New rider. First motorcycle. Advice?


First post, though I’ve lurked for a bit.

I just got my motorcycle license. Now I want to get a motorcycle. I’m looking for something small enough so it won’t get away from me while I become comfortable riding. I would prefer not to spend too much money, and have no objection to a used bike. I intend to use the bike for commuting (inside a city, no highway driving), short errands, and a short rides on the weekend for the heck of it.

In fact, I have thought about a recent model Yamaha Virago 250 or a Honda Nighthawk.

Anyone have any advice on things I should look for/think about? Go to a dealer for a used bike? Not? How about insurance?

Well, city streets are the worst place to learn. I would recommend getting yourself a dual-purpose bike and hitting the dirt. Best place to learn important skills like rear-wheel steering, braking, counter-steering and basic control.

That being said, it is very likely you have no desire or it is impracticle for you to do this. Oh well.

You are thinking smart to start small and work up. Good, cheap used bikes are out there. The Virago, Nighthawks, Rebels, Savages are good first bikes. Dealers make huge profits from used bikes, but that is because they pick them up for nearly nothing, not necessarily because they charge too much. If you are not comfortable with your knowledge of the bike choices out there, use your local dealer as a source of info. They should be knowledgeable and willing to help.

Don’t be afraid to tinker with you ride. Adjust the controls to suit you. That is why they are adjustable. Learn how the systems work. It will make you a better rider.

Get quality saftey gear. Helmet shopping is not the time to go bargain! Leather or Kevlar is good stuff. Buy it and wear it, always!

Insurance? Your on your own. Good luck! Might look into Dairyland.

Everyone else will tell you to take the course, so I won’t go there. :slight_smile:

Remember: Nobody sees you, and most people are out to get you, so ride defensivly. You are not in a car anymore.

Ride within your limits. Figure out what those limits are without getting killed. (Dirtbikes let you know where your limits are real well!)

Have fun! I’ll check back on you if you have any specific questions on my drabble.

“Lets get them meek bastards NOW!

Oh yeah! Welcome to the boards!

About your Nighthawk: Honda would “donate” those for the local saftey classes to use, then after a year or so, they would go back to the dealer and be sold, with full factory warranty. I sold bunches of them (and they all had a dent in the tank in the same spot!) and they went for pretty fair prices as I recall. See if your dealer has some of these rider course returns for sale.

Email: Obfuscating communication for over a decade!

Another request to take it easy at first. I went over the handlebars bringing mine home the first time.

Are helmets required in your state? Will you be wearing one regardless?

Find comfortable leathers!!! I can’t stress this enough…

I second the Nighthawk. I bought a Harley 1200 Custom as my first bike. Not a bad bike but Harleys are very overpriced (2x, IMO) and I had a hell of a time getting rid of it (market saturation).

And although people are your biggest concern, my downfall was a piece of firewood in the road. There are no “fender benders” in motorcycle land.

snort I said downfall.

I’m a new rider as well.

I ride a Yamaha XT225 dual sport. I bought it because I wanted something I can ride on dirt roads and worse as well as pavement. Eventually I want to haul it out to Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico and hit some jeep trails out there.

It’s perfect for the backroads where I ride (Catskill mtns, NY). I can ride on any road no matter how crappy it is, which is a great pleasure. If it’s on the map, I can ride it. It’s light and easy to handle when the going gets rough. I’ve had it in pretty awful conditions and it hasn’t let me down. I’ve been riding mountainbikes for ages, so twisting the throttle a tad to get out of a puddle is a lot different than coming to a dead stop and dumping the bike because my legs couldn’t power out of it.


It’s comfortable up to about 60 mph but faster than that and I feel like I’m hangin’ on for dear life, especially in gusty wind. My hands get all buzzed out if ride that fast for too long. It’s a kick though to really open it up. I had to fight off an “I need to get a bigger bike” urge when this limitation became apparent. Frankly I think it’s a very useful limitation at this point. Kind of like a governor.

So, it’s perfect for 85% of the riding I do, but it’s clearly out of it’s element on main roads and highways (I did that once, didn’t like it). Overall it’s a good bike for me at this time in my riding career because it’s not too powerful and it lets me do the fun stuff I’ve been dreaming of. I see a lot of smallish dual sports in NYC and I think it would be a fine bike to have in the city. Other bikes I considered were Kawasaki EX/Ninja 500, Suzuki GS500e, and some old BMWs at a used bike dealer. I don’t want to go to 600cc or above simply because I don’t feel I’m ready for it. My holy grail at this point is the BMW 650 single Dakar model. It’s now getting to be within reach. :eek:

I have a nylon mesh riding jacket from First Gear . It’s perfect for this time of year and it didn’t put too much of a hurt on my wallet.

Insurance-wise I went with my car insurance company - Geico. I got a lot of insurance coverage all for $224 for the whole year. I’m 41 years old, ride a tame bike in a lightly populated part of the state, took the MSF course, have a wife, two daughters and a mortgage, so I guess I’m not a terribly high risk.

One thing that kind of freaked me out was the way they “pave” some of the smaller roads up there. I think it’s called chip seal. They pour an oily tar kind of stuff on the road, then spread fine gravel on it, and cars mash the gravel into the oily tar and you have your pavement. The problem is the area of the road between the tires of a car still has this fine gravel that you can’t really see very well. I hit that once and slid a little but recovered. Still pretty scary though.

Sorry about the rambling. It’s just that I don’t get to talk about it much!

I can tell you to stay away from the Nighthawk 250. While there is nothing outright wrong with the bike, the max speed of the thing is around 60. While there is nothing wrong with that if you want to get on the highway, you will be going too slow and you might get run over.

My suggestion is to either buy a copy or at least skim through The Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles, there is a huge list of bikes with pictures in the back with pros/cons for each one including if it is a good bike for a beginner. This is how I found out about my Honda Shadow 600 that was my first bike. Since I really don’t know what kind of bike you want, any cruiser under 800cc should be ok or most sports bikes 600 and under, the Ninja 250 is actually a good bike. I under stand that the Nighthawk 750 is a good bike as well, though I’m not sure if they still make it or not.

I would goto a dealer and sit on a number of bikes to see what fits you well.

I’ve been riding for over 30 years – since I was in the single-digits. I’m at work now, so I can’t really type out a long message; but there are several “new motorcyclist” threads. Try doing a search on “motorcycle” (without the quotes) in IMHO and MPSIMS. I’m sure you’ll find some useful stuff.

Number One Safety Tip! Use the front brake. Most beginners fear the front brake will cause the bike to fall down. Not true. When you brake, weight shifts to the front wheel. The rear wheel gets unweighted, and it’s likely to skid. Grab the front brake, and stay upright; that’s the quickest way to stop.

You’ll hear riders say, “Somebody pulled out in front of me, and I had to lay it down.” Laying it down does not gain you anything! The side of the bike offers no traction, so you don’t stop faster. Not only have you dumped your personal butt on the pavement, but the bike is now leaping and tumbling next to you, still in gear. Once free of its pesky rider, some bikes become overjoyed, doing gymnastics of the kind you’d never allow when you were aboard. You might even get in the way.

Here are some motorcycle advice threads from the last year:

So I’m buying a motorcycle…advice from Doper bikers?
Why does everyone laugh when I say a I could ride a motorcycle?
Motorcycle riders : advice wanted
Best starter motorcycle for larger guy

Congrats, not only for joining the two-wheeled variety, but on your smarts for not running out and buying a bike that will take your head off with the twist of a throttle.

My advice, in addition to what has already been said is practice. Find an empty parking lot on weekend mornings and use the space markers as slalom cones, practice emergency stops, tight circles, hard turns, lane changes, etc. Especially go to one in the rain. Getting caught in a rainstorm in traffic is not the time to find out how you do on wet pavement. Push your bike and yourself more and more so you know what both are capable of. Dropping an old bike when nobody is around is better than doing it in traffic. I’ve been riding for 20 some years and I still do it on weekends. Keeps me sharp and it is fun! You can do stuff in a deserted parking lot in front of cops on a coffee break that would get you several tickets if you did it on the road.

Thanks for all the advice, especially the links to previous threads. I have been thinking about motorcycling for about two years and I was largely wondering if I had overlooked anything. I don’t think I have.

I have taken the MSF beginner course; wouldn’t consider riding without it.

I am hampered by living in the middle of a city (Baltimore), and having no other transportation options, so I’ll probably have to scout around for parking lots in which to practice.

You better believe I’m looking for a good Snell-approved full-face helmet. As a librarian, I can’t afford to treat the old bean with anything but the greatest care. And I appreciate the necessity for covering the rest of the body.

In the end, I think I’m going to go with a 250 as a beginner’s bike, probably stepping up after a year, year and a half.

Someone in another thread (“What kind of driver are you”?) said that motorcyclists make better car drivers. I like to think so since riding is a good way to hone reflexes. On the other hand, it can be frustrating when you’re in a car and now you know how much better off you’d be on a bike at that moment! People who have never ridden don’t know what they’re missing!

A lot of people might recommend against a 250cc bike. (I don’t know; maybe I have said that in the past.) But as long as you don’t have to ride on the freeway I think one might be fun. Most of them can achieve freeway speeds, but they’re really not suited for the mission. So I’d say to go ahead and get a 250 and move up later. You might consider keeping the 250 just for fun. Or for introducing others to the joys of Bikedom! :slight_smile:

Good luck, and keep us posted on what you get.

Well, last weekend, my husband and I were first on the scene at a motorcycle/car collision on the highway (I’m a Wilderness First Responder). The motorcyclist was seriously injured.* I don’t know squat about motorcycling, but I’d like to offer some advice based on having just been up close and personal with what can happen when things go very wrong:

–Helmet. I’m glad you’re getting a big ol’ helmet. The motorcyclist was wearing a big full-face Shoei, and I’m confident in saying that it saved his life, or at least saved him from severe brain damage. Within 15 minutes of the collision, he was showing clear signs of a severe concussion (one pupil dilated, one constricted. Quickly sinking down the consciousness scale). Fortunately, the life flight was arriving at that point. I shudder to think of what would have happened if he wasn’t wearing a good helmet.

–Leathers & gloves. The motorcyclist was wearing a tank top and nylon jogging pants. He had come to rest on his back, and that’s where the road rash was, so I didn’t see too much of it. I don’t know if the leathers would have saved him from his other injuries, but given the nature and severity of his other injuries, the treating the road rash will complicate his other treatment. There were also some pretty nasty avulsions on his legs and hands (where the skin is torn away). He was wearing Timberland work boots, so his feet still had the skin on them.

–Ride conservatively so you have time to respond to things outside your control. I didn’t see the collision, so what I’m about to describe is based on hearsay only. Apparently what happened is that the motorcyclist was speeding and riding in a hot-doggish manner. The car entered the highway, maybe too fast, hit some gravel, and spun out of control. The motorcycle hit the spinning car. The motorcylist was thrown quite a ways. The car came to rest against the guard rail, and the car driver appeared un-injured. (Fortunately, there were witnesses who stopped who saw the whole thing. ) If the motorcyclist had been riding more conservatively, he might have been able to avoid the collision.

My husband was the first responder of another motorcycle/car collision which probably could have been avoided if the motorcyclist hadn’t been going too fast. I sometimes see motorcyclists riding between the lanes in traffic jams. While this is technically illegal (I think), I don’t have any problems with it if the motorcyclists are riding slowly and carefully. In this case (again based on hearsay), the motorcyclist was riding too fast to the left of a lane of jammed traffic. A car suddenly pulled left out of the traffic lane, and the motorcyclist slammed into the car, hard enough to blow the glass out of the car windows, even on the side he didn’t hit! Miraculously, the guy flew off of the motorcyle, into the air, somersaulted, and landed right on his feet! His only injury was a broken collarbone. But the collision might not have happened if he was riding more conservatively.

gleeb, I’m glad that you are taking safety seriously. I didn’t tell you all this to scare you. Obviously, the issue of motorcycle safety has been much on my mind lately! My lifetime choice has been to not ride motorcycles because of safety concerns. And the events of last weekend has certainly cemented that decision. Motorcycle accidents will occur, but you can do a lot to help yourself. Please keep your concern for safety at the front of your mind. Always.

*The apparent injuries were as follows: two broken legs–tib/fib on one side, ankle on the other. Broken collarbone. Severe concussion. The spinal cord was definitely not severed at the time that I was caring for him, but I’d be pretty surprised if there wasn’t some sort of spinal injury. Road rash, and some severe avulsions. No internal injuries or shock were apparent at the time I was with him. The paramedics felt he wasn’t in any imminent danger of dying from his injuries, at least in the time before he got to the trauma center. But he was one hurtin’ dude.

A 250 will be bore you very quickly… go for something like a suzuki SV650. Plenty of torque and not too powerful for a beginner. They also look good, are good on fuel and are cheap to insure. Ridden well they are as good as much bigger bikes round the twisties and they are very forgiving.

True. But they’re cheap enough so that you can buy a new (bigger) bike and still keep the 250 for grins.

Another bike to look at might be the Royal Enfield Bullet. 500cc, but “old school”. It’s practically unchanged since they started making them in 1955. (Good news: Ultra-classic styling. Bad news: 1950s British engineering.) Being single-cylinder “thumpers” they don’t go very fast (70 mph max.) so they should be fairly simple to ride. And you’ll have the coolest ride on the block.

My advice is stay off the thing ~

Yes, learn on a smaller bike. Dont do what I did. I got my permit but didn’t have a bike. however my dad has been riding for 35 years. So I thought I’d just have him teach me on his BIKE it was an 01’ and he modified his. being able to do 0-45 thru and inersection is cool now. having a bike that can do this when your learning. lets just say I runed a few pair of pants :o