Beginner Motorcycling

Information on Motorcycling for Beginners

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.

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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:

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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How to Ride a Motorcycle – Basic Motorcycle Controls Explained

motorcycle controls drawing

Basic Motorcycle Controls

In a previous article we talked about the best way to learn to ride a motorcycle. In this article, we will give a basic overview of how to ride a motorcycle. We’ll cover some items in more detail later, but even so this is not intended to be a replacement for a motorcycle riding course.

Riding a conventional motorcycle requires the use of both hands and both feet (and your eyes, ears and brain as well!), while riding a scooter or automatic transmission motorcycle will eliminate the clutch and shifter (and sometimes only have one control for both brakes). For most modern motorcycles, here are what the motorcycle controls are:

Left hand motorcycle controls — on most manual transmission motorcycles the left hand is used to control the clutch lever. There are also other motorcycle controls near the left handlebar grip, including the high and low headlight switch, the turn switch (Harleys have one on each side of the handlebars) and the horn button.

Left foot motorcycle controls — on most modern motorcycles the shift lever is moved by the left foot. We will cover how to shift a motorcycle in more detail in a later article, but the usual configuration is 1st gear is all the way down, then shift up for Neutral, then shift up sequentially for each of the other motorcycle gears (usually 5 or 6).

Right hand motorcycle controls — the right hand lever on the motorcycle controls the front brake, while the right hand grip on the motorcycle controls the throttle (or gas) and rolling the grip towards you rolls on the throttle (gives it more gas) and rolling the grip away from you is called rolling off of the throttle and lessens the gas that the engine gets. Other right hand controls on most modern motorcycles include the starter button and the motorcycle kill switch which shuts off the engine (and if this switch has been flipped the motorcycle engine will not start). On Harleys, there is also a right turn signal button near the right grip.

Right foot motorcycle controls — on most manual transmission motorcycles in the U.S., the right foot controls the rear brake. On some older bikes and some European bikes the shifting is done with the right foot.

So there you have it, those are the basic motorcycle controls that are used to operate most modern motorcycles. As I said, we will cover some of those in more detail in later articles.

What to Bring and Wear to the MSF Motorcycle Class

In our last article we told you that the best way to learn to ride a motorcycle is by taking an MSF motorcycle riding course and the different types of MSF Motorcycle Classes.  In this post we’ll discuss what to bring to the MSF basic rider motorcycle course.  As a preliminary matter, it depends on whether you are taking the initial and longer  MSF Basic RiderCourse or if you have some experience and your own motorcycle and are therefore taking the MSF Basic RiderCourse 2.  So, we’ll cover both below.

MSF Basic RiderCourse — BRC or RiderCourse 1

For the 15 hour MSF Basic RiderCourse 1 all locations should have smaller motorcycles that are good to learn on (and this is included in the price of the MSF class) and most locations will have some helmets to lend out also (definitely confirm this with the site hosting the MSF course).  If, like me, you are not sure that you are going to actually get a motorcycle after the MSF class, then using a loaner helmet can save some money (most motorcycle helmets aren’t cheap).  However, if you know that you will keep riding a motorcycle after the class, I’d suggest bringing your own helmet.  Also, the MSF instructors will require you to have eye protection, so if the helmet you are using doesn’t have a face shield, you will have to bring safety/sun glasses or goggles (if you’re using the MSF site’s helmets, be sure to ask about whether they have shields or if you should bring glasses/goggles).

Other items that you are required to wear at any MSF class are gloves, long pants, long sleeves and over-the-ankle footwear.  For the long pants and long sleeves, sturdy materials are recommended.  If you don’t have motorcycle pants, jeans should be fine for the MSF course.  For long sleeves the temperature may influence you, but if it is not too hot I’d suggest something thicker than a tee shirt — perhaps a sweatshirt.  These should keep you from getting too scraped up if you should go down during the class (the riding in the course is lower speeds in a big parking lot).

The long pants and over-the-ankle boots can also protect you from getting burned by the engine or exhaust if you should fall down.  For my MSF class, I wore some old hiking boots, but any kind of boots (or high top leather sneakers) should work — though it should have a rubber sole with good grip rather than a smooth leather sole common on cowboy boots.

Gloves are also important as they can help you keep a good grip even if your hands get sweaty and gloves can also provide protection if you fall — as it is normal to try to reach out with your hands to break your fall.  For my MSF class I bought some cheap rubber armored work gloves that I bought from a hardware store — and they did protect my hands the one time I dropped the bike.  You can also get motorcycle gloves at reasonable prices from stores that sell motorcycling gear.  While usually still more expensive than work gloves, they will usually have extra protection and are much more reasonably priced than motorcycle boots, motorcycle jackets or motorcycle pants — all of which are usually pretty expensive.

You should also bring a writing pen, your regular driver’s license (or other identification if you don’t have a license) and in states that require a motorcycle learner’s permit you should bring that too (check with your MSF site and your state DMV).  Other things I suggest bringing are bottled water and sunscreen (for what is exposed under a helmet, and also you will stand around outside and the backs of your hands, neck and ears may get burned).

Please note that most MSF courses go on rain or shine, so if it is raining you will want to be prepared with waterproof pants and jacket (and gloves too).

MSF Basic RiderCourse 2 and Advanced RiderCourse

For the MSF Basic RiderCourse 2 and the MSF Advanced RiderCourse, everything said above applies and you will also need to bring your own motorcycle (unless your site rents them for these courses) your motorcycle license, and proof of motorcycle ownership and insurance.

I hope this is helpful in knowing what to bring to your MSF motorcycle course.  Above all, come prepared to learn (even if you’ve been riding a while) and have fun!

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