Biking wasn’t a passion that was ingrained in me since childhood. In fact I was a die-hard car guy and I denounced bikes every chance I got (mostly because I idolized Jeremy Clarkson for whom bikes are spawn of the antichrist!). But all this changed once I got to college. Everyone there either had a bike or was planning to buy one soon, and I was soon infected with the bike fever. It refused to die down and my passion for bikes kept growing. I learnt how to ride a bike on my friend’s RX100 and after that I rode all the bikes of my friends who were grateful enough to trust me with their most prized possession. A few months later I decided to get one of my own and what followed was the most frustrating few weeks of my new life as a biker.
Everyone I spoke to had a different opinion on what should be my first bike which left me more confused than I already was. After a lot deliberation and test rides, I opted for the Yamaha FZ but it wasn’t a particularly easy decision to make. So to help all you newbie bikers out there who are going through the same hell of trying to zone in on your first bike, here’s a list of the best bikes in India for beginners that I could come up with. Bear in mind that this list is a reflection of my personal choices which is why you won’t find any commuter bikes like the Splendor or Discover here.
1) Yamaha FZ
Obviously this was going to be first on the list. The Yamaha FZ is an absolutely brilliant for beginners. It has a 150cc engine that isn’t overly powerful and the throttle response is very linear which prevents you from jerking suddenly when you accelerate. The FZ also has fantastic handling due to its narrow body, short handlebars and wide rear tire. All this makes you feel in complete control of the bike, something which is very important for a new rider. I’m not a big fan of the new FZ ‘s (2.0) styling, but the everything is as good as it was on the previous model.
2) Suzuki Gixxer
Thank god this bike wasn’t released 4 years ago because it would have made my choice that much harder. It is the perfect rival for the FZ (which is always expected from Suzuki and Yamaha) and it is proving to be more popular in the market as well. The Gixxer (still hate the name though) is very similar to the FZ in terms of styling and has a slightly better performance which makes it perfect for beginners as well. My favourite thing about the Gixxer is that it is available in the naked bike-ish variant and a faired SF version as well which happens to look much better than that ugly Yamaha Fazer.
3) Honda CB Hornet 160R
The Hornet was a surprise launch from Honda and it happened to be a very pleasant one. With a moderately powerful engine fitted in a wonderfully styled body, the Honda Hornet is well worth a consideration as a first bike. Further catering to the needs of novice bikers, the Hornet comes with a wide rear tyre for improved stability and handling and features dual disc brakes. There is also a variant with Combined Braking System (CBS) to aid in controlled braking. If the Hornet came with ABS it would have undoubtedly been one of the best bikes in India in its segment.
4) TVS Apache RTR 160
This bike has been around for a while but it’s still one of the best options in the sports commuter segment. The RTR 160 has killer looks, a decently powerful engine providing around 50 kmpl mileage. The bike is not too heavy either and it comes with dual disc brakes which is a bonus for beginner bikers. The Apache RTR 160 is easy to handle, fun to ride and looks stellar which is essentially what all beginners look for in their first bike.
5) Bajaj Pulsar AS 150
This list won’t be complete without a Pulsar making the cut. The Pulsar range from Bajaj is one the most popular bike series in India. To challenge newcomers like the KTM Duke, Bajaj had launched the 200NS which is my favourite bike from the Bajaj Stables. Then they decided to stop making it (the morons) and replaced it with the AS and RS series. The RS 200 might prove a bit too much to handle for new bikers but the Pulsar AS 150 fits the bill perfectly. It has a smooth engine with linear power delivery and is quite easy to handle even in traffic. A couple of things such as a lack of disc brake for the rear wheel, high seat height and a styling that won’t appeal to everyone are the only problems in this otherwise perfect bike for beginners.
I hope this will make it easier for you to select your first bike. If you can think of any other bikes in India that are suitable for beginners let me know in the comments below and I’ll add them here.
Also, it’s a very good idea to ride a bike thoroughly before buying it (a test ride for 15 mins won’t help you at all). If you can’t borrow the bike from friends, try renting it from Wheelstreet (which offers bikes on rent at really affordable rates) for a day or two to see if the bike suits you. Happy Riding!