OTB's First Bike Buyers Guide
Well, the weather is warming up, and the main posts in the beginner's section all sound pretty much the same:
"I've ridden (dirt bikes, a little, none at all, twenty years ago; you pick which applies) and I want to know which bike to buy".
First off, there is no "best" bike to have....almost any bike is better than no bike, in my opinion.
With one exception:
If you stick around here long enough, you'll read threads from people who ask:" I've never ridden, but I REALLY want that 180 hp Suyamawakida 1400cc 220mph Ninjabusa R12ZX. I know you people are all pansies who think I should start on some little 120 hp, 165mph 600 pansie SuperSport bike, but, even though I've never thrown a leg over one, I KNOW I'm a better rider than most of you, and I'm confident I can handle it. What do you think?"
I think you'll either trash the bike or yourself in the first two days, or you'll scare the bujesus out of yourself and end up letting it sit in the garage for two years 'till the carbs are munged up and the tires are flat-spotted and the fork seals start to weep. And I'll end up buying it from you for real cheap and fixing it, like I do 3-4 times a year.
My advice; unless you're made out of money, buy something in the 250-500 area that runs well, but won't break your bank or your heart if you dump it; 'cause the odds are, as a new rider, that you WILL dump it. The specific bike DOESN"T MATTER....it's your LEARNING bike. You're going to LEARN how to ride; you're going to LEARN if you even LIKE this sport or not. Many don't.
Many crash once and get hurt, a little or a lot, and decide that they'd rather hangglide or freeclimb. They maybe don't crash, but they barely avoid being some clown's hood ornament on I95, and decide that an M1 Abrams is more suited to commuting. Even more find out that the freedom of being out in the elements also means being out in the wind, the pouring rain, the sleet, the unexpected 40 degree temperature drop, and want none of it.
So why bite off more than you need to, both money wise, and size wise, until you're certain that this IS for you. Because believe you me, buying the biggest and the baddest right off is going to handicap your riding. How's That, you say?
Modern day high performance steetbikes are like NOTHING you've ever experienced, save driving a Formula One race car, or maybe a 20 year old funny car. I'm NOT kidding; the power to weight ratios are about the same, the sensitivity to rider intputs is about the same, and the ability to create mayhem in the hands of a novice is about the same. Some of the top-of-the-line sportbikes will turn 9's in the quarter mile,with top speeds pushing 200 mph right out of the crate. They are also heavy, top heavy, touchy and handle akwardly at low speeds, like in parking lots, city streets and in the driveway, where you are most likely to dump it.
So, you say, "what should I buy?"
Stick with a 600cc upper limit, and remember that todays cutting edge 600's are almost as fast, but even twitchier and less forgiving than the open class bikes. A better choice is in the 250-500 range- 250 for smaller, lighter riders, 500's and older 600's for larger riders, or those with a little or dirt experience. So how do you pick?
Go to the local dealerships, and sit on a bunch of bikes (leave your money and "signing pen" at home, and tell the saleman you're just looking). Your object is not to pick out your bike today; it's to find out what feels right and fits you. Sit on as many bikes as they'll let you; sit on sportbikes, cruisers, naked bikes and tourers. Find out if you can touch the ground with the bike straight up and down....if you can't, move on to something else. Get a feel for what works for you and what doesn't. If you have to stretch to reach the bars, or lean the bike 10 degrees as each stop, you'll end up working harder at the basics of control, when you should be working on refining your riding.
Now go read the Sunday want ads for used bikes, and pick out a couple of the bikes you think you might be interested in. Call the seller and MAKE AN APPOINTMENT. When the time comes, LEAVE YOUR MONEY AT HOME. Your object is not to buy the bike today, it's to gather more intel. You need to sit on a few more bikes, and get a feel for the market and prices. If you're like me, you'll be tempted to make an offer (I hardly ever met a bike I didn't like). Resist it! Make some notes to yourself after each visit, noting the bike, the price, condition, and the cost of any work that needs to be done.
When you get home, check out the NADA website, and also KBB.com for relative prices on the year, make and model of the bikes you're interested in. These are not written in stone; bikes very GREATLY as to milage, condition, and local market forces, but these will give you some guide. Don't forget to budget money for gear (Helmet, jacket, gloves and boots, minimum) and training.
When you've made your decision to buy, take along a knowledgable rider, if you have such a luxury. They can point out problems with the bike you may have missed.
Good luck, and have fun and we'll see 'ya out there.
Last edited by oldetymebiker; 03-09-2006 at 10:03 PM.