How long do you need to ride smaller motorcycles until you can get your dream bike?

Ducati and Aprilia sportbikes
Ducati and Aprilia make some of the dreamiest sportbikes in the world

There isn’t a magic timeline for a beginner motorcycle rider to be ready for their dream bike, but it definitely shouldn’t be their first bike unless they both happen to be something like the Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS. Chances are that dream bike is something more powerful, more beautiful, and more expensive. My dream bike when I was a beginner was the Yamaha YZF-R6, but fortunately I had the good sense not to buy it despite some unscrupulous salesmen trying to convince me otherwise. So when is a beginner rider ready to make the jump to their dream bike?

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Best Beginner Sportbikes 2021

Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS

We’ve finally updated our list of favorite beginner sportbikes for 2021, and the list is a little shorter this year. We don’t include used/older bikes in this list because there are too many to choose from, and we now only recommend manufacturers with good quality reputations and plentiful service networks. For example, we’ve removed the KTM RC 390 from our list mainly because its network of dealers and authorized mechanics is rather sparse.

Just a quick note; we always recommend considering a used bike for your first bike. Why?

  • You’re probably going to drop your first bike. I did. Multiple times. Sucks to do it to a brand new bike.
  • Used bikes are less expensive and can be easily sold for just a little less money when you’re ready to move on to your next bike.
  • Your first bike is a stepping stone; learn on it and move on. Like the rest of us, you will want many other bikes. Don’t blow a big chunk of money on your dream bike for your first bike.
  • Speaking of dream bikes… for new sportbike riders, please for f***’s sake do not run out and buy that Yamaha R1 you’ve been dreaming about. It is ALL kinds of wrong for a beginner rider. Start smaller, start used (preferably), build your skills, and work your way up to it.
  • If you’re still set on buying a brand new beginner sportbike (sigh), keep reading.
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If you ride a motorcycle, you need ear plugs

ear plugs and helmet
I buy a lot of ear plugs

If you ride a motorcycle without ear plugs, you are going to damage your hearing. The noise level from winds at highway speeds is sufficient to cause tinnitus and permanent damage over time, and there is no helmet quiet enough to adequately protect your hearing on its own. If you don’t want permanent ringing in your ears or hearing loss, you need to wear ear plugs.

A secondary benefit of ear plugs for beginner motorcycle riders is a calming effect. The noise reduction makes riding much less stressful while learning how to ride, which is the other reason I always encourage new riders to make a habit of wearing them. There’s also a huge variety of plug types to choose from, so I’ll cover a few of them here.

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What a weird year, but we can still ride

Motorcycles
At least you can still ride your motorcycle these days

I haven’t been riding too much this year, partly because my high maintenance Italian bike has needed some work, and partly because I can’t eat at the restaurants where I normally stop on my rides. What a weird year. But at least I can still ride.

It’s an amazing privilege to be able to ride a motorcycle and enjoy the open roads; those of us who ride know the feeling all too well, and those of you who aspire to ride will know the feeling soon enough. One of the best parts of riding, for me at least, has always been getting some good food at a fun place to stop. Obviously that’s an experience that hasn’t been the same this year for many of us.

The important thing is to adapt. We all have to adapt. Most things are different now, and some things will stay different. But when it comes to riding, thankfully things haven’t really changed. Yeah maybe for now it’s the McDonald’s parking lot with a McRib and a Diet Coke instead of sitting down to a GS Rider Special (chili + eggs + hash browns) and a coffee at Newcomb’s Ranch, but the ride is still the ride.

For the new or aspiring riders out there, stay safe and remember to get some proper gear. The rides will still be as exciting as ever, even if you have to sit in a parking lot to eat instead of the cool mountain top restaurant. And don’t forget to wave to your fellow riders.

Want to ride sportbikes? Start the right way.

My buddy’s Kawasaki Ninja 400, one of the best beginner sportbikes you can buy

It’s a new year and you’re finally ready to enter the world of motorcycle riding. I’m always happy to see new riders joining the ranks, and I’m twice as happy when I see them making good decisions about their new found obsession. Make sure you get the right safety gear, get the right training, and get the right bike. It’s tempting to go out there and get a hot new sportbike straight away, but a little patience will ensure you’ll be able to enjoy riding for a long time.

  1. Get the right gear. I’ve got some more info here, but you need a helmet, jacket, pants, boots and gloves. And make sure they’re motorcycle-specific! Do not skimp on gear; ask any experienced rider for some horror stories, and you’re going to hear some unpleasant things.
  2. Get the right training. Check with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to see if there’s a course in your area and take it. If you pass the course, you can skip your state’s riding test when getting your motorcycle license.
  3. Get the right bike. Just like any other sporting equipment, you need a forgiving motorcycle when you’re starting to learn. I’ll be updating the list soon, but not much has changed since we last published our list of best beginner sportbikes. Get one of these or something similar from the used market, become an awesome rider on it, then move up to your next ride. Part of the fun of motorcycles is that since they’re relatively inexpensive, it’s not that hard to buy/sell/trade and try different bikes.

The rider next to me ordered a jack and coke at breakfast

Newcomb's Ranch bar
The bar at Newcomb’s Ranch, a popular rider hangout on Angeles Crest Highway

It never fails. Every time I ride up to Newcomb’s Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway for breakfast, I see fellow motorcycle riders ordering booze with their morning meal. Today while I was sipping my coffee, a gray haired gentleman in full leathers walked up to the counter next to me and ordered a jack and coke.

Riding a motorcycle is inherently more dangerous than driving a car: it takes balance, coordination and skill. Adding alcohol to a ride is ALWAYS a bad idea. If you ride with a group and someone orders a drink at one of your stops, you’re better off riding home alone than putting yourself at risk with a buzzed rider in close proximity.

 

Ride safely on those canyon roads

Rider on road

It’s spring time again and all kinds of motorcycles are coming out of hibernation. I rode the famed Angeles Crest Highway this morning, and it was busy with riders of all kinds eager to soak in the curves. The mile high motorhead hangout, Newcomb’s Ranch, was packed due to a special event.

When it’s this busy, I like to remind new riders of a few things to keep out of trouble:

  1. Ride your ride; don’t let faster riders pressure you into riding beyond your comfort level.
  2. If you pull up to the local hangout but it’s super crowded and you’re uncomfortable maneuvering your bike in such tight quarters, park somewhere else (a safe spot away from traffic) or just avoid the place altogether. Many bad things can happen if you get yourself wedged in with so many other bikes.
  3. Just take it easy and remember you need to get home in one piece.

Learning the hard way

Credit to u/ShedDwarf on Reddit, he took his lumps and shared his lesson. He bought a bike and rode it for a while before getting all of the gear he needed. He’s OK, but ouch. Seriously… helmet, gloves, jacket, pants, boots — you need them all.

PSA: If you think you can ride a streetbike for a few days before you get around to getting gear you should reevaluate that decision. I had a helmet and a hoodie and pants. First day out and I grabbed my front brake too hard and got road rash everywhere and a broken neck bone. Stay safe brothers from motorcycles

The wrong way to start riding a motorcycle

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcVRTkdjNMD

I feel bad for this girl because she got hurt, but she’s lucky it wasn’t worse. I don’t know these people so I don’t know their motivations, but I’d like to point out some troubling things about this.

  • It’s obvious she’s a new rider.
  • She was not ready for this ride in terms of her ability.
  • Her bike is a Yamaha R6, a race bike with some of the worst ergonomics for a beginner. It’s tall and you’re leaned very far forward.
  • She can barely get her toes on the ground when sitting on the bike.
  • She had plenty of road and the bike could have made that turn without breaking a sweat, but she panicked. I can only guess, but this is typically due to target fixation; i.e. she was staring at the guard rail instead of looking ahead through the turn and freaked out when she saw it getting closer.
  • Her Instagram account is full of photos of her wearing inadequate gear. Tennis shoes, tight jeans and an Icon armor vest are not going to do much in a crash. You need a leather jacket with elbow armor. Real riding pants with knee armor. Boots that will actually protect your feet and ankles.

Folks, don’t start out riding this way. Get the real gear, and get a more beginner friendly bike.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb2KsIKjVM5/

 

Beginner Crash Caught on Video

This poor person was completely unprepared to try riding a motorcycle for the first time;┬áthe end results are painful and costly. Granted I don’t know anything past what’s here in the video, but there are some important things to point out for beginners:

  • As humans, our tendency is to freeze when things go wrong in this type of situation. She could have just let go of the throttle or pulled in the clutch lever, but froze instead due to a lack of experience. Keep in mind this is a Yamaha R3 with only a 321cc engine. Now imagine an R6 with a 600cc engine and how much worse it could have been. This is mostly why I never endorse getting a 600cc sportbike for a starter bike.
  • She obviously has no experience and was given poor or little instruction at all. Riding a motorcycle is hard for beginners, especially if they’ve never operated a vehicle with a manual transmission and clutch. Good training such as the MSF course can literally save someone’s life.
  • Don’t let someone ride your bike if they haven’t had any training. Even if they’re a friend, you may find yourself liable for their injuries or damages they’ve caused, or worse. Don’t do it.

I don’t know the true source of this video, but found it on Reddit here:

https://redd.it/780gbm