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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