle

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

Beginner Motorcycles Kymco Venox 250

Displacement: 249cc 
Seat Height: 29 inches 
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons 
  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.

QLINK Legacy 250

Beginner Motorcycles Qlink Legacy 250

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



Description
: 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)

    
Harley-Davidson
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


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


Yamaha Virago 535
 

Beginner Motorcycles Yamaha Virago 535


Manufactured
: 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.         

Cruisers:
  • 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.
Standard:
  • 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.
Sportbikes: 
  • Honda CBR500R: New in 2013, this more powerful sportbike, a 500cc versus the entry-level 250 and 300cc motorcycles, is designed for riders transitioning from an entry-level motorcycle to a bike that has more power in a sportbike package. Read our story on lightweight step-up motorcycles here. For 2016, improvements include a new muffler, better gear-shift feel, and a new adjustable brake lever.

    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.

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