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August 18, 2022 10 min read

Your very first motorcycle is an exciting time for new riders. It's your entry into the fast-paced, thrill-seeking world of motorcycling. A chance to explore your adventurous side and the freedom of jumping on your bike at a moment's whim.

Since every rider is different, there is no hard and fast rule about buying a bike. It all depends on what you want to use it for. Some people commute while others take their riding off-road. The right bike should fit your needs and circumstances.

Your buddies will probably throw a lot of advice your way, which is great, but often it will be advice about what theylike in a bike. Since you'll be the one riding it, doing your own homework is the first step toward finding that perfect beginner motorcycle.

WHICH TYPE OF MOTORCYCLE IS BEST FOR ME?

The ideal bike depends on what you'll be using it for. If you were shopping for a car, you wouldn't get an all-terrain vehicle just to commute to work, and the same logic applies to motorcycles.

Look for something that's both safe and practical. With so many models out there, it can be hard to know where to start as a newbie, so here's a basic rundown to get you going.

Commuting: If you're travelling to work or university, having a motorcycle that's easy to handle and park is crucial. You don't want to be caught out in a tight parking lot because you decided to grab the biggest bike you saw.

Cruisers are ideal for commuting because they're usually comfortable and ergonomic. If you're travelling every day, especially for long distances, don't neglect your bike's comfort.

Adventure Riding: Adrenaline junkies sometimes make the mistake of picking the most powerful bike in the shop, which they inevitably struggle to handle. It's your very first bike so choose something that lets you stay in control.

An adventure bike should have suspension and a light frame so it can tackle any off-road obstacles and bumps you might encounter.

Leisure: This is a broad category and largely depends on how often you'll want to ride. If you're strictly a weekend rider, you might consider style more important than comfort.

There's a huge spectrum of bikes to suit casual riders, from cruisers to scooters and heaps more. Your own style and taste will decide which of these appeals to you the most.

riding sitting on a motorbike and wearing a cap

TYPES OF MOTORCYCLES

CRUISER BIKES

As the name suggests, these bikes are designed for casual riding and are a popular choice with new riders. The low seat height is very beginner friendly because your feet touch the ground, helping with balance, while the toned-down horsepower and relaxed riding position make for smooth driving.

Cruisers are generally stylish and highly customizable but tend to be on the heavy side which isn't ideal for tight cornering.

Best suited for: Commuting, day trips, city riding, passengers.

SPORTS BIKES

Sport bikes are light, ultra-fast motorcycles that are perfect for track racing. You'll need some serious skill to handle one of these, so think twice if you're an absolute beginner. These powerful machines will also hike up the cost of your motorcycle insurance.

A sports bike has a crouched riding position like you'll see in MotoGP, so don't expect overwhelming comfort. Unless you're specifically getting a bike to hit the racetracks, stay away from a sports bike for now and go with something more manageable.

Best suited for: Racetracks, freeways, solo riding, short tours.

NAKED BIKES

Naked bikes are all-rounder motorcycles that form a middle ground between a cruiser and a sports bike. These well-rounded bikes are the most conventional looking with an upright riding style that's popular with beginner riders.

You can find these in a ton of sub-types and sizes, which is a double-edged sword because it's so hard to pinpoint the right bike.

Best suited for: Commuting, passengers, city riding, medium-length touring

TOURING BIKES

Touring bikes are perfect for those long, cruisy road trips. Made with long distance and comfort in mind, they're usually comfy enough for two people to sit in all day. You can find models with multiple high-end features and plenty of luggage space.

While they may tick a lot of boxes, tour bikes aren't exactly beginner friendly. They tend to be heavy and have big engines, so think twice about this one if you're a new rider.

Best suited for: Long rides, passengers, touring, carrying cargo.

rider kicking up dust 

ADVENTURE BIKES

If your idea of motorcycling is seeking adventure, these bikes are built to handle tough conditions. Adventure bikes are the four-wheel drives of motorcycles and will see you through terrain that most other bikes can't handle. They're lightweight, comfortable, and won't break the bank either.

Adventure bikes are halfway between a conventional motorcycle and an off-road bike. They're ideal for people who love to hit dirt tracks as much as they enjoy the open road.

Best suited for: Off-road riding, adventure riding, city, commuting.

 

CAFE RACERS

A sub-type of naked bikes, these stylish motorcycles have great speed and handling. While lightweight and highly customizable, cafe bikes are often criticized for prioritizing looks over function.

Cafes are good beginner motorcycles and great for commuting, but don't offer much in terms of comfort. They look pretty sweet but don't expect to get much long-term use out of them.

Best suited for: Commuting, passengers, medium distance touring, city/weekend riding.

DIRT/OFF-ROAD

Dirt bikes are strictly for riders who live for off-road terrain. They're generally not made to be ridden on the road and will need to be towed to your riding destination.

Off-road bikes are designed to take a beating. The tall suspensions and knobby tires will help you tackle the roughest dirt and mud tracks.

Dirt bikes are made with a very specific purpose in mind. If you want something that's capable of riding on the road as well, an adventure bike might be more practical.

Best suited for: Off-road riding, adventure riding.

DUAL PURPOSE

Made to be ridden on or off the road, these versatile bikes come in a wide range of engine sizes. While not as 'off-roady' as adventure bikes, they have a high ground clearance and all-purpose tires that make them great for urban riding.

Dual-purpose bikes are lightweight and simple to maintain. If you're looking for a jack of all trades that leans slightly towards the roadside of riding, they're a solid choice.

Best suited for: Off-road riding, passengers, commuting, urban riding, commuting

motorcyclist riding towards the camera with headlights on

TYPES OF SCOOTERS

Scooters are light, easy-to-control bikes, and a good starting point for absolute beginners. While they lack the power of motorbikes, scooters are great for those tight city streets and zipping around traffic.

Scooters are generally way better for your posture, and they have the great fuel economy. They have an automatic transmission, so you won't need to bother with changing gears. The overall lack of horsepower means they tend to struggle on freeways.

MID-SIZED SCOOTERS

Mid-sized scooters range between 125 to 250cc. Unlike smaller sizes, they can keep up with traffic and comfortably take a passenger. They're still light and the seat height is close to the ground for easy balance.

Scooters in the mid-range are simple to maneuver and have an electric start and automatic transmission. Most of them have a terrific fuel economy.

Best suited for: City riding, commuting.

MAXI SCOOTERS

Ranging from 300-850cc, maxis are far closer in power to a motorcycle. They look and feel more like a traditional motorcycle, with more boot space and freeway capability. Maxis are comfortable and ideal for long-distance riding. They're the best option for taking a passenger.

While they're more powerful than mid-sized scooters, that also means more bulk and less maneuverability. Your individual needs will determine which is the better option.

Best suited for: Taking passengers, freeway riding, long-distance trips, commuting.

two men riding motorbikes on the beach

CRUCIAL TIPS BEFORE BUYING YOUR FIRST MOTORCYCLE

CHOOSE YOUR STYLE AND CUSTOMIZE

While your decision will need to be practical, there's no reason you shouldn't look good while you ride. A motorcycle is a reflection of your style and individual spirit. You should look and feel in charge every time you step on it.

No matter what you use it for, ride with something that feels like an extension of yourself. Owning a motorcycle is a personal experience, so much more than a car, so make a wise decision but choose something that you know you'll love.

TRY SITTING ON THE BIKE

It seems obvious but sitting on a bike is the only way to gauge how comfortable it is. Motorcycles aren't a one-size-fits-all deal, so make sure it feels good with your particular body shape. You won't always be able to test ride because of liability issues, but sitting on the bike will tell you a lot.

Try to spend 5-10 minutes on a bike you're thinking of buying. You should feel relaxed and be able to plant your feet flat on the ground, which will be necessary for balance when you come to a stop. Your arms should feel relaxed on the handlebars and the weight should feel like it won't affect your handling, so try not to get anything too heavy.

BUDGET WISELY

Budgeting for your first bike is a tricky balancing act. You don't want to blow the bank but it's important not to cheap out too much. Spending that little bit more can sometimes make a big difference, so make sure that you get value for what you spend.

Aside from the bike itself, which will cost around $5,000-$10,000, you'll need to get yourself some insurance and riding gear. Motorcycle users are some of the most vulnerable people on the road and protective clothing is the best way to reduce the risk of injury.

You'll need to get a helmet, pants, jacket, gloves, and boots. Thankfully there are a ton of styles out there for modern motorcycle clothing, so you won't be limited to hard leather. Expect to spend around $800-$1,200 on your riding gear.

For more detailed info on clothing, check out our Beginner's Guide to Motorcycle Gear.

motorcyclist doing a wheelie

THINK ABOUT GETTING NEW VS. USED

Going with a second-hand bike is something every new rider should consider. Used bikes can be bought ridiculously cheap. There are a ton of old motorcycles sitting in garages just waiting to be snapped up.

Of course, you'll be giving up the security that comes with buying a shiny new bike. If you're looking to save some money but uneasy about not having a warranty, buying a used bike from a dealership is also an option.

The thing about first motorcycles is they're not meant to last. You're still learning the ropes and will almost certainly drop your bike a number of times in the process. Think of it as something temporary that will be upgraded once you've gained more experience.

THINK ABOUT THE MOTORCYCLE'S HORSEPOWER

It's tempting to grab a powerful motorcycle, but beginners should be wary of taking on more than they can handle. Anything under 600cc is recommended for new riders so they can keep in control and stay safe.

Many riders aren't aware that horsepower is more important than engine size. CCs refer to how large the engine is, while horsepower (hp) is the power of the engine. So a really heavy bike will have less horsepower because of the extra workload the engine has to take on.

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY AND INSURANCE

Motorcycle insurance is mandatory by law in Australia, so you'll need to get it sorted before you hit the road. The cover you get will depend on your riding habits, the value of your bike, and your age. Doing some research will help find which policy best fits your needs.

TIPS FOR BUYING A USED MOTORCYCLE

They say a sucker is born every minute, so don't be one of them! If you've arranged to meet up with a seller, come prepared so you won't get taken advantage of.

Ask the seller a few probing questions to get a sense of the bike's history. This can include why they're selling it, the bike's crash history, where it's been stored, and the service history. Any large gaps in the service history is a red flag.

Get on the bike before you consider handing any cash over. It should feel comfortable and start without issues. Check the brakes and let it run for a few minutes to see if it still idles smoothly.

You can also run an online check of the plates to make sure the bike hasn't been 'borrowed'. Watch out for sellers that don't have a road-worthy certificate. A seller that actually takes care of their bike will usually have one. Getting a bike roadworthy can sometimes involve some major hidden costs, so be careful you don't get stitched up with them yourself.

SHOULD I BUY A HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLE?

Harley-Davidsons are absolute beasts. They're big, loud, and insanely iconic. Contrary to popular belief, Harleys come in all kinds of models; touring, street, and electric just to name a few.

While certain models are considered beginner friendly, you'll need to ask yourself if it's worth buying one as your very first bike. It takes time to find your feet as a rider, and you might be better off getting a Harley as your second bike.

If you're set on getting a Harley that's absolutely fine. Just make sure it feels comfortable and avoid the temptation to buy a total monster that you won't be able to handle.

motorcycle in a desert landscape

FAQs

WHAT MOTORCYCLE SHOULD I BUY FIRST?

Your first motorcycle should be something you feel comfortable with that fits your particular needs. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can “grow into” a bike. You'll be uncomfortable and unsteady on the road which can lead to sticky situations.

Motorcycling is all about freedom, so focus on finding something that feels right and lets you enjoy the beauty of riding without interruption.

HOW MUCH IS A GOOD FIRST MOTORCYCLE?

It's tough to know how much to spend on your first motorcycle. Generally speaking, expect to spend at least $5,000 if you're buying brand new. A second-hand bike will obviously come cheaper. How much cheaper depends on if you go through a dealer or an online marketplace.

You'll still need to fork out some cash for motorcycle insurance, registration, and your learner test. Buying second-hand will also mean a transfer fee and potentially a road-worthy certificate.

WHAT SHOULD A FIRST-TIME MOTORCYCLE BUYER KNOW?

Your first bike is exactly that. It's not meant to last forever and you'll need to shop with this in mind. Once you've honed your skills and figured out the type of riding you want to do, that's the time to start thinking about your second bike.

Motorcycles need regular maintenance, some of which you can tackle yourself like chain lubrication while servicing and major maintenance requires a trip to a mechanic.

Don't make the mistake of skipping your gear for short rides. A quick trip to the shops can turn gnarly without the right protection, so tow that line between chaos and control by suiting up every time you step on your bike.

Our beginner's guide to Buying your First Motorcycle Jacket has some great tips, and you can read up on lower body protection in our Guide to Motorcycle Pants.

HOW MANY CCs SHOULD A MOTORCYCLE HAVE?

As a learner, your motorcycle should have an engine somewhere between 250-600cc. There are several reasons for this, like the lower price point which also makes the bike easier to sell once you're ready to move on.

It also makes the motorcycle easier to control. A bike with a smaller engine performs great at low power levels, compared to a charged-up beast that seems to have a mind of its own. Smaller engines will allow you to develop your skills at a comfortable rate.