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

Updated 4/20/2021

I previously 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.

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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.

Your First Engine: V-Twin vs. Inline 4 vs. Single

Ducati 250
Updated 4/20/2021

Ah, the good old engine debate. Ask any motorcycle rider what kind of engine they think is best and you will get some surprisingly heated opinions. Our cruiser riding brethren will of course talk up the virtues of v-twins and their torque, while sportbike riders might be divided between inline fours, v-fours and twins. Single cylinder engines (“thumpers”) are usually reserved for dirt and off-road bikes. Engine type should not be taken lightly when choosing a first motorcycle and I’ll try to make some sense of the differences here.

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The Best New Starter Bikes – 2011 Edition

Honda CBR250R
The all new Honda CBR250R

2011 is going to be a great year for beginner motorcycle riders looking at sportbikes. That’s because Honda came out of nowhere and introduced the brand new CBR250R, an entry-level stunner aimed directly at the Kawasaki Ninja 250R and its dominance as the best beginner sportbike available in the U.S. It’s terrific to see some variety at the entry level.

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New Honda CBR250R Sportbike!

I definitely didn’t see this one coming. Honda has just announced the brand new CBR250R, a surprisingly competent looking single-cylinder 250cc sportbike aimed at new riders. Super-sharp looks, fuel injection and available ABS make this an incredibly attractive starter bike. No word on pricing yet, but it looks like Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 has some serious competition here in the U.S.

Update 12/01/10:  It’s only $3999! Or you can get the ABS version for $4499.

2010 Dainese Laguna Seca 2 Piece Suit

For those of you thinking you’ll eventually try a track day, a set of leathers is required and is nice to have for canyon rides anyway.  It was time for me to find a new set after 4 1/2 years of beating up my old Alpinestars GPU 2 piece suit.  It had been through 3 minor offs and performed admirably, but I wasn’t sure the right knee area could take another spill without tearing apart.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was the fit – Alpinestars doesn’t seem to be built for relatively skinny guys like me.  The jacket fit well enough but Beyonce couldn’t fill the butt on those pants.  I swear it looked like I was carrying around a sack of potatoes back there.  Enter Dainese.

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