My son wants a motorcycle (cue ominous music)

My 20-year-old brother recently floated the idea of a motorcycle to my parents. My dad’s response: “Fine, but we set the minimum weight of the bike–and, oh, yeah, when can you make room in your schedule for both the basic and advanced rider courses?” The time question killed the idea stone dead, as pretty much every hour of my brother’s year is spoken for by his college (a military academy).

It’s tricky–my dad spent his young adult life on motorcycles and in teensy tin-can cars, and he and my mom take long trips on their touring bike every year now that the nest is more or less empty. And at 20, the brother could technically do anything he pleased. But in the end, financial leverage and the eminent sensibility of taking the safety course won out, and he won’t be getting a bike until he’s older and closer to having his head screwed on straight.

I would want to know exactly what model Honda we are talking about here. 2006 Honda motorcycles run the gamut from a 250CC Nighthawk and go all the way up to the 1000CC RC51 which produces 133 horsepower.
Giving a tyro motorcycle rider a 133 HP bike would be about like giving a kid with a learner’s permit a F1 car to learn how to drive in.
Too much bike is way dangerous. Way more dangerous than just a motorcycle.

In the end it is your family’s call. If it were my son, I would, however, insist that a helmet, and leathers be worn at all times. If he balks at the leathers, have him ask someone how has laid one down, how the hospital gets the road grit out of your skin.

I started on mini-bikes when I was five. I was riding a real motorcycle at ten. I got my very own motorcycle (100cc two-stroke) when I was 12. A motorcycle was my primary means of transportation until after high school.

In high school (and after) my ride was a 250 Enduro. Lightweight, rather quick, but not very fast. And I did my falling from the mini-bikes, dad’s bike, and my first bike years earlier – and off-road. For a 17-year-old a Honda 250 Nighthawk is plenty of bike. He’ll outgrow it within a year. But that’s OK. He’s getting it for the economy. :wink:

I ride a motorcycle and I also have teenage boys. I told them if they waited until they were 24 and took a safe rider course I would buy them a motorcycle.

The biggest factor that made me decide they shouldn’t ride as teens is that they haven’t been driving long enough to recognize when other drivers are about to do something stupid. Equally as important is that almost every teen gets into at least one accident through their own stupidity. Those accidents might as well be in a car.

Car insurance isn’t so expensive for teens because they’re good, safe drivers and they’re not going to be much better on a motorcycle.

17 years does seem young to me, but you of course know the young man’s temper and impulse control better than anyone here. I’d probably insist on a few additional years in traffic gaining experience before I’d OK the transition to two wheels.

The model of motorcycle having good safety statistics is a moot point - every motorcycle in existence can dump you in trouble in the blink of an eye. A 2006 model will be “safe” in the respect that it’ll handle predictably and brake well. Even so, a high-powered sportsbike can easily be too much of a handful for a rookie.

If you decide to go ahead, make sure to lay down some ground rules:

[li]The bike budget includes personal protection gear. Helmet, gloves, jacket, pants, boots. And protection is worn all the time, every time. Not negotiable.[/li][li]Training. MSF or ABATE courses, with advanced classes as his experience builds.[/li][li]No supersport bikes. My first bike (at 28) had 45 HP, and that was quite sufficient to get me in hairy situations. Too much power in the hands of a beginner is dangerous - and it builds bad riding habits, too.[/li][/ul]

I’d lean towards “no”.

Badly constructed USDOT - highway page comparing motorcycle fatalities to passenger car fatalities

Personally, I’d never let a family member or friend take up motorcycling. It seems like the fatality rate is at least an order of magnitude higher compared to driving a car.

Don’t get me wrong - I think motorcycles are hell of awesome. But damn - even if you’re the best cycler in the world, some chump in a car can still easily kill you.

That is enough to make me say - it’s not worth it.

If he really wants one, he’ll just get one next year when he’s 18.

Why cheat him out of a year of experience? :wink:

I ride, but don’t actively encourage it anymore to anyone. But I don’t discourage it either.

Interesting - the big rise in bike fatalities accompanies a big rise in bike use. Who’da thunk? And lots of over-40s riding bikes for the first time, with deep middle-aged pockets and slow middle-aged reflexes to skew the averages, too.

Looks like the average biker can expect to croak somewhere around the 2.5 million mile mark. Those odds have never kept me awake at night, even if it is an order of magnitude worse expectation than the car driver has.

I still remember the tears I got from my mother when I wanted to get a bike, so I pity the OP’s kid. I guess when he turns twenty-one she’ll just have to take his nutsack out of her apron pocket and hand it over. :stuck_out_tongue:

Get him a scooter. Insist he wear a helmet. That ought to cut back on a lot of optional trips.

And that’s the mindset you need to ride a motorcycle.
I don’t know many 17 year-olds that would have this mindset.

Some statistics from the Wikipedia article on Motorcycle Safety (yes, I know it’s only Wiki, but it’s a start).

Motorcycles have a far higher fatality rate per unit of distance travelled when compared with automobiles. According to the US Highway Safety Authority, in 2002 20.9 cars out of 100,000 ended up in fatal crashes. The rate for motorcycles is 66.7 per 100,000. 2004 figures from the Department for Transport in the UK, indicate that motorcycles have 121 deaths or serious injuries per 100 million vehicle kilometers, compared to the corresponding figure of 2.6 for motorists.

So, to address the OP - I would discourage anyone from riding a motorcycle - in my opinion, motorcyclists are more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers of cars, and the consequences of an accident are likely to be more severe. There are things the motorcyclist can do to increase his or her safety, and if someone insists on riding despite the danger, then protective gear and safety courses need to be encouraged.

I am not swayed by arguments that contrast a carelessly driven automobile to a carefully ridden motorbike; the vehicle itself is not as safe. Other people have different opinions and that’s fine.

Safe and happy trails to all who do choose to ride.

If you survey the info available by googling “motorcycle death rate” you’ll see that, on the surface, motorcycles appear to be far deadlier than automobiles. But if you look below the surface, you’ll see that the increases in crashes experienced over the past several years are attributed to older motorcycle riders – in other words, people like me, finally hitting our earnings peak and being able to afford the bike we’ve always dreamed of. Unfortunately, we’re disdainful of helmet laws, our reflexes are slower, our eye-hand coordination is beginning to deteriorate. Between one-third and one-half of all motorcycle crashes involve driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including prescription meds.) And we boomers have an unexplainable penchant for over-confidence not seen in previous generations.

All in all, you son is in one of the safest groups of motorcycle riders. It’s true that riding a motorcycle is less safe than driving a car. But would you let him go skiing or snowboarding? Skiers and boarders rarely wear any kind of safety equipment – and we lost nearly 20 of them on Colorado ski slopes this season.

Don’t worry about the other clowns on the road. They aren’t the ones who kill motorcycle riders. Overwhelmingly, motorcyclists kill themselves with dangerous behavior. If he’s a level-headed kid, your son will reduce his chances of being hurt on a motorcycle to near zero percent.

Wow, I never knew Dopers were so anti-motorcycle! I’m really disappointed with all the dopers that popped in to add nothing to the conversation but horror stories they know about accidents. I’ve never seen that in a thread about teens driving a car. Yes, motorcycles are more dangerous. But with the proper precautions, those dangers can be mitigated extensively.

Just do two things, and he’ll be fine. First, enroll him in a MSF course. It’s two days of range, and one day in the classroom. It’s only around $150, and will help put your mind at ease. Second, make sure he becomes an ATGATT (all the gear, all the time) rider (as opposed to a SOGSTT [some]). He doesn’t need leathers (and as a 17 year old, I’m guessing he’s more into the sport bikes than the cruisers), but he does need to wear synthetic gear. The rule on the range is “no skin below the chin”.

Also, remember that a full 50% of motorcycle accidents are single vehicle accidents, and 50% of those were riding drunk. I did a lot of research before I rode my first “real” bike, but if you start him off on a 250cc sportbike or 500cc “naked” bike, he ought to be fine.

Wow, thanks for all the responses, guys. My first instinct is to say “no” but he’s more or less emancipated (works full-time, is looking to move into a place of his own, I should have never taught him to talk) and I know full well he’s going to do whatever the hell he wants anyway. But if I help him buy it I can lay down some rules; otherwise he’ll find another way to get it and he’ll have no rules.

I believe he said the bike he’s looking at is a 200cc; he says it’s got some cosmetic damage that happened to it when a 4-wheeler banged into it on the shop floor, thus the bike shop is willing to sell it pretty cheap - he can get it for $1,000. Purchasing the bike he can handle himself, but if we go ahead with this then I’m buying the safety gear (I should be mean and get him a Hello Kitty leather jacket) and springing for the MSF course (thanks for the link, Santo Rugger!).

He actually has a little bit of experience on 2 wheels; his father got him a buzzy little scooter a couple of years ago that he’d zip around on to run errands in my mom’s neighborhood (we all live in Hooterville, not much traffic - he lives with her). But where he works is a mess, traffic-wise; it’s where the interstate and a major US highway intersect, there’s three truck stops there plus a bunch of other gas stations and restaurants, and that worries me. But he is a good driver, and pretty level-headed (although he still occasionally does random teen-age things that baffle logic) and I suppose I have to trust him.


Damn kids, growing up all the time…

Ouch. I was with you right until here - intersections and trucks are the most dangerous place for a motorcyclist. Is he going to be riding there at night? You may want to get him a light kit for his bike while you’re at it with the safety gear. It will probably look a little silly on that bike, but it will make him extremely visible to those truckers. Also get him this book - it’s the book almost all motorcycle safety classes are based on.

It might help if you ask him to explain to you some of the safety techniques they teach in the MSF, and show you some of the drills. If you express interest and let *him * teach *you * motorcycle safety, it might encourage him to start teaching others, and practicing it more.

Good luck!

You got cites for any of that?
From the Wiki link above

Teenage death rates in cars in already higher than older age groups.
Furthermore from the Hurt Report (PDF)
[li] Approximately three- fourths of these motorcycle accidents involved collision with another vehicle, which was most often a passenger automobile. [/li][li]In multiple vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle right-of-way and caused the accident in two-thirds of those accidents.[/li][li]The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until until too late to avoid the collision.[/li][li]Intersections are the most likely place for the motorcycle accident, with the other vehicle violating the motorcycle right-of-way, and often violating traffic controls.[/li][li]Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly overrepresented in accidents; motorcycle riders between the ages of 30 and 50 are significantly underrepresented. Although the majority of the accident- involved motorcycle riders are male (96%), the female motorcycles riders are significantly overrepresented in the accident data. [/li][li]More than half of the accident- involved motorcycle riders had less than 5 months experience on the accident motorcycle, although the total street riding experience was almost 3 years. Motorcycle riders with dirt bike experience are significantly underrepresented in the accident data. [/li][li]Almost half of the fatal accidents show alcohol involvement. (note the word fatal, not all accidents)[/li][/ul]

You’ve already lost the battle :wink:
Honestly, motorcyclists get in more accidents on city streets than they do on the highway – and you’ve already let him tear it up on a 50 cc scooter.

When you look at fatality statistics you have to keep a few things in mind. The first is that several dumbass lobby groups called the AMA and ABATE have been very successful in repealing helmet laws. They’ve even convinced Congress that the DOT isn’t allowed to do any research showing that helmets save lives! The NRA wishes it was this good.

Second is that more older riders are getting on the road on bikes they shouldn’t be riding. 20 years after your last ride on a CB 350 is no time to jump on a 900 pound 1200cc cruiser.
So what can you do to make riding safer? Take lessons. The MSF is a good start – but it’s only a start. I earned my motorcycle license in BC, which has strict rules about getting a license but wussy helmet laws, passing the equivalent of the MSF test only allowed me to get a temporary ‘solo riding’ certification – I still had to take more lessons, more group rides, before I could take my exam.

You also need to wear the proper gear. If you want recommendations, check out

Wait – I don’t think those are legal. The blue light can confuse people and think you’re a cop.

Unless I’m mistaken…

Why is that? Are you assuming the guy is going to ride it flat out? The disadvantage I can think of is at 120 lbs I probably couldn’t pick the damn thing up if I dropped it. :slight_smile:

Marlitharn, no problem. And here are a few of my favorite links for safety gear, in no particular order:

I highly recommend Cortech, and highly discourage FirstGear. When I laid my bike down a couple months ago, my FirstGear gloves were ripped to shreds while my Cortech jacket didn’t have any signs of wear, and I know I slid on the elbow pads). When looking at gloves, make sure they have a SOLID leather palm (as opposed to pads with fabric underneath), and I recommend finding one that has a cuff that goes over the wrist. Make sure to click on “street gear”, so you don’t inadvertently buy dirtbike stuff.

There’s always a sale, so if you start shopping now, and looking at the closeout stuff, you should be able to get a full set of gear for around $350 or so. Before you buy, do a search for (for example) ridegear coupon. You should be able to Also, see if there’s a motorcycle consignment shop in your area, I’ve had good luck with the one in Albuquerque. Finally, don’t get a used helmet. They conform to a persons head, so they really shouldn’t be shared, either. Feel free to PM me if you want advice on any specific gear.

The articles I’ve read say it’s because the 40 year old still thinks he has the skills he had when he was 20, and was riding every day. One of the largest accident groups aren’t actually new riders, it’s riders who have a moderate amount of saddle time, and try to ride beyond their skill level.