The Best Starter Motorcycles that Don’t Look Like Starter Motorcycles

These beginner-friendly bikes will still get you the tip of the helmet as you pass

The Best Starter Motorcycles

You’ve taken your course, passed your test, and earned your motorcycle license. You’ve followed our gear guides and bought the best starter gear. Now you need an actual bike.

Now, comfort and safety should always come before aesthetics when you’re picking out a motorcycle—but that doesn’t mean you can’t also buy a bike that looks badass. And, contrary to popular opinion, not every beginner-friendly motorcycle appears tame or goofy at first glance (looking at you, Honda GROM).

The list below contains some of our favourite starter motorcycles that will also get you plenty of appraising glances from other people on the road. Get ready to impress with these mean-looking machines.

#8: Harley-Davidson Iron 883

2022 Harley Davidson Iron 883

“Wait a minute,” we hear you saying, “a Harley as a starter?” Yes, indeed. The Iron 883 is one of the least expensive Harleys out there, and it’s well-known for being a gentle cruiser that doesn’t shove all of its torque down low. The 883cc air-cooled V-twin (named the Evolution Engine) will get you that classic Harley rumble, but it’s really new-rider-friendly as well.

Other Harleys tend to be built for more experienced riders (check out Harley Davidson motorcycles for 2022). But plenty of beginners start their cruiser-riding careers on Iron 883s—and honestly, it’s not hard to see why.

The only caveat here is that this bike is not light by any definition of the term. We suggest the Iron 883 as a good starter for riders who are on the mentally mature side. Twist the throttle too much and you’ll slip into that mid-range torque band, suddenly finding yourself on top of a bike that’s actively trying to throw you off. Roll on the throttle gently, learn the bike, appreciate its weight (and the way it leans over when you corner), and this is a choice that you’ll probably love for years to come.

#7: Yamaha MT-03

2022 Yamaha MT-03

There’s a new MT-03 in Yamaha’s 2022 lineup, and it looks much more intimidating than such a beginner-friendly bike has any right to. Its engine is borrowed from the R3 and tuned more for the street, meaning the somewhat twitchy torque curve from the supersport is smoothed out and becomes extremely linear—something new riders will quickly learn to appreciate.

Still, this is a serious bike capable of showing you some great times in the saddle. It boasts aggressive streetfighter looks, and its light weight lets more experienced riders flick it into corners, countersteer, and let the bike carve perfect lines.

#6: Honda CB500X

2022 Honda CB500X

There are plenty of adventure bikes out there with smaller engine displacements, but they often look and feel like “beginner bikes” (so we won’t be covering them here). But the CB500X is beginner-friendly, widely recognized as a superb commuter bike, and capable of handling off-road trails or dirt/gravel roads. The newest version makes another excellent addition to Honda’s 2022 motorcycle lineup.

This bike has a smooth, easy-to-control engine, a well-placed centre of gravity, and plenty of versatility—regardless of how long you’ve been riding. The seating position is also particularly great for newer riders, easily allowing you to keep your head up and see obstacles ahead.

#5: Kawasaki Z650

2022 Kawasaki Z650 50th Anniversary Edition

The Kawasaki Z650 is a great starter bike for bigger and taller riders. It’s also a great all-around beginner motorcycle—although lighter riders will have to treat the throttle with a little more respect. But the Z650 really is a jack-of-most-trades, making it one of the most dependable Kawasaki motorcycles for 2022.

You get sporty handling and a strong engine that can take you up through the mountain roads to your heart’s content on Sunday. And then on Monday, it’s a calm, comfortable, agile commuter that sips gas and doesn’t try to twist itself out of your hands while you’re riding through traffic. It’s just a well-made, reliable standard bike.

#4: Honda CBR500R

2022 Honda CBR500R

Want to start out on something sportier? You really can’t go wrong with Honda’s superb CBR500R. It’s a helluva lot more approachable than many other sport bikes, with a much friendlier feel and better feedback throughout. But even though it’s perfectly appropriate for commuting, it can also get going pretty fast on the track once you’ve learned its ins and outs.

What makes it super beginner-friendly is that the bulk of the power is placed way up high, with a linear curve to get to it. This prevents you from accidentally over-revving when moving off from a stop and having the bike loop on you. Instead, it waits until you’re nice and steady before opening up the horsepower gates.

#3: Suzuki SV650

2022 Suzuki SV650A

No list of starter bikes would be complete without the Suzuki SV650. Widely considered in numerous circles to be the best bike for new riders, it offers perfect amounts of feedback, power, sportiness, and electronic aids.

It’s also considered one of the best-naked city touring bikes for experienced riders that want a break from their 1000cc beasts (or who have recently come back from a track day and need to do maintenance on their supersport). That’s the beauty of the SV650: everyone appreciates it, no matter how long they’ve been riding.

We did an in-depth ode to the SV650 because it’s just that good. Click here to see even more bikes from Suzuki’s 2022 lineup.

#2: Kawasaki Ninja 400

2022 Kawasaki Ninja 400

This one might earn you a few sneers from the liter bike club, but don’t let that get to you. The Ninja 400 has all the angles and attitude of its bigger brothers. It offers plenty of power and torque for the new rider, and it doesn’t try to buck you off into a massive highside if you accidentally breathe on the throttle while taking a corner.

Still, once you’re a more experienced rider, you can absolutely wring the neck of this bike on a track. It will literally ride circles around the literbikes—whose riders will likely be more focused on keeping their steeds under control than on leaning deep and hard into each corner, hitting the apex, and powering out of it. Get ready to have fun.

#1: Honda Rebel 500

2022 Honda Rebel 500

The Honda Rebel 500 is, quite simply, one of the greatest bikes for bridging the gap between new and experienced riders. For the less experienced, it provides ample power without scaring the wits out of you—making it easier to learn the basics until they become muscle memory.

On the other hand, experienced riders will find the Rebel to be a bike that can cruise comfortably but still offer some sporty riding—due to its light weight, excellent engine, and ample lean angles (for a cruiser). Riders who have tried out the Rebel 500 know: it’s just a terrific all-around bike for everyone.