There’s nothing more American than hitting the open road on the back of a Harley Davidson. Motorcycles represent freedom, independence, and adventure, so it should come as no surprise that more people than ever are looking to buy their first bikes. There are, however, a few things novice riders should know before they head to the dealership. Read on to find some tips that will help even first-time riders choose the perfect bike to fit their needs.
1. Buy Used
There are two reasons it’s almost always best to buy used when purchasing first motorcycles. First, not everyone winds up loving the feeling of wind in their hair as much as they think, and selling a used bike at an affordable price makes it much easier for people who just aren’t born to ride to recoup their investments. Second, almost everyone drops that first bike sooner or later. When looking for discounted bikes, keep in mind that quality is still key, and buy from a reputable dealership that inspects every vehicle and fixes or discloses known problems.
2. Don’t Go All-Out on Power
Novice motorcyclists may want to ride huge, powerful bikes, but it’s much better to start with smaller, lower-displacement engines. These less powerful bikes are easier to handle, which is crucial during those first few rides. Learning how to ride on a less powerful motorcycle will also encourage novice riders to develop proper techniques before they trade up. Look for a bike in the 250cc to 600cc range and learn the basics before moving on to a more powerful motorcycle.
3. Bring a Friend
Buying a motorcycle is a lot like buying a car. It requires inspecting the bike and taking it for a test ride to make sure everything is in order. Unfortunately, novice riders don’t know what to look for, which can make both inspections and test rides a challenge. The best way around this problem is to bring along a more experienced friend who can point out potential issues and let the buyer know how the bike handles.
4. Learn the Different Kinds of Bikes
Not all motorcycles are ideal for beginners, but there are entry-level models in every category. Learning the different types of motorcycles will help entry-level riders ensure that their new bikes will suit their needs until they upgrade to bigger models. Describing every type of bike out there is beyond the purview of this article, but here are the general categories to consider:
- Adventure touring bikes
- Power cruisers
- Dirt bikes
- Enduro bikes
- Motocross bikes
- Naked bikes
- Sports bikes
- Supermoto bikes
- Touring bikes
Even within these general categories, every model has something a little different to offer. Before viewing and test-riding a used motorcycle for sale, do some research on the specific model to see what more experienced riders have to say about it. Again, this is a good time to enlist the help of a more experienced friend, though it’s important to note that everyone has different preferences and all buying advice should be taken with a grain of salt.
5. Get the Right Fit
Ensuring the right fit requires factoring in two things: seat height and motorcycle weight. A bike with the perfect seat height is one that allows the rider to place both feet flat on the pavement for balance. The right seat height is especially important with heavier bikes. Some types of motorcycles tend to weigh more than others. Even cruisers with low displacement usually weigh more than the speediest sports bikes. The bottom line here is that riders should feel confident that they can handle the weight safely.
6. Make Sure the Paperwork Is in Order
Once a buyer has found the perfect bike, it’s time to start dealing with the paperwork. Before signing on the dotted line, check the VIN number on the title to make sure it matches what’s on the bike. When buying from private sellers, it’s also important to check the title to make sure there are no liens on the bike and that it is registered to the person selling it. When in doubt, check with the DMV to make sure it’s not registered as a stolen vehicle.
Private sellers should also offer a bill of sale to the buyer. This document should include key information like the VIN number, the make and model of the bike, how many miles are on the odometer, and the agreed-upon price. Both parties will need to sign and date the bill of sale as well as the title.
Buying a used motorcycle from a dealership helps to eliminate some of the problems associated with purchasing used bikes. The dealership will help with filling out paperwork, and buyers will have an assurance that their new bikes have legal paperwork and will be safe to ride.
7. Buy High-Quality Gear
Before getting on a new bike, novice riders should make sure they have quality gear to protect them when they fall. Remember, it really is a matter of when, not if, since almost all novice riders drop their bikes at least once before they learn the ropes. Don’t stop at buying a DOT-approved helmet. Riders should also buy riding jackets, pants, boots, gloves, and goggles.
It’s best to buy gear in person instead of purchasing it online. That way, riders will know that everything fits comfortably and correctly. Plus, they’ll have access to professional help if they need advice choosing their first helmets or pairs of motorcycle boots.
Owning and riding a motorcycle is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but only if first-time buyers take the time to educate themselves and ensure that they are purchasing bikes that will fit their unique needs. Riders can always upgrade later if they want more power and speed, but it makes little sense to jump on the biggest, most expensive bike around for that first ride. When in doubt about appropriate models for beginners, talk to a more experienced friend or head to a reputable dealership that sells used bikes to get professional help.