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Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

The 10 Best Beginner Motorcycles Of The Last 10 Years

Are you in the market for a reliable beginner motorcycle but don’t necessarily want to buy brand new? Introducing YouMotorcycle’s guide to the 10 best used motorcycles sold in the past 10 years. This expertly curated list offers a range of options to suit every riding style, preference, and even budget.

The first motorcycle you buy will either make you fall in love, or quickly fall out of love, with motorcycle riding. Make sure you get it right so you can enjoy safe but fun motorcycle riding on a beginner motorcycle that won’t break the bank.

Honda Rebel 300 and 500

#1 – Honda Rebel 300 and Honda Rebel 500

My first motorcycle was a 1985 Honda Rebel 250. It was awful, even by beginner motorcycle standards, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but these new Rebel 300s and 500s are a whole other animal!

The Rebel still has a low seat height like my old one did, but the overall quality of the entire motorcycle, from fit and finish to steering geometry to ride quality to ergonomics are a night and day difference compared to the original. The 286cc liquid cooled single-cylinder engine is nothing like the terrible old twin that was derived from 1980s design.

For those who want a little more get up and go the Rebel 500’s 471cc parallel-twin engine has been put to the test by many riders who’ve taken them well beyond 60,000 miles (or 100,000 km).

In short, the Honda Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 are nothing like the Rebels of old. These Rebels are great options for beginner riders looking for a cruiser or any bike with a low seat height.

Kawasaki Ninja 400

#2 – Kawasaki Ninja 400

When I started riding motorcycles, your only options were an underpowered japanese cruiser, or a Kawasaki Ninja 250. Twenty years later, Kawasaki still has one of the best beginner motorcycles out there in the Ninja 400.

The Kawasaki Ninja 400 has a little bit bigger motor than your typical beginner motorcycle, allowing new riders to grow into it more as they grow their confidence and develop their skills. The bike still remains very beginner-friendly though, with smooth and predictable power delivery, lightweight chassis, and nimble handling, which all help to boost rider confidence.

The Ninja’s responsive throttle, intuitive controls, and plenty of tech and features (like a slipper clutch for easy shifting) contribute to an enjoyable and hassle-free riding experience.

Furthermore, some new motorcyclists will like the Ninja 400’s sporty aesthetics, inspired by its larger supersport siblings. Overall the Kawasaki Ninja 400 continues Kawasaki’s heritage of offering new riders an excellent first motorcycle for those who want a sportbike aesthetic, but more comfortable ergonomics.

Yamaha R3 beginner motorcycle

#3 – Yamaha R3

Some riders will look at the Kawasaki Ninja 400 with disdain. They don’t want upright ergonomics on a bike meant to look like a sport bike. They want sport bike-esque ergonomics, even if it’s entire impractical for a beginner motorcycle. For them, Yamaha offers the R3.

The R3 has many of the same beginner-friendly features we’ll be repeating over and over in this list: fuel injection, a manageable 30.7″ seat height, a slipper clutch, ABS, and a six speed transmission. The R3’s 321cc engine is spirited and fun, and it comes packed in a more pure sportbike package.

Sure, it doesn’t rev up like a sport bike, but the ergonomics are much more likely to put you into the fetal position compared to the Ninja 400, and some people really like that.

The R3s really hold their value well, so you might pay a little more upfront, but if you take care of it you might get a little more for it in the end.

Honda CB300R first motorcycle

#4 – Honda CB300R

If you’re looking for a 300cc beginner motorcycle that isn’t trying to be something it’s not, than you should forget about the R3 and think about the Honda CB300R. I’m a big fan of the look of this motorcycle, which more closely resembles a Honda CB650R, which has a nice euro vibe to it.

The CB300R is nothing fancy, it’s the quintessential basic city zip around motorcycle. It uses a similar single cylinder motor to the Honda Rebel 300, meaning it will be extremely light weight, frugal on gas, and reliable. In addition to being cheap to own, they can often be cheap to buy as well as many beginner motorcyclists want flashier looking first motorcycles.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

#5 – Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

Another beginner-friendly motorcycle that doesn’t cut corners is the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401. The 401 doesn’t just look different than every other motorcycle on this list, it is different. Husqvarna gave the Svartpilen 401 scrambler-inspired design with off-road aesthetics, built it to be ultra light weight at 336 lbs, and gave it premium components like inverted front forks from WP which offer adjustable rebound and compression.

The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 has often been touted by YammieNoob on Youtube as the single best beginner motorcycle, and he’s tested all of them (and given many of them away to viewers afterwards). The 401 is perfect for those looking for a beginner motorcycle that isn’t like all the rest. An intelligent, sophisticated, first motorcycle, that’s a step out, and maybe even a step ahead, of the competition.

Honorable mention: KTM 390 Duke, from Husqvarna’s parent company, for many of the same reasons.

BMW G650GS beginner adventure motorcycle

#6 – BMW G650GS

Don’t let the 650 designation scare you away, the G650GS is an absolute sweetheart. It’s also a very versatile machine capable of every day commuting, off-roading, or even light touring. Despite having almost 20 years of riding experience, I still chose to ride one across all of Italy, twice, and have put about 8,000 km on one of these motorcycles and love it for beginner riders. Here’s why.

BMW really mastered the art of making a well-balanced motorcycle with the G650GS. They’ve done a lot of intelligent, subtle things, that make a big difference in the rider experience. The gas tank is mounted under the seat, down low, rather than up high, to keep the center of balance low and make handling easier for beginner motorcyclists. The rear suspension is easily adjusted without tools. Things like heated grips, ABS, and four-way hazard lights come standard on the 2012 and up models.

I’ve created a lot of content on 10 reasons why you should buy a G650GS, how I set up my G650GS up for touring, how to remove the rear wheel on it, how to upgrade the headlight, and why if I had to downsize from my 6 motorcycles down to just 1, the G650GS might be the best motorcycle ever. If you think a versatile motorcycle that can do everything (besides go really fast) might be a good and practical choice for you, you should consider getting one of these. They come in both tall and low seat heights, and the seats are interchangeable so you can always trade with someone else!

Honorable mention: BMW F650GS twin or BMW F700GS for many of the same reasons, but more power.

Honda CB500X adventure

#7 – Honda CB500X

However, low mileage BMW G650GS are getting harder to find. They haven’t made any new ones in a few years. You’re a lot more likely to find a Honda CB500X on the used market, and it’s not a bad choice either. My good buddy WobblyCat (@WobblyCat on Instagram), put over 100,000 km on his CB500x and rode it up to Alaska and down to Panama.

The CB500X is a light adventure bike with a lot going for it. It’s fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, and ultra reliable. You can mount all kinds of bags and other aftermarket goodies to it, and it’s easy to handle. If it’s starting to sound a lot like a G650GS, you’re right. In fact, I compare the two motorcycles here.

The CB500X won’t be as powerful as the G650GS, but it’s still an excellent machine that you could go anywhere with. Presumably, if anything does break, it’ll be easier and cheaper to fix than on a BMW. Both bikes are pretty bulletproof though!

Yamaha FZ6

#8 – Yamaha FZ6

If you’re looking for a beginner motorcycle with a four cylinder engine for a true race bike sound, the FZ6 is worth considerating. Yes, it makes over 100 horsepower and yes, it’s powered by what is basically just a detuned Yamaha R6 motor, but that doesn’t make it a supersport. In fact the upright ergonomics, ability to add three hard cases to it and a bunch of other accessories, make it a very versatile and even touring-ready machine.

The nice thing about the FZ6 is that it gives you something to grow into, without being something too big. The FZ6 almost has two different power curves, a very gradual, respectable one, that goes up to around 7,000 RPMs, which gives you plenty of room to navigate around town without the motorcycle ever getting aggressive. On the highways though, you can take it over 7,000 RPM and that’s when the power really comes on.

For those who look up to motorcycles like the Yamaha MT-07 but want to save some money, look for an FZ6. Older doesn’t mean worse.

Honorable mention: The Yamaha FZ6R is a fully faired version of the FZ6, but with further reduced engine output. If you want race bike looks and sound, without the performance, an FZ6R might be worth considering.

Suzuki Boulevard S40 as a beginner cruiser

#9 – Suzuki Boulevard S40

On paper, there is nothing about the Suzuki Boulevard S40 that spells “best”. You can go through all of the motorcycle’s specifications versus the competition, and you’ll find nothing that even comes close to making it the best beginner motorcycle out there, and yet I still recommended my ex-girlfriend buy one, and she did. Here’s why:

The Suzuki Boulevard S40 has been relatively unchanged for decades now, which means there’s very little reason to pay for a new one, or even a semi-new one, compared to a low mileage old one. That also means you can pick one of these up for dirt cheap on the used market. We found one that was less than 10 years old, with only 5,000 miles on it, for about $1,100.

Is it the best motorcycle out there? Nope. But this little cruiser offers a low seat height, easy handling, and a reliable and thrifty method of transportation that’s still fine for occasional highway trips, with plenty of torque zooming off the line when you’re riding in the city. The value proposition is hard to beat.

Suzuki TU250X

#10 – Suzuki TU250X

Another budget-oriented offering from Suzuki is the TU250X. On it’s own, the TU250X, like the S40, isn’t going to win “best” in any category. It’s still a very beginner-friendly motorcycle that’s lightweight, easy to ride, reliable, and nice to look at it with it’s retro charm.

The TU250X makes it on this list because it’s a better beginner motorcycle than the Triumph Bonneville, Thruxton, or Speed Twin, that you really want. That’s not to say the Bonneville, Truxton, or Speed Twins, are a bad idea for beginners, but they’re bigger, heavier, and pricier.

You’re most likely to make a dumb little rookie accident when you’re first getting start, so you want a smaller and lighter motorcycle to help avoid or minimize those mistakes, and a less expensive motorcycle for when they happen anyway. That’s where the TU250X fits in and why it’s a great motorcycle to ride for your first year or two before you upgrade to the retro-styled motorcycle you really want.

Know of any other beginner motorcycles you think should be considered among the best? Let me know in the comments!

Remember, beginner motorcycles should be fun, affordable, easy to ride, reliable, with an established and excellent dealer network so you can easily get help should you need it.

Let me know what you think of this list!

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.

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