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Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Your First Motorcycle-II

Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Your First Motorcycle-II

What Makes an “Entry-Level” Motorcycle?

There’s no real industry-standardized definition for a beginner bike. Some models might be marketed as being good for new riders, while others may also be good options but a company might feel they would turn away more experienced riders by labeling them as for newbies.

Engine displacement is an easy way many people use to categorize bikes. Some countries have tiered licensing regulations, especially for younger riders, that restrict the size or power output of motorcycles they can legally ride. And while it's true larger engines produce more power, other factors such as engine configuration and tuning must also be considered.

For the most part, we will be looking at the smaller displacement models in a given product segment, but we're not going to stick to a displacement limit. So while we are advising against 600cc Inline-Four supersports like a Honda CBR600RR as a first bike, an 883cc V-Twin Harley-Davidson Sportster is a different matter, despite having a larger engine.

Cost is also an important factor to consider. While there may be some pricier motorcyclesthat could serve as effective first bikes, a more expensive motorcycle will also be more expensive to insure. A new rider will already face higher insurance premiums than a more seasoned rider, so why add to that burden with a big-ticket motorcycle? Factor in depreciation and the likelihood of new rider dropping their bikes and it makes more sense not to spend too much on your first motorcycle.

On that note, a used motorcycle may also be a better option than a brand new bike. In this case, depreciation works in your favor as a used bike will be less expensive than a new one. There will also be a lot of newbie-friendly motorcycles on the used bike market as former beginners look to sell their own first bike as they upgrade to their second one.

The trade-off with buying a used motorcycle is you have to do some legwork to learn the history of the bike. How good a condition is it in? How many miles has it been ridden? How many owners has the bike had? Did the seller provide proper care and maintenance? Newmotorcycles straight from the dealership don’t carry any baggage (unless you wantedpanniers and a top case, that is!) but they’ll also come with a factory warranty.

Editor's Picks for Pre-Owned Starter Bikes

The most cost-effective way to get into motorcycling is to select a pre-owned bike instead of a new one. It's already suffered depreciation, so you won't take as big a hit when you decide to trade up to another motorcycle as your skills and capabilities improve. And pre-owned also often means pre-scuffed, so you won't feel so bad if you tip it over compared to a pristine new bike. What follows are selections from theMotorcycle.com staff about which used bike they'd personally recommend to a beginning rider.

To me the Suzuki SV650 is just about the perfect second-hand motorcycle one can get. First of all, the SV is darn near bulletproof. Very rarely do you hear of its V-Twin engine breaking down, even under extreme negligence. With just 65-70 horsepower, there’s enough oomph to keep things exciting for the newer rider without alarming the local authorities. Also, it’s been around for long enough now that prices on the used market have stabilized. But to me, the real beauty of the SV is its versatility.

Stock, these bikes feature bottom-shelf components (suspension, brakes) to meet its intended price point. This is perfect for less experienced riders as their skills don’t warrant anything better anyway. But as one starts to improve and find the limits of these components, there are a whole host of easy modifications available to upgrade the bike.

And this is why I still have a soft spot for SVs even after I’ve ridden just about every motorcycle under the sun. I learned everything I know about bikes from my SV. As I became a better rider, I upgraded the suspension, then I added an exhaust, and then rejetted the carbs (I have a first generation model). Being that it has very little bodywork, access to everything is straightforward. As time went on and my skills improved I eventually turned it into a full-fledged racebike, but I’ve seen examples modified into everything from streetfighters to cross-country tourers. The SV650 is so easy to ride and maintain, but best of all it’s able to grow with you at every step of your motorcycle journey.

– Troy Siahaan, Associate Editor