Author: David Booth
Buying your first motorcycle shouldn't be an ordeal. It is, after all, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Whether you're 16 or 60, the call of the open road has probably been percolating for some time. Whatever the timing and reason, you've finally got up the nerve to take the 2-wheel plunge.
Once that's decided, where do you start, how much money should you spend and exactly what type of bike should you buy? What are the limiting factors? Should I buy a small-displacement bike as my first motorcycle, or is weight the deciding factor? And what else do I need to buy? And, oh, by the way, where can I get a little instruction before I head out onto the open road?
With all that in mind, here is a short guide to buying your first motorcycle:
Take A Motorcycle Riding Course
Riding a motorcycle is more involving than driving a car, requires more manual dexterity and punishes mistakes more dramatically than similar faux pas made behind the wheel. If you're thinking of buying a new motorcycle, common sense dictates spending a few days acclimatizing yourself to the controls, disciplines and athleticism unique to a motorcycle, preferably a 1- or 2-day intensive immersion course in a controlled environment. Look to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (http://msf-usa.org) for guidance.
Choose the Right-Sized Bike
The first step in buying your first bike is determining what size motorcycle is appropriate for your needs and abilities. While even novices understand the need to buy a bike of modest power and moderate weight, probably the most important factor overlooked for the motorcycling newbie is seat height. Though weight is, of course, a limitation, seat height is probably an even more important factor when buying your first motorcycle. For the new rider, it is essential to be able to place both feet firmly on the ground at a standstill. The extra stability is crucial for confident low-speed riding and coming to a stop. Lower to the ground is better, especially for the novice rider looking for their first motorcycle.
Buy an All-Purpose Motorcycle
Yes, we know you want a sport bike. Or maybe you just watched Easy Rider for the first time and you want to hit the road on a stretched-out chopper.
Neither is the best choice for your first bike, however, since the more specialized its intent, the less flexible it will be. A sport bike is going to be uncomfortable and a little "tippy" to ride at low speeds. A cruiser is also going to be a little cumbersome at low speeds. Better to get a plain Jane "standard" bike with traditional, medium-rise handlebars, a flat seat and footpegs directly underneath your butt. It will be more comfortable, easier to ride and, probably just as important, cheaper.
Should You Buy New or Used
Now, the big question: Do you spend the big bucks on a new bike, or do you take a chance on a used machine? Typically, newbies worry about whether a "pre-owned" gem will prove dependable.
The truth is that any modern motorcycle will prove steadfastly reliable even with many miles on its odometer. What a new bike will offer is technological and safety advantages. Even the cheapest beginner bikes these days is fuel-injected, and most will at least offer (and some come standard with) anti-lock brakes. Buy a new bike for these safety and convenience features, not because of reliability worries.
Don't Spend All Your Money on the Motorcycle
The biggest mistake new riders make is spending all their money on their motorcycle and not enough on safety equipment. First and foremost, you need a helmet. Not only are they mandatory in most jurisdictions, they're just common sense. You'll need motorcycle-specific gloves. If you fall off, even at low speed, your first instinct will be to break your fall with your hands. Ditto boots. And when you're buying a biking jacket — leather or one of the new textile jobbies — make sure it has armor at the shoulders, elbows and, preferably, the back as well.
The longer you ride, the more you'll find motorcycling is as much about the clothes as the bike. Count on spending at least 25 percent of your motorcycling budget on safety gear.
Published Mar 13th, 2018
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