Cruizador What are the best motorcycles for beginners? Tips and Tricks -

What are the best motorcycles for beginners?

Second article of this saga dedicated to beginners and in this part, we are going to talk about mechanics and answer a question that also comes up very often… namely which are the best-motorcycles-for-beginners.

We will therefore consider several aspects to give an appropriate answer New or used? Japanese or European/American? Trail or roadster? Twin, 3 or 4 cylinders? In short, we will review the field of possibilities.

So, take a pen and a notepad and we hope you’ll have some useful insights!

1. Attention to the readers

Unlike cars, the differences between motorcycles are very significant, even within the same brand: driving position, engine architecture (twin, three or 4 cylinders), type of motorcycle (trail, roadster), etc. In addition, the type of biker you are going to be will define the kind of bike that will suit you. A long-distance adventurer will favour a trail or a cruiser, a track racer a sportsbike or a nervous roadster, etc.

best-motorcycles-for-beginners

Honda CRF1000 Africa Twin

But how do you know that without having racked up a few thousand kilometers on your first bike. How to know if you like to take long road trips abroad if you’ve never done it?

Also, let’s look at things calmly and objectively, in order to find the best candidate for your first needs.

Requirements for your first motorcycle

First important info before getting to the heart of the matter, this article is mainly intended for student-bikers min. 18 years old, who wish to pass their limited A category (also called in Europe A2), since we will not specifically address the theme of the 125cm3. However, the selection criteria developed in the article will also serve as a basis for reflection for young bikers aged 16 and over (category A1)

And, remember that with the new legislation that came into force on 1.1.2021, all student drivers over the age of 18 must start with a motorcycle limited to 35kw. After 2 years, they will have to retake their practical exam to validate the unlimited A-category.

Also, make sure that the vehicle you want to buy can be restricted to 35kw. Indeed, not all offer this possibility. And by the way, the cost of this operation can vary greatly from one brand or model to another. Ask your local dealer for details.

So, let’s jump to the heart of the matter and take the different criteria one after the other.

2. Brand new or used motorcycle?

A motorcycle is largely a story of style and taste. And the heart has its reasons that reason ignores, as the saying goes. Also, the temptation to buy your dream motorcycle to start with will be great, provided you have the money of course.

In addition, dealers, with great bonuses or 0% leasing, etc. will do everything to trigger sales. But here, there is the reality of any beginning of a new activity, you have to learn. And the likelihood of you crashing your motorcycle, especially during gymkhana exercises, is high. Yet, unlike other vehicles, a motorcycle that falls will quickly generate significant costs, particularly for bodywork: clutch or brake lever, mirrors, fairings, fuel tank, etc.

For this reason, dropping a bike that has already been through a bit will be less painful than one with less than 1,000km on the odometer. And there is also the “running-in” factor, which if not done correctly can have an impact on the longevity of your vehicle.

Also, we cannot recommend enough that you start with a used motorcycle.

Get your hands on a bike that already has a few km on the clock and, once you’ve gained confidence, it will be already time to go do some real test rides at your dealership. And you will see that you will discern the subtleties between the models with much more finesse.

First thing, check out our guide to buying a used motorcycle (here). We give you lots of tips to avoid pitfalls, prepare your negotiation, etc.

But afterwards, if it’s a new model that tempts you, and the dealership buying experience that goes with it, do not exceed 8-10,000 CHF for your first motorcycle. We tell you more in the budget section.

3. Old or recent one? 

Technological improvements/innovations in driving assistance and safety such as e.g. ABS, ESP, anti-wheelie, etc., have been dazzling for ten years.

The practice of the motorcycle involves inherent risks, and these assistances are made to help the motorcyclist when he/she has not or little anticipated a situation.

But learning on a motorcycle without assistance also means learning the basics of riding: positioning, dynamic behavior, load transfer, braking dosage, etc. Which will be an asset for later. And then going on a bike with assistance will not be a problem, if you have learned the basics. best-motorcycles-for-beginners

BMW R80 GS Paris Dakar Cruizador

We will just avoid doing the opposite without transition! Starting out on a motorcycle loaded with electronics and then moving on to a custom bike with drum brakes is not impossible, but it takes some learning.

4. What budget should you plan ?

Post how difficult to quantify. New or used? Leasing or cash purchase? The choice is not necessarily easy. Small or big-sized engine? Rational choice or dream motorcycle to start? What are the taxes, the price of maintenance, insurance, hidden costs?

But in summary, for your first motorcycle, we recommend not to aim too low and not to take the cheapest ones that you will find on any marketplace. On the contrary wait a little bit and save to have the bike where there will be practically nothing to do on it. Go to online ad directories, such as Motoscout24, and choose by type of bike, mileage. Filter by ascending prices and move up the list. For more information on the budget you should plan, have a look at this article.

But a budget between 2’500 and 6’000 CHF for a first bike seems reasonable, not matter the engine size.

And if you really want to aim for a new bike, try to limit the bill to 8-10,000 CHF max, especially if you have a limited budget. Indeed, plan more budget for equipment, especially the helmet, because it will accompany you longer. And the difference in comfort between an entry-level helmet and a full-face fiberglass helmet will be significant. And for this point, you will realize it regardless of your skill level. best-motorcycles-for-beginners

Casque Helmet Shoei Glamster

Shoei Glamster

5. Motorcycle types  : trail, roadster, sports, chopper, etc.

Some of you might be tempted to start with their dream bikes. However, if you are only swearing by big-sized American choppers for example, it could be counterproductive to start with a bike that weighs 300kg.

best-motorcycles-for-beginners

Cruizador Harley Davidson Fat Bob Custom Motorcycle Motorrad Moto Schweiz Switzerland Suisse Basel Bâle Roadtrip Adventure
Harley Davidson Fat Bob

Because regardless of the type of motorcycle, it will be smarter to focus on the following factors:

  • Weight
  • Turning radius and handling
  • Saddle height, seat and riding position.

Indeed, part of your compulsory learning will go through low-speed maneuverability exercises: slalom, emergency braking, 8, etc. Also, having a light and handy bike will allow you to gain confidence quickly. In addition, the saddle height will be decisive for your riding position. You will need to be able with a comfortable seat to touch the ground with both feet, and if possible, without standing on your toes.

Then, the riding position will also be synonymous with comfort or not. On a sports bike, for example, you are more likely to be leaning forward, with all your body weight on your wrists. This can cause fatigue when riding for a long time.

best-motorcycles-for-beginners

The strap handlebars and the forward riding position of the Triumph Thruxton can lead to fatigue in the long run.

But don’t get us wrong, some people manage to pass the practical license on super sports cars or big choppers. Yet, let’s say that’s not the norm. Some bikers just have more feeling with certain type of bikes or are just gifted.

But the keys to longevity for a rider are: humility and knowing your limits. Also, let’s not tempt the devil from the outset! For those who ski, you probably didn’t learn on a black slope. The same is true for the motorcycle. best-motorcycles-for-beginners

6. And for short(er) bikers ?

Here are some motorcycles recommended for short(er) riders:

  • Honda CB 300 or CB 500
  • Honda Rebel 500
  • Kawasaki Z650
  • Moto Guzzi V9
  • Suzuki SV650
  • Triumph Tiger 800 XRx low

But you will have to sit on it in any case to have a feeling. The dynamic behavior of the motorcycle will also depend on the distribution of the masses and that the architecture of the engine, among other things the torque, which will influence greatly the riding feeling.

To be mentioned also is that some manufacturers offer you low factory versions, such as Triumph, but you will also have the possibility of reducing a few centimeters with custom saddles.

7. Engine architecture

Another criterion of choice: the engine architecture. The knowledgeable biker will understand that there are big differences in terms of driving experience between a mono, a twin and a 4-cylinder, for example. best-motorcycles-for-beginners

The biggest engine size on the market: the 2500cc of the Triumph Rocket 3 (167HP, 221Nm of torque). A beast!

As an indication, a twin will be more torquey, and will offer more sensations, especially at low and mid revs. On the other hand, we can blame them for a certain lack of suppleness. Whereas a 4-cylinders will start to sing and get nervous when searching for high rpms. On the other hand, it may suffer from a lack of responsiveness at low revs. The three-cylinder meanwhile will offer an excellent compromise.

To popularize a little, we can say that a mono, a twin or a three-cylinder will require you to switch gears less often less at low speed, especially in town. As an indication, the author of this article has an English bike, a Triumph Tiger not to name it, and this one can quite take a start in 2nd or even 3rd gear, whereas a 4-cylinder will quickly tend to stall if you do the same.

Note that this is a popularization and that a multitude of other factors will influence the feeling. Indeed, with modern electronics (injection and ride-by-wire), engineers can also work on low-end torque, in order to optimize engine power or at least how it is delivered over the range of engine use.

Indeed, with the restrictions in terms of road safety, searching the limits of a 4-cylinder sportsbike on an open road is equivalent to having your license withdrawn for the next 4 generations. So, you will be looking for an alternative that can offer a lot of sensations, without breaking the law.

However, to return to the initial question, we will favor rather torquey engines. Indeed, a large part of the learning will go through low-speed exercises (gymkhana). Having a motorcycle with a little more torque will allow you to have less play with the selector and to have more room for maneuver at the clutch level. best-motorcycles-for-beginners

8. Japanese, European or American?

Impossible to answer this question because it depends on the taste of each one of you.

As an indication, the author of this article started with a Japanese medium-sized engine, namely a 1998 Honda CB600 with 45,000 km on the clock. High mileage is not to be avoided, if the maintenance book is up to date. We would also be tempted to tell you to start with Japanese models, as these often have a better longevity. But still, if the bike has been serviced regularly, it will not be a problem.

So, we would also be tempted to tell you to start with Japanese models, as these often have better longevity and reliability (?) with longer service intervals. But still, if the bike has been serviced regularly, it will not be a problem.

Specialized magazines, publish second-hand guides every year, which provide valuable information: prices of spare parts, known weaknesses of models, spacing of services, etc. Also, you will have a rough estimate on how much the bike will costs you yearly (here).

9. To sum up: what are the best motorcycle for beginners? 

Here is our guide to buying your first motorcycle. This is obviously food for thoughts since the final decision will depend on your feeling, your budget, etc. And you will see that if you ask the question to 10 people on a biker forum, you will get 15 different answers. Also, do not hesitate to ask those around you, but if you had to keep a few points in mind when deciding:

  • Prefer second-hand bikes, but not wrecks that will require maintenance work upfront.
  • Don’t necessarily start with your dream bike, because you could be disappointed and it could quickly cost you money if you let it fall (which is likely to happen at some point).
  • Focus instead on the following factors: weight, handling, seating and feeling. Also, you do not buy a motorcycle on the internet without having at least sat on it!
  • Favor torquey and fairly supple engines (preferably twin or three cylinders).
  • Your first motorcycle, you will keep it for about 2-3 years. And then your needs will change. Also, no need to use all your savings for that!
  • Keep in mind that you will also need to buy equipment (helmet, jacket, boots, etc.). Also, if you are limited by your budget, opt for a slightly cheaper motorcycle in order to have high-performance equipment that will accompany you for a while, which will be synonymous with savings in the long term.

best-motorcycles-for-beginners

10. Recap of the potential candidates

Here, we have a slight bias for roadsters, as these offer a good compromise between style, handling and driving pleasure. So do not be offended if you do not see your motorcycle in the list, it is not exhaustive. We just want to give food for thoughts. And, regardless of the brands/models to which you will turn, the criteria of weight, handling, feeling will remain prevailing for your choice. There is not right or wrong answer. There are just more suitable candidates.

And, at the risk of repeating ourselves, we remind you that since 1.1.2021, you will have to limit yourself to a vehicle of max 35kw (48hp) and whose weight/power ratio does not exceed 0.2Kw/kg. Therefore, not all vehicles can be restricted and it will be up to you to ensure that your targeted mount meets this standard. In addition, limiting the power of has to be done later on, can cost from a few tens to several hundred CHF. Ask a dealer for the price of the operation. best-motorcycles-for-beginners

Roadster, chopper, neo-retro

  • Benelli Leoncino 500
  • Benelli 502C ou 752S
  • BMW R310R or F900R
  • BMW R-nine-T pure (A2)
  • Brixton Crossfire 500x
  • Ducati Monster 696
  • Honda CB 300 or CB 500
  • Honda Rebel 500
  • Husqvarna Svartpilen (401) or Vitpilen 701
  • Kawasaki Z300 or Z650
  • KTM Duke 390
  • Mash Two Fifty (250cc), Five Hundred (400cc) or Six Hundred (650cc)
  • Suzuki SV 650
  • Triumph Street Triple A2
  • Triumph Trident 660
  • The neo-retro from Triumph: Street Twin, Street Cup, Bonneville T100, etc.
  • Yamaha MT-03, MT-07, MT-09
  • Yamaha XSR 700 or XSR900

However, a mid-sized trail bike can also be a valid option

  • Aprilia Tuareg 660
  • Benelli TRK 502
  • BMW R310GS
  • BMW F750 GS or F800 GS
  • Kawasaki Versys 650
  • Moto Guzzi V85
  • Suzuki V-Strom 650
  • Triumph Tiger 660 or Tiger 850
  • Yamaha MT-07 Tracer

Cruizador Moto pour débuter Triumph Tiger 850

Triumph Tiger 850, the linear 3 cylinders engine is a pleasure to ride

best-motorcycles-for-beginners

What about the Chinese or Indian brands?

It has been clear for a few years now that Chinese manufacturers have been gaining momentum and are offering alternatives that are often cheaper than their Japanese competitor. We can eg. cite Zontes, CF Moto, Cyclone, etc.

An emblematic brand, Royal Enfield was certainly founded by the Brits, but the brand has been relocated and has been operated in India since the 1950s. This brand is certainly known for its indestructible mono-cylinder. However, it offers new models approved for the European market and which comply with the new anti-pollution standards (Euro 4 or Euro 5 since 2020). We can also mention BSA or Jawa.

In addition, a growing number of European brands such as Mash, Brixton, etc. also have their vehicles produced in China to try to lower production costs. Are they not less serious candidates?

If your budget is limited, and you absolutely want to buy a new vehicle to benefit e.g. of the manufacturer’s warranty, so yes, it could be a solid alternative.

And the MotoSuisse statistics provide us with valuable information. Zontes, for example, sold more than 800 vehicles in 2021, which corresponds to an increase of 520% and tends to prove that a larger part of the biker clientele is seduced by their offerings.

But for the moment we will still see differences in terms of quality of the finishing and perhaps reliability? As these brands are relatively young on the European market, there is still a lack of perspective on their reliability, and tests in specialized journals are somewhat lacking.

Are European/American brands really produced in Europe/USA?

It is clear that there is a trend towards standardization of production at the global level. Some big European brands have relocated all or part of their models to Thailand: Triumph (except for the TFC) or Ducati and its Scrambler range. BMW produces its “small” 310 in India, as well as Harley Davidson and its Street Rod or KTM and its 125 or 390cc Dukes. As for Honda, the manufacturer produces for example some models for the European market in Italy, such as the Africa Twin. Are these models less reliable? It’s hard to say, but the manufacturers assure us that strict manufacturer specifications are respected. In all cases, the recent increase in delivery times tends to indicate an increase in the complexity of the supply chain.  best-motorcycles-for-beginners

What about electric motorcycles?

Finally, we omitted the electric models. Not that we’re against it or that we don’t believe in their potential. But these are quite expensive. Count at least 15 or even 20,000 CHF. In addition, as these are equipped with an automatic transmission (clutchless), they are not suitable for learning the basics of motorcycling (changing gears in particular).

So much for this article rather focused on mechanics. In this other article, we talk about budget and costs related to picking up motorbike riding and how much budget you should plan (here).

best-motorcycles-for-beginners

Cruizador moto pour débuter Harley Davidson Livewire
The 1st electric model from Harley Davidson: the Livewire

best-motorcycles-for-beginners

Cruizador

Hey! Je suis le fondateur et le Chief Biker Officer chez Cruizador. Motard et passionné de voyage depuis longtemps, c'est en 2018 que j'ai décidé de lancer ce nouveau service, en espérant qu'il parle aux plus grands nombres de motard(e)s qui partagent la même philosophie et la même soif de grands espaces. C'est avec plaisir que je prends note de vos commentaires, idées d'amélioration, etc. Ride on!

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