Reader Question: New Plus-Sized Woman Rider Seeking Advice on First Motorcycle

Will the Kawasaki Ninja 300 be too small or should she start with a bigger bike?

I am a beginning rider but I am larger than most women, at almost 5 feet 11 inches and currently at 260 pounds (dropping quickly thanks to my new personal trainer). I absolutely love the look of the Kawasaki Ninja 300 but Im not sure it is going to be a good fit for me for my first motorcycle because of my size. Some riders I know have differing opinions, and my step sister tells me I will grow out of it way too quickly and that I should start with a bigger bike. My father just tells me not to get a motorcycle at all—ah, Dads!

Some advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Kimberly Merwin
New Bern, North Carolina

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16 thoughts on Reader Question: New Plus-Sized Woman Rider Seeking Advice on First Motorcycle

  1. I started on a Ninja 300 and it is a very fun bike, but I bought a Ninja 650 a few months later. The 300 you will grow out of quickly but they are a lot of fun. The 650 you can set up and adjust easier. You will be happy with it longer. I bought mine from a 5 foot, 5 inch female and I’m a 5 foot 9 inch male.

  2. Hi. I am a long time reader. I was 5 feet 7 inches and 240 pounds and started on a 440cc Kawasaki. I upgraded to a 550cc Kawasaki, then a 600cc Yamaha Radian. Now I ride a Suzuki 1400cc Intruder.The 440 was a great starter bike. I didn’t have it long as a 550cc became available. The 550 was highway rideable through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio. It did the job, but I wanted more. The 600 sporty bike was bought for my then boyfriend and he trashed it! He was a new rider, too tired to ride, and he went anyway. He went down my driveway and hit a parked car on the same side of the street. Broke his arm and refused to go to hospital until the pain got him! He’s still a dummy. LOL.l love my 1400 Intruder girl. After cancer I am 5 feet 4 inches and 200 pounds.In my experience (legal since 1994), you should start with a 500cc and grow with it.

  3. I’m 5 feet 5 inches (I shrunk an inch the past few years!) and pleasantly chubby (ha) and I started on a 1994 Honda Shadow 1100 V-twin. It isn’t the amount of ccs the bike has, but more how it fits you in terms of seat height, the reach of the handlebars and the foot pegs or floorboards, and the shifter/brakes.I’m glad I started on the Honda (it was a nice used bike). I rode it for about two years, then sold it and bought a Honda VTX1300R which had a nice low seat height, great center of gravity, etc. I rode this bike for 12 years. Both of these bikes could haul me around with no effort!Last year I traded in my Honda VTX1300 for an Indian Chieftain Limited (1811cc). It is a lot heavier but the ride is fabulous and it is so much more nimble than my Hondas ever were. I just have to be cognizant of where I park, as my bad knees don’t work well if I have to back it uphill at all. Don’t let the ccs scare you—it is more about the fit and comfort that is important on your first bike (and if you really like it, it may be your bike for a long time.) Best wishes!

  4. I have to offer a counterpoint to everyone saying to go bigger. I used to ride bmx as a teen and larger cruiser style bikes felt intimidating to me when I first got on a roadbike this past spring (20 years later).I chose to get a very small bike—a used Honda 250cc. I outgrew it in about two to three months and was ready to move on to a much larger cruiser. However, I am really glad I had the time on that bike to refresh my riding skills and transfer them to the unique challenges of riding on the road. I never felt overwhelmed by the bike or its power so I wasn’t intimidated. It was light—I could’ve picked it right up if I dropped it. It was maneuverable and fun and easy to stop.Long story short, I would try sitting on and riding a smaller used bike and make your decision then. It’s not a bad idea to start small and upgrade and resell when you’re ready. Here are some pictures for context. I’m 5 feet 10 inches and 260 pounds.

  5. My husband is 5 feet 8 inches and loves his Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom. We are Kawasaki fans, and more cruiser-oriented. When I was shopping around, all but two sales reps told me I would outgrow the 650 in a heartbeat and be upset.I was lucky because the Kawasaki Vulcan 650 S has the unique distinction of being able to be customized to your preference. Reduced reach, mid-reach, extended reach. I love my Kawasaki Vulcan 650 S. For me it was/is important to be able to flat foot it at stops. I’m 5 feet 5 inches and hefty. It’s got enough torque to haul my tush all over Northern Colorado. In fact, I have ridden through various twisty ups and downs if the front range and had no issue “keeping up” with the big boys! It has the 6-speed parallel twin Ninja engine and the soul of a cruiser and therefore perfect for me. My husband is 5 feet 8 inches and my brother-in-law is 6 feet 4 inches and stout. They’ve both ridden my bike and had no issue hauling them around. Granted, it is set up for a shorter person so my tall brother-in-law was a bit scrunched but he had fun! His ride is an 800cc Suzuki Boulevard.I got my bike before I got my license (by about a month) and had some concerns that people would be right. Then I realized, it’s about me learning to ride safely. Learning on a bike I felt comfortable on. If I do choose to “trade-up” in the future, then so be it! For me it was; get started and go from there! Think of it that way—buy what feels right. You can always trade up if you want. Get something used that you can learn comfortably on. In some cases you might outgrow it, in my case they were wrong. I love my sweet Vulcan. Mine is the white one, husband’s is the orange one.

  6. Kimberly, I’m very similar in height and weight as you. I started out on a Kawasaki 800 Vulcan back in 2003 and never regretted getting the bigger engine. It was just enough “umph” to get me up the mountain passes while still being comfortable to learn on. I agree with the others who say the Ninja 650 would be a better starter bike for you, and Kawasakis are very reliable bikes. I’ve had three in the years I’ve been riding.Good luck and welcome to the family!

  7. Hello from France! Aside from the good advice of buying used first, and checking if you can be flat-footed (or at least stable-footed) when at a stop, your sitting position is a big part. I prefer a street bike position: low and tight cockpit with knees up. My husband sits like he has a stick up his bum, very very upright. We have a big height difference but comfortably ride the same bikes. I’ve ridden the Kawasaki Ninjas and I’ve got short legs. If you like knees up, you should be ok. But if you’re going on long rides and need to stretch long legs, not sure if the tight positioning will be enjoyable. Cheers and bonne route.

  8. I agree with Angela that a Kawasaki Ninja 650 would be a better option. It’s a great beginner bike that you can grow into and if you upgrade to a liter bike down the line, it won’t be such an extreme jump in power. I started on a Yamaha R3 and literally outgrew it in less than six months. If you opt to buy a new bike, I would also invest in some frame sliders to protect it in the event you drop it.

  9. Kimberly, Your straight-forward honesty is great. I have been in similar situations.I am 5 feet 2 inches tall and currently weigh 163 pounds. My weight has varied between 135 and 230 pounds over the past 13 years and I have enjoyed riding three different bikes during that time.I bought my first bike when I turned 50 years old, after completing a motorcycle safety course. It was a used Honda Rebel 250.The most important factor I consider when I make my purchase is seat height. I want to be flat-footed when I come to a complete stop. The 250 was fine for about 2 years, then I gained weight (230 pounds) and needed more power so I got a new Honda Shadow 750. This bike had the seat height and the power needed.When I turned 60 I got my dream bike. For the last three years I have ridden a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special. I was about 200 pounds at that time. I have been eating healthier and my current weight is 163. It’s a lot easier to ride and my bike seems to go faster.Starting with a small used bike was a great experience. As my riding skills improved, the size, power, and quality of my bikes improved. Feeling safe on the bike helped me enjoy the rides.I have replaced the horns on all my bikes with very loud air horns. These horns really improve other driver’s awareness of my presence. The horns have prevented multiple incidents.Enjoy the ride and stay safe.

  10. When I first started riding last year, I too had a size issue but quite the opposite of yours. I am 5 feet tall with a 25-inch inseam and limited options for a new motorcycle. But I think we are still somewhat alike. I had to bounce around dealerships to “try on” different bikes and finally found a Yamaha that felt good. While I was not able to take it for a test ride (but I would highly recommend one), it was comfortable, I could flat foot and the rider triangle was, again, comfortable. It’s only a 250cc bike so power can at times be lacking, but I don’t really ride on highways (lack of scenery, not fear) so that really hasn’t been an issue. The low end is actually pretty good but I have limited experience with anything other. I honestly keep looking to upgrade to a bigger bike, but I really love the one I have now. Do I need to upgrade? Nope, not at all. I think I just like looking.So here is my advice; find something you like to look at and feels good sitting on. If you can test ride, even better! Think of what you plan on doing with your bike—highway miles or country roads. If you really like that bike, try it on! Does it fit? Does it feel good?

  11. Ergonomics is the key. Can you sit or stand flatfooted? Sometimes a small change like handlebar risers can make a lot of difference. I would suggest a used bike for about a year. Then you’re ready for the next step. Enjoy your freedom and pursuit of happiness.

  12. This is the perfect size for a starter bike. If you start too big you won’t develop your confidence. Size and weight doesn’t matter. This bike is good for a small or larger rider. It has lots of power but not too much to scare you. Enjoy learning!

  13. How lucky for you that you are tall—you can pick any bike you want! At 5 feet 3 inches, I’m constantly looking at seat heights on new bikes! Regardless of your size, a 650cc motorcycle is usually the best bet for any new rider over the age of about 26. Your stepsister is right, you will quickly bore of a small displacement bike and will have difficulty keeping up with fellow riders if you go on a day trip. A friend who is new to motorcycling just picked up a used Suzuki Gladius 650 for less than $3,000 and he doesn’t regret it for one minute. Good luck and have fun!

  14. A Ninja 650 would probably suit her stature much better. The 650 is also very throttle friendly for beginners and is a bike she can confidently grow into. Most female riders run into the problem of being able to balance and touch with both feet as newer riders. The rider in this situation does not need to worry about that whatsoever.

  15. Buy yourself a used 300. If you stick with riding you will outgrow this bike. Buy used and you can sell it for almost what you bought it for. You will also drop this bike, trust me! I know you would hate to drop some brand new shiny bike.Learn to ride on the 300. It is more forgiving. It will allow you to learn to ride without having to be afraid of the power. A 600cc sportbike can easily go 90mph in second gear. You do not need that as a first bike. The lower torque of the 300 will let you learn to accelerate through the corners without worrying about coming into them too hot to begin with. Keep it and ride it through a season or year and then think about upgrading to a larger bike. You won’t lose much money and you will be a much better rider for it.

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