During the Basic Rider Course, it isn’t uncommon for Rider Coaches to be asked a variety of questions that range from personal experiences, to technical aspects of motorcycling. The question of “what is the best starter bike” is asked each and every class. Choosing your first bike may seem like a fairly simple task; in fact, I’m sure many of you already have a particular type, if not the specific make and model in mind already. The choice can become daunting however, especially after acquainting yourself with the skills and techniques required to ride that you’ll learn during the course. When choosing your first bike (or even your next bike if you already have one) there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.
How should I fit on my motorcycle?
Feeling comfortable on your bike is crucial to riding safely. After all, if you’re not comfortable – you won’t be able to learn. As you’re already aware; people come in so many difference shapes and sizes. It’s no surprise that motorcycles also come in a vast array of shapes and sizes. Many bikes can be adjusted or customized even further to “fit” the rider – finding that fit is what it’s all about.
When you sit on a bike you shouldn’t feel discomfort. I’m not suggesting that your motorcycle should feel like your favorite couch! But you shouldn’t feel the need to strain yourself in order to sit on the bike with the side-stand up and locked. Both of your feet should be able to firmly touch the ground without fully extending your legs. Ensuring this will help keep you balanced when starting and stopping.
You should be able to reach, and manipulate all of your controls with ease. Turn the handlebars fully in either direction making sure that no part of your body is obstructing their movement. Most importantly, how do you feel seated on the bike? Do your arms and shoulders ache from holding the hand grips? How about your upper and lower back?
Have someone hold the bike upright while you put your feet on the foot rests –are you able to bend your legs enough, or are you bending your legs too much? Be honest with yourself when you sit on these bikes. If something doesn’ feel right, ask if it can be adjusted. If adjustments aren’ an option, there are always other bikes out there.
What size engine should I get?
My first “real”motorcycle was a sport bike; a red and black Honda CBR 600–‐RR. Although there are some people who believe that a 600 CC sport bike is perfect for a new rider, there are an equal number of people who will say “that’s too much power” In my opinion both answers are technically correct –as it is all determined by the rider.
I never advise new riders (or even experienced ones for that matter) on picking a motorcycle based on the power it has. While I personally believe that for standard driving conditions, 600 CCs on a sport bike is more power than you’l ever need on public roads; I also understand that a bike with a smaller engine can be just as dangerous as a bike with a larger engine.
Motorcycles, regardless of the engine size, are not forgiving when it comes to the laws of physics. Depending on the type of bike, a smaller engine won’t necessarily equal less torque and speed.
Therefore, it is essential that you are comfortable with the process and response of accelerating, shifting, slowing, and stopping. Being responsible with that power is equally important. Once you’e found a motorcycle that fits you well, with an engine size that you are comfortable and responsible with; you’l have to decide where/how you’l purchase the bike.
Where should I buy a motorcycle?
You can find both new and used bikes at reputable dealers that come with warranties or guarantees similar to those found with cars. There are also a lot of great bikes being sold directly by their owners that you can find on websites (like Craigslist), in papers, or just by driving around. Where you will go to purchase your bike is your prerogative; although I would advise against buying an extravagant dream bike as your first motorcycle.
Whether you go to a dealer or private seller; make sure you’e absolutely comfortable on the bike before making any decisions. While we’d all like to think that the friendly salesman has our best interests in mind, it’s important to remember that just because “you look great sitting on that V-Rod” it might not be the best choice for you.
If you’e buying a used bike, its okay to ask the dealer or owner about the bike’s history (some bikes will even have a “bike facts” printout showing insurance claims). Keep in mind that a little bit of cosmetic damage doesn’t mean that the bike is necessarily in bad shape –a good TCLOCS inspection should help you to determine if it is operational.
By doing a little bit of homework and having some patience, you’ll be able to find a great bike that will provide some very beneficial throttle therapy!
I hope to see you in a class in the near future. We are here to help you learn every step of the way.
Mike O. RiderCoach