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I highly recommend the Suzuki GS500. This was actually my second bike. My first, a Suzuki GZ250, had so little power that I was wanting more after only a few months. The GS500 should have enough to hold you a while, plus there are lots of parts available to soup 'em up if you want more power later. And, there are quite a few available on the used market. You should be able to get a pretty decent one for less than $2K.



Take an MSF course! It's by far the best thing you can do to be a safer rider.
 

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Dirt Bike

If you have a place to ride in the dirt buy a small dirt bike. Go to the local bike shops and sit on the different sizes and find one that’s comfortable probably somewhere between 50 to 250 cc range.

Start learning out in a deserted area riding in the dirt or on seldom used gravel roads. It's a much more forgiving environment to learn in both for you and the bike. When you make mistakes in the dirt they aren’t as painful or expensive as on the street. I grew up on a small farm and am glad to have gotten this type of experience before switching to street bikes. When you get really comfortable with the dirt bike and get a little older then you will be ready for the 400 to 500cc street bike range.
 

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From my experience

I don't think you need anything smaller that a 500cc bike. In fact I would say you should consult MO article about standard bikes click here I would go for the Ninja 500 but given your height I might go for the Ninja 250. I started on a 600SS (ZX-6R), but I was 33 and have a lot of self control with the throttle hand i.e. I am scared shytless of what my bike can do. So yes it is possible to start on a bigger bike but you must have respect for it. I am also 6' 200lbs and work out 5 days a week at the gym which helps with a bigger bike.
 

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I can't speak to the GS500 but the Ninja500 miraculously struck me as both a terrific bike to learn on and fun as all get out for a veteran rider too. This opinion was reinforced by Buzglyd and others at the test. You would probably be wise to grab some dirt time first if that's an option, but for a street bike that is learner friendly that you'll want to keep for a long time, I strongly recommend the "little Ninja that could" as it came to be named.
 

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NINJA 250 bar none!!! Seriously dude, the Ninja 250 is all good. I'm 5'10" and 225 lbs and I'm just fine on it. It has a low seat height, peppy but forgiving motor, and is super light. It has everything a beggining rider could want. It's a sweet ride. You can find one used for super cheap, thrash it for a couple of years, and resell it for damn near what you paid for it.



There is also the adage, "it's better to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow." This definitely applies to the Ninja 250. It's not going to win you any drag races with bigger sport bikes, but stoplight to stoplight most cars don't stand a chance. You can rev it to 14000 rpm and still be within legal speeds. It's a fantastic bike. You won't find a better, cheaper, more rewarding option!



You can email me for more info if you'd like.
 

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Get a Honda 100, or similar bike that you can thrash all day, and crash, without fear of damage to your body, or pocketbook. Don't get something that weighs 500 lbs, if you're 5 foot two, and weight 120 lbs.
 

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Get an inexpensive small displacement dual sport and have fun without worrying about what happens when you drop it. You won't be able to ride anything big, like a KLR650 or and XR650R, because of the height but there are a lot of smaller options out there. Just make sure that whatever you get is street legal (including tires), put oil and gas in it and go have fun.
 

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The absolutely best way to learn to ride a motorcycle is to start with a relatively mild four stroke dirtbike. In addition to my street bikes, I have a Yamaha TTR250 (I had to beef up the suspension, but then I'm 195 lbs). Someone suggested a smaller dualsport, which I think is an outstanding idea. Buy it used, ride in the dirt a lot where you can push the limits of your skill (which is when you're really learning). If you dump it, no big deal. Ride the bike for a year or so, and you should be able to sell it for pretty much what you paid for it, and go from there.



My first bike was a Honda 400 (many years ago), which was a great starter bike, but I did want more bike within a year or so. If you start out with a dirtbike or dualsport, in a year or so I suggest you look more in the 600 - 750 cc range, which should keep you smiling for a long time. Good luck, and keep being smart about it (sounds like you're off to a good start).
 

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www.beginnerbikes.com has some Great Advice. Kawasaki Ninja 250 or 500 are Excellent Sport Bikes, as is the Honda Rebel 250, Yamaha Virago 250, or Kawasaki 500 LTD if You are looking for a Cruiser. Take the MSF Course, and read David Hough's "Street Strategies" also - so as to avoid situations that will Crunch You! Good Luck!
 

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MSF class

Take the MSF class. A lot of riding is not intuitive (IMHO) and the class will open your eyes and get your head screwed on straight right from the beginning. The MSF braking drills in particular have saved my skin more than once. Then DO NOT buy a crotch rocket until you have a couple of seasons in the saddle. Never trust the cages, no drinking and ride naked only on special occasions.
 

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At your height, I would look for something that you'll feel comfortable on. I used to have a KZ-250 LTD in the early 80's that was 5/8 size (I'm 5'7") and I felt really comfortable on it. It was a little under-powered since I had a lot of dirt bike experience before this first street bike but the size made it less scary and a lot more fun. I ride a FZ-1 now. The seatheight (31.1") feels a little uncomfortable but nowhere near how it would feel if I hadn't spent time on shorter bikes before.



I'd worry a lot more about seatheight than engine displacement. 50cc is not enough for your age and weight and anything more than 500 - 650 or so may be too much and get you in trouble but ultimately, your comfort with the height and weight of the bike will have a lot more to do with whether you have a good first experience and join the rest of us as lifelong riders.
 

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The problem for you is that you lack experience driving on the road in general (at least legally). The advantage for me when I bought my first streetbike (age 21) was that I already had a few years getting used to traffic signals, other cars, squirrel avoidance, squirrel run-overing, etc. When I got my bike I was learning to ride something new, but in a very familiar environment. However, maybe you're more mature for your age than I was. If so, and I almost hate to open this can of worms, buy an SV650.

The reason:



1)It's a forgiving bike to ride.



2)It has enough power so that after you learn how to ride, you won't get bored.



3)It makes cool sounds with the right exhaust.



4)If you get the non-S model you won't be accused of having a pretend sport bike.



5)You will achieve 1/3 nirvana.



Make sure you buy all the gear!! It's all much, much cheaper than hospital bills!



-My apologies to the MO regulars for having to endure this post-

 
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