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.
It was a beautiful Saturday as seven of us rode out to Ojai, CA. My brother and I stayed in Ojai for lunch while the other five rode up Highway 33, one of the best motorcycle roads in all of southern California. To my surprise one of the riders was still a beginner; he had only been riding for four months or so and was brought along by a more experienced friend. Continue reading “Video: Beginner Motorcycle Rider Crashes on Canyon Road; He’s Okay Though”
Spring is finally here and it’s time to start riding again, that is if your region has adequately thawed out. If you haven’t ridden your bike in a few months, may I suggest the following:
- Check tire pressure
- Get some fresh gas in the tank
- Clean and lube the chain
- If your battery’s dead, get a trickle charger to bring it back to life
For those of you thinking about a first bike this year, we’ll have an updated list of our preferred beginner bikes for 2015 soon. Stay safe out there.
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 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.
Both the California DMV and California Highway Patrol have removed any language pertaining to motorcycle lane splitting from their websites and printed materials, in what appears to be an effort to distance themselves from any perception of endorsing the practice. California is the only state that allows (or rather, doesn’t disallow) lane splitting or lane sharing by motorcycles. For the record, I still split lanes on occasion but do so rather conservatively. You can read the article I wrote about it a few years ago here:
Source: Los Angeles Times
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.
I’ll be posting a full written guide to riding a motorcycle on Angeles Crest Highway soon, but in the meantime I was able to put this video together to help the uninitiated get an idea of what The Crest is all about and how to ride it safely on a motorcycle.
Oh man, track days are so awesome. Sportbikes are made for the track, so there’s no better place to experience one than in its native environment. There’s also an incredible side benefit to improving your skills; professional photographers are present at most track days. Looking at photos of yourself in action is an underrated tool for improvement. I’ve poured over countless photos of myself at various track days through the years, comparing my body positioning to those of professional racers and highly skilled riders to see what I could do better. I’m still trying to get things right, but having photos of myself at the track went a long way in improving my skills.
If you’re a newer rider looking to get into track days, you can check out the Track Day Starter Guide to see what it’s all about. (Hint: It’s not that hard to get started.)
That said, I am not a fan of street photographers that hang out at busy mountain roads to take photos of motorcycle riders or people in their cars. I respect their entrepreneurial effort, but have seen so many people crash trying to show off for the cameras or make u-turns in ill-advised locations to get themselves onto camera repeated times. It’s my opinion that a photographer’s presence can make an already dangerous road even worse. If you want to see what I’m talking about, just search for “mulholland motorcycle crash” on youtube and grab a drink… it’s gonna take a while to get through them all.
Twisty roads are something many sportbike riders look forward to every weekend, myself included. Here in Los Angeles we have an iconic mountain road right in our backyard called Angeles Crest Highway (aka ACH or The Crest), endless canyon roads in the hills surrounding the Malibu coast and various other excellent mountain roads within an hour’s ride. Perhaps you’ve heard of Deal’s Gap and The Snake, an infamous stretch of curvy forest road in the Smoky Mountains along the North Carolina / Tennessee border. These roads attract motorcycle riders of all kinds; some looking for fresh air and scenery, others looking for the thrill of running turn after turn at speed. These roads can also be dangerous, so it’s important to enjoy them safely by following a few simple guidelines. Continue reading “Riding Canyon Roads Safely”