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
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
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
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