Introduced in 1985, the Honda Rebel has been a staple of the segment for nearly 35 years. In 2017, Honda overhauled the line with blacked-out aesthetics, a trellis frame, and a dual-overhead cam engine derived from the CBR platform. Including 300cc and 500cc variants, beginners can start with a single or bump up to a twin if they want more power.
The current Rebel has one of the lowest seat heights on our list at 27.2 inches, which makes it a frequent choice of short riders. The 300cc variant is also easy for new riders to wield, weighing in at 364 pounds wet. At a base price of $4,499, beginners won’t break the bank if they break the bike and they can start saving toward that bigger bike.
Suzuki Boulevard S40
If you’re more of a traditionalist and the Rebel’s modern design doesn’t suit your tastes, the Suzuki Boulevard S40 will certainly do the trick. With a 652cc air-cooled engine and Mikuni carburetor, Suzuki’s entry cruiser takes a tried and true approach. The no-frills aesthetic also provides a blank canvas for riders to customize the bike to their liking.
At a svelte 381 pounds, riders can confidently maneuver the retro rig around town but the 5-speed transmission will probably restrict owners to surface streets. At $5,799, the Boulevard undercuts the Rebel 500’s $6,199 asking price by erring on the side of simplicity. If you’re looking for a starter bike that’s easy to work on and easy on the wallet, Suzuki’s little cruiser could be the one for you.
Harley-Davidson Iron 883
Harley’s Sportster platform has been around since 1957. With a history that rich, the Iron 883 is easily the most customizable model on this list with an expansive accessories catalog and third-party aftermarket. Unlike the Boulevard, Harley mates the Iron’s air-cooled engine with electronic fuel injection, opting for modern convenience while retaining classic styling.
Though the Iron’s low 29.9-inch seat height will allow most riders to flat foot the bike, the 565-pound curb weight may be challenging to handle. The 883cc displacement does produce enough power for the beginner rider, but the 5-speed transmission will probably limit time on the highway. With an MSRP of $8,999, the Iron is one of the more expensive options on our list, but there’s certainly an alternative if you don’t want to drop all that dough on the Harley badge.
Seen as Yamaha’s Sportster knockoff, comparisons between the Bolt and the Harley are inevitable. The Bolt leverages the silhouette of Harley’s classic cruiser but sheds weight, gains power, and drops the price. At $7,999, Yamaha equips the Bolt with a 942cc, 60-degree v-twin, wave-type rotors, and improved suspension.
The 27.2-inch seat height can accommodate smaller inseams and the 542-pound wet weight saves over 20 pounds compared to the Sportster. Aside from the fit and finish and available accessories, the Sportster doesn’t hold much over the Bolt. If customization isn’t your highest priority and Harley branding isn’t your thing, Yamaha’s version of the Sportster may be the perfect choice for you.
Indian Scout Sixty
Rounding out our list of beginner cruisers is the venerable Indian Scout Sixty. The entry-level Scout gives new riders room to grow with a 999cc, liquid-cooled, dual-overhead cam engine that produces 78 horsepower. With all that power, it’s a shame that the ground clearance, forward foot controls, and suspension don’t allow for more spirited riding.
Polaris toes the line of modern and classic with the Scout’s styling and the design is a great alternative to the Sportster and Bolt. The seat height is the lowest on our list at just over 25 inches and the low center of gravity helps new riders control the 560-pound motorcycle. If you’re not looking for a canyon carver, the Indian may be a safe bet, as the higher displacement and horsepower are great for straight-line speed.