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What Motorcycle to buy for a first timer rider?

I’m working on my mid-life crisis, since I already have a convertible, I’m thinking about getting into motorcycles. The bikes that interest me are vintage & British, such as the BSA and Triumph lines.

However, I have never actually riden before and I am thinkIng of getting a starter bike. Something inexpensive, and relatively simple to maintain/ repair and easy to find parts for, none of which apply to my ideal bikes!

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance

The first you should do is enroll in a beginner motorcycle riding course provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The MSF will provide the motorcycle and helmet for the course. I took the intermediate course after riding for several years and had to unlearn more than a few bad habits.

As for a starter bike, a cruiser style bike with it’s lower seat height and center of gravity is a good starter bike.

Ed B.

…and then, buy a surplus MSF bike for your first ride. They’re cheap, you’ll be familiar with them after your course, and you’ll be unlikely to get yourself in a “too much performance” SNAFU.

Buy something that is comparatively small in physical size, light, and a smaller displacement engine. (Even a couple of hundred CCs will move you down the road pretty quickly.)

On top of the MSF course as mentioned, ALWAYS assume that every car is going to change lanes on top of you, pull right out in front of you from a stop sign, etc.
Do not let your guard down for a single minute. After you ride for a while you will fully understand what I’m talking about here.

The path I took was to take the MSF’s basic rider’s course. See for locations. Then I bought a new 2005 Honda Shadow Aero, which I am still riding now. Now, I recommend this bike since it has electronic fuel injection —>

You can’t go wrong with a Ducati 1198R… But seriously, the Honda Rebel 250 is an ideal first bike.

You’re reading all the comments on MSF courses and small (less than 500 cc) bikes because, unlike cars, motorcycle accident and death rates have been skyrocketing over the last 20 years as inexperienced riders (many middle-aged) buy big bikes and proceed to wreck, some on their first ride.

Once you’re experienced, the type of bike you’ll want will be more obvious. Joining a local bike club will be a good source of advice and bikes to buy.

I’ve been riding since the (very) early 70’s. I was 12, and started learning off-road on a Honda 90. After a year or so, I “graduated” all the way up to a Kawasaki 175. Later on, I got a 250 (late 70’s), and then a 500 (early 80’s). I still ride my 500’s, and I’m getting ready to buy a 1200, once some financial things get taken care of. So, I’ve been riding for almost 40 years, and I truly enjoy it.

Learn as you go. Your first bike should be the cheapest thing you can find, that you can also be happy with. Chances are great you’ll wreck it within the first 6 months…most people do…but if you don’t, you’ll be learning on it for a while. Try and keep off the highways for the first couple months, and get a feel for the bike. Once you feel relatively comfortable tossing it around, then hit the highway, and carefully feel your way to 70 or so. Whatever the traffic is doing around you. Don’t be an obstruction, and don’t be a racer. No one respects an idiot on a bike, and they often are the accident victim.

One tip if you DO find yourself in an accident: GET AWAY FROM THE BIKE. You’re cruising around with ~450lbs (or more) of metal that wants to crush, scrape and burn you.

I think everyone’s said it, and I can only echo them…Go through the MSF courses. They’ll teach you basic bike handling, and get you started on the right foot. Then you can take the more advanced courses. I’m getting ready to take yet another one…after riding for 40 years. I’ll be a rider coach and chief instructor soon. :slight_smile:

Best of luck and keep the wheels down,

Stay at 500cc or less and buy a road bike. 500cc is easily enough to be faster than almost any production car on the road. You can get yourself into a heap of trouble with this bike. It will also be relatively inexpensive to buy a used one. If you decide you don’t like it, you won’t take a big loss when you sell it. And don’t get a cafe racer style bike. The look great with those down bars and 4-into-1 pipes, but the seating position is not comfortable on long rides. I’d look at Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki.

I second FoDaddy…A Honda 250 street bike will do what needs to be done…It’s a real motorcycle, it will go 70-75 mph, but it’s light and responsive so YOU can tell it what to do…In the hands of a beginner, a big heavy machine is going to do what it wants to do. Controlling a high-performance machine takes skills that take a while to develop…You can get into serious trouble so quickly you don’t know what happened…

In the early and mid '90’s Suzuki made a good parallel twin 500cc bike. I rode a '94 GS500E version for a time. It had simple stuff, but it all worked well together. A very good handling, light bike that got about 60 mpg. It was in production for many years and a good one shouldn’t be hard to find and it won’t be expensive. A great bike to learn on especially if you are drawn to British bikes, as the old BSA’s and Triumph’s are parallel twins too.

First lets ask, how tall are you, approx weight, etc.?

I am of a different opinion than some others here. Don’t bother with a 250cc or a very small bike. A cruiser would be a good style. I would not ride a bike that small on the highway, slow to get up to speed and if a bug hits smacks you then you’ll have to downshift to get back up to speed. Also, when you get confident enough and you get tired of the small bike it might be difficult to sell the small bike, it has a limited market. That also means you will have to buy 2 bikes, your first and the one you should have bought the first time.

When I buy something I typically don’t buy the smallest/cheapest or the biggest/most expensive. I buy a good fit in the middle that meets my needs and I do not have to buy a second model, the one I should have bought first.

Last year I bought my first street bike, all others have been dirt bikes. It is a Yamaha V-Star 1300 Touring. Not to big and not to little.

I would suggest something between 700-950 cc’s.

Well…as for a specific motorcycle…I ride a Suzuki GZ250…I am 6foot 5, but not too heavy, big shoulders that create drag though by catching the wind…it goes fast enough for me, but it isn’t an interstate cruiser like a goldwing…it has hit 80 once.

It is the largest in overall size of the “starter bikes” as I was told to avoid the rebel unless I was around 5’6"…ppl that don’t know much about bikes ask if its a harley, its got a nice wider front tire and a big gas tank, doesn’t look like a wimpy bike, judging from your “dream bikes” maybe the other Suzuki 250 is right for you, its more upright on top of it seating instead of laidback cruiser style.

I haven’t ever taken the course, but I rode a 50cc scooter for years (no shifting, but pretty pokey) which gave me a lot of practice in watching out for those “cagers” and I upgraded slowly, moving first to a bigger scooter (honda helix) then on to a “real bike”. I actually think I will probly go back to a scooter, a big one like the Suzuki Burgman, but thats just personal preference.

I am rambling a little, but the point is for less than $2000 you can buy a lightly used bike to figure out if it really is for you or just a passing fancy. I know plenty of people that couldn’t handle the 50cc let alone a 400lb bike with a left hand operated clutch.

Oh and there will always be someone looking for a starter bike, because there are always going to be people younger than you who couldn’t get a motorcycle license before now, or other midlife crisis folks;-)

"Oh and there will always be someone looking for a starter bike, because there are always going to be people younger than you who couldn't get a motorcycle license before now, or other midlife crisis folks;-)"
100% agree. Whatever "starter" bike you get, you'll be able to sell. If you take care of it, and get a good enough deal on it, maybe even for more than you paid for it.


Yep, just buy one used and take care of it. Bikes are hobby that many abandon, so they’re always available.

Motorcycles have very low mass but very high wind resistance so that little 250 that can barely go the speed limit on the freeway can paradoxically out accelerate just about all but high performance cars in town. It will “keep up with the traffic” exept on highways.

Once a bike gets over 400-450 pounds, it rides you instead of you riding it…A Kawasaki KLR 650 is one of my favorites, but I would not recommend it for a beginner…

As an older person riding a bike fror he first time, I would argue that the healing time for any injury is now a greater percent of the time you have left to live. Get a real sports car and deal with a midlife crisis in a safer way.

If you do end up getting a motorcycle, think about a modern Triumph, once you’ve done your learning. Most all the looks and feel of an old one, with none of the (many) problems.