What bike did you learn to ride on?

Learner riders - pre-ride check learn

Motorcycle companies such as Honda, Harley and others are keen to introduce earner bikes and even run rider training courses, because learners often buy the brand they learn on.

Once you start a rider on a particular brand, they tend to be faithful to that marque.

It’s one of the main reasons BMW introduced their 1 Series cars. The idea was that they would attract younger drivers to the brand, then work hard to retain their loyalty throughout their driving life.

Critics warned it would water down their image. However, it was so successful, other luxury brands such as Mercedes and Audi followed suit.

The same scenario is behind Harley-Davidson’s introduction of the Indian-made Street 500.

Happy new Street 500 customer Debra D'Onofrio street 750 female learn
Happy new Street 500 customer Debra D’Onofrio

Critics said it would water down the brand, but it has quickly become their top seller. And riders can even learn on the Street 500 and remain on a Harley throughout their riding life.

To retain Street 500 customers’ loyalty, owners are given free HOG membership and the entertainment at the recent Harley Days in Wollongong was tailored to younger riders’ tastes.

Automotive marketers have explained to me that that it costs more to introduce a buyer to a brand than it does to retain their loyalty.

Obviously, many riders are fickle and swap brands throughout their riding career. Yet they always retain a certain fondness for the bike they learn on and the first bike they owned.

  • What bike did you learn on and do you still remain faithful to that brand? Leave your comments below.

27 Comments

  1. Got my L’s and done probation on a Suzuki RGV250 1989 VJ-21.
    Was a rocket but taught me a great deal, and so much fun to ride with a centre to gravity pretty low
    Now I ride a ’03 Honda CBR600rr also a dream to ride

  2. A 1963 YAMAHA 250 2 STROKE, it had a 4 speed and I had to mix in the 2 stroke oil (outboard motor oil) myself I tended to run rich an left a trail of blue smoke wherever I went. I may be responsible for 2 strokes being outlawed in California. A friend had a 65 250 and it had a 5 speed and auto oil injection, a much better arrangement.

  3. Regularly, walking home after school in 1951, dropped in at a friends work and was allowed to ride his Francis Barnet 2 stroke. about a 1948 or something model.

  4. 1974 Honda 500/4 $1492 on road then a 1978 Z1000A, had a break off bikes new 2011 FZ6R and now 1st of EFI R1 Limited Editiion (The Beast).

  5. A Honda CB200 twin. Not sure of the bike year (1972-1974) but it had both electric and kick starters as electric starters were a new thing for bikes and some had reliability issues in the early days so the kick start was still there just in case.

  6. I learnt on a 1979 Kawasaki KH 100 EL. Great machine: Did exactly what it was designed to do. I didn’t intend to get into motobikes, I needed cheap transport to get to transient jobs here and there. In 1986, I paid about $380 dollars for it.
    But once I started riding…
    I’m sure you know the feeling.

  7. I bought a 1959 600cc Norton dominator and couldn’t ride it, it scared the crap outta me, so I swapped it for a mates 500cc BSA twin to learn to ride on. We rode everywhere together and once I got my license, we swapped bikes back. Ended up with another Norton after that, a 650SS ex Qld Police bike, then went to Jappas in the early 70’s.

  8. 1957 Royal Enfield 350 single at age of 14 in local paddocks and then on road. Great bike that was just four years younger than me.

    Traded it for a 1969 Norton Commando.

    Those were the days of British bikes.

  9. Honda scooter for 3 years, now KTM RC 390 for the last three months. It’s been a blast. I’m loving the technical challenge of a geared actual motorcycle with enough grunt to accelerate uphill!

  10. 125cc GY6 Chinese scooter, I crashed the thing twice and broke my leg in the process! I still have it as my backup commuter and to toy with mods, it’s funny to make a slow thing go a little faster, lol.

  11. I learned on a Yamaha a 1969 250 cc street scrambler. Then I upgrades about a year later to my love–a Honda CB450 cc. That’s all I rode until I bought my first car a 1961 Ford Falcon in 1974.

  12. Bultaco Metralla 250 in 1970. Brilliant little bike. Lots of port work, high comp head and expansion chamber (‘muffled’ by a VW tailpipe). Loads of fun. Then a total change to a Honda K2. Always missed the handling of the Metralla.

  13. I learnt to ride in the mid 90s on a 1970 Honda CL100. I still actually have the bike…sitting under a tarp in the shed. It needs an overhaul.i hope one day to have the time to get around to it!

  14. It’s complicated.
    Thr first bike I rode was a borrowed Honda C90 stepthru in a paddock one day. Had a great time.
    I got into Morris Minis and my mate got into bikes. Eventually my mate wanted to take a girl on a date but needed a car. I lent him my Minivan daily and he lent me his Kawasaki Z1A 900 so I could get to work. Had good fun on that but rode rather conservatively since I didn’t have a bike license and I didn’t want to damage my mate’s pride and joy.
    Eventually I bought a Suzuki GS400B to go with my bike L’s and went for my bike license which I passed first time. No 250/LAMS malarky back in those days. As I already had a full car license I went straight from bike L’s to full bike license.
    Had the 400 for some years before swapping it for a new Suzuki PE175Z for some offroady fun. The PE was a road-legal enduro racer and I tended to ride it more at trials pace in the bush, but I bought it cheap since the dealer was closing down.
    Since I had a reputation as a fairly conservative rider among my friends and friends-of-friends, when one of them lost their license for a while I would get to hang on to and look after their bike to keep them out of temptation’s way.
    I got to ride some tasty gear and gave those bikes much-needed servicing and excercised my detailing skills along the way.
    Eventually the novelty of a premix 2-stroke wore off and I traded the PE for a new Kawasaki KLR600B1. I had read all the big-single traillie comparisons at the time and chose the KLR for its twin cams, 4 valves, water cooling and electric start. (30 years later I sold it to a nice lass from country Victoria)
    When I wanted to add a big-ish roady to the stable for faster ride day fun, riding courses and more relaxed intercapital touring, I chose a used Honda CBX750F as a mate at work had one and I knew what they were like, underrated and good value for money.

    The CBX is still in the garage gathering dust while I do up a Kawasaki GPX750R, another underrated bike. The GPX was bought cheap but in relatively good condidtion for its age.
    I’m not a brand fanatic although I stick with Jap bikes. I haven’t owned a Yamaha, yet. The Yammies I like are going up in value too fast now.

  15. Lambretta LD 150 in a cow paddock , non of this late model big wheel Peewee stuff . Only rich kids could afford anything off road .
    But learnt that falling off hurts like hell , learnt to respect the throttle and to look for the safest trajectory . Ie dodge the cow pats they are slipperyer than manhole covers in a hail storm.

  16. I learnt on a Yamaha peewee 50, then onto a Honda XR 80. Predominantly I have race ridden Suzuki RM’s, five of them, a Kawasaki KX 125, a Yamaha XT 225 Serrow, then a Honda XR 400; big crash, then a Suzuki DR 400..an absolute stalwart. Then I got my first roadie…a Suzuki 250 Across…loved it..then a Suzuki SV 650 & now a pocket rocket Suzuki Gixxer 600. The only thing I would trade it for would be a Suzuki DR supermotard. They are rockets, extremely reliable & the workmanship is sublime. If you wanna get your legs around something hot, get yourself to a Suzuki shop. Go the Japanese. !

  17. I am learning on a Suzuki GS 500. In the future I hope to ride a BMW GS1200 Adventure. Lots of tracks, plenty of dirt and still can ride it to work.

  18. waaay back when, learnt to ride on a 1975 cb450 twin, jack of all trades & a tireless workhorse, a bike with good happy memories for me, kept it for years then upgraded to a r 60 BMW then r 80 gs & r 100 gs, then got married & enjoyed being a dad & with the chn grown, 3 years past, got a gs 500 f, which comes closest to the cb 450 & I am enjoying her immensely, close enough to my first love, went to the 2016 Melbourne motor-show & nothing caught my eye, am considering another gs naked for around town (brat style). And yes I do so regret selling those BM’s but that’s for another day………..

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