You’ve done it. Congrats. You’ve decided to enter the world of motorcycles. Let me be the first to welcome you to a rich and vibrant collective that celebrates individualism and breaking free of the constraints of everyday life. Motorcycles are brilliant tools to escape reality and breathe in the majestic world we live in.
Now, I’m sure you’ve already geared up — an absolutely essential step in the process, trust me — and you’ve taken the basic motorcycle class that’s offered in almost every major city throughout the country. The right beginner steps. And now, you’ve come to the point of purchasing your first motorcycle. How exciting! There are, of course, handy-dandy guides mixed in throughout the world-wide-web, but a lot of them are wrong, misleading, or downright dangerous. And fellow riders will offer a wide range of advice, again ranging from fairly competent to “Why in God’s name did you tell Janice to buy a 300-horsepower Kawasaki H2 as her first motorcycle?!” Don’t worry, we’re here to help and give you the right advice. What makes it right you ask? Because I made this list, that’s why.
We’ve put together the five best beginner motorcycles that not only will have you grinning from ear to ear, seeing the sights, carving canyon corners, and doing so on a relatively respectable budget, but also keep you and your recently acquired motorcycling skills safe. Let’s get into it.
What better way to start motorcycling than to do so on dirt? Dirt is forgiving, softer than concrete, and there are fewer driver’s texting, eating, sleeping, and generally not paying attention to you, the non-caged individual who’s just trying to get to and from work or heading out on the town. Honda’s excellent XR650L is the perfect tool for beginners who really want to learn the fundamentals of motorcycling safely.
Powered by a 644cc engine, the XR650L puts out a whopping 40 horsepower. Yes, that isn’t much, but you don’t need 200-plus when you’re starting out, and for the motorcycling this souped-up dirtbike likes, 40 horsepower is plenty. Add that the upright seating provides riders with superb sight lights and encourages them to look through turns, as well as soft suspension, and the ability to ride both dirt and pavement when you finally feel comfortable, the XR650L makes total sense.
Kawasaki Vulcan S
They may not be my cup of tea, but cruisers are dominant among motorcyclers around the world. Their style is undeniable. Their cool is unmatched. And they are the embodiment of rebellion in a generation that seems to have since forgotten its roots. But that’s just my opinion. The Kawasaki, however, is something different than the average Harley-Davidson you see your 65-year-old dentist riding around on. It blends sport and cruising and does so in a package perfect for beginners.
The Vulcan S uses a 649cc liquid-cooled four-cylinder engine and delivers 54 horsepower and 46 lb-ft of torque. Again, not a lot of horsepower, but the Vulcan S delivers that power throughout the powerband making it easy to hop onto the power and get to scooting along whenever the rider wishes. Add a supremely comfortable seating position that forgoes the standard hunched-over cruiser position, ABS, and better-than-average fuel economy, and you have yourself a hell of a great beginners motorcycle.
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Let’s up the ante a little and head to Italy, the land of fine wines and cheeses, beautiful men and women, performance automobiles that send shivers down passerby’s spines, and the most well-known motorcycle brand in the world. Of course, I’m speaking about Ducati, and the brand’s latest addition to the Scrambler lineup, the Sixty2, was built to get new riders into stores, onto bikes, and to become global ambassadors for motorcycle culture.
The Ducati Scrambler is a beast of a machine. Brilliantly engineered, the Scrambler takes to whatever lifestyle you hold most dear. If you want to go off-roading, you can do that. If you want to build a cafe-style motorcycle, you can do that. Do you just want an around-town bike? Have at it. The Scrambler is the perfect blank canvas and the Sixty2 is the cheapest and most adaptable of the bunch.
Powered by a 399cc engine, the Sixty2 delivers 40 horsepower and 25 lb-ft of torque, a perfect amount for its 330 lb frame. Though set up for extra urban environments, the Sixty2 is at home no matter where you live and delivers not only the Ducati experience everyone wants but does so without destroying your bank account, something that is most definitely un-Italian.
Indian Scout Sixty
Old school cool is here. Slick your hair back with the finest of organic pomade, hike up your designer jeans, and slip on those dope Thursday boots — you’re about to ride an American classic with all the modern accouterments younger riders and influencers demand. This is the reborn Indian Scout Sixty.
The Scout Sixty is the big boy of this group, but I’m including it here because of just how approachable it is once you swing your leg over its saddle. With the most horsepower, 78, and the most torque, 65 lb-ft, the Scout Sixty is ready to rock and willing to throw down whenever someone insults your homemade quiche. I’ve personally put 1,000 miles on one over the course of two weeks and it’s a brilliant machine. Easy to ride, pretty frugal on gas, torque for days, a sound that’s quintessential Americana, and a look that defies expectations. This is the Harley-Davidson killer everyone has been trying to build for nearly 100 years. Try one, you won’t be disappointed.
Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Here’s my favorite of the bunch. It’s the most expensive, but I cannot repeat enough how its worth every single dollar and penny of its $12,000 price tag. Husqvarna knocked it out of the park, made the Hail Mary pass, sunk a three from half court, spiked the ball, dropped a hole in one, and every other sports metaphor for perfect you can think of. The Vitpilen is the perfect motorcycle not just for new riders, but for all riders.
Only the third street-legal motorcycle ever offered by the company, the Vitpilen has a trellis frame, a 692cc single-cylinder engine that makes 75 horsepower and 51 lb-ft, the lines of a supermodel at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, and a riding experience that makes you feel like you’re literally flying. And though this is a motorcycle that you’ll be begging to drop a knee with, its dynamics are confidence building so that you can build to that goal. All you need to do is trust the bike and yourself and work on your own abilities.
The Vitpilen is a motorcycle you not only can start with, but also grow with. Sure, there are faster machines. More expensive machines. Machines built to replicate the prowess of Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez’s MotoGP entrants. But those are truly specialized beings. The Vitpilen is the perfect all-rounder. A motorcycle that’s literally good no matter the situation or skill level. Buy it. Buy me one. Buy your neighbor one. Buy every Vitpilen 701 Husqvarna can build. And then never sell them. It is perfect. Once you ride one, you’ll thank me.