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What Bike for a 16 year old


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#1 Pilot2Wheels

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:11 PM

Mom doesn't want anything to do with me if I get our son a motorcycle when he turns 16 in a couple of weeks.

I'll miss her....

Anyway, back on topic...

My son does not have any real motorcycle experience. He has taken the MSF rider course that the state of Florida requires to get your motorcycle endorsement a few weeks ago though. My plan, is to hopefully get him a motorcycle, and start him off riding with me. We will wear the right gear, ride at the right time in the right weather, and I will set the pace. Once I feel he has gained the right respect for the road, and ability to handle the bike, he will be able to ride without me. It may take over a year or more for this to happen.

My thought is that I can control his riding experience for the first year or so, vs him learning from his buddies when he is 18 or older, and we get to spend great father and son time before he goes off to college.

So, my question is, what bike to start him off on? I have an 07 FJR, so doing off road with him would be tough. Can't really swing two more bikes, just one for him. I would enjoy the KLX or XT on my own though when he is in school. Hey, I'm buying it, I can ride it!

Here is my list in order. Any comments or suggestions is appreciated about any bike.

1. Kawasaki KLX 250S dual sport
2. Yamaha XT250
3. Kawasaki Ninja 250R or Honda CBR 250R
4. Kawasaki KLR 650
5. Kawasaki Versys
6. Yamaha FZ6R

The last three are more than likely out. The KLR 650 may be a little big for him, but it's the same price as the KLX for cryin' out loud! I may have included the Versys, just because I like the looks of em'.

He is a very reserved and responsible kid, not the type that would ever say "Watch this!". He's a good athlete, and coordinated so he will pick up skill quickly. Not as fast as his dad thought. :P

So, what do y'all think?

Wayne
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#2 wheatonFJR

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:23 PM

When my son turned 18, he bought himself a 1990s vintage Yamaha XJ600. We found it through friends on the Forum and I rode it back home for him from Ohio.

He uses it as a commuter bike, taking it to high school, amazing his friends. He now commutes to a local junior college, and to work. He and I have taken a road trip or two...but not as many as I wish. His studies and finances have to be in order for him to do those trips, and sadly for me, sometimes his house isn't always in order. So he learns lessons. But he still does look forward to trips with dad...we're looking forward to some this coming spring and summer.

His bike is used, and old 600, works good. Has some rashes it didn't have when he bought it. He still loves it.

#3 wfooshee

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:27 PM

Is he wanting the bike, or are you wanting him to have it? Don't take that wrong, I'm just trying to make sure we're looking at the right thing.

I'm inclined to go with one of the #3 bikes, but then, how long before it's not enough bike and he wants it replaced or upgraded? So I'd say start used, not new, then sell it to somebody else for their starter bike. OTOH, there are some nice 500 twins out there that are great starters and might last him a longer time after he "grows up."

It also depends on what he wants to do. Does he want to go off-raod, or stay on the street and highway? When he rates his independance is he going to ride to school? Is it important to him what his buddies think of the bike, i.e. sissy lil' 250, why not get a real bike?
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#4 FJRay

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:35 PM

My daughter started her street riding on a EX500 Kawasaki. They are easy to find used for reasonable cost and are tough as hell.
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#5 BentAero

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:41 PM

Here is my list in order. Any comments or suggestions is appreciated about any bike.

1. Kawasaki KLX 250S dual sport
2. Yamaha XT250
3. Kawasaki Ninja 250R or Honda CBR 250R
4. Kawasaki KLR 650
5. Kawasaki Versys
6. Yamaha FZ6R
Wayne



The KLX and XT are both underwhelming in hp dept. If he's a typical kid, he'll outgrow the power deliver pretty quick.
In my mind, a nice used Ninja 250r would be the choice. They are a blast to ride, look cool, and not enough power to high-side out of a corner.
Honda CBR250R = too new, too expensive.
KLR650 and Versys are very tall bikes, and the FZ6 is more top-end than I'd want to turn a 16yo loose on.

Whatever you do, don't buy a new one -used bike only.

FWIW, my mother was dead-set against me having a motorcycle when I was 16. My dad "allowed" it against her wishes. From 16 to year 25 I spent every minute and every nickle I had on motorcycles. When I was about 30, I went to my mother and told her she had absolutely no idea how much trouble those motorcycles kept me out of. There was a lot worse things I could have been doing than riding bikes...
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#6 yamafitter

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 05:09 AM

I would consider a Dual-Sport or Adventure bike just because it offers the most versatility to go out and explore. Exploring is what being 16 is all about. Since he does not have much experience around bikes choosing one of the lighter bikes is important. I would stay away from any of the 600cc Sportbikes. My old Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat was almost as fast as my FJR and was well capable of getting me into all kinds of trouble.
Given the above I sort of like the idea of the KLR. There are plenty of used ones to choose from and they are cheap to repair (relatively speaking).
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#7 TILAM

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 05:13 AM

I`d find somewhere where he can ride in the dirt and get the XT250. Simple bike and wouldn`t be intimidated by the power. All the best riders started in the dirt. After he moves up you can keep it and it will be fun for grocert getter and you can learn dirt too.
Come on, any bike will make a 16 year old look cool to his friends. I had a ratty CB350 and I was ``king of the hill``.
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#8 Geezer

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 06:53 AM

My first daughter started with an SV650S and never wanted more. My second daughter started with a Ninja 250 and was looking for a bigger bike before the first season ended.

Out of your list I'd look seriously at the Versys if he will be riding primarily paved roads and the KLR if there are dirt roads nearby.
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#9 CheesyRider

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 06:57 AM

I think ABS is a great safety feature, especially for new riders. So, of the bikes on your list, I would recommend the Honda CBR 250r with ABS. Almost every new rider drops their bike. But, if you have the budget, I don't see any reason not to get a new bike for your son. Plus, the little Ninjas and CBRs have surprisingly good resale value.

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#10 ahchiu

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 07:54 AM

Lots of good advise given, I would have him sit on different bikes and see how it fits him and test ride if possible, if the bike does not fit him and not comfortable he won't have fun. my 02 cents
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#11 Kevin_Ireland

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 08:16 AM

First, think about how responsible is he? If he is a responsible young man then you can think about a bit of a bigger (500-600cc) bike. How big is he? A bike that is too small is actually harder to control and to learn good skills on.

My son got his moped license (in Germany) when he was 14. At 16 he moved up to a graduated motorcycle license (limited by size and HP). It wasn't till he was 18 that he was able to get a car license.

I like the new CBR250 but good luck finding a used one. Other than that bike I think a 250 will be too small and he'll outgrow it too quickly. Also, he'll he to ride harder to keep pace with you on the FJR.

Here's what I'd look at:

gsx650f
Ninja 650
FZ6

They have enough power without being over powering. He isn't likely to outgrow it within a couple of years. All can be found used for a good price.

The problem with 250s are he'll ride it for a season then want another bike the next.
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#12 wheatonFJR

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 08:45 AM

oh...one other thing. I made a hard and fast rule with my son that he had to make an oath to keep. NO passengers on the bike until after he had had it for atleast a year...and he had to ride with me on the back as his first passenger so I could test him in a parking lot on his skills 2 up. Once I was satisfied...he was allowed.

This was a hard thing for him, because once he got the bike...all of a sudden the chicks started noticing him and begging for a ride. He whined about it after awhile...but he respected me and obeyed that rule so far as I know. I trust him. I believe his word.

Maybe that is too strict a rule...but I don't think so. It was safer for him...and for his future passengers. He has a cute girlfriend...as much as I would hate to see my son get hurt, I would really hate to hear of a passenger getting seriously hurt because I allowed him to take a passenger before he was ready to be able to evade harm.

#13 Fred W

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 09:05 AM

My vote is: None of the above

My advice for a 16 year old with no motorcycle experience would be to go out and buy 2 used dirt bikes (one for him and one for you) and a trailer. He can learn the skills on handling a motorcycle without worrying about obstacles that are trying to run him over. You two will make memories that you might never have otherwise. He can learn the rules of the road from within the safety of a cage. Get him ,or better yet have him buy his own, beater cage to get around in

Later on, when he has mastered both the driving on the roads thing and the motorcycle handling thing you can talk about a road bike and merging his skills. You'll probably want to hang onto those dirt bikes as they're a whole bunch of fun in their own right. That is what I did when I was young and it's what I did with my son when he was at that age. We actually started with the dirt bikes a little earlier than 16 It has worked out well for both of us.

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#14 wheatonFJR

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 09:44 AM

My vote is: None of the above

My advice for a 16 year old with no motorcycle experience would be to go out and buy 2 used dirt bikes (one for him and one for you) and a trailer. He can learn the skills on handling a motorcycle without worrying about obstacles that are trying to run him over. You two will make memories that you might never have otherwise. He can learn the rules of the road from within the safety of a cage. Get him ,or better yet have him buy his own, beater cage to get around in ...


I'm with Fred, if you have the ca$h and the ability to take a few bumps on your body without bone breakage, do it. I don't have the cash to pay for my son's mcy, let alone a dirt bike for me, a trailer, and a haul vehicle. I wish I learned on dirt...but that was never a dream of mine then, nor of my father's.

I am struck by the fact that among the FJR riders that I know...the best ones at dealing with sudden issues on the road that deal with traction loss...are the ones that have experience in dirt. They know the slippy slidy thing and are not afraid of it...

#15 Fred W

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 10:03 AM

As for how much cash it would take... maybe not quite as much as you'd think.

Now, you'd have to be willing to ride used dirt bikes, and probably wouldn't be able to afford the top shelf exotics (KTMs) unless they were really old. But you should be able to pick up some decent trail machines for ~$2k apiece. Owning older bikes would require that you can work on them yourself, or they might turn into money pits.

An open bike trailer is only ~$500 and you can use just about anything to haul a trailer as light as that. So budget another $150 for a hitch if you need one. Total outlay would still be less than the cost of any new street bike.

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#16 garyahouse

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 11:37 AM

My daughter went through this last year, so the whole experience is fresh on my mind. Her dream was an old classic bike. However, we agreed that she should start off with a "starter" bike... a used Suzuki GS250. As you can see, it's a great looking bike. From the first day she got it, she didn't like it. She liked the way the bike looked, but because these bikes don't have a lot of power she had to fight with herself to get on it and ride it so she could learn how to control a motorcycle.
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Her dream was an old classic bike[/img] After several months and maybe 400 miles, we sold the Zuki for the same 1700 that we paid for it, and bought a 1973 Honda CB350 four for 2500. She's been a happy camper ever since. Wish we would have bought it first for her. It's still light enough and easy enough for her to handle, but has a totally different personality. I even enjoy riding it. Posted Image
Guess ya live and learn. I learned that just because a kid says they'll be happy with a certain bike doesn't mean that they will. I warned her that she'd get tired of the lack of power, and it turned out that I was TOO RIGHT about that.
Kathy (on the left) rides it everywhere. Her sister Kelly (oddly enough) loves riding with daddy, but has NO interest in owning a bike.

By the way, Pilot, Kathy's mom wan't real big on this either, but Kathy is very responsible and the athletic type as well. She was a safe driver in her car and time has proven that she's the same way on her bike.

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#17 silver spirit

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 04:50 PM

My first moto was a red CB 350. It was my main transport while attending university.

I rode that little thing up and down Vancouver Island, and on a few road trips into the BC interior up near Salmon Arm.

iirc, it was still a bit underpowered for the highway, and handled poorly especially compared to modern bikes. Reliable as a stone, tho'

I rode it out of a speed wobble once, and another time managed to loft the front wheel enough to ride over a mattress lying in the middle of the lane without losing control.

I had many good times on that bike, and I wish the same for Kathy.
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#18 Kevin_Ireland

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 01:21 AM

Like many others I learned to ride as a kid on dirt bikes and I agree that is the optimal way to learn but it isn't the only way to learn. I'm even looking at buying a dirt bike for my wife, who started riding last year, as a way for her to sharpen her current skills and to learn new ones. That being said, not everyone can afford to buy dirt bikes this year and then buy another bike next year. Also, they may not have anywhere were they can go and ride them. We are fortunate that their is a OHV park nearby where we can pay to ride but not everyone has that opportunity. If you don't or can't afford it, it is still possible to learn on a street bike. The majority of new riders do it that way.
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#19 Pilot2Wheels

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 09:43 AM

Is he wanting the bike, or are you wanting him to have it? Don't take that wrong, I'm just trying to make sure we're looking at the right thing.

I'm inclined to go with one of the #3 bikes, but then, how long before it's not enough bike and he wants it replaced or upgraded? So I'd say start used, not new, then sell it to somebody else for their starter bike. OTOH, there are some nice 500 twins out there that are great starters and might last him a longer time after he "grows up."

It also depends on what he wants to do. Does he want to go off-raod, or stay on the street and highway? When he rates his independance is he going to ride to school? Is it important to him what his buddies think of the bike, i.e. sissy lil' 250, why not get a real bike?


Great replies. Thank you.

A little more information...

I had limited motorcycle experience before I was 16 because my dad was a cop. Couldn't legally ride on the road, and dad wouldn't allow me to traverse any road to get to a riding spot. I had some fun on mini bikes at my Grandpa's farm, and had a moped when I was 15. The day I turned 16, I rode my Honda CB550four to high school. No real dirt experience for me, and the only time I have ever been hurt is riding off road before I was 15 (broken arm - hidden gopher hole, and sprained ankle as a passenger in sugar sand). Although, getting hurt on dirt and killed on pavement are two different things.

I loved that Honda. Probably too much bike for me, and only the Lord knows why I didn't die on that thing. Stupid things a teenager does on a motorcycle unsupervised while adding alcohol. My son is not like I was. Not even close. That's a good thing. Lost the Honda during college in a trailer accident (straps broke while on the trailer). Maybe a bigger reason why that happened. My wife rode with me on that bike, and enjoyed it. After we got married, I bought a Honda 650 nighthawk. Sold it a year later to help for the down payment on our first home. In 1993 I bought a brand new Vmax, but sold it in 1998. My son was 2 at the time, and I wasn't riding it. Couldn't take him, and couldn't leave him at home alone and take mom. So, in 2002 I got my pilot's license and bought a Cessna 150. For some reason, my son never really caught the bug on that. Still can't believe that, but when you're 6 to 12 years old, maybe you have other things on your mind. I sold the plane a little over two years ago because I was spending too much time and money on that, and not enough with him. Thus the "Pilot 2 Wheels" moniker. From a plane to two wheels.

I started looking at motorcycles again about a year ago. What I noticed, is that my son enjoyed looking with me. While out, he would always point out motorcycles, and ask about them. I could see the sparkle in his eyes. To confirm it, I gave him a copy of David Hough's Proficient Motorcycling to read. He also had to earn the money to pay for the MSF course. He did, and that proved to me that it was truly interested in this sport, and just not trying to make dad happy.

So, we have gone to many motorcycle shops and "tried" on bikes. So far, his favorite is the Yamaha FZ6R. Of course it is, he's 16 (almost). However, he likes the Ninja 250 and Honda CBR250 too, but what he also likes is the Kawasaki KLX. About the same as the Ninja and CBR. He likes the idea of going off road down forest roads and such. I like the idea of the adventure spirt more than I do the "GP" race spirit if that makes sense. I think the KLR would make more sense long term, but who cares about tomorrow if he gets hurt today. He is 5'10" and skinny. I'm 6'4", not as skinny. We can upgrade. I don't want money to even come close to a consideration over his safety. I won't let cheapness cloud my decision making. If I can't do it right, I won't do it.

He is a straight A student, top of his class. Smart like his mother (I know she is smart because she married me! ;) ) His plans are to go to college, probably FSU (both my wife an I are alumni). A dual sport on a campus like FSU would be great to have. Parking sucks.

So, I am working with mom on a compromise. I think this is where I am leaning: First, he will take a minimum of 30 days driving his "cage", a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder. Mom's hand me down. Lucky kid. It's in great shape too with all the options and 4 wheel drive to boot. During this time, I have a friend who offered to let him borrow his Honda Rebel 250. He can ride that in the neighbor hood only. During this time, we will look for the right bike. If he wants to upgrade later, I may keep the bike if it's a dual sport, thus one reason I may go this route and buy it new, because I would probably keep it even after he took it to college. Used is probably a smarter choice though. I just don't want any mechanical problems to jeopardize his safety, and don't want to spend time and money fixing stuff. Time is precious, and I want to go riding when we can, not fixing a broken down bike. Another friend has a KLR, and will let me borrow it, so we could do a little dirt road riding. We ride together to these roads taking back roads. We do this after he has the car thing down, and spent some time riding 25 mph roads in the neighborhood. I know, the hood can be dangerous, but learning to start and stop, looking for cars backing out of driveways, kids playing, stuff like may help. I'll be with him when he does this to start.

My dad gave my one rule when I was 16. I had to ride 300 miles before I could take a passenger. Looking back, that was a little crazy. Times were different then. He won't take a passenger until I say so, and that will be me. I won't let him ride on his own for probably a year. More of a compromise for mom than anything.

Great advice, and no right or wrong answer. I try to be wise, and listen to all advice, but at the end of the day, it will be my decision. And yes, I don't want to mess this one up.

Keep any and all advice coming. I truly appreciate it.

Wayne
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#20 UselessPickles

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 02:12 PM

I would stay away from any of the 600cc Sportbikes.


Here's what I'd look at:

gsx650f
Ninja 650
FZ6


Be careful not to confuse the FZ6R with other 600cc sportbikes, and also don't confuse the FZ6R with the FZ6. Yamaha should have named the FZ6R differently to avoid this confusion. The FZ6 is probably NOT a good first bike (it's pretty powerful).

Even though the FZ6R is an inline 4 600CC bike, it is similar to the 650 twins (gsx650f and ninja 650r) in power and ease of riding. I think the FZ6R has the least sporty riding position of the three, even though it looks the most sporty. The riding position is much like the FJR.

Like others have said, much depends on his maturity, body size (e.g., a 250cc bike is just going to be too small if he's 6'2" and 220 lbs), general ability to quickly learn skills requiring coordination, reaction, etc.

I started on a 1982 Yamaha Seca 750 when I was 16. Not a bike I would ever recommend as a first bike because it was tall and heavy. I could manage the height/weight of the bike because I'm tall, and I could manage the throttle instinctively (not go full throttle and pop the clutch, etc.) due to other various skillsets involving fine, smooth control with my hands (RC cars, etc). My dad taught me some of the basics of the clutch and throttle in the driveway, then I took the MSF class with my mom. After that, I only rode with my parents for a while until they felt comfortable letting me ride on my own.
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