Motorcycle 101: How to Buy Your First Motorcycle
Updated: Dec 21, 2018
Admit it, deep down we all want one. Maybe it’s the idea of wearing leather vests adored with badass patches. Maybe It’s the urge to race through the streets going twice the legal limit. Or maybe it’s the idea of throwing a girl on the back and touring the country together. But no matter what your motorcycle fantasy is one thing I clear. You know you’re getting a bike someday. And with ridership numbers trending downward in recent years, there are some amazing deals out there. So there has never been a better time to start shopping for the bike of your dreams.
But where do I start? How much should I be spending on a first motorcycle? Should I go used or new? And most importantly, what type of motorcycle is best for me? These are most likely going to be the first questions you’re asking yourself. Lucky for you, you came to the right place. I have been riding motorcycles for years. I’ve ridden everything from Harley’s to Triumphs, and Ducati’s. So based on my experiences, I have created a short list of things to consider when buying your first motorcycle.
Stay Away from Vintage Bikes
Many new riders I meet have this over Romanized idea that they are going to find an old rusty 70’s/80’s era motorcycle, and experience the joy of restoring it. They have this inflated sense of self determination that they really can bring a non-running old bike back to life. This idea is not only foolish, but also dangerous.
Vintage bikes are often times missing safety features of modern bikes. They feature outdated brake designs such as drum brakes, they have finicky electrical systems that can leave you stranded, and they were meant to run on a type of gasoline that we no longer sell in the United States. As a new rider, you need to focus on learning how to ride. And for that, you need modern and mainstream bike as possible. The last thing you need is a 40 year old brake design while you’re riding modern traffic.
So rather than focus on vintage, you’ll want to focus on a bike from the 2000s era. A bike like that will offer better brakes, a trouble free modern fuel injection system, and the bike will be new enough to take to a dealership if you ever need repairs. Many dealerships aren’t able to work on bikes once they get too old. So buy buying a modern motorcycle, you can guarantee that you’ll be able to find someone to work on your bike.
Stay Below 1000 cc’s and under 100 HP
Motorcycles are categorized by two metrics, CC and horsepower. CC’s refer to the physical engine size, while HP refers to the amount of power the engine has. Let’s take a look at the following examples.
This is a Kawasaki Ninja 250. This bike is a 250 CC engine that produces 36 Horsepower. This bike only weighs 375 pounds when full of fuel. Because the bike has a small engine, it will have a lighter weight. This also means that the smaller engine will not produce a lot of horsepower, meaning the bike will run quite smoothly and you won’t lose control if you accelerate too fast.
Now this on the other hand, is a different story.
This is a Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. This bike has a 1200cc engine that produces roughly 60-67 horsepower and weighs about 560lbs with gas. Compared to the Ninja above, The Harley Sportster will produce twice the power of the Ninja and weigh 185 lbs more. Personally I believe this is a dangerous combination for a new rider. You want a bike that is light, nimble, and will stop quickly if you make a mistake. That is why I recommended that you avoid larger CC and heavy bikes when you buy your first motorcycle.
The Bike you want is NOT the Bike you NEED
Many riders I meet have this idea that they have to be married to their first motorcycle. They view their buying their first motorcycle like falling in love with their high school sweetheart. They envision their bike being a part of their lives for several years to come. But this idea couldn’t be further from reality.
The reality is that your first motorcycle should last you two years, and no longer. The whole idea of your first motorcycle is to learn to ride. It’s not to form a deep long term relationship with it. You should buy your first motorcycle with the expectation that you will be getting rid of it in two years. Because chances are the bike type of bike you’ve fallen in love with is not the bike you are ready for.
This is a major mistake many new riders make. They see a Youtube commercial or see a motorcycle in a Hollywood movie and fall in love with it. They envision themselves riding that, and only that bike. But I guarantee you that whoever was riding that bike in that show or movie, did NOT have that model as their first bike. They worked their way up to it, just like every other rider that came before them. And you, will have to do the same.
There is nothing more freeing and exciting than riding a motorcycle. There’s just something so freeing about it and just impossible to explain to a non rider. So while shopping for your first motorcycle, here’s a recap of the three tips we discussed.
· Stay away from Vintage Bikes
· Stay Below 1000cc’s and 100 HP
· The bike you WANT isn’t the bike you NEED