A motorcycle is more than just a way to get from point A to point B. A motorcycle makes a statement—it’s a way to translate your personality into your everyday routine. A motorcycle says you live at your own pace and enjoy a certain kind of freedom and exhilaration that traditional methods of transportation just cannot give. 

So say you are fresh out of your motorcycle safety course and are itching to get your hands on your first bike. You’ve picked out your jacket, helmet, and riding gear; now all that is left is the pièce de résistance that is your new motorcycle. 

There are a lot of factors to consider when buying a new motorcycle, such as fuel efficiency, horsepower, brake features, and technology. Even experts have a tough time choosing with all these factors, so if you are a beginner, it can be very intimidating to even know where to start. 

That’s where we come in! We have put together this ultimate motorcycle guide for beginners to help make your decision. We are going to cover the key features of beginner motorcycles and take a look at some of the best motorcycles for beginners of 2020. Without any further ado, let’s get to it!

Our Top Choices

Beginner Motorcycle Buying Guide 

What Will You Be Using the Motorcycle for?

As with any consumer product, the first step towards figuring out what you want is figuring out your needs. Specifically, you need to determine if you will use your bike primarily for city riding or for rural riding. 

City Riding

If you are planning to ride your bike mostly in urban areas, then you probably want a motorcycle that is mobile, compact, and has good fuel economy. Basically, you want something small and light that can let your zip through congested urban traffic while on your daily routine. Bikes that are good for urban riding have smaller frames, thinner tires, and agile handling. Bikes with good safety features are also a good bet for urban riding as greater congestion means more chances for accidents. 

Rural Riding

In contrast, if you live in a more rural area, then you may want to get a larger bike that has more horsepower, better fuel efficiency, and more robust tires. Bikes for rural riding need to have good fuel efficiency to handle those long winding country roads and thicker tires for handling off the beaten path. Bikes that excel at rural riding have bigger frames, more comfort, more powerful engines, and are better suited for long periods of riding at a time. 

What Type of Motorcycle Appeals to You?

Along with the purpose, you need to figure out what type of motorcycle appeals to you. There are a ton of motorcycle types out there, each with their own unique features, advantages, and disadvantages. Here are some of the more popular motorcycle types out there. 

Sportbike

Sportbikes are the sports cars of the motorcycle world, with their compact bullet-shaped design, powerful engines, strong suspension systems, and high-performance brakes. Sportbikes are generally better suited for urban riding and are not built for distance, but that does not mean you can’t add a softer seat and bags to enjoy longer stretches of road. Sportbikes are usually not the best choice for beginner riders due to their hair-trigger acceleration and powerful engines, but a particularly intrepid beginner may fit right in with this model of motorcycle. Alternatively, there are “sport-lite” models that keep the sharp designs and road-friendly tires of a sportbike in a more beginner-friendly package. Many Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, such as Suzuki, are known for their stylish sportbikes that are designed for urban and city-limits riding.

Cruiser

Cruisers are motorcycles that have a lower-seat height, V-twin engine, and thick tires. Cruisers are great bikes for beginners as they are comfortable, stylish, and have a more relaxed power output that handles well at lower speeds. Cruisers have a lot of flair and are great for both urban and rural riding, but they won’t be able to outpace a sportbike or other performance bike. If sportbikes are the sports cars of the motorcycle world, then cruisers are the classic muscle cars like a Mustang or Camaro. Virtually every major motorcycle manufacturer has some cruiser model in their lineup but the most famous example of a cruiser-style motorcycle is a classic Harley-Davidson. 

Dual-Sport

Keeping with the car analogy, dual bikes can be considered the SUVs of the motorcycle world. Dual bikes are an interesting mix of a street bike and dirt bike and, like SUVs, they are designed for both urban street riding and some rural off-roading. Dual bikes usually have the long-travel suspension like a high-performance dirt bike along with a powerful chugging motor normally seen on a cruiser-style model. Dual-sport bikes are light and easily maneuverable so they are great for city riding but have the tough tires and gas mileage for distance riding. Dual bikes are a good intro bike for beginners who want something that can work in all locales, though they tend to be tall and slightly top-heavy. So, if you are shorter, you may want to opt for something a bit lower to the ground. Kawasaki’s KLR models are a good example of a user-friendly dual-sport bike. 

Dresser (Touring Bike)

Then there are Dresser, the proverbial RV of the bike world. Dressers, also known as touring bikes, are built for long-distance travel and have a wide suspension, low frame, thick tires, and include many features normally seen in cars such as audio systems, GPS, heated seats, ABS brakes, and lots of carrying capacity. Dressers handle easy enough and have a manageable torque so in that sense they make a decent distance bike for beginners, however, they are a bit bulky and heavy so it can be hard to find your balance initially. Generally, touring bikes have carrying compartments on the sides and back meant for long-distance trips. Dresser bikes do tend to be expensive though, so you will have to shell out if you want something that is high-quality. 

What Is Your Budget?

Motorcycle range in price from just a couple grand to tens of thousands of dollars. If you are a beginner and have never bought a bike before, then a good price range to shoot for is between $5,000-$10,000. Make sure you factor in running costs to this price, like gas or insurance. Motorcycle insurance is usually more expensive than car insurance and normally costs around $500 a month. Motorcycle tires can be rather expensive and average between $00-$600 for a single set. Add in oil changes, chain maintenance, and drive belt replacement, and you can expect to pay about $1,000 a year on maintenance costs. 

Must-Have Beginner Features

Here are some features we consider essential for any beginner bike.

  • Engine under 600cc: Expensive top-of-the-line motorcycles can have up to 1500cc engine. As a beginner, you definitely won’t need anything that powerful or with that much torque. Most beginner bikes have an engine that is 600cc or smaller. Anything more gives the bike an extremely sensitive throttle which can be tough for beginners to get used to. 
  • Anti-Lock Braking System: ABS systems keep the wheels from locking up when the brakes are activated. This means that you have more control over braking and won’t skid as much. Beginner motorcycle riders have a tendency to over-apply the brakes so an ALBS lets you do so without skidding and sliding. 
  • Seat Height: If you are a beginner, you probably should start with a bike that has a relatively low seat height. That way it will be more comfortable as you get used to riding. Make sure you get something that promotes good posture while riding too.  
  • Handlebar Height: By the same token, you want something with lower handlebars that are easy to grip and maneuver. Some models, like a chopper, have very high handlebars compared to seat height and may be hard for beginners to get used to. Your elbows should be slightly bent and your hands should not be positioned higher than your neck. 
  • Windscreen: It is also recommended to get a bike with a suitable windscreen. A lot of riders have trouble getting used to the wind in their faces while riding so a windshield helps keep you stable while you work on your balance. Without a windscreen, you have to lean forward more to keep balance, which can fatigue you on long rides. 
  • Technology: Not a must-have, but many newer bikes have nice tech features integrated into the design. Things like GPS, digital systems, audio systems, and other infotainment modules are a useful addition to have on your first bike. 

The Best Beginner Motorcycles of 2020

2020 Honda Grom ABS

MSRP: $3,599 USD ($TBD CAD)
Engine: Single-cylinder 125cc SOHC four-stroke engine
Transmission: Four-Speed
Curb Weight: 229 lbs (104 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 1.51 gallons (5.7 L)
ABS
Inverted Forks
Low Seat Height

The Honda Grom is a nifty little sportbike that features a 125cc engine that delivers a lot of usable power. Even though it is small, the single-cylinder 4-stroke engine with electronic ignition, 4-speed transmission, and available ABS makes a great beginner bike that is light, easy to maneuver and looks great parked on the curb. New riders will love the smaller engine and low seat height while even more experienced riders will love the agility and sheer fun of the Grom. The Grom is also made with Honda’s trademark reliability and legacy and is extremely fuel efficient so it makes a great beginner dual-bike for both urban and city riding. 

2020 Kawasaki Z400 ABS

MSRP: $4,999 USD ($5,9999 CAD)
Engine: Two cylinder 399cc DOHC four-stroke engine
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 364 lbs (165 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons (14 L)
ABS
Low Seat Height

The Kawasaki Z400 ABS is one of the best super naked redesigned motorcycles for 2020. Kawasaki has given it the “New Rider Friendly” seal of approval. Being comfortable, balanced, capable and striking, this motorcycle will keep you smiling for years to come. As a new rider, you will not be disappointed.

2020 KTM 390 Duke

MSRP: ?
Engine: Single-cylinder 373cc four-stroke engine
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 328.5 lbs (149 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gallons (13.4 L)
ABS
Inverted Forks
New Technology

Up next is the 2020 KTM 390 Duke, a 1-cylinder 4-stroke motorcycle that features a tough 373cc engine and 6-speed auto transmission. The KTM 390 Duke has an aggressive sportbike design but has the handling of a cruiser model. The handlebars are lower set than most cruises giving you maximum control and it is very light and easy to maneuver through traffic. The steel chassis is weighted near the center, giving the bike a low center of gravity that lets it take tight turns easily. The above-average 13.4-liter gas tanks give great mileage so this one works for both urban and distance riding. Aside from the technical specs, the KTM 390 Duke just looks great with its sharp lines and twin LED headlights that will grab attention wherever it goes. 

2020 KTM RC 390

MSRP: ?
Engine: Single-cylinder 373cc four-stroke engine
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 328.5 lbs (149 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gallons (10 L)
ABS
Inverted Forks

Another KTM! This is the KTM 390, a sportier model of the 360 Duke that is more suited for urban riding. The 360 has the same 373cc engine and single cylinder as the Duke, though it has a noticeably lighter frame and more sportbike design. The ingenious intake and fuel injection design give the small engine a lot of power and torque; a perfect fast accelerating bike for zipping through town. A nifty slipper clutch addition opens when the back-torque becomes too high, which helps you ease the throttle through gear transitions. The body design is has a shorter trail and wheelbase than the Duke, making the KTM 390 have excellent handling and dynamics. The ABS features 4 pistons radially bolted to the huge 320mm brake disc that give exceptional brake performance no matter how hard you are riding. 

2020 Yamaha YZF R3 ABS

MSRP: $5,299 USD ($6,299 CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 321cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 375 lbs (170 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons (14 L)
ABS
Inverted Forks
Upright Seating Position

Our choice sportbike, the Yamaha R3 features a robust 321cc engine, 4-valve cylinder head, 32mm throttle body fuel injection, and 6-speed auto transmission. The R3 can easily reach and maintain highway speeds and give a fun riding experience that beginners and experts alike will love. Each cylinder has 4 separate valves to improve low to mid-range torque and the cam chain automatically adjusts itself to reduce noise and need for maintenance. The seat only sits 30.7” from the ground so its low and easy to mount and the large 14-liter capacity fuel tanks can get 73 mpg at highway speeds. The diamond type steel frame is narrow and compact and despite the super sporty design, the R3 gives you a comfy upright riding position more akin to a cruiser or touring bike. 

2020 Harley-Davidson Street 500 ABS

MSRP: $7,559 CAD
Engine: VTwin-cylinder 500cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 492 lbs (223 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 3.46 gallons (13.1 L)
ABS
Upright Seating Position

Low Seat Height
No US Version?

Up next is this classic cruiser from the king of street bikes Harley-Davidson. The Street 500 has a powerful 500cc V-Twin liquid-cooled engine that gives smooth responses and a progressive throttle. The street 500 model comes with state-of-the-art ABS and the low center of gravity gives excellent handling and dynamics. The low seat height gives a comfortable riding position and keeps your center of gravity low so it’s easier to maintain balance while accelerating. The sleek black design echoes the mature look that Harley-Davidson is known for. It is also a good deal lighter than the normal Harley so pulling off from the curb is effortless.

2020 Kawasaki Z125

MSRP: $3,199 USD ($3,599 CAD)
Engine: Single-cylinder 125cc four-stroke engine
Transmission: Four-Speed
Curb Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 1.96 gallons (7.4 L)

Small in size but big on fun, the Kawasaki z125 is a perfect dual-bike for beginner motorcycle enthusiasts. Sporting a 125cc single-cylinder 4-stroke engine, electronic fuel injection system, and 4-speed auto transmission. While it is not particularly fast, fast is not the purpose of these stylish street bikes. The z125 has a low height seat and solid steel frame construction which makes it very stable and able to handle tight city turns easily. You can get 6.5 pounds out of it at 6,100 RPM but may have to work up to 7100 RPM to get the full 8.3 horsepower. Not exactly a speedster, but more than fast enough for anything you will need in the city. Even better, the z125 is extremely affordable for an entry-level bike, at just under $3,500 and it comes with a generous 12- month limited warranty plan. 

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS

MSRP: $5,299 USD ($6,299 CAD)
Engine: Four-cylinder 399cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 366 lbs (166 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons (14 L)
ABS

Another offering from Kawasaki, the Ninja 400 is a powerful little street bike that blows the lid of other entry-level bikes with its 399cc engine, a peak output of 44 hp, and $5,000 price point. The new 2020 Ninja 400 features a redesigned frame so it is lighter, stiffer, and has better handling. The shorter wheelbase makes steering easier and the engine itself acts as a structural element, reducing the total weight of the bike by about 30 pounds. The Ninja 400 has noticeably more engine power at the low and mid-range, making it perfect as a street bike for the city. Even though it has a sporty design, the seat height is relatively low and gives a comfortable upright riding position. The Ninja 400 can get up to 50 mpg on the street and has a 3.7-gallon tank which you can expect to squeeze at last 150 miles out of. 

2020 Yamaha V-Star 250

MSRP: $4,349 USD ($5,299 CAD)
Engine: VTwin-cylinder 249cc
Transmission: Five-Speed
Curb Weight: 324 lbs (147 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 2.51 gallons (9.5 L)
Upright Seating Position
Low Seat Height

This is the Yamaha V-Star 250, a beautiful classically-inspired street bike from Japanese legends, Yamaha. The V-Star 250 has a small but mighty 250cc V-Twin engine and fuel economy rated at 78mpg, making it an excellent choice of cruiser bike. The chrome details and side covers give the bike a mature yet still approachable look. The V-Star 250 has a very low seat height of only 27 inches that lends itself to the starter bike market and those who are vertically challenged. The long-stroke engine gives good torque for its size and, while it won’t outspeed the majority of other bikes you find, hardly any will looks as good cruising down the road as the V-Star 250. The addition of an automatic cam-chain tensioner reduces maintenance and prevents engine noise and grinding when shifting gears. Even better, Yamaha offers this stellar entry-level bike for a very reasonable sub-$5,000 price point. 

2020 Yamaha MT-03

MSRP: $4,599 USD ($5,899 CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 321cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 370 lbs (168 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons (14 L)
Upright Seating Position
Inverted Forks
New for 2020

Another offering from Yamaha, this is the MT03. The MT03 will let you conquer the road with its sophisticated engine, lightweight design, and signature naked styling. The MT03 features a 321cc twin-cylinder 8 valve engine and 6-speed transmission. The MT03 is run by the same liquid-cooled parallel engine that the others in the MT family line have though the MT03 put that in a smaller more user-friendly package meant for beginners. The carburized rods in the engine disperse heat very effectively and the aluminum frame is lightweight and handles like a dream. The most distinctive feature of the MT03 is the pair of thing angled LED “eyebrows” in place of headlights, while the main headlight is tucked into the center of the front panel. Said to weight just 373 pounds with a full 3,7-gallon engine, the Yamaha MT03 is projected to reach up to 70 mpg.

2020 Kawasaki Versys-X ABS

MSRP: $5,799 USD ($6,699 CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 296cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 385 lbs (175 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons (17 L)
Upright Seating Position
ABS

Featuring a 296cc 4-stroke 2-cylinder liquid-cooled engine, the Kawasaki Versys-X is a great bike built for both paved roads and offroading. This 400-pound motorcycle is perfect for adventuring with its low seat height, ergonomic handlebar position, and robust suspension. The tires on the Versys-X are thick and perfect for dirt roads, although the rigid suspension means you have to take the rough spots a bit slower than you might like. While certainly not a dirtbike, the Kawasaki really shines in transitioning from nicely paved roads to gravel or dirt and the heavy-duty factory Shinko tires will help you keep traction in even the roughest conditions. 

2020 Honda Rebel 300 ABS

MSRP: $TBD USD ($5,499 CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 286cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 370 lbs (168 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 2.96 gallons (11.2 L)
ABS
Upright Seating Position
Low Seat Height

The 2020 Honda Rebel, is an urban street bike that is tuned for cruising. The real draw of the new 2020 Rebel 300 is the addition of a new clutch design that reduces lever pull by almost 30%, allowing for much smoother gear shifting. The 286cc single-cylinder engine has dual overhead camshafts with a high-velocity silent chain that lets the engine run silently and reducing gear grinding. A gear-driven counterbalance shaft reduces vibration, allowing for a smoother ride and the digital file injection module constantly keeps tabs on engine performance to achieve the optimal mixture of air and fuel. Borrowing elements from a cruiser and chopper design, the Rebel 300 has a low seat height and ground clearance, making it a good street bike to get started on. 

2020 Honda Rebel 500 ABS

MSRP: $TBD USD ($7,299 CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 471cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 421 lbs (191 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 2.96 gallons (11.2 L)
ABS
Upright Seating Position
Low Seat Height

The new Rebel 500 from Honda is a redesign of a classic model. The new 500 model has a tough 471cc parallel-twin-cylinder liquid-cooled engine that is suited for cruising around town. A new fuel-injection mechanism keeps tabs on engine performance variables to input the optimal mixture of air and fuel and the low frame and chassis make for a smooth ride. Like the 300 models, the Rebel 500 has a unique crankshaft design that minimizes engine vibration for a smooth ride and a new slipper clutch that makes it easier to switch gears. 

2020 Honda CBR 500R ABS

MSRP: $6,999 USD ($TBD CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 471cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 423 lbs (192 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons (17.1 L)
ABS

Another offering from Honda set to hit markets, the CBR 500R is a more powerful version of the Rebel 500 that has a 471cc parallel twin-cylinder liquid-cooled engine and a 6-speed auto transmission. Like the 300 and 500 Rebel models, the CBR 500R has Honda’s new slipper clutch design that eases gear transition and new fuel injector that monitors engine performance. The CBR features a dual exit exhaust system that improves exhaust flow and reduces engine noise and heat. Crank pins positioned 180 degrees near the engine reduce vibration and keep the engine small and compact. The straight profile air-cleaner maximizes exhaust efficiency and the redesigned internal oil pump reduces friction and improves aeration. 

2020 Honda CB 500F ABS

MSRP: $6,499 USD ($TBD CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 471cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 417 lbs (189 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons (17.1 L)
ABS

More with the Honda. The CB 500F, like the 500R, has a 471cc parallel twin-cylinder engine with a chain-driven 4-valve per cylinder valve train. The low seat height of only 30.9” gives you a very comfy upright riding position and a large 17/1 liter fuel tank is projected to get at least 72 mpg. Like the previous few Honda models, the CB 500F has the new slipper clutch that makes gear shifting easier, A redesigned cooling system and flow analysis resulted in a smaller water pump that is lightweight but capable of keeping the engine cool at high output. 

2020 Honda CB 300R ABS

MSRP: $4,949 USD ($5,699 CAD)
Engine: Twin-cylinder 286cc
Transmission: Six-Speed
Curb Weight: 317 lbs (144 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 2.7 gallons (10.1 L)
ABS

Dubbed the “essential cafe racer,” the Honda CB 300R is a small sporty street bike that is perfect for traveling around the city. The new CB 300R features a 286cc 4-valved, liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine that is valued for its free-revving and responsive nature. The CB 300R’s engine is designed with the fewest possible moving parts to reduce maintenance needs and features like the low friction piston rings and iridium spark plugs are designed for longevity. The strong engine and six-speed throttle give a broad torque curve to low to mid-RPM ranges while also keeping great fuel mileage. Again, we see the counterbalance shaft that reduces engine vibration and helps counterbalance and torque produced from the engine. 

Conclusion

So there you have it, the 16 best beginner motorcycles of 2020. Most of these bikes are either out right now or expected to drop early next year, so if the one you want is not out yet, you only have to wait just a bit longer. As you can see, there are plenty of great options for beginners to choose from. It may be a bit tough to figure out what you want, but with due diligence and some research, you will come out on top. Just remember the key features and identify what kind of bike you want.