The International Motorcycle Show is a great way to see the best beginner bikes

If there’s one place where you can sit on all of the motorcycles you want to check out without a salesperson breathing down your neck, it’s the International Motorcycle Show. More manufacturers have brought their bikes to the show than ever, so it’s definitely worth the trip if you can make it. It’s a beginner’s dream, as bikes like the Yamaha R3, Kawasaki Ninja 300 and KTM RC390 are all there waiting for you to throw a leg over the seat.

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Is the Yamaha YZF-R3 the new cool kids’ sportbike?

R3 riding group at Newcomb's Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway
This R3 riding group stopped in at Newcomb’s Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway

I’m starting to see more and more of the Yamaha YZF-R3 out in the wild, whether it’s on the road or at track days. I’m not exactly sure why I’m seeing more of them than the Kawasaki Ninja 300, but I suspect it has to do with its very sharp looks and 25cc engine size advantage over the Ninja. It’s definitely hard to tell it apart from a 600cc supersport, and I came away impressed from a test ride late last year. If you’re an aspiring sportbike rider looking for your first motorcycle, the R3 is a really good choice.

Older Sportbikes Still Aren’t Good Beginner Bikes

My 2005 Yamaha R6 - still not a beginner bike
My 2005 Yamaha R6 – still not a beginner bike

It’s weird; some bikers that have been around for a while tend to think of older sportbikes as good beginner bikes and will even recommend them as such. If a bike wasn’t good for beginners when it was new, why would it be good for them 10 years later? If they were hard to ride in 2005, they’ll be hard to ride in 2015. Continue reading “Older Sportbikes Still Aren’t Good Beginner Bikes”

Best New Beginner Bikes – 2015 Edition

2015 Ninja 300
2015 Ninja 300 ABS

There are more awesome beginner sportbikes to choose from than ever, but this year’s best beginner sportbike is again the Ninja 300. Its super sharp looks, friendly ergonomics and proven capability as a street bike keep it at the top of our list for now. I’ve even seen track day instructors using it at Willow Springs with shocking corner speed. Kawasaki has done a tremendous job of making the Ninja 300 a thing of desire; experienced riders (including me) have trouble distinguishing it from its bigger brothers. It can top 100 MPH making it more than suitable for freeway duty while retaining very beginner-friendly power. It’s light, inexpensive, available with ABS, has good ergonomics for a beginner and its high demand means it can be easily resold once you’re ready to move on to something else. Winner. Again.

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V-Twin vs. Inline 4: Riding Impressions

Super Duke Engine
KTM’s big 1301cc v-twin engine from the Super Duke 1290; definitely NOT a beginner bike

Last year I wrote a post about the differences between the various engine types you might encounter in sportbikes, but since then have received a lot of questions about the differences in riding a v-twin vs. an inline 4 motorcycle. The sportbikes I usually recommend for beginners have parallel twin engines, but most sportbike riders eventually want to own a sportbike that has a v-twin or inline 4 and want to know what the differences are when riding down the road. This is not meant to be a nerdy technical exercise, but rather a focus on the riding impressions of each engine type. Continue reading “V-Twin vs. Inline 4: Riding Impressions”

Yamaha YZF-R3 Joins the Beginner Sportbike Battle

Yamaha YZF-R3
The new Yamaha YZF-R3, available in the U.S. in March 2015

Yamaha has just introduced the brand new 2015 YZF-R3, adding to what is arguably the best era ever for beginner motorcycle riders who want a sportbike. With the Kawasaki Ninja 300, Honda CBR300R and upcoming KTM RC390 to choose from as well, new riders now have the best selection ever of beautiful yet easy-to-ride sportbikes. The R3 should start showing up in dealerships around March 2015.

The R3 has a lot to like for beginners, notably a 321cc twin-cylinder engine producing a manageable 30.9 kW (41.4 HP) and a low 30.7″ seat height. These are two critical factors when it comes to beginner-friendly sportbikes; the smaller engine makes it easier to use the power smoothly, and a lower seat height makes the bike easier to control at stops and parking situations. The bike’s sharp looks don’t hurt either; experienced riders will need to take a very close look to realize it’s not a 600cc supersport. Add the R3 to your wish list if you’re a new rider in the market for a sportbike. This sure beats what I had to choose from 10 years ago when I was starting out.

Honda CBR300R – Honda’s Updated Beginner Sportbike

2015 Honda CBR300R
The 2015 Honda CBR300R

In an effort to battle Kawasaki’s excellent Ninja 300, a battle that’s producing great things for beginner sportbike riders, Honda has increased the engine size from 250cc to 300cc in its starter CBR model. It retains its single cylinder configuration, producing a slightly different power delivery than the parallel twin of the Ninja. This is great news for new riders, as one of the knocks on the CBR250R was that it lacked a little power on the highway. The new motor has topped 100 MPH in early tests, making it easily imaginable for commuting duty while still retaining very beginner-friendly power. Add it to your checklist if you’re looking for a new starter sportbike.