The popularity of motorcycling in all its forms continues to grow with more women and men learning to ride, taking to the roads and highways. Additionally, the rise of gas prices makes the two-wheeler a fun and practical commuter. It’s estimated that in the USA alone, about 19% of all motorcyclists consist of women riders. Buying your first motorcycle can be an overwhelming decision.
Motorcycling is rewarding and fun! And finding the right motorcycle for you is key!
When starting out, you’ll be bombarded by advice from rider friends, your training school instructor, your partner and your dealership. Much of the advice you’ll get is combined with personal preferences which don’t necessarily apply to you. But as a novice how will you know who to listen to? Even the dealership has its ideas yet just because a shop sells motorcycles or scooters doesn’t mean their staff are experts or have your best interests at heart. Furthermore, buying from a dealership, often just entering one can be truly intimidating.
And if you decide to buy from an on-line advert or via a “friend of a friend”, you’ll still have challenges knowing what you’re getting into.
These motorcycle buying tips, and guide below will help you make the best choice for you!
Motorcycle Buying Tips – Getting Started
Motorcycles and scooters are an incredibly thrilling, fun and engaging method of travelling (versus that of an auto mobile; cage). You become part of the ever-changing world around you – its scents and climates. And though this sparks a lot of enthusiasm motorcycle riding isn’t for everyone.
Riding and manoeuvring a bike is more physically demanding partnered with important controls and co-ordination methods which directly impact what you’re doing. There’s also a defensive mind-set required and a lot of practise before you become proficient and safe.
Consider also passenger and cargo space is limited and you’re more exposed to not only the dangers of harsh and extreme weather changes, road conditions but other motorists’ errors. As a motorcyclist you are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car (USA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – IIHS). And close to 50% of all motorcycle deaths are the result of single-vehicle crash – meaning, rider error – you!
Which Type is Best for Me?
Scooters and motorcycles run the range from lightweight fuel-efficient little bikes to 200-hp pavement dominating giants. There are a wide variety of styles and performance levels in-between.
Some are built for specific types of riding, like models designed for modest off-road use or those meant for long-distance highway cruising. Others are meant for a combination of purposes.
Starters may find scooters, which are available up to 850cc’s now, more novice-friendly than motorcycles, thanks to their agile balance and automatic transmissions.
If you’ve decided to buy a two-wheeler of your own, here’s a list of questions and tips to help you narrow things down.
- What time of riding will you do and how often? Will you be riding for daily transportation, weekend cruising, or somewhere between?
- Will you be riding on highways, secondary roads, around town, or some combination of these?
- Does the bike need to have enough power (mountainous areas)
- Do you plan on taking a passenger?
- Do you need storage room for gear or groceries?
- What’s your overall budget; how much are you willing to spend?
- Is budget pertaining to fuel mileage a priority?
- When at the dealership sit on a lot of different bikes will help you get over that showroom discomfort that may discourage you from trying enough models on for size.
- Don’t let the engine cc size fool you it’s the torque and horsepower that talks of the power of the motorcycle. Generally higher cc engines have more power output but if they’re heavy then the output is much less. Don’t let the cc size fool you! (i.e. a 1500 cc Harley-Davidson can have finally brake horsepower of just 69hp; a lightweight 600cc sport bike can have final brake horsepower of 140+)
- Check your riding position while sitting on the bike and note arm length distance and the ability to manoeuvre with your feet touching the floor. This is critical for safety and building confidence.
Consider If You’ll Need Any Of These Add-Ons
- Saddlebags or racks. Most motorcycles have no on-bike storage. Scooters however, have a small storage compartment as well as a lockable space large enough to swallow up a helmet or small bag of groceries. To carry anything on a motorcycle, you might want to consider saddlebags, rear top-case with rack usually mounted over the rear wheel behind the seat, or side panniers (hard case) mountings.
- ABS – Anti-lock braking system. This is still optional but most new motorcycle models will come with ABS as it will be a must have standard shortly on all bikes.
- Windscreen or fairing. These supply extra protection from the wind and rain, and they can make highway riding less tiring.
- Crash bars hoop-shaped bars mounted on the frame can help protect riders in a spill by keeping the weight of the bike off the rider’s body.
Here’s a quick run-down of model types available. Keep in mind there are variations in form to each of these categories, but the following represent the basic standard of motorcycle styles.
Small Scooters Small scooters with engines 50cc or less, are some of the smallest, lightest, and easiest gas powered road approved models. They are easy to handle, and maintain. They’re usually among the least expensive to buy and ensure. The transmission is CVT automatic with electric start (and usually an additional kick-starter as a backup). They provide a comfy chair-like seating position unlike a standard motorcycle. They’re not high power and usually have a top speed of 60 to 100kmph (50cc). Registration and licensing requirements vary by country.
Best fit for: City commuting
Scooters in the 125-to-250cc range provide more power than 50cc models for keeping up with traffic, carrying a passenger, and for all-around use. There may be restriction depending on the individual power of these models. Lightweight, closer to the ground, easy to manoeuvre and ride, with electric start and automatic transmissions. Fuel economy is generally superb.
Best fit for: City commuting; Short freeway jaunts
The maxi scooter have engine sizes from 300-850 cc and are a great choice for riders who prefer the look and feel of a scooter with the highway capability and range of a touring motorcycle. A combination of comfort seating position, shift-free riding and oodles of on-board storage of your usual scooter. These indeed are larger, heavier, and lessmanoeuvrable than smaller scooters – yet provide brisk acceleration and easily carry two riders for long distance touring and at highway speeds.
Best fit for: City, Long distance touring,Passenger, Commuting, Stronger rider
These are the most well-rounded street motorcycles and range from 250 cc engines to 1500 cc sizes. Available in single and multi-cylinder designs, this type is the most conventional-looking design of motorcycle with an upright riding position. Perfect for day-to-day use and commuting. These can range in size from economical, lightweight designs with around. These are also easily maintained with straight forward maintenance and upkeep.
Best fit for: City, Mid length distance touring, Passenger, Commuting
With a relaxed riding position, solo or seating for two, cruisers combine the look of a traditional motorcycle with a more stylish, custom appearance. They are generally lower in height meaning your feet can touch the ground. Available in single and multi-cylinder designs, cruisers run the gamut from small, fuel-efficient models to big, large-displacement and tour motorcycles. They are generally not high in torque touching horsepower- meaning easy and gentler to ride. These are also easily maintained with straight forward maintenance and upkeep.
Best fit for: City riding, Day trips/short tours, Passenger, Commuting
This style is designed to be ridden on or off-road and available in a wide range of engine sizes. The dual-purpose models are also good choices for urbanites / commuters who appreciate their higher ground clearance, all-purpose tyres, and extra suspension travel as much as trail riders do. Completely street legal with lights, directional signals, and other road-going equipment, dual-purpose models are lightweight and well-balanced. Easily maintained with straight forward maintenance and upkeep.
Best fit for: City, Off road riding, gravel roads etc. Adventure riding, Passenger, Commuting
Sport bike Sporty styled after motorcycle racing models, these are fun, fast and available in 125cc and up. Sportbikes are performance motorcycles with generally a lot of horsepower and a large motorcycle insurance bill! (this form of bikes are often used by riders breaking legal city street speed limits; high accident rates). These, especially from 600c up demand expert skills riders. The bodywork is light and designed to slice the wind. The engines are high-performance on lightweight frames. Your riding position is such as that of racing, crouched leaning over the gas tank. Sportbikes are generally not the most comfortable and some, due to their height, power and limited manoeuvrability are not practical for novice riders. These are easily maintained, but require extra attention due to their performance checks i.e. chain life, tire life and compound, tuning etc.
Best fit for: City (not ideal for traffic as can run hot), Highway, Solo rider, Short touring
Touring These styles of motorcycles are designed for long distance riding, tours or day trips and available generally in higher engine sizes. They are usually powerful and comfortable enough for two people to spend a full day in the seat. They can range from basic models or come all decked out with saddlebags, panniers, special windscreen, music systems, cruise control, heated handgrips etc. Easily maintained with straight forward maintenance and upkeep.
Best fit for: Long Distance travel/touring, Passenger, Cargo, Commuting
This style of motorcycle provides nearly all the features of a basic touring but has added performance to its styling. This is for a rider who wishes to enjoy performance on variable roads and the features of long distance riding. Easily maintained with straight forward maintenance and upkeep.
Best fit for: Long Distance travel/touring, Passenger, Cargo,Commuting, Adventure terrain, gravel etc.
Electric Electric motorcycles have become more and more popular and produced now by a multitude of manufacturers. These are a popular choice of urban riders who can appreciate their economical operating costs, low maintenance, and don’t mind their limited range and top speed. A rechargeable battery is included, and it can be charged using household current. Range is typically no more than about 50 miles, and less if ridden at their top speed. Easily maintained with straight forward maintenance and upkeep. Best fit for: City,Commuting
The style of motorcycle you decide upon is personal and as individual as you are. The above guidelines will help you narrow down the choices and find what will be best for you.
Consider The Following Other Factors
- Buying your motorcycle is personal. Even though you may only commute to work if it’s a sexy looking sport bike you’ve always wanted, and can safely manage/ operate, then go for it! And many riders travel long distances and take tours on sport bike motorcycles without trouble – it’s a truly individual thing.
- Your first bike need not be new. Buying used from a dealership is a good idea as they’ll back it up with some guarantees. It may not be wise to invest a lot of money in a new bike when your first bike may not be the style of riding you end up doing. Trust me, I’ve seen this happen far too often.
- Don’t worry about outgrowing your first bike. This is an invalid and overused sales phrase. Your first year of riding will focus on learning and skills. You’ll discover and fine-tune the type of riding you’ll end up doing. You can easily trade in your motorcycle towards another or upgrade to a newer model.
- It’s really important to dominate (control, manage,) the motorcycle model you buy, not the other way around; or grow into it. If you purchase a motorcycle which is too beyond your abilities, you’ll spend too much time being intimated, frustrated, anxious and often frightened. Generally, this combination can prevent you from truly discovering or enjoying motorcycling and possibly cause you to quit.
Whether you decide on a commuter or a big roaring cruiser, remember your adventure starts with the proper protective gear: a full face helmet and eye protection, and protective jacket, boots, pants, and gloves and rain suit – and the right mindset!
And remember, when negotiating your motorcycle purchase at the dealership you can often get your new gear as part of your motorcycle purchase package.