February 5th, 2014 —
The AMA Office will be closed today due to inclement weather and treacherous road conditions in Central Ohio.
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What Type Of Bike Is Right For You?

A non-rider often asks, "What's the best motorcycle?" The experienced rider answers, "That depends on what you want to do with it."

Today, motorcycles are better than ever and also more specialized than ever. The key to being happy with your choice is not finding the "best" motorcycle, but rather finding the motorcycle that's right for you and the kind of riding you want to do.

Some motorcycles are obviously more suited to new riders than others, however.

The two things most likely to add to a new rider's confidence level are light weight and the ability to get both feet on the ground at a stop. Lighter is always better when you're still learning to balance, steer, accelerate and brake. And while experienced riders often learn to become comfortable just getting one foot down at a stop, it's more reassuring to plant both feet when you're just getting started.

Fortunately, weight and seat height figures are almost always included among the specifications listed for new motorcycles on the manufacturers' websites, so that's a good place to start sorting through which bikes are most new-rider-friendly.

But with hundreds of new and used models available for sale, you still need to narrow your search a little.

The first step toward figuring out which bike is right for you is understanding the categories of motorcycles and their pros and cons, from the perspective of a new rider. Use the following table and refer to our glossary if you don't understand a term.


Example shown: Honda 599
Built for: Doing a little of everything
New rider pros:
check! Neutral ergonomics give rider a better sense of control, comfort
Check! Lack of fairing makes tip-over less costly
New rider cons:
X Some larger standards make well over 100 horsepower and can be intimidating to an inexperienced rider
A couple of options:
> Buell Blast is one of the few motorcycles specifically designed for new riders
> Suzuki SV650 is more powerful, relatively light, offers nimble handling


Example shown: Harley-Davidson Softail
Built for: Relaxed rides
New rider pros:
 Low seat lets rider get feet down
 Low center of gravity offsets heft
 Engine tuned for low-rpm power makes clutch/throttle coordination easier
New rider cons:
 Long, low style means handling is a bit awkward on some models
A couple of options:
 While the big cruisers are heavy and expensive, mid-size machines like the Honda Shadow or Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster are more nimble, affordable


Example shown: Kawasaki ZX10R Ninja
Built for: Speed and handling
New rider pros:
 Relatively light weight
New rider cons:
 High power and strong brakes demand respect and a deft touch
 Engine tuned for high-rpm power makes clutch/throttle coordination trickier
 High insurance costs
 Drop it and replacement plastic is costly
One good option:
The Kawasaki Ninja 250R is a sportbike-styled bike that is a less expensive, more forgiving way to learn

Dual sport

Example shown: KTM 640 Adventure
Built for: Riding on and off road
New rider pros:
 Relatively light weight
 Versatility: Ride the trails on Sunday, ride to work on Monday
 If it gets scratched and dirty, off-road riders will just respect you more
New rider cons:
 Relatively high seat heights take some getting used to
A good option:
 Yamaha XT225 is light, simple, inexpensive to buy and insure, has a relatively low seat and won't suffer much damage if you drop it


Example shown: Yamaha FJR1300
Built for: Long rides on the open road
New rider pros:
 Comfortable, good weather protection
 Convenience of integrated luggage
New rider cons:
 Generally heavier and more expensive than average
 Most have powerful engines that demand respect
 Saddlebags, fairing subject to damage in a tip-over
An alternative:
 To get the convenience without the expense, add aftermarket windshield and luggage to a smaller standard


Example shown: Suzuki Burgman 400
Built for: Urban transportation, practicality
New rider pros:
 No clutch or gears to shift — just twist and go
 50-90 mpg, depending on size
 Typically more affordable than motorcycles
 Storage and weather protection on most models
New rider cons:
 Scooters with smaller wheels can be less stable at speed, feel "darty"
 If a motorcycle is your ultimate goal, the skills you learn on a scooter may not translate as precisely as those you would learn on a small starter motorcycle
A few good options:
 For low-speed urban use, Honda Metropolitan, Yamaha Vino or similar 50cc scooters get phenomenal mileage
 Bigger scooters like the Burgman (left) or Piaggio X9 are capable of highway journeys