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What should you buy as your first bike?

Motorcycle Historical first
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Selecting your first bike is important as a good experience will lead to a lifetime of joy, while a bad experience may end your two-wheel career.

I’m often asked by young people what bike they should buy first up.

Thankfully, there is a wide choice now with the Learner-Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS).

However, the options they give me lead me to believe they want me to make a lifestyle choice for them, rather tell them which is the best of a particular type.

For example, I was asked by a young wannabe rider whether they should buy a Kawasaki Ninja 300 or a Kawasaki Versys 650L.

Clearly they were in love with the lime green brand, but their problem was the type of bike and riding they wanted to do.

Instead, I expected he would ask which is the best in the 300cc sports bike range or which is the best learner-approved adventure bike.

My answer to this question would have been that it really doesn’t matter. Bikes these days are pretty close on spec and very competitive on price.

Often, it will come down to your choice of brand.

If you really want that exotic brand such as Ducati, Harley or BMW, you are in luck as they all have LAMS options.

So here are my five tips:


first bikeDon’t buy a cheap Asian knockoff model. Buy a known brand with a reputation for reliability, a good dealer network and warranty support.

During the scooter craze about a decade ago, a lot of cheap Chinese scooters flooded the market. They broke down and were discarded and a lot of would-be riders are now driving cars instead.


David Hinchliffe and his SYM scooter - Former politician regrets rider supportGet the cheapest of the known brands.

Sadly, you are likely to drop your bike or damage it in some way, even if it’s scuffing the tank with your belt buckle or the triple clamp with your keyring.

Veteran riders know not to do this, but you are bound to make some basic errors which leave your bike damaged.

Better to damage a cheaper bike than an expensive one.

Besides, you may only keep your learner bike a year or two before moving up.

That’s not because you will outgrow your bike.

LAMS bikes are up to 650cc and may suit you for some time. However, you may change your mind about what sort of riding you want to do or you may seek a more powerful bike.

And don’t blow your entire budget on the bike. You’ll need about $2000 for decent riding gear and insurance which will be hefty as you are a novice rider!

3 HEIGHTjake Dolan racer and learner rider at AMA training business Faith restored in QRide system first bike

Good riding training will inspire confidence on just about any bike height.

However, most novices feel more comfortable on a bike that is low enough for them to put both feet flat on the ground when stopped.

Check out our guide to seat heights:

You should also sit on the bike before buying. Two bikes with the same seat height will feel different. A narrower seat will make it easier to touch the ground.


Just as a low height can inspire confidence, so will a lighter bike.

Check the tech specs of the bikes you are considering and lean toward the lightest.

Again, like the seat, two bikes with the same weight can feel different.

A cruiser with a lower centre of gravity will actually feel lighter and have better balance than a sports or adventure bike with a higher centre of gravity.

2017 Harley-Davidson Street 500
2017 Harley-Davidson Street 500


Get it clear in your mind what you want to do with your bike.

Is it for commuting, cafe “racing”, showing off to your mates, touring, adventuring through the bush or weekend rides in the mountains.

There are bikes suitable for each purpose. There are also multi-purpose bikes that all do several of these, but they will always be a compromise.


Ask a friend or send us an email. Seek the advice of more mature riders, rather than your peers.