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

Bikes that will get you the tip of the helmet as you pass

Beginner Motorcycles that Don’t LOOK Like Beginner Motorcycles.

You’ve done your MSF, passed the DMV test, and have that big shiny M endorsement on your license. You’ve followed our gear guides and bought the best starter gear. The last thing you need is an actual motorcycle.

Now, it’s perfectly fine to have an older motorcycle you bought used in good condition. However, some of these bikes really do have a “I’m a new rider, please don’t laugh too hard” look about them (we’re looking at you, Suzuki Gladius). Honestly, you should never be ridiculed about your bike, but non-riders really don’t understand.

For this list, we’ve brought some of the kickass bikes back from our 2020 version, and added a few new ones that have become more new rider friendly!

#8: Harley-Davidson Iron 883

2021 Harley-Davidson Iron 883

“Wait a minute,” we hear you saying. “A H-D as a starter?” Well, yes Sir/Ma’am. The Iron 883 is one of the least expensive Harley’s out there, and has a history of being a gentle cruiser that doesn’t shove all of its torque down low. The 883cc air-cooled V-twin will get you the classic Harley rumble, but that engine, named the Evolution Engine, really is new-rider-friendly.

The only caveat is that the bike is not light by any definition of the term, and we would suggest that this is a good starter for those that are more mentally mature. Twist too much throttle and you will find that mid-range torque band and suddenly be riding a bike trying to throw you off. Roll on the throttle, learn the bike, appreciate the weight and the way it leans over nicely when you corner, and you will have a bike that could honestly last you several years.

#7: Yamaha MT-03

2020 Yamaha MT-03

Yamaha’s MT-03 is one of those bikes that is great for a new rider, but looks much more mature than it should have any right to. The 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 that a new rider will learn to appreciate.

Where the maturity comes from is from the hunched up streetfighter looks, as well as the light weight allowing an experienced rider to flick the bike into a corner, countersteer, and let the bike carve the perfect line.

#6: Honda CB500X

2020 Honda CB500X

There are smaller cc adventure bikes out there, but they are often considered “beginner bikes,” and the whole point of this list is to provide you, the reader, options that don’t look like a beginner bike. The CB500X meets that goal, as it is widely recognized as a superb commuter bike, and able to handle off-road trails and dirt/gravel roads with competence.

It has a smooth, easy to control engine, a great center of balance, and in the hands of both the experienced and new rider, can keep up with whatever the situation requires. Also helping the new rider is a great seating position, allowing you to keep your head up and see traffic and obstacles ahead with ease.

#5: Kawasaki Z650

2021 Kawasaki Z650 ABS

The Kawasaki Z650 is a great starter for someone that is of the big and tall crowd. It is also a great all around starter bike, however for the lighter rider, it does demand a little more respect from the throttle. The best thing about the Z650 as a starter is that it really is a jack-of-most-trades.

What is meant by this is that you get sporty handling and a strong engine that can take you up around canyon 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 at any point. It’s just a well-made, reliable, great standard bike.

#4: Honda CBR500R

2020 Honda CBR500R

For the sportier starters, you really can’t go wrong with Honda’s superb CBR500R. It is much tamer than the proper sport bikes, and has a much more approachable feel and feedback through the whole bike. It can get going pretty fast if you want it to on a track, but in regular traffic, it fits in just fine.

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 accidentally over-revving when moving off from a stop and having the bike loop on you. It waits until you’re steady, and then starts to open up the horsepower gates.

#3: Suzuki SV650

2020 Suzuki SV650

No list of starter bikes would be complete without the Suzuki SV650. Widely considered across almost all riding circles as the new rider king, it has perfect amounts of feel, power, sportiness, and electronic aids.

It is also considered one of the best-naked city touring bikes for experienced riders that want a break from their 1000cc beasts, or who have come back from a track day and need to do maintenance on their supersport. That’s the beauty of the SV650. Everyone appreciates it, and it is attractive to both new and experienced riders as a great bike.

We did an in-depth ode to the SV650 because it’s just that good.

#2: Kawasaki Ninja 400

2019 Kawasaki Ninja 400

This one will get you a few sneers from the literbike club, but don’t let that get to you. The Ninja 400 has all the angles, the looks, the feel of its bigger brothers. It has great power and torque for the new rider and doesn’t try to buck you off into a massive highside if you accidentally breathe on the throttle while taking a corner.

For the experienced rider, you can absolutely wring the neck of this bike on a track. It will literally ride circles around the literbikes, as their riders are focused more on keeping their steeds under control instead of leaning deep and hard into the corner, hitting the apex, and powering out of it.

#1: Honda Rebel 500

2020 Honda Rebel 500

The Honda Rebel 500 is, quite simply, one of the greatest bikes to bridge the new-to-experienced rider divide. For the new rider, it provides ample power without scaring the wits out of you, as well as letting you learn your basics and essentials so that they become muscle memory.

On the other hand, for the experienced rider, it’s a bike that can cruise comfortably, yet still get some sporty riding due to the light weight, great engine, and ample lean angles for a cruiser. Riders that have tried out the Rebel 500 know: it’s just a great bike all around for everyone.

(And if that wasn’t proof enough, one of our writers here at BestBeginnerMotorcycles rides a 2018 Honda Rebel 500 as his main bike, with over 15 years experience riding)