You are on page 1of 19

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

shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. Because your first should be good Cruiser, dirt,
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. Because your first should be good Cruiser, dirt,
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. Because your first should be good Cruiser, dirt,
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. Because your first should be good Cruiser, dirt,
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. Because your first should be good Cruiser, dirt,
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. Because your first should be good Cruiser, dirt,

Because your first should be good

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

?

?

H

ow to

C hoose a eginner ike

B B
B
B

by Carla King

B eginner ikes B
B eginner
ikes
B

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.

Whats your style?

Standard

W h a t ’ s your style? Standard Dean, Brando. Amelia. Battered brown leather jacket,

Dean, Brando. Amelia. Battered brown leather jacket, silk scarf, avaitor glasses. Classic.

Cruiser

jacket, silk scarf, avaitor glasses. Classic. Cruiser Uptown and downtown and long leisurely road trips. Low

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

Sport

slung, attitudinal rumble. Ultimately customizable. Sport Buzz and zip. Looks fast even when it’s standing still.

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

Dual-Sport

and yellow and green streaks down the highway. Dual-Sport Head down the highway and detour into

Head down the highway and detour into the desert. Commute from suburbs to city, jumping potholes in the financial district.

Off-Road

city, jumping potholes in the financial district. Off-Road Country byways and desert highways and skidding in

Country byways and desert highways and skidding in the mud. Gear up and get read to tumble.

Scooter

skidding in the mud. Gear up and get read to tumble. Scooter No muss, no fuss.

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

Electric

phone. Mount and dismount with grace and style. Electric Modern, ecological, alternative. Consciously quiet. Try not

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

S tandard

S tandard Classic. Retro. Naked. SIMPLICITY Standard motorcycles make great beginner bikes but they’re also really

Classic. Retro. Naked.

SIMPLICITY
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.

S tandard

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.

over 60 mpg. Click images to find these bikes on the web. Motorcycling for Women: Beginner
over 60 mpg. Click images to find these bikes on the web. Motorcycling for Women: Beginner

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!

C ruiser

C ruiser Low. Laid-back. COOL Take a standard bike, extend the front fork, put a teardrop

Low. Laid-back.

COOL
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.

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

C ruiser

Honda Rebel 250 This popular cruiser is light and low and a real keeper with
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, five-
speed 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.

S port

S port Zip. Zam. Zoom! SPEEDY Sport bikes are made for racing. For that reason they’re

Zip. Zam. Zoom!

SPEEDY
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.)

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

S port

Kawasaki Ninja 250R Honda CBR250R The motorcycle industry argues over which is the best small
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
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 twin-
cylinder engine edges out the Honda in
performance due to it’s single cylinder
engine, but Honda has a reputation for
greater reliability.

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.

D ual S port

D ual S port Jump curbs. Ford streams. VERSATILE These bikes are made for maximum maneuverability

Jump curbs. Ford streams.

VERSATILE
VERSATILE

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.

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

D ual S port

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.

that’s tuned for the curb-jumping commuter: the CRF230M. Yamaha TW200 This beefy chug-along dual-sport epotimizes the
that’s tuned for the curb-jumping commuter: the CRF230M. Yamaha TW200 This beefy chug-along dual-sport epotimizes the

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.

O ff R oad

O ff R oad Slip. Slide. Speed. WILD! Off-road bikes are built for maximum maneuverability with

Slip. Slide. Speed.

WILD!
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!

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

O ff R oad

Yamaha TT-R125LE This 5-speed, air-cooled 4-stroke weighs under 200 pounds wet. A 31.7 inch seat
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.
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.

S cooter

S cooter Classy. Practical. UTILITARIAN Scooters are ideal entrees into the world of motorcycling because they

Classy. Practical.

UTILITARIAN
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.

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

S cooter

KYMCO People KYMCO is an example of the many relatively new companies that offer low-cost
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 two-
wheeler 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 res-
toration on your own.

E lectric

E lectric Economical. Ethical. Shhhh! FUTURISTIC None of the handful of electric motorcycle makers are making

Economical. Ethical. Shhhh!

FUTURISTIC
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.

Click images to find these bikes on the web.

E lectric

Brammo Enertia Plus The Brammer Enertia models have no clutch like a scooter. The seat
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!

S hop

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

dealerships or click to visit these trusted sites. Both dealers and private parties advertise in Cycle

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

Click to shop.

Cycle Trader so it’s easy to compare new versus used bike prices. Click to shop. Motorcycling
Cycle Trader so it’s easy to compare new versus used bike prices. Click to shop. Motorcycling

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

shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. B eginner ikes B Carla King began motorcycling
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. B eginner ikes B Carla King began motorcycling
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. B eginner ikes B Carla King began motorcycling
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. B eginner ikes B Carla King began motorcycling
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. B eginner ikes B Carla King began motorcycling
shopping, choosing, riding, staying safe, and having fun. B eginner ikes B Carla King began motorcycling
B eginner ikes B
B eginner
ikes
B

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 Califor- nia where she still temporarily escapes by embarking on motor- cycle adventures around the world. You can read her dispatches from America, China, India, Europe, and Africa online and in her books at CarlaKing.com.

and Africa online and in her books at CarlaKing.com . ALSO BY CARLA KING The American
and Africa online and in her books at CarlaKing.com . ALSO BY CARLA KING The American
and Africa online and in her books at CarlaKing.com . ALSO BY CARLA KING The American

CONNECT

opportunity to experience village life first-hand. CONNECT Copyright 2013 Carla King, Misadventures Media
opportunity to experience village life first-hand. CONNECT Copyright 2013 Carla King, Misadventures Media
opportunity to experience village life first-hand. CONNECT Copyright 2013 Carla King, Misadventures Media
opportunity to experience village life first-hand. CONNECT Copyright 2013 Carla King, Misadventures Media

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