My Advice for Buying a First Motorcycle (because you asked for it… )

I keep wanting to title this post “Becareful of What You Wish For” but no one would know what it was about if I did that.

It shouldn’t surprise me that anytime anybody I know wants to buy a motorcycle or wants to know something about a motorcycle they come to me. It really shouldn’t… but it still does.

A few weeks ago another friend asked me about what makes a good first bike. This got me thinking that maybe I should just write it all down. Not that it would stop me from talking about it for hours on end to someone who asked (poor fools). But mainly to have something to refer them to, so that way after their eyes glazed over and they stopped listening they could come here and find the answer to the question.

A great place to sit on bikes, a motorcycle show near you.

A great place to sit on bikes, a motorcycle show near you.

So first bike.

I’m not one to tell you that you have to get a 250-300cc bike. First it would be hypocritical of me. Secondly, if your 6’5″ and 200+lbs it might be a bit small. However, I do think they make great first bikes. Especially if you’re on the smaller side. They also will let you go fast at your pace and to go fast you’ll have to get better at things like actually riding the crap out of the bike. This means in the long run you’ll probably be a better rider than if you started on a really big high horsepower bike. You’re also much less likely to get yourself in trouble by accidentally grabbing too much throttle and going faster than you can handle while you’re learning.

The main restriction on size for me would be 650ish, and only that big if it’s a twin. The biggest things to avoid are bikes with really high seats (making it difficult for feet to reach the ground) and any bike that is made to race.

To find out what bikes are too tall you can do a few things. One is go to this super cool website. It has most if not all the bikes being made and made for the last 10 years or so. You can enter your measurements and see how you’ll fit and if you change some of the options if your feet reach the ground. The Second is that you can go to dealerships and sit on the bikes there. They might be a bit pushy, but generally they’re ok with it. Other good places to sit on motorcycle are Motorcycle events. Motorcycle races always have dealer tents with their latest options on display and for sitting on. The International Motorcycle Show also does rounds every year and is also a fantastic place to sit on bikes.

I’m pretty against a 600cc supersport as a first bike. These bikes are great… if you want to go around a race track very fast. They aren’t great road bikes. They’re high strung racing machines making at least 100 hp. (Which  is excessive on almost any motorcycle, and crazy for a first bike.)  They do this by having very high reving engines that reach 12-14k rpm. This makes them very impractical for the street riding and canyon carving that you’ll likely be doing.   I started on my Ducati Monster 620, and at 60ish horsepower it’s still plenty to have a ton of fun on.

I would also think hard about buying used. This is just good advice when buying any vehicle. There is an element of risk when you do this, but you save a lot of money, and this is a good thing since you’ll need money to fix the bits that break when you drop it for the first time. Obviously (or not) you’ll need a friend who rides to help with this. Someone who knows what to look for and hopefully take it on a test ride.

My final and possibly most important recommendation for a first bike is get ABS. I would not recommend getting any bike without it. I’ve gone over this a bit in other posts so I won’t continue to bore you with it.

So have fun getting that first bike for my other tips for a new rider check this post out.

About Scott Otte

I started riding motorcycles in 2006, and there is no going back. I'm closing in on 100,000 miles and despite setbacks and murderous BMW's I'm loving every mile.
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6 Responses to My Advice for Buying a First Motorcycle (because you asked for it… )

  1. If I remember correctly, my first bike was an old Honda CM200. My first “real” bike was a Multistrada 620, and you’re right- 60 or so horsepower is plenty. Beside, it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow! My camhead BMW R1200R makes 110hp, and I still want something smaller like a Grom! :D

  2. Pingback: I think you should ride a motorcycle (and here’s how you start) | Motorcycles and the Cynic

  3. Pingback: Motorcycle For a New Rider Under $3000… | Motorcycles and the Cynic

  4. D Rogers says:

    My first bike was an aprilia mana. Downside was being a bit heavy. Upside was looks and quite docile, despite haven enough power on sport mode to avoid getting bored. Easy to pick up a cheap used one because they are automatic bikes and hard to sell. They also have a great storage compartment in the gas tank. Kinda wished I kept it…. Oh well. Last but not least, +1 on abs. Essential for every bike IMHO, but more so for beginners.

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