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2016 Best Road Bikes for Beginners

Congrats! You have decided to join the league of the two-wheeled thrill seekers! You have taken a riding course and understand the basic safety tips. And now comes the most exciting part: picking out that perfect first bike.

We understand that for new riders, the prospect of picking that first bike is as exciting as Christmas morning as a kid. You can't sleep, you're drowning in anticipation, and you can't wait to get your hands on that new toy. Except now, your new toy is a sexy machine to speed down the open roads and cruise the curves.

But what is a perfect bike may not be the perfect first bike. A lot of newbie riders end up choosing a bigger bike in order to "plan ahead" for when they are more experienced and want something more powerful. But in general, we really recommend that beginners start on a bike with a smaller engine (250-300cc) and choose a comfortable riding position with a lower seat height (so you can plant both feet firmly on the ground).

We've said it before and we'll reiterate it now: there's no shame in starting out smaller. Safety while riding is the most important (because well... you definitely will not be enjoying your machine if you're injured or worse) so always start out on the safe side.

Are you groaning right now and thinking that small bikes equal boring riding experience? Think again! These great-for-beginners bikes are incredibly fun to ride, and yes, you may even find that they offer all the power you need!

Kawasaki Ninja 300

The Ninja 300 was the first of its kind in the US market, basically setting the stage for 300 class machines. Once upon a time, in a macho, over-hyped US marketplace where cc's and horsepower are king, smaller bikes like this were mocked and relegated into the dark corner of Beginner Land. However, now these little bikes come with enough cool features that they are fun to ride even for more experienced riders.

The Ninja 300 is a lightweight and nimble sportbike powered by a compact but potent liquid-cooled 296cc parallel-twin engine, delivering strong low and mid-range torque, as well as excellent high-RPM power on the open road. Its advanced Digital Fuel Injection (DFI) helps manage cold starting while providing excellent throttle response and great fuel efficiency. Beginners will find the six-speed sequential transmission helpful, and the premium race-inspired FCC clutch offers assist and slipper functions to provide a lighter lever effort and reduces the effect of back-torque. All this makes the Ninja 300 a super agile little sportbike that's easy and great fun to handle.

MSRP Cost: US $4,999

Yamaha R3

The R3 is Yamaha's answer to the aforementioned Ninja 300. The R3 features a fuel-injected 321cc twin-cylinder engine that is capable of delivering a maximum power of 10,750 rpm. The 180 degree crank design ensures that the machine is smooth when accelerating through the rpm range. Forged aluminum pistons (like the R1 and R6) provide excellent strength while remaining super light weight, while the offset cylinders reduce friction for more power. Don't let its size fool you, this little bike is a lot of fun to ride!

The styling is Yamaha supersport inspired with a full fairing in an ultra-light chassis, and newly designed steel frame and swingarm. The riding position is lower with a flat seat design, so it's great for new riders as it's easy to get both feet firmly on the ground. This is an all-around great bike for everyone - from beginners to more experienced riders, from commuters to racetrack enthusiasts. And the clincher? You simply can't beat the price!

MSRP Cost: US $4,990

Yamaha WR250R

Don't let the 250 throw you off! The WR250R is probably one of the most powerful 250 cc single-cylinder engines Yamaha has ever built! This little bike is descended from Yamaha's revolutionary motocross and off-road technology, but made to be street friendly as well. The engine may be little, but it delivers excellent power throughout the entire range.

Even though this bike is in the dual-sport category, the small engine also makes it an ideal street bike for newbies, as the less powerful engine means the rider can focus on technique and the road. The seat height is high typical of a dirt bike, but still lower than the WR250F, so new riders can more easily touch the ground. The entire bike is designed for light, agile handling, so there won't be a steep learning curve to for new riders. Overall, this is a delightful little bike for those who are looking for something easy to ride and offer decent power. And hey! You can also have some fun with it off-road!

MSRP Cost: US $6,490

Honda CBR500R

For a bike with a touch more power, the Honda CBR500R is a great everyday option for those who like the look of a sportbike but want something less race-y. It features a 471cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine, so you know this thing will pull hard through the whole RPM range. It's got enough power to keep the more experienced riders excited too. All riders will love the incredibly smooth ride delivered by Honda's Pro-Link Rear Suspension.

Style wise, the CBR500R is very supersport inspired with a sport riding position, lower handlebars, and minimal bodywork. While definitely sporty, it is not too aggressive and still makes a comfortable choice for beginners. This is just an awesome "do it all" bike with enough power and cutting edge features that will keep you from getting bored too fast. In fact, you may never outgrow it!

MSRP Cost: US $6,499

KTM Duke 390

This little bike has a 44 hp motor, so it delivers quite a bit of power! The Duke 390 beats out a lot of other bikes in the 300 class in terms of power. Like for instance, it way out-performs the Honda CB300F (which has practically identical specs), and can even give the CB500F a run for its money.  It delivers incredible torque and acceleration at all speeds (be careful, sometimes may be a little too wild for the real real newbies), but also rides well for everyday use and offers great fuel economy.

This compact naked-style bike is extremely light at barely 300 pounds. It has a super lightweight trellis frame designed for mass centralization, which makes this Duke 390 extremely agile with great maneuverability. It's powerful enough to ride on the highway for commutes, handles well enough to hug those twisty mountain curves, and nimble enough to take off the road.

MSRP Cost: US $4,999

Suzuki SV650

The SV650 is an interesting bike. It's got a bigger engine which we usually wouldn't recommend for beginners ( 645cc, liquid cooled, 4-stroke), but its V-twin design means that it delivers very smooth power in the mid-range torque, which is the range where street riding happens. This makes it so that it's very friendly for beginners. And when paired with an ultra lightweight chassis, the bike is agile and easy to handle, allowing newbies to turn the corners with confidence. 

Another great thing about the SV650 is that it comes with three levels of fairings (from naked to partially to fully faired), so you can find an option that suits your style. The attractive price (way more affordable than other 600cc's) and the great fuel economy also make this a solid beginner option. And you'll also get to brag to your friends that you went straight to a 600cc.

Price TBD

Triumph Bonneville

A Bonneville is all about going back to classics. Just the name of it draws up images of open roads and a glorious carefree era of freedom and self expression. And now, thanks to modern engineering, you can still get the look and feel of this classic in an upgraded technology package. 

The Bonneville engine and transmission pay tribute to the classic Triumph twins, but have modern electronic ignition and fuel injection. It features an 865 cc parallel twin engine that delivers plenty of power and smooth throttle response even at low RPMs. The classic 1960s suspension is fitted with modern damping internals so the ride is smooth and the bike easy to handle. The classic riding style is great for beginners and the low seat height makes it easy to plant both feet firmly on the ground. All in all, this is a drool-worthy beginners bike for those who want a more classic look. 

Prices start at US $8,099 


As a beginner, you may dream of riding a "big boy" bike, but don't knock at these small ones. They're seriously fun to ride. These days, bike manufacturers are putting enough cool features on the smaller bikes that they're fun even for experienced riders. Another benefit of starting out on entry-level motorcycles is that they are much more budget friendly and offer better gas mileage. You simply cannot argue against that! 

Which of these are you favorites? Or do you have your eye on something else?

*photos are from the manufacturers 

By Sir D

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