Beginner Motorcycling

Information on Motorcycling for Beginners

How to Start a Motorcycle

motorcycle controls drawing

Basic Motorcycle Controls

In one of our recent articles we explained the basic motorcycle controls for modern motorcycles.  Now, we’ll go over the basics of how to start a motorcycle.

First, you will need to insert the ignition key and turn it clockwise to the ignition position.  Next, you will need to make sure the motorcycle transmission is in Neutral (most modern bikes won’t let you start the bike in gear with the kickstand down).  If you don’t know how to find Neutral, we will cover that in our next article on shifting a motorcycle.

Next, make sure the engine cut-off switch (or “kill switch)  is in the “run” setting, not in the engine “kill” setting.  At this point, if your motorcycle is fuel injected you can start it by pressing the start button.

For motorcycles with carburetors, before you press start you will need to make sure (1) that your fuel supply valve (if you have one) is turned to the on position; and (2) that you adjust your choke/enricher (usually either near the clutch lever, or somewhat near the fuel supply valve) to get extra fuel in the mix to start (many bikes need half-way or none on warm days, full way on cold days, but each one is different).  Once you’ve done all that you can start it by pressing the start button or using the kick starter if you have one.

Let the engine run a bit to warm up. On a carbureted motorcycle, after you’ve let it run with the choke out a bit you’ll want to push it back in before you start riding.  If you start pushing the choke in and the engine sounds like it might die, pull the choke back out and let the engine warm up a little more.  Most fuel injected motorcycles will start out automatically with a richer fuel mix, and will automatically go to a normal mix after warming up — you’ll be able to hear a change in the sound of the idling motorcycle engine.

Now the engine is on and warmed up.  I recommend that on any motorcycle you are not used to that after you sit on the bike you should do this exercise to feel how the bike throttle and friction zone of the clutch work: (1) sitting on the motorcycle with your gear on, pull the clutch lever all the way in and shift to first gear; (2) keeping your feet on the ground, feel the friction zone of the clutch by slowly letting out the clutch a bit (without giving throttle) and then pulling it back in before stalling; (3) again keep your feet on the ground, and feel the throttle response by doing the same exercise with a small bit of throttle; (4) put the bike back in Neutral (Neutral light should illuminate) with both feet on the ground and start to push forward and check that the front brake will stop the motorcycle, and do a quick check on front and back brakes separately in the first 20 yards or so after starting out on your motorcycle.

Hope you find this helpful.  In our next article about how to ride a motorcycle, we’ll cover shifting in more detail.

Harley Davidson Financing for Private Party Used Motorcycle Loans

Used Harely Sportster 48

I recently learned of a pretty cool financing program that Harley Davidson has  for used Harley motorcycle loans.  It’s called the Harley-Davidson Rider-to-Rider Financing Program, and it can make private party used motorcycle sales (like buying a used motorcycle through Craigslist or Autotrader, etc.) a bit more convenient for both the buyer and the seller.

This is different from buying a used Harley being sold by a Harley dealership — as with the Rider-to-Rider program the individual person who owns the used Harley is still the seller.  However, with this program the person buying the used Harley can apply for financing through Harley Davidson.  Harley claims that their used motorcycle loan rates are competitive, and that all buyers will be considered — so they should have some options for bad credit motorcycle loans.  The Rider-to-Rider program allows buyers to add in Harley upgrade accessories, services and clothes into the loan, and also allows buyers the opportunity to have the used Harley inspected by the Harley dealership.

For sellers of used Harleys, this program allows the sellers to advertise that used motorcycle financing is available.  Sellers can even put a link in their Craigslist ad or other ad that the buyers can click on to apply for used motorcycle loans from Harley.  Harley also helps sellers with all of the documents necessary for the sale, and can help process the payoff of any Harley motorcycle loans that you may have also.

The Harley Rider-to-Rider program sounds like it could be pretty helpful to buyers and sellers.  If you’d like to see more details about used Harley motorcycle financing, you can find it here:  Harley Private Party Financing  Or you can check out the latest deals on Harleys here:  Harley Motorcycles for Sale.

8 Tips for Buying your First Motorcycle

Beginner Motorcycle

Kawasaki Vulcan 500

So, after you’ve decided to learn how to ride a motorcycle and taken the MSF class, what’s next?  If you’re like me you’ll start to look around and think about buying your first motorcycle.  Here are my tips for buying a beginner motorcycle:

1. Start Small — First, remember that most experts will say that your first motorcycle should be a smaller, less powerful bike. This is wise advice.  Starting on a smaller, less powerful bike lets you gain experience the right way.  Hopefully, life is a marathon, not a sprint, so enjoy the learning process and don’t rush into a large, powerful bike.  As many people say: it’s more fun to ride a less powerful bike fast than it is to ride a powerful bike slowly.  You can always trade up later, but don’t be tempted to cut corners and buy a bike that is to powerful and/or heavy for beginners.

2. Engine Size —  In many countries new riders have to start on 125cc bikes or smaller.  While that seems a bit extreme, it is important to not get too powerful an engine in your first motorcycle.  For riders interested in a sport bike, a 250cc or 300cc bike is usually the best size to start on — big enough engine to run on the highways, but not so fast as to be hard to control smoothly.  For riders who like cruiser bikes, many of them have engines that are not tuned the same as sport bikes, so for many riders a 500cc, 650cc or even a 883cc cruiser is manageable as a first bike (as long as the other factors, especially weight, work for you).

3.  Seat Height — For beginners, seat height can really be a big thing.  It is really a reassuring feeling to be able to “flat foot” a motorcycle with both feet when you come to a stop. I know there were a couple of times when I was just starting out that I would have dropped the motorcycle if I couldn’t get both feet down quickly — and this coupled with a light weight first motorcycle really made a difference.  Cruiser motorcycles usually have the lowest seat heights, followed in this general order: sport bikes, sport touring bikes, dual sport bikes.  While seat height becomes less of an issue as you gain experience, it really is a big deal at first.

4.  Bike Weight — As mentioned above, bike weight and seat height are two of the biggest issues when it comes to new riders dropping their bikes (especially at lower speeds in driveways and parking lots).  Some really light beginner motorcycles with smaller engines can weigh less than 300 pounds.  Compare this to some big baggers (cruiser motorcycles with luggage attached) can weigh over 900 pounds.  Do yourself a favor and start out with a lighter motorcycle — the lightness can be a lot of fun to flick around curves, and is much easier not to drop.

5.  Seating Position — Seating position is a matter of personal preference.  Most cruiser motorcycles have “forward controls” meaning you sit back and your legs are stretched forward.  Many people find this quite comfortable, but I feel more in control with a more upright seating position such as found on sport-touring motorcycles.  Again, this comes down to personal preference, so you should really try out a few bikes for yourself to see which motorcycle seating position you prefer.

6.  Overall Comfort — Besides seat height and seating position, you want to make sure that you are comfortable riding any beginner motorcycle that you buy.  With some sports bikes, you end up putting a decent bit of weight on your hands and wrists, while with many cruiser bikes you feel every bump in your bottom.  So again, be sure to try out the bike first to make sure you are comfortable.

7.  New versus used — There are many good deals to be had on used motorcycles out there.  Lots of folks buy a motorcycle and then mostly have it sit in their garage for a few years before deciding to sell.  You can save thousands of dollars by buying a used motorcycle, but as with any used vehicle you can sometimes end up getting into maintenance issues that you would not have to deal with in a new motorcycle.  However, my general advice is to buy a bike less than 10 years old with less than 10,000 miles on it.  There are a few things to consider, which I will address in a future article, but generally going used is the way to go for a first motorcycle.

8.  Price — Finally, money is always an item to consider.  There are plenty of decent used beginner-level motorcycles out there for between $2,000 and $4,000.  I’d suggest staying in this price range for your first motorcycle.  Then, if you end up dropping it you won’t feel quite so bad.  Also, most used $2,000 motorcycles can be sold six months or a year later for around the same price — so you really can go wrong on that kind of deal.

I hope you found these tips helpful.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment box below and I’ll respond as soon as possible.

Kawasaki Motorcycle Financing

Kawasaki bad credit motorcycle loans

Kawasaki Motorcycle Financing

Recently the Kawasaki financing folks have been promoting their current deals on Kawasaki motorcycle loans.  The overall promotion is about fifteen pages of different incentives on various Kawasaki motorcycles and other Kawasaki motorsports items, as well as many different types of Kawasaki loans.

For motorcycle buyers with excellent credit, there are Kawasaki financing rates as low as 0.0% for 36 months for the big Kawasaki touring bikes (Concours, Voyager, Vaquero).  For all other Kawasaki motorcycle models, the Kawasaki loan rates are as low as 3.95% for 36 months, 5.95% for 60 months, and 7.95 for 72 months.

For those hoping to get a Kawasaki loan with bad credit, there are some options that may be of interest to you.  Specifically, there is a Kawasaki financing for bad credit offer that is 60 months with no interest for the first six months, then 9.95% after that.  There is also a Kawasaki card offer where you get a Kawasaki Credit Card and pay no interest on purchases for 12 months, and thereafter you pay either 7.99%, 10.99% or 12.99% interest depending upon your credit worthiness.

For active, retired or reserve United States military personnel, Kawasaki offers a military discount of $250 for more models of Kawasaki motorcycles (other than the Ninja H2).

As I mentioned, the entire list of Kawasaki financing promotions is fifteen pages long, so be sure to check out the full list of financing options here:  https://www.kawasaki.com/ShoppingTools/CurrentOffer/?offer=26&cm_mmc=eBlastGeneral-_-CurrentOffers-_-10312017-_-CurrentOffersRideFallPromo.

While there are several financing options on new Kawasaki motorcycles, if you are also interested in finding deals on pre-owned Kawasaki motorcycles, be sure to check out our page here: Kawasaki Used Motorcycles for Sale.

 

 

8 Tips for Buying Your First Motorcycle Helmet

Example of Modular Motorcycle Helmet

In our article about what to wear and bring to the MSF class I mentioned that while many of the first level MSF classes have motorcycle helmets you can borrow during the class, if you know you want to keep riding it is probably best to go ahead and buy your first motorcycle helmet.  Now, there are several different kinds of motorcycle helmets and the size and fit of those can vary a lot between different brands of helmets and even between different models of helmets made by the same brand.  So, my first tip for buying your first motorcycle helmet is to allow some time to shop around and try several different helmets — this is not something where you just run in the store and come out five minutes later, but it is worth spending time for this most protective piece of motorcycle gear.

My second tip is to get a full-face or modular helmet.  While many cruiser riders chose half helmets (which just cover the top half of your head) and some other riders chose three-quarter helmets (which cover the top half and the lower back quarter of your head, but leave your face entirely exposed), the areas that these helmets leave exposed are actually involved in 30% to 40% of all motorcycle accidents.  So, give yourself full protection by choosing a full-face or modular helmet.

A full-face helmet is just what it sounds like: it is helmet with a solid protective shell that protects your full face and head.  A modular helmet protects the same areas, but has a latch that allows the chin bar area of the helmet to swing upward for ease in taking it on and off, and also making conversations a bit easier if you need to stop and ask directions, talk with a gate guard, go through a drive-through, etc.  You can also ride with the chin bar of the modular helmet up, but this is not really recommended.  You should be aware that although the modular helmet appears to protect all of the same areas as the full-face helmet, having a latch does mean that the chin bar may not stay closed in all accidents (this is true even for very expensive modular helmets) — so the extra moving part adds convenience but that comes with a tradeoff of some extra risk.  Motorcycle riding (and really all of life) involves balancing risks with rewards and making your own decisions for what works for you.  For me, I enjoy the convenience of modular helmets, but I require that my son has a full-face helmet when he rides with me.

My third tip is to not be shy about trying on different sizes of helmets and also walking around the store to get a feel for comfort.  As mentioned above, sizes of motorcycle helmets can be very inconsistent, even among the same brand.  Watch several videos on motorcycle helmet fit (I will post some soon) and ask the store employee to help you also.  This is an important decision, and you should definitely take some time and walk around the store with the helmet on (fully strapped) to get an idea on comfort — some helmets that feel fine just standing still will start to hurt in one spot once you start walking around (and you’ll definitely bounce around while riding, so make sure to bounce a bit when you walk in the store).

My fourth tip is to try to buy your helmet somewhere with a generous return policy.  I have to give some praise to the Cycle Gear chain here, because they have a seven day “no questions asked” helmet return policy — which I have used several times in trying to find the right motorcycle helmet for me.  You may find a helmet that feels great in the store but ends up being super loud when you ride.  You may also find a helmet that ends up fogging up constantly even at highway speeds.  There are other reasons too why you may want to return a helmet that seemed fine in the store, and that’s when these return policies are great.

The fifth tip is to be sure to check the stickers on the back of the helmet for certification.  All helmets sold in the U.S. should have a DOT (Department of Transportation) sticker on the back that shows the helmet has met a certain minimum standard.  Any helmets without this sticker is really just a “novelty helmet” that won’t comply with laws in states that require helmets, and likely won’t provide much protect.  Other standards that are good to see (in addition to DOT standard) are the ECE standard sticker (which is a European safety standard) and the SNELL standard sticker (which is the highest standard, usually more expensive, and generally is not available for modular helmets or helmets with drop-down internal sun visors.  Which leads me to . . .

My sixth tip is to think about what you are going to do about the sun.  Riding facing into bright sunlight can be difficult and can be a safety hazard.  Some helmets have drop-down internal sun shields, some (mainly Arai helmets) have an external drop-down sun shield, some have main shields that are light-sensitive and can transition to a dark tint in sunlight, and many motorcycle helmets require you to either wear sunglasses or change out the clear main visor for a tinted main visor (which seems a pain to me).  Again, this is a personal preference, but I like the convenience of having the internal drop-down sun shield — that way I never forget to bring it, and can flip it up or down if I go from riding a very tree-shaded road and then turn a corner and am facing directly into the sun.

My seventh tip is to consider your future communication needs. I really think beginner motorcycle riders should be totally focused on riding and not talking on phones, listening to music, or having a conversation with a passenger (really, no passengers for several months is best).  However, with luck you’ll have your helmet for a good while, so if you think at some point you want to make use of bluetooth or other communication devices, you should consider that when buying your helmet.  While many helmet manufacturers make helmets with bluetooth devices built in, that is just one option and can greatly increase the cost of the helmet.  Although it is possible to add some type of motorcycle communication device to practically any helmet, if you know that you are going to want something like that then it is worth looking for helmets that have been designed with space designated to install one of these devices.  If you go that route you can first spend your money on buying a good helmet and then later add one of several different kinds of devices — this would be my recommendation, rather than buying a helmet with bluetooth already installed.

And my eighth tip is to buy hearing protection and use it.  There have been many reports that indicate that just riding 30 minutes at 60 miles per hour can do permanent damage to your hearing — regardless of your helmet type, and regardless of the type of motorcycle and windscreen.  This is a real problem that many people ignore and have their hearing damaged.  You can start with cheap foam ear plugs that should be sold at every motorcycle shop and also are sold where shooting supplies are found, and many other places.  Like anything, there are more expensive options that you can buy — noise cancellation, etc.  But start with the cheap foam ones and even those will do a great deal to protect your hearing.

I hope you found these tips for selecting a motorcycle helmet helpful.  I know it’s a long article, but this is your most important piece of equipment, so choose wisely!

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