The Best 250cc Motorcycles for New Riders [2022 Edition]

Best 250cc Motorcycles for New Riders

Updated: 29 January 2022

A lot of new riders are looking to start off on something that will be fun without being too powerful. Some riders are too small, light, or inexperienced for higher displacement motorcycles, while others appreciate the fuel efficiency or specific usage cases only smaller-displacement bikes can provide.

Whatever the case, there are a lot of options if you want to look south of 300cc. In this list, I will identify at least one model per style of bike that a beginner would have no problems learning on.

NOTE: I need to specify that there aren’t a lot of pure 250cc motorcycles out there anymore. Some dirt bikes, dual sports, and adventure bikes still do come with engines that are 250cc on the dot—but to cover a wider range of styles, I’ve considered anything up to 299cc as valid for the purposes of this article.

Supersport

2021 Honda CBR300R

2020 Honda CBR300R

For those looking to get their excitement on the street and carve some corners on the track, the 2021 Honda CBR300R is a great introduction to supersport motorcycles. Using a 286cc liquid-cooled single, the latest available version of this bike produces a respectable 31 HP and 20 lb-ft of torque.

The CBR300R borrows a lot of styling from its much more powerful cousin, the CBR1000RR—the headlights, cowl, fairings, and aggressive tank shape diving towards the front of the bike are all easily recognizable.

The clip-on handlebars are raised, however, making this a comfortable street bike you can still tuck down into when on the track. By not raising the rider fully into the standard riding position, it just squeaks in as a supersport.

Honorable Mention: 2022 Yamaha YZF-R3

2022 Yamaha YZF-R3

You cannot talk about introductory supersport bikes without talking about the 2022 Yamaha YZF-R3. It barely misses this list (by a paltry 22ccs of displacement), with a 321cc inline twin that absolutely screams out 50 HP.

Developed heavily in conjunction with the Yamaha Racing Team that competes in both World SBK and MotoGP, this is a light, fast, and competent bike for both road and track, and a highly recommended motorcycle for a beginner track rider who also wants to be able to ride their steed on the street.

See also: our 2019 Yamaha R3 hands-on review.

Sport

2021 Suzuki GSX250R

2020 Suzuki GSX250R

The 2021 Suzuki GSX250R (still the latest version available as of this update) looks, smells, and even feels like a supersport bike. The only major difference is that the clip-on handlebars are very high at the front and the tank is shorter, pushing the rider up into a standard seating position for the vast majority of riding.

Apart from that, the GSX250R is a competent sports bike, with a 248cc parallel-twin that pushes out 25 HP and 17 lb-ft of torque. Being a parallel twin instead of a single also means that the GSX250R produces that classic throbbing bark from the exhaust, which makes the ears tingle happily. It’s light and corners well, and can easily be taken on the track for some serious fun.

Naked

2022 Honda CB300R

2022 Honda CB300R

Honda used the same engine from the CBR300R in their 2022 CB300R naked sport model—however, it is tuned slightly differently to give it a much more street-friendly powerband for torque. As such, for the beginner rider, it has a great linear delivery of power across the low and mid RPMs, only starting to gasp a little as it nears redline (by which point you should have shifted up anyway).

It’s also very comfortable to sit on, with easily accessed controls and pegs that aren’t as far back along the frame as with the CBR models. As well, almost all riders will appreciate the planted and sturdy feel of the bike, despite it being a lightweight naked. Japanese engineering can do amazing things, and the 2022 Honda CB300R is a great example.

Retro or Sport Heritage

2021 Yamaha V-Star 250

2022 Yamaha V-Star 250

It may look like a cruiser, and I wouldn’t blame you for calling it a cruiser. Yamaha, however, labels it as a sport heritage motorcycle—and puts a lot of tiny details into the 2022 V-Star 250 that make it a great throwback bike.

This motorcycle is widely regarded as a great beginner bike. It’s extremely competent on the road, giving the rider plenty of feedback and great handling due to its light weight.

The V-Star 250 is also a perfect starter bike for those interested in riding v-twins, since the little 249cc 60º air cooled v-twin still uses a tiny Mikuni BDS26 carburetor, giving it that classic rumble only v-twins have.

Cruiser

2022 Honda Rebel 300

2022 Honda Rebel 300

The Honda Rebel 300, from the very earliest points in its design, has been aimed at the new rider market. It is meant to make motorcycle cruising feel accessible and not scary. Powered by a 286cc single, it produces 25 HP and 20 lb-ft of torque—and it’s also an absolute sipper of gas, giving you incredible range.

I will admit, Honda has pretty much created the perfect bike for gently introducing new riders to cruisers. And if you really like the Rebel 300, have had it for a couple of seasons, and want to move up to a bigger-displacement engine, the Rebel 500 is the exact same bike but with nearly double the power.

Adventure

2021 Honda CRF300L Rally

 

2021 Honda CRF300L Rally

Given Honda’s success over the years with endurance rallies—including their outright win at the 2020 Dakar Rally—it’s no wonder their CRF300L Rally is our recommended dirt-oriented adventure bike for this list. With a gutsy 286cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single, it will get you up and over most hills with ease and absorb the bumps and bruises of most rough trails without letting you feel any of them.

But what really sells the CRF300L Rally as the best beginner-friendly adventure bike is its light weight. This prevents a common problem with larger or heavier adventure bikes: the feeling of being centred too high to be able to shift your weight properly when cornering on streets.

The CRF300L Rally is agile, built for the rough stuff, and as reliable as a wood-burning stove. What more could a new adventure rider want?

2022 Kawasaki Versys-X 300

2022 Kawasaki Versys-X 300

Without mincing words, Kawasaki themselves consider the 2022 Versys-X 300 a “city adventurer”—meaning it’s more street bike than off-roader. Realistically, it’s a great beginner bike, thanks to the dynamics that Kawasaki engineered into it.

With a high windshield, a low seating position, the 296cc parallel-twin engine slung as low as possible in the frame, and a quintessential standard seating position, the rider is placed as close as possible to the bike’s centre of gravity and cornering pivot point.

With 40 HP and 19 lb-ft of torque on tap, the engine is powerful enough to cruise comfortably at highway speeds and has enough low-down grunt to get you up and going with minimal effort from the line. Power delivery is also beginner-friendly, since it is linear to a fault—only dropping off after about 8,000 RPM.

Dual-Sport

2022 Kawasaki KLX300

2022 Kawasaki KLX250

The 2022 Kawasaki KLX30 is the latest iteration in Kawasaki’s KLX series of motorcycles. What makes it great for beginners is that it combines true off-road capability with light weight, appropriate power, and absolutely stellar feedback.

Powered by a 292cc single, it produces 33 HP and 21 lb-ft of torque, so it’s very capable on the street (although not a bike that would be able to handle the freeway). However, if you live in a smaller city where you can avoid highways to get to where you need to go, and you want to bomb around dirt trails on the weekends, Kawasaki has the beginner bike for you.

Mini

2022 Honda GROM

2022 Honda GROM

The 2022 Honda GROM is, and I admit this freely, a silly little bike. It looks like something out of a Transformers cartoon. However, that’s also part of its appeal. It’s a bike that shucks off the seriousness of the world and lets you zip around on a comically fun little machine.

It also has enough power (at just 10 HP and 8 lbs-ft of torque), to be able to handle main roads. So if you need to pop down to the grocery store for a pint of milk and don’t want to take the big bike, this little monster will get you there as well. This beginner-friendly motorcycle is a terrific little runabout that will let you have fun without trying to kill you in the process.

2022 Kawasaki Z125 Pro

A bit more aggressive than its GROM competitor, the 2022 Z125 Pro is what Kawasaki calls a “junior streetfighter.” It’s powered by a 125cc air-cooled single, but puts out 15 HP and 7 lb-ft of torque—making it ideal for beginner riders who want a slightly more serious mini while safely experiencing what a streetfighter can do.

Kawasaki has made this little streetfighter very responsive and communicative—something every starter needs to learn so they can feel what the bike is doing under them, as well as what the road is like. On top of that, the Z125 Pro can corner like a much bigger streetfighter, and it’s as tossable and nimble as a Z650 (but at a fraction of the cost).