Home » Here Are Five Beginner-Friendly Used Motorcycles You Can Buy With Your Tax Refund

Here Are Five Beginner-Friendly Used Motorcycles You Can Buy With Your Tax Refund

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It’s tax season, which means a lot of you will be getting some cash back from Uncle Sam. Now, you could put that money into getting your hooptie back on the road, but you and I both know you’re going to buy something else. My wife will be learning how to ride a motorcycle so she can join me on rides this spring. She’s so excited that she’s already started flipping through the pages of Facebook for beginner-friendly rides. Despite everything that’s happened to the used vehicle market, it’s exciting to see that there are still some cool bikes out there for not a lot of money. So let’s take a look at five cool beginner-friendly motorcycles that your tax refund might be able to buy you!

If you’re not already a motorcyclist, I highly recommend taking a motorcycle safety class. There are countless motorcycle safety schools around the country from various sources from local organizations to companies like Harley-Davidson. I recommend paying a visit to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and finding a class near you. These classes will teach you the basics of riding a motorcycle as well as life-saving skills that can even help you behind the wheel of a car or at the controls of an aircraft. Depending on where you live, motorcycle training may be free! In my experience, these classes fill up fast, so it’s best to sign up for one now during the off-season.

Vidframe Min Top
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After you complete your motorcycle training, your world will open up to endless possibilities. There are beginner-friendly bikes to cover all sorts of riding from cruising to off-roading. You may have to experiment to figure out what kind of rider you are. The good news is that old beginner bikes can be dirt cheap!

1999 Honda CMX250C – $1,100

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The Honda CMX250C, marketed as the Rebel 250, is a fantastic cruiser-style beginner bike. Depending on the class you find, you may even train on one of these like I did! A Rebel was one of my beginner bikes and I found it to be a perfectly adequate machine. It wasn’t fast, but its top speed of 80 mph was more than fine.

Honda used to be obsessed with emulating the American cruiser. Throughout the 1980s and well into the 2000s, Team Red built a number of motorcycles that looked like they could have worn a Harley-Davidson badge but had the quality and ergonomics you would expect from Honda. The Rebel made its debut in 1985, and later, Honda would launch the Spirit of the Phoenix project, which leaned even further into that American motorcycle style. Roughly translated from Honda’s Japanese site:

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[SPIRIT OF THE PHOENIX] further refines the style of motorcycles that has been nurtured in the climate of America, and “the spirit of freedom that resonates with the rider’s heart”, in other words, communicates with the rider like a horse. I sought the spirit of motorcycle building.

Rather than a cowboy image, it is one of the directions of world wide custom bike construction that can gain the sympathy of Japanese and European riders while imagining aggressive and open American pioneer spirit.

And this [SPIRIT OF THE PHOENIX] is a summary of the basic policy of custom model building currently being developed by Honda. Based on “evolution” and “sublimation to a more free style”, it is positioned as a guideline for the development of the new generation custom.

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The Rebel 250 comes with a 234cc parallel twin making a gentle 18.5 HP and 14 lb-ft of torque. That’s moving a machine that weighs about 306 pounds. In my experience, the Rebel isn’t super nimble, but it’s still light and small enough to be forgiving of mistakes. Sadly, this machine is carbureted, but the engine is practically bulletproof.

I think the Rebel 250 is the perfect little bike for someone looking for an easy commuter motorcycle or for something to cruise down backroads on. Again, the Rebel is absolutely not fast, but it’s cheap, durable, and it looks pretty good. The Rebel and its 26.6-inch seat height is especially nice for shorter people. Speaking of height, if you’re 6 feet or taller, you’ll probably be pretty cramped on this thing. Look further for a better choice for you.

The best part is that Honda Rebels are basically worthless. Here’s one for sale in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for just $1,100. It doesn’t have a million miles or anything like that, you’re just looking at a bike people buy to learn on and then sell.

2003 Suzuki DR-Z400S – $3,200

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So you’ve decided that you want a motorcycle that can take you to work during the week but handle trails on the weekend. Welcome to the territory of dual-sport motorcycles! For this particular category, I wanted to choose a bike that could handle highway speeds but still had off-road capabilities.

As Cycle News writes, the seeds for the DR-Z400S were planted in 1990 when Suzuki launched the DR650S, DR350S, and DR250S. Suzuki and its dealers helped organize dual-sport rides and listened to customer feedback. This is what led to the DR getting electric start in 1993. Suzuki also learned that DR riders wanted a four-stroke water-cooled engine in a chassis bred from Suzuki’s motocross and off-road racing expertise.

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The DR-Z400S released in 2000. Power comes from a 398cc single making 39 HP and 28.8 lb-ft of torque. Claimed top speed is 94 mph, which is more than enough for most riding.

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When you read reviews of the DR-Z400, you’ll find plenty of pictures of journalists doing wheelies and putting the suspension to the test. There are 11.3 inches of travel up front and 11.6 inches of travel in the rear, and reportedly, these bikes are plenty of fun off-road. A dry weight of 291 pounds also means you won’t get crushed when you tip it, too. That said, these have a towering seat height of 36.8 inches, so short people will have trouble riding this motorcycle.

If you look hard enough, you can find a DR-Z400S for an affordable price. Here’s one for just $3,200 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS – $3,200

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Alright, so maybe you want a little more speed in your life. Or, perhaps you want modern technology like fuel injection and ABS. If that sounds like you, the Ninja 300 ABS might be your new ride. The Kawasaki Ninja has long been favored by beginners for its predictable and controllable power. Ninjas are fun, but the small-bore models won’t immediately try to kill you with the twist of the throttle.

Now, if you want to go really cheap, pick up an even more inexpensive Kawasaki Ninja 250. However, I decided to go a little newer because those older bikes are carbureted. If you don’t care about that, you can get an even better moto deal in going older. Unfortunately, because so many people buy Ninja 250s and Ninja 300s as their first bikes, it’s somewhat hard to find one that’s cheap, yet hasn’t been beaten to an inch of its life. Even the one on your screen here has been dropped, but at least it doesn’t have a hole in its engine and a rebuilt title like a couple of the others I found.

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Launched in 2013 as a successor to the Ninja 250, the Ninja 300 has a 39 HP parallel twin with displacement up from 249cc to 296cc and as I said before, the carb was left in the past for fuel injection. As MotorWeek writes, the Ninja 300 was developed as a response to the Honda CBR250R. The motorcycle will hit 110 mph if you give it enough room.

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Review notes from the Ninja 300 include the fact that the high-set clip-on bars and low pegs give the bike good ergonomics. The 31-inch seat height also means a lot of folks will be able to ride it, though, don’t expect much comfort from the sporty seat. The Ninja 300 weighs 379 pounds and the bike is known for its good handling. You won’t win any races, but it’s a nice choice for a beginner who does want something with a bit more speed. The Ninja 300 is also a decent pick for an experienced rider who wants a frugal commuter. This example also has optional ABS, which will likely come in handy as you hone your skills.

This 2014 Ninja 300 I found in Pinckney, Michigan for $3,200 (negotiable to $3,000) has some cosmetic damage to its plastics, which is common for Ninja 300s in this price range. To me, the damage just means you can ride without worrying about hurting a pretty bike.

1978 BMW R 80/7 – $3,000

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Maybe, like me, you love vintage vehicles with miles on their odometers and stories to tell, if they could talk. To scratch that itch, I think a BMW airhead would be a good choice.

Last year, I bought a very teal BMW R60/7. When I was riding that motorcycle home, I was delighted by how easy the motorcycle was to ride and maneuver. I have since become a bit obsessed with airheads and have been wondering how I have missed out on such wonderful bikes for so long. I’ve learned that airheads have been the first motorcycles of many for decades. It’s easy to see why. These BMWs last a long time, aren’t too heavy, aren’t too fast, and are DIY-friendly. Here’s what BMW has to say about the R 80/7:

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BMW followed the latest trend to larger displacement classes and presented the BMW R 80/7 in 1977 as the successor to the R 75/7. The increase in capacity compared to its predecessor was achieved by a larger bore. Over the long term, the R 80/7 also replaced the R 60/7 in the model year 1979. It therefore assumed the role of the new mid-range in the BMW Motorrad product range. Over the course of the production run until 1984, the motorcycle received numerous upgrades and modifications, including the standard twin disc brakes introduced for the front wheel in 1978 and modern cast alloy wheel rims and the sportier S-shaped bench seat in 1979.

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Power comes from a 797cc air-cooled boxer twin good for 55 HP. That’s more power than the Ninja, but with a claimed top speed of 110 mph. You’ll probably top out at a speed lower than that. If that’s too fast, you might be able to find a slower airhead, like the R 65, for similar money.

I would say this pick is good not just for the vintage nut, but also for the rider looking to learn how to wrench on their own bikes. Keep in mind that this motorcycle is 46 years old. Airheads have a reputation for reliability, but even they will need a repair or a few, especially after that long. Here’s a motorcycle that you can use to teach yourself how to wrench!

In terms of other specs, you’re looking at a seat height of 31.9 inches and a weight of 473 pounds. It’s the heavier option on this list, but it is still a manageable weight. Of course, be sure to test out a bike before you buy it so you have some idea if the motorcycle will work for you.

This 1978 BMW R 80/7 can be found in Huntington Beach, California for $3,000. It’s not perfect, but the motorcycle looks fun!

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1989 Honda Elite 250 – $1,800

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Perhaps you don’t really care about traditional motorcycles and instead, you want to blast down the road on a scooter. I get you! I love a good scooter, and I really love a scooter that can keep up with traffic around town and in the country. That’s what you’re getting with a Honda Elite 250. When this scoot hit America in 1985, it was the largest scooter on sale at the time. It is considered to be one of the predecessors to today’s maxi-scooters.

Power comes from a 244cc single good for 19 HP and 15.5 lb-ft of torque. So, you’re getting more power than you’d get in a typical scooter, but nothing out of this world. That power is good for a top speed of 75 mph, so you won’t be a rolling roadblock on a country road or highway.

I’ve ridden one of these before and I love the fact that these scooters are incredibly agile, which is perfect for city riding, but there’s more than enough power so that I can ride without worry. Then there’s the cushy seat, the step-through design, and the rad digital gauges. Scooters are a total ball to ride no matter your skill level. Scooters are also great for wrenching. Go ahead and play around with the CVT, customize the panels, add a stereo, and do your own maintenance. These little machines are easy and fun to work on.

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If this 1989 Elite 250 weren’t in Punta Gorda, Florida, I might be the one to buy it! But I am not, so one of you should hand over $1,800 to the seller.

These five bikes are just a handful of the awesome machines out there for beginners. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a new bike when the used market is full of cheap, fun, and even historic rides. I can’t wait to see what my wife chooses. This summer is going to be a grand time. So, go get that motorcycle endorsement, withdraw some of that tax refund, and go have a blast. Make sure you gear up and watch out for distracted drivers.

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John E runberg
John E runberg
3 months ago

When friends ask where they should start there are three core things I share:

  • Get something with fuel injection unless you like tuning carb(s)
  • Definitely get something with ABS for help you not hit something
  • Plan on spending $$ on decent gear (ATGATT) for when do

When I started I spent a lot of time working through what I wanted the bike to do for me and what I needed to enjoy riding it. At 6’3″ many bikes were too small but I ended up with a F650 Dakar which was PERFECT. Plenty of room, enough power and ABS (which I used more than once early on). While I wanted an airhead I **wanted** to ride the thing instead of working on it – I’ve owned two others and they definitely were reliable AFTER I went through all that was wrong on a cheap used BMW.

The Dakar is gone (replaced, eventually, by a 1100gs) and for the moment sits alongside a Thruxton R w/ fairing *swoon*

Stones4
Stones4
3 months ago
Reply to  John E runberg

This is great advice that I followed exactly none of when I bought my CB750 6 years ago. 4 carburetors, drum brakes in the rear, soggy front brakes, and a shock when I bought my gear. I’ve spent far more time fighting those damn carburetors than riding the thing, but when it runs it’s a blast!

Checkyourbeesfordrinks
Checkyourbeesfordrinks
3 months ago

Speaking as an owner of a 2001 Honda Rebel for 15 years – 80 MPH is a bit generous. Maybe when you’re going downhill with a tailwind, and you swapped out the OEM sprockets to get a few more MPH. 65-70 MPH is top-end for me, and I’ll lose speed if there’s an incline.

Great bike to start on though; helps you figure out city riding, shift points, and avoiding all the crazy cars. Bit nerve-racking on the freeway though. I don’t ride enough anymore to justify upgrading; maybe once the kids move out in 7-8 years I can get something bigger. 🙂

JDE
JDE
3 months ago

No mention of a much newer Grom or perhaps the KTM 200? https://www.cycletrader.com/listing/2023-KTM-200+Duke-5027062885

JDE
JDE
3 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Heck, for not much more you could get a 390, but a beginner does not need that with these bikes. https://www.cycletrader.com/listing/2021-KTM-390+Duke-5028374129

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
3 months ago

I like a dual sport for a new rider. Power is manageable and they don’t get too hurt if you drop them. Many folks don’t want a dirt bike for their first machine, though. To those I recommend the Rebel. The ones I have ridden were impossible to stall, and they feel like a 5/7 scale machine. Both of those facts really up a new rider’s confidence.

Not to mention they’re cheap and hold what little value they have.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
3 months ago

I’ll sell you my 2011 Honda CBR250R w/ABS for $2,500 loonies. Never crashed, no mods, dead reliable and nimble AF. I really like Honda’s linked brakes especially for a beginner. IMO it looks better than the Ninja 300; Honda styled it like a baby VFR. I just can’t justify keeping a *third* bike around now that I no longer commute.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
3 months ago

My tax refund is going to partially paying for a few weeks of daytime summer camp for one child. Almost $4K; we started applying in early January and two thirds of the camps were already full.

Living in NYC does have some significant downsides. On the other hand I have a Uyghur AND an Uzbek restaurant within walking distance from the office, not to mention every other cuisine from Chick-Fil-A to Jollibee, with German-style Döner Kebab in between.

Small Fact0ry
Small Fact0ry
3 months ago

I am an avid motorcycle enthusiast: whenever I suggest a beginner bike, I ALWAYS suggest a fuel injected bike (unless the person likes to tinker and is knowledgeable).

Some other great suggestions for the shorter folks are the Yamaha xt250, Honda Rebel 300 and 500, Honda monkey/grom, and Kawasaki ninja/Z line of bikes.

And, the standard-bearer, the Miata of motorcycles: for for an affordable great coming back to riding bike, or a beginner bike for a larger heavier person, the SV650. I have one as a track/race bike and they are amazing. I only mess with the 2003+ years for the fuel injection. Please buy these, so I can buy them from you when you’re done with them.

Last edited 3 months ago by Small Fact0ry
Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
3 months ago

The DRZ400 is a great shout, but the SM is the one to have. The supermoto makes it that much more fun on the roads with grippy sport rubber – the proper urban assault vehicle.

I’m also surprised that the SV650 isn’t even a mentioned in this list. It is such an absolutely brilliant bike that you could live with for life, or even turn into a track bike.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
3 months ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I think the answer to everything is supermoto, but I don’t know that I agree here. They’re lower that the regular DR, but not as versatile. Sport rubber is not going to instill confidence in a new rider on anything other than pavement. I LOVE a dual sport as a first bike; the power is not ridiculous, they can go anywhere, and they don’t get too hurt if you drop it.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
3 months ago

For those of us in urban environments: the most likely offroading we’ll do is likely accidental or a gravel lot. My prior SM may have been buried up to its axles in mud ones or twice, but I had the most fun on the streets within the legal limits.

The SM being physically lower to the ground makes it more manageable for those of us who don’t have really really long legs, so becomes much easier to handle on the roads. And the added confidence in traction on-road can’t be ignored (you don’t have to take your bike offroad).

And, yes, cracking plastics on a dualsport/SM is usually a cheap fix (or it’s not even worth mentioning) – so lends itself well to new riders.

R Rr
R Rr
3 months ago

So instead of rolling the dice on some old, neglected project bike, how about buying a brand new with warranty Yamaha TW200 for less than 5 grand?

Especially for a beginner, there is no more approachable bike (31in seat height), not to mention dead reliable (they’ve been making them since 1987).

Last edited 3 months ago by R Rr
Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
3 months ago
Reply to  R Rr

You must be new here. Welcome 😉

Last edited 3 months ago by Manuel Verissimo
R Rr
R Rr
3 months ago

I just think Mercedes somehow hates the TW200 (and Yamahas in general), she also ignored it when she wrote an article about cheap new beginners bikes awhile back

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
3 months ago
Reply to  R Rr

I was ten when it came out and my pre-teen self was outraged that anyone would produce something so hideous. Apparently Yamaha will still be building TW200s after I am dead, though, so there must be something more to it than looks.

Last edited 3 months ago by Vetatur Fumare
No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
3 months ago
Reply to  R Rr

I don’t know on what planet it makes sense to buy a new bike with a carburetor for a new rider but I hope it is nice.

Is Travis
Is Travis
3 months ago

Holy crap, about 10 years ago to the day I spent my tax returns on a rusty runner that needed work, an ’89 Montero with 220k miles. My goal was to learn how to wrench with Dad. 10 years later that Montero has 300k+ miles, and I do most of the work on my F34 335ix GT Bimmer.

Buy a vehicle with your tax returns folks. It may change your life.

Ron888
Ron888
3 months ago

One other that should be on the list: the Suzuki GS500.
It has relatively mellow power,isnt very heavy and handles well.Plus it had a massive 30 year production run so there are lots out there

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron888

GS500 is ok, but i would recommend the Kawasaki EX500 instead. The Kawi is just that little bit nicer.

Ron888
Ron888
3 months ago

Back in the day i found BMW R owners to be the most model-loyal owners ever.I never did found out why.

Dijon Patrick
Dijon Patrick
3 months ago

I started out on a YZ80 as a kid on dirt, good family fun on weekends. My first road bike was an r65LS, that I found in my neighbor’s garage. It had a nasty little habit of randomly shutting down while riding. It turns out it was a hall-effect sensor in the ignition timer. After I fixed that it was such a trooper! I *maybe* got up to 98mph once going down hill.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
3 months ago

A DRZ400 would be EXACTLY the bike I want. But they were only available here for a few years so secondhand they are not worth the inflated prices being asked for them.

Gubbin
Gubbin
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

They’re stone simple, barely powerful enough, not particularly light but they do exactly what it says on the tin.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Y’all also got street-legal XR400s on that side of the pond. Air-cooled, but a pretty great machine.

Diana Slyter
Diana Slyter
3 months ago

Good bikes, but I’d pick a BMW R65- Same basic bike as the R80 and R100 but understressed due to the small engine. Bought mine new in ’84, ridden over 100,000 miles, over half that pulling a sidecar, and over 100 hot parades. I can’t kill the thing- Compression still halfway between new and worn specs, heads have never been off, transmissions never been opened up, still has original starting, charging, and ignition systems. Just oils, filters, plugs, and lots of tires…

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
3 months ago

I think in general, old standards are best to learn on. For that reason I like the BMW. However, it’s got those pots out beside your legs, and its kinda heavy for a first bike. You can usually find an old Suzuki SV650 for cheapies and they are great. I also think there are so many small Hondas with their 300cc single, in all flavors, from dual sport to cruiser style, that you can find those for a song as well. An Enfield is likewise very appropriate. But it WILL need you to go through it mechanically more than a cheap Honda or Suzuki would.

Gubbin
Gubbin
3 months ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

SV650 is the Miata of bikes. Light-ish, lower seat height, all the power a skilled rider needs yet not too much for a beginner.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
3 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Never thought about it, but that’s a really good way to describe them!

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
3 months ago

A good selection of the right kind of bikes. Amazes me when I’m asked if a 750 is too small for a starter bike (by mentioning 750, I’m dating my boomer self).

back in the day, starting out on a dirt bike, riding in the dirt, was a great way to learn. Unfortunately now, not many dirt bikes. Or places them to ride them…

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Gary Lynch

back in the day, starting out on a dirt bike, riding in the dirt, was a great way to learn.

100%

I learned to ride off-road before getting my license and believe it made me a better street rider. For example, when you’ve hooned around in low-traction conditions intentionally, momentary traction issues on the street (sand, gravel, etc.) are less of a problem.

CSRoad
CSRoad
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

That was my learning progression too, so it must be right. (-;
Over half a century later, still trying to learn how to ride better, no off-road anymore though.

Always broke
Always broke
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Wasn’t there a study done at one time that indicated riders with dirt experience were less likely to be involved in wrecks than riders without.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Always broke

That’s a good question. I’ve never heard of such a study but would be interested in reading it if it exists.

OTOH, Gary, CSRoad, and I are in here with our anecdotes and that’s really just as good. 🙂

CSRoad
CSRoad
3 months ago

The Honda Rebel is a classic beginner bike, that was used by a lot of basic rider training courses. IME new riders gravitate to them for that reason. It is pathetically slow for a 250 and the joy seems to wear off for most at the 3 month mark. They tend to end up in a multi-owner trade-in cycle or back of the garage dust collectors, abandoned.

All beginner bikes have been dropped usually at low speed.
So figure it will happen again and do not waste money on “showroom condition”. All bikes get scrapes/dings if they are ridden much at all.
Always check parts availability when eyeing older bikes, rare and unobtainium happens with bikes even popular ones.
Fairings and such are expensive OEM, but cheaper copies can be had from places like AliExpress for some.

Whatever old used bike you buy, always plan on tires and all fluids/filters replacement at a minimum, so add that in to the $.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
3 months ago

Tax refund? They still give those out? Must be nice. Apparently my disabled wife and I still owe the gubmint approximately one 1999 Honda Rebel 250, plus dent repair for the tank. I hope they have fun riding my motorcycle.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
3 months ago

Right in the feels, Joe. I’m raising a brew in your honor tonight. God bless the working man.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
3 months ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Welp, somebody’s gotta pay for all these [unfit topic for this forum redacted], and it looks like it’s me.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
3 months ago

I like the Ninja, but that particular one seems a bit nice for a first bike. I went with something much jankier for my first, which was a 1989 (maybe 1990?) Honda VTR 250 Interceptor. It was very similar to a Ninja 250 of the same era. It was exceptionally easy to handle, lightweight, and had enough power to ride on the highway, but not so much power that it would get away from you if you accidentally gave it too much throttle (which happens a lot when you are learning).

I bought it for either $600 or $700 (I also bought a bicycle that same week; I can’t recall which was $600 and which was $700). It ran great. It was missing most of the original plastic fairings, but I was okay with that (my bike came from the factory with fairings that had pastel pink and blue graphics that earned it the description of “Barbie’s dream bike” in a review). My bike had a rattle can red paint job applied to the tank and remaining plastic bits. It looked respectable.

The bike was great to learn on (I rode it ~3000 miles before upgrading to a CBR 600). I dropped it twice and low-sided it once during the learning process, but the bike kept running and wasn’t significantly damaged by any of those events. Once I was ready to move on, I reupholstered the seat, painted it silver, and sold it for $800 to another beginner (who was at least the 6th owner of this bike).

I think my VTR was almost certainly the ideal bike to learn it. It was a great platform to learn on and withstood a lot of abuse that would cause expensive damage to other bikes. That I sold it for either a $100 or $200 profit made it that much more perfect.

Last edited 3 months ago by Stig's Cousin
A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago

The Rebel’s dented tank is a good reminder: if it’s your first bike, you’re probably going to have a mishap or two. Because of that I would not necessarily recommend the Ninja 250/300 for brand-new riders. If you drop the Rebel, you can replace the turn signals independently (and inexpensively) and be on your way; with full bodywork, where the turn signals are integrated, replacing damaged bits can be much more pricy and could lead to someone [out of necessity] riding without signals. No bueno. As a novice rider’s second bike, though? Hell yes to the Ninja: it’s got light weight, good brakes, good handling, and easily manageable power.

However, I have a soft spot for the older Ninja 250s: many years ago I rode one 1500+ miles from California to Texas. It was carbureted and had a 14,000 RPM redline, and I would like to find another one but – as Mercedes indicated – they are not common.

I lent the 250 to a friend so he could take his licensing road test. He was so tall and the bike was so small that his knees didn’t fit into the molded areas in the bodywork, so he basically had to ride the bike bow-legged. Maybe that’s why he dropped it and broke the fairing. No worries, though – he bought me a replacement panel. 🙂

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago

I wish the Elite 250 had a front disc brake. That’s the only thing stopping me from buying one.

A good alternative to the Rebel 250 for somebody wants to start on a cruiser, but doesn’t fit on a Rebel (they’re TINY, I could not ride them when I tried), is the Yamaha Virago/V-star 250. It has forward controls, so if you’re a bigger person, it is way more comfortable.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

There also used to be a Rebel 450, which worked better for taller folks.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

True, and there’s nothing wrong with buying one of those if you can find one. 250 Viragos/V-Stars are way more common than Rebel 450s, and also super cheap.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

That’s more than fair: the 450 hasn’t been made since… the early 1990s?

*looks it up*

Holy crap!! It was made only in 1986 and 1987?? I guess that’s why they’re rare. 😐

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Yeah, I think I’ve only ever seen one or two for sale. I didn’t even consider them because I don’t fit on Rebel 250s, but it never occurred to me that it might be a physically bigger bike, not just the same bike with a bigger engine.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

It’s funny: when I had the Ninja 250, a couple of classmates wanted to learn to ride. The 5’2″ person bought a Rebel 250 and the 6′ person bought a Rebel 450. 🙂

I rode both bikes. The 250 felt very (almost uncomfortably) low but the 450 was a decent fit.

IIRC the Rebel 450 used the same engine as the standard Nighthawk 450 – a basic design that was simple and reliable.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

One of my best friends, who is a little skinny guy, bought a Rebel 250 nearly 20 years ago. He still has it, and it now has like 25k miles on it! He’ll join us for our big scooter trips, and the running joke is, “What’s going to fall off of the Rebel this year?” But the damn thing still keeps chugging along!

It’s too small for me to even get my feet on the pegs.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago

Can’t go wrong with an airhead! I have a 1980 R100 that I bought from my dad a few years back after I sold my ‘76 Yamaha XS650 (still regret it). It’s a vintage you can actually take long distance trips on comfortably. Mine has done an iron butt run and gone on the Dragon among other places. On top of that, they are stone-reliable minus the odometer I just sent off to get fixed!

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
3 months ago

What is this “refund” of which you speak?

While I like the Ninja, the rebel wins for seating position. Once you know you want a bike, then look into lean forward position.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

And clip-ons aren’t nearly as everyday livable as a lot of people think. Esp. as many riders (not just beginning ones) then end up putting all their weight on their arms instead of using their lower body. It’s a recipe for exhaustion.

Last edited 3 months ago by Jack Trade
A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

And clip-ons aren’t nearly as everyday livable as a lot of people think.

Not with that attitude. 🙂

Unfortunately people don’t always take advantage of all available adjustments. Clip-ons can be raised and lowered and moved fore and aft; this should account for most situations, but someone who has a short torso and/or short arms relative to the bike will almost always have comfort issues.

I have a long torso and long-ish arms, so IMO clip-ons are great. But I have relatively short legs, which means most dual-purpose and adventure bikes are no-go unless I wear boots with 4″ thick soles. 🙂

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

No kidding. I was so proud of myself this year. I’m only getting $47 back from federal! I worked out my withholding perfectly last year. My state taxes, on the other hand weren’t as precise.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
3 months ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

My favorite tax year total ever was the year that I owed $4 to the state, but got a $7 federal tax refund. My big splurge with my refund check? Pack of smokes.

Fast forward to this year, and my wife and I owe the IRS approximately the cash equivalent of Eddie Murphy’s tractor-trailer full of Pall Malls in “Beverly Hills Cop.”

Last edited 3 months ago by Joe The Drummer
Scott Ross
Scott Ross
3 months ago

Good list.
To start you need 250cc if you want to go real highway speeds.

That being said my favorite on the list is the BMW. Why Because its a slower bike and on top of that a hell of a lot easier to work on. Plus there are parts a plenty for that thing. Im also a biased Oilhead owner who is now a fan of airheads and K bikes.

I started off on a Ninja 250 and I would recommend that for most. Its a sport bike look but with standard seating.

Im still mad at my one friend, He bought a Triumph 1200 bobber as his first bike and used the “I dont want to grow out” of it excuse. Thats part of the fun and on top of that once you get one bike you want another for the different styles of riding.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago
Reply to  Scott Ross

All good suggestions. I started out on a Yamaha XS650, and it was perfect. I had a BMW K1300GT for awhile, but it was a little much. Now I’m rocking an old airhead – 1980 R100 and loving it.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Scott Ross

Exactly. Don’t replace – add to the collection.

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