Visordown's guide to big bikes for beginners

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Submitted by Tim Skilton on Mon, 01/07/2013 - 15:57

WHICH FIVE bikes would you recommend to a new rider once they've passed their test? Honda's Hornet, Yamaha's Fazer 600 and Suzuki's SV650 are all worthy contenders. Trouble is, not every wants, or is suited to a middleweight commuter.

Some riders are just too big and need something a little roomier, while others simply prefer the torque of a big capacity engine over a high-revving, bhp-sniffing 600.

We've listed five big bikes we think would be ideal for level headed beginners armed with enough nous to respect them. None of our chosen five are race reps, just big capacity machines that'd make a better proposition than a middleweight. Some models were made with optional ABS - worth considering for peace of mind.


Suzuki GSF1200 Bandit

(1996 - 2005)

Many training schools use Bandit 600s for Direct Access, so opting for the bigger 1200cc version shouldn't prove too much of a problem for new riders with enough skill.

The biggest difference when riding both bikes back-to-back is the 1200's extra grunt. The bigger engine only produces around 18bhp more than the 600 (98bhp against 80bhp) but it delivers almost double the torque, which makes it feel like a completely different bike, without feeling intimidating.

If you're tall and after a physically bigger bike then you may need to look elsewhere, as there's dimensionally little difference between the two.

Expect to pay as little as £1000 for an early, 30,000-mile Bandit, around £2500 for 2001 model with 18,000 miles showing and roughly £3750 for a pristine 2005 machine. Add around £300 for the semi-faired 1200S version.

Specs

Power 98bhp

Dry weight 211kg

Seat height 790mm

Insurance Group 13

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Honda CBF1000

(2006 onwards)

The CBF1000 must rate as one of the most new rider-friendly big bikes available today. It's easy work right from the off, thanks to a low seat (780mm - adjustable to 810mm), light clutch action and turbine smooth power delivery from the CBF's 96bhp, liquid cooled in-line four engine. The CBF steers with the sort of neutrality you'd normally expect from a bike half its size, making the Honda remarkably easy work for less experience riders.

Although it's similar in appearance to the CBF600, the CBF1000 isn't dimensionally much bigger - 6mm longer and 65mm wider to be exact - but it does weigh 28kg more than its little brother. Like the Bandits, it's torque that separates the 1000 from the little CBF - with the big bike producing over 40% more.

The CBF1000 was introduced in 2006, so there's no scope for finding an older example for peanuts - expect to pay around £4500 - £5000 for a low mileage 2006 model. Add £300 for ABS equipped models.

Specs

Power 96bhp

Weight 220kg

Seat height 780 - 810mm

Insurance Group 13

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BMW R1100R ABS

(1995 - 2003)

Not everyone's cup of tea but BMW's boxer range has a few bikes to suit less experienced riders. The naked R1100R uses BMW's 80bhp, 4-valves-per-cylinder version of the company's air-cooled flat twin. It delivers solid, predictable grunt from the off, which flattens off as the engine passes peak power, just shy of the redline. It's one of the most tractable, linear power units around.

The adjustable seat drops the saddle to a midget-sized 760mm on its lowest setting - good news for those of us under 5ft 8. However, it's no lightweight - a dry weight of 235kg means prospective buyers should be comfortable at slow speed manoeuvring, which is thankfully one of the BMW's fortes.

BMs hold their value better than their Japanese equivalents. Expect to pay £2000 - £2500 for an early 1995 model with almost 50,000 miles on the clock and an extra £4500 for a 20,000-mile 2001 machine.

Specs

Power 80bhp

Dry weight 235kg

Seat height 760 - 800mm

Insurance Group 11

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Kawasaki ZRX1200S

(2001 - 2004)

The ZRX1200S is one of those bikes that should probably have never made it into production. Some berk at Kawasaki thought it'd be a great idea to take the naked and rather beautiful ZRX1200R and slap on a gash-looking half fairing, robbing the bike of its macho 1980's looks. Naturally, the British public weren't impressed, as dealers struggled to shift the oddball machines, eventually punting a large number from showrooms at knockdown prices.

But the reality is the ZRX is a bloody good bike. What's more it's comfortable, has a grunty, reliable 120bhp motor and plenty of weather protection. The Kawasaki's big-capacity engine isn't as refined as Honda's CBF1000 but it delivers strong yet useable power right through the rev range. But even though the ZRX is a 120bhp powerhouse, it's surprisingly good at bimbling around town at slow speeds and the turning circle is excellent. If you can handle a CB500 on your test then you should find the ZRX a comfortable step up.

A decent 1200S can be sourced for as little as £1500 and low mileage, 2003/4 examples command as much as £3800.

Specs Power 120bhp, Dry weight 228kg, Seat height 790mm, Insurance Group 12

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Harley Davidson XL1200 Sportster

(1990 - 2006)

Those newcomers after a custom won't go far wrong with an XL1200 Sportster. The bike first appeared in the mid-1980s but we'd suggest hanging out for a post-1990 model as they came with a five-speed gearbox and low-maintenance belt drive.

The 1200 makes a fairly paltry 58bhp in standard trim, which isn't much more than your average 500cc DAS machine, so quote that one to your Mum if she says you're not having one. The Harley's 740mm seat height makes the 1200 a great option for the Paul Daniels brigade, making the bike seem lighter than its 256kg dry weight. If that's still too tall then the Sportster 1200 Low has a seat that's a mere 667mm off terra firma.

How much? An early 90's machine still commands around £2500, a late 90's bike would fetch nearer £3500 and a 2006 XL1200R would set you back almost £6000.

Specs

Power 58bhp

Dry weight 256kg

Seat height 740mm

Insurance Group 14

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Did you buy a big capacity machine for your first bike? Or maybe you think novices should stick to middleweight commuters?

 

WHICH FIVE bikes would you recommend to a new rider once they've passed their test? Honda's Hornet, Yamaha's Fazer 600 and Suzuki's SV650 are all worthy contenders. Trouble is, not every wants, or is suited to a middleweight commuter.

Article originally posted May 2008, updated July 2013

Some riders are just too big and need something a little roomier, while others simply prefer the torque of a big capacity engine over a high-revving, bhp-sniffing 600.

We've listed five big bikes we think would be ideal for level headed beginners armed with enough nous to respect them. None of our chosen five are race reps, just big capacity machines that'd make a better proposition than a middleweight. Some models were made with optional ABS - worth considering for peace of mind.

Continue reading Visordown's guide to big bikes for beginners

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