Advice you can use!
Just got your motorcycle license and want to buy your first real bike? Here’s a baker's dozen—12 solid contenders and one honorable mention—of the best new motorcycles for beginners like you. They’ll help you develop skill, save money, and have fun.
How To Learn To Ride
Visit your local DMV to obtain a learner’s permit, then sign up for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation or equivalent class. Depending on which state you live in, that two-day course may serve as your practical exam, but even if it doesn’t, it’s the best possible way to learn.
After that, you’re still going to be extremely…green. It’s probably best to borrow or buy a small, cheap, likely crappy bike and toodle about on that for a few weeks while you get over your new rider nervousness. You’re going to drop a bike a few times during that time, doing so on something crappy is relatively consequence-free. Not until you feel you’re riding with confidence, skill and safety is it time to buy something nicer.
Motorcycling isn’t something you just buy into either. Even riders with decades of experience are still trying to improve their skills. Start small and work your way up and you’ll be a better, faster, safer rider who gets much more enjoyment out of doing this than someone who insists on riding a bike that’s too big or too fast and who likely just ends up being terrified the entire time. Riding with skill is cooler than just buying something flashy.
How To Stay Alive
Wear full safety gear; refer to our Beginner’s Guide To Motorcycle Gear for how and why.
Always ride within your skill level, don’t try to keep up with more experienced riders or bite off tougher conditions than you can chew. Go out when there’s little to no traffic, practice in quiet parking lots or on dead-end streets. Allow yourself time to practice.
Buy a copy of Nick Ienatsch’s Sport Riding Techniques, read it through, then go through and pick individual skills to work on one step at a time. Then, go out and practice that individual skill until you’ve mastered it and move on to the next. Seriously, practice, practice, practice. Devote a day a week to just that and, before you know it, you’ll get good at this bike thing.
Chose a bike with ABS brakes. They really will help you stop faster and safer and with more confidence. Especially useful in bad weather or on rough urban streets.
Which Bike Is Right For You?
In America, the bike market is polarized into extremes—extremely large cruisers, extremely fast sport bikes—but there's actually a happy middle ground of bikes that just sort of do everything well. By starting on one of the bikes listed here in place of something more ridiculous, you'll be able to gain riding experience on something suitable for learning while developing an informed position from which to decide what style of motorcycling is right for you. With a few miles under your belt, you'll be in a better position to make that decision in a way that's good for you rather than simply the product of misinformed mainstream media or bad advice from friends.