How do I choose the best motorcycle for new riders?
Comfort and cost are important, but safety should be your number one priority when you start shopping for your first motorcycle. New riders are significantly more likely to have accidents. Studies have shown that riders are four times more likely to crash in their first month of riding than in their whole second year as motorcyclists. New riders are encountering many challenges on the road for the first time and should have as much help as they can get.
Buying a motorcycle for beginners: safety considerations
Modern safety features
Vintage bikes are appealing for their looks, but modern motorcycles have technological safety features that make you less likely to have an accident. For instance, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that bikes with antilock braking systems (ABS) have 22% fewer fatal crashes than the same bikes without ABS. Motorcycle collision insurance claims decrease with ABS, especially with other safety technologies like combined braking.
Make sure the bike is the right size for you. Seat height determines how easily and comfortably you can put your feet on the ground if you need to support yourself at slow speeds when many accidents and drops occur. Make sure you can put your feet on the ground without standing on your toes. If you’re looking for an off-road bike with more ground clearance, you may have to accept a slightly higher seat height.
If you’re buying a motorcycle for commuting or long distance rides, make sure the seat isn’t too low. Riding with your knees high can get uncomfortable or cause cramps over time.
A lighter bike is easier to control, especially in a sudden stop or unexpected maneuver. Beginners need a bike that they can comfortably handle until they develop more riding skills.
Engine size and power
Beginners should strongly consider a bike with a smaller, less powerful engine. The more powerful the engine — and the higher the bike's power-to-weight ratio — the easier it is to accelerate quickly and reach high speeds. Bikes with big engines can quickly get away from new riders who aren't used to controlling the acceleration or driving at high speeds.
Some styles of bikes are more accident-prone than others. Supersport bikes are four times more likely to have fatal accidents than cruisers or standards, partly because they’re lightweight and have powerful engines. If you’re thinking about eventually riding a supersport-style bike (e.g., consumer versions of racing motorcycles), consider starting with something less powerful and moving up as you gain experience.
New motorcyclists often drop their motorcycles or get into small accidents as they learn how to ride a motorcycle. Because there's a high chance of causing at least minor damage to your new bike, the best motorcycle for new riders is often either a starter bike you don't plan to keep forever or one you can afford to repair if you need to.
Motorcycle insurance with physical damage protection can help pay for repairs. Depending on your coverage and policy details, you'll need to decide if it's worth making a claim for a minor or cosmetic repair.
Best motorcycle for beginners: new vs. used
Both used and new bikes have advantages. Buying a used bike can reduce costs, making it easier to save money for repairs. They may also already have cosmetic damage, so you won't feel bad if you drop the bike and scratch it or cause other cosmetic damage. On the other hand, used bikes may have other problems or need repairs. Used bikes are more likely to be older, so they may not have modern safety features important for new riders. Learn more about buying a new vs. used motorcycle and what to look for when buying a used motorcycle.
New bikes generally cost more but come with the promise that they are in perfect working order and should include manufacturer warranties. Buying new ensures you have access to the latest safety features. However, you may pay more for repairs, and lose more value if you damage a new bike versus an older, used one.
Save on motorcycle insurance with Progressive
We'll ask easy questions, then you choose coverages.
Talk to a licensed representative who can help you choose the right coverage for you.
Talk to an agent
If you want local advice, we'll connect you with a licensed, independent agent near you.