• What’s The Best Bike For A Beginner?

The choice is surprisingly large and nearly all of them are good

Whether you’re just starting out in motorcycling or returning to riding after a few years away, there is a great choice of small bikes out there that don’t look or feel like small bikes.

Best Bikes for Beginners

What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Best Bikes For Beginners
These are all great bikes in their own right, not just for beginners and, unlike the Honda Grom, are all full-sized bikes for full size people

Actually, the title of this article is flawed. Whilst the bikes in this list are great for beginners, they also make great choices as second bikes to use to buzz around town instead of your gas-guzzling car. Some of them even make perfect alternatives to big bikes, for example in the adventure bike category.

So here, in no particular order, is our top ten:

KTM 125/200/390 Duke/RC/Adventure

What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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KTM 390 Adventure
One of the best adventure bikes out there, period. Punchy performance and great ability on and off-road

The small KTMs could fill this list on their own. Our choice is the 390 in any of its three guises: it’s still small and compact but its performance will keep you smiling a long time after you’ve become a skilled rider. The Adventure is possibly the perfect blend of performance and ability - on- and off-road - whilst being small and light enough to be unintimidating.


What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Typical BMW build quality but not the most sparkling performance. Still a class act
What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Adventure version of the 310. Longer suspension and ABS that can be turned off. Light and Manageable off road.

BMW really stepped out of its comfort zone with the G310, its smallest bike ever. BMW build quality all round but a slightly weaker performance than the KTM 390. The 310R is the naked street bike and the 310 Adventure matches the KTM for ease-of-use off road but not quite as convincing as an all-round package.

Kawasaki Z400

What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Kawasaki Z400
Absolutely brilliant: enough power to be entertaining, good quality and components and great chassis.

If sports bikes are your thing, then there are two choices if you’re a beginner. The first and the fastest option is the Kawasaki Z400. Blessed with a parallel twin engine, where many in this category make do with one cylinder, it’s an absolute blast to ride, with sparkling performance and a really good chassis. From a distance, you wouldn’t know it’s not a 600 or 1000cc machine.

Suzuki GSX-SF 250

What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Suzuki Gixxer 250
Convincing baby sports bike. Not as fast as KTM RC390 or Kawasaki Z400 but entertaining all the same

Another miniature superbike, full of charm and Suzuki build quality which, in engineering terms, is second to none. Not as fast as the Kawasaki by some way but still entertaining and the chassis can take everything you throw at it. Simple fun.

Yamaha MT-03/R3

What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Yamaha MT-03
Super-stylish entry-level Yamaha naked. R3 is faired version like a baby sports bike.

It might be a bit of a mistake to give the 300cc Yamaha the Monster of Torque moniker but, look past that and this is a very impressive piece of kit. Brilliant design and build quality, well equipped and good looking with performance that sits between the Suzuki and the Kawasaki. Full street cred in either naked or faired form.

Honda CRF250/300L

What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Honda CRF300L
Not very convincing effort from Honda: uncomfortable, slow, spongy suspension, high price tag.

Not terribly convincing effort from usually-reliable Honda. Weak performance and too-soft suspension not a great start. Add in poor comfort and plasticky feel and it’s an expensive way of starting your riding career. Honda just got the compromise wrong: it’s not very good on- or off-road.

Husqvarna TE350 DS

What's The Best Bike For A Beginner?
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Husqvarna TE350 DS
Ultimate cool, but expensive. Works everywhere the Honda doesn’t, apart from maybe comfort.

This is what the Honda should have been. The Husqvarna is everything the Honda is not, apart from long-distance comfort which is a problem with all such machines. Sparkling performance, great chassis and suspension and plenty of street cred, albeit with a pretty stiff price tag.

So, you see, the choice is varied and can cater to almost every need. But the best thing is that none of these feel like ’small’ bikes.

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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