Your guide to learning, shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun.

Cruiser, dirt, scooter...? Red, blue, yellow...? Does size matter? Should I buy new or used? What's the resale value? ANSWERS HERE!

by Carla King

How to hoose a C Beginner Bike

Because your first should be good

Beginner Bikes

What’s a beginner bike?

I was lucky. I learned how to ride when I was 14 years old, flying through tobacco fields and over hills and through the woods. When I fell off I bounced right back up again. When the bike broke I either figured out how to fix it or pushed it back home. Usually I’d figure it out. The little Honda Trail 90 I started on was definitely a beginner bike—a term now widely debated. Makers of large motorcycles claim their new 500cc machines are beginner bikes. I beg to differ. They’re heavy and have so much horsepower they can flip a newbie onto the road with a flick of the wrist. Yesterday’s 800cc motorcycle was impressively monstrous. Today, a 250cc or under bike has plenty of horsepower, and may actually be all you need for years if you’re riding backroads, commuting, or enjoying off-road adventures. When your skills are honed, and you decide what kind of riding style you prefer, you can always trade up. Most of the bikes here start at below $4000 new, and half that much used. Luckily, most used beginner bikes hold their value so you may be able to sell it at nearly what you paid for it. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a little bike waiting for you somewhere in a barn or in a neighbor’s garage. If not, go shopping! The kind of bikes recommended in these pages will give you confidence, allowing you to hone your skills and to enjoy motorcycling in the long term. Choose carefully. You always remember your first.
Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

What’s your style?
Dual-Sport Standard
Dean, Brando. Amelia. Battered brown leather jacket, silk scarf, avaitor glasses. Classic. Head down the highway and detour into the desert. Commute from suburbs to city, jumping potholes in the financial district.

Cruiser
Uptown and downtown and long leisurely road trips. Low slung, attitudinal rumble. Ultimately customizable.

Off-Road
Country byways and desert highways and skidding in the mud. Gear up and get ready to tumble.

Scooter
No muss, no fuss. Italian shoes, briefcase, cell phone. Mount and dismount with grace and style.

Sport
Buzz and zip. Looks fast even when it’s standing still. Red and yellow and green streaks down the highway.

Electric
Modern, ecological, alternative. Consciously quiet. Try not to smirk when you pass by the gas stations.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

tandard S
Classic. Retro. Naked.

SIMPLICITY

Standard motorcycles make great beginner bikes but they’re also really nice all-purpose bikes. Some people start with a standard and move on to a specialty bike, like a cruiser or racer or dual-sport, and end up keeping the standard. They’ve been around so long there are lots of used ones on the market. The upright riding position makes it easy to look around without having to bend your head into uncomfortable positions. The controls lie exactly where your hands and feet naturally rest, which means it’s easier to deal with emergencies. It’s also very well balanced, with your center of gravity exactly in the middle of the bike. Standards come “naked” without plastic coverings, fairings, or any kind of bling. This means that when you drop it you won’t be breaking a lot of expensive parts. Many manufacturers stopped making standard bikes under 250ccs, but there are plenty of older models on the used market that make great starter and around-town bikes.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

tandard S
Suzuki TU250X One of the rare under-250cc standards being made today, this is a great keeper bike for city and backroads. Freeways are doable but not its forte. Under $4000 and gets over 60 mpg.

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

Honda CB Series Like many manufacturers, Honda stopped making small standards about a decade ago when specialty bikes became the trend. But chances are you can grab one of these babies for cheap. Bonus: it’s classic enough to win admiring glances!
Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

ruiser C
Low. Laid-back.

COOL

Take a standard bike, extend the front fork, put a teardrop gas tank in front of the lowered seat, and you’ve got a cruiser. You’ll need to reach a bit more forward with your feet to find the foot pegs, but that all contributes to the “laid-back” styling of this kind of motorcycle. Cruisers are good bikes to learn on because they’re low enough for most people to get both feet flat on the ground, which gives you better balance and more confidence. They come “naked” so if you drop it you’re not breaking a lot of expensive painted plastic coverings. Once you get the hang of it, you may be tempted to start accessorizing with saddlebags, a windscreen, maybe even tie on a sleeping bag and tent and take off on a classic American backroads journey.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

ruiser C

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

Honda Rebel 250

This popular cruiser is light and low and a real keeper with decent performance on the freeway. Buy it new or find one used, but plenty of people don’t want to give up their Rebels.

California Scooter Company These little bikes were inspired by the Mustang motorcycle built from the 1940’s to the 60s. The 150cc, fivespeed engine gets you up to 50-60 mph and, at only 240 pounds, it’s easy to throw around. Add a 90 mpg range, an under $4000 price tag, and a nice array of accessories to the list of temptations.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

S

port
Zip. Zam. Zoom!

SPEEDY

Sport bikes are made for racing. For that reason they’re not really the best choice for a beginner, but there are a few under-250cc models that won’t scare a newbie out of motorcycling altogether. When you sit on a sport bike you’ll be tilted forward with your feet back behind your seat and some of your weight resting on your wrists. You’ll have to lift your head up to look around, because the sitting position forces you to curl into the shape of the bike. That said, they’re made to be light and maneuverable so they can corner better. But when you drop it, there’s a lot of expensive plastic that’ll get scraped and broken. For that reason you may be able to buy one quite cheaply. ( Just remove the damaged plastic altogether for a more “naked” look.)

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

S

port
Kawasaki Ninja 250R The Ninja name is practically synonymous with the category sport bike. This zippy little 250 has a liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine with 6-speed transmission and 36 horsepower.

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

Honda CBR250R The motorcycle industry argues over which is the best small sport bike, the Ninja or the CBR250R. Similar in weight and handling, the Ninja’s twincylinder engine edges out the Honda in performance due to it’s single cylinder engine, but Honda has a reputation for greater reliability.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

D ual Sport

VERSATILE

Jump curbs. Ford streams.

These bikes are made for maximum maneuverability so you’ll find that the seat forces you to sit upright at a comfortable position and the controls are all exactly where you expect them to be. This is a basic bike that comes fairly “naked” with an exposed engine and higher ground clearance (and therefore seat height), with long suspension travel so you can jump logs or curbs and ford streams or ditches. The handlebars are straight and wide providing stability when you’re standing on the pegs in rough terrain. There are many varieties of dual-sport motorcycles, but all of them are intended for both street and dirt riding. Some dual-sports have dirt-bike roots and others, like “scramblers,” are street bikes modified to ride or race on dirt. The old Honda CL 360 is a good example of a scrambler. Though seat heights can be high, the smaller dual-sports are great beginner bikes and really wonderful second bikes. Like standards, they don’t have a lot of expensive chrome and plastic that will be damaged when you drop them. Adventurous travelers will throw a couple of saddlebags on and take off on a round-the-world journey.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

D ual Sport

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

Honda CRF230 The dirt bike version of the CRF230 lacks headlight, blinkers, and mirrors, so it’s not street legal. Honorable mention also goes to a version that’s tuned for the curb-jumping commuter: the CRF230M.

Yamaha TW200 This beefy chug-along dual-sport epotimizes the saying “slow and steady wins the race.” With a 31-inch seat-height that can be lowered even further, oversized tires that makes it extremely stable in loose terrain, and its bulletproof 200cc motor, it’s achieved cult status among motorcycle explorers.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

Off Road
Slip. Slide. Speed.

WILD!

Off-road bikes are built for maximum maneuverability with wheels and suspension that can handle rough terrain. Also called enduro motorcycles, they’re super-lightweight with no extras to weigh you down or break off in a fall. That means no mirrors, turn signals, horn, license plate holders, and sometimes not even an electric start or a headlight. They’re not legal on the road, though you can add items to make them street legal and a lot of off-road or dirtbikes are the same as their dual-sport counterparts minus the lights and signals and such.. The higher ground clearance and seat heights plus long suspension travel is necessary to allow riding in rough and uneven territory without damaging the engine or your lower extremities. If you’re looking for family fun, check out the 50cc off-road bikes that are made for kids, who are generally fearless. Good luck keeping up!

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

Off Road
Yamaha TT-R125LE This 5-speed, air-cooled 4-stroke weighs under 200 pounds wet. A 31.7 inch seat height and 11.6 ground clearance gives you plenty of stump-jumping fun.

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

Suzuki DR-Z125 This popular dirt bike weights under 200 pounds and has a 30.5 inch seat height which makes it a great entree into the dirt bike scene. The “L” version has larger wheels, which makes it two inches taller.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

S

cooter
Classy. Practical.

UTILITARIAN

Scooters are ideal entrees into the world of motorcycling because they have automatic transmissions and feet-on-the-floor positioning so you can concentrate on staying upright and cornering. Many scooter riders decide they want to try motorcycling, but many decide to stick with scooters. Why? Because they’re ideal commuter vehicles that are comfortable to ride while wearing street clothes and shoes. As gas prices rise so do scooter sales, and manufacturers are eager to offer lots of options like candy color and matching accessories.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

S

cooter

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

KYMCO People KYMCO is an example of the many relatively new companies that offer low-cost scooters and motorcycles. KYMCO’s “People” scooter comes in various sizes designed to fit you from 50cc to 200cc.

Vespa Vespa scooters are classics and you might find that your first twowheeler is a “keeper” for life. There are lots of old Vespas for sale, and they’re easy enough to work on that you might even consider restoration on your own.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

E

lectric
Economical. Ethical. Shhhh!

FUTURISTIC

None of the handful of electric motorcycle makers are making beginner bikes per se, but they do offer scooters and smaller dirt bikes that are suitable for beginners. Because electric battery technology is on the cutting edge, these bikes tend to be expensive and you can’t expect to make up your investment on the resale value. By the time you’re done with it, the next generation will likely make yours obsolete. Environmentally-sensitive with a fat wallet? Go for it. Not so fat a wallet? Well, factor in gas savings, and raise your karmic value.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

E

lectric

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

Brammo Enertia Plus The Brammer Enertia models have no clutch like a scooter. The seat is 32 inches, and they weigh 330 pounds. Maximum speed is about 60 mph, and they get about 80 miles to a charge. With an $10,000 price tag, you going to love the gas savings. Other models are faster and have a 6-speed drive train.

s This European “e-Scooter of the Year” costs about $14,000 in the USA. It plugs into a 220/110V wall socket, revs up to 68 mph in 6 seconds, and has a range potential of 85 miles. It even has a reverse gear!

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

S

hop
... at your local motorcycle dealerships or click to visit these trusted sites.
Click to shop.

Both dealers and private parties advertise in Cycle Trader so it’s easy to compare new versus used bike prices.

Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes

Your guide to learning, shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun.

Beginner Bikes
ALSO BY CARLA KING

Carla King began motorcycling when she was 14 years old in rural North Carolina on a small Honda enduro that provided her temporary escape from adolescence. Today she lives in California where she still temporarily escapes by embarking on motorcycle adventures around the world. You can read her dispatches from America, China, India, Europe, and Africa online and in her books at CarlaKing.com.

The American Borders Motorcycle Diaries: Based on the original realtime online dispatches, American Borders chronicles Carla’s journey test riding the Russian Ural sidecar motorcycle around the USA for the new American importers to see what might go wrong so they could fix it at the Siberian factory. The result? Cracked welds, burnt-out generators, electrical gremlins, and a piston burnout to add to the excitement of a woman’s four-month, 10,000 mile motorcycle journey taken alone. The China Road Motorcycle Diaries: In 1995 Carla was invited to take a journey through China to chronicle life in the countryside before it all started changing. She said yes, never mind that it was illegal. The American sponsors lent her a Chang Jiang sidecar motorcycle - the Chinese cousin of the Ural - and fake diplomatic license plates. Just a few hours out of Bejing she discovered that the maps were wrong. A few days later the roads weren’t paved and often disappeared completely, in which case she’d wait for a supply truck to come along and show her the way through fields, villages, and riverbeds. The Chang Jiang broke down as much as the Ural had, which had the happy effect of giving her the opportunity to experience village life first-hand.

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Copyright 2013 Carla King, Misadventures Media http://CarlaKing.com