Best small motorcycle?

I’m thinking about getting a bike. I’ve never ridden before but I’m going to take a course. I’m not very tall (5’6"), but I’m pretty strong. I still think I want a little bike, but not something terribly underpowered. What are your experiences/opinions? I’m looking at the Honda Rebel 250, Honda CB250 Nighthawk, and Yamaha Virago 250.
Pros and cons?

A 250 is too small to be safe, especially if you are ever going to ride on a highway or commute in traffic. You need something with both more power (although today’s bikes may have more power per cc than the older bikes that I am used to) and more mass for stability.

I would not recomend anyone getting anything smaller than a 400 or maybe 350. Don’t think that you must get a small bike because you are not tall, I’m not tall either and I used to ride a Sportster. You just have to shop around to find one with a low enough seat. Don’t get any bike where you can’t put both feet flat on the ground, at least not for your first bike.

If you buy such a small bike you will probably trade it in for a bigger one anyway, so you will save money by getting the midsize bike now.

If you decide on a 500cc, the Virago 500 is awesome. Exactly the same as the 250 as far as design, etc, but a little more powerful.

I love the Honda Rebel 250 and am likely going to get one in the spring. I took the course and loved it. I used a Virago 250 during class, and it felt fantastic for me. I’m 5’4" and not very strong, but it handled like a dream and I touched ground very well.

Good luck to ya!


First off, as you mentioned take your course. Good for you!

Depends what you want. If you want something along the style of the Rebel, but more juice I would suggest a Suzuki Savage. I think they are a 600?650? (been a number of years since I rode one) single belt drive. A real nice little cruiser and easy to handle. Might be kind of tough to find though. I wouldn’t recomend anything larger than that for a first bike though. Normally, I wouldn’t even recomend a 600 but these are so damn easy to ride.

I also really liked the Honda Nighthawks. I think they made a 400-450 for a couple years too.

I just bought my first motorcycle. A Kawasaki ZR7S - 750cc. The Suzuki is a 650 but it was too small for my 6’1" frame.

You do not want a 250 unless you are only riding dirt trails. I would suggest at least a 500 or 650. The reason people advise you not to get a large engine is simply because with the power it is easy to ride over your abilities. However, that can only happen if you choose to let it happen. As I said, I’m a first time rider and the 750 is a fairly big bike. I have seen how quick it is and choose not to fire it up because I know that I cannot handle the acceleration or high speeds at my experience level.

Buy a bike whatever you do, it’s the most dependable fun I’ve ever had in my life ! :smiley:

You want a small bike? How about something like this:

I saw a small motorcycle the other day. About 8 inches high and almost 2 feet long, yellow. Some guy was riding it along a sidewalk. Yellow with body work like a ninja.

I’d also say that anything less than a 450 or so isn’t really safe in traffic. this one might work well for you

Good for you! Riding is about as fun as it gets fully clothed.

I took my lessons on a 250cc Suzuki, and while it certainly wasn’t high-powered, I would not call it so underpowered as to being dangeous. It still out-accelerates 90% of all cars and as to stability at speed, the engine ran out of speed long before instability became an isuse. So I wouldn’t sneer at the 250cc from a safety point of view. Granted, one couldn’t whip it through the twisties.

The fine gentlemen at motorcycle online are not crazy about the Nighthawk, but they do like the Virago:

If you decide that riding really is for you, you’ll want to upgrade in a season or two. So if you can get a good secondhand bike to start on, that’s really worth considering.

Let’s know what you decide, OK ?

S. Norman

PS: And all those who sneer at 250cc obviously never tried throwing a leg over the Aprilia RS250 two-stroke race replica - I owned one of those for a year and I’ve never had so much good, honest, lawbreaking, chainsaw-noisy, blue-smoking fun with a bike. Manifestly not a good bike to start out on, though.

Thats kind of a differant critter.

I always had you down for something a bit more fun than a cruiser.

How about a Honda 250 Jade, it’s an across the frame 4 cylinder, smooth and loads of fun and quite fast enough to deal with traffic, it is so light that the brakes work well and your can chuck it around like a scooter.

It really is a load of fun.

You could go for the CBR 250RR but you have to rev it mercilessly to get anywhere and it isn’t too comfortable.Brilliant handling though.

Don’t listen to those who say that 250cc’s ain’t enough, pick the right machine and they are plenty quick enough, nearly every 250 out there will pull away from any car 0 to 40 mph and there are two-stroke 250s capable of 140 mph such as the Suzuki RV250 and Aprilia RS250, wouldn’t recommend either for a first bike though as they require a lot of maintenance, have no engine braking are not very comfortable and you have to match revs to gears very carefully, absolute fun to ride and its a great feeling when you stuff a Fireblade down the inside on a tight corner.
Some of the bikes mentioned like the Virago and the Suzuki Savage(a misnomer if ever there was one) actully produce less power and are slower than many 250s but they have more torque which makes for a more relaxed ride, you don’t have to chase up and down the gears to keep up reasonable forward motion, handling is generally barge like when compared to many machines brakes are average.

I think you would quickly get bored with most 250s though so maybe moving up to 400cc is a better bet.

I would be more inclined to try out a Honda CB1/CB400 super four. Reliable, fun comfortable and a good half-way between race replicas and cruisers, it is a very conventional looking machine but a great learner.

On to the Honda RVF 400 series, this bike has been revised through differant versions which all look very similar.
These bikes are sold in Japan where a licence for a larger machine is very difficult to acquire and keep. The result is that 400cc machines are common in Japan and the only way to increase profit margins is to build these machines to a higher quality.The RVF s (designation NC30 through to NC 35) are jewel like in their quality, absolutely superb, the suspension bakes and handling are outstanding they can be tuned to extremes and still be reliable, many women in the UK buy them to keep up with their partners but often leave them behind as these things can zing down a twisty back lane like a zingy twisty thing.

The Honda CBR400 is also a good option, a.k.a the Baby 'Blade its easy to ride and is plenty fast enough.

Something else that might well suit you is the fairly new Suzuki SZ 650, which is a V-twin, light, handles well, stops well and is cheap, there are two versions faired and unfaired.
The unfaired one is more upright and better for town work as it has slightly lower gearing which helps it pull away at lower speeds better, the faired version is better for longer runs say 15 miles or above but both are great machines.

One bike that is also popular with the ladies is the Honda Hornet CB600 cause if its low seat height and user friendliness which can be as sensible or as mad as you want depending on your mood, it is a little thirsty and the fuel tank range is rather poor which spoils an otherwise good machine.

That bike should read Suzuki SV650 not SZ650

I’ve put almost 70,000 miles on my Yamaha XJ600 Seca II since I got it new in 1994. I’d say it’s one of the best small bikes out there. Okay, it’s bigger than 250cc; but I still consider it a small bike.

The Suzuki GS500E seems to be pretty good. I rode one once, and it was quite a change from the (relatively large in stature) Honda CX-500 I was riding at the time.

I’ve always thought the Honda 250 Rebel was cute, but I wouldn’t get anything less than 500cc if you want to get on a freeway.

Thanks for all the advice so far! Zette, how come you recommend the Virago 500 but say you’re gonna get a Rebel 250? Just curious.

You guys saying a 250 isn’t safe are daft.
I had a Honda NightHawk 250, and it was just fine for on road use. Even on the freeweay. It easily went over 75mph.
It was a blast to ride. I ride Harleys now, but I’ve owned quite a few Hondas in my life. I’m fond of their high quality.

I still advise to start with something bigger though.
Because you’re going to get board real quick with a bike that is only 250cc.

If you still really want the 250, buy a cheap used one, then be prepared to sell it after a little while.

I second the GS500E. That is my wife’s first bike. She’s 5’4", and pretty comfortable on it. I’m 6’2", and can ride it with no problems. Incidentally, one of my brothers got a newer GS500E recently, and I think he’s about 5’8".

It is a sporty little bike, easy to maintain, and more than powerful enough for a first bike. Suzuki’s been making them for 10 years now, so all the R&D costs are long since paid for. You can get them used and in good condition fairly cheap. There is a faired version, but all the ones I’ve seen are unfaired. Oh, it is a universal japanese machine; you look at it, and you think, “yep, that’s a motorcycle”. This may or may not appeal to you, given the bikes you’ve listed. Easy to toss around, and VERY forgiving. It does seem to get overlooked a little more in traffic than the faired bikes I’ve ridden.

My wife was a little short for my Yamaha Seca II, but I agree with Johnny LA that it is a great bike. A little heavy, though.

Would agree with casdave about grey import 400’s. I’ve had both a CBR400 and a VFR400 NC30 and they were both fantastic, and it doesnt hurt that the single sided swing arm and wheels on the NC30’s are an absolute work of art. If you’re looking for something with a traditional “sit up and beg” riding positon how about a Suzuki Bandit? Over here, I think the smallest capacity you can get officially get is 600cc, but grey import you can get 400’s and I think 250’s as well.

Good luck, and ride safe


Well, I love the Rebel- just the style and such, and they feel exactly the same to me. Virago makes a 250 also, which I would take as well. I go for a slightly lighter bike because I don’t ride on the highway, just back roads and such. It’s easier for me to handle a 250cc just because I don’t have much back strength. YMMV, but I love the Rebel.


Well, I love the Rebel-

Zette: You mean there’s a bike we both like??? :eek: :wink:

Ex-g/f bought a Seca II shortly after I got mine. She had to use her “tippy toes” (as she said) when she had both feet down, but she found it to be a vary comfortable bike for her. She was (and I guess she still is) 5’4".

One good thing about UJMs (Universal Japanese Motorcycles) is that they are fairly cheap. HYKS (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki) make their money on their sportbikes and big tourers and cruisers. The GS500E I saw recently had a list price of under $5,000 IIRC. The Nighthawk 750 is around the same. My Seca II listed at $4,500 in 1994, but I got it for $3,800.

I think the idea is to attract riders with a low “entry fee”, then try to sell them a more expensive ride when they outgrow the small bike. It seemed to work with the airplane companies. Someone who learned in a Cessna 150 might buy a Cessna 172, then upgrade to a 182, then look at the 210. Similar reasoning for Piper and Beechcraft. So it probably works the same way for bikes. Heck I learned on a Yamaha, and it’s been “my brand” since I was a kid.

Here is a list for you:

Buell - Blast, standard, 492cc single $4,395

Honda - Shadow VLX, cruiser, 583cc v-twin, $4999

Honda - Rebel, cruiser, 234cc twin, $2999

Honda - Nighthawk, standard, 234cc twin, $3399

Kawasaki - Ninja 500R, sport, 498cc twin, $5099

Kawasaki - Ninja 250R, sport, 248cc twin, $3299

Kawasaki - Vulcan 500 LTD, cruiser, 498cc twin, $4699

Suzuki - Savage, cruiser, 652cc single, $4299

Suzuki - GS500E, standard, 487cc twin, $4399

Yamaha - V-Star, cruiser, 649 v-twin, $5599

Yamaha - Virago 250, cruiser, 249cc twin, $3399
These are all current models good luck and ride safe.