Home » This Five Beginner Motorcycle Shootout Shows There’s No Better Time Than Now To Ride A Motorcycle

This Five Beginner Motorcycle Shootout Shows There’s No Better Time Than Now To Ride A Motorcycle

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Spring is in full swing and summer is almost right here. Many people across America are filling into motorcycle training classes and soon, they will be able to experience the freedom offered by riding on two wheels. There might not be a better time than now to become a motorcyclist, and it’s in part because motorcyclists just starting out have so much choice out there and it seems you’d have to try really hard to get a bad motorcycle. The folks over at RevZilla picked out five beginner-friendly bikes and put them to the test. I’ll spoil it for you right away, all of these bikes totally rock.

A few days ago, the motorcycle nuts over at RevZilla uploaded a video relevant to anyone thinking about starting to ride, like my wife currently is. Zack and Ari joined up with friends Jen, Patrick, and Spurgeon to put their picks for the best beginner bikes to the test. The lineup included the Kawasaki Ninja 400, Royal Enfield Meteor 350, Honda CRF300L, BMW G 310 GS, and to round things out, an electric Sondors Metacycle:

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Each of these motorcycles has a strong selling point. The Kawasaki Ninja 400 boasts the largest engine at 399cc while the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 touts the lowest price at $4,750. Meanwhile, the Sondors Metacycle, while it is the most expensive at $6,500, represents a shift in motorcycling from internal combustion to an electric future. Also notable is the fact that the Honda CRF300L weighed a light 312 pounds.

All of these motorcycles have a reason to buy them, but the RevZilla team felt that spec sheets don’t tell the whole story. The mission of this video is to find out which of the five is best, regardless of what their manufacturers say.

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Drop Test

Bikeweight

The first test is an important one. As a beginner rider, there’s a chance that you may drop your steed in a parking lot or while executing a maneuver. Heck, even experienced riders goof up and see their motorcycles end up shiny side down. When this happens, you may not have help, so having a motorcycle that’s easier to lift can help you in a huge way.

First up was the Sondors Metacycle. This electric machine weighs 335 pounds and required about 118 pounds of lift to get it back on its tires, an impressive start. The team figures that part of why the Metacycle was so easy to lift had to do with the battery, which sits pretty low on the machine.

Sondors

Next came the Honda CRF300L dual-sport. Now, as someone who has owned many different adventure bikes and dual-sports, I was interested in this one. These bikes often have a high center of gravity, which makes picking them up a major pain. The 312-pound Honda took 150 pounds to lift, which is a little better than I expected.

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The team then moved to the 372-pound Kawasaki Ninja 400. This one presented a bit of a challenge as sportbike bodywork and clip-on bars make for some difficulty. The bike’s rider, Patrick, basically had to lift the motorcycle the incorrect way. Usually, you’ll want to brace yourself on your machine and lift with your legs. Patrick used his back, using 130 pounds to lift the Kawasaki.

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Fourth in line was the heaviest machine, the 420-pound Royal Enfield Meteor 350. Royal Enfield designed these bikes to have most of their weight down low, but what would that mean for picking it up? Jen needed just 85 pounds to lift the Enfield. The heaviest bike was the lightest to lift.

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Finally, we land on the 383-pound BMW G 310 GS. This baby adventure bike is another machine with its weight higher up, and thus it wasn’t surprising when it took 145 pounds to lift it.

Repair Costs

When you drop your bike, chances are you’re going to bang it up. The next test was tallying up the cost to repair everything that touched the ground in the first test. The bikes didn’t actually need the parts, but this was theoretical.

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Up first was the BMW, which had pricy parts like a $101.21 clutch lever and a $163.39 handlebar. It tallied up $345.70 in parts.

Next came the Royal Enfield and this one was entertaining. It also needed a clutch lever but it was just $6.99 and the handlebar was $22.99. All in, that bike had a theoretical $96.95, and that included a turn signal, which was half of the total. For the rest of the pack, the Honda rang up $129.40 and the Kawasaki would have needed $524.34, $348.81 of that was the left fairing. Perhaps the most alarming was the Sondors Metacycle, which was so new that the team just couldn’t figure out how much it would cost to repair it.

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Jen with the Royal Enfield took an early lead winning both of the first challenges. Being easy to pick up and cheap to repair are both great traits for a beginner bike. Really, that’s great for any motorcycle!

The Fastest

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RevZilla’s next test was one that needed no explanation. The quintet decided to do three drag races to find out which bikes are the fastest.

Now, this test had me on the edge of my seat because I feared the Royal Enfield would come in dead last. The Kawasaki belts out 44.8 HP and 27 lb-ft torque from its 399cc twin, more power than the rest of the bikes in the pack. However, an interesting challenge, at least in theory, came from the Sondors Metacycle, which is claimed to make 20 HP and 130 lb-ft torque at peak power. So, if the spec sheet is accurate, the Metacycle should leap from the starting line, right?

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Much of the races weren’t surprising. The sporty Kawasaki left the rest of the pack in the dust while the low-power Royal Enfield was at the back. What was unexpected was how slow the Sondors Metacycle is. The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 has a thumper making 20.2 HP and 19.9 lb-ft torque; that Metacycle should have destroyed it. Yet, in every race, the Meteor barely beat the electric bike. The Metacycle was set to its peak output mode, so the team wasn’t sure why it was so slow.

At the end of the three races, the Ninja 400 proved to be a little rocket while the 310 GS and CRF300L brought up the middle of the pack. The Royal Enfield took fourth while the Metacycle took dead last.

The Quickest To Service

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An important and gratifying part of motorcycle ownership is maintenance. Even though oil changes are easy jobs, they make you feel accomplished. To test which bike is easiest to service, the RevZilla crew decided to race through an oil change.

What was noteworthy here was the difficulty in changing the oil in each bike. The Kawasaki, despite its full fairings, was designed in such a way that access to the oil drain plug and oil filter is achieved without ripping the body off. On the other end of the scale was the Royal Enfield, which was more old-school in design.

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The Royal Enfield has an oil cartridge on the side of the engine, which will mean an oil spill onto the engine if you aren’t careful. Then, from the bottom, you have to drain the oil out and remove a filtering screen.

The filter screen and cartridge add extra steps to an oil change but it still seems easy enough to do. For whatever reason, Jen gives up and does not finish the test. Also working against the Enfield here is the fact that it also had the shortest oil change intervals (I was told every 3,000 miles), so you’ll be doing this oil change dance more often.

The Bike That Can Do It All

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For the final challenge, the RevZilla crew race to complete a set of tasks. First, they raced around a track before maneuvering around a simulated city environment. From there, the riders picked up a piece of mail, took their motorcycles down a desert trail, raced down a straight road, dropped off the mail, then headed back to the start.

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This test was pretty epic to watch. Kawasaki would never expect you to take a Ninja out into the dirt, yet Patrick was sending it so hard that he got air a few times. Hang time in the dirt on a sportbike!

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It was a bit surprising how this race finished. The BMW took an easy win after being competent in every environment. In second place, incredibly, was the Kawasaki, which made up for being slow in the dirt by being a rocket on the track and on the road. Despite a painful ride and running out of peak power, the Sondors sped across the finish line in third. The Honda dual-sport took fourth and the Royal Enfield rounded out the pack.

The Best Beginner Bike

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In the end, the Kawasaki took first, the BMW rounded up a very close second, the Sondors nabbed third, and the Royal Enfield tied for fourth with the Honda. Despite the rankings, however, the RevZilla crew concluded that all of these motorcycles have a reason to buy them. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses.

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If you’re just starting out, I still recommend a used machine. But if you must go new, it’s hard to go wrong nowadays. So, pick your preferred style, swing a leg over your steed, and have some fun.

We also totally recommend watching all of RevZilla’s tests because the video and the whole channel are a ball of fun, even if you don’t ride.

(All Images: RevZilla)

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Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 year ago

A few things surprise me… first, that the electric motorcycle is NOT the heaviest one and that the electric motorcycle is the easiest to pick up if you drop it.

I’m also surprised the electric bike was dead last in acceleration.

Not surprised that the Ninja 400 won though. I’ve heard/read from many different people and places that the Ninja 250R/300/400 is the go-to beginner bike and even a decent bike for non-beginners.

06dak
06dak
1 year ago

I’ve been eyeing a G310GS for awhile now, much to the chagrin of my wife who thinks we already have too many toys. These types of articles and videos are NOT helping!

Ryan L
Ryan L
1 year ago

They live in sort of a legal Limbo and are too expensive for what they are (street toy that isn’t really legal on the street that maybe you could run to the C store in) but damn if I don’t want a Surron.

Pleiades
Pleiades
1 year ago

My vote for best beginner bike would be an old ass DRZ400S. Don’t buy a new one because they haven’t been updates since 2007 I think, and you can get older models for a few grand, definitely less $$$ than the models in the video. I started on an F650GS single, which was fine but heavy and impossible for me to lift when the inevitable tipover happened. Some years later I lucked into a DRZ and really loved the hell out of that bike. Indestructible, easy to maneuver, super light (compared to the F650). Only thing that sucks about it is the carb. I hate dealing with carbs and am praying for the day Suzuki finally makes it fuel injected. But some people swear by carbed bikes. Anyway the DRZ gets my vote. Light, easy to handle, enough power to do 80 on the freeway but the throttle isn’t intimidating, great for trails, bulletproof, confidence-building. All in all a great bike even for non-beginners.

06dak
06dak
1 year ago
Reply to  Pleiades

Most of these bikes are new recently… fuel injection, ABS, etc are either standard or available now. It’s not like 10 years ago when no one cared about small bikes. I think the unexpected success of the Grom really has helped bring attention to the bottom end of motorcycles in the US.

Pleiades
Pleiades
1 year ago
Reply to  06dak

That’s a good point about abs and that is one thing that the DRZ lacks that I missed. Fuel injection is definitely nice as well (my current bike has both abs and FI!). My preference for the DRZ starting out is just based on my experience owning one and my experience starting out on a bigger, heavier bike. If I were starting again, I’d probably pick a sub-400 lb dual sport with abs, a few years old (preferably already with “patina”) and with ubiquitous (i.e. cheap) parts. If I had to pay $160 for a shift lever like on that gs in the video, I’d be broke by now. Maybe I had bad luck as a new rider, but I dropped my first bike countless times practicing u-turns and steep hill starts and drops really hurt my confidence and made me feel like garbage when I saw the new scratches on my bike. But it’s awesome that there’s a real plethora of options for new riders now with useful safety features. And one more tip for new riders- Barkbusters and other brands make super helpful handguards that’ll protect your levers in a spill.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
1 year ago

I love the idea of riding a motorcycle, but I experience way too many idiot drivers in cars / behemoth SUVs/trucks to ever follow through with it.

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 year ago

Most of the Revzilla videos are worth watching, but this one especially for potential new riders. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of those that don’t watch. The size and weight of these really make a lot of sense for beginners even if the feel the need to go bigger further down the road, and even some experienced riders find the 300 to 400cc range a happy place to be for their use.
If I was going to grab one I’d look at the Versys X-300 or the KLX300SM both a little tall and Kawasaki made, one a decent all round bike, the other a little hooligan.
There are lots out there for the picking from various manufacturers get one,
take the safety course and have some careful, smiling fun. (-;

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
1 year ago

I wonder when this was filmed. I’ve seen that people said they couldn’t find replacement parts when the Sondor came out, but it has been almost half a year since they started selling them.

Gubbin
Gubbin
1 year ago

Wow, this is the first time I’ve seen a Sondors Metacycle being tested. Sounds like it turned out pretty much as I should have expected.
I had high hopes and prepaid for one, but I dropped my reservation when I found a deal on a crashed Zero S.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

Being easy to pick up and cheap to repair are both great traits for a beginner bike.

Definitely. When asked, I tend to steer new riders away from sportbikes with a lot of bodywork.

The other lesson that new riders will quickly learn (and that this test neatly demonstrated) is that buying branded parts from the manufacturer can be expensive. Aftermarket versions – say, from a company like Partzilla* 🙂 – are generally as good as OEM, especially for things like clutch/front brake levers and handlebars (assuming the 3/4″ tubular type).

Good stuff, Mercedes! I hope some n00bs are encouraged by this article.

* I personally wouldn’t buy unbranded/no-name items like that from eBay, etc. There is a difference between “inexpensive” and “cheap”. A brand like EMGO will have inexpensive levers at a lower price, not shoddy levers at a REALLY low price.

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Yeah I used to know racers who’d switch the factory plastic out for Alibaba replicas as part of bike prep. A visit to the OEM parts catalog and seeing the pricing makes a hell of an incentive for an average rider like me to keep the bike on the wheels. I like to think I got my trips to the pavement out of my system years ago, but who knows what tomorrow’s ride has in store. (-;

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago
Reply to  CSRoad

Yep, you just never know. 🙂

Keep the rubber side down!

SarlaccRoadster
SarlaccRoadster
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I replaced ALL the fairings on my Ninja ZX-6R for less than that one piece of fairing for this Ninja 400 costs, because there are many aftermarket options for fairings on Ebay. Some of these companies even let you customize the paint & decals, or get ‘special edition’ replica fairings. If you want to get some special ‘Monster edition’ fairings from Kawasaki, their prices will make you weep.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

I believe it. There was an interesting Ninja 250 on ebay a while ago, and just for grins I looked up bodywork options – wow.

Roger Pitre
Roger Pitre
1 year ago

CR500. Respect the throttle or die. Also, leave the flip flops at home. When you get launched into low earth orbit after a starting mishap, at least you won’t have a broken foot.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore
1 year ago

One thing to consider in all of those, the BMW has a 3 year warranty…highest of the group. I mean it’s also the most expensive but something to consider as part of the cost of ownership.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Moore
HumanCola
HumanCola
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Moore

My wife picked up a G310R, buying a new BMW bike seems pricy, but they include assembly, freight, and other typical add on fees in their MSRP.

My Yamaha MT03 should have been nearly the same based on MSRP, but the out the door cost ended up being much higher.

I do think the Ptwin is a more fun ride than her single thumper though.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Moore

Probably the only one that will actually need warranty work though. I guess you could get really unlucky but I doubt a CRF250L is gonna need a single thing for like 40 years. I still ride XR200’s from the 80’s and they rip.

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