What to really look for in a first motorcycle! Or first bike in a while!
Hi everybody, it’s Peter and in this video we’re gonna talk about beginner bikes. And beginner bikes are kind of an interesting class of bikes because I don’t subscribe to the theory that every bike is a beginner bike and then you have to move on and you outgrow and we’ll talk about that. But what this video’s really gonna talk about is things I wish I knew and other riders kind of wish they knew when they were starting out. So whether you are starting out in motorcycling or whether you are returning to it, we’re gonna talk about some of the things to look for that I think some of the other videos don’t point out when they talk about beginner bikes. So I’m gonna move through three examples of bikes that you could consider as a beginner, but really these are just examples to have talking points.
So even if I’ve moved on to a bike that you’re not interested, you may wanna stay on this video as we talk about some various things that you may want to be aware of as you look for your beginner bike or your return to riding bike. Now I just wanna thank Jim Gilbert’s PowerSports who gives me complete access to their entire vehicle lineup. And that helps us make videos for you because if you have a question that I don’t get to in this video, feel free to let me know when the comments below because I want to continue to answer those questions, create a little bit of a conversation and subscribe to the channel because I’ll continue to make more videos based on your comments and we’ll try to build a little community here of answers that we can help out everybody as a community.
From here you can watch Peters Video by clicking YouTube or read his transcript… enjoy…
let’s get going with the review. So the first thing I want to get outta the way is there’s going to be a term thrown around with new riders that say you don’t want to outgrow a bike or buy a bike that you’re just gonna outgrow. And it’s a term I don’t use, it’s a term that was created by people wanting to sell more bikes. The idea is start on a small bike and in two years we’ll sell you the next bike. It’s not accurate in 2023 and the bikes I’m gonna show you today are bikes that experience riders would be perfectly happy keeping. There are several reasons to move on from your beginner bike, but we’re not gonna talk about outgrowing a bike because it’s just a term that doesn’t exist. This bike is plenty, plenty capable as are there other ones in here and they are bikes that you could absolutely enjoy for a long, long period of time.
What you will find though, is a beginner bike is a great bike to discover the type of motorcycling that you want to do and you wanna get something that’s versatile enough to kind of fit what you want and then you can decide if you want to keep that bike or if you wanna move on to another bike. Or in a lot of cases what people like to do is keep their first bike and get a second bike. Now that’s not feasible for anyone, uh, for everyone, but it is something worth considering. So the ones I’m gonna show you today are bikes that I genuinely believe you will not outgrow. And really I don’t like that term at all. There are some bikes that are underpowered and you may wanna bike with more power. These ones here are all bikes that I think you could be happy with for a long, long time.
So let’s start with the Z400. We’re also gonna look at the KLX 300 and the Vespa 300 is in here. And again, even if you’re not interested in a scooter, stay on through the videos. We get to that because there’s some things that I’ll point out that you may not have thought about with your beginner bike that may be worth considering. And it’s just easier to point out on a Vespa. So I film in Canada, I’m gonna refer to this as the Z400. It may be the Z400 in your area and that’s cool. It is what it is.
This and the Ninja 400, which are based on basically the exact same architecture, are the two bikes that I recommend as beginner bikes most often. Now again, beginner bikes can kind of vary. It depends on what you want, but the nice thing with this is these are twin cylinder 400 cc and in the Kawasaki world these are very high powered for compared to the class. So there are several bikes that are, you know, for instance from Honda and other manufacturers that are 500 cc and they actually don’t make the power that this one makes. So the biggest thing with this bike is it kind of has a good mix of everything you could want in motorcycling. Now if you plan on doing a real mix of on and off road, this isn’t the bike for you, but for everything else, everything on road, this is a really good beginner bike.
So you’ve got a couple things going for you. The twin engine we talked about, it’s very powerful, um, but it’s very controllable so it’s not gonna overwhelm you, but it is a good bike. Again, that’s gonna give you enough power. And sometimes moving to a bigger bike, you’re adding a lot of weight and you don’t actually gain any more speed. And that’s one thing that people forget to point out. You know, they talk about engine size but they don’t talk about weight. And this is a fairly light bike at 364 pounds or so. Uh, that’s pretty light. It also has a fairly low seat height, low seat height. You know, there’s pros and cons to that. A lot of people will talk about a low seed height for a beginner because it gives you some more confidence and I kind of agree with that. So I’m about six feet tall, I think I have a 32 inch or so in seam and you can see, I can easily sit on this.
I know people you know, much, much shorter than me that sit on this and are very comfortable. And the nice thing with this and the Ninja 400 is a lot of sportier bikes put you way leaned over in an uncomfortable position. And the first thing you want to keep in mind when you’re a beginner is you want to have something that is comfortable to ride so that you can get used to things. The other thing is when you’re wailing over like this, it’s a little harder to get used to looking around you. You have to be a little bit more aware. There’s some skills there when you’re sitting upright, it’s kind of just like standing or sitting. It’s very easy to look around you. It’s very easy to be safe. The Z 400 has mirrors that are up here on the handlebar that’s gonna give you, with the mirrors closer, a little wider angle view than the Ninja 400, which puts ’em out on the faring.
The reason the Ninja 400 has ’em out on the faring is cuz when you’re in your tuck position, like you would be on a race track or something like that, those mirrors are still in front of you. Whereas here, if you’re in a tuck position, they’re beside you and they’re no, you know, they’re not really that usable from that position. So this is good. We’re gonna zoom in a little closer here to some of the things I like on the dash that I think make an advantage, give you an advantage as beginner. And then we’re gonna move on to some of the other bikes as well. So taking a look at the Zed 400, one of the things you’ll like about a bike like this is it has what’s called handlebars instead of clip-ons. Now clip-ons are pieces that come up here and they don’t really have this bar going all the way through.
They function the same from where your hands are. But a handlebar might be handy if you’re a newer rider just because you have things like uh, navigation system on your phone. You can clip things on the handlebars as far as an accessory a little easier than you can on other, uh, bikes with clip-ons. So the Ninja 400 would have the clip-ons and the handlebar is just kind of nice for that seating position is is very similar. Taking a look at the dash, let’s zoom in a little bit here. Simplicity is the key with a new rider, you don’t want something that’s overly complicated. You want to have the information you need and not be distracted by the things you don’t. So that’s one of the reasons I actually advocate for not putting your phone on the dash. When you very first start writing, keep that away.
But again, as you get used to things, that’s something where you can sort of grow into and have that there. But simplicity is very good. So you have a tachometer here which tells you how fast the engine’s going. Of course you can shift uh, based on that. You have a gear indicator in the center of the dash here, which I think is really important for a newer rider. Just gives you a general sense of where you’re in. A lot of us, uh, who have learned right before gear indicators were pretty common. Uh, you know, you were always told you gotta do it the old school way. You gotta know what gear you’re in just based on the revs. But that’s harder. It takes more thinking. Gear indicator is a really nice thing on a beginner bike and a speedometer and that’s it. You don’t want, I mean you’ve got a triple odometer in here, regular odometer, you’ve got a temperature gauge, you’ve got a fuel gauge.
All those things are important. The clock of course is important, but you wanna make sure that uh, you have those kind of three things to me if you’re riding a manual transmission motorcycle, unlike the Vespa, which we’ll talk about in a second. So nice and clear, easy to read gauges, it should be simple to read and that’s really all you should be looking for is those basic things. So looking at the back end of the bike here, there’s a couple things I really like about the Zed 400, which is the same thing as the Ninja 400. It has a backseat here. If you’re a new rider, you really shouldn’t be taking people out too early. But you can use that backseat for things like luggage. And you can see down here, the foot peg folds away. You have a little hook right here and you have a little hook right here.
Having those hooks allows you to strap various luggage pieces onto this rear seat up top here. And that allows you to really do a lot of things that you wouldn’t think you’re gonna do as a beginner. A lot of time you think about, you know, just riding around town, going to see friends, going to you know, work and getting around that way. But as you get comfortable with a bike, you’re gonna want to go on longer tours and if you do that you’re gonna need to take things with you. Whether it’s just food, snacks, water, those kind of things or overnight clothes, something like that. You have the ability to strap things on here to the Z400, which gives you an ability to have this bike for longer than you mate have some of the other bikes. As far as safety features on an entry level bike, one thing that I think you should look for on a street going bike, a road going bike is abs and this bike has that.
ABS is just nice because it allows you to do emergency braking without having to go back to your training and think you can just react sometimes. So if you were to jam on the front brake jam on the rear brake on this bike, it’s going to prevent the wheels from locking up, which will help you stay balanced and it can prevent an accident. So again, don’t rely on that as your emergency braking technique, but if something comes out in front of you and you do make the mistake of grabbing too much front brake, too much rear brake, having abs can really help you, uh, stay safe in that environment. So basically this gives you a really good road going package. The one reason that you won’t quote outgrow this bike is because it offers something that a larger bike will never give you. It offers a really lightweight handling package that’s very, very unique to drive.
So if you think of like certain cars like a, like an indie racing car with not, not extra, no extra body work, really lightweight and corners really well. As you get into things that look like, you know, road going cars and those kind of things, they add all that body work and all that weight they handle differently. And this bike can really teach you how to ride, teach you how to sport ride as well. You can take it to the track, you can compete in various classes that are made for this type of bike and you can take it on the road and learn skills quicker. Now there are people say, Hey, I outgrew this bike in two months. They’ve said that in my comments section. They’re wrong. They don’t do that. I’ve seen people who are experienced rider who can absolutely crush faster bikes, more powerful, better bikes in in a lot of ways, uh, on this bike because the simplicity to this minimalism is the key with a beginner bike.
You wanna be comfortable in the seat and you want to have something that can really help you learn but also gives you something unique. And again, when you move to a bigger bike, you’re gonna lose things on here that you’ll never get back and that’s why a lot of people like to ride these bikes even as experienced riders. Let’s move on to one other bike before we go onto to the scooter and top of some things that you can look for in that bike that aren’t in here. So next up we’re gonna look at the KLX 300. Now there are options within this lineup. There’s a two 30 as well a KX two 30 which is a little bit smaller. Engine has a little bit less power and the two 30 s also available in a shorter or lower to the ground height, which may make a difference.
The one drawback with a bike like this, this is a dual sport bike so it looks like a dirt bike but it’s also capable of going on the road. The drawback is this higher seat height. So that’s one thing you have to keep in mind is, is this going to work for you? Uh, if you’re a shorter rider it may be more difficult to to learn but this is a great bike that is about 62 pounds lighter than the very light Zen 400. So it’s a very easy bike to move around. It’s a very easy bike to handle. The wide bars give you a lot of control and when we talk about going on-road or off-road, even though these are dirt tires, most of the time if you’re a beginner, you’re not going to reach the limit of a Zed 400 or Ninja 400 in a cornering situation on the street.
So for a lot of people this is perfectly sporty on the road but it really gives you the advantage of going off-road. And if you think about the adventure class of bike, which is a hugely growing uh, class of bike in the entire motorcycling segment, this is kind of like a mini adventure bike. Now strapping luggage onto this is gonna be a little tougher than a true adventure bike, but we can show you a few things in here and if you’re considering sort of a little bit more adventuring, a little bit more light off road, the versus X 300 is another bike you can consider. That’s one I have not reviewed yet. So the Z 400 Ninja 400, I have a number of reviews on the four or the versus 300 x I will be reviewing uh very soon as well. But in this class you gain a few things. n Vespa
A really wide handlebar gives you a really precise control. If you’re used to riding a dirt bike, you’re gonna be able to get on this right away and get used to it. Now as far as an engine goes, the ninja is a two cylinder bike with 400 cc. This is a single cylinder bike with 300 cc. So with single cylinder bike is gonna give you a lot of torque, a lot of that pushing, pulling power that kinda gets you up to speed. It feels really peppy at lower revs, uh, compared to the ninja which is good in the mid-range and up high, this one will run outta steam up high. So if you want to go a hundred fifty, a hundred sixty, a hundred seventy kilometers an hour somewhere like a racetrack or somewhere else, you’re not doing that here, which means you have a little bit more reserve speed on the highway on a Z400 Ninja 400 compared to this.
But there is no road you can’t go on gravel road, dirt road, even a trail and you can go between those trails on a bike like this. So really a good advantage there. Again, jumping on it, I’m about six feet tall. Same thing getting as much taller. The suspension does compress so sometimes in the spec sheet it’ll show you a certain seat height. This one compresses much more than something like the Zed 400. So I’m not quite flat footing but I’m just about flat footing on a bike like this, which means that that seat height does compress from what it’s listed as in the spec sheet. Let’s take a quick look at the dash and then we’ll keep moving on. Alright, glancing of the dash here, I really quite like it. Something like the um, adventure bike, which is the klr from Kawasaki does not offer a tachometer.
This one still has a tachometer. You can see it just a zip across the top there when I turn it on. But it does not have a gear position indicator, which is something I do like for a beginner bike. But again, many, many, many people learn to ride without a gear position indicator. So you can get used to that. It’s just a little bit of a knock against this one. But again, very, very versatile bike. Very, very lightweight. And the benefit of a bike like this as well is if you run into a situation where maybe you are in an off-road situation and you drop the bike, very easy to just pick this up and keep going without a whole lot of damage. Taking a look at the backseat area of this bike, this one has a toolkit area which is mostly empty. So you can certainly put your wallet, your phone, other things in there and that is connected to the bike.
It’s not going anywhere but you can see just underneath here these two little tabs there. Again, you can strap luggage here. This one has a higher up exhaust just for off-roading. That’s what they do. But you can still strap luggage in this general area. So you can still take your daily gear with you with these extra tie downs. And I think those tie downs are something that’s important to look for. Two final things I want to talk about with this bike are the fuel tank and abs. Let’s start with the fuel tank. Fuel tank on this is 7.7 liters. That’s a little bit small and the benefit to that is when you have a fuel tank on a motorcycle that is large and you fill it up, it does change the weight of the bike. Something like the versus six 50 that I used to drive had a 23 or something like that.
Liter tank 21 liter tank I think it is. And when you add 21 liters up high on a bike, it changes the fuel from when the fuel’s empty to when the fuel’s full 7.7 liters up here. It’s gonna be consistent whether it’s empty or full, it’s not the end of the world but it does give you a little bit less range. Now again, it’s a single cylinder, it’s gonna give you very good fuel efficiencies so you still have pretty good range but the uh, the um, Zed 400 has about 14 liters. So it’s significantly larger fuel tank over there. So fuel tank a little smaller, it is what it is and that’s okay. Now a BS brakes are something that I did recommend, but if you’re gonna do get an off-road bike, there are many off-road situations where you actually don’t want a b s and this particular bike doesn’t have a b s.
So depending on how you’re riding, you may not want a b s if you’re going off-road. So that’s something to keep in mind as well. So now let’s talk about the Vespa as a beginner bike. Now for some of you you may be tuned out, I don’t want a scooter and that’s totally fine, but just hear me out because there’s a lot of benefits to a bike like this which may be something you want to consider when you’re getting a motorcycle. So again, first of all with a Vespa, you’re not getting that motorcycle image. For some people that’s a huge plus. Couple other benefits with a something like a Vespa like this, this one has no manual transmission. It is literally just twist and go and there’s a lot of different vespas, a lot of different scooters, a lot of different uh, you know, ways to do a a vehicle like this.
But this one is the top of the line Vespa, it has 300 ccs and it is fully highway capable so that is something worth considering. And scooters are, there’s one key thing to beginners. If you are someone who wants to take a second passenger on a regular basis as a newer rider or on a smaller displacement bicycle motorcycle or something like that, this is going to be the best way to do that. Your rear seat on a scooter is very comfortable. This one happens to have an accessory um, case back here, which we’re gonna talk about in a second. But you can see that backrest there allows ’em to feel very, very secure. And on this 300 model you have foot pegs that jump nice and out from the uh bike. So they are better foot pegs, better seating position and you still have plenty of space as a driver.
So if you see, if I sit across here as a driver in a very comfortable position, you have that entire seat, actually the bump goes up to here so I could come back to here. That entire seat there is wide, it’s cushy, it’s comfortable and you can fit that second person. And having that backrest in place is really something I recommend if you’re gonna take a passenger because as the bike leans left and right, this is going to guide your passenger more so than just the way you leave. Sometimes you might lean into a corner or out of a corner more, they’re gonna stay steady with the bike and that makes the bike easier to handle as long as they kind of stay flushed to that. So as a two person touring beginner bike scooters are really good. Now there’s a couple other little features I wanna show you right now which you may wanna consider for your motorcycles but you’ll have to do them in different ways than the scooter does it.
So here’s a look at the seat. If you didn’t take a close look at the Z400 or the KX 300, you probably don’t have to do much imagining to figure out that this is much larger. But the other big benefit is right here. It’s very difficult to find storage on a bike and storage on a beginner bike basically does not exist. This fits two helmets in here and uh, it’ll easily fit all of your gear when you’re driving for a day and that’s something to consider. If you are someone who commutes to school, goes to work, goes into the grocery store and wants to use your motorcycle for a lot of running around, you may find that something like a Vespa is something that you are going to use far more often because of the convenience of this. Now if you want a motorcycle, there are limited motorcycles with different bags.
Some bikes come with bags like the versus uh uh, versus X 300 which we talked about, which I will review reviewing later. It has side bags as well. But you have this space in here and one of the nice things about this is because it does fit a helmet is you’re always gonna be wearing a helmet. You don’t have to take that helmet in with you and you’ve got a big space right here. It’s also very common to have a top case. Let’s talk about that top case for a second. I’ve never seen a top case like this on a Z400. I don’t think you can even get one for a klx, but something like this on a Vespa is very common. Makes a ton of sense. It gives you some weather resistance and again, lockable storage that’s very large. Again, full face helmet, no problem.
Even a weekend’s worth of gear, clothing, that kind of thing. You could easily do trips on this bike and go through country roads, go through main highways and take a passenger and take everything you need with you, which is a really nice thing to have. If your main idea of motorcycling is taking those weekend trips or going out to uh, small towns and stopping by various shops and grabbing something to take back with you, this gives you the option along with that undersea storage. You could leave with just your undersea storage full of your day stuff and you could buy stuff along the way and take it home with you in this top case. And again, top cases work very well on scooters and give you a lot of flexibility If you are considering a scooter. The one big difference as well is of course the ability to step through.
Now if you have some mobility issues with throwing a leg over something that’s larger, this can be something that’s also worth considering. It is very comfortable and very square sitting like this. Now in a sportier riding environment, a lot of people like to sort of grab the tank of their motorcycle with their legs. This one is perfectly fine but you will notice there’s sort of a limit to the sporty feeling. You’ll still lean in turns, it’s still a whole lot of fun but it does feel a little different than a motorcycle. You also have great weather and wind protection, which again can be harder to find on entry level bike. Those narrow bikes that I showed you before, you will feel some wind on your legs, which here you can really kind of tuck in behind. You can even get a windshield here and protect your body from that blast of wind.
And it kind of all fits together on a scooter. So again, windshields may be something you wanna look for. A big an air bike, you can add them to certain bikes, you can’t to other bikes, you could do it to something like this on a scooter. So all of those things are gonna be things that you want to keep in mind and really I don’t find any need for a windshield on most riding, but if you’re doing a lot of higher speed riding, it absolutely takes some wind blast away and it can be helpful as well. Before we move on from the scooter ride, I’ve gotta show you one really cool thing about Vespas and Vespas don’t have sort of the two fork tubes on here. So you get to see the wheel here, it’s pretty cool looking. It does have abs brakes on this model so you do have that for the street.
The wheels are smaller, that’s something you’re gonna have to keep in mind with uh, really heavily pothole area. But scooters are actually decent on little dirt roads as well. So uh, you could ride on that and you do have usually good tread here for all weather, which is something to keep in mind as well. So let’s do a quick recap. The Z400 is the bike that I most often recommend, especially for people who are planning on doing their motorcycling on the street. It gives you a really good variety. Now if you want a cruiser bike, you may wanna start on this and then move to a cruiser bike because this really teaches you about the maneuverability, the handling, just the seating position is more fun to learn that handling. You get a real good sense of feedback. But the Vulcan s is a bike I’ve also reviewed it is a 650 cc bike. . But this is going to teach you the most on road riding type stuff and you can really do it all. You wanna go for a long tour on this. You can strap some luggage on, you could do it, but again, single person bike. This one here, if you are looking to do any kind of off-roading at all, the KLX 300 is amazing. 300 gives you enough power to keep pace on the bigger highways. You can move to a two 30 if you want something a little bit less expensive, a little bit, uh, lighter as well. And if you need something’s a little shorter that two 30 s is an option. But the KLX 300 really gives you a mix and it really shines off roads.
So if you plan on doing a lot of off-road riding and just wanna go with the roads in between, this is gonna be a really good option. Keep in mind it’s also the lightest bike here. If you want to take two people on a bike, that is a smaller displacement bike that’s not too expensive on insurance cuz that’s the other thing to keep in mind with the bigger displacement comes higher insurance rates, the Vespas are really good options and other scooters as well. They sell, uh, Liberty Scooters here, which are up to one 50 cc. They sell all sorts of Piaggio scooters and Vespa scooters here at Jim Gilbert’s Wheels and Deals. And you can compare them even in the middle of the winter here. The final thing you wanna think about is if you are a new rider, I’m filming this in January and if you’re in anywhere where there are seasonal issues, like for instance it’s snowing outside and your motorcycle season is shorter, keep in mind that you probably want to get booked for your license soon.
If you wait till May. Everybody else does the same thing and then it’s harder to book those things. So keep in mind arranging with your insurance company, arranging with your license, uh, uh, situation, that can be the complicated process. The motorcycle not always that hard. So there’s three options and I probably didn’t cover everything. If there’s things you want to know, let me know in the comments below and I’ll continue to make more videos on beginner bikes and other motorcycles. And if you wanna see these bikes in person, swing by Jim Gilbert’s PowerSports and they’ll help you select one that’s perfect for you.