The ride advice.

So you’re ready to buy a bike. Congratulations, the world is about to get way, way more fun, way, way more cool, and way, way more relaxing. So many ways. Motorcycling is the single best form of transport, bar none. You’re not the only person who thinks that, neither am I, which is why the number of choices for type of bike can be seriously overwhelming.

To help narrow your search, here are 12 solid contenders as the best new motorcycles for beginners like you and one bit of guidance to steer you clear of a common choice. They’ll help you develop skill, save money, and have fun.

How To Learn To Ride

With. A. Professional. Read it again. Not with Billy Bob down the street who’s been riding his stretched Busa for a year and hasn’t crashed it at all but has laid it down twice to avoid a crash, and not with your uncle’s sketchy friend who rolled a Boss Hog for the past 30 years. A proper, trained, professional will give you the best start on this journey.

So, 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. This is the moment to call in your uncle’s sketchy friend, but probably not Busa boy. Take what experienced riders tell you with a grain of salt, especially if it contradicts your instructors.

The Bad News

You will drop a motorcycle. It’s normal, we all did it, even those of us that lie to you about it. Dropping something cheap and crash-worthy like an old dirt bike 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?

Internet forums (and the market in general) seem to divide the biking world into two poles: extremely large cruisers or extremely fast sport bikes. There is a large, diverse and exciting world between those two.

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.