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The best beginner-friendly motorcycles for first-time buyers

Light, compact, and easy to handle are just three key components of the best motorcycles for newbs. Let's ride!

There’s nothing quite like riding a motorcycle. While winter can be a tough season for riders, most manage to squeeze in a day of riding on one of those odd warm days or dream about getting the bike ready for spring. Daydreaming can be a dangerous thing when it comes to motorcycles, but it can fuel the idea of getting one. Whether you just caught the bug or have been thinking about getting into the world of two-wheelers for a while, starting with the right beginner-friendly motorcycle is a crucial step (after mastering the best motorcycle slang, of course).

Choosing your first bike can be difficult. Not only do you have to decide what kind of motorcycle you want, but you’ll also have to consider price, weight, speed, and cost of repairs. For most newbie riders, a light, small-displacement bike makes for the best beginner motorcycle. They’re light, easy to handle, and have a practical (but not excessive) amount of power to allow first-time riders to safely get used to being on two wheels.

Starting with a small bike before upgrading to something with extra power will ensure you master the fundamentals before making a hasty upgrade and wind up trying to steer more bike than you can handle.

Motorcycle rider looking at mountain range on the side of a dirt path.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While we highly recommend going down the used Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace route for your first bike, there’s always a chance you’ll end up with something in need of hefty repairs, or that has sketchy driving characteristics. That’s not what you want with your first bike.

Don’t worry. Once you’re out on the open roads, things get a lot easier. The hard part is finding the right motorcycle and getting all of the necessary paperwork done to actually go riding. We’ve done the hard work for you by rounding up our top picks for the best beginner motorcycles worth shopping for in 2023.

Front side profile of KTM 390 Duke on a brick road with a brick wall in the background
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KTM 390 Duke

KTM is best known for its racing pedigree and for making motorcycles that can tear up both asphalt and dirt. The brand’s 390 Duke naked motorcycle is a strong option for new riders because it has a dry weight of just 329 pounds, which makes it easy to handle. The single-cylinder engine pumps out 44 horsepower, a respectable figure that feels surprisingly peppy on such a light motorcycle. Light, nimble, and good-looking, the KTM 390 Duke comes with all of the brand’s strengths in a fun, easy-to-ride package.

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Blue Yamaha YZF-R3 motorcycle sitting at a corner on a racetrack with a stand
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Yamaha YZF-R3

While we don’t think sport bikes are the best option for new riders — they tend to have a lot of power, have an awkward seating position that a lot of people find uncomfortable, and are expensive to run — the Yamaha YZF-R3 is a great beginner motorcycle. The YZF-R3 tips the scale at just 375 pounds and comes with a two-cylinder, 321cc engine, making it easy to come to terms with. The YZF-R3 also features a more comfortable, newb-friendly riding position, a flat seat that makes it easier for riders to put their feet flat on the ground at stops, and an affordable price tag to boot.

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Honda Rebel 300 motorcycle in front of a city skyline on a paved road

Honda Rebel 300

For a change of speed, the Honda Rebel 300 is an entry-level cruiser from a brand that builds some of the world’s best motorcycles. The Rebel 300 not only looks great, but the bike also has features that make it comfortable and easy to ride. The cruiser has a low seat height that makes it easier for shorter riders to put their feet down when needed. Despite being a cruiser, which is usually excessively large, the Rebel 300 is one of the lighter cruisers with a weight of roughly 360 pounds. A wide stance and chunky tires help the Rebel 300 be stable, plush, and compliant on the road.

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Front side profile of a Suzuki SV650 in a white studio backdrop
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Suzuki SV650

Since 1999, the Suzuki SV650 has continually stood out for being one of the best beginner motorcycles on the market. The SV650’s popularity goes beyond its styling to include a torquey V-twin engine, lightweight chassis, and relaxed seating position. Suzuki also offers the SV650 with nifty features like Low RPM Assist, which helps avoid stalling. This, without a doubt, is a great feature for new riders to have, as you’re sure to stall your bike quite a few times.

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Front side profile of Honda CRF250L dirt bike motorcycle against a white backdrop
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Honda CRF250L

Not all riders are looking to go cruising on smooth asphalt. For those who prefer to tackle dirt on two wheels and the occasional road, there’s the Honda CRF250L. The versatile dual-sport bike is prepared to hit trails and still be comfortable in regular traffic thanks to its long-travel suspension and upright seating position. Riders looking for a seriously capable off-road vehicle should look into the CRF250L Rally, which comes with a larger fuel tank, handguards, bodywork that was inspired by Dakar, more suspension travel, and a skid plate.

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Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 motorcycle underneath a bridge with pedestrians and cars in the back
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Ducati Scrambler Sixty2

Ducati bikes tend not to be the best beginner motorcycles because they’re expensive to repair and maintain. They’re also powerful, exotic, and gorgeous. The Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 is one of the newer additions to the brand’s lineup and gives new riders a large amount of flexibility. Ducati offers the Sixty2 with multiple styles of seats, an ergonomic handlebar, and different body panels to allow owners to take the blank canvas and turn it into something unique. The Ducati’s 399cc engine puts out 40 horsepower, while the bike carries a dry weight of 368 pounds.

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Harley-Davidson Iron 883 motorcycle in a tunnel on the side of a road with trees in the background
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Harley-Davidson Iron 883

Harley-Davidson may not be nearly as popular as it once was, but there’s no denying the iconic American brand still makes some of the best-looking bikes on the road. The Iron 883 is the smallest and most affordable motorcycle in H-D’s lineup but still features a legendary design. Power for the Iron 883 comes via an 883cc V-Twin engine, which may sound like a lot, but the bike weighs roughly 540 pounds. So, it’s a manageable amount that will appeal to both beginners and more advanced riders. With a forward riding position, a low height from the ground, and mid-mount foot controls, the Iron 883 is a motorcycle that’s easy to ride.

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Side profile of a green Kawasaki Ninja 400 motorcycle against a plain white backdrop
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Kawasaki Ninja 400

Kawasaki makes some of the fastest bikes in the world, but the brand hasn’t forgotten about beginners that are just starting out. The Kawasaki Ninja 400 is the smallest bike the manufacturer sells, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the aggressive design. The sportbike offers thrilling handling thanks to a design that’s borrowed from the Ninja H2 super sportbike and a trellis frame. Despite being a sportbike, the Ninja 400 offers riders a raised riding position for added comfort. The bike’s multifunction dash, light clutch with an assist function, and standard anti-lock brakes should give riders the confidence to hop on and get comfortable right away. 

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Front side profile view of the Honda Grom motorcycle against a white studio backdrop
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Honda Grom

While the majority of motorcycle riders enjoy tackling the open road or a windy stretch of tarmac, some consumers may be looking for something more practical for city use. If that’s the case, the Honda Grom should fit the bill. The Grom starts at just $3,399, making it one of the more affordable options on this list. The motorcycle has a wheelbase that’s just 47.2 inches long, while the seat height measures a short 30 inches. These two things make the Grom a breeze to ride and park in the city. With a 123.9cc single-cylinder engine, the Grom isn’t exactly powerful, but it’s incredibly light, agile, and darn good on gas. That’s the ideal combination for new riders.

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Editors' Recommendations

Joel Patel
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Joel Patel is a former contributor for The Manual. His work has also been featured on Autoweek, Digital Trends, Autoblog…
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