Best beginner bikes – start small, move up

by on April 28, 2009
in Beginning Riders, Brands

With women now comprising just over 12 percent of the new-bike market, it means that more gals are thinking about learning to ride. (After all, who doesn’t dream of being a free-spirited biker chick?) If that’s you, or your wife or girlfriend, one of the first questions to come up is most certainly going to be: “What kind of bike is best for learners?” (See my “No B.S. Guide to Learning to Ride” for more common questions.)

While it’s true that some women will be comfortable managing a bigger bike right from the start, it’s more likely they’re facing quite a bit of uncertainty or even fear.

For that reason, I recommend learning to ride on a smaller bike, i.e. a Honda Rebel or Yamaha Virago (125 and 250cc, respectively), preferably used so you don’t shell out a lot of money only to find you don’t enjoy riding. 

A woman who might be able to readily maneuver more bike at slow speeds, or one who’s more confident going into the task of learning, might start out on a 600 Honda VLX or the Yamaha 650 V-Star. These are a little more powerful and you might keep them a few more seasons than the smaller Rebel or Virago. 

All of these are readily available in the used market.

Once you feel comfortable riding, you’ll notice that highway speeds feel like “work” on a small (250cc) bike. At that point, you’re probably ready to move up to something a little bigger. You can easily sell the learner bike and move up to the Honda Shadows, Yamaha V-Stars, Harley Sportsters, etc. in the 650-883 range. Suzuki also makes comparable bikes in its Boulevard line – I’m not as familiar with them, but the older Suzuki 800 Intruder is also a great “move-up” bike. Eventually you may move up yet again into the largest classes, but I know many women who have ridden comfortably for years on these mid-range machines.

The advantages of this graduated method are several: 

  • You get used to the manual operation of the bike without feeling like you can’t maneuver it easily (such as into and out of parking spaces or through large crowds).
  • It’s easier to pick up a smaller bike via the proper method if you drop it.
  • And speakng of drops, it’s less heart-breaking to drop a small used learner bike (likely to happen when you’re a new rider) than it is to drop your ultimate dream bike.
  • It’s much easier to pass the licensing test on a smaller-cc bike.
  • You probably won’t have a financed bike to “get out from under” if you decide you don’t want to continue riding.

I’ve said it often: women learn differently from men – they are more studious and often more cautious. If you want to learn to ride and want to make it as un-intimidating as possible, start small and work your way up to the larger bikes.

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    Comments

    One Response to “Best beginner bikes – start small, move up”
    1. myowell says:

      Great blog. I just wanted to say thanks for your efforts!

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