I'm with most of the guys on here take the safety course then decide. My wife wants to get her own and I told her I would go through the course with her. I took the course and had a blast taking it. Offer to go with her I know in PA the course is free to take and our instructors told us we could take it again.
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Having your wife/gf/so take the course is an excellent idea. It makes insuring her a bit cheaper too. Also borrowing or renting a smaller bike for her to try. In Alberta, the rider safety course is about $550, so she'll be doing it herself!
my gf wants her own bike, but I think I'll suggest that she ride a month or two on a rented bike to see how she likes it before we get her one of her own.
Same experience as others here. When deciding to get back on the road with a bike, after a 20 year absence, I decided to take the MSF coarse to get my license. I asked my wife if she was interested and to my surprise she was so we took it together. We found out during that coarse that she needed to start out slow. She passed, but barely. She aced the written of coarse, but on the ridding test she made the maximum allowable number of mistakes and still pass. I bought her a GZ250 to start on and on her very first solo ride she dropped it on her self when she pulled back in the yard to park it, and broke her toe. She is now healed from that but having neck issues not related to the bike but she will need to get that healed up before she can ride again. She says she will but I am not sure I really want her to now. Some people are just not cut out for it. We will see.
Anyway, the point being, taking the coarse is a good idea as you can get a good sense how someone can handle riding. You can also get a good sense of what type bike they can handle to start.
883 is a perfect starter bike and older models are not that expensive. Then engine is strong enough not to choke off for new riders getting used to accel/clutch syncronation. Shadow 750 is my second choice. Probably going to be moving up soon, so see it as temporary thing.
"The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends"-Robert Earl Keen