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Choosing a motorcycle is daunting at the best of times. There are so many things to consider, and it doesn’t help when every article you read is written by a 6ft tall, 100kg guy with a beard. It’s all very well for him to tell you that having a new Harley is exactly what you need because it has a low seat. In reality, choosing a good first motorcycle as a woman takes a lot more than that.
As a female rider, getting over the fact that motorcycles were not designed for women gets a lot easier when you realize they also were not designed for men. The truth of the matter is that there is no best motorcycle for women because there is no best motorcycle for any one gender.
There are so many factors that influence whether a motorcycle is right for you or not, and gender is not one of them. The weight of the bike, the seat height, handlebar position, and price are just a few of the things you need to think seriously about.
That being said, there are a few things that might be more relevant for women to consider when trying to find that perfect ride.
Is This Bike A Good Fit?
One thing we can not stress enough is the importance of being able to put your feet flat on the ground when sitting upright on your motorcycle. This is a unisex problem, but for the general population, we women are often more vertical challenged. Therefore, it is relevant for more women than it is for men.
When you come to a stop sign or traffic light, you will need to be able to hold yourself and your motorcycle upright for, at the very least, a few seconds. This may not seem like a lot but after you factor in potential rain or wind, you will find this task a lot easier if you can comfortably rest both feet on the ground without straining.
This is more important for newer riders as they build confidence, but the essence applies to us all. You do not want to drop your brand new bike because you couldn’t get a leg down.
If you are set on a specific bike but aren’t completely comfortable with the seat height, there may be the ability to adjust it. Many motorcycle companies sell special lowering kits designed to bring the seat height down to accommodate more riders.
Is Everything In Reach?
Another thing to check before deciding if the bike is a good fit for you is, are your brake and clutch levers within your hands reach, or are you straining right from the start? There are a few inevitable things that you’ll experience during long rides – a sore backside and aching wrists. Why add more strain by getting a bike that doesn’t feel comfortable from the beginning? It’s guaranteed that it will only get worse with time, not better!
When I was looking for my first motorcycle, I was determined to get the sportiest one possible. After weeks of searching, I finally found one that fit all my criteria and took it for a test drive. Once I was on the bike, I found I could sit comfortably with my feet on the floor, but when it came to turning in a tight circle, I ended up banging the handlebars onto the fuel tank and almost dropped the bike.
This was an eye-opener for me because even though I loved the style of this motorcycle and it was the right size, the handlebars didn’t make me feel comfortable or safe. Once I brought it back, I called it a day and went home without a motorcycle.
I had to remind myself there will be other bikes out there and kept looking ’til I found one that fit all my criteria and made me feel comfortable.
So if you don’t feel safe on a motorbike, just keep looking.
Choosing The Right Size
Dropping your motorcycle is everyone’s worst nightmare. The inevitable hours replaying the exact moment where you knew it had overbalanced in your head and the struggle to even pick it up after. It’s something no one wants to experience. Choosing a bike that is not too heavy for you is one way to minimize the potential dropped motorcycle stories.
Being able to comfortably maneuver your bike in and out of your garage or other designated spot will be a lot easier if you aren’t worried your motorcycle will topple with the slightest lean. The motorcycle weight matters a lot less when you are riding along because you have momentum and physics on your side.
The majority of motorcycles are dropped when they are being maneuvered or wheeled out before a ride. As women, it is not uncommon to be riding something that weighs more than double your body weight. So when choosing the best motorcycle for you, make sure you take into account how much it will weigh when it has been fueled up, and account for any baggage you might be putting on it.
There is a reason there are so many powerful motorcycles with only a handful of km on craigslist. Lots of people are going out and buying the nicest bike they can find, then scaring themselves half to death once they open the throttle.
I’m not saying start with a 50cc scooter, but keep in mind that you are a beginner. You have plenty of time to work your way up to the big bikes. The idea of getting a lower cc motorcycle to start with is all about building your confidence with the basics and being able to push your limits. If every time you get on your motorcycle, you are fighting just to make it home alive… then you are missing out on the essence of what owning a motorcycle is about.
The laws about what learners can ride differ from country to country. In general, a good size for someone’s first bike is between 250cc to 600cc. This, of course, is just a guideline and isn’t suitable for everyone. Don’t get caught up in all the hype of your new biker buddies compensating, choose an engine size that you feel comfortable with.
Everyone would love a brand new motorcycle, but the unfortunate truth is we can’t always get what we want, so we have to settle for what we need. In this case, that means setting a budget and sticking to it!
If this is your first time buying a motorcycle, make sure you know how much the extra expenses are. Buying the motorcycle will probably be the biggest cost, but that doesn’t mean you should discount the other expenses that come with owning one.
Insurance and basic gear alone can set back at least $1,000, and that’s before you even get your wheels.
After you have factored in the extras into your budget, then start looking at some styles you like the look of.
Choosing The Right Style
Next, we have some options to think about from the five main styles of bikes; Cruiser, Sports, Classic, Naked, and Scooters. Remember when looking for a first motorcycle, it is important to stay open-minded.
You probably have friends who insist you should start with a certain type because that’s what they learned on, but remember to stick to your guns and find something you will be excited to see every day.
Cruisers are a style of bike designed with a lower seat making them the go-to option for a lot of women.
When we hear the word cruiser, we think Harley Davidson, but for a beginner, these cruisers might be slightly on the too heavy side. It’s good to remember that there are plenty of other great cruisers out there like the Honda Rebel 500.
The Honda Rebel is an excellent option for beginners because they have a much lower seat making it great for shorter women. That combined with a two-cylinder engine, you will have enough power to grow into without getting scared off early.
Sportbikes are known for their sleek design, fairings and lent forward position.
The Kawasaki Ninja is probably one of the most well-known beginner sportbikes out there. The range has a large variety of different engine sizes. Still, the 250/300 is the most popular with the women riders out there. It has fantastic handling and is lightweight, making it easy to control. It’s notoriously good through the bends, so it is a great bike for building your confidence if you live in an area with a fair few turns.
One drawback, however, is the standard seat height on these bikes. On average, it is over 77cm (30 inches) off the ground, so this is something to keep in mind for those more vertically challenged ladies among us.
A real classic motorcycle is one that is 40 years old or older. These motorcycles are living embodiments of the old saying, “They don’t make them like that anymore.” As with all classics, they generally require more maintenance and don’t run as smoothly. Keeping this in mind, classics are an excellent starter for those with a little bit of a mechanical mind and someone who is willing to put in the work.
The Royal Enfield bullet is the epitome of a classic motorcycle. They were first released in 1931 and have stood the test of time. There is a range of models available if you can find them. These Motorcycles are now considered a collector’s item so it will be more expensive than most beginners are willing to spend. They are, however, built to last; if you take good care of them, they might outlive you.
I was set on having a sports bike for my first motorcycle. I refused to even look at any other style, now I have a naked bike and absolutely love it.
Naked bikes refer to the type of motorcycle that is something between a cruiser and a sports bike. The riding position is quite upright, but the style is quite sporty
The Hyosung Comet gt250 is somewhat of a newcomer to the naked bike game being first released in 2005. Hyosung is a Korean motorcycle brand, and while not as well known or respected as Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, or the other big motorcycle names, the Comet 250 is worth taking a second look at.
The Comet is a very reasonably priced bike for what you get. The gt250 has a very similar frame to the 650 version, meaning it feels very solid on the road for a motorcycle with a smaller engine. They handle well around the bends, and because it has no fairing, they are much easier to work on than some other types. A negative we have noted is, as with most other Hyosung bikes, the finishing touches aren’t as nice as many other 250s in its class.
Scooters have somewhat of a bad reputation in the motorcycle world. Still, no one can deny they are the only place to start for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable on a bike just yet. Scooters come in all sizes from the 50cc scooter you see hooning around the town to the Aprilia SRV 850, the world’s most powerful scooter. Scooters are generally very user friendly with an automatic transmission fitted in most modern scooters nowadays. They are great for around-town trips, often very fuel-efficient, and in some countries, you don’t even need a motorcycle license to ride one.
When it comes to scooters, you just can’t beat a Vespa. They have a classic look that hasn’t changed much over the years. They are reliable, fun to ride, and none encompass these features more than the Vespa Sprint 150.
These little scooters are a combination of the classic look mixed with modern technology. They are designed with a smaller frame, which is great for parking in the city, and a high-mileage, low-emission engine makes them greener than most motorcycles. They are light-weight and very easy to maneuver.
The main downside of these is the fact that, as Vespa is so popular, they are often more expensive than other scooters of their class.
The Short Version
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a motorcycle, and although gender is not one of them, there are still some things we ladies should be extra aware of. Make sure you are choosing a motorcycle that fits you, where you can rest your feet flat on the ground and don’t have to strain for any levers.
Even though riding something twice as heavy as you may be a breeze, wheeling it out of the garage might be your downfall, if you choose a bike that’s too heavy for you to maneuver comfortably.
At the end of the day, your first motorcycle properly won’t be your last. A starter bike is all about learning what you feel comfortable with and gaining basic skills while building your confidence.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best starter motorcycle for a woman?
There is no best starter motorcycle for women. There are some factors that may be relevant to more women than men and therefore there are some motorcycles that meet more women’s needs than others.
What is the best engine size for a woman to learn on?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to any learner rider. The general consensus is any motorcycle with an engine under 600cc will probably be suitable for most men and women to learn on. It is important to note that horse-power plays a very big role in the motorcycle’s ability to get up and go. You can have a relatively small engine that puts out a lot of horsepower so therefore wouldn’t be suitable for most learners.
How can I meet other women riders?
Although the motorcycle industry is dominated by men, there are more and more ladies joining every year. An excellent way to interact with fellow women riders is by joining some groups, both virtual like through Facebook or physical.