New Rider’s Buyer’s Guide To Motorcycles: Best Cruisers of 2021

One of the most challenging questions of how to get started riding is which motorcycle to buy. We insist that smaller is better and safer, so we put a 400cc limit on our recommendations for new riders. Smaller-displacement motorcycles are more forgiving and, as a beginner, you will be making plenty of mistakes. Let yourself grow out of a motorcycle—do not expect to grow into it.

In the cruiser category, there are three clear choices, depending on your size. So, let’s take a look a the Best Cruisers of 2021 for new motorcyclists.

Best Cruiser of 2021 For Small New Riders: Yamaha V Star 250

Beginner’s Buyer’s Guide Motorcycles Cruisers: Yamaha V Star 250
Yamaha V Star 250

The 2021 Yamaha V Star 250 has over 30 years of history behind it. In fact, it’s virtually a truly retro motorcycle that is still currently produced. It has a simple air-cooled V-twin powerplant that is fed by a 26mm Mikuni carburetor. The short-stroke motor produces plenty of torque, while the handling is far better than you might expect—maybe that’s why Yamaha calls it a Sport Heritage motorcycle, even though it’s unambiguously a cruiser.

We like the 2021 Yamaha V Star 250 for new riders for a variety of reasons. Just 27 inches above the pavement, the V Star’s seat height is exceptionally low. That is enhanced by a curb weight of just 324 pounds—truly a featherweight. With 32 degrees of rake and an 18-inch front wheel, it offers some welcome stability for the new rider, while retaining its agility. It’s not the latest—suspension being a weak point—but it’s one of the greatest.

Read our test of the Yamaha V Star 250.

2021 Yamaha V Star 250 Price: $4499 MSRP

Best Cruiser of 2021 For Medium-Sized New Riders: Honda Rebel 300

Beginner’s Buyer’s Guide Motorcycles Cruisers: Honda Rebel 300
Honda Rebel 300

The 2021 Honda Rebel 300 is a tremendous all-around motorcycle that is peppy enough to satisfy riders with a bit of experience without intimidating a first-timer. The motor is based on the engine powering the CBR300R sportbike, and it is a completely modern single-cylinder engine. With double overhead cams, a four-valve head, liquid-cooling, and a torquey state of tune, the smallest Rebel is an excellent choice for urban riders.

While the 2021 Honda Rebel 300’s seat height is just 0.2 inches higher than the V Star 250, it is 40 pounds heavier. That makes it a better choice for a rider with a bit more muscle. Like the V Star 250, the Rebel 300 gets an estimated 78 mpg. The Rebel 300 has a slightly larger fuel tank, so it can go over 300 miles between visits to the gas station. ABS is a $300 option that we strongly recommend to riders who are new to motorcycles.

Read our test of the Honda Rebel 300.

2021 Honda Rebel 300 Price: $4599 MSRP

Best Cruiser of 2021 For Larger Riders: Royal Enfield Meteor 350

Beginner’s Buyer’s Guide Motorcycles Cruisers: Royal Enfield Meteor 350
Royal Enfield Meteor 350

Although new to the United States for 2021, the Royal Enfield Meteor 350 debuted in India in 2020. Royal Enfield calls the 2021 Meteor 350 a cruiser, though it has ergonomics that are a mix of upright-standard and cruiser. We will go along with Royal Enfield’s assessment, as the forward pegs are definitely part of the cruiser canon.

Between the 30.1-inch seat height and the forward-mounted pegs, the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 offers good legroom. Add to that a handlebar with a wide, swept-back bend, and you have a motorcycle that is novice-friendly, yet not cramped. The undersquare 349cc air- and oil-cooled motor puts out plenty of torque to move you around town confidently, with the single-cylinder powerplant gaining revs predictably. Although weight is high at 421 pounds, if the Meteor fits you, you should be able to handle it. With intuitive handling, standard ABS, a fantastic motor, room to spread out, and nicely finished styling, the Meteor 350 is a great value at $4399.

Read more about the 2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350.

2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Price: $4399 MSRP

Action photography by Don Williams