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Lightweight, starter-friendly motorcycles

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

Custom Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer | Meghan Stark
My 2017 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer

I live in the midst of Harley town Milwaukee, and more recently the Royal Enfield North American HQ territory, and I'm routinely asked: Why did you choose Ducati? Aside from legacy (my uncle and brother both currently or have historically ridden Ducatis), a big selling point for my bike, the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer, was the weight. With an 803cc engine but remarkably only 414lbs. wet (with gas and fluids), the Scrambler was a really attractive bike for me as a small female rider.

I'm no weakling in the lower body, but a more aggressive riding stance and higher seat necessitates a lighter weight machine for me to balance. I can probably handle a heavier bike, but my confidence has majorly been backed by how light my Ducati café racer is. I can throw it around without any anxiety, and it doesn't skimp in style and power.

Let me just say that women can ride whichever bikes they want to. Tons of ladies, young and old, are thriving out there on huge Harleys. Any bike you're comfortable on and love to ride is the bike for you. However, there are some physical limitations that will contribute to what you can ride.

One of the biggest factors will be your inseam, which will dictate the seat height you’d need for your feet to touch the ground. I have a long inseam and am 5’ 6”, so in my boots I can flatfoot on the 32-inch high seat of the Ducati Café Racer no problem.

Seat height can also be adjusted on a lot of bikes if you need it to be. Big heavy motorcycles are a lot easier to manage if they are cruisers/bobbers, as you get the benefit of the upright position and a seat lower to the ground— for example, a Harley Sportster’s saddle sits at 25.3 inches tall and can weigh around 565lbs.

If you're a smaller rider of any gender and motorcycle weight has been a concern for you, I have a few recommendations. Just because you may be small/short legged, doesn't mean that your bike has to be tiny too. If you're going to be doing freeway riding, you'll want your bike to be able to hit 85mph+ comfortably to keep up with cars and be able to escape hazards. Other than my Scrambler, I've ridden a few other lightweight motorcycles with excellent handling and performance that are great for new riders as well.

DUCATI SCRAMBLER (803) Icon, Flat Track Pro, Urban Enduro, Street Classic, Full Throttle, Café Racer

The Ducati Scrambler comes in all sorts of different styling options, and now even in larger engine sizes (in the 1100 series). Most of your choice will boil down to aesthetic preference, and that was the biggest choice I was making. If you want a slightly more comfortable/upright stance, the handlebars on all but the Café Racer will be perfect. The Café racer is also different with its steeper front wheel rake at 21.8° (compared to the others at 24°). The newer Desert Sled model is taller all around for better ground clearance and a different suspension, as it really is designed more with off-roading in mind. All of these little differences will contribute to a different riding experience, so a test ride may be in order to determine the difference between those models deviating from the Scrambler base that the Icon, Flat Track Pro, Street Classic, and Full Throttle share. If you're interested in a Scrambler, go to the guys at Moto Union for a test ride and tell them I sent you!

Specs Wet Weight (LBS): 414 Dry Weight (LBS): 379 Engine Displacement (CC): 803

Top Speed: Approx. 125mph Seat Height (IN): 32


Pre and Post 2017 The new Honda Rebels are absolutely beautiful machines. While the oldies are a classic (my first bike was a 2007 Honda Rebel), the new look that debuted in 2017 sports a stylistic mixture evoking Ducati meets Harley, with a cut up looking tank but a modern cruiser style. They also come in larger engine displacements in the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500, along with improved handling. I think it’d be the dream for a first time rider or anyone else interested to grab a gently used 2017 Rebel 500. The bigger engine will give you more punch to keep up with freeway traffic.

Specs (Rebel CMX300 / Rebel CMX500)

Curb Weight (LBS): 364 / 408

Engine Displacement (CC): 286 / 471

Top Speed: Approx. 85mph / Approx. 108mph

Seat Height (IN): 27.2

Specs (Rebel 250-- Not available after 2017)

Dry Weight (LBS): 306

Engine Displacement (CC): 234

Top Speed: Approx. 75mph

Seat Height (IN): 26.6


CBR 500r, CBR 600rr I borrowed my brother’s 2014 CBR 500r for a few months during my first season on the road. It was exciting to ride a modern bike with ABS and the whole gamut, and it rumbled in a much more satisfying pitch than my 250cc Honda Rebel (no shade to the little guy). Style-wise it’s a true blue crotch rocket, and if you’re into that look this is a fantastic lightweight moto to zoom around on, if you’ve got the inseam for it. It’s a lean, powerful machine, and Japanese bikes are renowned for being affordable to maintain and having easy access to parts. Can’t really go wrong!

Specs (CBR 500r / CBR 600rr)

Curb Weight (LBS): 423 / 410

Engine Displacement (CC): 471 / 599

Top Speed: Approx. 115mph / Approx. 155mph

Seat Height (IN): 30.7 / 32.3


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