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Alan Dowds

Professional Motorcycle Expert

Beg. Street Bikes

What makes a good motorcycle for new riders? In Europe, most people’s first bike is a 125cc learner machine, but once over that hurdle – or in a state without a 125cc learner limit – there’s a wealth of choices. For most novices, a 600cc-class machine is the perfect tool on which to develop those vital early skills. Something like Ducati’s Monster 696 or Honda’s CB600F combines easy-to-use controls and a comfortable riding position with smooth, predictable engine performance and easy handling. You don’t want any surprises from the motorcycle when you’re looking to hone those braking, accelerating and cornering skills.

Light weight and a low centre of gravity also helps beginners avoid slow-speed tumbles, and bikes with less bodywork than a full-bore sportsbike generally sustain less damage in the inevitable mishaps that learner riders suffer.

Novice bikes don’t have to be dull bikes though. Triumph’s Street Triple is based on the firm’s all-conquering 675 Daytona supersports machine, and has the same engine and chassis layout. But it’s a perfect machine for learners and experienced riders alike, with a mix of easily-accessed usability and cutting-edge performance.

Whichever novice bike you choose, try and get as much training as you can. Enroll in a local advanced riding class even if you’ve already passed your test – additional riding skills can make you safer and more proficient, faster.

Our best beginner street bikes recommendations offer maximum power with a smooth ride. Always the best price, these best beginner bikes 4 sale feature easy-to-use controls and predictable engine performance for easy handling.

Best Beginner Street Bikes - US by Alan Dowds

The Best You Can Get

  • Honda CB600F Hornet

    Alan says: Honda’s CB600F is the ‘street’ version of the firm’s CBR600RR supersports bike. So it uses the same compact, advanced inline-four cylinder engine, with fuel injection, water-cooling and six-speed gearbox. That motor is taken from the RR’s twin spar frame, and mounted in a simpler ‘spine’ type frame, with streetbike suspension and naked styling. This chassis is cheaper to make, yet has more than enough capability for spirited, sporty street riding on the highway and in the city.

    The most striking part of the Hornet’s design is its underslung exhaust system. This is essential to give the necessary volume for emission-reducing catalytic converters, while also keeping the heavy exhaust components down low. The exhaust also helps ‘mass centralisation’ – keeping most of the bike’s weight near its centerline, which gives extra sharpness to the handling.

    Honda also offers the CB600F with an optional ABS-CBS braking system. This system links both the front and back braking systems together, and adds a computerised anti-lock setup for foolproof, extra-safe braking on all road surfaces and conditions.

    • 599 cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • PGM-FI fuel injection
    • 100 bhp
    • 380 lb dry mass
    • 145 mph top speed
  • BMW F650GS

    Alan says: To most people, BMW means high-performance, high-tariff automobiles. But the German firm also makes motorcycles (that’s how the company started out before the war). It boasts several extremely high-performance models in its bike lineup, but also offers something for the novice rider – the F650GS.

    The F650GS is a lightweight, easy-to ride single cylinder enduro-styled bike, and is a perfect introduction to bigger trail-styled bikes like BMW’s R1200GS. The engine is very unintimidating, but has enough low-down pull to keep well ahead of city traffic. It uses a novel belt-drive rather than a chain or shaft, which BMW claims gives a smoother ride with less maintenance required.

    Soft suspension soaks up bumpy back roads with ease, and a small wind-cheating screen helps for a relaxed ride out of town. The fuel tank is located under the seat to keep weight down low, and BMW offers a wide range of practical accessories, including luggage, heated grips and an alarm.

    The single-cylinder F650 is actually built for BMW by Italian firm Aprilia, with an engine designed by Rotax.

    • 652 cc single-cylinder DOHC, 4-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection, dual-sparkplug ignition
    • 50 bhp
    • 387 lb dry mass
    • 110 mph top speed
  • Ducati Monster 696

    Alan says: Ducati’s Monster is perhaps the archetypal European street-type motorcycle design. Since it appeared in 1992, it’s been the Italian firm’s most popular bike, and the success of the Monster has provided the firm with the financial muscle to develop its more exotic sports machines.

    A Monster has always been the entry to the world of Ducati, from the Monster 600 of 1994, the baby Monster developed into a 620, then a 695, and finally the 696 announced for the 2008 model year. The general layout has been pretty similar through the years – a small-capacity air-cooled version of the firm’s venerable 90° V-twin engine, in a simple steel-tube trellis frame with budget suspension and simple styling. The very first Monster 600 was a little primitive, with marginal brakes, an asthmatic engine and uninspiring performance in general. But with the 620 and 695, Ducati brought the smallest Monster’s performance up closer to the competition. Indeed, the 695 offered bags of fun for even experienced riders – the engine had genuine punch to its delivery, the brakes were strong, and the narrow, light chassis was a treat both in and out of town.

    The 696 Monster was the first of a new breed of Monsters, with a new combination aluminium/steel frame, all-new styling and an aluminium swingarm. Hailed as the future of Monsters, it’s set to herald a whole new range of naked roadsters over the next few years.

    • 696 cc 90° V-twin SOHC, 4-valve desmodromic air-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 80 bhp
    • 355 lb dry mass
    • 135 mph top speed
  • Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster

    Alan says: Harley-Davidson is the American motorcycle manufacturer, and for many riders in the US, it’s the default choice. While Japanese manufacturers often offer more advanced designs, with better performance, at a lower price, a Harley epitomizes the American ‘dream of the road’ better than anything else. And for new riders, the firm’s Sportster range offers a simple, pleasing introduction to the Milwaukee firm’s range.

    The spec-sheet for the Sportster doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises – this is a simple bike, made up of a large-capacity 45° V-twin air-cooled engine, in a steel tube frame. Modern technology makes a brief appearance in the shape of an electronic fuel injection system, but apart from that, it’s basic, well-tested engineering. The engine uses pushrods to operate the valves, with camshafts mounted low in the crankcases, and the gearbox is a big, clunky five speed unit. The engine is low on power, and the bike is high on mass, compared with more conventional ‘sportster’ machines.

    But Harleys aren’t about high-tech performance. Rather they’re about a certain type of riding: relaxed freeway cruising, with the sun in your face and no particular hurry to get anywhere. And that’s the type of riding novices can enjoy just as much as the most experienced rider.

    • 1,199 cc 45° V-twin, OHV, 4-valve air-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 75 bhp (est)
    • 557 lb dry mass
    • 125 mph top speed
  • Triumph 675 Street Triple

    Alan says: Triumph’s three-cylinder engines are the firm’s trademark, and that engine layout is responsible for much of its recent success. A three-cylinder engine generally has a stronger slug of low-down engine power than a four-cylinder engine, and this can make for a very exciting power delivery. That’s useful on all types of bike, but on a ‘naked’ unfaired roadster, it’s even more appropriate. So just a year after Triumph released the 675 Daytona sportsbike, it revealed this budget, street version of the 675, to general acclaim. The strong, character-laden engine is at the heart of the Street Triple, and its smooth, torquey power delivery is perfect for sporty riding around town, and on twisty back roads. It’s also a perfect setup for new riders – there’s less chance of stalling the torquey engine, and the smooth fuel injection gives precise acceleration when needed.

    Compared with the 675 Daytona sportsbike, the Triple has lower-spec suspension and brakes, but the basic chassis layout is unchanged. Perhaps the biggest difference comes from the more upright riding position: wide handlebars and a comfy dual seat give a commanding seat with great views of the road ahead.

    One thing that novices don’t have to sacrifice on the Street Triple is style: the little 675 has all the design cues, from twin underseat mufflers, to the dual headlights and natty flyscreen.

    • 675 cc inline-triple, DOHC, 12-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 107 bhp
    • 367 lb dry mass
    • 150 mph top speed

You will be happy with any of these

  • Kawasaki Ninja 650R (ER-6f)

    Alan says: Kawasaki’s Ninja 650R (known as the ER-6f in Europe) is a compact, light-sports machine, with a relatively unusual parallel-twin engine layout. The parallel twin used to be a very common motorbike engine type, but fell out of favour in the 1990s, making way for inline-four-cylinder and V-twin engines, which make more power and are easier to balance effectively.

    Kawasaki stuck with the parallel twin though, and with the 650R engine, it’s produced a winner. There’s as much technology and design as you’ll see on many sportsbike engines, with liquid-cooling, fuel injection and multi-valve heads, and the result is a pleasingly capable little motor. There’s ample low-down shove, with good midrange and decent peak power, all crisply delivered by the responsive fuel injection.

    That engine performance is matched by a smart little chassis package. The steel tube frame has a rather exotic look, with an offset rear monoshock and color-coded paint. The brakes use ‘petal’ type discs, which save weight and improve cooling, but which are normally only seen on pure performance machines. Handling is light and nimble, and in the city, or on tight hilly backroads, the little 650 is as easy to ride as it is on your wallet.

    • 649 cc parallel-twin DOHC, 8-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 72 bhp
    • 393 lb dry mass
    • 120 mph top speed
  • Suzuki Bandit 1250

    Alan says: Getting a 1,250cc bike for around the same price as a 600cc has to have a downside, right? I mean, how could Suzuki produce a full-bore, large-capacity roadster like the Bandit for just over $8,000? The engine must be a real old lump, in a dated chassis with no modern parts, huh?

    Well no, actually. In fact, the Bandit 1250 has an all-new liquid-cooled 16-valve engine, forced upon Suzuki by emissions regulations in Europe. That engine has a high-tech, dual-valve fuel injection system, and makes a very creditable 97 bhp, with a strong, torquey power delivery. It’s smooth low-down, and has stomping midrange drive too.

    The 1250’s chassis is largely similar to the older air-cooled 1200 Bandit, with a simple steel tube frame, monoshock rear suspension and conventional front forks. Suzuki offers the Bandit as a faired machine, with a small half-fairing, or as a naked roadster, with no bodywork at all. The naked version is best kept around town, where its lack of wind protection isn’t a problem, but the faired Bandit makes a good sporty tourer, with comfortable long-distance accommodation for two.

    Suzuki also offers an optional ABS anti-lock braking system for the Bandit, further underlining the bike’s suitability for less-experienced riders.

    • 1,255 cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Dual-valve fuel injection
    • 97 bhp
    • 496 lb dry mass
    • 145 mph top speed
  • Suzuki Katana 600 (GSX650F)

    Alan says: One of the longest-running Suzuki models, the Katana 600 is basically a faired version of the firm’s Bandit 600, using that bike’s air-cooled four-cylinder engine and steel tube frame with a full sports fairing. Never a particularly sporty bike, the 600 Katana (known as the GSX600F in Europe) nevertheless carved out a low-priced sport-touring niche in the market, with its unthreatening power delivery and soft chassis.

    But for 2008, Suzuki updated the GSX with the all-new liquid-cooled engine and frame from the 2007 Bandit 650. The result was one of the best budget sportsbikes ever produced. Clad in svelte bodywork that’s styled to look like the firm’s GSX-R superbikes, the 650F promises much, although a look at the spec sheet suggests it may struggle to deliver. On paper, the 650 offers only average performance, with an 85bhp peak power output and a hefty 476lb dry mass. But on the road, the performance picture is much brighter. The engine is smooth and progressive, with good midrange power, while the chassis is easy, predictable and accommodating. The GSX-R-style fairing gives reasonable wind protection and an advanced LCD dashboard is packed with rider information. Brakes are strong, with good feel, and the road-biased tires have more than enough grip for the 650’s performance.

    • 656 cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Dual-valve fuel injection
    • 85 bhp
    • 476 lb dry mass
    • 135 mph top speed
  • Suzuki SV650

    Alan says: The V-twin layout is in many ways the perfect motorcycle engine layout: it’s narrow, compact and has perfect balance. And the middleweight 645cc V-twin that Suzuki built for the SV650 ticks all these boxes. It’s a modern, well-designed engine that generates a broad, user-friendly spread of power, and gives a strong heart to the little SV roadster. Fuel-injected and water-cooled, the multi-valve motor is bolted into a cast aluminum trellis-type frame, with conventional, budget roadbike suspension and brake systems. Like many of its roadster designs, Suzuki offers the SV in both faired and unfaired versions in various markets. The faired bike is, of course, better suited to longer-distance work, where its screen and bodywork gives better wind and weather protection. Conversely, the unfaired bike is a perfect town bike, with lower weight, a more upright riding position and narrower profile.

    Whichever version you have though, the SV has sparky, lively performance, and is a real fun ride. It’s even quite a decent performer on track, where its lithe chassis and torquey engine make for a fun, lightweight ride. Indeed, special ‘Minitwin’ road-race classes have grown up in Europe specifically to accommodate the SV.

    The SV engine was so good, Suzuki also used it for the firm’s V-Strom 650 trail bike. Cagiva also purchased the engine to use in its Raptor 650 roadster.

    • 645 cc 90° V-twin, DOHC 8-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 70 bhp
    • 385 lb dry mass
    • 130 mph top speed
  • Honda 919 (CBF1000)

    Alan says: Honda stuck to the ‘keep it simple’ philosophy with the 919 (known as the CB900F when launched in 2001 in Europe). The firm basically took its CB600F Hornet chassis, beefed the frame up slightly, tweaked the rest of the suspension package, and fitted a fuel-injected version of its elderly CBR919 FireBlade engine. The result was as simple as the concept: a plain, naked roadster machine, with a torquey engine, smooth power and easy handling. Perfect for town duties, the 919 was a little out of its depth on longer trips, but could be made to hustle quickly enough on backroad blasts, and even on the odd foray into trackday riding.

    It wasn’t one of Honda’s most successful models though, and it was replaced in Europe by the CBF1000 for 2007. The CBF had an engine taken from the CBR1000RR Fireblade, with a retuned, more torquey power delivery, and a half-faired, sport-touring chassis with an adjustable seat and screen height. It sold in Europe for a bargain price, and was a big hit with riders needing a simple, practical everyday ride. Antilock brakes and a combined braking system give novice-friendly emergency stopping capability, while a comfy riding position and progressive power delivery will appeal to everyone.

    • 998 cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
    • 96 bhp
    • 484 lb dry mass
    • 150 mph top speed

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We find the best beginner street bikes that give you all the power with easy handling. Our best beginner bikes 4 sale feature lightweight construction and a low center of gravity so you avoid slow speed tumbles. Always the best price, these motorcycles for sale suggestions offer the best easy-to-use controls and cutting edge performance for beginners who want high performance for fun days on the road.