Best Full-Size Motorcycles For Beginning Riders

When anyone in the motorcycle industry qualifies a motorcycle as a beginner bike, they’re identifying two characteristics: ease of use and ease of ownership. Basically, the path to a lifetime of motorcycling should be as stress-free and safe as possible.

So, in terms of ease of use, nothing beats small-displacement bikes with supreme light weight and low power figures. It’s all intended to help a rider master the mechanics of riding without getting in too much trouble.

Small-displacement bikes are also typically tops on the ease of ownership list; they’re cheap to maintain, cheap to insure, and cheap to repair. There are plenty of folks who buy a 30-year-old bike off Craigslist because it’s cheap, but wind up with a machine with questionable reliability and drum brakes with worn out shoes—not the beginnings of a love affair with two wheels.

However, if you’re a mature beginning rider who’s willing to spend more cash, you don’t have to resign yourself to the archetypal small-displacement beginner bike for too long. These days, not all large-displacement machines are hands-off for beginners. The following bikes get top marks in the ease of use category and will help riders master the art of riding well, even though they’re a lot more bike than what you rode at your [MSF Basic RiderCourse]

Still, it’s wise to get some mileage under your belt before jumping on any of these bikes. They’d be great for, say, your second season of riding. Your mileage may vary.

Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster

Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster in sunlight on pavement.
The Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special.Spenser Robert

The bike that makes one of the best cases for the argument may be the Sportster 1200 (in its various guises). The Sporty 1200 has a big motor, but it’s no hot rod, so you’re far less likely to bend it around a tree than you would on a supersport of half the displacement. One of the characteristic Harley traits that even non-Harley folks can appreciate is abundant torque from off idle. For newbie riders, it makes pulling away from a standstill super easy. Dump the clutch and go.

Plus, Sportsters have super low centers of gravity, so they’re really easy to maneuver at low speeds. They feel solid because they are solid.

Triumph Street Twin

Triumph Street Twin on road.
Triumph Street Twin. If the the high-piped Scrambler aesthetic is more your thing, check out Triumph’s Street Scrambler.Kingdom Creative

Look, just because the Kawasaki Z1 was a beast when it came out in the early ’70s doesn’t mean a bike of similar displacement in 2019 is the same thing. The Triumph Street Twin is a 900cc pussycat.

Unlike ’70s Kawasaki, Triumph isn’t looking to light the performance world on fire with the Street Twin. Triumph’s “Street” line is all about giving riders stylish, eager-to-please machines that are easy to ride. You can punch a lot of horsepower out of 900cc, sure, but you can also use it to keep the bike in a relatively low state of tune and give it linear, usable power as Triumph has done with the Street Twin.

Indian Scout Sixty

2019 Indian Scout Sixty with rider in parking lot.
The Scout Sixty has a five-speed gearbox and a bit less horsepower, but has the same qualities that make the standard Scout so great.Indian Motorcycle

The Scout Sixty is Indian’s smaller-sized Scout. And it’s 60ci (999cc). In other words, a big bike. While it has the same lean, mean physical dimensions of its big sibling, it’s $2,500 cheaper. But it’s no chintzy down-market substitute. Its price of entry merely makes it more accessible for anyone testing the motorcycling waters.

Ducati Monster 797

2019 Ducati Monster 797 on black background.
The Monster is one of the classic Ducatis. Start here.Ducati

It wasn’t that long ago that Ducatis were the province of well-to-do, performance-above-all-else die-hards who’d happily sacrifice reliability and reasonable maintenance intervals for two-wheeled Italian bliss. Not exactly the sweet spot for beginners. Those days are firmly behind us. Relatively new to motorcycling? Sure, have yourself a Ducati (and no, that doesn’t water down the brand. Not exactly, anyway).

The Monster 797 is Ducati’s entry-level motorcycle. At $9,300 it’s the cheapest Duc available (though Scramblers can be had for less) but its liquid-cooled 803cc engine and quality running gear means it’s anything but cut-rate.

Yamaha MT-07

2018 Yamaha MT-07 in garage.
The MT-07 begs the question, “Do you really need any other motorcycle?”Yamaha

The MT-07 is a bike for everyone. If you aren’t smiling on an MT-07, maybe motorcycling isn’t your new hobby after all. Stamp collecting perhaps?

The MT-07 is composed, exciting, and at $7,600, one of the best deals in motorcycling. You can ride a motorcycle that costs three times as much, but you probably won’t have any more fun.

Honda NC700X on white background.
ADV practicality meets road warrior intention.Honda

If the tall-in-the-saddle appeal of ADVs is right up your alley, consider the Honda NC700X. Aside from style and ergos, there’s nothing really off-road-y about the NC700X, but that’s okay. The point is more about practicality, which the NC has in spades. Where you’d expect the gas tank to be, it even has a large cubby that’ll swallow a full-face helmet. Nice. Keeping it really beginner friendly, the NC is available with Honda’s DCT automatic transmission. And before you ask, Honda’s heated grip kit only costs $230.

Suzuki SV650

Suzuki SV650 motorcycle on pavement.
Since 1999, the SV650 has been one of the classic Suzuki names.Drew Ruiz

Since its introduction 20 years ago, the SV650 has been a great bike for all kinds of reasons. The SV is Suzuki’s ode to the standard motorcycle: no frills, no pretension, just a proper 645cc V-twin engine in a sweet-handling chassis. It’s not aggressively styled, it doesn’t have a slick marketing campaign, it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Not everyone gets into motorcycling to make a statement. For those who want a bike that’ll run with the best of ’em without saying “look at me,” the SV is just the ticket.


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