Kawasaki has done something amazing for the already bountiful small-displacement sportbike category. But is the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR a good beginner motorcycle? And what makes this 399cc sportbike different than the other motorcycles in its range, like Kawasaki’s own Ninja 400 and the Yamaha R3? Besides the nearly $10,000 price tag, plenty, it turns out.Continue reading “Is the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR a good beginner motorcycle?”
I’ve been riding motorcycles for nearly 20 years and owned many pairs of gloves, sampling different manufacturers and models along the way. I prefer full gauntlet race-style gloves since they protect more of the forearm past the wrist. A quick check reveals that some gauntlet gloves cost as little as $50 while others can exceed $500. Price plays a huge part in choosing riding gear for most riders, so it’s fair to ask if a bargain glove is as good as more expensive one. This post explains why I recently purchased the Dainese Steel Pro gloves for $360.Continue reading “Dainese Steel Pro gloves review – are they worth the price?”
Tires are literally the only thing connecting a motorcycle to the road, so to say they’re important is a huge understatement. But for a beginner motorcycle rider it’s hard to know which tires are best, which brands are reputable, and which style of tire they should use. This is our first ever sportbike tire guide for beginners, which will hopefully answer some of these questions.Continue reading “Sportbike Tire Guide for Beginners”
I have what the motorcycle helmet industry refers to as a long oval head, meaning it’s notably longer front-to-back. As a result, it’s hard for me to find helmets that fit perfectly since most helmets are made for medium oval heads. Many times I have excitedly tried on a helmet I wanted to buy, only to discover it was too tight against my forehead. For the last 10 years I have been wearing Arai helmets, specifically the older Profile and Signet Q lines which are specifically designed for long oval heads.
You should replace your helmets every five years due to degradation of the expanded polystyrene foam liner, the part of the helmet that absorbs impact in a collision. My Arai Signet Q was overdue for a replacement, so I started looking for a new helmet earlier this year. By default I was looking to buy an Arai Signet X, the new and improved successor to the Signet Q. Unfortunately I didn’t like any of the available designs, nor was I excited about its $829 price tag. Enter the Shoei RF-1400.
Positioned just below the X-Fourteen racing helmet, the RF-1400 is Shoei’s newest helmet, replacing the outgoing RF-1200. It’s a lightweight full-face helmet design designed for sport riders. It’s impressively priced at $629 for models with graphics, a full $200 less than the Arai Signet X. The only problem for me was that its predecessor, the RF-1200, was not a good fit for my head. On a whim I decided to visit my local Cycle Gear store and try the RF-1400 on, and much to my surprise, it fit very well. It seems Shoei made a slight change to the RF-1400, giving it a little more room front-to-back.
Flush with excitement, I immediately started looking for a design that I liked. Unfortunately Shoei also seemed to have trouble manufacturing enough RF-1400 helmets to meet demand, but I finally got my hands on one. Sure enough, it fits my long oval head snugly, and it also provided a few improvements over my Arai Signet Q:
- It’s noticeably more aerodynamic, especially when turning my head to check blind spots
- The visor port is larger, so I have a pleasantly wider viewing angle
- Shoei has a more straightforward visor attachment system (changing visors on an Arai can be challenging)
I’m looking forward to my next track day with the improved aerodynamics, especially since my Arai Signet Q was unquestionably the least effective track helmet I’ve used in terms of its ability to cut through the air at high speed. It looks like Shoei has a winning helmet in the RF-1400 for sport riders with long oval heads.
Update: I did indeed take it to a track day at Willow Springs International Raceway, and it performed beautifully even at speeds over 160 MPH. This helmet is a winner.
Often overlooked but critically important, the suspension on a motorcycle helps soak up bumps and keep the tires firmly planted. Poorly adjusted suspension makes for nervous riding, but well-adjusted suspension can make every ride better, especially in the turns. This is our summary of motorcycle suspension basics for beginners, namely what you’d see on modern sportbikes or standards.
For excellent beginner bikes like those on our list of best beginner sportbikes for 2021, the suspension is typically not adjustable except for the rear shock absorber’s spring preload. This means you have to live with the suspension as-is, but the setup is generally soft and forgiving. Adjustable suspension components are costlier, so don’t expect to see them until you buy a more expensive motorcycle. But it’s still important to understand what the components do and what type of adjustments are available.Continue reading “Motorcycle suspension basics for beginners”
If you’re a beginner motorcycle rider, it might be hard to figure out which brands of helmets, jackets, gloves, and boots are legitimately good brands for sportbike riders. As with equipment for any activity or sport, there are many to choose from, with varying degrees of price, quality, and cool factor.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it mean that brands not appearing here are bad. It’s just a list of the brands that we like, purchase, and believe in. Don’t even think about wearing gear that isn’t made for motorcycle riding. Work boots and gloves are not going to fare well in a crash and will add to your list of injuries.
But enough already, on to the list.Continue reading “Best motorcycle helmet, jacket, glove, and boot brands for sportbike riders”
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?Continue reading “How long do you need to ride smaller motorcycles until you can get your dream bike?”
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Test rides are rare when it comes to motorcycles, so when I found out Ducati was giving free test rides nearby I jumped at the chance. I test rode the original Hypermotard several years ago and have been eager to test the newer and better 2017 version. Continue reading “Ducati Hypermotard 939: Fun, Tall, and NOT a Beginner Bike”