What makes a Good Starter-Bike?

This question comes up quite a bit, so here’s my personal opinion on the age old question: What’s a good first-bike? The best answer (as far as I can tell) is: “it depends.”

The problem with a lot of (otherwise good) advice on first-motorcycles is that it’s like trying to give directions to someone without knowing where they’re coming from… You can’t tell someone to make a left unless you know which direction they’re coming from…In the same way there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to motorcycles. Something else we must keep in mind is that there is no such thing as a “safe” motorcycle for beginners on the streets of NY. A crash on a 250cc is just as bad as a crash on a supersport. And on congested city streets, a person who lacks the sense to learn safely on a 600 will not be safe on a 250. However there are principles and needs that can be understood and addressed to benefit new riders while increasing chances of safety developing motorcycle skills. So here’s a quick rundown of some basic needs new riders have along with some principles to apply in choosing a first motorcycle…


Honda CB500

Unless you balance refrigerators and washing machines for a living, you probably don’t have innate the skill to balance a motorcycle well. For an experienced rider, weight can add to a bike’s stability but for new riders bike weight (and the added power that usually goes with it) magnifies every mistake making riding more precarious.

Read the rest at www.citybikerblog.com!


14 responses to “What makes a Good Starter-Bike?

  1. Pablo Bukonja

    Thanks a lot for the post. I found it very useful

  2. hey!
    I am considering of getting a bike for the first time but was not even considering getting something less that a 600. This article made me rethink my attitude towards my first bike. I am mature enough to be cautious when riding on the street and was just dreaming of getting 60 mph in 3 sec. I now realize that even if I don’t get into a crash on a 600, I will still not be able to control the bike and it will take too long (if ever) to really learn how to ride. Thanks!

    Zee, NYC

  3. One of the best articles I have read about beginners bikes and I have read them all. The only one to not immediately assume that everyone should begin small.


  4. hey. thanks for the post. i’ve been thinking of buying a bike here in the US , particularly for my size and height (not 6ft and less than 200lb). I’m not quite a beginner…have ridden on the likes of cb500 , kawasaki eliminators 125s etc…but new to buying a bike here

  5. im wondering if can get a mz 251 etz here in Canada its an old bike but it still packs a punch and as for the article it was great and i hope you do one for advanced rider cause im gonna need one soon and many other people will also

  6. thanks! that was a huge help as I’m looking to buy my first bike

  7. i am 16 and i ride a yamaha r6 i am not scared of it because i have been riding a 450 dirtbike since i was 14 so i think that gets rid of the scared part, but it is my first bike and i lovve crusing around on it

  8. Great blog…very helpful since I’m about to buy my first bike. Speaking of which…I have two comments / questions:
    * I’m thinking of buying a classic Honda CB (450/550/750)…you didn’t mention any older bikes in your suggestions for first bikes, any particular reason why?
    * Any suggestions as far as how to find a good moto-mechanic? I’m in Carroll Gardens (brooklyn)…


  9. Hey Pete,

    Those Honda CB’s are great! They’re probably the most reliable 20-30 year old bikes on the road – but having said that they will probably require a little more maintenance than newer Hondas. Factor that into the $2-3k purchase price for a model in good condition and it’s much costlier than a four year old Ex500 or Bandit.

    The reason I didn’t mention older bikes is because worrying about maintenance is usually a chore for people who are just starting to ride – most people fair better with something more worry free for the first few years (learning to ride is hard enough). But if you’re mechanically inclined, and have the time to take care of an older machine – these Hondas are classics…

    I don’t know the shops in Brooklyn, but I’ve heard people recommend Motorcycle Works… so I’ll just pass that on: 316 Carroll St, 718-802-1705


  10. Speaking of maintenance…any chance of a post on basic bike maintenance (chain lubing, etc.)? Or do you know where I could get some tips?

  11. That’s a good idea: how to’s on chain lube, adjusting the chain, clutch and brake cables…

    In the mean time, anyone else know a good online source?

  12. Thank you for your article. It was helpful. For weeks I’ve been trying to come up with a solution to the logistical problem of being a new rider (passed MSF in 6/08, no prior riding experience, only on scooters and passenger), did a few lessons on a Honda CB500, tried a Sportster 1200 Custom for about 5 minutes, and still feel fearful. I live in the city, would like to buy a bike, but need to practice more, and don’t know if the city is a good place to practice. I would really appreciate some more suggestions from my fellow NYC riders. Thanks in advance.

  13. Hey Debs,

    I know a guy who’s lived in PA and rode a Harley all his life, but when he moved to NY (in his 50’s) decided to keep his bike in PA. Too scared of the cars and potholes. So if it makes you nervous, you’re not alone.

    You do need to buy a bike in order to practice. Something cheap and reliable – as well as light weight, low seat height, etc. A Sportster 1200 is great if you HAVE to ride a Harley – but their appeal is in its classic quality – so just the way you probably wouldn’t want a Ford Model T as your first car – any Harley, even a sportster is going to be a little bit of a hassle in the beginning.

    So 1st thing you need to do: Get a bike. Find a place to park near where you live.
    2nd: Unless you’re absolutely in love with motorcycles (which I am) consider possibly getting a scooter (probably the polar opposite of a Harley Sportster), and very practical for the city…
    3rd: Get the gear. Jacket, boots, gloves, helmet.
    4th: Practice riding in residential areas during non-rush hour times. If you’re in Manhattan, stay away from cab-filled Avenues like 2nd and 3rd for now.
    5th: Jump over to our new address: http://www.citybikerblog.com

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