This is my first bike and before this I have tried all the four starter bikes: the Suzuki 250, Suzuki Savage, Honda Rebel, Honda VLX and Kawasaki Eliminator 125. All of them are respectable bikes, but given the built quality and performance I picked the Yamaha even though it is the most expensive of the bunch...
This is my first bike and before this I have tried all the four starter bikes: the Suzuki 250, Suzuki Savage, Honda Rebel, Honda VLX and Kawasaki Eliminator 125. All of them are respectable bikes, but given the built quality and performance I picked the Yamaha even though it is the most expensive of the bunch. I could see the attention to detail everywhere. All the wires are tidily tucked in or cable tied, even the ones that are normally invisible. The Yamaha is the ONLY V-Twin in the 250cc and below category. The seat height is great even for short people like me and having some very tall friends (6'3 up) trying they all agreed that this bike is "lots of fun" and "fits very well". This bike inspires confidence. On freeway it is the only bike in the 250cc or below lineup (excluding the VLX and Savage) that I feel safe on. The midrange torque gets it up to 65 mph pretty easily with juice to spare. Once I pushed it to 85 mph on full throttle and it still felt stable enough to be comfortable. Of course, the wind blast will slow you down before you reach that speed! This bike is especially awesome in town or as a commuter (which I do everyday now). It's light, at just over 300 pounds starting and stopping is fairly easy even though I am a fresh grad from the MSF class who has never touched a motorcycle before! The front and rear suspension are very compliant and are a little on the soft side and therefore very comfortable going to bumps and potholes (not that you should ride on them!). By the way, I highly recommend the MSF class, it can save your life. It has already saved mine once. Believe it or not, it sounds like a quiet Harley. Visually this bike will also disillusion everyone into thinking that it is a much bigger bike. So far no one believed that it is a 250, especially when the Virago name has always been associated with the 1100 model or the 535 model. There are lots of chrome (or chrome colored plastic) on this bike. I especially like the dual exhaust, which pumps out a low gruntling sound. To my surprise, a few people have given me some "sidewalk thumbs-up". Huh?! This is not a Harley! But I didn't care, I gave them a nod and hid my smile under the helmet. The only complaint would be the tires. They are made by "Cheng Shin" in Taiwan; I have never heard of them until I got this bike. Even during a good sunny day or dry road I could feel the tires being a little slippery. On wet surface (here in Oregon, unfortunately, wet road is very common) these tires are almost unacceptable. Obviously they have been replaced by Metzelers. A $200 investment, yes, but I do think that since the tires are the ONLY component on a vehicle that really touches the ground, it is the last part you should skim on. Now the Virago performs like it should, cornering easily, no slip even on wet surface and a lot quieter with almost no tire noise with helmet on. Another unfortunate point is that Yamaha offers minimal aftermarket accessories for this model. However, if you look hard enough you can find some generic aftermarket OEM that will fit this bike. I have also seen a guy from Germany "chopping" this bike into a fantastic looking custom chopper. I plan to take it apart and paint it this winter with new rear Progressive shocks. Anyway, I am having way too much fun on this bike! As of this writing, I have found a LOT of aftermarket parts from Japan (where I go frequently on business). In Japan, this is NOT a small or a bottom of the line bike, and there are tons of accessories available. Email me if you need the info. Briefly, a short comparison. The Kawi Eliminator is way under-powered, to the point that I felt it is dangerous to go on freeway. The Suzuki 250 is good looking, rides great, but the built quality is worse than the Yamaha, make sure you remember it's cheaper. The Savage...to me it's ugly, even though it has a lot more power. The built is still below par. The Honda Rebel doesn't share the power the Yamaha or the Suzuki can offer, it runs out of juice too soon. The VLX's side engine cover is intrusive to my legs, and even though it is a very well built bike, that part makes me uncomfortable, still it is a GREAT bike if you are taller than me (not hard to do). So all in all...Get it. It is not just a great start bike. It is a great bike, period. I don't think I have "out perform" it yet, and I plan to use it for as long as I can. Oh, I almost forgot, it is doing close to 85 mile per gallon, talk about a gas-saver.