Fancy something different than the usual post-test hacks? Visordown offers up five big bikes for beginners
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.
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.
Dry weight 211kg
Seat height 790mm
Insurance Group 13
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.
Seat height 780 - 810mm
Insurance Group 13
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.
Dry weight 235kg
Seat height 760 - 800mm
Insurance Group 11
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
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.
Dry weight 256kg
Seat height 740mm
Insurance Group 14
Did you buy a big capacity machine for your first bike? Or maybe you think novices should stick to middleweight commuters?
Posted: 12/09/2007 at 15:07
Posted: 13/09/2007 at 12:58
Posted: 18/09/2007 at 10:04
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Posted: 30/09/2007 at 21:26
Biggest bike I ever owned was a RD250 back in 1981 and had not ridden any bike since for over 25 years
Made a return to motorcycling last year April with a Bandit 1200S
I had been a little concerned about what I had done when I first brought the bike , but the concerns were soon alleviated the first time I rode it, It just felt right . So easy to manouver and gave plenty of initial confidence whilst not being intimidating at all.
A handfull of throttle can quickly remind you of just what you are sat astride though and it can soon show you why it has a bit of a hooligan image ,
for a first big bike? why not, just treat it with respect.
Posted: 11/01/2008 at 01:50
Posted: 25/01/2008 at 23:01
Posted: 28/01/2008 at 21:22
Posted: 27/02/2008 at 07:29
This is an interesting article, not least due to the rather odd mix of bikes chosen.
Why the ZRX1200S and not the ZRX1200R? What makes the S version any more appropriate for a beginner, other than the fact that it's ugly?
Just about any of the big 'retro' bikes are as suitable as any of the bikes on this list. ZRX1100/1200, XJR, CB1300, GSX1400, the list goes on. All have really flexible engines, & go as fast or as slow as you want to. The only real drawback is weight, but the same could be said for any of the bikes in the article.
Posted: 27/02/2008 at 10:26
Posted: 28/05/2008 at 20:51
Didn't have a bike for 2 yrs after my DAS due to personal/work commitments, then bought a Honda CB600F2-Y half-faired Hornet. Hated it and sold it within weeks losing £500. It was far too small for a 6'3" guy, and I couldn't see anything but elbows in the mirrors without becoming some kind of contortionist! From the sitting up-right with excellent mirrors of the CB500 DAS training bikes which really inspired confidenced, the Hornet was a disaster... it shook my confidence and I felt vulnerable riding it. Have recently bought a 2006 Fazer 600 which I took for a 1 hr test-ride and it's spot-on. Full confidence is back and I'm loving every minute of it to the point of turning down extra shifts at work just to spend the day riding. Due to my extreme case of 'lack-of-self-control', the 600 does me fine at the moment, but my advice to any newly qualified riders is that just because your 500cc training bike was ok, don't assume a slightly bigger bike from that manufacturer will be the same. Whatever your bag is, make sure you get a good test-ride (not just a spin round the block), make sure you have plenty of room and are comfortable, but most importantly, make sure you can see clearly in the mirrors as to have full confidence when riding, you need to know what police/dizzy women/boy racers/general nutters are sitting on your ass!
Posted: 30/06/2008 at 23:13
Took my DAS after I retired 2 years ago at the age of 66, and then it was decision time. I'd always hankered after a big Harley, but the budget only allowed for a Sportster & I didn't think I'd be satisfied with the performance, so I took a test ride on a Buell Lightning & came back grinning. Terrified, but definitely smiling! Two years later & absolutely no regrets. It's a bit critical at a standstill due to leg length(!) but I love riding it & there's plenty of grunt to satisfy my ability & ambition!!
Maybe when I'm old enough (only 68 now), & if the lottery coughs up, I'll consider a Road King. Meanwhile, I'm taking the Buell to Spain with me....
Posted: 01/07/2008 at 11:49
As my first big bike (well I wouldnt count my MZ301 big before that illegaly on L plates pre-das) I got a '86 GPZ1000RX, cheap to insure, lots of power, didnt bother me to much if droped or broke anything. Once I had that droping and bolt rounding faze behind me got the ZZR11 and later the ZZR12.
I think for a first bike best to get something old to learn on, better than dropping your brand new bike eh
Posted: 01/07/2008 at 20:46
Ducati Monster! What I ride now after 18 years since passing my test and having gone through all the sportsbikes and raced for the past 7 years (current race bike is GSXR1000).
Monsters are light with quick steering. They have plenty of power for the road if you get a reasonable sized one (750 or above). I guess the only deterent to a newbie maybe that it needs kid gloves when it comes to getting it serviced / looked after. I have an air cooled one to overcome this problem somewhat .
My S2R 800
Posted: 31/07/2008 at 10:40
Atlas Riders are 5 biker mates that go on Ride Outs and capture the trips on camera. We've just started a website which documents our trips and has Bio pages which tell you a bit about us. The Sites not completely finished yet but is up and running with more pictures of Ride Outs, Past & Present Bikes and General Bike stuff being added as and when the other guys email them to me!! If you fancy checking it, I've put a link on the bottom of this post, feel free to check it out, if anyones local to us and fancies coming for a Ride with us, feel free to contact us via the "contact us" page. Like wise, if you know of any bike meets/events that happen and you're looking for bikers to attend let us know and if we can make it we'll rock up!
Posted: 12/08/2008 at 16:12
I thought It would unleash mayhem at the merest breath of throttle but actually found it very soft and forgiving if you treated it with respect. However on the M2 I thought I'd see what It was capable of.
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Posted: 22/09/2008 at 08:49
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