Sportbikes Made for New Riders [2022 Edition]

Sportbikes made for new riders

By far the most popular type of bike worldwide, in America it constantly fights against the cruisers for market dominance. This is because there are so many types of motorcycles that fit under the sportbike umbrella. You have everything from fully-faired sportbikes, monstrous streetfighters, and stripped-down nakeds.

The downside of sportbikes is that they are often the most powerful motorcycles on the road. Starting off on the wrong bike can have dire consequences, up to and including being your final ride. We don’t say this to scare people out of pursuing having a sportbike, but more to emphasize that starting out on lower-powered sportbikes designed for new riders will allow you to learn how to handle them before moving up to the big bikes.

For 2022 we’re going to go over more than just recommendations. We’re going to explain why each bike is a perfect beginner bike, and at the end of the article will have a section regarding our recommended steps up the sportbike ladder.

2022 KTM RC390022-KTM-RC-390

The KTM RC390 made our list last year, but with a substantial set of upgrades, it remains here for 2022.  With a 373cc liquid-cooled single, it puts out a modest 41 HP and 27.3 lb-ft of torque. At about 340 lbs wet, that is ample power. Changes to the exhaust and airbox increased torque, first-in-class lean-angle-sensitive traction control and ABS, plus a revised and lighter chassis, improved WP Apex suspension, and sticky Continental tires all take the RC390 to another level.

Where the RC390 slots in as a perfect beginner bike is for its refinement. Because of KTM’s tagline of “Ready To Race,” and multiple years in motocross, supercross, and now MotoGP and WSBK, they know exactly how to engineer a bike to be both friendly at typical commuter speeds, and a demon on the track when you want to twist the wrist.

The RC390 is extremely agile, something more experienced riders call “flickable,” as you can flick it over from leaning into one corner into leaning into one going the other way. It also helps the new rider learn about how a bike “talks,” the little vibrations, judders, wobbles and such through the frame that lets you know exactly what the bike is doing. It is the quintessential starter that will lead to a longtime enjoyment of sport standards with the ability to get some fun going. As you get better the RC390 will keep giving you more.

2022 Suzuki SV650X2022 Suzuki SV650X

Ask any longtime rider to name a great bike for a new rider and there will be an overwhelming recommendation for the SV650. Year after year it has proven to be an incredible motorcycle. Sometimes the manufacturers get it right. Suzuki nailed it with this bike and has done well to never mess up a great thing.

The SV650X adds a few brilliant items to the already excellent package, namely, clip-on handlebars, and the cool looking cafe-inspired fairing. Clip-on bars are what dedicated sportbikes use for a couple of key reasons. First, they improve aerodynamics by tucking your arms in but second, and this is the bigger one, the feel is improved with a better connection to the front wheel via the forks. The feel improves because each bar is now clipped on to the top of each fork tube.

Superb handling has always been one of the SV650′s strengths, combining agility with confidence-inspiring stability. For a new rider, this kind of confident dance partner can really aid with skill development. Great feedback and a high degree of forgiveness for normal riding mistakes.

2022 Yamaha YZF-R32022 Yamaha YZF-R3

The 2022 Yamaha YZF-R3 is one of those strange motorcycles that really shouldn’t be a beginner bike. And yet, here it is. A tiny, lightweight beast of a sportbike, it has a parallel-twin, 321cc engine that will produce up to 50 HP, will carve any corner you throw at it, and through it all, it’s surprisingly controllable.

The R3 also has a well-deserved reputation as a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners motorcycle that will, if you let it, teach you the ins and outs of how supersports handle. It’s raw, carnivorous, the wolf snarling and baring its canines to show dominance. It is immensely agile and loves to devour straights, letting you know exactly what each individual atom of the bike is doing.

You simply cannot beat the R3 as a starter if serious and real interest in progressing to supersports or potentially even joining a racing club is on the cards. Treat it with due respect, let it talk to you, and you will know exactly what a supersport is capable of, in the care of a beginner-friendly sportbike. Once you’re ready to upgrade, there is plenty to choose from in Yahama’s model lineup.

2022 Honda CBR500R ABS2022 Honda CBR500R ABS

The sportiest of Honda’s 500 Twins, the CBR500R gets a few evolutionary improvements for 2022 and honestly, that’s a good thing. This has been the best 500cc sportbike going for more than a few years. The CBR500R has always been about delivering about an 8/10 slice of the full-on Supersport machines in a bike that is actually affordable to own.

This year’s updates include dual front brake rotors with radial-mount Nissin calipers, an inverted Showa SFF-BP fork, as well as lightweight wheels. The new front-end setup should be very noticeable, making a great package even better. The ergonomics are typical of Honda Motorcycles, very good for most everyone, and this makes it easy to learn what nimble feels like and how to improve technique so when the day comes to move to the next level, you are ready for the jump.

The CBR500R also has a stablemate in the CB500F if going naked is more your thing. The basics are all the same, just a more upright riding position. Still sporty, just not knee down sporty.

2022 Kawasaki Z6502022 Kawasaki Z650 Anniversary Ed

The atypical image of the sportbike rider is that of a fit person wrapped in a set of full leathers and an aerodynamically aggressive helmet. The truth of the matter is that sometimes sportbike riders are of the big-and-tall variety, and carry more weight from the size of their frame. A prime example is one of our team members that rides a sportbike (that they say is more of a sport-tourer) being 6’3” and weighing around 210 lbs. And that’s just by the nature of them being a fit individual carrying a lot of human on their skeleton.

This is where the 2022 Kawasaki Z650 comes in. Through some wicked engineering and design, Kawasaki has made a sport naked bike that can accept those big and tall riders without it being detrimental at all to the responsiveness and agility that come with the Z tag adorning the sides of the tank. In fact, it seems to enjoy having more weight placed in the seat, as through that same engineering magic, the seat is directly over the pivot center of the bike.

This allows the big-and-tall rider to feel how the bike moves and responds to how they shift their weight, an essential part of cornering either on the street or on the track. The 67 HP 649cc parallel twin is also gutsy, giving great acceleration away from a stop, and with standard ABS, assist-and-slipper clutch, and a light but oh-so-communicative clutch feel, it is the dream bike of those of us who are the walking giants.

NOTE: The Ninja 650 is a viable sport standard as well, but laid out slightly differently with the rider a little behind the pivot center.

Where Do Each Of These Bikes Lead?

The whole point of having a new rider or beginner-oriented sportbike is to get said rider prepared for the challenges of handling bigger, more powerful, and much, much faster machinery once they’ve mastered the basics. There are some people who will immediately go out and buy a Yamaha YZF-R1, a fearsome supersport that is a scalpel in the right hands. In the wrong hands, it is lethal. And we’re not saying that to dramatize it. The R1 is a very serious bike. As a new rider, you cannot handle it. Period.

Now that we’ve effectively crushed your dreams, let’s build them up again!

For those that chose to go the naked standard route (SV650, CB500F, Z650), the next step in the path of gaining experience while having fun would be to something like the excellent Yamaha MT-07 or its snarling, rowdy big brother, the MT-10. Both are fierce streetfighters that are also comfortable commuters when not brawling through corners.

For those that went with the sport standard KTM RC390 or mini-supersport with the Yamaha YZF-R3, a great bike to move to for experience would be any of the middle-class sportbikes that are distilled down from supersports. Examples of these would be the bulletproof Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, the legendary Honda CBR600RR, or the razor-sharp Suzuki GSX-R600. These are serious bikes infused with the DNA of their liter-bike parents, but will only try to bite your head off once in a while, not all the time.

We would recommend moving to supersports only once you have a few years of experience. Any of the liter-class or V4 supersports will actively try to bite your noggin clean off your shoulders if you so much as sneeze incorrectly on them. They are not, and we will repeat it endlessly, NOT beginner bikes.