Experience tells me you are one of two kinds of motorcycle buyers. You are either the kind who owns one, and only one…and you ride it a summer or two only to either get scared (or bored) and you sell it back to the dealer for a loss. Maybe you sell it to a friend. Maybe you just let it sit and wax poetic about how you would ride more if you had time. You will never have time.
If you are not that first type, you are buying your first of many. If you think this is you… welcome. Read on and learn from one guy who has owned quite a few motorcycles and will always possess one as long as he can ride under his own power.
Knowing you are going to buy your fist bike is an exhilarating feeling. Motorcycles are as much fun as the best ride at any amusement park. And when you own one, you have fun at your fingertips at all times… for you and your lucky passengers. But before you get to having fun, lets discuss some of the basics for purchasing a motorcycle. You need to consider some important items prior to making your purchase.
A short list of what you need to consider is: What kind, Size, Age of bike, Use, Training, Insurance, Protective gear, Negotiating price, Negotiating warranty, and Modifications.
What kind – The 6 most widely described bikes are cruisers, touring, duel-purpose, dirt, sports, and ‘general purpose’. Since this is your first, you are probably considering a sports bike, a cruiser or a general purpose bike. I recommend a cruiser or general purpose motorcycle, but sports bikes have a huge audience. Any rocket riders out there feel free to contribute their own advice in the comments, but if you are looking for a cruiser then there we proffer a few parameters you can stick to for a wise decision.
Size – 500 to 1100cc is a good start. Get more than you think you need. Unless you are a small person you will outgrow a 500cc and forget taking a passenger on such a small bike.
Age of bike – Don’t go out looking for a new bike as a starter bike. There are tons of late model used bikes on the smaller end that get bought and… for whatever reason get returned (rider got scared, got bored, realized it’s an expensive hobby). Take advantage of this surplus, and avoid the mark-up and subsequent depreciation of a new bike.
Use – A bar hopper is great for in-town riding (750cc-ish) but if you intend to get out on the road you need 1100cc or better. Anyone who has been passed by a semi doing 80 on a small bike has unquestionably shit their pants.
Training – You need it. Maybe not to get your permit and make the purchase…but you need training. Believe me when I say that, motorcycles are not a toy, they are just fun as one. You want to know some basic things like: starting and stopping, driving on wet pavement, sandy corners, carrying a passenger, and turning at low speeds. Macho means nothing when you are wearing a traffic sign as a retainer.
Insurance – You need it. Shop around. Insurance companies vary greatly on the rate and coverage and all give discounts for training.
Protective gear – You need this too. Again, this is no joke. You should always protect your head, hands and feet at the very least. Riding around in tennis shoes, bare hands and a cheap bucket is the easiest way to make a simple fall into a sad tale in the ER. Buy legit gear meant for protection not pomp, and wear it. A simple fall with no helmet can be deadly, as serious crash without one is almost a guaranteed end. From one rider to another, protect yourself and passengers with you at all times.
Negotiating price – Unless you like spending money when you still have yet to learn what you truly like, it’s best you buy a used bike. Know that everything is negotiable. The price you pay on a used bike starts at zero dollars and goes up. Don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal if you feel you are leaving money on the table.
Negotiating a warranty – Just like price, a warranty is negotiable. Don’t be afraid to ask for a guarantee. If the seller is selling ‘as is’ then count on having problems. You might be lucky but I doubt you are that lucky. Get something in writing.
Modifying a starter bike? – Easy to answer: No. Just do not make this mistake, as it can be costly and limit selling potential. You will only lose money on this kind of thing. No one is going to pay for your modifications and you will never recover what you put into it. Aftermarket chrome or leave modifications for your next bike. Remember, this is only number one and likely not the best bike available, so no need to blow your wad on a bike you will eventually completely upgrade.