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.
Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS

Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS

Let’s just get right to it. The Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS is our choice for best beginner sportbike for 2021. It’s got everything you’d want in a beginner sportbike: great looks, a smooth 399cc parallel twin engine that has more than enough power for speeding tickets, a low enough seat height of 30.9 inches, ABS for added safety, and it’s fun to ride. There’s nothing to dislike about this bike, and a whole lot to love. It’s hands down our favorite right now.

Yamaha YZF-R3

Yamaha YZF-R3

From a distance it’s actually hard to tell the YZF-R3 apart from its bigger brothers, and that’s a good thing. The R3 is a fantastic beginner sportbike thanks to its friendly 321cc inline twin cylinder engine, low 30.7 inch seat height, light weight, and ease of use. It doesn’t have ABS like the Ninja 400 ABS and its engine is smaller by 78cc, but it’s still incredibly fun and handles freeways and canyon roads with ease. I would’ve taken one of these all day vs. my first bike, the Suzuki SV650, despite its engine being half the size. It’s easier to ride and handles better than my SV650 did, and looks a hell of a lot nicer.

Honda CBR500R ABS

Honda CBR500R ABS

At last, Honda has stepped up its beginner sportbike game for the US market with the CBR500R ABS. Its 471cc parallel twin engine is about as big as we’d recommend for a beginner sportbike, but it’s still within what we consider the user-friendly range for a beginner. It has a low-enough 30.9 inch seat height, ABS, and is a sharp looking bike. It does weigh 423 lbs. “wet” (with all fluids and full tank of gas) which is a little higher than we like to see for a first bike, but overall this is still a bike we can recommend to most beginner sportbike riders.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a used bike or a model not listed here, read our Beginner Motorcycles Guide to get an idea of the characteristics that we believe make a good beginner sportbike. There are also other good beginner motorycles, namely naked or standard bikes, that didn’t land on our best beginner sportbikes of 2021. And don’t forget to get the right gear before you start riding!



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