With so many choices in motorcycles, selecting your first motorcycle can be challenging. Here are several tips to help you select the right motorcycle for you.
What type motorcycle should you purchase?
There are at least eight different motorcycle types (styles) of motorcycles: touring, sport-touring, standard, sport-bike, scooter, dual-sport, dirt-bike, and cruiser.
Many new riders begin their search by looking at Harley Davidson motorcycles. Don’t make this mistake. While cruisers are extremely popular they don’t necessarily make the best beginner motorcycle. They’re heavy, loud, expensive, and unforgiving (loaded with chrome) of minor spills.
Touring motorcycles are generally built for long distance riding. Examples include the popular Honda Gold Wing and the BMW K1200. These motorbikes are heavy, powerful, expensive, and require significant skills to operate properly… making them a poor choice for new riders.
Sport-bikes (also referred to as crotch-rockets) are built for speed, agility, and performance. They’re light weight, brightly colored, and quick. Engine sizes for sport-bikes usually range from 600cc to 1000cc.
Note: Don’t let a smallish sounding 600cc engine fool you. A Honda CBR600 sport-bike can run circles around an 1800cc v-twin cruiser. Crotch rockets can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds! That’s faster than 99% of all production sports cars.
Do sport-bikes make good beginner bikes? Probably not, unless you have the maturity to handle the temptations of power, speed, and agility.
The next style of motorcycle is pretty easy to describe. Dirt-bikes are made to ride off-road. Tread patterns and suspension components on dirt-bikes are very different than their street-bike cousins.
While many models have headlights and turn signals, most won’t easily accommodate interstate travels. If you have convenient access to dirt roads or other off-road areas, a dirt-bike is a good beginner motorcycle.
Don’t have easy access to off-road areas? Consider a dual-sport motorcycle. These bikes are made to accommodate moderate off-road conditions, and handle highway speeds. A compromise of sorts, they don’t perform on-road as well as street bikes, nor off-road as well as dirt-bikes.
But, most dual-sport models can easily travel at interstate speeds and handle moderate off-road conditions. When you take that motorcycle tour (you’ve been dreaming about) to the Northern tip of Alaska, you’ll most likely be riding a dual-sport motorcycle, like the popular Kawasaki KLR650.
A standard motorcycle is an older style that once described the majority of bikes available… hence the term ‘standard’. Standard motorcycles are generally upright and moderately priced. Picture that 1970s bike your dad owned. It was most likely a standard motorcycle. While not the fanciest or flashiest bike, standard bikes can be good starter motorcycles.
Scooters? Before you form an opinion here, visit your local motorcycle dealership. Gone are the 50cc mopeds of the 1970s. Instead, several new scooters fancy large 650cc engines and automatic transmissions. With a top speed of over 100 mph, and a 0 to 60 acceleration time below 5 seconds, scooters can keep up with most anything. Want to embarrass a Harley rider or Mustang owner… no problems? A Honda Silver Wing 650 scooter can do both.
Do scooters handle like motorcycles. Sure. Do they operate easily on interstates? Yes. Do they make good beginner bikes? Why not?
A sport-touring motorcycle is the last style of motorcycle addressed here. Sport-touring models are sporty versions of touring bikes. Or conversely, relaxed versions of sport-bikes. This class of motorcycle falls between a touring bike and sport-bike.
The sport-touring class was designed as a balance between ergonomics, engine performance, and long range touring capabilities. It’s a popular class of motorcycle that combines the best of both worlds. The Honda VFR Interceptor 800, Triumph Sprint ST, and Yamaha FJR 1300 are examples of popular sport-touring motorcycles. Most models utilize 650cc to 1300cc engines.
Do sport-touring motorcycles make good first bikes? They can. Most, however, are relatively heavy… utilizing high performance engines and creature comforts like hard rear storage bags. Before you select a sport-touring model, make sure you have the discipline to use only the power that matches your skill level.
For answers to other complex questions like: “What size engine can a beginning rider safely handle?” We’ve written an entire guide entitled, “First Motorcycle Buyers Guide – Unique Perspectives from our Contributors.” In this guide, several MotorcycleMentor.com senior contributors give recommendations and advice on how a new rider should select their first motorcycle.