When I first thought of compiling a beginner sport bike list, I thought, “Hey, what’s the big deal? I’ve been riding for a while; this shouldn’t be too hard.” But I didn’t realize how difficult it would be until I actually started to think about. I realized that the options for first time sport bike riders are truly limited. All I really have to do is go back to when I was looking for my first sport bike to remember that. I went to a few motorcycle dealers in town and I sat on various bikes such as the GSX, R1, R6, Ninja, and several other sport bikes, and they all had one recurring theme, an inherent feel to them that screamed, “Go fast!” I can see why manufacturers do this, however. It is all strategic, an effort to sell the maximum number of bikes as possible. It seems that first time riders are more prone to want something bigger, better, and faster, feelings that stem from subliminal and very obvious messages we get in society. But this is only part of the story. If manufacturers actually made an effort and offered beginner sport bikes that had that same feel, but with less umph, then they could also monetize off of the beginner sport bike niche. But that’s enough rambling; let’s move on to the bikes!
1. Suzuki SV650
I list this bike first for a few reasons. First off, I owned a 2nd generation SV650S and truly loved it. And second of all, despite its status as a 600CC + bike, it won’t get you in trouble like the other 600CC + bikes such as the GSX or Ninja. Compared to these bikes, the power output of the SV doesn’t come close, pushing about 72.5 hp and 47.2 ft lbs of torque and utilizing a v-twin engine design with electronic fuel injection.
2. Kawasaki Ninja 250R
This bike had to make the list. Kawasaki first made the 250R in 1983 and has been popular ever since. The generations prior to the 2008+ generation have all been mediocre in design and left much to be desired. But the revamped 250R is much more aesthetically pleasing, finally bringing it out of the 80’s and 90’s. And with peak torque at 16.2 ft lbs, there isn’t much of a chance for you to get into serious trouble with this bike, making it perfect for beginners wanting to get into the sport bike scene.
3. Suzuki GS500
The GS500 is a great first bike. The pre-2004 models are plain old naked sport touring bikes and have a good balance of performance, fuel efficiency, and aesthetics. However, if you want a bike that looks more like a sport bike, then check out the GS500F, a fully faired version of the GS500 that debuted in 2004 after a one-year break in production. Power is also limited with this bike, sitting at 47 hp and 29.5 ft lbs of torque. Again, enough power to have a little bit of fun, but nothing outrageous that will get you killed.
4. Honda VF500F Interceptor
The VF500F is perhaps the epitome of the 1980’s era sport bike. This is because of the unmistakable exterior styling of that generation, mainly the three tone color scheme that screams 1980s! This bike is comparable in power to the SV but utilizes a parallel v-twin setup instead of a single v-twin configuration. For power it sits at 70 hp and 31.7 ft lbs of torque. Again, enough to have fun, but not comparable to modern sport bikes running 10 seconds in the quarter from the factory. This bike was proceeded by the CBR600F Hurricane in 1987, another classic, but not suitable as a beginner sport bike.
5. Yamaha FZR 250R
I had difficulty adding a #5 to the list but decided on the Yamaha FZR 250R, a Japan only bike that was imported by illegal means in small quantities. It was designed as a race replica with a high revving, 4 cylinder engine. Power and torque aren’t that impressive for a 4 cylinder, 45hp and 18 ft. lbs respectively, but makes up for it in weight savings. It only weighs a little over 300 lbs, creating a power to weight ratio of 6.84, which is rather impressive. But don’t hold your breath on getting an FZR anytime soon as they are rather difficult to come by.
General Tips for Buying a 1st Sport Bike
- Find a bike that is comfortable to ride. If you have to hunch over to reach the handlebars, then consider something else until you become accustomed to riding a sport/touring bike.
- Make sure the bike is tame. You will not be able to handle a 1000cc bike, I promise you! I jumped on a friends GSX1000 for about 2 minutes once and it scared the hell out of me. I pulled it over right away and got back on my bike (SV).
- Get a fuel injected bike if you aren’t familiar with carbs. Having to deal with clogged carburetors is not a fun task. Spend your time riding, not trying to get the bike to run.
- Take a Motorcycle Safety Course (MSF) provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The course is about 2-3 days long, is free, and you learn a lot about various riding techniques that could save your life. I highly recommend taking the course! What’s more is that you get your Motorcycle license just for taking this course!