This article has been updated on January 31, 2017.
For a new rider, the selection of motorcycles on the market can seem overwhelming, especially when you're not sure where to start. Fortunately there are bikes that prove time and time again to be ideal choices for new riders. We've compiled a list of those bikes with the new woman rider in mind, bikes we think are the best beginner motorcycles.
At Women Riders Now, we recommend starting out on a smaller motorcycle, one on which a newly minted rider can easily and confidently practice the skills learned in the motorcycle training class. There are certainly other motorcycles beginners can learn on—for example, some small displacement dual-sports—however this list reflects the most popular new and used motorcycle choices among beginning women riders.
Except for the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 models included in our list, we don't recommend learning on a motorcycle that is more powerful than that so we list only motorcycles with engine displacements less than 500cc, with a few exceptions. The only reason the Sportster 883s are listed is because they were long considered Harley-Davidsons entry level model before the Street was introduced. Because the majority of the female riding population rides a Harley-Davidson its necessary we include the Motor Company's "entry level" model that many women have started on over the years.
Other than that, all these motorcycles fall into the small displacement category with a few exceptions. Again, its worth stressing that historically these are the motorcycles that women have had the highest chances of success learning on and practicing with before trading up to a bigger motorcycle. That is the premise of this list. Therefore these are considered the best beginner motorcycles for new riders.
Two sections where you can read first-hand from women about the motorcycles they started on, including their successes as well as their "bumps in the road," are the Your Questions Answered, and the Your Stories sections.
We do not list prices as they vary from year to year. Also, in recent years some of these models have been discontinued but remain popular choices for beginners thanks to the used market. Where applicable, we've made a note of that. If there is no new or updated model from a manufacturer in a particular category, then one doesn't exist. For example, currently Kawasaki offers no current model year beginner cruiser style motorcycles. Also, its worth nothing that this article was originally published in 2009 with continual updates through the years.
The motorcycles are listed by the categories in this order: cruiser, standard style, sportbike, alternatives, classics.
Cruisers: Lean-Back Riding Position
Displacement: 286cc and 471cc
Seat Height: 27.2 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.96 gallons
Weight: 365 and 408 pounds
Introduced for model year 2017, the Rebel 300 and 500 provide a modern, urban twist on its predecessor, the Rebel 250. Styling is a mix of old and new school in a minimalist's package designed for both beginners to practice newfound skills, and others who simply want a fun, easy to ride motorcycle they can customize to match their personality. Six speeds and big-bike looks are reasons riders may want to hold on to the bike long after they've moved past the learner stage.
Seat Height: 26.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gallons
Weight: 331 pounds
The Rebel is the consummate entry-level bike encompassing size, looks, and a price tag that continues to attract new riders since Honda introduced it in 1985. There are many used ones on the market, and it's a bike that generally retains its value. The Rebel hasn't changed much looks-wise over the last two decades with traditional cruiser styling, lots of chrome, spoke wheels, 5 speed transmission, and a twin-cylinder four-stroke engine. This is a tried and true starter motorcycle with many successful "graduates." It's not uncommon for a woman to sell her Rebel to another beginning woman rider. Read a review of the Honda Rebel from a WRN reader, and check out our story on the new color options for the 2014 Rebel. For model year 2016, color options and specs remain the same. For 2017, Honda replaced this stalwart with the all-new Honda Rebel 300 and 500, featured above.
Displacement: 494cc and 749cc
Seat Height: 25.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gallons
Weight: 489 pounds
Introduced as an all new model in 2015, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750 are the Motor Company's newest entry level motorcycles that far surpass the Sportster line as a beginner bike. The 500 is the model being used in Harley-Davidson's Rider Academy New Rider Course, replacing the Buell Blast previously used in what was called Rider's Edge. We recommend the 500cc for true beginners getting used to what it feels like to handle a motorcycle. The low seat height and upright seating position allow new riders to easily learn what it feels like to become "one" with the motorcycle. Read our story on the bikes' introduction.
Seat Height: 27 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gallons
Weight: 326 pounds
This is the beginner motorcycle in Yamaha's V Star cruiser lineup. In 2008, the V Star 250 replaced the Virago 250 but retained a lot of its predecessor's styling and features. There are many used Viragos now on the market. Yamaha wants the V Star 250 to be as appealing as possible to beginners, so the bike has many features found on bigger motorcycles, like a V-twin engine, spoke wheels and a two-up seat. Read the WRN review.
Seat Height: 27.8 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight: 331 pounds
Model year 2010 was the last year Suzuki made the GZ250. It had been in the company's lineup for years because of its popularity with beginners, so you may find plenty of used ones on the market. The GZ250 features classic cruiser styling and is powered by a 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine driven by 5 gears. This motorcycle is often used in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course. Read a review by a WRN reader. Suzuki makes two other 250cc (beginner) motorcycles listed in categories below.
Seat Height: 27.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.8 gallons
Weight: 381 pounds
The Suzuki S40 is the Boulevard line's entry level model. The number 40 refers to the engine size in cubic inches (ci), as opposed to cubic centimeters (cc). 40ci is equivalent to 652cc, an engine size some would consider too powerful for a beginner. However, the bike's light weight and low seat height make it ideal for beginners who feel that the 250cc bikes are just too small. The 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine is mated to a 5-speed transmission.
Seat Height: 26.8 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight: 291 pounds
An entry-level bike that's inexpensive to own and operate, the Eliminator 125 is Kawasaki's smallest cruiser. It was discontinued in 2009, so only used models are available. The Eliminator 125 is a cruiser featuring an air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine with a 5-speed, chain-driven transmission. It has a seat height of 26.8 inches—low enough that most riders can easily plant both feet on the ground at stops. Weighing a scant 291 pounds, it is lightweight and easy for a beginner or smaller rider to handle. Read a review by a WRN reader.
Seat Height: 28.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Weight: 439 pounds
The midsize Kawasaki Vulcan is a popular entry-level motorcycle that was discontinued in 2009 after a nearly 20-year production run. There are plenty of used ones to be had. The Vulcan 500 remained in Kawasaki's lineup for years because it was a top seller among women and first-time riders. We've seen many women less than 5 feet keep this motorcycle as their end-all bike. Despite its smaller engine size, the Vulcan 500 LTD packs a lot of power into its six speeds and features classic cruiser looks, like its chrome-plated wire-spoke wheels, that never go out of style. Read a WRN Reader Review of the Vulcan 500.
Seat Height: 25.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Weight: 562 pounds
Before the launch of the Street model, the Sportster SuperLow was Harley-Davidson's entry level model. Confident beginners who feel ready to start on a “real world” motorcycle (versus a small 250cc bike), might like the SuperLow. Harley-Davidson has made many changes to its Sportster lineup over the last decade, tweaking, adding, and discontinuing models, so you’ll find several iterations on the used market. The SuperLow is an all-new design that debuted in 2011. In 2014 the brakes were upgraded and new colors added. To learn more, read the WRN review of the SuperLow. If you’re interested in a different Harley-Davidson as a possible first bike, the company manufactures some of the lowest motorcycles out there that make it easier to get both feet on the ground. Check out our list of the Lowest of the Low motorcycles.
Seat Height: 25.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Weight: 562 pounds
Of Harley-Davidson's Sportster 883 motorcycles currently available, the Iron is the newest, debuting in 2009, and one of only two 883 models available now in 2017. It has the smaller "peanut" style fuel tank so it holds less fuel than the SuperLow. Styling is edgier than the traditionally styled SuperLow with drag style handlebars, a chopped rear fender, and blacked-out accents. The Iron gets beginners going with attitude! In 2014, upgrades were made to the Sportsers including new brakes, an ABS option and of course, new colors. Read a review of the Iron by a WRN reader.
Seat Height: 25.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Weight: 583 pounds
True to its name, this bike's seat height is a low 25.3 inches. The Sportster 883 Low originally replaced the Sportster Hugger, popular in the 1990s because of its low seat. Now the 883 Low itself has been discontinued and replaced by the SuperLow, so don't confuse the two. Like the regular 883, its sister model that was also discontinued in 2011, the Low is relatively light. It has most of the same features as the regular 883, but it comes with a solo seat positioned to scoot the rider closer to the handlebars, which are angled closer to the rider. As with the SuperLow, some may say an 883cc motorcycle should not be included in the same beginner bike class as the 250cc motorcycles. However, we'd be remiss not to include it here as many riders want to ride a Harley-Davidson right out of the gate, and the Sportster line has long been regarded as the entry into the Harley-Davidson family. We recommend the Sportster 883 Low only for the most confident of new riders.
Standard Style: Upright Seating Position
Seat Height: 30.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.45 gallons
Weight: 225 pounds
The Honda Grom, brand new in 2014, doesn't resemble too many other motorcycles with its 12-inch tires and full size frame, but that's OK with Honda. The company is attracting new, young riders who want something different—maybe a little funky. The 4-speed, fuel-injected single cylinder 125cc engine is so unique that experienced riders are choosing this as an urban "fun-mover." Seat height is on the high side for true beginners, but if height is not an issue, the Grom makes a "different" choice on which to start your motorcycle journey. For 2017, the Grom's been redesigned for a sharper, more aggressive look, and this bright yellow color was added to the line-up.
Seat Height: 31 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.2 gallons
Weight: 224 pounds
The K-Pipe 125, introduced in 2016, is a 4-speed single cylinder motorcycle that’s ideal for new riders as well as those who want an easy-to-ride zippy motorcycle with which to blast around town. With a confidence-building upright seating position, 4-stroke carbureted engine with electric start (and kick-start back-up), the K-Pipe 125 is an fun and low cost choice for entry-level riders. The 31-inch seat height is on the high side for what we generally recommend for beginners, but the narrow profile of the bike and light weight make it easy for shorter riders to manage. Read our story on the bike's debut here.
Seat Height: 30.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.7 gallons
Weight: 282 pounds
The Van Van 200 is an exciting new entry to our beginner motorcycles list for 2017 giving pure newbies another option for their first bike. This entry-level Suzuki has one of the smallest displacement engines in our list at 200cc so power stays under control as the new rider learns the basics of riding. Seat height is on the "high" side" at 30.3 inches, but the super light weight makes the bike easy to manage should you find yourself on tip-toes. The single cylinder fuel-injected engine is powered by a 5-speed transmission. Retro styling lets you be cool while you're riding your first several hundred miles as a new motorcyclist. A motorcycle with an upright seating position like this is an ideal way to learn how it feels to control a motorcycle for the first time. Later on you can decide if you want to stay with a standard or choose a cruiser, sportbike, sport touring, or dual-sport.
Seat Height: 30.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Weight: 326 pounds
The TU250X was a new model for Suzuki in 2011 and continues with no new updates for 2017. At 250cc, it makes an ideal beginner bike for riders who prefer the upright seating position of a standard style motorcycle. At 30.3 inches, the seat height is on the higher side, but the narrow profile will help shorter riders reach the ground with both feet. It has a 5-speed, fuel-injected, 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine with a decently sized fuel tank capacity of 3.2 gallons. Not available in California.
Seat Height: 30.9 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Weight: 384 pounds
The SR400 is classically styled standard beginner bike with a decent-powered engine at 400cc. It has more "oomph" than a 250cc, but not too much where the power could overwhelm a new rider. The fuel-injected, single cylinder 5-speed engine is just what a beginner needs to stay in control of the motorcycle while practicing those basic motorcycle handling skills. What makes this bike unique among its counterparts is the absence of a push-button starter. Rather, the bike harkens back to motorcycling's roots with an easy-to-use kickstarter, the only means of getting the engine started. We feel any seat height more than 30 inches is on the high side for average height beginner women, so the 30.9-inch seat height is really the only disadvantage of the SR400 as a beginner bike. Riders 5-feet-5 and taller should be able to handle the size because of the light weight and narrow profile.
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2 gallons
Weight: 224 pounds
The Z125 Pro blurs the lines between an upright standard motorcycle and a sportbike. While aesthetically it looks like a sportbike with its edgy angled design, we put it in the standard category because the rider sits on it more like a standard, and to a newbie getting used to the feel of a motorcycle, sitting upright is an easier position to learn on than the leaned-over position of a sportbike. The 125cc single cylinder engine keeps the bike squarely in the entry-level category, but it shares the nimbleness and handling characteristics of its bigger Kawasaki Z motorcycle line cousins, albeit with less power. New riders looking for a more real-world looking motorcycle, but one that's easy to learn on and doesn't get away from you, this 125cc is a nice bike to consider.
Sportbikes: Leaned-In Riding Position
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gallons
Weight: 403 pounds
The GW250 is a powerful 6-speed parallel-twin upright seating sporty motorcycle introduced in 2013 that's proven popular with confident newriders as well as more experienced riders. This GW250 blurs the line between a standard with its upright seating position, and a sportbike with its aggressive style. So ridersnot sure if they want the full lean-over position of a sportbike can try the upright seating of the GW250 as a way to ease into this style of riding. The GW250 is cheaper than its Honda and Kawasaki competitors but offers just as much fun for beginners getting familiar with this style of riding. Read our review of the GW250 here.
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight: 357 pounds
In 2011, Honda released the CBR250R sportbike or beginners desiring the sportier side of riding. In 2015, the displacement was increased to 300cc to keep pace with competitors introducing a 300cc entry level sportbike category. Both Honda models are full of high-tech features including a 6-speed transmission in an affordable, lightweight package. At 30.7 inches, the seat height is on par for a sportbike, but thankfully it's on the lower side so newly minted motorcyclists can easily handle the bike. Check out our story on the Honda CBR250R’s introduction. And read this reader story featuring the CBR300R in it.
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight: 348 pounds
Not to be confused with its sportier, aggressively styled racetrack inspired cousin, the CBR300R, the CB300F has a roomier upright seating arrangement and is lightweight with nimble handling that inspires confidence in beginners who want a real-world feeling sportbike as their first motorcycle. While it shares the same electronic fuel-injected single cylinder engine as the CBR300R, the power delivery has been tuned for riders still getting comfortable with riding a motorcycle. No changes have been made to this motorcycle since 2015. We are not listing the CBR300R here because the aggressive seating and power delivery is not ideal for those new to riding a motorcycle.
Seat Height: 30.9 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Weight: 379 pounds
In 2013, Kawasaki replaced the Ninja 250R with the all-new Ninja 300, still billing it as an entry level sportbike. Instead of continuing to upgrade what was becoming a technologically outdated model, Kawasaki created a new platform from the ground up. The Ninja 300 still sports rider friendly ergonomics, a more upright seating position, and is light weight—features beginners can appreciate—but it has many features and advancements from Kawasaki's more powerful motorcycles so beginners don't feel like they're riding a beginner motorcycle. For 2014, an ABS option was introduced. Read WRN's review of the Ninja 300 here.
Seat Height: 30.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons
Weight: 335 pounds
Up until 2011 (when the Honda CBR250R was introduced), this was the only sportbike under 500cc available from a major manufacturer. The Ninja 250R was Kawasaki's top-selling model in 2007, then it underwent a complete makeover in 2008 only to be replaced by the Ninja 300 in 2013. There are plenty of used Ninja 250Rs on the market as this makes an ideal bike for new riders who want a sporty ride. Other features include a full fairing similar to that on the Ninja ZX-6R and 10R supersport bikes, plus more aggressive styling that goes head to head with big-boy sportbikes. This Ninja may not look like a beginner bike, but it can act like one for those who are still getting used to the ride. Read WRN's review of the Ninja 250R.
Seat Height: 30.9 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.9 gallons
Weight: 349 pounds
With the introduction of the all-new G 310 R roadster in 2017, BMW is recognizing the need for a smaller displacement motorcycle to attract younger riders, as well as new riders including women. Now one can buy into the BMW family for under $5,000 and have fun on a nimble confidence-inspiring motorcycle. Its sporty looks make it a sportbike, but its upright seating position allow newer riders to gain confidence. ABS comes standard.
Classics: If You Can Find a Used One
Yamaha Virago 535
Seat Height: 27.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gallons
Weight: 486 pounds
Yamaha Virago 250
Seat Height: 27 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gallons
Weight: 301 pounds
Yamaha Virago 535
Seat Height: 28.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.27 gallons
Weight: 401 pounds
Seat Height: 27.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.8 gallons
Weight: 360 pounds
Honda Nighthawk 250
Seat Height: 29.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.3 gallons
Weight: 286 pounds
Honda VLX/VLX Deluxe
Seat Height: 25.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.9 gallons
Weight: 452 pounds
More Powerful Motorcycles for Confident Beginners
The motorcycles below are considered middleweights, the level of motorcycle a typical beginner trades up to after spending time on a 250cc motorcycle. However, some beginning riders who are confident or on the tall side may feel like they overpower a 250cc motorcycle. Or, while the 250cc bike was great to learn on in the training class, they are ready for a “real world” motorcycle. Below is a list of recommended middleweights for new riders who fall into this category.
- Yamaha Star Motorcycles V Star Classic or Custom: Both of these bikes feature a 650cc engine and are similar to each other, except for styling and ergonomics. The Custom has a 27.4-inch seat height, and the Classic has a 27.9-inch seat height. Read a review by a WRN reader.
- Honda Shadow line (Shadow RS, Shadow Phantom, Shadow Aero, Shadow Spirit): All these models share the same 750cc engine—the main differences between them are styling and ergonomics. Seat heights on the Honda Shadow bikes range from a high of 29.4 inches for the RS to a low of 25.7 inches for the Spirit. Read WRN’s review of the Shadow Spirit, as well as a reader review of the Shadow Spirit. You can also read a WRN review of the Aero and a reader review of the Aero.
- Suzuki Boulevard C50T Classic: This is an 800cc middleweight with a 27.6-inch seat height. A low center of gravity makes this bike easy to maneuver around. Read the WRN review of the C50T, a similar model.
- Kawasaki Vulcan S: This 650cc is unique in that the seat, handlebars, and footpegs are adjustable right from the factory giving the motorcycle lots of versatility for new riders. Read the WRN review here.
- Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom: Kawasaki replaced its longstanding 750cc and 800cc Vulcan motorcycles (you can find these on the used market) with the 900cc Vulcan creating a more powerful motorcycle for the higher end of the middleweights (although some will argue a middleweight goes all the way up to 1300cc). We’re listing the Vulcan 900 because it’s typically compared to the Honda Shadow, Yamaha V Star Classic, and Suzuki Boulevard C50T Classic. Seat height is 27 inches. Read the WRN review of the Vulcan 900 Custom.
- Indian Scout Sixty: This is an 1100cc motorcycle, much more powerful than we'd recommend for a beginner, but because the Scout Sixty is the entry-level model for Indian Motorcycle, we are mentioning it, much like we mention the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 as a beginner motorcycle. Power aside, what makes the Scout Sixty appealing to highly confident beginners is that the seat height is so low at 25.2 inches so most new riders can put both feet on the ground, an important factor for beginners gaining control and confidence on a motorcycle. Additionally, the low center of gravity and nimble handling make it easy for beginners to practice their newfound skills. Read our review of the Scout Sixty here.
- Triumph Bonneville: This classic is a longtime favorite among women riders looking for something different. Triumph has expanded the Bonneville line in recent years with many new iterations of this classic. The smallest powered Bonneville is the 900cc, the size we recommend if you feel confident to start on a larger motorcycle such as this. The classic upright seating position makes getting used to a motorcycle easy, but the 29.5-inch seat height could be difficult to manage if you're not tall enough and can't reach your feet flat to the ground. Here's our most recent review by a reader of a classic Triumph Bonneville.
- Honda CBR300R and CBR500R: If you want a true sportbike because perhaps you see racing in your future, Honda offers these two aggressively designed sportbikes. Both can give you a real feel for what it's like to ride a sportbike as both of these bikes have components that are designed and used on Honda's supersport motorcycles. If you want a sporty ride, but not the aggressive lean-over seating position, then consider the CB500F, a more powerful version of the CB300F mentioned above in the beginner's bikes list. Read our story on lightweight step-up motorcycles here.
- Ducati Monster 696: Ducati has tweaked its Monster line a lot over the last two decades. The most recent one we reviewed is the Monster 696 (discontinued in 2014) that works well for confident beginners who can flat foot it. It's compact and rider friendly for riders who want something different.
- Yamaha FZ-07 and Yamaha FZ6R: We reviewed both of these motorcycles, and while Yamaha considers them entry-level for sport-minded riders, we feel you must be really confident or have previous experience to consider either of these as the motorcycle on which you'll practice your newfound riding skills. Both have a more upright seating position, similar to Honda's CB-F series, so that is why we're listing them. Read our review of the Yamaha FZ6R here, and the FZ-07 review here.
Looking for more information about picking a starter bike?
Return to the Choosing Your First Motorcycle section of the WRN Beginner's Guide.
Beginner's Guide: Scenarios & Suggestions for Buying Your First Motorcycle
Riding Right: What to Consider When Buying Your First Motorcycle
New Vs. Used Motorcycles: What’s the Better Buy for You?
164 thoughts on Beginners Guide: Motorcycles to Get Started On
I have a Honda Rebel CMX 500—my first bike and I love it!
This article is everything. I haven’t learned to ride a motorcycle yet but I’m taking the class for my birthday this year. I’ve been using this article to research the purchase of a motorcycle for after the class to continue learning and give myself the opportunity to buy the best piece of equipment. Plan is to try a bunch of these models.But anyway, from a user perspective, it’s easy to follow and makes great suggestions across a few brands. It’s easy to see similarities in the bikes chosen which gives a user additional information like on engine size or power.Thank you for this!
I got my license about eight years ago without ever having been on a motorcycle in my life. I took an accelerated weekend course that ended with a road test. I still don’t know how I passed but I found a 2001 Honda Rebel 250 for $800 that everyone told me would be a great learner bike. But I lived in a very crowded area (Fort Lee, New Jersey) at the time and there was no real good place to practice.I dumped the bike in a park one day when I lost control and was heading toward the Palisades Parkway. I sold the bike and haven’t ridden a motorcycle since. I love being on the back of my boyfriend’s Harley-Davidson and now that I live in the Hudson Valley I want to learn again. I have zero confidence on a bike and need to build it back up. I am actually scared. But I know I can get past this and really want to be as confident on a bike, as I see all these other women riders. A friend has lowered 2008 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Superlow (I’ve sat on it and the size is perfect for me) that has a beautiful custom paint job. I love the bike. She is selling it but I am scared it’s not the bike for me to learn on.My neighbor is selling a 2017 Honda Rebel 300 for about $1200 less. My fear is I will get comfy on the Rebel and then when I want to upgrade I won’t get my money back for the Rebel. I know even if the Harley is sold I can get another one or something else.Last summer I bought a Ninja 250 to learn on because it’s small and light and I figured it would be easy to learn on. But I can only touch the ground with my toes and don’t feel comfortable on it—I don’t like not being able to control it. Also, I don’t like the riding position of a sport bike. It was $600 so I’m not out a lot of money if I don’t ever ride it. I’m torn. Should I get the Rebel and suck it up? I won’t be going on highways with it but I can certainly ride our country roads on it. I am 5 feet 1 inch and weigh about 135 pounds. I’m pretty strong but my confidence on a bike is garbage. What do all the women riders out there think? I’d love to hear from you.
I will be taking the Riding Academy course through our local Harley-Davidson dealership this weekend. I am very excited and a tad scared. I grew up driving everything not two-wheeled (other than a scooter). I also rode on the back with my dad and my husband. I am knowledgeable of working a clutch. I will be shopping for my new bike soon and I am looking for recommendations. I am 46, 5 feet 4 inches, 190 pounds, and I will be using the bike around town and hopefully on Saturday rides with my dad and the local Harley chapter.
The Indian Scout and Indian Scout Sixty while having “more cc” than you feel is suitable for a beginner are very beginner-friendly. There is more to consider in purchasing a bike: balance, standard seat height, hand control placement, weight. I’ve only been riding two years, so I might not be that seasoned. But I’ve only owned the Scout and love it. I can maneuver it being only 5 feet 3 inches—it’s not top heavy and smaller controls fit my hands.Even the Indian Springfield is easily managed when considering balance and weight. Hand controls on the 2018 Springfield are better than older models. I’m just waiting on a color I can’t resist.
I just wanted to thank you for this article! It was incredibly helpful! I had my heart set on a much bigger bike until I read this, as I am a first time rider. This list and all of the information you provided, there are so many things that I didn’t even think about until I went through this. I also love hearing from female riders! Thank you again!
Any thoughts on the Yamaha R3 as a sportbike? I noticed you have its bigger siblings (like the R6) listed in the “confident beginner” section, but I was surprised to not see it mentioned, since I’ve seen a lot of women comment that they started riding on that bike, and it seems on par with the others in that section.
We do not have the R6 listed, as that bike is too powerful for a beginner. We recommend the FZ-07 or FZ6R for confident beginners. However, the R3 would make a great choice for the beginner looking for a sportbike as her first motorcycle.
I’m looking at starting the process of taking the MSF course, getting my license and buying my first bike. I’m still in college and on a budget. I’m looking at dual sport bikes mainly and cruisers too. Being a new, short (5 feet 3 inches), female rider are there any beginner, short dual sport bikes you recommend?
Dual sport bikes by nature are going to be taller than other types of motorcycles, because a long suspension travel and ground clearance is critical to riding off-road. While there are a good crop of new small-displacement dual sport motorcycles these days, you’re going to need to make modifications, such as reduced-reach seat, shortened suspension, and/or lowering links to be able to reach the ground.The BMW R 310 GS and Kawasaki Versys 300 are good places to start. Talk to your local dealers about what they can do to lower these motorcycles.
I started on a Honda Rebel 250. Great starter bike! I went to the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy a few weeks ago where we rode Street 500s. I thought the bike was top heavy and I had a very hard time making tight turns, partly because of a fear of tipping over.Once I passed the course and got my license I went back to my Rebel and was oh so grateful for that course. I felt I could throw that little Rebel around like it was a bicycle. I got on my Harley Sportster 1200L and the fear of turning sharp kind of came back! So I just bought a XL883L Sporty. It’s narrower and I feel I will have an easier time gaining skills before moving on to a bigger, heavier bike.I am 55 years old, 5 feet 1 inch, and 135 pounds. I wish I would have learned to ride motorcycle a long time ago when I wanted to and was fearless! Anyway, what really bothers me about some salesmen and some men in general is they say to start out on the bike you want. What a bunch of BS! They don’t understand what a lot of women have to overcome learning to ride. Many of us are much smaller and yes, weaker than most men. We can’t just jump onto the bike we really want. For me, it would be a Heritage or Street Glide. If I started out on the bike I want it would be an absolute disaster!
Congratulations on passing the course, and welcome to the club! We’re glad you trusted yourself and got the motorcycle you feel most comfortable on. With lots of practice on the smaller, more manageable motorcycles, you’ll soon gain the skill and confidence to move up to your dream bike before you know it. In the meantime, keep on riding safely.
Great information as always. I’m completely hooked on your site. It’s helped me a lot since I made the decision to ride on my own instead of being a passenger. I got my permit and am taking the MSF course in March. I have sat on a few bikes, none of them a 250cc though. One of the local Harley dealers provides Street 500s for the MFS course I’ll be attending, so I haven’t bothered.Taking a step back after learning on a 500cc bike didn’t and still doesn’t make sense to me personally, for my situation. The Rebel 500 is nice, but actually scares me because of how light it is. I’ve always been on big cruisers, so it was a little unnerving to be able to move a bike so easily. I was much more comfortable on the Shadow Phantom I tried and am strongly considering, because it wasn’t such a pushover. Used of course. I’m 5 feet 1 inch, about 150 pounds and still losing, with a 27.5-inch inseam. Would this be an alright bike for me or should I still go small? Thanks for the great content you provide for us newbies and experienced alike. Very much appreciated.
The Harley Street 500 you will ride in class will be set up so that it’s impossible to over-accellerate out of control. It’s a built-in safety feature the dealers all must comply with in order to make the 500 safe enough for beginners. You also won’t have an opportunity to shift beyond second gear or go any faster than 25 mph. So thinking that you’re “stepping backward” if you chose a bike that’s 500ccs or less is a somewhat skewed way of thinking.Ultimately, the best choice for you is the bike you feel most comfortable and confident on. I encourage you to take the course first and make the purchase second. Using good self-assessment strategies, you’ll know whether your skills are competent enough to handle a larger, heavier, more powerful bike than the one you learn on. Most new riders do best by choosing a bike that is light and small to start with, and trading up once their skills are more developed.We wish you luck!
I’ve had my license since August 2016 and am riding a Yamaha V Star 250. I think it is a great starter bike to help gain confidence and get experience. I’ve ridden more than 100 miles in one day a few times and the worst problem I had was my hand cramping.I’m 5 feet and both feet are flat on the ground. I have tipped it over when backing it into the garage and had no trouble getting it upright. Next year, I’d like to upgrade to a Kawasaki Vulcan S because I feel much more comfortable riding thanks to my V Star.
I got my license in 2004. I had a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster Hugger and 1200 Classic in the beginning and hated both of them! I’m short—5 feet 2 inches—and need a lower center of gravity. I bought a 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan Mean Streak 1600 (top picture) that I kept for 11 years. It was the best (bright green) and traded it for a 2008 Harley Dyna Wide Glide CVO (bottom picture) but I didn’t like the skinny front tire. It had great power but I didn’t like the ride. I’ve owned my first bagger, a 2016 Harley Street Glide (middle picture) and love it. I call it Miss Ice Pearl. Short girls can ride lots of bikes.
I disagree with 70 percent of the bikes on this list. The Indian Scout should be at the top of the list. The Scout is the best-balanced bike made. It feels a lot smaller than it actually is and the handling is superb. Harleys are all top-heavy no matter what model you choose. Buying any of the other bikes you will grow out of them real quick and you will take a big hit when you try to sell them. Furthermore, if you try riding with other riders or in a group they will have to have a lot of patience because you can’t stay up with them even on the highway. The Scout will keep up with everyone no matter what they ride. It is good enough for a beginner as well as the experienced rider. And it has good resale value when you decide you’re ready to upgrade to a larger bike later down the road. That aspect is never brought up.
Thanks for your opinion Jim. We have found an overwhelming majority of new riders will learn much more safely on a small displacement motorcycle—one that is lightweight enough to be able to balance and maneuver easily in precarious scenarios while the new rider develops riding and road skills. The Scout, which has a torquey 1130cc engine, is indeed well-balanced and easy to maneuver, but can be a handful of engine to a brand-new rider.Reselling a good used small-displacement cc motorcycle is actually quite easy, as there is always a market of new riders looking for an easy-to-ride first bike to learn on.And if a new rider is “trying to keep up” with other riders who are frustrated waiting for them, they are riding with the wrong people. New riders should find riding buddies who respect your riding style and learning curve. Never try to keep up and ride outside of your own comfort zone.
This is an excellent site—thank you so much.I’m 5 feet, 106 pounds, and sat on a Kawasaki Ninja 650 (great bike but too heavy) and a Suzuki GW250 (love this bike, but way too high a seat height). Any other suggestions? My preference is a sport-tourer now instead of a cruiser (I have a Suzuki S40) and all I need is 250cc.
Hi Pam,With very little information about you other than your size and style preference, it’s difficult to offer suggestions. I would suggest you visit your local BMW dealer and try to test ride a few models. The G650 GS, F700 GS, or F800 Gs may fit the bill for you. These are all popular models with women, because they are light, easy to maneuver, and BMW can install a lower seat and suspension before you take ownership if you choose this option. The GS line are technically “adventure” bikes, but they can be ridden sporty and offer great touring-friendly features.Good luck!
I started out on a Suzuki GZ250. Great bike. Now I have a Kawasaki Vulcan S 650cc with ABS brakes. Love the bike! At first I wondered if I got too much of a bike because the torque was so much more than the little 250. But I was ready for it. But I strongly urge women not to feel like a wimp if you want to start out on a smaller bike. You need to learn the fundamentals and maneuvers of riding a motorcycle on the street and in traffic. Then you can think about more power.
Thanks for your valuable feedback. You are so right on here!
Great article.I love the feedback you provide to the individual bike specifics.Here’s my situation:I am 5 feet 2 inches and ride a scooter. I want to move to a motorcycle that has the agility that my fun scooter has. I need to go faster safely at times. I like the retro style and don’t want to lean forward. Nearby Hill Country is calling my name but not on a scooter. I read about the Indian Scout and the Honda Rebel. I don’t want to grow out of something within six months but I know 500 pounds is too much for me in hills and hilly city.Ideas?
You didn’t tell us what kind of scooter you ride, but there are several powerful scooters available that can easily keep up with mid-sized motorcycles. Check out our scooter reviews here.The new Honda Rebel is available in both 300 and 500ccs. The 500 weighs just 408 pounds, and the 300 weighs just 364 pounds! Both would be good starter bikes that are able to handle Hill Country comfortably. The Scout Sixty is a great motorcycle, but we don’t recommend them to true beginners, due to its larger (1000cc), torquey engine. Check out our review of the Indian Scout Sixty here.Good luck and let us know how it goes!
I loved this article. I’m 59 years old and 5 feet tall and weigh 128 pounds. I will be taking a bike safety course this spring. Was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find a bike for my height but now know that I will. Thanks!
I love my Yamaha XT250. Yes, it’s a bit taller than most of the bikes listed but it’s only 291 pounds and I can easily flat-foot it (I’m 5 feet 7 inches). It’s perfect for my short commute to work, running errands around town, and weekend excursions around the state. I walk into work smiling every day that I ride it.
My first bike was a Honda CB350, a very long time ago. When I got back into riding, I tried out the Harley 883 SuperLow, but even after taking training it was way too much bike for me, and too top heavy (I’m 5 feet 4 inches). I traded it in for a Honda 250 Rebel, and loved that bike. Once I got a little more confident, it was hard work keeping up with my husband’s big honkin’ Harley, so I traded up to the Harley Street 750. What a great bike! With the lower seat and the handlebars set back, I could ride all day. Highly recommend the Street! I trained on the 500, and they weigh essentially the same, so the 750 gives a little more oomph without making it too heavy, a big concern for little old me.
I see you mentioned a Honda Grom as a good learner/beginner bike. While the bike is easy to handle, new riders need to be aware of how easy it is to use too much front brake and flip on this particular bike. Some riding schools use them as trainers. I have seen a student go over the handlebars in a quick stop. I have heard RiderCoaches say they almost flipped them as well. Just something to be aware of.
My first ride was a Yamaha V Star 250. I’m only 5 feet 2 inches and this bike was a perfect learner bike. I was flat-footed on it and it was lightweight. After putting about 4,000 miles on it, I upgraded to a Harley Softail Slim—a huge leap in engine size. But the Slim sits so low. With such a low center of gravity, it feels really good and handles well.
While taking the MSF RiderCoach certification course, they had us ride a different bike from their inventory for each exercise. This gave me the chance to ride many of the 250’s in the list, and the Honda Grom. I really enjoyed riding the Grom, even at 5 feet 4 inches it was easy to maneuver through the “box,” which is a double U-turn. The Honda Rebel 250 is always a good choice, it is carbureted and can be finicky in the winter. If you choose to purchase a 250cc or less, yes, you will more than likely outgrow the bike, but these bikes are not intimidating and good bikes to build and improve your skills on. You can pick them up used for a good price and sell them when your feeling comfortable and ready to step up to your next adventure.After completing the BRC, I went out and got a Harley-Davidson Dyna Low. I found the bike to be a little intimidating in the beginning, but it was a very stable platform and not too top-heavy. If I was to do it again I would have picked up a used 250cc to motor around on for about six months and then step up to the Dyna and sell the 250cc to the next gal or guy. After five years on my Dyna I decided to hop on a Softail Slim S which I adore. For most of us, our first is not our last…the ride is addicting, and you change what you are looking for in a bike as you become more experienced.
Is the 2017 Honda CB500X ABS a good dual-sport for me? The seat height of 31.8 might be too high for me. Or which sportbike should I get as a new rider? My husband and I would like to be able to ride from our house on asphalt county roads to forest roads. I don’t have a bike yet—just took the test and have the license.
While in concept, a small underpowered dual-sport seems like an ideal choice for a new rider, most of those motorcycles have high seat heights, which is needed for the tire clearance for riding off road. Seat heights higher than 30 inches are too high for the average height woman to reach the ground with her feet flat.We’ve found the highest chances in succeeding in learning to ride a motorcycle and then practicing on one happen when the rider is fully in control of the motorcycle, and that comes when both feet are firmly planted on the ground. In your situation, it might be best to learn on the street on a motorcycle on which you are completely comfortable, then move up to a dual-sport once you have complete confidence in the handling of a motorcycle.
I think the Indian Scout definitely could be as good a contender for this list as the Harley 883! When I decided, at age 53, to move up from my 2-year-old Vespa to a “real” bike, I read all the “best/most popular bikes for beginners” articles I could find, and knowing I wanted something that I could ride for years, rather than months, I decided to go for the Harley 883 Sportster, but, stupidly, without ever really “sitting” it. I found a good deal on a used one, my husband rode it home for me, and BAM! – I hated it. Felt too top heavy, and intimidated the crap out of me. Over the next year or so, I made myself ride it occasionally, thinking I would get used to it, but I just couldn’t get comfortable with it. Dropped it more times than I care to admit, when stopping. Thinking I had to stay with the herd (Harley) I decided I would test ride a SuperLow or Dyna. Before I did, though, I saw some great end-of-year specials at a nearby Indian dealer, and decided to try the Scout. HALLELUJAH! Two quick turns around a few large shopping centers in Round Rock/Austin, and I was hooked! Bought it right then and there. Great seat height, forward controls, easy to handle, rides like a dream. Because of my experience with the Sportster, I am definitely not the most confident rider, I’m sad to say, and yet, I have zero fear of this bike. It was no less than miraculous to me. If a ‘fraidy-cat like me can handle it, anyone can!
My first bike was a Yamaha V Star Custom 1100. There is virtually no size or weight difference between the 650 and the 1100. When shopping for a bike, experienced riders explained to me that the power would be there when I was ready for it, but that it was a great starter bike. I would encourage new riders not to be scared of a more powerful bike. They’ll be able to enjoy the pleasure for years to come.
This is a nice overview but I did not see mentioning the Daelim Daystar or the Hyosung cruiser bikes. Both are Korean bikes 125 or 250cc. The Daelim is very common in Spain, UK, Austria, Australia. I have one myself and was very happy to be able to have this as my starter bike. Very easy to maneuver and comfortable to sit on. Also very reliable because they exist for more than 15 years as same model. I am still in love with my Daelim, even though I now also have a Kawasaki Vulcan VN800 cruiser. I still use the Daelim for short distance commuting and to go downtown (easier for parking). I learned a lot on my Dealim and it protected me from stupid accidents on my Kawasaki 800cc. They say the Daelim is a typical lady and beginners bike, but in my opinion what counts is that you like the bike and it is a reliable and safe one. More than 250cc becomes, in my opinion, dangerous for a beginner because of the lack of experience how to control the power and heavy weight of the bike. Here is a picture of my Daelim with crash bars, fog lights, sissy bar, and side bags which I added.
I really love this article. I’ve been thinking of getting a bike and the license to go with it. I fell in love with motorcycles because of my grandpa. But I haven’t ridden one in a long time. I’d be a complete beginner and am a little nervous. I’m willing to learn how to ride on a manual motorcycle but I wonder if an automatic would be better for a 5-foot girl like myself. Anyone with advice is welcome.
Hi Jada,We’re glad you asked! We’ve posted your question in our Your Questions section and putting it out there for our readers to respond. You can see your question here, and read all the responses as they come in. So check back often to see the latest responses.
I love bikes with a passion! The article is awesome!
Thank you so much for this article. I fell in love with motorecycles thanks to my ex and when I dumped him was left with a Suzuki Bandit 1200 with custom pipes and headers. I tried to learn to ride it, but standing at only 5 feet 4 inches I could only touch the ground with my toes, and it was heavy. So I sold it and took a major hit after dropping it. But I’m ready to really learn and didn’t want to end up with a bike I can’t ride again. I just didn’t know where to start.
Just checking in again after you gave me some great advice from my last comment. I ended up getting the Yamaha R3, which was released after this article was published. I am ecstatic over it, so I wanted to add it to the list here. It is small (ish) and easy to handle, even for a petite shorty like me, but it has enough speed and power to grow into (up to 119 mph at the track).
Do you have a brochure you can mail to my house. It’s very good. I really am impress for I am going to be a very new beginner.
Hi Rosa,Unfortunately, we do not have a brochure of this page, but you are welcome to print out the page for reference. Good luck to you. Keep us posted!
Don’t forget the early 1980s Honda Shadow 500 and v30 Magna cruisers. Lots of them out there, virtually problem-free and enough power to easily take down a Sportster. Low seat height and low weight. Shaft drive and water-cooled. Magna was chain drive.
Thank you for this article! It led me through the process with ease and helped pick my first bike, a Star V Star 250. Do you have a guide for picking the next bike after a starter? There are so many out there and frankly, it’s quite daunting. Do you have any suggestions?
Kelly,I’m so glad our Beginner’s Guide helped you choose your first motorcycle. From here, there are so many options based on how comfortable you are on your starter motorcycle. One of the things our website does best is share information from current riders who have been in your same shoes. You’ll need to spend time reading all these people’s opinions to decide what route is best for you. I invite you to continue spending time in our Beginner’s Guide: Choosing a Bike section, and then spend time browsing our reader stories in the Your Stories section. Many readers like to share how they got started and the path of motorcycles they chose over the years. You can glean a lot of information that way.
A couple bikes that might also serve as good “adventurous beginner” bikes:Kawasaki Vulcan S: a 650 parallel-twin cruiser with a smooth throttle, moderately light weight (under 500 pouds), and easy (time-of-purchase) ergo customizations for seat height, bars, and peg placement. This is a peppy ride with ABS and can make a lifelong commuter as well as a good slab hauler — and it looks pretty swank, to boot!Moto Guzzi V7 II (2016+) series: A “modern classic” like the Triumph Bonnie, but 80 pounds lighter and with a narrower frame. The transverse flywheel effect (start it up and it rocks slightly to the right) may cause new riders to raise an eyebrow, but the revised gearbox is super smooth and accurate, plus it comes with ABS, traction control, and a nearly 300 mile range. A bulletproof bike with a very amenable throttle. Earlier models suffered from a mushy gearbox with a long throw for shifts, but can be had for a song. Best (or worst) of all, every old biker dude in a three block radius will want to chat you up!
Thanks for the great feedback Doug. I agree that these are good bikes for the larger stature of men to start out on, or confident beginning female riders. Riders interested can read our review of the Vulcan S here on WRN.
Thank you for this article and this website. It’s so helpful to know what’s out there, especially for short, beginner, and female riders. I feel my options are very limited at 5 feet 1 inch, 110 pounds with a 27.5-inch inseam in my bare feet, especially as I’m leaning more toward a sportbike. Wanted to add that I just tried out a Sym Wolf 150cc and it is about the least intimidating starter bike that I’ve ever seen, and cheaper than the Grom. I felt quite comfortable and in control at its 30-inch seat height, although I was not quite flat footed. I am more adventurous, however, and want something that I can take on the highway for short trips as well as tool around town on. In San Diego, car drivers regularly go 50mph on major streets and cruise at 75mph on highways, and I just feel safer on a faster bike than my current 125cc scooter. I was looking at the Honda CB300F because of it’s narrow and factory-optional 29.7-inch seat. The 500F was just too tall for me. Thanks to YOU GUYS I now know of the Ducati Monster 696. After reading specs on it and knowing I have a factory option of dropping it to 29.5 inches, I feel as if this bike was made for me. Do you think it’s too much of a jump from a scooter? Can’t wait to check one out.
Hard to say if it’s a big jump or not because I’m not aware of your own personal experience with the scooter. I will say this. The Monster is a powerful motorcycle, but in my opinion sized for “advanced” beginners. I would highly recommend a test ride before buying.
Great article. I am signed up for the MSF class this weekend. My husband just bought a HD Road King and we hope to be doing some riding in North Georgia, Carolinas and Tennessee. I am 5 feet 8 inches, about 180 pounds and fairly strong for my age (51). I rode dirt bikes as a youngster, but that was, oh 35 to 40 years ago. I don’t want to get too heavy of a bike. Was looking at the HD Fat Boys or Softail Slim, but am thinking those may not be starter bikes for me. Am leaning more towards the Honda Shadow Aero (with ABS) or Spirit, and also found a very nice HD Hugger close to me. We also have a gravel driveway that we must drive 1/4 mile down each time we leave and return.My main question, are there suggestions on a starter bike that I can gain confidence with, and which will also be comfortable to accompany my husband on longer day rides, maybe three to four hours at a time?Thanks for any advice or direction you can provide.
Melanie,Thanks for asking us that great question. Because you are taller than most women, and have experience on dirt bikes, you should be fine starting on a Hugger, Aero, or Spirit and be comfortable for several hours and be able to keep up easily with the bigger motorcycles.Normally, I wouldn’t recommend that size of a motorcycle (both power and physical size) to a true beginner, but because of your height and previous experience with motorized two wheels, I think you could handle those size bikes.I’d recommend staying off the gravel for the first few hundred miles. Have someone ride the bike to the pavement for you. You need to get a feel for the motorcycle on solid ground. You have a high chance of dropping it on the gravel when you’re still learning the weight distribution and handling of new motorcycle. In the end, you must choose what you will be comfortable with both physically and intuitively. If you still want to go smaller because those middleweight 750cc motorcycles feel just too big — even slightly — check out something like a used 450cc Honda Rebel (harder to come by than a 250cc), and a say a Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD. Both are quite comfortable and can keep up with bigger motorcycles. Keep searching and don’t buy anything until it feels “just right,” as Goldilocks says.
I just bought a 2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. I am a beginner. I had lowering shocks put on it, and I think the height is fine, it just seems really heavy. I have only ridden it half a block and then off on gravel, which sucked me in — I almost laid it down but caught it. My husband thinks it’s to heavy for me and I hate to think he is right. I’m 5 feet 2 inches, 170 pounds. What do I do? I haven’t even made a payment on it yet. I’m really discouraged.
First question I would ask you, Tina, is did you take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training class to learn how to ride a motorcycle? If so, then great. While this motorcycle may seem heavy, lots of practice in the controlled environment of a large empty parking lot should get you used to the feel of the motorcycle. Typically, we advise beginners fresh from the MSF class to start on a smaller motorcycle like a 250cc because of exactly what you are experiencing. You need to get the “feel” of the motorcycle while eliminating the distraction of the bike feeling heavy, especially for a woman of your small a stature. In time, with lots of practice stopping, starting, accelerating, and turning in a parking lot, you will get used to the Sportster. Unfortunately, you’ve added that extra hurdle of also having to deal with it feeling heavy. If you have not take a motorcycle training class, do not get on that Sportster again. Find out where you can take the beginner class in your area at msf-usa.org, then take the class. After passing it you will have a better feel for riding your Sportster. Good luck and keep us posted!
Great article. My husband bought me a 750 Honda Shadow and as a beginner, it was a bit unnerving but with adjustments it has become quite easy to ride, even as a first bike. My biggest fear is dropping it, and I do ride alone.
Good list of beginner and not so beginner bikes. I wonder why you left out the Hyosung Aquila (GV250)? The bike frame is a bit bigger than the Honda Rebel or Yamaha V Star 250. It is made by Suzuki Motors. This bike has the spunk of the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD and about the same size as well.
Thanks for bringing that to our attention. We will add it to the list on the next update.
Been riding for 15 years. I am 5 feet 2 inches and 125 pounds. Have started on smaller bikes, but I am on my third Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic and wouldn’t ride anything else. Have traded the bike in about every 50,000. It is a great ride, it “fits me,” and is very reliable. I also have a great service team at Nault’s Windham Honda in New Hampshire.
My first bike was a 2005 Sportster and I would never recommend a Sportster as a beginner bike (now), specially at 4 feet 11 inches, and 95 pounds. I didn’t ride it much and took it on one adventure (San Jose to Long Beach and back). I sold it in 2010 and didn’t think much of it except every year in the springtime when I got the itch to ride. Fast forward to 2015. This was the year I really took a renewed interest in riding, read about each of the bikes you have listed as beginner bikes, looked at as many of them in person, considered my riding level, demographics, height/weight and just didn’t find anything that sparked my interest. Ultimately, I chose the Harley-Davidson FreeWheeler (trike), thanks to my husband. While, I would rather ride on two wheels, I love the ease of riding the FreeWheeler and the fact that I can go on longer road trips. Sure, I have to remember that I now have a back end to consider when pulling up to the gas pump or a curb, and no I can’t split lanes in California, or squeeze into a small motorcycle spot, but for me (and my husband) the most important thing is I am out riding. That’s what puts the big smile on my face.
I’ve been lucky enough to find a Virago 250 for my first bike. I selected this model for weight and height (and looks, I love the cruiser aesthetic), rather than power. She’s been absolutely fantastic to learn on and I would recommend for anyone who may be a little intimidated by a heavier bike. Having said that, I’m now at a stage where I am ready to move onto a bigger bike. But I already know that this little gem will be the bike I most fondly remember in years to come.
A lot of great information! Thank you!
My first bike and what I am still riding is a Honda CBR500R. I took the MSF course on a Honda 250 and felt that was too small. I’m very happy with the 500 but hope to “grow” into something a little bigger and possibly a cruiser. I have added saddlebags and a windshield extender which has helped with highway/freeway wind resistance. I will be doing my first long distance ride to Colorado in July and looking forward to every mile.
In windy west Texas I always recommend a low and wide. Low seat and wide front tire and always used for the first six months! After six months you will have an idea of what (and how) you like to ride. Don’t spend a lot of money either. That will come with your second bike. There aren’t a lot of 250s out here because you need more weight due to the many high winds but there are lots of 650 and 750s.
Great to find a site to support women’s interest in bikes. I am just about to get my license at the age of 56. Whoohoo!
I started out on a Rebel 250. Perfect bike for me to learn on. I now own several bikes, 125cc to 1200ccBut looking at your list of bikes, I had to laugh at the comment of getting a ‘real world’ bike vs. a 250. What, exactly, is a real world bike? My Rebel will do everything my 1200cc BMW will do, and will also do things the BMW won’t do (like USFS roads, gravel farm roads, etc). Of all the 31 bikes in the garage, the Rebel is what I go to first. So please, do us all a favor, don’t tell people that a 250cc bike is just a beginner bike. Unless you feel the need to impress people or are peer-pressured into a specific make so you will “fit in,” a 250 is a great bike.
I’m new to the world of the motorbike but my experiences thus far have opened my eyes somewhat since I would never have thought that my limited height would have cause such a concern. I’m learning to ride a bike for the first time in 50 years and whilst it would appear that it is little more than an itch, that is just the appearance, time will tell. I found the article of interest because bike height has become a real concern and something I will need to think seriously about and one other point. It’s not just a concern for the ladies.
I purchased a 2014 Yamaha TMax 530cc. It is a fast bike. I have added aftermarket pipes, with a commander 5 fuel mapping. What i wan’t to know is will my scoot beat a Harley 883. Will it also beat the Yamaha Bolt. Thank you.
We have not tested the Bolt against a TMax scooter so we really don’t know if it will beat your scooter or not.
One bike not mentioned is Ridley. While they did stop production in 2010 or 2011, they still support the bikes and parts are readily available. No shift with a CVT tranny, low center of gravity, low seat height. It weighs about 450 pounds with the engine, a 750cc. I have an ’07 AutoGlide TT and she’s a blast to ride. While I wouldn’t do any long distance riding on her though I did twice (I have a V Star 1100 Custom), I know a number of folks who do. On the freeway, I can keep up with the husband on his Ultra or his Victory Vegas.These days, Ridleys are reasonably priced and can sometimes be found on eBay and there is a dealer in Joplin, Missouri, that deals in them. Oh, I’m 5 feet 3 inches and weigh 140 pounds.
I learned a lot about several different motor vehicles. Thanks for your information.
Hello!I’m new, I just got my license today!! Now the grueling task of try to pair me with my first bike. I was leaning towards a Honda rebel or Suzuki boulevard. Someone mentioned the Suzuki may be to heavy for me. I’m 5’0 and about 105 lbs… Don’t know if that makes a difference.They recommended the buell blast 500cc for a beginner? He advised the Honda rebel is good but if something happens it doesn’t have that much power? Any advice is appreciated
Hi Stacie,I am going to put your question on our Question and Answer section to let our readers respond. You may want to visit it now as there is a reader who had a similar question. You’ll also want to look at this story What to Consider When buying Your First Motorcycle.
Hello, I am looking for a proper bike for me. I was looking at the new Triumph Speedmaster and wondered if it would be a good starter bike for me? I’m 5-feet-2 and weigh about 145 pounds.
I don’t recommend a middleweight motorcycle, those that are 800cc to 1300cc as a beginner motorcycle. They are not meant for beginners who are still getting use to the handling and maneuverability of a motorcycle. The Speedmaster is 865cc and is much larger in size than a beginner 250c or 500cc motorcycle making it more difficult for a beginner to practice the basics of a motorcycle. Click here to see a story about the Triumph Speedmaster and other Triumph motorcycles.
What about trike models? Or would you just convert a motorcycle into a trike?
Since riding a trike or any other three-wheeler does not involve balance, it can make for an ideal beginner vehicle, however one must be cognizant of the engine size. Even though a trike is easier to handle than a motorcycle because it does not involve balance, a large engine, bigger than say 1100cc, does take finesse to handle so having some experience “handling” a bigger engine is advised before getting on any trike without experience. Here’s a list of the three-wheelers we’ve reviewed.
Thank you so much for the article! This has helped me establish what to look for in a bike. I am a beginner with a household of riders. I’ve got your page booked marked. Thanks again!
I am 6 feet 1 inch and 250 pounds, 6-year-old male. I rode dirt bike as a teenager but nothing since. Thinking of getting a used Gold Wing but not sure. I just don’t want to look like Buddha on a mini bike. Suggestions appreciated.
I’m 5 feet 3 inches and weigh about 115 pounds, rather small, even for women. I want to get a bike mainly for use in the highway for my daily 30 mile (40 minute to 1 hour) commute to school.I want something small but since I want it for highway use I’m not sure what’s best to get. Do you have any recommendations?
(Response to Elizabeth, April 11, 2014). I also have a Honda Shadow Aero 750. I’m 5 feet 3 inches 130-ish pounds. On the showroom floor I first thought the Aero was too wide for me, but the more I sat on it, the more comfortable I got (the height of riding boots makes a difference too). What really sold me was the two-tone white pearl/silver and old-school look. Otherwise I probably would have gotten the Spirit. I’ve had it almost a year and have added saddlebags and floorboards. I also had my windshield cut down because I wanted the ability to see over it. My next thing to add is a flashing brake light (a $30 part but $90-150 to install it)! I hope you’re enjoying yours as I am mine. Oh, I was 48 when I got my motorcycle license.
I am a 44-year-old 5-foot 7-inch woman and just purchased my first road bike, a 2012 Yamaha classic cruiser and I can tell you I have only been out on the road for a week and I am having the best time. My friend and I decided as our kids are grown now, it is time for us — and man, are we having a ball! Oh by the way, my bike is awesome. I thought it would be too big but it’s not. It’s perfect.
[Response to Melanie’s comment on April 9, 2014]I had the same concerns when I got my first bike. I’m 5 feet 7 inches and 240 pounds. I bought a 2013 V Star custom and it had plenty of power for me. My husband rides a Harley and I was able to keep up no problem. The V Star sits quite low and is a good starter bike. No frills. The seat isn’t the most comfortable and my butt would be sore after about 60 miles but I didn’t have the confidence to go bigger at the time. Have since moved up to Harley Softail Deluxe and love it but do not regret getting the V Star first.
[Response to Melanie’s comment on April 9, 2014]I am 5-feet-4 and weigh more than 200 pounds and got my first bike at 56. I adore my Honda Shadow Aero! At 750cc it has all the power I need and it is low enough for me to always be flat footed. Have fun and be safe.
[Response to Melanie’s comment on April 9, 2014]I’m 4-foot-9 and 230 pounds. I ride a 07 Yamaha V Star 650 and it has been lowered for me. I truly love it. Has awesome power. My husband, who is more than 400 pounds, has rode it around the block said it was great but just too short for him. It is also great with the way the weight is on it. Women use their hips to support the bike not the upper body like men. Make sure when trying a bike you can flat foot. Get the perfect fit before buying a bike.
[Response to Melanie’s comment on April 9, 2014]I’m 5-foot-2 and about 210 pounds. I ride (and started out) on a 2011 Harley-Davidson 883 SuperLow. I love this bike! It maneuvers well, is comfortable, and has the power to cruise on the highway. While I have used it mostly for a daily 100-mile round-trip commute, I also enjoy riding with my husband, who is on a Dyna or an Ultra Classic. My longest trip was 350 miles to New Mexico and back over a 3-day weekend. My tush was a little sore at the end of each riding day, but not enough to keep me from climbing back on the next morning for another great ride. I’ll probably get a Pro-Pad Air before I take off for the next weekend ride.
[Response to Melanie’s comment on April 9, 2014]I appreciated this article for what it was aimed at beginner riders.I started out riding my dad’s Honda Nighthawk 250, but after a month he put me on his Honda Shadow 500. Though I have ridden that now for two seasons I was ready to move up to an 1100 last year. Unfortunately, not financially so this year I am riding a Suzuki GR650 Tempter. I did go on a test ride for the 2014 Indian line and as far as I am concerned they are like riding heaven on two wheels!
I am a newbie…already took my course and got my license and can’t wait to get my first bike this spring. I was hoping for some advice. I am not a small person…275 pounds and 5 feet 4 inches, and am concerned about what would be best for me. Currently my top two choices are the V Star Custom and the Suzuki Boulevard S40, both 650cc and in the 300 to 400 pound range (which I am confortable with). Because of my size I am concerned that an engine that size won’t be “strong enough” I guess. I feel like it’s a silly concern, but it’s there. Do you have any advice you could share?
Thanks for your question Melanie. It is a valid one. Most motorcycles are engineered for an average size man, 180 pounds. A male acquaintance of mine, who has got to be at least 230 pounds, rides a V Star Custom that he owns. He has never said anything about it not being able to handle his size.To get a better response though, you should try and test ride one of these motorcycles because “strong enough” is a subjective question. Strong enough for you may be different for someone else. I always recommend starting out small anyway. I think either of those motorcycles should work just fine for you. Both of these 650cc motorcycles have plenty of power for what someone at your skill level should need. I highly recommend you sign up to be part of the WRN Forum where there are more than 800 women available to ask that question to. It is a very caring, nurturing place to be to ask honest questions like that.
I like this article very much. I am from Asia. I rode a Kawasaki Eliminator. Riding situation? Raw nature, no smooth roads like in the US. Lots of mountains and potholes! I felt very comfortable with the Eliminator. Good for ladies who are shorter in height. I am only 5 feet 4 inches and bit on heavy side. Just finished training with the H-D rider’s training in St. Petes, endorsing in process. Yet to decide on bike. But I am inclined to my old one. Yet to “feel” American roads but gearing up! Glad to find this website.
I recommend taking the motorcycle safety class, watching the Ride Like A Pro DVDs or on YouTube, and then decide what motorcycle is right for you. I am 5 feet 1 inches (rounding up) and ride a 2007 Big Dog Mastiff. Not a small bike, yet it is my first! In the safety class, I rode a Kawasaki 125 Eliminator, which was more difficult to handle than the Big Dog. The difference is the Big Dog was lowered, and I had a push seat made so the bike fit me. These are the only two bikes I have ever ridden. On my 51st birthday, I spent 20 minutes in the parking lot and then took it out on the road.That was September of 2013, and now I ride every chance I get. I ride with my husband, groups, and a lot of the time alone; it doesn’t matter as long as I get to ride. Confidence, along with the right training and support of the great women on this website, is all you need to get started. Don’t let the size be the issue. Find the one that feels right to you and customize as needed.
How fun you have a Big Dog Mastiff. That was one of the first motorcycles I test rode when I started Women Riders Now. You can click on the link in your comment to read it, or click here to go to my review if you’re interested.And thanks for sharing your thoughts. We at WRN are of the same mindset, advocating taking the motorcycle training course first, then deciding what motorcycle you want to buy.
I’m looking Into finally getting a motorcycle. I’m a beginner and kind of skeptical of which kind of motorcycle I should get. I’m 5-feet-4 about 210 pounds. People tell me I should try to get something like a 250 or 600, but nothing higher until I get really comfortable with being on the road and get more experienced. I would like a good brand with great reviews. I would like to eventually get a sportbike like a Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki.
We have lots of reviews on all kinds of motorcycles on Women Riders Now. Just type what you’re looking for in the search field and start browsing. Good luck!
I have always dreamed of having my own bike, but I have always lacked the confidence to take an MSF course. I’m 5 feet 7 inches and about 145 pounds. My biggest fear is not being strong enough to keep the bike balanced. I don’t want to start out with something that is too small but also don’t want to get over my head in something I can’t handle. I love both Harleys and “Bullet” bikes. I’m a firm believer that just like any other vehicle, it’s the driver not the machine. If they can’t handle the vehicle they’re operating responsibly, they have no business operating it.
What kind of a jump is it to go from a 250cc to something like a 1500cc? I’ve been building my confidence this year on the little dude, but would really like to get something like a Harley-Davidson Super Glide! Am I crazy? Should I be looking at something in the middle? I have to travel a few miles over dirt and gravel to get to the main road and I don’t need to be taking diggers if I can help it. Any advice?
A Harley-Davidson Super Glide, while it’s a big jump in power from the 250cc, is not that big of a jump in physical size. The Super Glide is a narrow cruiser style motorcycle with a low seat height that should work fine for you assuming you can touch the ground flat footed. That’s the key here… having total physical control over the motorcycle has you make the jump to a bigger bike. If you have to tiptoe it or can’t reach the ground then I’d suggest something smaller.
Well my husband just bought a motorcycle and now he wants to get me one next year. I’m not to sure if I want one. I’m short, only 5 feet and weight 86 pounds. He got a Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 883L and I did sit on it but I’m afraid of the balance to hold the bike up.
We highly recommend taking a motorcycle safety class before considering any motorcycle. The class starts you on a small 125 to 250cc motorcycle knowing beginners have fears that include balance and how to hold up the bike. No offense to your husband, but you should not be getting on any motorcycle before taking the class. The class is designed to familiarize you with how a motorcycle feels, its weight distribution, and its power so that when you’re ready to buy you’ve already been trained, have passed the class, and know what to look for when going shopping. A Sportster 883 is relatively large motorcycle for any beginner, especially one of your size. There are smaller motorcycles out there that will fit your petite size; those are all listed in this story. Please, I urge you to take a training class first… before doing anything else!Oh… and the class will also help you decide if you even want to ride a motorcycle. It’s perfectly OK to take the class and decide that you’d rather be a passenger on a motorcycle.
I recently purchased a 2006 Sportster 883 Low as my first bike. I originally considered smaller models (such as 250s) but was afraid I would outgrow it too quickly. I am only 5 feet 1 inches 125 pounds and felt very comfortable sitting on it. I had sat on several other bikes including the V Star and Shadow (650/750) but felt most confident on the 883 Low due to the low seat, which gives me the ability to easily touch the ground flat footed. Although I need to be more aware of how to maneuver/park the bike due to the weight I have been very happy with the purchase and confident in riding it.
Good info and overview of bikes.
I wish everyone would post their height when saying what bike was good for them, or there was a chart somewhere for short women looking for bikes. Want to find something that is not too heavy and has a low seat. Thanks for any help
I’m 83 now and rode some in my younger days but it’s start over time. Would like an older classic bike, a Honda Dream 305 would be great but they are hard to find anymore. If I were to get a larger bike maybe some side wheels would work.
I was hoping for some advice on getting a shared beginner bike, one that would work for my 6 foot tall husband and for my 5-foot-5 short-legged frame. I was very comfortable on the Honda Rebel that I trained on in an MSF course, but my husband was on a Suzuki, which he didn’t quite like, and we didn’t have a chance to switch to see if another bike was better for us. He thinks the Rebel looked more comfortable for his longer legs. Any advice other than, go to dealers and try them out?
The Rebel is a very comfortable motorcycle for any size rider, but it is a “smaller” bike and a 6 foot tall person might feel cramped. Sitting on the bike at the dealership is the best way for a person to get a good feel for a motorcycle he or she will be riding. You could also opt for a used Vulcan 500 LTD as it has a little bit more power, six speeds and is a little bigger size wise. Would be great for both of you to share.
I’m starting out on a Honda Rebel but have had my eyes on the Honda Shadow Spirit because it’s a good fit for my 5-foot 3-inch height. I was at the local dealership recently and noticed how beautiful the 2013 Shadow Aero is in the metallic silver/pearl white. When I mentioned to the salesperson that I liked that color but the seat was too wide for me, he told me of a nearby upholsterer that can narrow the seat’s width and/or slope the sides for better leg comfort. I would have never thought of that! I know that replacement seats are available but I so much liked the idea of modifying what’s already on it than completely changing it out. Since I was so thrilled to hear of this option I thought maybe someone else might benefit from it too.
Yes, that is a viable option that riders have been doing for years. You just have to make sure you find a good upholsterer who knows what they’re doing with a motorcycle seat, perhaps has some experience doing this before. If the dealer is recommending him/her, then it’s probably a good recommendation and someone they have used before.
Wonderful to have all the advice. I am a 46 year old, 5-feet 8-inch woman who is taking my motorcycle’s beginner test in three weeks. Years ago I used to sit on the back of my husband’s bike and had no desire to ride myself. Two grown children later, my husband has other interests and hobbies, and limited time in which to enjoy them. I hope that I get the same enjoyment out of riding myself. Any advice is appreciated.
Hi, Marg—We’re glad you enjoyed the article! Anytime you need additional advice, a great place to look is the WRN Forum, especially the Beginner’s Section, where you can post your questions and get advice from your fellow riders (many of them also beginners). Good luck and happy riding!
I don’t like that the majority of the bikes shown here are cruisers. There should be more suggestions for women who want to ride a sportbike. I’ve been reading through this site and I am noticing the majority of articles are based on cruisers. I guess I have to find a women riders site more dedicated to sportbikes.
Kelly,We are all-brands women’s motorcycle site. The reason you don’t see more sportbikes in the beginner’s section is because there are few sportbikes recommended for beginners. We cover the entire spectrum of brands.Additionally, our content reflects the motorcycles women are riding and the majority of women ride cruisers. Please see our FAQs page for info on our editorial slant. Because women riding sportbikes is a smaller piece of the pie we have an entire section dedicated to our sportbike coverage here in our SportbikeCorner. You’ll find plenty of stories dedicated to that genre of motorcycling.Thanks for visiting Women Riders Now.
Why not mention the Ridley? I started on a scooter then went up to a Kawasaki 500, sold that and got a Ridley. I was nervous shifting in busy city traffic; the Ridley is an automatic – is the perfect bike for me. The company is not making them anymore, thanks to Harley, but they are still promoting them and have a complete parts line. Hoping in the future they will produce them again. There are lots of used Ridleys out there to buy also. Let people know they exist. Thanks.
We had Ridleys in our original list – our old Beginner’s Guide — but since the company’s bankruptcy and loss of dealer support, we deleted them from our list. We continue to have several reviews of Ridley’s in our Motorcycle Reviews section though for those people still interested in purchasing one.
I am so thankful for articles like this one! I have finally decided to get off my butt this year and buy my first bike. I have wanted one every since I can remember, but I didn't grow up around them, or know anyone that did, so I would have had to learn on my own. I've finally at 23 decided that I'm not going to let that stop me anymore!
It was all overwhelming at first, all of the different bikes and options, I had no idea where to start or what to look for. This site has become a valuable resource to me! It's given me an idea of where to start looking, and for that I am grateful!
I bought a Johnny Pag Raptor (poor choice for me). It leaked from day one. They would not fix it! Now, a year and a half later, it's been in the shop constantly. Major oil leak problems. Unridable. Just takes up space in my garage. Don't buy one of these! Buy major brands! They stand behind their products.
I started out on a Rebel 250 and with my husband's teaching (and ex motorcycle cop), I passed the test with no problems. The day I got my license, I bought a Vulcan 900 and enjoyed it – riding everywhere. In less than a years time, I moved up to a Victory Kingpin Low cruiser (1700cc) and I've never looked back. It's the best decision I could have ever made. For me, I want a bike big enough to get me out of trouble and one that I can ride in safety. The Kingpin gives me all that and more!
In my honest opinion, I think women in particular, don't give themselves enough credit or have enough confidence when considering a larger bike. A bigger bike is, in many ways, much easier to ride and it is far safer than a little 250cc motorcycle out on the highway. Looking back, there is no way I'd ever ride something smaller.
Great article…but I still need some advice. Beginner rider looking into buying my first bike. Just finished my first day of the Rider's Edge course and can't wait to keep riding. I'm really falling for the '09 Low Rider, but after reading the article I'm afraid I'm setting my sights too high. Beautiful bike…any suggestions?
I love that others had some fear about riding. I use to ride my brothers minibike at a young age. Couldn't wait to get home from school to ride his bike. I've always loved the feeling of freedom. We have a friend who has a Honda 250 Silver Wing. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. I knew I wanted one. We went to our state BMW rally this year and I rode a couple there. I was completely petrified. I was thinking maybe this isn't for me. I surprised my husband by taking the written test first, then the drivers. I called a few dealers to see if they could get this Honda Silver Wing in red for me. It took a week and it is beautiful. I have a 600 and it scoots right along.
What I love most about it it's mine and I feel completely comfortable on it. The 650 BMW just wasn't for me. I rode mine the first time out 15 miles on the highway and knew this was it. I love the feeling of power and control you have. It's a stress reliever for me. I did the same with skiing. We have skied now for 25 years and have said over and over, “Why didn't we start this a lot younger?” Next year I'll be 50 and what a great gift. I now have a friend riding too so now all four of us go out when ever we can. I've put 1000 miles on it so far. I just got it in the first of Sept.
I took my motorcycle course seven years ago on a small 250 bike and then bought a 1995 used Sportster. I was not comfortable on it and it was very top heavy and I gave up on riding at all for six years. Then three months ago I decided to give it another try (I kept my motorcycle license all this time as I did pass the course with no problem on the small bike). I settled on the Yamaha V Star 250 and I love it. I regained my motorcycle skills fast and was on the road in no time at all!
My husband has a Harley Ultra Classic and we have been everywhere and I have even ridden highway with speeds up to 65 mph (although we try to keep it under 60 mph since it is such a small bike). I now have more than 1,200 miles on it and am ready to upgrade. My new bike has already been chosen. I plan to get the Harley Softtail Deluxe and I will be putting the Reach Seat on it to help me be able to put my feel flat on the ground. I am 5 feet 4 inches and with the factory seat I can barely reach.
Definitely excited about moving up and am so very, very glad I gave motorcycle riding a second chance. By the way, I am 50 years old, so it's never to late to start!
I am so glad I came across this article. Just this past weekend I went through a MSF course and I am now researching what type of motorcycle would be best for me. I am only 5 feet 2 inches so I am looking for a motorcycle that I will fit on.
The MSF course that I went to used the Kawasaki Eliminator 125 which I fit on with no problem but it's not the type of bike that I really would want as my own. This article has shown me that I have quite a few choices of bikes that I can check out and see if they will work for me.
I am surprised that the new V Star 950 wasn't recommended especially since the HD Sportser 883 was which is close in size and weight. As a new rider (who completed a safety course), I purchased this bike this spring after lots of research (including a road review on WRN). I wanted something for a beginner yet wouldn't have to trade up within a year (I live in the country and do lots of highway riding). I love the 950! It's easy to handle, nimble, and very forgiving. Many other rider reviews that I've read say the same. Haven't read one bad review. It also has a very low seat – one of the lowest. I am 5 feet 5 inches, am flat on the ground with lots of bend in my knees. I will never need to trade up; she has all that I want!
I took the MSF Riders Edge class at the local Harley dealer this last March. After that I went out and sat on about a half dozen used bikes. I found a 2007 Honda Shadow Spirit 750. Love it. I liked the look of the V Stars but the seat was hard for a cruiser and uncomfortable. I got my Honda in April and ride whenever I can. Have had a couple of long rides on the weekend and am looking forward to more.
I also had the Buells for the MSF class. Hated the shifting on it. The only good thing about the Buell was the engine size, a 500cc.
I have forward controls on my Honda. Love them. Love the seat height, just over 27 inches. I am 5 feet 4 inches with a short inseam and can flat foot it. I had thought of starting with a 250 but knew that after the 500 I would not keep it long so I just went with the 750 and this bike will last me for a long time.
My suggestion is to go and sit on as many different bikes that you can. When you find the one that fits, you'll know it.
This is a great article and has lots of info for any new rider looking for feedback from other “newbies.”
This is my sixth season of riding after taking the MSF rider course. I loved the Rebel 250 that we all learned on, but couldn't find a used one for sale. So, I bought a Yamaha 250 and rode that for one season. Sold that and bought a new Shadow VLX 600, which I loved to ride as a beginner, it was low for my height of 5 feet 2 inches and easy to handle. I had that for two seasons and traded up to a new 07 Honda Spirit 750 shaft drive. I have almost 10,000 miles on it and it's just perfect and I'll never have to trade up. It has plenty of style, power and a low seat height. My feet still firmly touch the ground. My husband (Harley) and I ride everywhere and I am confident on my Spirit every time.
I’m a “keep it simple””kinda gal. As a beginner rider in 1998, I bought a new Suzuki Savage LS650 (now Boulevard S40). Eleven years older, I still ride the 350 pound thumper, gallivanting around town on the weekends and commuting 25 miles to and from work, averaging 47-50 mpg.
When getting into the sport, I had a goal in mind of riding a lightweight, maneuverable, low-maintenance commuter in a cruiser package and my Savage has served me well in this role. Now though, my focus has shifted from daily commuter to light tourer and I’m currently looking at the classically styled Suzuki Boulevard C50T or the new modern Yamaha V Star 950 Tourer.
The Savage is fun, low-tech and a completely non-threatening confidence building bike. Single cylinder, one carburetor, 5-speeds and belt drive. I, for one, didn't need much more.
I pick up my first bike tomorrow – a Honda 750. I had considered the Kawasaki 500 but I was put off by the chain drive. I have completed the motorcycle ed class and am very excited, though a little nervous, to begin to ride. Living on Cape Cod, I deal with a great deal of tourist traffic during the summer months…crazy traffic. It is terrific to read what other women have to say about their bikes and riding. Thanks.
It's barely been a year since started riding last June 2008. My first time sitting on a bike by myself was on my boyfriends 08 H-D Dyna Superglide and I rode it around a college parking lot on a Sunday morning. The next week I was sitting on a Honda Rebel 250 at the MSF couse, boy did it seem small after riding a Dyna. The next weekend I practiced on the Dyna again and it seemed too heavy after riding the Rebel. I was close to buying a H-D 883 but the dealer gave me a special deal on a XL1200L Anniversary Edition. I bought that bike on July 5, 2008 and had to have my boyfriend ride it home from the dealer since I hadn't ridden on the street yet.
The 1200L was a perfect fit for my size, once we swaped out the stock seat for a more comfortable Mustang seat and a perfect bike for me to learn on. I have put 8900 miles on my Sporty in the last year and I wouldn't trade it in for anything other bike. If you are planning on taking long rides, bigger is better.
I totally agree with Coralee about the scooters. I started on a 150cc about six months ago that I had to take the MSF class and have a motorcycle endorsement to ride. Learning on a scooter really builds a good foundation for how a bike moves, turns, and rides. My MSF class was on a Honda Nighthawk and now I have my husband's Honda Shadow Spirit 750. I'm becoming more and more comfortable on it and am really enjoying the riding.
I started with a Yamaha V Star Custom 650 and five years ago never regretted it. I practiced on the side streets around my house till I was confident to get out on the main roads. This bike has great balance and turns real nice. More than 20,000 miles later and I still have this bike and will probably never trade up. It gets me over the mountain passes here in Colorado and rides like a dream.
Great article! Turns out, my hubby knew what he was talking about when he insisted on a new Virago 250. It was a great starter bike, not much different than the Rebel I learned on in class. It didn't take me long, however, to need to move up. He has a big Harley, and my little Virago just couldn't keep up with him. He was determined to buy me a Harley as well, but at just 5-feet-1 I had a hard time finding one that fit. I must have sat on every bike in our area, still unable to find the right one.
Then one day, we stopped at our local Yamaha dealer, and as soon as I sat on the used 650 Yamaha V Star Custom, I just knew it was the one. It fits me perfectly without any modifications whatsoever. We plan to add foot boards soon, as the foot pegs don't really allow me to ride relaxed for long trips. Other than that, my Rose is just perfect!
Because it's on the taller side, we wouldn't typically recommend it as a starter bike, but if someone wants to buy into the BMW family, this is an affordable way to do it.
Sssshhh! Can I let you into a secret? The BMW G 650 GS is available in a low frame, low seat option for no extra cost. That brings the seat height down to 29 inches. The bike also has a very low center of gravity (check out the filler cap on the side, routing gas down low into the bike instead of balanced on top).
The bike is capable of going off road, but a rookie rider can save that pleasure for later. I'm an experienced, but extremely vertically challenged rider. After all kinds of bikes, I'm back to a smaller bike as my new favorite. Ladies, don't get hung up on image and what others want you to ride. Sit on as many bikes as you can, and choose what feels good for you.
Nice article. Nice to see so many choices, but I could never ride a “Low.”
I started on the Yamaha V Star 650 and found it an easy ride – but I am tall, at 5-feet-10 and don't feel well balanced on any of the lowered bikes. After a year, I traded up to an older Harley Sportster 883 Standard, and a year later traded up again to a Harley Dyna Super Glide. With forward controls, there's not much I can't do on the Super Glide. I was amazed at how much better this bike fit me than the Sportster, because I thought the Sportster was a great fit. But I'm seeing that the Dynas – just about any of them – are a great next step up for a woman who is looking for something that rides a bit more smoothly than the Sportster.
How about that Suzuki Boulevard C50 (805cc) I know most would say this is not a beginner's bike but It's what I started on and I love it! I am 5 feet 11 inches and this bike is wonderful. It handles wonderfully at slow speeds and is very forgiving with changing gears.
My husbands rides a Harley Ultra Classic and he had to admit that my Suzuki was one great handling bike. I've been riding just about a year and I am becoming truly one with bike. My one suggestion is don't make a lot of changes such as pipes and added gear until you become comfortable with the bike just as it is.
I am riding a 2006 Suzuki GS500F, the faired version of the GS500E. I love this bike! It is not too heavy and not too tall. I am 5 feet 9 inches and this bike fits perfectly. I made the mistake of buying a Triumph Bonneville as my first bike on the recommendation that I would “grow into it.” It was a great bike, but the seat was too wide and I had trouble flat-footing and it was very top heavy. I am no weakling and I felt that I had to wrestle with the bike to get it to do anything I wanted. Needless to say, I dropped that darn thing more than once. The Suzuki, never! I feel completely confident on it and it has plenty of power.
Keep up the great work on your articles and I look forward to your newsletters.
I have to agree with Liz Petersen
Fort Bragg, CA. I also have a Kawasaki Ninja 500R as my first motorcycle. In fact, I am 5 feet tall and had a Corbin seat modified to make it lower. I can almost flat foot when stopping. I bought it new in 2000, after riding a 125cc and 250cc enduros for a couple of months. My Kawi 500 is more than 9 years old and has more than 68,000 miles on it. It has been cross-country four times, as well as averaging 500 to 700 miles per day and 50 miles to the gallon. It will keep up with any other motorcycle on the road and no need to trade up. I have also done track days and on straights had it up to 130 mph. It's very nimble and is fun on twisty roads.
My commuter bike is a scooter, a Genuine Buddy 150 St Tropez, and in just over a year, I have almost 7000 miles, mostly commuting 20 miles each way on streets to Irvine. It's great, so easy to ride, and gets about 80 mpg to boot!
To read more about the Genuine Buddy be sure to visit ScooterRidersNow.com, our sister site.
I used to ride behind my husband on his Harley until I decided at age 55 to try to learn to ride myself! I took the Rider's Edge class through a local Harley dealership but had trouble learning on their Buells and failed the test on the range. I almost gave up, but after doing lots of research on “learning” bikes, I decided to try the Honda Rebel 250. I bought a 2001 (which had been previously used by a riding school) at a Honda dealership auction, and what a difference! It felt much less intimidating than the Buell and made me feel so much more confident! I practiced and practiced on my own in a parking lot behind our house for over a month and finally passed the test.
I love the Rebel so much I'm in no hurry to move up to a bigger bike! I drive it to work (34 miles RT) whenever the weather's not too bad and have put almost 7,000 miles on it so far!
I am a beginner rider and have a 2001 Suzuki Savage. It is a 650. I love this bike. It is very light and low to the ground. I am 5-feet-1 and my feet are planted firmly on the ground. I would recommend the Savage to any new rider.
Article was a good help, but I did not see anything about a Yamaha V Star 650. Do you know anything about it? Would it be a good beginner bike?
The Yamaha V Star 650 is listed in the Honorable Mentions section of the article.
Right or wrong, I did things a bit differently…
I had never rode until taking the MSF last summer on a 250 Suzuki, in the rain and scared to death. After I took a few more lessons, but still needed confidence and skills.
I'd dreamed of owning a Harley since I was 7 but had been talked out of it. In 2007 I started going to shows and dealerships, but the Sportsters weren't right for me, and I kept finding myself drawn to the Softail Deluxe, every single time.
I finally bought my Deluxe this past December from a dealer out of the City, but since I live in Manhattan, there was nowhere to practice, or even how to get the bike home period! So this past winter the dealership stored it for me and would let me come practice my skills in their parking lot when it was clear out and no ice, which was rare. I only had four good weather days (about 8 hours) to practice skills, figure eights, quick stops but only up to second gear.
Finally, the only way I was going to be able to practice in third and above was to actually get on one of the highways in the NYC area, and with the help of 15 HOG escorts, on March 22, I did it! Then with a small group, I brought my bike home to Manhattan in April, and in the following weeks, I did about six rides and 800 miles. Finally, my dream of riding straight shot and back to Laconia 2009 came true. I now have 1600 miles, can only ride on the weekend, and have a lot more to learn, but at 42, there's no time to waste.
I probably did start out a little bigger than suggested, and the people I ride with are seasoned riders, so at times it can feel little intimidating. But the more I do it, the more confident and strong I feel, and it has had a similar impact on other areas of my life. So starting out big is not for everyone, maybe not even for me, but while very challenging and tricky, it is possible. Riding is by far one of my biggest accomplishments, and riding my Deluxe is a privilege and a dream come true. Thank you WRN for this forum, and all of your wonderful support and articles. PS – I call my bike 'The Athena'. (Goddess of courage, wisdom and protector of soldiers).
I took the riding class on a Buell Blast. It was fine for that, but had a brand new Yamaha 650 V Star Custom at home. I absolutely love that bike. Low to the ground plenty of growing power, extremely comfortable bike and believe me, I sat on many many bikes before my purchase. As soon as I sat on this one she was mine!
I've went from a Rebel to the Kawasaki 250 to the Harley Sporster 883 and now to the Dyna Street Bob. All great bikes!
I rode the Rebel like for two weeks. Sold it after I took a friend's Honda CBR for a ride, and I fell in love. So I got the Kawasaki. Then I really wanted a Harley. I could only afford the 883, which I had for like five years. Loved it.
This was a wonderful article on beginner bikes. My first bike is the Hyosung GV 250. It's very comfortable, has a low seat heat and does very well on the freeway with the exception of hills. I've ridden this bike for six months and am ready for an upgrade. It's been great to learn on.
The best advice to new riders is to purchase your first bike used because once your skills have improved, you'll be ready for a more powerful bike sooner than you think.
I took the Ohio State Basic Rider's class last summer. I had bought a Honda Rebel 250. That was also the exact kind of bike they gave me to ride during the course. It was easy to balance, lean, control in quick stops. I rode my Rebel all last summer. It sat low for stable stops. A Rebel is a great starter bike for short legged riders. I totally agree on your choices of starter bikes. One of my friends has a Yamaha Virago 250 that she has been riding for a couple of summers now. She is looking to upgrade to a bigger bike, but it has been a great starter bike for her.
This year I have stepped up to a Honda Shadow 750. I was intimidated by the power of this heavier bike at first, but found all I had to do was just ride it in a near-by parking lot, practice quick stops, turns, and relax. Now, it's like I never had a smaller bike. I plan on keeping my 750 for a long, long time. It's all the power I need for the kind of riding I do.
Keep these informative articles coming. They are spot on!
It was great to see the “Beginner Bikes” article in the latest email newsletter. And, good to see the Hyosung GV 250 listed here as a good beginner bike. I'm a new rider (I've been riding for 2 seasons) and this has been my starter bike. Although I've seen a few at a local dealership, I haven't seen another Hyosung GV 250 out on the road – even at Americade in Lake George this year.
I love the smooth ride of the bike, and, for a little vanity's sake, the fact that it's often mistaken for a larger cc bike. I have no problem keeping up with other riders at speeds up to 60 mph, with the exception of long uphills. I'm really enjoying this bike and not sure I want to move up just yet.
Thanks for featuring it on your Web site. I'm hoping more word will get around about this bike – and I'd love to see Hyosung have a presence at a rally like Americade or elsewhere.
Thanks for a great newsletter – I really look forward to it.
This is an important article. Through the years I've been riding, I've seen many women new to motorcycling buy bikes that were too big for them, too much to handle before they had built some confidence in their skills. They felt a lot of pressure to ride one of the “big dogs.” I'm a big fan of the classic Yamaha Viragos for women and ride an 1100, before that a 750. They are low, light, and don't have the wideness in the saddle area that I've heard many women say is uncomfortable for them.
Starting with too much bike can often discourage a person from continuing the sport. All the emphasis on bulky, big cc bikes is to a great extent hype. Through the years, we have all heard about the big, bad Hell's Angels in California riding the highways and intimidating towns. Those boys rode Harley's with 650cc engines! It gets you anywhere you need to go.
You have to add the new mini Standard Suzuki TU250X. Just this year some of the MC safety centers here in Maryland have started to add them to the training fleets. I had the pleasure to teach on them this past weekend. I can tell you what an excellent bike to start on. They only weigh 328 pounds and are fuel injected. They might be a little taller than the Honda 250 Nighthawk. The fuel injection gives them enough power to ride on the street. Very nice product.
I am a new rider and own a Suzuki Boulevard S50 (800cc ). I find it to be very nimble and not heavy at all. It weighs just under 500 pounds. I wasn't sure if I could handle an 800cc bike, but I am glad that I went with it. It is very easy to handle. It seems that it always gets overlooked on a lot of these helpful Web sites.
Very good info. I started on a Harley 883 Low. Wish I had this article when looking for my first bike, although I would still have gotten a Harley.
I think that's a great list of bikes but sometimes people don't take the scooter seriously and that's a great way to start without having to shift. They have all the power and fun without any work and almost no maintenance.
I started out with a Honda Elite 150, then moved to a Honda Helix 250. I had two of those and rode about 20k miles in a few years. I just bought a Honda Silverwing 600 with tons of power and feel I can ride anywhere I wish on this.
Check out our review of the Honda Silver Wing in the Motorcycle Reviews section of WRN.
And for more on scooters visit ScooterRidersNow.com, our sister site.
I haven't been riding for long, and I recently purchased a BMW F 650 GS. I feel confident riding it, and I absolutely love it. Worth checking into.
I started out on the Vulcan 500 and still have her. I feel very comfortable on this bike. I am 5 feet 8 inches with short legs, and sit this bike very nicely. I dream of a bigger bike, but for now, my 500 works just fine.
I would have to add the Kawasaki Ninja 500R as a great starter bike. It is not overly powerful (57hp) and not too tall. At 5 feet 8 inches, I can flat foot my 500 and more (meaning, there is room to spare for shorter riders). The bike handles extremely well, and it has more power than the 250 for those who commute or travel on an interstate. My two thumbs are up for the Kawi 500!
These reviews/recommendations are very helpful. Thanks for doing them. I am a new rider and own a 2002 Buell Blast which I love. One of the reasons I chose the bike was its low center of gravity making it easier to maneuver. I would recommend this bike to anyone wanting to learn. It's available in two seat heights for those on the smaller size. It looks great and it sounds like a Harley!
I went to the “learn how to ride a motorcycle school” and they taught on a 250cc bike. I had a Kawasaki Vulcan 800 waiting for me at home. Too big a jump from a 250 in a parking lot for two days. My husband and I bought an old Yamaha Maxim 650 and I practiced on that for a couple of months. Then I was ready to head out on the road on my Vulcan 800. Awesome bike to ride. Mine already had a lowering kit on it so my seat is only 25 inches high and I can touch the ground flat footed.
I would highly reccomend a Vulcan 800 for a woman rider. I am 5 feet 1 inch and it is very easy to handle and I feel like I have a substantial bike under me.
Some great choices for beginners here. IMHO, a new rider, especially a woman, will progress much faster on a smaller bike, like the ones shown here. The guys tend to have more confidence, bravado etc. whereas girls are often more cautious. These little bikes build confidence, as skills develop. Notice how many of the choices here are the ones used by MSF classes?
It's false economy to buy a bigger bike to “grow into.” A couple of bad experiences will leave that bigger bike gathering dust in the garage. The more beginner-friendly small bike will be out on the road more often. Many riders will want to progress to a bigger bike once skills have been built but there's nothing wrong with staying on the smaller one. For some girls, especially ones with a smaller build, it can be the right thing to do.
I've ridden bikes of all sizes and found a great comfort level with the BMW G 650 GS. Note to WRN – a bike that could well have been included in the line up. This bike has got rave reviews from WRN and other sources. The stock low seat and low frame are wonderful for the little people, like me.