The temptation is great, to skip the “Starter” bikes and immediately advance yourself to something beefier, with more street cred. But the fact remains that there are several excellent reasons for beginning your riding career on a 250cc motorcycle. For example:
Acceleration: Just about any motorcycle will go fast enough to turn you into road rash if you push it – motorcycle engines are just that powerful, and motorcycle bodies are just that light. But acceleration is the real key here – it takes years of experience to be able to project how a bike is going to respond at higher torque levels. A 250cc motorcycle will give you a nice, linear acceleration curve, giving you plenty of time to respond to changing road conditions. A more powerful bike can throw you into harm’s way before you are prepared to react.
Weight: Let’s face facts: while you are still learning to ride, you are going to lay your bike down. More than once. Recovery from a spilled Harley Street 1200 Custom is going to involve lifting 587 pounds – a pretty substantial burden for anyone to manage. Getting a Honda Rebel 250 back into the upright position requires managing a weight of 331 pounds – much more manageable for just about any rider. While you are learning to handle your new motorcycle, a 250cc is going to be much more forgiving – not only when you suffer from a spill, but also when cornering, when parking, and when storing the bike. Don’t start at the heavy end of the scale.
Insurance: Like many other high-ticket items in this world, motorcycles require insurance. And insurance costs for motorcycles factor in many things, including price, safety features, engine power, and age. Just hazard a guess which costs more to insure – a new Ninja 300, or its big brother, the Ninja ZX-6R? Precisely. The larger, faster, and more potentially dangerous ZX-6R has premiums that are much higher than the new rider-friendly 300. Take the money you save on those premiums and invest them in a full set of riding gear instead.
Customization and Repair Cost: Economics is a pretty simple discipline, even where it pertains to motorcycles. The more expensive the motorcycle, the fewer people will be in a financial position to buy it. The fewer bikes that are on the road, fewer manufacturers are motivated to produce quality parts for repairs and upgrades, whether the original manufacturer or aftermarket suppliers. Maintenance also is a huge issue for motorcycles, and more bikes on the road will equal more qualified shops to care for them. There are an incredible number of 250cc motorcycles on the road, and because of that there are a much higher number of suppliers offering everything from complete replacement parts to items such as body customizations, windscreens, panniers, and the whole gamut of custom options you might want to put on your bike once the bug has thoroughly bitten you. Do yourself a favor and start with something that is easy and relatively inexpensive to customize to your exact desires, rather than purchasing a “boutique bike” that can only be modified or repaired by heading back to the dealership.
Purchase Cost: In the same vein, as you are learning the ropes of motorcycle riding, you do not want to be in the position of constantly worrying about trashing your 20 or 30 thousand dollar investment. Brand new, solid 250s are available starting at under 5 thousand dollars. With that kind of cost savings, you are free to really put your new bike through its paces, learning to master it without the constant fear of protecting your investment. After you have spent a few years on your new ride, you are free to trade it in on something a little more challenging, now that you have a firm grasp of the fundamentals. Would you hand your sixteen-year old the keys to a Ferrari as their first car? Probably not – you will want them starting out in something with a 4 cylinder engine and a good safety rating as they are learning the ropes. The same applies to you as a new motorcycle rider. Get yourself into a 250, get a firm handle on what you are doing, then decide if you want to trade it in or hang on to it as a Sunday driver or customization project.