There are some who have felt the call of the road, the howl of an engine beneath them, the wind whipping around their helmet as they twist the right wrist a little more. There is only one thing holding these riders back from enjoying life to the fullest — most motorcycles are designed for the average size male. So, if you’re taller or heavier than one, you might find some of them a little more challenging or uncomfortable to ride.
Yet, thankfully, there are bikes out there that are both great, end of story, and great beginner bikes. As with all things, approaching these slightly more powerful machines with a healthy dose of respect is a given, as they will be working just that little bit harder to get down the road with someone who’s on the heavier side astride them.
What style of riding are you looking to do?
Much like in 2021, there is a veritable smorgasbord of bikes suitable for the big-n-tall rider. The screaming supersports, the comfortable cruisers, the adventure tourer bike… they all exist.
However, the general consensus across all fields is that while a 300 or 400cc motorcycle will get you going to really enjoy motorcycling, it’s best to start off at about 500cc’s. This way, the engine has a chance to get you moving and doing so in a fuel-efficient way. A 1000cc (or more) motorcycle will get the job done easier, but most of them can’t be considered beginner-friendly; that’s why you won’t see many of them on this list.
2022 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
Keep in mind, any supersport bike is something to be treated with respect and a healthy dose of caution, and the ZX-6R can and will bite your head off if you are stupid with it. However, despite the bike being only 425.6 lbs in weight, it has an impressive engine that can find torque all across the rev range and does have a much gentler torque spike than comparable supersports like the Honda CBR600RR and the Yamaha YZF-R7.
A supersport will also never lack power, but the rider’s weight can and does affect the acceleration, braking, and overall rideability of the bike. Supersports also tend to have limited suspension travel — which is one of the aspects that’s most affected by weight — so keep this in mind before you decide to buy one.
SPECIAL NOTE: Despite recommended higher displacement, it is not recommended that a heavier rider starts on a 1000cc or greater bike in the supersport class. These bikes are snarling torque monsters that require a skilled hand to tame and are generally recommended as a second or even third bike for supersport riders.
2022 Kawasaki Ninja 650
Two Kawasaki’s in a row? Yes. Kawasaki has an excellent hold on the taller and heavier rider segment of the sportier side of things. However, unlike the supersport bike recommendation, we recommend the Ninja 650 because it is a very good jack-of-all-trades. You can ride it upright in a standard position for touring, you can tuck down to the tank for some sporty riding, and it also won’t try to actively bite your head off as supersports do.
Despite being nearly the same weight as the ZX-6R, this Ninja 650 has almost half the horsepower and notably less torque, which follows because it has half the cylinders. This makes it a very approachable beginner bike, with a very linear torque curve and enough power for you to have fun. It also cruises incredibly well, allowing for longer rides without hurting your wrists or backside.
2022 Suzuki SV650 ABS
I’ll make it clear from the get-go: this is not only a great beginner bike for heavier riders; this is a great beginner bike, full stop. For years, it has been one of the top recommendations for a new rider to learn on, and that tradition continues with only a few minor adjustments for the 2022 model year.
The SV650 has a gentle but still grunty torque curve without any sudden torque spikes whatsoever. It also has enough power to get you going despite the aerodynamic deficiencies that a naked bike has, such as no cowling or wind deflector to help it cut through the air. Add that power and torque to a chassis that is easy to ride, giving you lots of feedback, and you have a bike that is known as a legend for a reason.
The Indian Scout Sixty is a super entry point into the premium cruiser segment. It’s powered by a 1,000cc V-Twin, but with only 78hp and 65 lb-ft of torque on tap, it’s quite a beginner-friendly motorcycle. If these numbers do scare you, keep in mind that this bike weighs about 544 lbs, fully fueled up — that’s mid-weight in the bigger cruiser segment. It’s also got a low 649mm seat height, meaning most riders will be able to get both feet on the ground easily.
The kind folk at Indian Motorcycles have also mentioned that the Scout Sixty can carry 988 lbs (449 kg), which means that it can accommodate even the heaviest riders and possibly even a pillion and some luggage.
The Scout Sixty is a beautiful motorcycle with premium leatherwork, a flawless paint job, and multiple accessories to make it your own.
The Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic is another great option if you’re in the market for a cruiser and want something that’s Japanese. However, it is a heavier motorcycle and, with a smaller engine, doesn’t make as much power or torque.
2022 Honda Rebel 500
The Honda Rebel 500 is one of those bikes that comes along every few model generations and is just the absolute perfect bike for a beginner. Easy to handle, very forgiving, torque everywhere along the rev range without any peaks or spikes to scare you, and enough power that even a tall, heavy guy wearing a backpack full of bricks can get this little monster rolling at a decent clip.
What Honda did with the Rebel series is make sport cruising fun and accessible again to new riders. In years past, there was a big jump from low-powered “small 250 cc” sport cruisers up to the big boy mainstream cruisers with engines over 900 cc. The Rebel slips into the middle perfectly and is friendly to all levels of experienced riders.
If you feel the Rebel 500 doesn’t have enough performance for you, the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 is a good step up.
2022 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT
The Suzuki V-Strom 650XT is one of the best motorcycles you can enter the ADV segment with. It’s a great everyday bike for pottering around town and holds its own even off-road. It’s perfect for heavier riders, and thanks to the tank having higher knee gaps, even a 7-foot tall rider will fit comfortably.
Powered by a V-twin, the same unit from the SV650, there’s excellent low-end torque readily available, which helps overcome the inertia of being stopped a little easier than a parallel twin. Both engines have their merits, but the extra grunt of the V-twin sells it just a little better.
Another advantage of the V-Strom 650 is that it really doesn’t break down. As long as you keep the chain clean and lubricated, the engine oil topped up, and don’t throw it off the edge of a cliff, you’d be hard-pressed to find a way to kill a V-Strom. They’re just as bulletproof and reliable as any bike from the big four.
2022 Triumph Tiger Sport 660
The Tiger Sport 660 is a brand new model from the Triumph’s 2022 model lineup. It joins the British manufacturer’s recently-introduced 660 platform, and it appears as though the company has taken the opportunity to fill a hole in their lineup with a touring-centric middleweight bike. Triumph categorizes the bike as one of its ‘Adventure’ models, but with 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels at either end and a low (for an ADV) ground clearance, this is a bike that would best shine on the tarmac.
With 80hp and 47 lb-ft of torque from that sweet-sounding inline-triple, the Tiger Sport 660 is a treat to ride. It’ll get you up to speed with ease, and with a 4.5-gallon fuel tank and a host of storage accessories to choose from, you can spend hours on the saddle.