Newbie Motorbike rider 500cc choices?

mwmorph

Diamond Member
Dec 27, 2004
8,882
1
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Hey I'm a complete noob at riding bikes but I am looking at getting a motorcycle lisence. I will be attending classes and I will have a motorbike permit for 9 months before having a true M designated lisence in VA so I will have a decent amount of experience.

I'd just like to know how a Kawasaki Ninja 650R would fit the beginnerish rider. Would it be a better fit than say a Suizuki SV650S or a Yamaha YF6? Are there any other suggestions for a newbie bike for a 145-155lb 5'7" 18 year old rider that plans to ride it very often as a commuter? I'd say I'm a "spirited driver" sometimes but I've slowed down and obeyed speed limits a lot more ever since I had to pay for my my first ticket.(No more stupidly reckless 2x the speed limit for me, no thank you +8-10 mph over is all I do now if that and for the most part I keep within 5mph of the speed limit)

Also, if I buy used, does mileage really affect bike reliability or not? Most used bikes have under 15K miles/are only 2 or 3 years old and for someone that drives a used to drive a Toyota MR2 Spyder/ Lexus SC400/ Toyota Camry(My family is a bunch of Toyota Fanboy, ever since we got our first 1989 Toyota Tercel ;) ) everyday it seems extremely low to me, especially for about 2/3 to 1/2 the price of a new bike.

I prefer faired bikes since I will be attending the University of Illinois Urbana so weather is definitely a issue and so is safety(I also plan to invest in some good riding apparel). That and of course I'm a young guy and looks are important... :cool:

As a related question, what is some good riding apparel? How do you guys like the "airbag" jackets from vendors like http://www.motoair.com/ or http://www.airetronics.com/ ? I know as a noob rider, I'm going to drop the bike multiple times so I probably need decent safety equipment.

TIA.

edit: Alright, I've done a little more research and for a small guy like me a 600/650cc would probably be overkill so I've been looking at some 500cc cycles. Appearantly, insurance is very, very reasonable, at $530.90 for 12 months for a GS500F(I pay more for every auto I've ever owned and I've have a 2002 Camry and had a 2000 MR2 Spyder)

My question now is, what are some other nice, preferably faired 500cc bikes? I've looked at the 400ccs but they're rarer and older and I'd rather have something newer and more common so theres more community support.

I've got a list of what?
GS500F
Ninja 500R
...?

TIA again
 

jagec

Lifer
Apr 30, 2004
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To be honest I'd recommend buying used for your first bike...get a ~400cc standard that's light, cheap, and easy to fix, and after a few months go ahead and move up. The Ninja's not a bad starter bike, although I'd recommend starting with a model a bit further down the totem pole. Certainly don't get a supersport or anything ridiculous like that.

As for the used bike market, while mileage is always somewhat of an issue, very few bikes "wear out" because of miles. Either they get crashed, or they sit in a garage for years until all the seals rot. If you're checking out 2-3 year old bikes, I wouldn't worry about the miles, I'd worry more about whether it's been dropped! "My wife/GF thinks it's dangerous" or "I needed to clean out the garage, I have 6 bikes already and couldn't fit the 7th I wanted" are valid reasons for them to sell. "I broke my leg and now I can't ride anymore"=check the bike for scrapes.:)

Good riding apparel...I do the textile thing, because I ride year-round and I need something that's waterproof, yet can be vented in the summer. I have the Joe Rocket Ballistic jacket, and (IIRC) Tour Master overpants, usually over jeans. I like armor in my jacket and overpants, I won't ride with anything but a full-face helmet after hearing a particularly bad story of a guy who got a live June bug stuck in his sinus cavity on the freeway in a beanie, and I wear boots that cover my ankle. Every single day! All The Gear, All The Time is the rule to live by.

You're not necessarily going to drop the bike "multiple" times. You'll probably drop it once or twice. If you're lucky, it will be low-speed, oil-slick-in-parking-lot sort of stuff. If it's 100-mph-wheelie-around-a-corner, well, you kind of had it coming.
 
Jun 18, 2000
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jagec offered a lot of good advice.

Kawasaki and Suzuki offer entry level 500cc parallel twins that are reasonably sporty. Both are good starter bikes and I would recommend them over anything larger. Matter o' fact, I own a Kawi 500r and it's suited me fine over the last couple years.
 

ajskydiver

Golden Member
Jan 7, 2000
1,147
1
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IMO, at your age, the temptation to ride dangerously fast would be too difficult to resist on a newer 600cc or larger bike. My first bike, age 23, was a 1995 (new at the time) CBR 600F3. Everyone said I would kill myself. Obviously they were wrong. At age 23 though, I was mature enough and respected the bike enough to know that I would surely kill myself if I pushed that bike on the roads. Looking back, there's a huge difference between 23 and 18 year olds -- and 23 still isn't very mature or able to really understand the consequences of riding "spiritedly." Even back then, that bike had way more power and capability than you'd ever need on the road...new bikes now are just crazy fast.

All that considered, any motorcycle can you get killed - either by you or another driver. I believe you can start on any bike as long as you're mature enough and respect the bike enough to ride responsibly (and can handle the respective weight/height.)

Taking classes is a good start...

As they say in many dangerous sports, "On a good day, it's easy..."

And as for the inevitability of dropping the bike...I never did but can understand why it's so prevalent.

Do everything you can do to stay safe, because cars are out to kill you. It's dangerous enough out there, so don't add any risk by riding like a squid.

Good luck and be safe!
 

DougK62

Diamond Member
Mar 28, 2001
8,035
6
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I wouldn't get a bike that large. My first (and favorite) bike was a Ninja 250.

 

ValValline

Senior member
Feb 18, 2005
339
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If you are looking to buy new, then your best options are: Ninja 250R, Ninja 500r, Ninja 650r, GS500F, and SV650/SV650S. The 650s in this list are 2 cylinder twins and have MUCH less horsepower than the 600cc supersport inline 4s. I highly recommend that you look for a good used example of one of these bikes. All of them hold their value (because they are great entry level bikes) on the used market. You have a good shot at breaking even or only losing a couple hundred dollars when you resell it and get another bike. Get the skills and defensive street riding experience, then get the bike your heart desires.

Your first bike should not be your last. There is a reason you see so many 1-2 year old Harleys and crotch rockets for sale. People get bikes that are too much for them, and bail on the sport. Anyone telling you you will be alright on a bigger bike as long as you "respect" it is full of crap. Respect can't teach you how to ride. Respect won't save your ass if you make a newbie mistake by dialing in too much throttle or brake. Insurance companies base their rates on how often people wreck their bikes and themselves. There is a reason rates are so high on these bikes,. Telling your agent you respect the bike won't get you a discount. To show proper respect for 600cc-1000cc supersports (and yourself as a new rider) means admitting you are not ready for one yet.

Don't let your first bike be your last. Wear proper gear (helmet, gloves, jacket, boots, pants), and keep the rubber side down!
 

nweaver

Diamond Member
Jan 21, 2001
6,813
1
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Just buy a 'busa and a casket for your first bike.


er....yeah, what they all said. Good info. I would actually look for an older/smaller bike for the first 3-6 months. I'm not a "sport bike" fan, I like the mid 80's cruiser style bikes (I love the old 'zuke GS's). One of those would be cheaper, easier to fix/work on, less pain if you drop it, and still sporty enough/good looking enough to attact the ladies and get to/from work.
 
Oct 9, 1999
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step one: www.msf-usa.org
Step two: get good gear (helmet, jacket, pants, boots, gloves)
step three: smaller bike.. 250-500cc.. the ninja 650R/SV650 etc are too powerful. you will get plenty of enjoyment in a 500. Plus for commuting i love my GS500. Its so light and flickable.. actually i wish i had a 250 for commuting.
 

ajskydiver

Golden Member
Jan 7, 2000
1,147
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Originally posted by: ValValline
Anyone telling you you will be alright on a bigger bike as long as you "respect" it is full of crap. Respect can't teach you how to ride. Respect won't save your ass if you make a newbie mistake by dialing in too much throttle or brake.

Since that sounds like it's a direct comment regarding my earlier post...nice job commenting on one sentence out of context.

Please. ANY modern motorcycle has more than enough power to get any new rider in trouble.

A 600cc bike isn't a "big" bike. Respecting the motorcycle's capabilities, any motorcycle, is paramount to staying within your abilities and riding safely.

Take an MSF course, ride with maturity, ride within YOUR limits and you should be ok.

Ride ANY bike like an idiot and you're going to get hurt or killed. I never said just get the bike and you'll be okay.

Ride any bike, drive any car recklessly is a bad thing. You can learn on a "big" bike but it takes discipline and yes, respect, to keep yourself out of trouble.
 

ajskydiver

Golden Member
Jan 7, 2000
1,147
1
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And ValValline, have you ever ridden an SV650? As if that's a "safe" bike and a newbie can't get in trouble on it? Does a sport 600cc have more potential to be abused and to go fast, absolutely...but either bike ridden carelessly is a BAD idea.
 

Gillbot

Lifer
Jan 11, 2001
28,830
17
81
Get the cheapest Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki 400cc or so bike you can find on ebay/craigs list or your other preferred sales outlet. You'll probably drop the bike a few times and better to do that with a clunker than a nice plastic bike.
 

Demon-Xanth

Lifer
Feb 15, 2000
20,551
2
81
I've heard of a number of people that get a Ninja 250 or something similar used for like $2k, learn to ride it, then sell it for $2k and get what they really want. It's almost like a hand me down with a $2k deposit.
 

nweaver

Diamond Member
Jan 21, 2001
6,813
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Originally posted by: Aj_UF
Originally posted by: ValValline
Anyone telling you you will be alright on a bigger bike as long as you "respect" it is full of crap. Respect can't teach you how to ride. Respect won't save your ass if you make a newbie mistake by dialing in too much throttle or brake.

Since that sounds like it's a direct comment regarding my earlier post...nice job commenting on one sentence out of context.

Please. ANY modern motorcycle has more than enough power to get any new rider in trouble.

A 600cc bike isn't a "big" bike. Respecting the motorcycle's capabilities, any motorcycle, is paramount to staying within your abilities and riding safely.

Take an MSF course, ride with maturity, ride within YOUR limits and you should be ok.

Ride ANY bike like an idiot and you're going to get hurt or killed. I never said just get the bike and you'll be okay.

Ride any bike, drive any car recklessly is a bad thing. You can learn on a "big" bike but it takes discipline and yes, respect, to keep yourself out of trouble.

there is a difference though. Grabbing a fist full of throttle on a smaller bike (like a 400 or 550) won't have NEARLY the impact of a fistfull of throttle on a 900 (or even a 650).

On my old (it was tuned, and pretty nice) Suzuki GS650, I could grab a fistfull and nearly pick the front tire up@65 in fourth gear. My friends Yamaha 550 did almost nothing doing the same thing. I would also hit 90 PDQ on that bike, and dust his 550. Size usually means more acceleration in every gear, which makes it (imho) easier to get into trouble quicker. Granted, that 550 would do 90 as well, and any impact on a bike doing 90 usually means broken bones/road rash/death.


On the other hand, I had to try hard to pick up the front wheel in almost any other situation (like starting in first gear, it wouldn't pick up for anything less then revving it up and dumping the clutch) , where as he could easily pick his up, and it got REALLY bad if you had a second person on the bike (not that any noob should carry passengers). So bike size DOES and DOESN'T have an impact.


as a blanket statement size makes it harder, because you accelerate faster, and it's not as nimble/forgiving of mistakes.
 

Gillbot

Lifer
Jan 11, 2001
28,830
17
81
Originally posted by: Demon-Xanth
I've heard of a number of people that get a Ninja 250 or something similar used for like $2k, learn to ride it, then sell it for $2k and get what they really want. It's almost like a hand me down with a $2k deposit.

I wouldn't even pay $2k, I'd get an old Honda for like $250-500.
 

ajskydiver

Golden Member
Jan 7, 2000
1,147
1
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Originally posted by: nweaver
Originally posted by: Aj_UF
Originally posted by: ValValline
Anyone telling you you will be alright on a bigger bike as long as you "respect" it is full of crap. Respect can't teach you how to ride. Respect won't save your ass if you make a newbie mistake by dialing in too much throttle or brake.

Since that sounds like it's a direct comment regarding my earlier post...nice job commenting on one sentence out of context.

Please. ANY modern motorcycle has more than enough power to get any new rider in trouble.

A 600cc bike isn't a "big" bike. Respecting the motorcycle's capabilities, any motorcycle, is paramount to staying within your abilities and riding safely.

Take an MSF course, ride with maturity, ride within YOUR limits and you should be ok.

Ride ANY bike like an idiot and you're going to get hurt or killed. I never said just get the bike and you'll be okay.

Ride any bike, drive any car recklessly is a bad thing. You can learn on a "big" bike but it takes discipline and yes, respect, to keep yourself out of trouble.

there is a difference though. Grabbing a fist full of throttle on a smaller bike (like a 400 or 550) won't have NEARLY the impact of a fistfull of throttle on a 900 (or even a 650).

On my old (it was tuned, and pretty nice) Suzuki GS650, I could grab a fistfull and nearly pick the front tire up@65 in fourth gear. My friends Yamaha 550 did almost nothing doing the same thing. I would also hit 90 PDQ on that bike, and dust his 550. Size usually means more acceleration in every gear, which makes it (imho) easier to get into trouble quicker. Granted, that 550 would do 90 as well, and any impact on a bike doing 90 usually means broken bones/road rash/death.


On the other hand, I had to try hard to pick up the front wheel in almost any other situation (like starting in first gear, it wouldn't pick up for anything less then revving it up and dumping the clutch) , where as he could easily pick his up, and it got REALLY bad if you had a second person on the bike (not that any noob should carry passengers). So bike size DOES and DOESN'T have an impact.


as a blanket statement size makes it harder, because you accelerate faster, and it's not as nimble/forgiving of mistakes.

I do agree with almost everything you posted -- but no where was a 900cc or larger bike mentioned...

To sum up the point of my post, safety is more about how you ride than what you ride.

And yes, I'll concede that a new 600cc (GSX-R,CBR,R6, etc.) has very little forgiveness to grabbing a fistful of throttle (well, in the higer RPM range at least - they're all manageable below 7K) or hamfisted inputs.

Ride maturely and most importantly - within YOUR limits (not the bikes) and it's possible to learn on just about anything. Would I start an 18 year old on any 750cc or > - absolutely not. But 600's, due to their size and weight are easy to learn on due to their responsive handling and feedback. I'd also warn the new rider to pretend the bike needs to be broken in -- keep the RPMs below 6K and they're docile...with a lot of potential. I know because that's how I learned. Brand new, first bike was the CBR - no slouch by any means. For the first 1K miles, I drove it very, very conservatively and got used to the handling and feel...and only gradually did I begin to venture into the higher RPM range and powerband. It IS possible.

Maybe respect is underrated these days...I respected the bike much like I respect loaded hand guns, much like I respect my other hobby (skydiving). Lack of respect and getting complacent can get you killed in a variety of ways.

Any new rider pushing any bike to the limits and well beyond their experience level is going to be in bad, bad place very soon.

Not a big fan of blanket statements either.

For all that I've written, I wouldn't have been mature enough to ride ANY motorcycle at 18 -- At the very least, I knew that about myself. I don't know mwmorph personally, he could be a responsible, mature, level-headed 18 year old...he'd be one of the few, but it's possible. ;)

 

ValValline

Senior member
Feb 18, 2005
339
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0
Originally posted by: Aj_UF
And ValValline, have you ever ridden an SV650? As if that's a "safe" bike and a newbie can't get in trouble on it? Does a sport 600cc have more potential to be abused and to go fast, absolutely...but either bike ridden carelessly is a BAD idea.

"Abusing" the power or riding carelessly are mistakes in judgment. This can be controlled and avoided. Though anyone who rides/owns a 600/1000 that says they never tapped into the power available is a liar. It's just too tempting when it is just a small flick of the wrist away.

Newbies (and even experienced riders) make mistakes with control inputs. This cannot be controlled. It will happen, and the only way to prevent disaster is to have the skill and muscle memory to counter the mistake before it becomes unrecoverable.

I own a 2004 SV650S and ride it just about every day weather permitting. SV650

Before that I owned a 2003 Ninja 500r. 500r

Had both for a few months before selling the 500, and had plenty of time to note their differences.

I have also has some seat time on a couple of 600cc (2003 CBR600RR, 2000 ZX-6), and a 1000cc supersport (2000 GSXR1000) owned by friends. I intentionally pushed these bikes just to see how much better they were than my little SV. Of course by then I had 3+ years of riding experience.

A handful of throttle on the 500 or 650 might (if you are lucky) lift the front wheel a couple of inches. in the first couple of gears. The 600s and 1000 lofted the front wheel as soon as the tach needle hit 8-9k.

It took 4 fingers and a determined pull on the brake lever before the 500 showed any sign of locking the front. The 650 will lock with 2 fingers and a very hard pull (the SV is noted for having good brakes for the price point). The 600s and 1000 will do it with 2 fingers and a moderate pull.

I didn't say the SV650 was the best choice for a new rider, but compared to a 600cc supersport it's as gentle as a lamb. If it were up to me the US would have tiered licensing like they have in Europe. Where riders have to work their way up in displacement.

Keep the rubber side down.



 

mwmorph

Diamond Member
Dec 27, 2004
8,882
1
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I have a question though, the Ninja 650r and the FZ6 and the SV650s are all supposed to be beginner cycles are they not? I mean I do understand if I shouldn't get a R6 or a Hyabusa but every review I've read compares the 650r and FZ6 to the SV650 rather than a sportbike, essentially I have the notion that they're just prettier versions of the easy to ride SV650. So what exactly is so bad about a 650R? I believe its Vtwin like the SV650 and fully faired unlike the SV650S.
 

ValValline

Senior member
Feb 18, 2005
339
0
0
Originally posted by: mwmorph
I have a question though, the Ninja 650r and the FZ6 and the SV650s are all supposed to be beginner cycles are they not? I mean I do understand if I shouldn't get a R6 or a Hyabusa but every review I've read compares the 650r and FZ6 to the SV650 rather than a sportbike, essentially I have the notion that they're just prettier versions of the easy to ride SV650. So what exactly is so bad about a 650R? I believe its Vtwin like the SV650 and fully faired unlike the SV650S.

The three bikes you mention are consider "beginner cycles", because they are the only smallish sport/standard bikes offered in the US. The exceptions are the the Ninja 250, Ninja 500r and GS500F. These are older designs that are completely ignored by magazines and reviewers, because they are not new and flashy and were reviewed years ago.

There is nothing "bad" about the Ninja 650r or SV650/SV650S. The problem is that bike performance has increased exponentially over the years. If they had come out 15 years ago, the Ninja/SV would have been considered world class sport bikes, and would have been only recommended to experienced riders. 15 years ago there was a wider selection of 250s, 400s, 550s, etc. Not so today. If you are a new rider wanting a new bike, these are the sensible choices compared to the 600cc-1000cc sportbikes that dominate the market.

The Ninja 650r is a parallel twin. The pistons sit side by side unlike a V-twin. Spec wise it is almost identical to the SV650. Kawasaki designed it to be an SV killer, and they did a great job. In my opinion (I own an '04 SV650S), I think the Ninja is a better all around bike. It has MUCH better comfort than the SV650S (which has a crotch rocket reach to the grips and high foot pegs), and a nice looking fairing which most riders into sport bikes want to have. To get the same comfort you need to get an SV650 (no fairing) or modify an SV650S with higher clip-ons and lower pegs.
 

abaez

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2000
7,158
1
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Man I'd love one of those things. One thing is that it's 750cc, does it carry the same issues with the 600cc+ sportbikes for a beginner or could a beginner start of with one of those?
 

Arkaign

Lifer
Oct 27, 2006
20,736
1,377
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Originally posted by: abaez
Man I'd love one of those things. One thing is that it's 750cc, does it carry the same issues with the 600cc+ sportbikes for a beginner or could a beginner start of with one of those?

It's a fantastic beginner's or veteran's bike, very stable and comfortable.

EDIT: It's pretty powerful, so it would still need some caution, but that goes for any bike. Cheers :) :beer:
 

ValValline

Senior member
Feb 18, 2005
339
0
0
Originally posted by: abaez
Man I'd love one of those things. One thing is that it's 750cc, does it carry the same issues with the 600cc+ sportbikes for a beginner or could a beginner start of with one of those?

Cruisers are completely different animals from sport bikes and standards.

Up to about 800-900cc (eg Harley 883 sportster) on a cruiser is "ok" for a beginner, but you are still better off starting smaller and working your way up.

Cruiser engines are not tuned for peak horsepower and rarely have high RPM ranges. They offer a lot of low end torque and usually only have 4-5 speed gear boxes. They will pull hard from a standing start, but they won't take off like a rocket or loft the front wheel.

The biggest disadvantage for new riders on a cruiser is weight. These bikes can get very heavy. It's tough enough learning to handle a bike at parking lot speeds. Trying to do it on a 600-800lbs bike makes it even tougher.

After that comes seating position. Most lean (no pun intended) towards a reclined legs forward setup. This reduces the amount of control, balance, and leverage the rider has.
 

Fenixgoon

Lifer
Jun 30, 2003
31,528
9,886
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also look at the yamaha YZF 600R (it isn't too powerful, is it?) - combination sport/tourer using a detuned R6 engine. hawt bike, and meant for every day riding to boot :D:D
 

WisMan

Senior member
Nov 24, 2004
546
0
76
I started out on the Ninja 650R last summer and i think it is a reasonable first bike. It has enough power to get you in trouble if you don't respect it, but at the same time its fairly forgiving with its more up rite confidence inspiring riding position.

I survived my first year riding it around without any problems, and its an excellent bike so i guess i cant really say you shouldn't get it. I do know that its a hell of a lot more beginner friendly then my buddies GSX-R 600.

Regardless of what bike you get... never get on one without at least a helmet. Looking "cool" by riding around in shorts and sunglasses isn't worth the risk you put yourself in.

 

WisMan

Senior member
Nov 24, 2004
546
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Originally posted by: mwmorph
I have a question though, the Ninja 650r and the FZ6 and the SV650s are all supposed to be beginner cycles are they not? I mean I do understand if I shouldn't get a R6 or a Hyabusa but every review I've read compares the 650r and FZ6 to the SV650 rather than a sportbike, essentially I have the notion that they're just prettier versions of the easy to ride SV650. So what exactly is so bad about a 650R? I believe its Vtwin like the SV650 and fully faired unlike the SV650S.

It's actually a parallel twin.

BTW, if you do end up getting a 650R check out the forums at www.ninja650.com there are a ton of helpful people there.