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Entry-Level Motorcycles: Rolling with Small Happiness

Continuing your search for an entry or re-entry-level motorcycle.

In the previous post we made our way from Aprilia to Honda. Up next are the rest of the ready-for-primetime-players in the U.S. motorcycle market.

Kawasaki make the Vulcan models and ANY of the 900cc (not truly a beginner bike, but if you are level-headed it’s acceptable) or under bikes are good for beginners. The “baby” Ninjas (my term- not Kawi’s) are next. The Ninja 250R looks like its big brother the ZX600R and it’s so mechanically sound that they even have their own race series in many different racing sanctioning bodies. They don’t put out tons of power, but they handle very good, stop as well as they handle and they are CHEAP to buy. The Ninja 650 and Versys 650 are the same motor and frame but the Versys is more like sitting on a cross between a standard motorcycle of the 80s and an adventure tour bike from this decade. The Ninja 650 was revised for 2012 and if you scan the internet you will hardly find a negative word on them. The KLR 650 and KLX250’s are great dual sport bikes. If you grew up on the dirt then you will be happy with these.

Moto Guzzi is an Italian brand and they don’t have a very large dealer network. What you get with Moto Guzzi is exclusivity. They make a couple of bikes worth noting. The Breva 750 which they do not import any longer but you can still find as a left-over new bike (Moto Guzzi no longer post this bike on their site. Please check the internet for photos and specs) and the V7. The V7 is a “retro” model. Modern technology with old school looks. Those seeking to be outside the box of Harley or Triumph would be well served to look into a V7 as a worthy alternative. Moto Guzzi’s are delivered to the USA with 2 year Factory Warranty and sometimes they run specials where you get free roadside assistance- a handy feature if you get a flat tire. Ask the finance manager at your dealership about that when you begin your research.

Suzuki Boulevard cruiser C & M 50 bikes are awesome little cruisers. The C is the “touring” model with saddle bags and windshield. The M is the “muscle” bikel low and lean looking. They put out the exact same power and sit on the same frame. They just serve different styles. Follow those up with the S40 (formally known as the Savage) The GZ250 is a tiny cruiser and is excellent if you have a teen that wants to learn and commute to school. It’s also an excellent bike for the mechanically inclined student. The TU250x is a great alternative if your legs are too long for the GZ. It’s a modern interpretation of a bike they made decades ago. Suzuki didn’t bring any Gladius or SV models over but there are left-overs. They are 650 cc bikes and although I don’t consider them “entry” bikes Suzuki does and they market them that way. The DRZ400S (it’s brother the DRZ400SM) are great starter bikes. The SM is no longer available as a 2012 version but new ones are out there- the SM is for supermoto (street tires on a dirt bike) and the DR650SE is a little more dirt oriented than the KLR. The DL650 V-Strom has two models and ABS is available. It’s Suzuki’s “adventure” bike, but it’s mostly street oriented and can roll long miles in total comfort. It has quite the cult following and an excellent choice when you want to ride two up.

Bonni.jpgTriumph makes the Bonneville line of bikes and all are excellent starting points for the money. They make them in different configurations. That said, go sit on all of them and see what fits you best. The one thing you should note is that Triumphs are delivered with a two-year factory warranty. Additionally, they hold their value well.

Yamaha has the V Star 950 and 250 cruisers. They are updated version of a bike they have made for 25yrs. The 950 models may seem out of line with the “entry level” designation but they are within reason for those that are re-entering riding after a long hiatus or the type of person that has reasonable control over their right hand (throttle hand). The 250 is a bike you will see on a lot of motorcycle training courses. They are very easy to learn on and for those that live in the inner city or are going to college they are great little bikes to tool around town. The WR, XT & TW are all versions of dual sport bikes and are all a blast to play with on and off road. Investigate carefully as they all do things slightly different from one another. So, it truly depends of the “type” of dual sporting you will do as to what will fit you best.

The last installment will cover the scooter craze, an obvious omission of the largest American motorcycle manufacturer’s line-up and why you should buy used as your first bike.


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