So, you’re thinking about buying a motorcycle. Welcome to the club. This is a familiar place for almost all new riders, and it is common for you to have more questions than answers for many aspects of owning a motorcycle and being a first-time rider. Buying your first bike can be a very exciting experience and a little overwhelming. Below, we hope to provide you with some guidance to help you through this process.
- Reasons for getting a motorcycle
- Is riding a bike dangerous?
- What if I have zero experience with motorcycles?
- Do I need to get training?
- What type of motorcycle should I get?
- How do I choose my first bike?
- Should I buy a used motorcycle or a new motorcycle?
- How much should I spend on my first motorcycle?
Reasons for getting a motorcycle
The first thing to realize regarding the reasons for getting a bike is as varied as the types of bikes on the road. However, there are a few common elements that may apply to you. We’ll cover some of these but do so realizing that these do not cover every new rider.
I always wanted to get a motorcycle and waited long enough.
Many new riders or people in the lifestyle will fall into this category. This statement is what led me to get my first bike. While some of the other reasons below applied to me, buying a motorcycle was something that I had on my bucket list for way too long.
If you relate to this reason, you likely have a sense of adventure and are interested in experiencing the thrill of riding around on two wheels. You’ve probably thought about riding a bike for longer than you can remember and may have some ideas for the type of bike you want. You may be making this decision with little or no experience on a bike. Regardless, the thrill of the idea is likely mixed with anxiety, excitement, and a little bit of feeling overwhelmed.
Many of my friends ride a motorcycle, and I want to try it.
If you have friends who ride and you don’t, it’s easy to feel left out on the weekends when they’re going for a group ride. Maybe you tagged along as a passenger and enjoyed the thrill but still feel a little left out not having a bike of your own.
If you fall into this category, you may have a little knowledge of bikes or have an idea of the style of motorcycle you want, largely from hanging around your friends as they spew out motorcycle knowledge. The good news is that you have people in your life who can help you walk through the introductory process. However, be aware that it’s easy to get talked into too big of a starter bike when you may need something a little more approachable.
Commuting on a motorcycle will help me save some money on gas
If high gas prices have lightened your wallet, you may be looking for a more economical way to commute to work or run errands around town. If this is you, you may have many questions about the type of bike you want to get or maybe even what it takes to ride a bike.
Riding a bike for commuting is a great way to save cash when you can ride. However, remember that it’s a difficult form of transportation if it’s your only option. In addition, while commuting on a bike can be done full-time, you’ll be commuting during all types of weather, in the cold and hot summer days, and will have some limitations on what you need to carry with you. While all these concerns can be overcome, they’re part of the considerations you must make when deciding to get a bike solely for commuting.
I had a motorcycle long ago and want to get back into it.
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on ATVs and dirt bikes, which gave me a little experience with my first bike. Others come back to the lifestyle with varying degrees of experience. If you are a little rusty or don’t have much experience riding on the road but want to revive this passion, this category may apply to you. If this category applies to you, the first thing to consider is that bikes have changed quite a bit in recent years. Some modern bikes are packed with technology (riding modes, electronic displays, navigation, electric fuel injection, etc.). However, entry-level bikes in each category keep things simple and might be more reminiscent of what you were used to.
If you have experience on a bike, this will lower your learning curve quite a bit. However, don’t take a few years of riding as a pass for taking some safety training. Riding a bike is half the challenge. Doing it safely and limiting your risks are skills that even the most seasoned rider can always improve on.
I want a motorcycle to make me more of a badass and pick up girls.
While riding a bike may seem like a great way to up your street cred, it’s not a great reason to enter the lifestyle. Riding a motorcycle is a personal experience and a great one to instill a sense of freedom on the road that you can’t get from driving a car. Don’t buy a bike to impress others; do it for yourself. No bike will fill the holes in your self-confidence but entering the biking lifestyle safely and with respect for the machine can help you increase your pride in taking on a challenge and accomplishing it. First and foremost, ride for yourself.
Is riding a bike dangerous?
As with all things in life, there are risks. While some decisions carry more risks than others, you can never really be free of them. There’s no question that riding a motorcycle carries more risk to the rider than driving a car. However, it doesn’t mean that you will inevitably get in an accident or be injured by choosing to ride a motorcycle.
When confronted with an activity that carries higher risks than others, the best option is to take steps to limit those risks. To limit your risks on a motorcycle, you will need to do simple things like taking motorcycle training, riding within your limits, not drinking and riding, wearing appropriate safety gear, and practicing your skills like braking, swerving, riding through curves, etc. Practice will instill muscle memory, which, combined with good decision-making, will greatly lower your risk level.
While it’s true that you can get injured because someone else made a poor decision or road conditions create a hazard, it’s important to realize that most motorcycle crashes and injuries result from mistakes or poor judgment by the rider.
So, riding a motorcycle carries risks, but many are within your control. Most people who ride accept risks in life in exchange for the freedom they feel on a bike. However, most experienced riders who ride throughout their life and have done so without major incidents take steps to limit their exposure to risks.
What if I have zero experience with motorcycles?
The first thing to realize is that everyone who got on a motorcycle for the first time had ZERO experience riding a motorcycle before. If lack of experience were a reason for deciding not to get a bike, then there wouldn’t be any. While I don’t recommend jumping on a bike for the first time with zero abilities or instruction, you don’t need to know everything about motorcycles to start this venture. Everyone has to start somewhere.
A great place to start learning about riding is from others who ride. If you have people in your life who ride, talk to them. One common thing amongst bikers is that they like to talk about it. You will learn a lot simply by stating your intentions and asking them where to start. You may even find someone to take you under their wing and help you get started.
Next, read, watch, and learn. There is so much information available at the tip of your fingertip today. A quick google search, which likely led you to this article, will provide you with more knowledge than you can consume in a lifetime. Before you go out and buy your first bike, read as much as possible about motorcycles and how to ride safely, and look for answers to questions you have swirling around your head. There are some fantastic YouTube channels dedicated to teaching safe riding skills. Filter out the content that focuses on showing off, and hone in on the stuff that teaches you how to be safe.
Finally, start with a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course. An MSF New Rider’s Course will give you a great introduction to motorcycles. It will get you on a bike in a safe and controlled environment and teach you some basic skills to get you riding. Treat riding as a lifelong learning endeavor, and don’t take a little bit of knowledge as a substitute for experience. If you invest time into this lifestyle, it will pay dividends throughout your riding career.
Do I need to get training?
If riding safely is a goal you have, and it should be, then yes, you need to get training. While many people will tell you that they’ve been riding their entire life and never took a course, good for them. Maybe they’ve even managed to avoid a serious crash or two. However, those dice aren’t worth rolling if you value your life.
Riding a bike is a mix of science and art. Nobody is born with good riding genes. If you want to learn how to ride a bike, the best way to do so is by taking a safety course. The good news is that they’re accessible and relatively inexpensive. You will want to start with the MSF New Rider Course as a new rider. This class, usually a two-day experience, will teach you the fundamentals of safely operating and controlling a motorcycle. It should be the start of your motorcycling learning experience.
Following the class, you will most likely be eligible to get your motorcycle license. However, your training shouldn’t stop there. All new riders should adopt some individual (or, better yet, with a friend) parking lot practice. You will want to practice the skills you learned in the MSF course routinely. It’s also highly advisable to take some follow-up classes, such as the MSF advanced riding class or a dirt riding class. These courses don’t feel like school. They’re fun and interactive and will teach you the skill you need to keep you safe and maybe save your life.
It’s advisable to take the training before you purchase a bike. It will make finding the right bike for your needs easier and will make the first ride more enjoyable and safer.
It’s advisable to take the training before you purchase a bike. It will make finding the right bike for your needs easier and will make the first ride more enjoyable and safer.
What type of motorcycle should I get?
Long before considering all of the decisions that go into choosing to ride a motorcycle, most people find themselves starting with this question. While it’s not necessarily the most important factor you need to consider, it’s usually the most fun and a good enough reason for many to take the leap to two wheels.
Unfortunately, this can be a confusing topic since there are so many different types of motorcycles available today. If you’re stuck in this decision, a good way to help you narrow down your choices is to think about the type of riding you want to do. Are you looking for a comfortable and reliable bike for commuting to work? Are you hope to take longer trips or maybe do a lot of moto camping? Do you want something fun and fast? Are you looking to take short weekend rides around town or in the city? Would you want to hit up some dirt roads? All of these choices may influence the type of bike that is best suited for you. While there is no best “do it all” bike, there are quite a few “do a lot of it” bikes available.
When I bought my first bike, I planned to use it to commute to work, take longer camping trips, and enjoy long weekend rides with my buddies. I wasn’t too concerned with speed, but I also didn’t want a dog on the highway. I wanted a classic-style bike, but I wanted something newer that would be reliable. I didn’t want a traditional cruiser-style bike, which is very popular in my region. I eventually narrowed my style to a standard classic that would provide some room for growth. I purchased a Triumph Bonneville T100, a 900cc classic that I instantly fell in love with.
When deciding, I spent a lot of time reading reviews, watching videos online, and visiting local shops to test as many bikes as possible. Most motorcycle dealers will let you take a bike out for a test ride if you have your motorcycle license. Fit and comfort were important considerations for me. I put this up at the top of my list as I was planning to spend a lot of time on the bike. I also wanted a bike with enough power but still light and manageable.
Looking at different bike styles is a good place to start narrowing down your list of options. Depending on what you read, you will often see different lists of bike styles. As more manufacturers try to make bikes that cross styles, new ones are born, which can get confusing. Below is a simple list of the different types of bikes you’ll likely encounter in your search. However, don’t get so caught up with the label of a bike- look for one that meets your riding needs and has a look, feel, and features you like.
A standard classic style motorcycle is a style born from the golden age of motorcycles. They usually have a flat seat that puts the rider in an upright position. A standard bike is often smaller, with the higher range of power topping out at around the 1000cc mark. Lower power options in the 200-600 cc engine size range are common in this style and great for new riders.
Standard bikes are great for daily riding but can be loaded with luggage for short touring trips. They’re very approachable, in general, and look amazing (IMHO). One of the longest-running standard bikes is the Triumph Bonneville.
If you want to know what a cruiser is, then simply picture almost any Harley Davidson motorcycle. Cruisers are probably one of the most popular style bikes you will see on the road. They are longer and lower in shape and typically sport the classic Harley V-Twin engine. Cruisers encompass a lot of what people love about motorcycles. They look awesome, have a lot of low torque power, and can keep up at fast speeds. They also have that beautiful low grunt chugging engine sound that tells you that it’s ready to go.
While many people associate cruisers with Harley’s, almost every manufacturer has one in their lineup- they’re an extremely fun bike. While not the fastest or most tech-heavy bike, they’re reliable and capable of a wide range of riding styles.
Touring bikes are a mix between a cruiser and an RV. While I’m being a little factious, a touring bike will be big, have lots of storage and large fuel tanks, be comfortable for long distances on cross-country trips, and ride as comfortably as you can on two wheels. Because of the increased size, touring bikes are also heavy, and it’s not uncommon for them to be well over 1,000 lbs.
Touring bikes are not the best option for new riders largely due to their size, weight, and learning curve with low-speed maneuvering. However, if you decide long trips are for you, it’s a great class of bike to grow into.
When driving on an interstate, you’re probably familiar with the high-pitched sound of a sport bike as it moves past you like you’re standing still. Sport bikes are performance-driven motorcycles geared towards high speeds, maneuverability, and adrenaline-packed fun. These bikes are essentially products of the race bike world, made for the street. The unique thing about this style of bike is the riding position. Riders have a forward-leaning position with rear pegs and controls, giving the rider maximum control for quick maneuvers at fast speeds.
Sport bikes have finely tuned engines, providing optimal torque throughout all of the gears, meaning that they can quickly increase their speed at any time. While new riders enter the lifestyle with this style of bike, it’s best to start on a smaller engine between 300-600 cc. The big and powerful sportbikes can quickly get a new rider into a lot of trouble.
If you’re looking for an offroad bike, you probably know this already. Commonly referred to as dirt bikes, these small but powerful bikes are the king of the dirt. They’re not designed for street riding and, in most situations, are not permitted on roadways. A dirt bike will have long suspension and knobby tires and is designed to go anywhere that other motorcycles can’t. This bike style is only for riders with a dirt track or off-road place to ride and understand that they can’t take them on the street.
If you like the benefits of a dirt bike but want to hit up the streets, then a dual-purpose sport bike is for you. Built with a similar style to a dirt bike, with knobby tires and high clearance, this bike can legally ride on the road and handle challenging trails when on the dirt. While not quite performance-specific as a dedicated sportbike, it’s a great option if you need a mix of road and off-road capabilities.
Adventure Bike (ADV)
So you’ve watched “The Long Way Round” and are dreaming of a 3000-mile adventure across the country. Adventure bikes are a mix of several styles of bikes, including touring, dirt, and street riding. They can be outfitted with off-road tires and have beefy frames for carrying luggage, handling harsh conditions, or the occasional drop on challenging terrain.
Adventure bikes are usually big and heavy and have ample ground clearance. They are the do-it-all bike of the motorcycle world. They can handle whatever you throw at them and are built for long-distance travel in varying conditions. They are more expensive than other road bike options, but they’re reliable and can take you on a week-long sightseeing trip, camping, and a bit of off-road adventuring to a remote campsite down a national forest gravel road.
Scooters and Mopeds
While some bikers will exclude this category from a motorcycle list, it’s a two-wheel machine and requires a motorcycle license to ride. They’re not fast and powerful like a regular motorcycle but are light, agile, and get great gas mileage. These bikes are best for in-city commuting or getting around town. While you probably don’t want to take these on the interstate at highway speeds, they’ll comfortably transport you around town and make your commute more enjoyable.
How do I choose my first bike?
As mentioned above, choosing a bike should start with what you want to do with it. It should also reflect the style you like, fit you comfortably, and be approachable enough for you to ride, but not limit you in power that you’ll be easily bored in 2-3 months. When taking your MSF course, you’ll likely be on a 125-250 cc bike. I took my course on a Honda Rebel. Use this as a gauge. If the bike feels more than capable of what you want, you can always start with a similarly sized motorcycle. However, just because it seemed easy to ride does not mean you’re ready to purchase a 1000 cc bike. There is a big difference and learning curve between these two grades of bikes.
Many people who feel comfortable during the class but want to enter the sport slowly may appreciate purchasing a bike in the 300-600 cc range. These bikes will provide room for growth, are great learning platforms, and help you get a year or two under your belt before you upgrade to something bigger. However, some people are completely happy in this range and have no desire to get something bigger.
Another important consideration when choosing your first bike is its physical size and weight. You will want the best fit possible when you’re starting. Ideally, you want to be able to place to feet comfortably on the ground when sitting on the bike. Just as the size of the engine is important, so is the size of the frame. If you’re shorter, look for a bike with a low seat height and one that’s not too heavy for you to control. Your first purchase can be intimidating, so bring an experienced friend with you or go to a reputable dealer when trying to find the right sized bike.
Should I buy a used motorcycle or a new motorcycle?
This is a great question but a hard one to answer the same way for everyone. When I advise people looking for their first bike, I typically recommend buying a used but newer model. While you can always find a great deal on a 1992 Kawasaki cruiser, you are also inheriting mechanical problems you have with the bike; you won’t benefit from modern technology that makes newer bikes handle better, and you could be spending more time wrenching than riding. By purchasing a bike built within the past 5-7 years, you can typically get a good bike, lower mileage, and some newer tech like fuel injection, ABS, and liquid cooling, all at an affordable price.
A used bike will make you more comfortable learning to ride without fearing dropping your $12,000 new motorcycle. It will free up some money and enable you to purchase the bike you want. If you purchase a good used bike for $4,000 today, you can probably sell it for $3,800 next year. That’s $200 for a full year of riding, learning, and having fun.
While you can certainly go out and purchase a brand-new bike to start with, you’re taking more of a gamble. You may outgrow the bike and lose more money on the sale than you would have if you purchased new. You’ll also likely be more cautious when learning on your bike, especially during low-speed practice. While you don’t necessarily want to drop any bike, it hurts a little less if you have an existing scrape or ding on the bike. However, on the flip side, some really great and affordable entry-level bikes are available and cost less than some used competitors. For example, a new Royal Enfield Meteor can be purchased for $5,000, while a similar 8-year-old Triumph Bonneville could cost the same amount.
Remember, as a general rule, motorcycles will be more expensive when everyone shops for them in the spring. This is especially true in the used market. A good option is to look for a used bike in the fall when riders try to sell it at the end of the riding season. You can typically find a good deal on most bike models.
How much should I spend on my first motorcycle?
Just like the questions of used vs. new, this answer varies. However, for most people, you can find a good quality, reliable bike for between $3,000-$5,000. However, this price can increase if you look at more expensive makes/models. If you’re simply looking to purchase a good, used first bike, you can usually find one in this price range from a private seller.
Also, be sure that you don’t blow your entire budget on the bike. Remember, you will need money for motorcycle insurance, maintenance costs, and riding gear.
While this article won’t cover every question you have, hopefully, it will provide you with some things to think about as you embark on your motorcycle journey. The best time to learn how to ride a motorcycle was a year ago. The next best time is right now. If this is something that you’ve always wanted to try, go for it. It can be a fun and fulfilling experience. At worst, you may realize that it’s not for you, but at least you gave it a try.
When starting, consider why you want to ride, what style of riding you hope to do, and what type of bike will allow you to do it. You can begin to prepare by researching, learning, and taking the necessary steps to ride safely, which should start with an MSF course.
Choosing the best motorcycle for you really comes down to personal preferences. However, you will want to consider your riding style, skill level, and fit. The most important thing to consider is your comfort level with the bike. You don’t want to be scared of a bigger bike when you’re learning to ride safely. It’s always a good idea to start with an approachable bike and upgrade later.
However, I’ll leave you with this one last note of caution. Motorcycles can be addictive, and before you know it, you may have a garage filled with 3-4 different bikes. Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the ride. Be sure to post any additional questions below in the comments section.