My first motorcycle decision: 250 vs. 650

The biggest decision I had to make in buying my first motorcycle was whether to buy a smaller bike (250 ccs) that I would potentially grow out of quickly or a larger bike that I could potentially keep forever.  Most riders have strong opinions and a multitude of reasons behind them and in the end it had to be my decision.  I’ll lay out the pros and cons as I saw them and explain my decision.  Hopefully this may help new riders make their decision.  One thing to note: Most women said to go with a small bike and the only ones that said that only a big bike was safe were generally guys who drove crotch rockets and seemed reckless in general (talked of having many near misses and doing risky things with friends).

Small Bike (250 cc – ie Honda Rebel)

Big Bike (600-650 cc ie Honda Shadow)


  • Cheaper – will allow me to spend more money on good protective gear
  • Less committment (financial and emotional)
  • Easier to handle/control
  • Lightweight so more likely to be able to pick it up if I drop it
  • I’ll feel confident faster
  • High resale value
  • Allows me to ease into the hobby – what if I don’t even like mototcycling?
  • Allows me to learn what I want for my next bike through experience gathered over time
  • This is what made the decision for me:  It’s "more forgiving if you make a mistake."
  • May feel safer on the highway (or in general) with more power – some people say it allows you more options and the ability to get out of a bad situation
  • Won’t grow out of it and have to buy another bike
  • Will feel more proud of it – higher bad ass quotient 😉
  • Will not feel as limited – can go on the highway
  • Can start customizing right away and know I can keep it

  • May be underpowered on the highway
  • May be limiting – can’t go on the highway
  • Will not be as proud of it
  • May put energy/money into customizing it when I’m just going to sell it
  • Selling it will be a hassle
  • More expensive
  • Will feel scared/paranoid of dropping
  • I probably will drop it in the first few months
  • More financially committed before I am sure what I want
  • May feel like more than I can handle – won’t feel as confident

5 thoughts on “My first motorcycle decision: 250 vs. 650

  1. Addendum:
    It took two months before I outgrew the 250 (I think that’s faster than most people would) but I am still glad I had it.  I felt very comfortable and was really glad it was small when I got myself into a few undesireable situations (backing up uphill, almost dropping it at a stoplight and being able to pull it up, etc).  I did ride it on the highway a lot but wished it was more powerful a few times. 
    Once I got really comfortable riding, I was able to test ride 15 motorcycles before deciding which bike to get next.  Without that experience I would have been more committed to something I may not have liked.  Also, I sold the 250 for only $400 less than what I paid for it – a pretty good deal.

  2. I bought an XR650L as my very first bike. I taught myself how to ride, as I had zero experience beforehand. The first day, I popped 5 or 6 weelies in first gear, which immediately stalled the bike (thank goodness!), due to my non-experienced self, trying to figure it all out. The bike felt heavy for about a week. After a week, however, I felt completely confident that I was going to be able to make good decisions, and not drop it… Ever! I am 6’6″ and 245lbs., so I wouldn’t recommend this as a good choice for everyone. I’ve allowed friends to sit on it, who were 5’10”, and the were tippy-toed at a stand-still… so height’s and issue, for sure. I needed approximately 400 miles under my belt to start to feel comfortable on the freeway, but only under low wind conditions (I live in Colorado, so wind is a concern, especially in the good riding areas, like canyons). If you’re tall, I would forgo the 250 option all-together, and get the big one. Medium… Still go for a 400 or a 450. Only a small person should consider a small bike if you go for an on-road experience (I intend to use mine for both, but figured it out on the road for starters). If you’re exclusively off-road… Well, you should ignore me, and get an experienced off-road riders opinion, because that is most certainly not me. Hope this info is of service. Keep riding everyone!

  3. Has anyone started on a suzuki blvd S40??? It’s about the same weight as the rebel, but the motor is a 650cc. Kind of the best of both worlds.

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