The start of the rider training season means graduates will be shopping for first bikes. Some will follow the long-recommended advice of “buy small, buy used” for their first road machine, wisely realizing they’ll probably have a drop or other mishap while getting some initial miles under their butts. Others will opt for a new bike, but will still wisely buy a small, under 500cc motorcycle to get some experience before trading up.
With overall participation in riding dropping as baby boomers age out, manufacturers are finally acknowledging that they need attractive new small models to entice replacement riders; models that will work in urban areas in both function and appearance because that’s where so many young people prefer to live.
Honda last week announced that its bringing the “user-friendly” CB300R to the United States. The 286cc, single-cylinder model will be available in red and gray and in ABS and non-ABS versions. With a 31.5-inch seat height, it weights only 313 pounds (317 for ABS version). The base price is $4,649, with the ABS set at $4,949.
For those seeking something just a tad sportier, Kawasaki’s Ninja 400 is an entry-level sport bike with bigger bike looks. Kawasaki has upsized the Ninja 300 from last year but kept the starting price of the 399cc Ninja 400 at $4,999. The ABS version is $5,299. The Ninja 400 has a 399cc, parallel twin engine and 31-inch seat and weighs in at 362 pounds.
BMW’s effort to lure novice riders began with the G 310 R roadster and this year adds a 313cc, 34-horsepower GS version. It’s designed for more adventuresome riding on dirt roads, etc. with a high seat height of 32.9 inches. It weighs a bit more, too, at 370 pounds. Prices start at $5,695.
Royal Enfield’s new Himalayan model is a 411cc, 24.5 horsepower adventure bike that starts at $4,499. It’s off-road styling and price are attractive, and Royal Enfield has been working on build quality. This model could be a major hit for the brand from India or a headache if issues develop. Its seat height is 31 inches and it weights 410 pounds.
Finding small models isn’t as much of a challenge as it once was. While Indian doesn’t have an entry-level bike, Harley-Davidson does have a starter model in the Street 500. It’s the smart beginner who gets some seat time on something manageable before buying that dream bike.
– By Bud Wilkinson