Four Things to Consider for Your First Bike
Motorcycling is going through a renaissance right now. More new people are coming to the sport than in quite some time, as motorcycling’s appeal is reaching out to a broader demographic than ever before. Women, various ethnic groups, and young people are all coming together to transform the face of motorcycling. Whether for recreational purposes or basic transportation needs, motorcycle sales in the U.S. have exploded over the past three years. No doubt the recent pandemic has had something to do with this because when you get right down to it, motorcycles provide the ultimate form of social distancing. Plus, there is no better stress relief. In addition, the motorcycle industry has been taking steps to attract new riders with large-scale new ridership programs touting the virtues of motorcycling backed by a renewed and some needed effort by the manufacturers to design models specifically tuned for the requirements of beginner riders. Smaller, lighter, less intimidating models put rider comfort and ease of operation at a premium.
Technologies like ABS and traction control have all come together to make basic operation and functionality easier for new and beginner riders. Factor in the massive effort the industry is making to provide new rider training and safety programs, and we have a perfect combination of access points to ensure anyone interested in taking up motorcycling has the tools and resources needed to maximize the experience.
So now that you are sold, what is the right motorcycle for you? You’ll need to answer these questions before embarking on your life in motorcycling, so let’s start with some basics. Let’s start by answering four simple questions:
How Do You Plan to Use It?
Are you buying a motorcycle for basic transportation, getting back and forth to work or school? Or for fun? Do you plan on taking it out on weekend trips, recreational riding, or even long overnight trips? Finally, do you plan to ride on or off-road or combine the two? Once you’ve answered this, it will help you decide what type of motorcycle you need. Maybe you need a good basic bike for transportation. In that case, a good standard motorcycle will do. Fortunately, all the major brands make great standard street legal models capable of riding in town or on highways. These motorcycles usually have a low seat height and an upright seating position, and most of the late models have technology like ABS and traction control for ease of operation. They also come in many different engine capacities, from small displacement to large, ensuring you can select the proper horsepower range so as not to be intimidated and to match your skill level. Or you are looking for something sportier, something you can take out on weekend rides with friends and groups. Anything from a cruiser-style motorcycle (think Harley Davidson) to a sport bike to a touring model will do. Next, Adventure/Dual Sport models are like the Swiss army knife of motorcycles. These can go on and off road and are great for people who want to get out on backroads and close to nature. Finally, there are pure off-road motorcycles designed for racing and trail riding. Determining your needs and how you plan to use the bike is the first question you need to answer.
What Size/Displacement Motorcycle Should You Buy?
The answer to this question is critical, especially if you are a new rider. When you are just starting out, there are better choices than buying a high-powered, super-fast motorcycle. Consider a lower displacement motorcycle, anything under 500cc, if you are starting. Modern motorcycles have a tremendous power-to-weight ratio. Even small displacement motorcycles as low as 250 to 300cc have plenty of power to effectively ride on highways and city streets and maintain flow with other traffic. They are easier to control, less intimidating, and will serve as a great learning platform while your skills and confidence grow.
New or Used?
This is a great question and one that you should consider before buying. Like any new sport or recreational activity, it may be better to enter at a lower price point until you are sure it’s something you truly plan to stay involved with. Today’s modern motorcycles are exceptionally well built and capable of running tens of thousands of miles without a problem if properly maintained. The used bike market is a great place to start. Whether you buy from a dealer or an end user, the same criteria should be applied to purchasing any used product. Has it been involved in an accident or crashed? How many miles does it have on it? Have the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals been maintained? Does it have any obvious problems such as oil leaks, strange sounds from the motor, or things that don’t work? It's Ok to ask to have the bike inspected by an independent mechanic. Many shops will perform this service for $100 - $150. It's great insurance against buying a problem child.
Internal Combustion Engine or Electric?
This is a relatively new choice you can make. Electric motorcycles have come a long, long way in the last few years. Their advantages are that they don’t require much maintenance, they are super easy to ride, no shifting or clutch is needed, their performance is phenomenal, and they are a ton of fun to ride. Their disadvantages are related to range, recharge times, and cost. Most modern electric motorcycles have a limited range of fewer than 100 miles on the highway and sell for a premium of %30 - %40 over the cost of an internal combustion motorcycle. Despite this, they are still worth considering and may be the right bike for you.
To Sum It All Up
The four points above cover the most critical factors you must consider when purchasing your first motorcycle. Once you’ve answered, then do your research. There is plenty of great information on the internet, in motorcycle enthusiast publications where they typically do road tests and evaluations of motorcycles, to chat rooms and other groups. Often your fellow motorcyclists are great resources for information and feedback on various brands and models. Last but certainly not least, your local dealer is a great place to start. Today’s dealerships are used to working with a wide variety of consumers, especially new riders. Most of them offer demo rides on models they sell. Also, keep your eyes open for various OEM rolling road shows that offer test rides at dealerships and various motorcycle trade shows and events. These are all great places to gather information on your next bike.
Whatever you do, take your time and ensure you get the right bike. There has never been a better time to start your journey into motorcycling. More new models, better training and education, better riding gear, and more clubs and activities to join and participate in than ever before. Motorcycling has a lot to offer. See you out on the trail!