When you’ve got an inclination to explore the open road, there’s nothing quite like a motorcycle to take your trip to the next level. For most, this means that they’ll go through the process of researching, nitpicking, and purchasing their first bike, without much of a basis for what they’re actually looking for. The world of two-wheeled platforms is large and varied, making it easy to overestimate your own capabilities, the capabilities of a bike, and how capable the platform you’re looking for needs to be. To add insult to injury, there are some essential characteristics you need to think about as a beginner; causing the power, and aesthetic, of your bike take a back seat when it comes to a stable, trustworthy platform.
Don’t take it the wrong way; there’s no reason why you can’t find an amazing motorcycle that checks all of the boxes for a beginner rider but also boasts some of the most impressive performance attributes in the industry. That being said, it’s difficult to find the complete package, let alone do all the research associated with what you might need to focus on as an amateur rider. Luckily, we’ve taken the time to look into the industry’s best beginner motorcycles for you, referencing things like stability, rider-oriented technologies, and capable, mid-range displacements that won’t leave you burning rubber across the nearest intersection. Below, we’ll take a look at the best models for 2019, and dive deeper into what makes them so special. But first, a word on what you should look for.
What You Should Look For
Walk Before You Run
There are a number of characteristics that a rider should look for when picking out their first bike; but, due to variations in skill, experience, and time-on-road, we’ll touch on a few basic guidelines to give you a better idea of what to expect. This section is devoted to the formalities surrounding your first motorcycle, so let’s dive right in.
What’s The Bike’s Purpose?
When looking for your first two-wheeled platform, it’s important to understand what you’re going to be using it for. If you’re planning on spending the majority of your time traversing the roadways of your city, commuting to and from work, and staying in the immediate area, it’s likely that you’ll be just fine with smaller, more compact platforms. Fuel efficiency is key within the urban setting; as such, smaller bikes are the kings of the crop. However, riding them on the open roadway, like highways, interstates, and cross-country is relatively uncomfortable. For traveling long distances, from state to state, or internationally, the need for a larger, more refined cycle becomes all the more prevalent. Be sure to take these sorts of things into account as you move forward.
The Reality Of The Ride
We’re going to hit you with a harsh reality check; sometimes, that large displacement motorcycle you’ve been eying might be just outside of your ability. It’s a sad and unfortunate truth that a beginner should not hop on top of a 1,000cc+ motorcycle, but understanding this guideline will likely keep you from harming yourself, or others by overstating your riding level. Take the time and start slow. A lower displacement bike is also more affordable, giving you ample experience, understanding, and skills that you can carry forward into a larger platform when the time comes. Don’t try to run before you can walk — that way, you’ll be able to respect your dream motorcycle for what it really is, making it all-the-more valuable when you finally head out on it for the first time.
The Invevitability Of An Accident
Let’s face it, motorcyclists of all skill levels can attest to the constant threats that surround us on the roadway. Whether you’re a battle-tested veteran or an amateur rider who’s had a stroke of good luck, the truth is that many of us are prone to getting into an accident on this adrenaline-inducing mechanical device. The inevitability of laying a bike down, coming in contact with another motorist, or a handful of other negative aspects, is heightened whenever you head out onto the roadway. When buying your first bike, accept the fact that you will scrape it, scratch it, and take it through its paces. With that in mind, don’t spend a gratuitous sum of money on your first ride; you’ll likely regret doing so after the asphalt has modified your fairings and paint. Now that we’ve got you thinking of some of the concerns revolving around the acquisition of a new bike, let’s take a look at our picks for the best beginner motorcycles.
The Best In The Business
KTM 390 Duke
KTM has every area of the rider’s experience covered, from capable beginners bikes, all the way to industry-leading behemoths that give even the most experienced riders a run for their money. The 390 Duke, on the other hand, is the best of both worlds. This thrilling bike is as fun as they come while encompassing many of the brand’s most notable aspects, including state-of-the-art tech, a lightweight trellis frame, and a close center of gravity that lends itself to precision and control. At such a small displacement, the 44-horsepower 390 Duke is relatively light, making it a blast to operate on and off the roadway. If you’re looking for a nimble cycle that’s easy on the eyes, and even easier on the wallet, this KTM might just be the chassis for you.
Engine: 373cc Single-Cylinder, 4-Stroke
Weight: 338 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3 gallons
Royal Enfield Continental GT 650
Royal Enfield specializes in the creation of intuitive, all-encompassing motorcycles, and the company’s Continental GT 650 is a prime example of their commitment to well-rounded platforms. This cafe-inspired bike boasts a powerful 648cc engine that’s perfect for conventional riding or around-town commutes, while still fostering enough performance to satiate your lust for adrenaline. For the Continental GT, Royal Enfield referenced the iconic stylings of the 1950s’ most iconic bikes, providing riders with the perfect blend of fashionable aesthetic, and dependable use.
Engine: 648cc Parallel-Twin, 4-Stroke
Weight: 436 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Honda Rebel 500
Honda’s Rebel 500 is one of the most classic-looking bikes on our list, and it’s no slouch in the performance department, either. As one of Honda’s most popular cycles, the Rebel 500 boasts a compact architecture, frame, and low-slung seat, giving it an err of mid-century mayhem. It features an impressive tilt angle, affording it a bit more confidence through tight turns when compared to its counterparts, and offering riders an extremely stable ride, no matter how challenging the road may be. A powerful 471cc parallel-twin engine sits at the heart of this handsome beast, showing its fangs in middle to higher rev ranges. Better yet, it’s backed by one of the most extensive customization communities in the entire industry, making the acquisition of parts a simple affair.
Engine: 471cc Parallel-Twin, 4-Stroke
Weight: 408 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 2.96 gallons
Yamaha Bolt R-Spec
Yamaha’s Bolt R-Spec is an urban bike that loves to cruise the streets. The cycle’s relaxed styling, city-borne looks, and compact chassis give it a leg up on its competition when it comes to modern street traversal, allowing its powerful 942cc V-Twin engine to propel it down the roadway with ease. Channeling Yamaha’s commitment to the creation of excellent motorcycles, the Bolt’s high-performance engine creates a quintessential riding experience through the use of bespoke ignition timing maps, fuel injection, and class-leading acceleration — making it one of the most sought-after platforms for amateur, and experienced riders alike. A slim profile and seat keep the rider in a comfortable, upright position, allowing for more precise handling, intuitive control, and a reduction in fatigue over long periods.
Engine: 942cc SOHC V-Twin, 4-Stroke
Weight: 542 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Harley-Davidson Iron 883
Harley-Davidson’s Iron 883 is one of the best-looking cycles on the roadway today, and thanks to the bike’s lineage as an icon of original motorcycling, it’s contemporary iteration has more-than-surpassed our expectations as the perfect mid-level platform. It utilizes a legendary 883cc Harley Evolution engine, Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection, and a compact, slimline silhouette to itself apart from the competition, allowing riders to shift, accelerate, and traverse the urban landscape with ease. On the exterior, modern peripherals like an electronic speedometer, tripmeter, and integrated security system bring the company’s iconic bike into the limelight for both experienced, and amateur riders.
Engine: 883cc Air-Cooled Evolution
Weight: 545 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Triumph Street Twin
Triumph is a transcendental brand that’s become synonymous with the industry’s most sought-after cycles, and the Street Twin is a definitive contributor to their lauded catalog. As the company’s most successful custom classic, the Street Twin has been updated to reclaim its title in the modern age, offering exceptional control, comfort, style, and performance in one, all-encompassing package. The new Street Twin boasts a powerful 900cc engine, over 140 customizable parts and accessories, and tailored peripherals that are catered to refined riding styles, including a four-piston Brembo front brake caliper, high-spec cartridge forks, ABS and traction control, and rider-focused tech that helps to ease the application of torque. If that’s not a beginner-friendly bike, we don’t know what is.
Engine: 900cc Liquid-Cooled, SOHC
Weight: 436 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Triumph Street Scrambler
Much like the Street Twin, Triumph’s Street Scrambler has earnt its place on our list due to the implementation of the company’s revered, rider-oriented technologies. Aside from its adoption of the company’s trademark aesthetics, the Street Scrambler is a jack of all trades when it comes to conventional use. It boasts a rugged, off-road attitude that’s balanced out by a chic urban architecture, and calls upon the same high-torque, 900cc engine as its counterpart for exceptional use on and off the roadway. Like its city-born brother, the Scrambler embodies a plethora of Triumph’s lauded safety features, including high-performance four-piston Brembo brakes, variable riding modes, ABS, traction control, and torque-assist to keep throttle-happy riders within safe parameters. On the exterior of the cycle, a handsomely-implemented twin scrambler exhaust, and a unique frame give the cycle a look all its own.
Engine: 900cc Liquid-Cooled, SOHC
Weight: 447 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Honda Africa Twin
Honda’s Africa Twin is a constant contender on any great motorcycle list, and thanks to the brand’s commitment to well-rounded platforms, it doesn’t seem like they’re willing to let go of the top spot, anytime soon. The Africa Twin is the quintessential beginner’s bike — it boasts a unique architecture that’s equally as efficient on, and off the roadway, a legendary 998cc parallel-twin engine, and PGM-FI electronic fuel injection that’s sure to keep you exploring for miles on end, regardless of the terrain. A large 4.97-gallon fuel tank makes it the perfect cycle for long-distance rides, or for those who aren’t keen on filling up their tank every week. Four-piston brake calipers offer the utmost support when it comes to safety and preparedness, while a well-rounded, long-travel suspension and biaxial counterbalance help to keep you upright at all times.
Engine: 998cc Parallel-Twin, 4-Stroke
Weight: 506 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 4.97 gallons
The 15 Best Motorcycle Roads In America
Now that you’ve got your two-wheeler sorted, you’re going to want to take it out for a spin. Get the best of the experience by taking your bike out on one of the best motorcycle roads in America.