On Monday I received a text from a good friend of mine. Turns out, a guy he works with wants to take up motorcycling. Naturally, as a great ambassador of the “sport”, my buddy wants to help facilitate this process and set his friend up for success. Thus, the text said “Keep your lids peeled for a good learner bike under $3k, must have ABS.”
I troll Craig’s List pretty regularly; I’m here to tell you, $3,000 buys a lot of motorcycle these days, especially for your “first” motorcycle. On the flip-side, because we live in America, the requirement for ABS will narrow the field, considerably (because, ‘Merica…). “Conventional Wisdom” probably suggests that one buy a Rebel 250, which I almost guarantee lacks ABS, and the crowd will also likely say “You’ll outgrow it in a year”. I’m typically of the mentality that any mature male can usually handle just about any bike as a first motorcycle; of course, maturity is the key point there, but stature also plays a role. I’m also of the mindset that it usually makes more sense to buy the first bike on the cheap, that way you can spend some dough on quality gear, and start saving for the inevitable “upgrade”. That’s also not a hard and fast rule; some folks know what they want, or ride in manner where “any” bike will do, and that works too.
If it were me, I would probably pick a bike that’s in the 250 to 500 cc range. These days there’s a myriad of bikes that were “learners” not that long ago. Locally, I see many listings for CBR250s with ABS right now, including a 2012 CBR250R. I don’t think that’s a bad plan, the CBR250 of today is “less budget” than the go-to Ninja 250 of yore. I do agree, depending on stature, I could see that bike being “outgrown” relatively quickly, depending on your taste and who you ride with. I also found a 2015 Kawasaki Ninja 300 in the same search, again, a far cry from the “entry level” 250 of yesteryear. I think those are fair options, but if it were me, I would probably spring for the CB500X I found in Lexington. I’ve been chatting with a buddy about his CB500X since I saw it in person last year; if I could find a good deal on one (in fact, this one might work), I would feasibly consider it as a second bike for myself. Easily a great commuter bike, the CB500X offers “room to grow” with its 500 parallel twin, while also the “reputation” of Honda reliability and tempered “power” for a new rider, assuming one can handle the seat height (31.8 inches). A CB500F would be another good option, but I of course couldn’t find one of those for sale right now.
The longer I ride, the more I think I have a fringe taste in motorcycles, so I’d like to know what you the readers suggest. Knowing what you know now, based on your own experience, let’s imagine for a moment that you’re buying your very first bike with three grand in your pocket and insist on a bike with ABS, what would you choose?