First, a disclaimer. Although the post below was written with ‘sport’ bikes in mind, the rules at the end are pertinent to all types of bikes. However, this article is not meant to be technically accurate nor is my expertise up for discussion or consideration. If you don’t like the article, I don’t really care. 😉
Since this is a topic that comes up often, I thought I’d write a brief, but meaningful article about owning, and riding your first motorcycle.
Basic configuration knowledge
For the purpose of this article, there are 2 types of bikes (actually there’s a lot more than that, but we’re talking basics here): 4 cylinder and 2 cylinder engines. We call them: inline 4’s and twins (respectively). Bikes referred to as “600’s”, “750’s”, and “1000’s (or liter-bikes)” are generally inline 4’s. Sport Twins are most commonly “250’s”, “500’s”, “650’s”, and “1000’s”.
New or used?
I’d recommend that you buy a used bike, something in the 10,000 – 30,000 mile range and preferably a twin (650 should be your max, 500 is recommended). Take someone who knows motorcycles with you (or learn on your own!) and have a good look at the age and quality of the wearing parts like tires, chain, sprockets, clutch, brake pads, fluids and filters.
There are thousands of opinions on the web about a first bike, some will tell you to pick up an inline-4-600 and “grow into it”. I leave that choice up to you, but my opinion is that you will be better off with a twin. They’re lighter, easy to ride, and a HELL of a lot more forgiving when it comes to throttle and brakes. Generally speaking, twins have a much smoother power delivery and more consistent torque delivery than inline 4’s, which is great for new riders.
Here’s a great list of starter bikes.
A note about insurance
I don’t know about all of the states, but here in Florida insurance is not required on a motorcycle that is paid off. That being said, insurance is actually quite cheap, so I definitely recommend it. Mine is like $300 a year for full coverage.
Anyway, let’s talk about actually riding the bike
To get a motorcycle license in Florida you are required to take the rider safety class, and I couldn’t be happier about it. When I took it back in 2004 I really learned a lot. Go in with an open mind, and you’ll enjoy it. Once you have your license, it’s time to really get learning. I’ve been riding since 2004 and I’m still learning new techniques, safety practices, and maintenance tricks.
I can say with some certainty that if you stick to these 3 rules in all situations, you’ll be a safe rider who makes good decisions.
- Assume you are invisible. That woman in the SUV in the next lane might be looking right at you, but believe me, she doesn’t see you.
- Be deliberate. Weather you are turning, shifting gears, or just positioning yourself in a lane, be 100%. Meaning, if you want to change lanes, hit your signal, look over you shoulder, and make the lane change; don’t just wander over there, haphazardly.
- If you’re late, take the car. We make poor choices when we are in a hurry.
Buy good gear
The basic rule of thumb on gear is, if you can’t afford a nice riding jacket, a good pair of boots, gloves, and a helmet, you can’t afford to own a motorcycle. It’s that simple. I know the law in many states doesn’t require a helmet, but I can assure you that the law of nature does. That’s your brain, man… Protect it.
Your new favorite websites will be NewEnough and MotorcycleCloseouts. And don’t forget your local Cycle Gear, trying something on is far better than the ordering blind and returning cycle.
Never stop learning!
When you’re ready, be sure to read “The Pace” by Nick Ienatsch. It’s probably the best article I’ve read on riding in a group.
RideMyOwn.com has some pretty good reading as well. Go and check them out.
Ride safe, and I’ll see you in the twisties!