April 21 2009 by Jason Fogelson
Once my friends know how to ride, they're ready to start shopping for a bike. Though it is possible to start out on a large displacement motorcycle, most experts will advise new riders to begin with a bike with a smaller engine, 500 cc or less. This is especially good advice for smaller riders, because in general, the smaller the engine, the lighter the bike. A lighter bike is easier to handle, move around the garage, and keep upright at a standstill.
I'm quite partial to the Buell Blast ($4,795), which was designed specifically as an entry-level motorcycle, but still provides enough style and entertaining performance to keep a rider interested as their skills progress. With a 492 cc single cylinder engine and a very low seat height (as low as 25.5"), the Blast is a fun, easy to ride, affordable motorcycle.
If you are smaller in stature, you might want to take a look at the Kawasaki Ninja 250R($3,999). After a long run, the littlest Ninja got a makeover in 2008, and it turns out to be a lot of bike for the money. If you like the Ninja, but it's a little too little for you, there's a Ninja 500R ($5,499) with a skosh more room - and twice the engine displacement at 498 cc.
If sportbike styling sets your teeth on edge, check out the cruisers and standards. Kawasaki's Vulcan 500 LTD ($5,499) packs plenty of style into an entry-level package. Suzuki's GZ250 ($3,799) is so simple that it's cool -- and it's cheap, too. Yamaha Star motorcycles' V Star 250 ($3,790) is surprisingly stylish and maneuverable, and winds up being the absolute cheapest new bike on my list.
One final bike to consider: The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Military ($5,545). If you've ever seen Lawrence of Arabia, the Royal Enfield will provide you with a great flashback the minute you see it. You can imagine yourself as T.E. Lawrence skimming across the desert on his Brough Superior SS100 -- but you'll be much safer, because you'll wear a helmet and proper riding gear, and you'll take a riding class before you start riding. Right? Promise?
Okay, then, get out there and find yourself a bike!