By Dana Herman | danakherman@gmail.com | @danavonh


A lot of aspiring riders (men and women) have asked me the question, "What's a good starter bike?" I remember when I wondered this same thing. I read a lot of blogs and articles for an array of opinions and they all seemed to have slightly different recommendations, but one thing in common - get what's right for you. I couldn't agree more. The problem is, as an aspiring rider, you likely have no idea what that is.

First, I believe every new rider should take a safety class. You'll not only learn some important lessons that could save your life, but you'll also get some hands-on experience that will boost your confidence as a rider. After all, the only way to learn is to ride and a safety class is a great place to learn. You can take comfort in knowing that most of the people in your class have likely never been on a motorcycle before and you'll have a lot of support. Pay attention to the bike you're placed with in the class. Take note of it's weight and CCs. Determine whether or not this size bike would be good for you and, once you've mastered the lighter bike you're paired with, consider asking your instructor if there's a larger/heavier bike you could try.

Next, know your style. I'm humble enough to admit that when I first got into bikes, I didn't know what was "cool." I couldn't tell custom from stock, and I was in no position to know what I really wanted. It wasn't until I started riding that I obsessively checked out every bike I saw on the road. And it wasn't until then that I started to develop my own taste. By this time I already owned two bikes. So I recommend checking out some magazines and/or blogs, and learning what style suits you.

I wanted a cafe racer and, based on the recommendation of an experienced female rider, I purchased the 2015 Yamaha sr400. I've been riding less than 2 years and I can tell you that this was a mistake (for me personally). I know now that I could have gotten a larger bike at a better price point. If I had taken the time to discover what I really loved, I would have ended up with a Triumph Bonneville T100. It has that cafe racer style that I love, but is much better built for cruising.

I don't want to bash the sr400 and I really do love the little bike - it handles well, it's nice to look at, and it's an easy bike to modify to your taste. On the other hand, it's a little too small and squirrelly to take over about 50 miles per hour. If you intend to hit the highway, this is not the best bike for you. I felt as though I outgrew this bike in about three weeks time. So don't do what I did and jump into your fist purchase - not until you feel confident that it's the right bike for you and your needs. The sr400 is the perfect bike for cruising around town, but makes a terrible commuter bike. My 1979 Yamaha xs650 is much more comfortable to cruise, but isn't quite as agile as the sr400. I've also pushed the xs650 nearly as far as I've ridden it, so my next piece of advice is to be aware of a bike's weight relative to your own strength. 

Here's my final recommendation - do your homework. Assuming you've found the style of bike you'd like to ride, look up different makes/models and read reviews. Also (and this may not be most riders' recommendation), don't be afraid to get something a little larger than you think you can handle as a beginner. Your skills will develop more quickly than you think. It's easy for experienced riders to recommend a smaller/lighter bike for a beginner, but my advice is coming from someone who was only a beginner a couple years ago. I know what it's like.

Key takeaways - think about your purpose for this bike, as well your abilities as a rider, and it's weight compared to your strength - this is especially important for women riders who might be significantly smaller than the average male rider. And finally, the more you ride, the more you'll love riding. If you feel like you want a motorcycle but just haven't taken the plunge yet, you're in for a treat - you're going to LOVE that bike and, once you get one, you'll wonder why you waited so long. There's nothing quite like it, so get out there!

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