New beginner motorcycles come out each year. They get better technology, they are easier to ride, and easier to maintain. Today’s modern crop of motorcycles for new riders is full of variety. There are so many smaller displacement (the size of the engine, also referred to as CCs) machines these days that the new rider can take his or her pick.
Back when I started riding there were really only a couple of good options and they were all 250cc motorcycles. These days there are plenty of options and very few of them actually have a 250cc engine. Some have far more displacement while others have far less. I’m glad to see more variety in this area of the market. Motorcycle manufacturers need to appeal to as wide a variety of riders as possible, and offering so many options is one way to do so.
Below I’ve pulled together what I think are the best motorcycles for new riders on sale today. These bikes are all designed and built with new or newer riders in mind. They’re rather simple machines, and all of them come with at least the option of ABS (Anti-locking Braking System which prevents the wheels from locking up when braking), which I personally recommend. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
1. Honda Rebel 300 or 500
Honda had its Rebel 250 for decades and a few years ago the company rolled out an all-new design for the Rebel. The bike comes in two displacements, 300 (286cc actual) or 500 (471cc actual), and it’s really up to you which you want to have. The 500 gives you more power but the bike is the complete same other than the bigger engine.
The Rebel was designed and built to have a modern look, and Honda also leaned into the customization field with this bike. There’s a lot of aftermarket parts out there, and much of the bike is exposed, making it easy to take the Rebel and turn it into whatever you want. Of course, you can just ride it as is, and if you follow the maintenance schedule, you’ll be able to ride this bike forever. I own a Rebel 300. It has a lot to offer, even to an experienced rider.
2. Kawasaki Ninja 400
The Ninja 400 is the perfect everyday sportbike. I kind of hate to call it a beginner bike because it’s the kind of motorcycle I’ve found to have plenty of power for even a more experienced rider. With that said it does come with a 399cc fuel-injected twin-cylinder engine, assist and slipper clutch, and a light curb weight. All of those details are things you want in a bike for a new rider.
Price New: $4,999 See similar models
3. BMW G 310 R
A BMW as a beginner bike? You betcha. The BMW G 310 R is the kind of bike that you might not expect from the Bavarian bike builders. The G 310 R is affordable, fun, small, and easy to ride. It’s a naked bike that has a more upright riding position, but still keeps things on the sporty side of the scale. It’s a genuinely good all-around motorcycle.
The G 310 R comes with a 313cc single-cylinder engine that’s liquid-cooled and fuel-injected. The peppy motor moves the little bike with authority and makes the bike good for around town and even lets it feel pretty good on the highway when it’s really stretching its legs.
4. Yamaha MT-03
The Yamaha MT-03 is a great sporty motorcycle that fits into Yamaha’s Hyper Naked group of bikes. The bike is new, and beginner-friendly, though it will still thrill a more experienced rider. The bike is ready for new riders, but it’s made like a larger motorcycle so it doesn’t feel like a tiny bike.
The MT-03 utilizes the R3’s engine. It’s a 321cc parallel-twin engine that is liquid-cooled and fuel-injected. The motorcycle gets a six-speed transmission to transfer the engine’s power to the rear wheel.
5. Kawasaki Versys-X 300
Of all the small adventure touring bikes out there, the Versys-X 300 is one of my favorites. It’s a tough little bike. The motorcycle is a little more street-focused than some of the other adventure motorcycles out there that it competes with, but this bike is still surprisingly capable off-road. If you’re looking for something to take on the trails, but want to be comfortable on the road, then the Versys-X 300 is a good option.
The motorcycle features a fuel-injected twin-cylinder engine with a displacement of 296cc. The engine is connected to a six-speed transmission to let you use all the power from that two-cylinder engine.
Price New: $5,499 See similar models
6. KTM RC 390
Price New: $5,549 See similar models
7. Kawasaki KLX230
8. Kawasaki Z125 Pro
The Kawasaki Z125 Pro is the only mini motorcycle I have on this list. A lot of people don’t think these are very good motorcycles for new riders, but I honestly disagree. They’re small, not overpowered, affordable, and fun. Is it the best motorcycle in the world? No, but it’s a darn good one, and if you’re primarily shooting around a neighborhood or the city, then you could do a lot worse than the Z125 Pro.
The little motorcycle features a fuel-injected 125cc horizontally oriented single-cylinder engine. That engine is connected to a four-speed transmission that lets you make the most of that little engine. The only thing I don’t like about these mini motorcycles is the small wheel size. It’s not great for bumps and potholes, but these little bikes are so nimble that it’s easy to dodge that stuff anyway.
Price New: $3,199 See similar models
9. Harley-Davidson Street 750
10. Royal Enfield INT650
The bike features an air-and-oil-cooled parallel-twin engine that’s fuel-injected and has a displacement of 648cc. The engine is mated to a six-speed transmission. The INT650 is a killer bike. I rode one this past year and found it to be a great, simple motorcycle with retro styling. It’s a fantastic all-around motorcycle.
Price New: $5,799 See similar models
Author Bio: Wade Thiel is an automotive and motorcycle journalist based in Indianapolis, IN. He runs the motorcycle blog Wind Burned Eyes.