Well lets see…. rule of thumb for cruisers…. low end is the power….just as the seat height is….
Straight out of MSF….. depending on maturity 750cc max…. younger dare devil type… 500cc til he/she scares the piss and vinegar out of them.
I started on the Vulcan 500 parallel twin (same motor as the ninja 500) The engine is tuned down a bit to give that low end torque that cruisers are better known for. The bike overall length is short giving it the agility like that of a sport bike. It’s light weight and IMO perfect for most beginners. They aren’t dog slow but the aren’t power monsters either. Learn how to work em … and I mean WORK them and you can get triple digit speeds. But….no one should do that on purpose on the highway anyways. (It was an accident…. promise! )
Vstar 650’s are good starter cruisers too. Some are more attracted to the 650’s mostly for the customizing options that come with it. Short over all length though for my liking the exhaust needs an overhaul. I like a grunt to my bikes….not loud… but at least to be able to hear it. My buddies GF has a 650 and that thing snuck up on me at the shop …. and no one was working O.O .
Honda Shadow 750 is also a good option… though I would be a tad more slow on the uptake for this one. Reports back from local owners says that the throttle is easy to deal with but it will launch if you caught un awares. Haven’t ridden one so I can’t attest to that.
Anything much over that and not only are you stepping into a higher torque value that can really mess a new rider up but also overall weight and not to mention that 1000cc invisible line with insurance.
The huge difference when I went from my V500 to my V900 was the torque. Miss judge your down shift and its well more then enough to send your back wheel into a short slide. Not a mistake you want to learn to control while your learning everything else. The next is the bigger the bike the longer…not usually by much OE but enough to notice on total turning radius. I can get the 900 in a fairly tight turn…. can bang a U-ey the width of my driveway (single car driveway). Though the V500 with practice can probly cut another overall 2 ft out of that. The weight issue for beginners is not in the ride… at speed any bike is light … it’s when you make that small miscalculation in the parking lot and you have to try and keep the bike from going down. I haven’t dropped either of my bikes (knock on a lot of wood) but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been close…. the V900 is at my strength limits to wrestle the bitty back up from a near drop.
Make sure to also emphasize rear brake usage with your friend to…. this is an understated point due to sport bike popularity ( I am guessing). You WILL be using the rear brake A LOT in slow maneuvers, parking lots, heck even depending on the set up of the brakes…. just normal braking. Talking to friends around that are sport bike riders there is a huge difference in control between the two styles and back brake usage.
Honda Shadow 750 ( highest I would go)
Oh and Owlies S40 Thumper…. she’ll have to re review that for ya!
… I am sure there are more but those are the main 3 that will be easy to find.