Riding Right: What to Consider When Buying Your First Motorcycle

The four Fs: fit, form, function and finances

By Susan Rzepka Orion

MSF instructor Susan Rzepka Orion answers a common reader question: What should you consider when buying your first motorcycle?

Buying a motorcycle is a lot like buying footwear.
You have to considerfit, form and function…

WRN Reader Vanjas Question:
Can you recommend a good motorcycle for a beginner? I have ridden on the back of bikes before, but I dont know what type of bike I should be looking into. I am 20 years old and have been absolutely dreaming about learning how to ride. I want to take lessons and own my own bike, but my family has many concerns and stereotypical opinions. I weigh 132 pounds, and I am 5-foot-8. I assume the weight of the bike is very important, too, but I dont know what to consider, so any advice is appreciated.

Susans Response:
This is one of the most commonly asked questions because selecting your first motorcycle is a big deal. There are a lot of factors to consider, and the decision-making process can seem especially confusing when youve never ridden a motorcycle before. However, if youre armed with the right information, you can make a selection and purchase with confidence.

Once you decide to buy a motorcycle, youll probably ask for advice from a friend or relative, or rely on the expertise of a salesperson. All the advice you get is fine—and youll probably learn a thing or two—but the opinions of others are no match for your own personal needs.

Buying a motorcycle is a lot like buying footwear. You have to consider the four Fs:fit, form, function, and finances.Boots, clogs and sandals may all serve the foot, but they do so in very distinct ways.

Fit: Size Matters!
Size does matter—yours and the motorcycles. Whats more important than your height and weight, however, is the length of your arms and legs. When you go to purchase a bike, make sure you know your inseam measurement, which is the length from your crotch to the ground. You should also be sure to try out different seat heights. Even with boots on, a rider with a 30-inch inseam will not fit comfortably on a bike with a 33-inch seat height.

Sit on as many motorcycles as you can to get a feel for the controls. With someone spotting you, check the fit of the bike.

Consider these questions:

  • Can you place both feet flat on the ground without straining?
  • Can you reach all the controls without overextending yourself? Or are you too restricted, too cramped in the riding position?
  • Can you turn the handlebars in both directions without overreaching?
  • Can your foot reach the brake pedal comfortably?
  • Can your hands reach and operate the brake and clutch levers without straining?
  • How does the comfort of the seat feel to you? While some seats and controls can be adjusted somewhat, you should feel comfortable with the way your bike feels.

Like footwear, a motorcycle needs to fit your body in order to work for you.

what to consider when buying your first motorcycle honda CBR300
Honda, along with Kawasaki and Yamaha, all make a 300cc sportbike, considered entry level for riders interested in a sporty ride. However, sportbikes have a much higher seat height, as with the Honda CBR300R shown here at 30.7 inches. If youre not able to put both feet flat on the ground this steepens the learning curve.

More things to consider with fit:

  • The weight of the bike.When you handle a bike, pay attention to how heavy it feels. Can you pull the bike off the sidestand without a struggle? If it feels too heavy for you, it probablyistoo heavy for you, and you dont need a whole lot of bike when youre first learning how to ride. My first bike was a Suzuki Savage 650, a single-cylinder machine that weighed only 350 pounds. It was a great bike to learn on, fit my small frame beautifully, and I rode it for five years before I felt I needed anything bigger. Larger, heavier bikes are not the best choice for beginners.
  • The size of the engine. Motorcycle engines are commonly referred to by their cubic centimeter (cc) displacement, or with late model motorcycles their cubic inches (ci)—and the higher the number the more power the engine has. Motorcycles with large engines—anything higher than 500cc—increase the chances that a new rider will have a steeper learning curve.

    Meaning, If you learn on a motorcycle that has manageable power right from the start—at WRN we believe that is a motorcycle with 500cc or lower engine displacement—you have a better chance of your body and mind honing in on the basics of handling a motorcycle. There are a lot of elements for your body and mind to learn in order to ride a motorcycle effectively. Those elements include knowing how much to crank the throttle and when to shift gears, how to move your body in a turn, what to watch out for in front you, just to name a few. To make the learning curve easier its important to have a motorcycle whose size and power are within manageable ranges, one on which you can build your skills and confidence, before moving to a larger bike.

what to consider when buying your first motorcycle kawasaki vulcan
While the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 is no longer being produced as a new motorcycle, its one of our favorites as a beginner bike because it has the feeling of a larger motorcycle with its 6 speeds and slightly larger size than the Honda Rebel at 250cc. The 500cc motor keeps the engine within a manageable range and there are sure to be used ones available.

Form and Function
Know the different types of motorcycles—and by “types,” I dont mean brands. There are cruisers, touring cruisers, sportbikes, sport touring, adventure touring, standards, dirtbikes and dual-sports. Each has a different purpose and look, and while this is where style and preference come into play, the key here is function.

Consider these questions:

  • What do you plan to do with the motorcycle?
  • Will you be puttering around the neighborhood? Commuting 50 miles a day on the highway? Taking long trips on the weekends?
  • Do you need cargo room? Will you be carrying stuff on your motorcycle?
  • Are you going to be riding on paved roads, dirt roads, or both? Im about to trade my Yamaha V Star 1100, a great and comfortable cruiser (also available in an entry-level 650), for a BMW F 650 GS, a light, nimble dual-sport that also happens to be a great beginner bike. Why? Im riding more on unpaved highways, and the V Star wasnt built for that function. You wouldnt wear sandals in the snow!

Take the time to research the different styles of motorcycles knowing that not each style has a beginner size version. For example, there are no beginner touring cruisers. You must first learn on a small cruiser, like a Honda Rebel, and then eventually build up to a larger cruiser, say a Harley-Davidson Low Rider, and then a touring cruiser, like a Harley-Davidson Street Glide.

Same scenario for an adventure touring motorcycle, that is a bike that has tires that allow it to ride on the pavement and on gravel. If that kind of riding interests you, youll want to learn on a small standard-style bike, like a Suzuki TU250, which is similar in seating position, and then work you way up to the adventure touring motorcycle you want.

As with any large purchase, money is an important factor when it comes to buying a motorcycle. What can you afford to invest in a first bike? Remember, your first motorcycle does not have to be the bike of your dreams. If you take the time to learn to ride right, youll probably move up to a different bike later on.

And because it’s likely that your first bike will end up on the ground at least once (usually due to improper handling at very low speeds), you might want to consider buying a late-model used motorcycle. The first scratch won’t hurt as much that way, and you won’t beat yourself up over a drop if one occurs.

You wouldn’t buy an expensive pair of hiking boots just to walk in the park. As far as motorcycles are concerned, if you buy a bike that’s too big or too powerful for your beginner skill level, not only could you be wasting your money, you could also be risking your life. Choose wisely and ride right!       

About the Author
Susan Rzepka Orion is a certified MSF RiderCoach and Rider’s Edge Instructor who loves to ride, write, and help others who want to do the same. You can find her on the road on her Yamaha V Star 1100 Custom.

Looking for more information about picking a starter motorcycles? Return to the Choosing Your First Motorcycle section of the WRN Beginner’s Guide.  

48 thoughts on Riding Right: What to Consider When Buying Your First Motorcycle

  1. I am new to the motorcycle world so I bought a Piaggio MP3 250cc to start on. I have my permit but no one to ride with. Are there any beginner clubs in my area or at all anywhere?

  2. I recently talked to my dad (who still has his old Honda CB550 in the garage) about getting my first bike, and was promptly told by Mr. “you couldn’t even handle a Honda Rebel” that it wasn’t possible. I’m determined to prove him wrong. I’m 5 feet 2 inches (inseam about 29 to 30 inches) and 135 pounds (all muscle). I’d like to start out on something a bit bigger than a 250cc, but I’m mostly just concerned with being able to handle the bike. Does anyone with similar vertical deficiencies have a suggestion for me?

    1. Hi Simi,You have a great attitude and disposition about learning to ride. I hope you will take the time to browse our Beginner’s Guide section, as it is full of great advice about how to start the process, what kind of motorcycle to choose, and much more. The most important piece of advice is to start with a beginner’s motorcycle class. They will have small displacement motorcycles that are most appropriate for learning on. You can then ask the advice of your RiderCoaches about what they would recommend for you and your skill level going forward.In addition, you may want to read some of our readers’ opinions about this subject here, when a reader asked a similar question about what motorcycle to start with.Best of luck! Welcome to the club.

  3. I took the beginner’s course through Harley-Davidson and took good stuff away from it but I was disappointed in the lack of appropriate-sized bikes for first time riders, or for female riders with a diminutive frame.I had to take the practical portion twice. The trainer bike size coupled with the power of the bike is intimidating, the wide straddle was conducive to buttock cramps and the reach to the handlebars was too far. True as said in the article above, I spent far more time focusing on wrestling control of the bike…assimilating new info and coupling it with its execution got short shrift.I thought to myself that H-D is making a serious mistake here. No time was wasted to sell the brand, play up to the service department, and trying to cull a sale. My inbox was blown up with H-D this, that, and the next…but my needs were barely a second thought, if that.Glad I stumbled onto this site. Yay.

  4. This was so unbelievably helpful. Of course being excited for tax returns, having three babies and never getting out of my sleep clothes, mom has spontaneously decided she wants a bike. I never have mom or me time so this is ideal. I’m interested in the Kawasaki Ninja 250R. For one, it’s in my price range and two, I’m 5 foot even and maybe 125 pounds. I have an athletic build so I’m not too worried about holding it up or keeping control. I will definitely visit this website I’m sure hundreds of times in the next two months before I find and make my purchase.Thank you ladies.

    1. Welcome to the wonderful world of motorcycling! Before you head out to spend your well-deserved tax return on an excellent beginner’s bike, please consider enrolling and completing a safety course first. Take a look at our beginner’s guide section about training classes here before heading to the dealership.You may find that you prefer a different kind of seating position, style of bike, or maybe even a more powerful one. In any case, the class will be a great introduction to motorcycles, and will offer the opportunity to ask your coaches for their advice and make connections with other new riders in your area.Best of luck!

  5. At 62 and a new rider I asked around before purchasing. My friends said to go big but I really wanted to try it out slower. I bought a used Vulcan 500 and it’s perfect for a beginner. I’m planning on another summer with this one before moving up. Ride safe first!

  6. I’m new to the biker world. My husband purchased a used Harley Sportster 1200 two months ago to get our feet wet. My husband rode 20 years ago and I wanted to learn. We found we both love it. I have my learning permit for now and we have both upgraded and have our own bikes. I found the Sportster to be very top heavy but I was able to learn on it. A friend of ours works for Indian Motorcycle and I purchased my first bike, an Indian Scout 1200cc but much easier to maneuver. I sit lower to the ground and I can lean into my turns easier. I am really enjoying it!

  7. I kinda went balls out when I got my first bike this year and I’m very proud of myself for it. So I finally decided to get my own motorcycle. I’m 39 years old and have wanted a bike for 20 years. I grew up around bikes and 18 years ago I learned how to ride. I took my cousin’s 750 crotch rocket out about five times that summer. Since then I’ve only been a passenger and currently just out of a relationship, so it was time because I need that wind therapy. So the first week of April I took the local riding course, which I rocked even though it had been 18 years since I last rode. A buddy of mine happened to be wanting to upgrade his bike, so I thought perfect. I can buy a bike from someone I know took good care of it. So boom right out the gate, three days after completing my class I did it and bought a Honda VTX 1300, a bike that can be kind of big, even for a dude. She’s all black and I’ve named her “Elvira” my mistress of the night. I absolutely love her! can’t believe I’ve gone this long without her. Ride on sisters! Keep your knees in the breeze,

    1. Congratulations! Good for you Stayc. Blessings to you for an incredible motorcycle life and journey.

  8. I see lots of low rider bikes with low seat heights aimed at short women.I’m 5 feet 2 inches with 28-inch inseam. While I could handle riding one, what about being able to deal with it off to the side — pull it out of a shed, or pick it up if it fell over? Is that doable with a Star Bolt, for example? I’ve always ridden smaller bikes for that reason but would love a Bolt or similar bike.

  9. I am so glad that I read this article because this is happening to me right now. I am about to exchange my Harley-Davidson 1600cc trike for a two wheel (which I have never rode before) and my peers—my boyfriend and many other rider friends—are pressuring me to choose a bigger bike. They keep saying that I will regret my choice if I go smaller.I have always been intimidated by a big, powerful two-wheel bike. Most of them I cannot keep upright while seated. I am going to take your advice and choose the bike that feels good and that I will be able to manage, one that fits me. Thank again. I love this forum where women are able to voice their opinions.

  10. Great article! Still looking for my first bike. Have my heart set on a Honda VLX 600. Any thoughts? I”ve taken the MSF course and have my mortorcylce endorsement, but I’m a true beginner. I’ve practiced a bit on a friends Honda Rebel, in a parking lot, but that’s about it.

  11. My husband and I just turned 50 and really wanted to ride a motorcycle, I have never been on a bike prior and my husband had a dirt bike in his teens. We took a motorcycle training course recently and I couldn’t continue with the course due to failure to manage the gear shifting so I bowed out gracefully while my husband continued and received his M2 license. I really don’t want to give up trying. I have signed up for a introductory course that will teach you the very beginnings of handling a bike; hope that will teach me not to be afraid of changing gears. Also my concern was our bike that we purchased is a Yamaha 650 V Star. Is that OK for me? I am 5 feet 5 inches and 145 pounds. I would really appreciate some professional advise.

    1. Check out the WRN Beginner’s Guide article that outlines different scenarios with suggestions on motorcycles that might be good for where you are in the learning process. The V Star just might be right.

  12. I started out on a Honda Cub while at school in the1960s; moved on to a Vespa 150cc while at college. Then I traveled the UK on BSA kickstart 500cc Didn’t get back on a motorcycle again until in my 50s. I got a small VUKA 110cc. I would like to get myself either a BMW F 650 GS for its offroad ability, or a Triumph Bonneville SE for its retro style. I am now a young 64 year old. Do you think I am too old to follow this dream?

    1. You’re never too old so long has you have the physical ability and mental stamina.

  13. My first bike was a gift, a Suzuki 800, way too big and heavy…scared to ride it, hard to turn those corners. The next one was a Honda 750 Nighthawk which was too tall for my 5-foot 4-inch height. I dropped it twice, rode into a cornfield twice, and lastly, crashed in city limits making a tight right turn. That was seven years ago. I’m retired now and want to ride again but on a bike that fits my size and weight (120 pounds). I might need a refresher course as well. Suggestions please.

  14. My son bought a 650 today and has no experience on a motorcycle. He weighs 350 pounds. Is he too heavy for this type of bike?

  15. My husband and I have been sharing the riding of our only bike, a Triumph Street Triple 675cc which we bought just over a year ago, after a break in bike riding of 25 years. We recently decided we wanted another bike so that we could both ride at the same time (neither want to be pillion) and thought a cruiser would make a nice change in style and riding position. So I recently test rode lots of cruisers in the 800cc range thinking that was all I could handle (I'm 5-feet-5 of average build).

    After a dealer convinced me to try something bigger, I tried the Honda VTX 1300 which I really liked for its handling. I then felt confident enough to try a Harley-Davidson Dyna Glide – didn't like the handling and cornering of that one at all. I eventually rode the Thunderbird – a 1600cc Triumph, that's 339kg or 747pounds on road. It was love at first ride! Everything felt perfect – the handling, the cornering, the peg positions, the riding position. I could comfortably put both feet down which is important with such weight.

    Although you knew it was a heavy bike, it didn't feel so while riding. My husband tried it after me and gave me a thumbs up after riding it a few seconds. We placed our order as soon as we returned the Thunderbird to the dealer. I think one of the most important thing is to ride what you feel comfortable and confident with.

  16. I returned to motorcycles last year after a 15 year break. I used to ride a Kawasaki, a GPz-900, and later, an older Yamaha Virago 750. And so, I thought I still had the mad skills — my reach exceeded my grasp: I bought a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. Fast, powerful, light.

    It tried to kill me three times.

    Actually, my skills (or lack thereof) weren't equal to a 350-pound, 600cc sportbike with 105 horsepower. So, after the third time in three weeks I kissed asphalt at low speed, I admitted that I didn't have the chops for a sportbike right now and traded it for a Harley-Davidson XL883, the last of the standard Sportsters in Pacific Blue Pearl, with the complete Screamin' Eagle Stage I kit added on; 55hp, 61 ft/lb torque, 560 pounds dry weight; 27 inch seat height instead of the Ninja's 31; and a better seating position. It won't hole-shot a Lamborghini, but it hasn't tried to kill me either and it sure is fun to ride.

    Fifteen hundred miles later, I'm glad I did it. I'm not ready for a sportbike yet. I'll keep the Sporty for a couple years until I'm more comfortable on two wheels again and then get that Ducati I've been lusting for!

  17. I love your site. Great articles! My first bike was a Honda VLX650. I liked it a lot, handled very nice. My husband has a Suzuki C90 (1500cc) and thought I would like a Suzuki C50 (850cc) mainly because of the shaft drive and fuel injection. We bought it and I absolutely love it. It handles beautifully, and the price is right. Plenty of power. I highly recommend this bike.

    Suzuki makes great bikes that are dependable, have high quality and are reasonably priced I'm 49 years old, used to ride mini bikes (Suzuki) when I was a kid. Last year I took the MC safety
    course, passed my test and have been enjoying it ever since.

  18. I, too, was encouraged to get a 650 when I was shopping around. My first bike is a 2006 CF Moto CF250T – V5, an automatic. I had a hard time with the clutch in the MSF course and the MSF was also the first time I ever rode. I decided to build my confidence and road skills with the automatic, practice working the clutch on my husband's 250cc Hyosung and then trade up to a bigger, 'regular' bike.

    1. Be sure to check out the video test ride of two Hyosung cruisers at our Motorcycle Videos link under Departments on the left.

  19. Great article. I wish that every aspiring rider – male or female – would read this before taking the MSF course or buying a bike. This is exactly what I tell anyone thinking about learning to ride.

    I started out on a Yamaha Virago 250 that I bought used. I rode the heck out of that little bike (even if it does sound like a Singer sewing machine), highways, twisties and local. And honed my skills to become a safe rider. I dropped her twice; nothing serious.

    My wonderful husband bought me an '05 Victory Vegas as a wedding gift. He had all the modifications done to make it fit me. It's 1507cc and 650 pounds. I dropped her twice within five minutes and less than 45 miles on the odometer. I rode her to Sturgis and back. Note that's “to” and “back.” She stayed parked for the entire week we were there.

    Once we got back to Tulsa, I started scouting for a bike with a better “fit.” I found a '99 V Star 1100 Custom that fit like a glove. I've done a lot to this one (paint, Mustang seat, Iso-grips and more), and have put thousands of miles on her, both local and long distance. I rode her solo to Chicago last Labor Day.

    I also have an '07 Ridley Auto-Glide TT. This is one awesome motorcycle and is another good entry level bike for those who are concerned about the shifting part.

    We still have the Vegas, but my husband rides her now. I'm thinking that I have enough miles under me to ride her safely now. In the spring, I'll get him to set it up for me again.

  20. I had never ridden a motorcycle other than as a passenger so when it came to buying a bike I did a lot of research. While waiting to get into an MSF course I had a 1986 Rebel I rode around on in parking lots practicing with my permit. In the meantime, I read everything I could get my hands on, went to many motorcycle shows and dealerships where I could sit on a variety of bikes and I talked to people who rode.

    After I passed the MSF course I considered the Buell Blast, but I really don't like sportbikes. I loved cruisers but wondered if I was going too big for a beginner. I was tempted to get a new Honda Rebel, but after riding a 500cc bike at the Rider's Edge MSF Course it didn't make sense to go down. Here's where I am glad that I took the advice from seasoned riders who know me and my abilities.

    My fiance and the dealership convinced me that I would soon grow out of the Rebel and so I went with the bike I had had my eyes on for a long time, the 750 Honda Shadow Aero and I am so glad that I did. At first the bike felt so big and it is not a small bike by any means, but it didn't take long to be one with this bike and now I can't imagine riding anything else.

  21. Wow, great info. I just signed up for the motorcycle training and certification course. I am very excited. I rode small bikes 25 years ago, fell with a friend on the back. I was young and fooling around. Never got back on, but now I am ready again. Going to do it right this time.

    I am just over 6 feet tall and solid 200 athletic build. I am larger than most women and was thinking of going with a Yamaha V Star. I believe that I can handle much more than a 650cc, because of my size and strength, but want to make sure that my ego doesn't take over. Would just like to get involved in some charity rides, and cruise around my beach community on occasion. I
    am going to a motorcycle show in about a month, the same day that my course ends. I hope to get the feel of a few different bikes. I would appreciate any thoughts, especially any riders matching my size. Thanks in advance.

    1. At your size, you might want to consider the new V Star 950, a bike I test rode recently. My review will post on WRN in the coming weeks. I wouldn't normally recommend it as an entry level bike, but at your size, this may be the ideal starter bike. Along those lines, sit on the competitor to that bike, the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 and compare the two.

  22. I started off on a Buell Blast 500cc single cylinder. It has two different seat heights, 27 inch and 29 inch. I'm 5-feet-5 and weigh 120 pounds.

    I took my safety course, passed my test and spent my first season riding my little Buell. It gave me loads of confidence. After my first year of riding, I sold the Buell and bought a Yamaha FZ6, which I've had for two years now.

    For me it was good to start out on a bike I could easily handle. I was soon ready to move up, but I don't regret owning my Buell.

  23. Good article. At 5 feet and 115 pounds, I had very few choices of bikes that allowed me to put both feet flat. After sitting on 20 or more bikes, I got a used Suzuki Savage 650 — a great beginner bike. Handles well at slow speeds and in turns. I did better with it than the Buells we had in class. After riding it for two years I'm ready to trade up. Maybe a Sportster?

  24. When I was young, I raced a Honda SL500 both on a flat track and motor cross. I know I'm dating myself. I got good at racing, and my dad bought me a Kawasaki 175. I never spilled the Honda, but once I got on the Kawasaki, I couldn't stay on it. I realized that with the bigger bike, I could maneuver it with my legs and body, rather than my arms. The lighter bike required arm strength to control which I didn't have. Compared with men, women tend to have stronger legs than arms.

  25. I almost bought the wrong bike. My boyfriend wanted me to get a Harley. My friend who got a Vulcan 800 right after passing the class said I could handle a bike that size. Since she got it, she dropped it twice and hit a curb. Nothing serious. Some road rash and bruises.

    I sat on a Vulcan 500, Yamaha 650, Honda Spirit and a Harley. I was told by MANY people to get a 650 as my first bike so I could keep it a few years and practice and then go bigger. A small bike was a waste of time.

    I was all set to get a Yamaha 650 Custom and I changed my mind. I called my dealer and asked her if she could find me a Yamaha V Star 250. I put the money down. I know that riding a 250 in the class for two days doesn't give me the experience to handle a 650. I was intimidated by the 650 but was afraid to admit it to anyone.

    My boyfriends response was, “Why are you doing that?” At work, a few guys jokingly said, “Do you want us to make training wheels for you?” The comments went on and on.

    I am so happy that I will be getting my new bike by this weekend so I can spend the rest of the summer practicing and learning the RIGHT way, not on a bike I couldn't handle yet.

    I am hoping that new riders do not get pressured to get a bike that's bigger and heavier than they are comfortable with. I am 120 pounds, 5 feet 4 inches. Maybe by next year I can get a 650, but not until I think I am ready.

    Do not listen to boyfriends, parents, co-workers or other riders who have tons of experience who claim, “Oh, don't worry. A 750-800cc will be easy once you get used to it.” Go with your comfort level, your abilities and training and of course your gut feeling. I want to enjoy riding, not fear the size of the bike and what if I fall.

    So for the people picking on me for getting a 250, I don't care what you think. I am happy and you can call it a scooter all you want.

    1. Very well said. Thanks for sharing what I believe to be very valuable advice for new riders. Most newbies who start on a bigger bike end up regretting it.

  26. Another great article. My first bike was and is the Suzuki Boulevard S40 mentioned above, the former Suzuki Savage. It has good response with 650cc but the weight is only 350 pounds so it's much easier to handle than some of the next step up bikes that can easily be 200 pounds heavier or more. Great ride! I just started riding this spring, but I think I will be happy with my bike for at least a couple of years.

  27. My first bike was a mistake. I bought a used Honda Magna 750 and dropped it twice before admitting it was just too heavy for me. I gave the bike to my husband to ride and I got a Honda Rebel 250. hat was the perfect bike to learn on and I felt comfortable because it was the same size they used at the MSF course. At 5 feet 2 inches and 115 pounds, I needed a confidence building bike that would allow my feet to be firmly planted on the ground.

    After two summers I was ready to move up to more power and so we went to a motorcycle show and I sat on all the bikes. What a great way to try them all. I realized that the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 was perfect for my next bike and that's what I bought and I still love it. My husband moved up to a Kawasaki Nomad 1500 and we are both happy riders.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. The Magna is a great bike, but top heavy and not at all good for beginners, particulary of your size. You made the right choice.

  28. Loved the article. I started riding last year on a friend's 2003 Yamaha 650 V Star. I went to buy my new bike this spring and ended up buying a 2008 Harley Super Glide Custom. I'm 5 feet 7 inches and 125 pounds and was really concerned about the weight difference, but it hasn't been an issue, and the Harley handles really well. I didn't want to buy a bike only to trade up to a bigger bike in a couple of years. I'm very happy with the bigger bike now.

  29. Great article. My first bike was a Yamaha V Star 650, the first and only bike I sat on before purchasing (BIG mistake). Only had it for two weeks before I went down, then took more than four months getting back on it. I was really restricted because of its size, even after extensions on the foot controls, and had nothing but trouble with shifting.

    After getting my nerve back and a refresher MSF course, my current bike is a Kawasaki Vulcan 900, and it “fits” perfectly. I knew as soon as I sat on it that it was the bike for me. Had I known then what I know now, I would have picked the bike that fit me, not just go with someone's recommendation – buy the bike that fits!

  30. My first bike was a dirt bike, a Honda XR200 and that fit me just great for a first bike, (I am 5 feet 4 inches, 120 pounds), but when it was time to move up in engine size I had to sit on many bikes to find one that would have more power and fit me. I chose a Kawasaki KDX 220 and I loved it but it was a bit tall for me so my husband cut some cushion out of the seat and then wrapped it back up. Then it was a perfect fit!

  31. I cannot believe you left out Kawasaki's Ninja 250, 500 or even the 650R.
    Light weight with great “flickability,”

  32. Really great advice! I was pretty clueless when I got my first bike, and still have a lot to learn. I have been riding for four years, and my current bike is Yamaha 1100 V Star. My first bike was a 600 Honda VLX, another good entry level bike, in my opinion, if you're looking more for a cruiser type bike.

    Loved the part of the article where you pointed out the first bike shouldn't necessarily be your “dream bike,” but an older bike that you won't worry about getting a few dings on. I fell down two minutes after my first ride on my first bike, turning out of the driveway!

  33. A lot of very good advice here. As an advertiser on this site, I want to let everyone know that MC Enterprises is one of a few, if not only companies building a wide variety of aftermarket accessories for the Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki 250's. They're all great entry level bikes.

  34. In college my husband and I both owned small street bikes. We traded both of them in for household appliances when we got married. Once the kids were grown and gone my husband and I got the bug to start riding again. After passing the MSF course I went around to different dealers in the area and sat on every bike they had. At 5'1″ my choices were somewhat limited but I did find a used Kawasaki Vulcan 500 that fit me perfectly.

    I've been riding it for two years now and except for a minor gravel incident my first time out it's been smooth sailing. I've got my eye on a Honda 750 now.
    I'm glad I found this site. The articles are wonderful!

  35. My first bike was a Sportster 883C. I still own and love it, but recently purchased a 2008 Softail Deluxe. I rode the 883 for four years before trading up and now wish I had done so sooner. I also went through three different seats on the Sportster before finding one that fit my size and style. The balance on the larger bike is so much better. My husband always said if I could ride the Sportster I could ride almost anything.

    Ladies, I think he was right. After riding the Sportster, taking to the road on my new bike is a joy. My advice: sit on everything and don't discount anything due to size sometimes a low center of gravity makes a huge difference.

  36. Very good article. Sometimes wish I had not “traded up” quite so fast. I started out on a Yamaha 250. Also a great bike for us shorter beginners. It's a light weight bike, the controls are all within easy reach and just enough power so that it doesn't feel like it might run away with you each time you twist the throttle. Very affordable, even for a new one!

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