Which motorcycle should I buy?

There is no doubt that humans like to personalize their things. We want to leave our mark. Be it our initials carved into a tree, the bumper stickers on our car, or the look we project as we cruise the boulevard. 

first motorbike

For some reason, anyone who gets into riding will feel especially needful of selecting JUST the right motorcycle to fit his/her personality. This is normal, go with the flow.


On a motorcycle, it seems that the engine and its characteristics rule. A twin, even without “loud pipes”, will have a very recognizable sound. Catch the vibes of a Ducati passing by; somewhat like a Harley, but somehow not the same, probably due to the firing sequences being different. The Honda ST1100 has a subtle whine above the V4 low frequencies that is recognizable to an experienced rider. The sound and feel of the engine dominate the riding experience. And something deep in our psyche responds – differently from person to person!

Looks versus function

Be aware that looks and function are two different animals. Twin engines generally have more low-RPM torque. In-line fours typically have higher red-lines on the tach, but less torque at low speeds. RPM at cruising speed will differ. And of course the seat and the windshield and the hand and foot control reach will be unique to every model of motorcycle.

Which motorcycle should I buy?

If you are wondering about all this in buying your first bike, don’t. It will likely not be your last. Just find a friend who has ridden awhile and discuss these issues. If you are meant to be a rider, your first bike will be memorable and you will probably love it, no matter what you wind up with!

Fred Applegate

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7 Responses to Which motorcycle should I buy?

  1. Thomas Farley June 1, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    I’m confused by this topic title. What motorcycle should I buy? For a beginner? The Honda ST1100, and I had to look it up, is a +1000 CC machine. For a new rider? The MSF course I just entered doesn’t use a bike above 250 CCs. For myself I just bought an eight year old bike that I can afford to drop. It’s a cruiser style Kawasaki, just 125 CCs. I am using it learn smooth starts and stops, to find neutral, every time, do figure eights at low speed, start without stalling on hills, and so on. I will trade it off in a year or so for a bigger bike if I am interested in going further with motorcycles. Need something bigger? A Honda Rebel is freeway legal and I think around 235CC. I like it, too. I thank everybody for the information at this website, but I would recommend starting small and getting bigger later. 1000CCs?!

  2. MotorcycleMentor June 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Thanks for your comments. Fred was not suggesting the ST1100 as a good beginner motorcycle. However, for some, it might be.

    Engine size is only one factor that goes into selecting a good first motorcycle. Riding goals, age, size, etc are all factors that need to be considered. A particular motorcycle might be a great first motorcycle for Rider A, but a poor choice for Rider B. For example, a 125cc motorcycle would have been a horrible first motorcycle for me. For some, maybe you included, a 125cc makes perfect sense.

    I addressed the subject of how to select your first (next) motorcycle in more depth in Podcast #5. You can listen to it here:


    Thanks, David

  3. Damon June 19, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    My first motorcycle, which was bought June 12/14, is a 2005 Suzuki GS500F. I was limiting myself to $2k since I’d be buying used and I’m a new rider, plus I would only have liability for insurance. I looked for anything between 250cc and 500cc, and I prefer a standard/upright seating-style, but price was a main factor for me. If you’re very comfortable on a bike, like I was during my safe rider course, I think 500cc is the limit for a beginner. If not, 125cc to 400cc should do. When I seen my bike and how clean and well cared for it was, I couldn’t pass it up. It cost me $2550 but worth every penny. Every time I go to ride I make a point of going to the fire hall by my house, because they have a huge parking lot, and practicing for 10-15 min on the skills I learned during the course and to get a feel for the bike.

    • Mike July 14, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

      Hey Damon – I just bought a 2004 Suzuki GS500F myself (the fairings have been removed, so it’s a “naked” bike) on 7/4/14. Mine was $1950. I also strongly prefer the upright seating (I’d really love a Honda CB500X or a Honda NC700), but I wanted something I could drop — I’ve dropped it twice so far.

      I keep hearing that the GS500 is a good beginner’s bike, as long as you don’t mind the weight. I’m enjoying it. It was a struggle transitioning from my nimble little 150cc scooter, which I sold to get this bike, but now I love it.

  4. rc September 29, 2014 at 2:18 am #

    Very good advise, and a good podcast. I agree a 300 Ninja might be perfect for some, others probably will do better with something larger, with more torque. I feel like the old Honda 450’s were perfect. The suzuki 500 mentioned is a great choice, too.

    • MotorcycleMentor October 1, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast.

  5. Larry Weaver May 9, 2019 at 4:33 pm #

    Thanks for the tip to speak with a friend who has ridden a motorcycle before to discuss topics of engine types and functions when looking to buy a motorcycle. My dad has always had the dream to ride a motorcycle, but my mom made sure he never got one while there were still kids in the home. Now that my parents are empty nesters, I think it would be good for my dad to start talking with friends about what type of motorcycle would be right for him.

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