Learner-legal 250s

Ready to buy your first motorbike? Looking for something to hang your ‘L’ plates on or to see you through your first year as a probationary rider? There’s plenty to choose from and it really comes down to figuring out what suits your riding style and your budget. You can get into a fairly reasonable second-hand 250cc motorbike starting from about $2000, but bear in mind that the dealers aren’t going to be too keen to talk to you at this level because there’s very little profit in bikes at this price. They’ll probably come back and tell you they have nothing much below $5000 … so you might need to take a good hard look at eBay, the Trading Post, Bikepoint or Bikesales to get something in this price range. A bike in the $2000 price range is likely to be older, a bit knocked about, possibly being sold without a roadworthy certificate, and may end up costing you a lot more if you’re not careful. If you don’t know much about bikes, take a friend with you who does. If it’s roadworthy, registered and mechanically sound, it’s likely to be all you need for the first year as a rider. You’re almost certainly going to ding it up a bit, so why buy something new? If you do buy new, be aware that you are losing about 10% of the bike’s value the minute you ride it out of the showroom! And you lose about another 15% or so when the warranty runs out. What you can ride as a learner or probationary rider will vary from state to state, but the common ground is a range of basic 250cc bikes that are “learner-legal” in all state. Here’s our pick of these models.

Honda CB250

This is the bike many riding schools choose to put learners on, because it’s simple and stable and doesn’t offer too much by way of surprises for the rider. These qualities also make it an ideal learner and first year bike. It’s very comfortable to ride with a plush seat and a very upright riding position, both of which lend themselves to increasing the rider’s confidence. It’s also fairly quiet to ride compared to some of the others in this class. This is one of the best simple commuter bikes ever made, IMHO, and is a smooth and predictable ride for a new biker, while having enough power and torque to keep up on a highway ride. For a slightly sportier option, you could look at the CBR 250R or the even sportier 250RR version with its twin disk brakes, more forward riding position and a bit more performance.

Hysosung GT250R

If you’re looking for something sportier still, this could be a good choice. With a racy styling perhaps borrowed from the Suzuki GSX range of bikes, matched by a sport-tuned DOHC 8-valve engine, it’s enough to get any learner’s heart racing. Because a lot of its power is low down, you don’t need to over-rev this bike to get the most out of it. However, it’s fair to say that Hyosung have not been around long enough to really prove themselves in the local market yet, so there is some risk in buying this brand. But that does not seem to stop them selling really well.

Yamaha Virago 250

When first released, the cruiser styling of the Virago stole something of a march with new riders and learners, especially for its low centre of gravity and low seating position, which both make for greater stability. While far from sporty in its performance, the Virago 250 is no slouch and can keep up with most bikes on a legal highway cruise. However it is prone to being blown around a bit out on the open road due to its light weight and shape. It’s also a bit small in profile for larger riders. While this is one of the more expensive of the 250 class bikes, there are bargains to be found second hand and it does make a great first bike for most riders.

Kawasaki EL250

Like the Virago, a cruiser style bike but much more upmarket with its Harley-inspired design and low, sleek appearance. My wife had one of these as her first bike and I must admit I enjoyed riding it too. Not the fastest cab off the rank, but smooth even power right through the range and a top speed that leaves most 250 road bikes in its wake. It’s also an eye-catcher and we had lots of bikers taking a second look when we were out for the ride with this bike, including a couple who wanted to try it out for size when we were parked. Again, a more expensive option and not so many of these around, but you can often get them with quite low mileage and in very good condition.

250cc Scooters

There are also a great range of 250cc scooters around that make good bikes to learn on. Scooters are not only becoming much more popular, but even more accepted in biker ride groups and clubs. So here’s a few of the scooters that might be worth a look:

Piaggio X9 250

Looks bigger than it is, because it carries the same basic design as its larger capacity sibling. Italian design, so it’s cool! Great weather protection from the larger than average screen. Generous under-seat storage. Options include rider-passenger intercom, FM radio and hands-free kit for the mobile phone. Quick off the mark and smooth acceleration. Very nice handling in city traffic too, which is a bit unusual for a scooter (especially when ridden by a larger rider). A strange and unique braking arrangement in that the right side brake lever only engages the front disk brake, while the left side lever operates both the front and rear brakes.

Burgman AN250

Another scooter that looks bigger than it should because it has the same styling as its 650cc big brother. This one is made by Suzuki and has a longer wheelbase than most of the 250cc scooters, which should be a problem but for some reason is not in this model. Probably because the fuel tank is mounted very low, which gives it a good centre of gravity. The fuel-injected engine has lots of get up and go for a 250, and the linked brake system is equally good at bringing it to a stop when you need to. Has plenty of features including storage for two helmets, steering lock and three extra storage compartments. Able to keep up with motorbikes on a highway ride, as long as they stay below the speed limit. But the ride can be a bit turbulent at highway speed, especially for a taller rider.

Yamaha YP250 Majesty

This was the frist of the 250cc “maxi scooters” to be released in Australia back when most scooters were still just crappy little things. It created a name for itself with bigger riders because they didn’t feel like they were perched on top of the bike. Riders also liked the fact that it has lots of storage space and good protection from the elements in bad weather. The Majesty has a low centre of gravity, like the Burgman, so it’s very stable to ride and quite comfortable, while being reasonably responsive for a heavier than average scooter.

Bug Hawk 250 scooter

Bug Hawk 250

Taiwanese attempt to make an Italian look-alike. Good performance and handling for a scooter and lots of features as well, given that it’s coming in at the economy end of the price range. Not the best finished scooter on the market, but probably comparable to a Piaggio of the same size.

Honda NSS250 Forza

One of the better performing scooters in the 250cc class, although a bit slow to pick up from a standing start because it is a little heavier than average. This is also one of the few 250cc scooters that can keep up with the motorbikes on a highway ride (at least if they stay within the speed limits). Has Honda’s “Combined Brake System”, so both brakes are engaged regardless of whether you hit the brake pedal or the brake lever, so quick to stop in an emergency.

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