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Good Beginning Bike, And Why?


Cobie Fair
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Talked with a prospective student a few days ago, found out her riding skill level and we realized she didn't have enough to come, so putting the school on hold for now.

 

This brought to mind what's currently available for new riders, and what would you get/suggest for a new rider?

 

Chime in, new bike or old bike, sport/standard, what would you suggest.

 

As a sub question, I'd like to know what the girls are interested in riding, and why?

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For a *brand new* rider? Anything that is old and crappy enough that they won't care when they drop it, low enough that they can get their feet reasonably planted at a stop, and with not much more than 75 hp or so.

 

There used to be a lot of used "beginners bikes" like this kicking around - think GS500E - but they are a bit harder to come by these days. Probably an older Ninja 250 comes close.

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Without knowing her size and so on.. Something with modern stopping power, it must be dependable.. sudden mechanical problems can unerve a new rider at the wrong time, assuming it will be on the street. It should have at least enough power to be able to relax. It should handle "properly". Those mid eighties small cruisers is no way to teach a rider IMHO. My vote.. start with a Ninja 250 or the honda CBR250 or bump up a little for a larger person.

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Girl beginner bike = light (at most 2.5X her weight ) + fits her

 

hence imho > 150KG + 4 stroke + good clutch modulation/ engagement

 

 

 

My picks:

 

KTM duke 125/200

 

Bajaj Pulsar 150/200NS

 

Honda CBF 125/150

 

 

 

The honda CBR250/kawa ninja250 are for bigger guy riders; girls are easily intimidated by the heavy weight fyi

 

 

the girls around my area mostly ride 100 CC scooters at <100KG + <8HP

 

they find 125/150 SCOOTERS too big + heavy ... most around cant even do one proper push up so Im not surprised .

 

 

I'd like to add that for guy riders , the CB500/NC700 series packs serious beginner grade overall package for a beginner's bike if you have to go for new.

 

used bikes... too many to mention.

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I guess you are considering street use here?

 

I'd say something that is tractable and easy to handle. Make sure the rider can flat-foot it as falling off at every intersection soon grows old. And engine with a flat torque curve is must easier to ride than one with a peaky engine. Neutral handling, decent suspension, not too heavy and not too powerful. Something like the GS500E already mentioned, or even a cruiser like the Shadow 600, depending on rider inclination.

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A persons first bike needs to be the best *mechanically* running bike they ever own. They lack the skillset to tolerate crabby carburetion off idle or grabby disfunctional clutches, notchy steering head bearings or any other hazzards. The biggest thing in getting started riding is having the best equipment in the best running condition possible, then they can focus on riding and not how to overcome the bikes many shortcomings which can only take away from thier learning how to ride better.

 

Ninja 300 with its slightly lower seat height than the 250 would make a good bike, albeit a bit spendy.

 

A good running and well maintained Ninja 250 (2007 or older model) can be had relatively inexpensively and with clean carbs and proper adjustments they work very well. Plus they are narrow

 

Same goes for bikes the likes of the old VTR250 or the current CBR250R

 

Of course one could go to the GS500 or SV650 or even a GSF600, but they weigh more are much wider. There would be plenty of cruiser bikes to chose from and even numerous standards of one was into those type of bikes instead.

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I’ve been asked this question a couple of times by people considering learning to ride bikes. I recommend they think of their first bike as a training tool that they use for 3-5000 miles. It shouldn’t be their dream bike but a bike they will use to build their riding skills and gain confidence on the street and even in the garage. How many people know someone who has dropped a bike moving it around in the garage, forgot to put a kick stand down at a gas station, or lost their balance backing a bike into a parking slot. Mistakes like that can be a lot less expensive and embarrassing if you’re on a small used bike rather than a full dresser or a shiny new liter bike. An additional benefit, is that while they are racking up miles on their training bike, they may develop a better idea about the type of bike they want long term.

 

For shorter riders, seat height and the ability to put both feet firmly on the ground is a huge factor in building confidence. My wife is 5’3” and when she started riding we looked at a lot of bikes. The bikes mentioned above are all great choices. Another choice is an older Ducati monster 620. Lightweight, Nice power delivery, and it only took about an hour to lower the front and rear suspension to the point she can stand flat footed.

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I think older Ninja 250s are a great choice for starting out. They are inexpensive and easy to find, low seat heat, fun to ride but mild enough in acceleration and braking that they are not intimidating. Controls are easy to reach for small hands, too.

 

Suzuki DR200 dual sport is a good first bike, too, easy to ride, lightweight, low seat height - but for higher speed street rides (45mph plus) it isn't as stable or fun or comfortable as the Ninja.

 

I haven't sat on the new Ninja 300 but the more recent generation 250s seemed to be taller and harder for a small rider to manage than the older ones; the brakes and suspension were much more modern, though.

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IMO, a 10 hp two stroke to learn throttle and clutch management.Turn down the idle a bit and watch them learn!! A light bike is best to learn on and easier to handle if it is going down.

 

20-25 HP is the upper limit of safe for a beginner in my country at least, where they drive like maniacs.

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OK, here is the next question: What is the minimum experience a person should have before they come to the school. Chime in with why you think so on your answer.

 

CF

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I'll bite - with an anecdote. I remember being at Watkins Glen years ago when I was taking Level II and there was a women with her brand new GSX-R, couldn't have been more than a month old. Anyway She went off T1 and crashed her gorgeous new bike on the first lap after the two sighting laps. When asked what happened afterward she said it was because of the "no Brakes" drill; she didn't know how to make a turn without braking. So my vote is that you need to have enough riding common sense to know how to manage this type of a challenge.

 

Rainman

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Being a noob rider myself I'll chime in. I have around 3 years total riding experience give or take. I have been through all 4 levels. In retrospect many of the confidence problems that I encountered at the school could be attributed to a general lack of experience. If I could change time and go back would I have waited to go to CSS? Not at all. I made massive improvements the very first day and every single time I have been on track with CSS. You have to start somewhere and I think that learning the "right way" first is very important.

 

I remember the first time I realized i needed some "help" with my riding sitting at the side of the road at the Tail of the Dragon after nearly crashing because of my nearly non existant steering skills. I had owned my first sportbike a Yamaha R6 for about 3 weeks and some friends wanted to go and of course stupidly I tagged along. Somehow I managed to survive the experience of 318 absolutely terrifying corners on a bike I had no business riding at all. :)

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IMO slow speed drills are the key.Some one who can do a U turns etc without losing balance.They should be able to control the bike when it is moving slowly and unstable.Learning to quick flick at slow speeds is another asset.

 

You observe this - People do fine at 60.As they come to a halt, they get all jiggly on the bike.Why? Bike is becoming more unstable....

 

Of course, nothing quite beat's Eirik's system.I suppose you could teach your friends and then get em to school.

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I rode dirt for years, but never had rode a street bike until last year in November. I took the MSF class through Harley Davidson which was an excellent course. Not the regular 2 day msf with 125cc bikes. This was a 5 day class and we used Buell Blasts which were 4 stroke 500cc I believe. We had 5 females in our class and they did great. These bikes are hard to come by these days.

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Mental Skills. Attendees should be required to have read the books, watched the videos and have a relatively good understanding of what to expect when attending.

 

As far as riding skills, they should feel comfortable on the bike they are riding and have proficient enough skills to ride confidentately holding a line at whatever speed they chose to ride at. They also should be able to handle when the "fast" riders are lapping them every lap or two.

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OK, here is the next question: What is the minimum experience a person should have before they come to the school. Chime in with why you think so on your answer.

 

CF

 

You could always do a safety course to assess every rider's start stop/ clutch engagement / gear engagement skillset at the very start with the older bikes .

I was coached and tested on a course that has :

 

 

1) 2 circles for left/right turns (touch the lines and the buzzer buzzes)

 

 

2) 7 second straight line stability test (touch the lines and the buzzer buzzes + < 7 seconds your out)

 

 

3) simulated traffic light stop start (clutch / throttle application + brakes)

 

 

4) uphill climbs (clutch / throttle application + brakes)

 

5) 0-30-0KM/H standing traffic light start and emergency braking within line/area (clutch / throttle application)

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I rode dirt for years, but never had rode a street bike until last year in November. I took the MSF class through Harley Davidson which was an excellent course. Not the regular 2 day msf with 125cc bikes. This was a 5 day class and we used Buell Blasts which were 4 stroke 500cc I believe. We had 5 females in our class and they did great. These bikes are hard to come by these days.

I rode a Buell Blast once on the track at a test day - I was amazed how much fun it was to ride, and easy to manage, seemed like it would be a fun canyon bike. It is aptly named. :)

 

I'd seriously consider the BMW F800 if I was in the market for a street bike - it is comfortable but you can still go like hell on the racetrack with it. It would be a good bike for shorter riders - the only tough part is standing it up off the kickstand, it is rather heavy and the kickstand has it leaned over pretty far.

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I actually still own a Buell Blast myself that was my first bike. Over time I bought several other bikes it and have sort of given it to my brother who enjoys riding it as well. We have done a few upgrades on it and occasionally when I get a wild hair I'll take it out for a spin. It's really a "Blast". (pun intended)

 

At low speeds it's a huge amount of fun with tons of torque and great handling. To be fair though the Ninja 250 is a better bike if you do a lot of highway cruising at higher speeds. The Buell is ok for this but the Ninja seems better geared for lots of highway use. It is a VERY capable canyon bike as Hotfoot mentioned. A friend borrowed the Blast for a trip to The Dragon and had a LOT of fun on it.

 

There's actually a bit of a cult following to the Blast with some of the online forums. They refer to themselves as "blastards". Through the forums we have located an awesome number of upgrades for this bike to make it even more fun. Stuff like the Pirelli Scooter tire trick to jetting and exhaust upgrades are super cheap ways of building a "Fast Blast". :)

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OK, to clarify: we can't take beginners, they already have to be able to do the basic riding skills, and be able to do them well enough that they can get around the track/road without having their attention consumed by the basic riding actions of steering, braking, stopping and starting.

 

We normally ask for 2,000 miles and 6 months of riding.

 

What do you think of that?

 

Cobie

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OK, to clarify: we can't take beginners, they already have to be able to do the basic riding skills, and be able to do them well enough that they can get around the track/road without having their attention consumed by the basic riding actions of steering, braking, stopping and starting.

 

We normally ask for 2,000 miles and 6 months of riding.

 

What do you think of that?

 

Cobie

 

Personally I think that's quite reasonable. I had more experience than that but still found the noise and speed differences between riders to be somewhat distracting at first. Good thing there were world class coaches around handing out earplugs. :)

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