A Guide to Choosing Your First Motorbike



So you’ve passed your CBT, loaded up on safety gear and now want a machine of your own?

A few choices lay ahead of you at this point.

So let’s jump right in and have a look at a checklist of things to consider before laying down those pound notes on your first motorcycle.

Engine size

After you’ve completed your CBT, you can ride a moped or a motorcycle up to 50cc if aged 16 or up to 125cc if aged 17+. That’s your limit until you undertake further training. But fear not, there are many motorcycles available to choose from.

Even if you aren’t limited to a 50cc engine, there remain various pros and cons to 50cc motorcycles against 125cc motorcycles.

Let’s have a look at these now.


  • Fuel economy. 125cc engines will give you great fuel economy, but 50cc engines are phenomenal. You will likely forget the last time you had to fill the tank on a 50cc motorcycle; they will happily give you weeks of road time on a single tank – scooter fuel economy.
  • Insurance costs. A smaller engine is likely to bring your insurance premiums down massively. For somebody new to motorcycling, this is great news. Get yourself on to our price comparison page. Try the differences between 50cc and 125cc motorcycles. The savings will vary hugely depending on where in the country you live.
  • Upfront costs. You will be hard pushed to find an expensive 50cc motorcycle. As for 125cc motorcycles, it is undoubtedly a bigger market, and with the increased choice comes an increased price range. You can spend as much or as little as you want on a 125cc.


  • Speed, or lack of it. A smaller engine, of course, means less power, which means that with a 50cc, you’re going to get nowhere fast. If most of your riding will be inner city, just nipping to the shops, this may not be a huge problem for you.
  • A 125cc motorcycle will carry you that little bit faster, which, strange as it sounds, is a safer option if you will be doing any sort of A road riding. Sitting on a 60mph road on a bike with a top speed of 40mph is not for the faint-hearted. Think where you will be riding most, and if that extra 75cc would be a safer choice.

Manual or automatic?

motorcycle gear shift

Now you have completed your CBT training, you are legally entitled to ride both a manual and an automatic motorcycle.

Your previous experience with gears and using public roads is something to consider here. If this is the first time you have driven any sort of vehicle on public roads, there is already a lot to get used to. Rules of the road, other traffic, and directions will all be going through your mind.

If adding clutch control on top of this sounds like stress you could live without, then you may want to consider an automatic machine. This will take a large part of the finer points of motorcycle control out of the equation, leaving you to focus on the road ahead.

If you live in a place with busy, congested roads, then an automatic motorcycle may well be the way to go; twist and go can be an appealing prospect for the inner-city commuter. (Read more about our choices for the best commuter motorcycles.)

If, however, you see your CBT as a stepping stone to a larger bike in the future, then you might want to think about starting to get your head around a clutch and gears sooner rather than later. You will thank yourself for all that practice when it comes to riding a bigger bike.

New or used

Again, there are pros and cons to both. Being a new rider, you are statistically more likely to drop or crash your bike at some point over the next year or so.

This is nothing to be scared of, just another reason to be even more careful out on the roads. It happens. It is never nice, but it can be a whole lot worse if the motorcycle you drop is brand spanking new. That dent on the tank will bother you every time you look at it.

A well researched, carefully selected second-hand bike will perform just as well and will likely hold its value a little better than one straight off the forecourt. This is something to consider when the time comes to trade up to a bigger engine.

Some motorcycles will hold their resale value better than others. Generally, bigger manufacturers such as Honda and Suzuki build motorcycles that remain desirable for many years.

A common first motorcycle is the CB125 from Honda. It wouldn’t be ridiculous to sell on a CB125 for the same or similar price that you paid for it second hand. A quick look at the eBay listings for the Honda CB125 is enough to prove that a five or six-year-old motorcycle should hold its value if well maintained and treated with respect.

This could put you in the wonderful position of gaining a year or so of riding at the cost of your insurance, fuel and not a lot more—certainly something to consider.

New bikes also come with many benefits;

Most will come with some kind of manufacturer’s warranty. The good ones will cover parts and labour costs, which means one less hidden cost to worry about down the road.

Also, who can deny the joy of a brand new toy? Some offerings from China are worth looking at now more than ever. Herald motorcycles are made in China and assembled in England. They are very reasonably priced, stylish, and with a 2-year parts and labour warranty on every machine, could well be a very tempting option. It certainly tempted me and my Herald 125, and I have no regrets.

A motorcycle to fit you

Your back will thank you for thinking about this one. Take into account your body type before spending your hard-earned.

125cc motorcycles are, as a rule, fairly small. With less engine under the tank, the whole vehicle tends to be scaled to match.

If you are particularly tall, you may want to consider a bike with a higher saddle height.

There is nothing worse than being hunched up on top of the bike like a circus elephant. Firstly, it can look a bit daft, and secondly, anything more than a short hop to the shops can actually be pretty uncomfortable.

Certain 125cc bikes are more suitable for the taller rider, the Honda Verado being one of note.

Look into;

  • Saddle heights
  • Bike lengths
  • Bike weight

Similarly, certain bikes will be more suitable for shorter riders – check out our motorcycles for short riders and what size motorcycle do I need sections for more information.

Nothing beats sitting on bikes – showrooms are your friend at this point. The more saddles you get yourself into, the better understanding you will have of which bikes feel right and which bikes you like, which brings us nicely to our next point.

Your average ride

scooter and motorcycle

Buying your first motorcycle to suit your average route is a good idea.

Live in central London? Then there is probably not a lot of sense in getting anything with wide bars. You will be sat in traffic with the cars, watching with envy as other motorcycles filter past.

The same is true for the more rural rider. If your commute home is likely to be shared with big muddy tractors, then you may wish to choose a motorcycle with more suitable tyres. A bit of knobble goes a long way.

What you will be carrying with you on the motorcycle is also something to think about. An electrician lugging a pannier full of tools will likely require very different things from their motorcycle than a business woman with an iPhone in her pocket.

Local servicing

Motorcycles, like any other mechanical instrument, will need servicing and maintaining from time to time.

Be sure that your local mechanic is happy to work on the brand of motorcycle you go for. Some have allegiances with some brands and strong dislikes towards others.

There is nothing worse than living 20 miles away from the nearest mechanic that will look at your motorcycle. Avoid that if you can.

Your taste

Sure, there are a hundred thousand practical reasons for getting yourself on a motorcycle. If you are anything like me, you have been rolling them out to your nearest and dearest for a good while now.

That being said, there is little point in denying the truth. Motorcycles are pretty cool (and helmets can be cooler). This isn’t something to be ignored when buying your first. Sure, it’s a tool to learn better skills, and a 125cc may not have been the motorcycle on that poster as a kid, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love your first motorcycle.

The more you like it, the more you will ride it. The more you ride, the better you will become.

So there is actually a decent amount of logic involved in letting a little part of your decision making being led by the aesthetic properties of the motorcycle. There are motorcycles with 125cc engines in pretty much every style category. From street tracker to cruiser. From sports bike to scrambler.

Find what style you love and hunt down the motorcycle that really gets you going. Instagram is a great place to start. Then it’s up to you to treat yourself to something beautiful.


So there we are, just a few things to consider before buying your first motorcycle.

One thing sits above all others, however. Research.

The fact that you are here reading this bodes well. You haven’t jumped straight onto the first motorcycle with a for sale sticker on it. You’re ahead of the game.

Now find a motorcycle that ticks all of the boxes above for you. Fall in love with it, then go ahead and try to find reasons not to buy it. Read blogs, snoop on owner’s forums for common problems, and ask questions.

Us bikers are a friendly bunch by on large. It’s a pleasure to have you ride with us.