Motorcycle riding is a double-edged sword – for all the fun and freedom, beginner motorcyclists will also need to understand the risks and responsibilities involved. We’d like to share some beginner motorcycle tips that will help you have tons of fun while keeping yourself and others safe.
Best Motorcycle Options for Beginner Motorcyclists
Almost every experienced rider will agree – beginner motorcyclists should choose from the best beginner motorcycles before later moving on to heavier or more high-performance machines. There’s a significant risk of “biting off more than you can chew” with some bikes, and beginner bikes are still fully capable of being tons of fun.
The difficulty here is that there will be different good beginner options depending on the type of motorcycle you want to ride. As a rule, however, brands and models noted for their reliability will make for the best-used motorcycles for beginners. If you’ve just started building up your skill level, you don’t want to have to deal with mechanical problems or tricky performance models.
Before we go into the best entry-level motorcycle models, here are a few general tips for your first bike:
1. Respect the power learning curve: High-powered bikes can be dangerous in the hands of a new biker. Until you have some real-world road experience, stick to a modest bike. This will vary depending on the bike type, but generally, try to stay under 600cc and around 50 horsepower.
2. Choose a generalist: You may think you want a long-forked chopper, a high-powered superbike, or a scrappy hard enduro to tear up the trails – and maybe you’re right. However, spending some time with a naked street bike, a touring model, or a modest cruiser will help you understand what you’re truly after.
The alternative is having a miserable time with a specialized bike when you’re just starting out. That can put some beginners off of motorcycles entirely.
3. The skills make the rider: As important as your bike choice is, don’t forget your skillset as well. How well you ride will determine how much fun you have and how safe you are. We’ll share some motorcycle riding tips for beginners further down in the post.
With that being said, here are a few top choices for a good first motorcycle.
1. Honda Rebel 500
At 500cc, this Rebel hits the sweet spot between thrills and simplicity. This is a good first bike for any rider, but it’s especially great for anyone thinking about diving into the world of cruisers, choppers, or touring bikes with their next purchase down the line.
2. KTM 390 Duke
This is a lower-powered entry in KTM’s legendary Duke line of models. The aggressive styling and specs will let the beginner rider get a taste of sporty street riding before they get on a true powerhouse like the Super Duke 1290.
3. Kawasaki Ninja 400
Kawasaki offers excellent sports bikes and superbikes all across the power spectrum. This lower-powered Ninja model offers an excellent first taste for beginner sports riders before graduating to a more powerful speed machine.
4. Suzuki SV650
The SV650 is widely appreciated as an excellent beginner bike that strikes a perfect balance between approachability and fun. If the naked format appeals to you, be sure to check out the Honda CB500 as well.
5. BMW G310GS
Adventure bikes of this size and power are a good choice for anyone considering going off-road who wants to try it out first. These bikes are great on and off the road, and at smaller engine sizes, they’ll be easier to manage off-road as well. As is the case with most motorcycles of this type, this may be a good beginner motorcycle for tall riders.
Motorcycle Gear Every Beginner Motorcyclist Must Have
Your local laws will tell you what is legally required to ride in your area, but whatever the law actually says, there are certain pieces of gear you just need to have. Beginner riders have high odds of getting into accidents, so it’s important to stay safe and comfortable with the right gear. Here are some of our key tips for beginner motorcycle gear.
Helmets are required by law around the world, but that’s not why you should wear one. This is the best motorcycle gear for beginners because it has the greatest chance to save your life during a crash. It also does a lot of work to keep you comfortable by blocking wind, noise, bugs, rain, dust, gravel, and other road hazards. To get the best beginner motorcycle helmet, here are our tips:
- Buy your first helmet in-store so you can try it on first. It should have a snug but comfortable fit, and different motorcycle helmets are made for different head shapes.
- Prioritize safety. There are tons of great extra comfort features out there, but it’s hard to know which ones you’ll really need until you spend some time on the road. Save your money – if it’s comfortable and has all the latest safety certifications (at a minimum, look for DOT, ECE and/or SNELL), that’s all you need right now. Later, you can upgrade to something with excellent noise-canceling, aerodynamics, lightweight construction, Bluetooth capabilities, modular structure, or other neat features.
A good pair of motorcycle boots or sneakers will go a long way towards keeping you safe. If you fall on your side, which is a common type of motorcycle accident, your feet are going to have a bad time. Only purpose-built motorcycle footwear is certified not just to stay on your feet, but to minimize the crushing and abrasive forces they might be subjected to in a crash.
The good news is that motorcycle footwear has come a long way. There are lots of good-looking options to choose from.
When you trip and fall, you instinctively stick your hands out to break your fall. The same is true when you fall off your bike, except that you’re probably moving way faster. In addition to keeping your hands safe during a crash, motorcycle gloves will keep your hands comfortable and warm, protecting them from the elements as you twist the throttle.
Many people underestimate just how important motorcycle jackets are. And no, any old leather jacket won’t do. Motorcycle jackets have armor inserts to protect your shoulders and elbows and can even include back protectors for your spine. The wide selection of men’s motorcycle jackets out there means you can look good no matter your style and still ride safe.
If you fall and slide, your legs will wind up taking a lot of abuse. Trust me, you do NOT want road rash all down your thigh. A good pair of motorcycle pants will not just keep you safe, they’ll also make your ride more comfortable by protecting your legs and groin from the elements.
Extra Safety Measures You Should Take as a Beginner Motorcyclist
Once you’ve got your safety basics covered, there are other things you can do to take it to the next level. Here are some more tips for new motorcycle riders:
1. High-viz gear: Safety on the road isn’t just about you but the people around you. The more visible you are, the more likely other drivers are to respect your space. To this end, some riders like to dress in bright colors to improve their visibility. Something as simple as a road safety vest is a good start, but there are reflector harnesses, neon-colored helmets, and other high-viz gear you can wear to improve your chances.
2. Base layers: Motorcycle base layers are thin, abrasion-resistant tights that some riders like to wear as base layers. These are highly versatile bits of gear. They can secure any gaps in your other gear or armor, or they can be worn under your clothes.
3. Muffler upgrades: Obviously, the primary reason most bikers get louder mufflers is that they love the sound. Coming in at a close second, however, is the safety benefit. If your bike is louder on the road, other drivers are more likely to notice you and respect your space on the road.
4. Light upgrades: Much like the high-viz upgrades, brighter lights can help improve road visibility in low-light conditions and help other drivers see you better.
Must-Learn Skills as a Beginner Motorcyclist
Your learning journey isn’t over just because you aced your motorcycle rider’s test and got your license. There are skills you need to learn and drill regularly to get the most out of your bike, as far as fun and safety are concerned.
1. Basic maintenance skills: Leave complex repairs or upgrades to the pros. However, you should definitely familiarize yourself with procedures like oil and filter changes, brake and radiator fluid checks, chain care, and others. Once you have a bike you love, get the maintenance manual as well to learn how to care for it. There are lots of dangerous or difficult situations on the road that you can prevent with simple maintenance.
2. Motorcycle safety course: In many countries, your license exam will simply cover the rules of the road and how to operate your motorcycle. Motorcycle safety training, on the other hand, can teach you a ton of new intermediate and advanced skills. These courses are worth it!
3. Emergency motorcycle drills: It’s best to drive cautiously so you never have to emergency brake at all. If you ever do, however, you’ll be glad to have practiced braking. If you find a motorcycle training course or instructor that can help you start doing emergency braking and other drills, you can learn to control your bike when one or both wheels lose traction.
Beginner motorcycle riders have more information and tools available now than ever before, so you’re in luck. Invest in a good set of safety gear, research your favorite bike model online, watch some motorcycle safety skill videos on YouTube – the possibilities are endless. Keep two wheels on the ground, stay safe, and have fun!
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