What makes a motorcycle easy to ride? Predictable power, intuitive handling, responsive controls, good weight distribution, balanced suspension. The list could go on and on, but when the mix is right a motorcycle can feel like an extension of your body, doing what you want when you want comfortably and reliably.
Except fulfilling those characteristics depends on the type of riding you’re doing and experience level. A pro racer’s concept of predictable power will surely overwhelm a rider with six months’ experience. So, for our purposes here, we’re going to target rides that are easy to manage for those with some seat time logged, but who are still not quite proficient. These bikes inspire confidence and make riding fun. Some could work well as a first bike, but most will be better as an upgrade once you’ve got the fundamentals dialed. You’ll see what we mean below.
Hondas in general are pretty forgiving. Especially the CB500X. The 471cc twin doles out power in an extremely smooth, linear fashion so there won’t be any surprises when you twist the throttle. Its gentle approach in this regard doesn’t mean you’re going to be a slug out there though, as there’s plenty of roll-on to get you ahead of traffic when needed. The clutch pull is feather light, and moving through the gears is even smoother now that Honda equipped the mount with a dual ramp assist/slipper clutch. The rider triangle is neutral and comfortable, and the braking package slows the 430-pound machine smoothly and efficiently. Its only pitfalls are somewhat spongy suspension and a tall-ish 32.7-inch seat height. But if your inseam is long enough and you aren’t attacking corners with gusto, the CB500X will be one of the easiest riding bikes you’ll ever encounter.
Kawasaki Versys-X 300
Another adventure-style machine that asks very little from the rider is Kawasaki’s Versys-X 300. This little game changer uses a 296cc twin that likes to rev and has a slightly mellow low-end, which is actually great for riders still refining their throttle inputs. It’s fully capable of maintaining highway speeds and provides the rider a comfortable cockpit with wind protection, like the CB. Seat height is a little lower at 32.1 inches, so flat-footing at a stop is easier for more folks, and the 386-pound bike is much less to handle than the Honda. It responds instantly to inputs at the bars but is not unduly sensitive to unrefined corner carvers. Brakes are predictable, and the transmission is smooth thanks to a light clutch pull and assist/slipper clutch. Kawasaki made a great entry-level machine of the Versys-X 300.
The Yamaha MT-07 is a tidy, short-on-frills package that strikes a fantastic balance between beginner and more advanced machine. The narrow perch and 31.7-inch seat height make it easy to hold the bike flat-footed for many riders, and the 403-pound curb weight is well balanced. So whether at a stop or rolling through corners, the MT-07 is a manageable motorcycle. The 689cc twin packs more punch than the previous two bikes, but it’s delivered smoothly and is really nice to have on freeway rides or coming out of turns. The ergos are neutral (seeing a pattern here?) and comfortable, the fueling is precise, and the transmission is solid. Handling on the MT-07 is a strong point; it dips into turns without much effort at all and holds a line reliably. The forthcoming MT-03 will be the more appealing entry-level bike for many, but for a well-rounded, easy-to-ride, responsive, and fun bike there are few better than the MT-07.
Honda Rebel 500
An easy bike to ride is also a bike that will do what you need when you need it, which is why our vote is for the Rebel 500 rather than the 300. Don’t get us wrong, the Rebel 300 is a fine machine with huge appeal to newer riders, but the extra power output of the 500 comes in really handy when you need it. It shares the same 471cc twin as you’ll find in the CB500X, but the Rebel houses it in a low-slung chassis that provides a friendly 27.2-inch seat height. It’s designed to mimic the look of a cruiser, but feels more like a standard in its layout, with only slightly forward-mount foot controls. This makes ride position much more, say it with me now, neutral than more traditionally designed cruisers. It proved to be an agile bike with enough ground clearance to manage corners with ease, has buttery smooth power delivery, is easy to launch from a stop, and comes with a really well-calibrated EFI system. No surprises, just linear power delivery that’s manageable, sufficient for most situations, and even a little fun on occasion.
Indian Scout Sixty
Sticking around cruiser land a bit longer, we must laud the Indian Scout Sixty for it’s easy-going nature on the road. This 999cc V-twin is substantially more bike than the Rebel, but its powerband is similarly linear and predictable, with really well-sorted manners in the low revs. The truly inexperienced rider may experience some jerkiness in the throttle/clutch dance, but for riders with some miles behind them the action will be dialed. The chassis is composed and the bike is capable of handling corners with only a slight bit of intentional input, but once on your line it holds steady without issue. It’s a heavy 560 pounds (compared to the lighter weight machines we’ve already covered, that is) but the 25.6-inch seat height means it’s a lot easier to balance that weight at a stop for shorter riders. Its suspension setup is more than adequate too, soaking up normal bumps better than expected.
Triumph Speed Twin
Triumph’s 1,200cc Speed Twin surprised us when we sampled it last year. It turns out to be a package so dialed that it’s “effortless to ride.” From the flat bench seat and 31.8-inch seat height to the smooth and enjoyable powerband, the Speed Twin delivers an intuitive feel that blends rider and machine. It goes into and holds a line through corners without blinking, brakes are reliable, and the transmission is well calibrated. There’s little to complain about when it comes to the Speed Twin, even its slightly back-set foot controls contribute to a comfortable feel in the cockpit. It’s even fairly impressive in the weight department at 432 pounds (when you consider the CB500X is 430 and has less than half the engine).
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
The Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 is a phenomenally easy bike to ride. It has none of the throttle issues you might experience on the larger 800 model, but rather doles out power from its 399cc V-twin in a linear and predictable fashion. Its seat can go as low as 30.3 inches and its 403 pounds are a breeze to manage in all situations. The comfortable ride position makes it possible to spend a lot of time on the machine, and it dips into corners without any effort at all. It’s also got some up-spec suspension and braking kit for more refined feel. If you want some retro style that’s so easy to ride it’s ridiculous, you want a Sixty2.