What type of motorcycle/scooter should I get?

Greetings all,

I am getting closer to simplifying my life and getting rid of my car, however I realize I still need something for unexpected trips. Anyway, what I am looking for is something reliable, inexpensive, and easly maintained. I am not looking for anything flashy, “mega” powerful or a status symbol. Nor do I need an extension for my manhood. :wink: Anyway, I plan on relying on my bicycle, public transportation and an odd cab. I also do not plan on using my motorcycle on the highways, just on regular city streets. I am planning on taking a safty course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation first, but would like to start looking first. Any suggestions or comments would be most appreciated. :slight_smile:

Many Thanks,

Hard to say. Would you be interested more in a street bike or an on/off road dirtbike type? I started out with dirtbikes, and eventually worked up to street. Had a Honda Silverwing 500, then a Magna 750, then a Shadow 500. All were easy to ride, comfy, quiet and the look appealed to me. The Silverwing was nice cuz I really like full dressers, but the Magna and Shadow were more fun to ride though. Personally, I like street over dirtbike styles cuz I like the extra weight, feeling of mass and the comfort qualities, but that was also doing a lot of freeway driving. Dirtbikes are noisier and not quite as smooth a ride, but can be a lot easier to learn on as they are so nimble, especially at lower speeds on backstreets. I’d recommend a used and inexpensive dirtbike or a streetbike around 250cc - 500cc to learn on until you get comfortable with yourself on them, then decide if you might like to invest in something a little more permanent and “you”. :slight_smile:

I’d think about getting a real motorcycle, not those toy scooter things. They have no power or speed, and if you’re riding in traffic, the ability to goose it and get out of trouble is (literally) a lifesaver. If that doesn’t convince you, imagine someone in a big truck right behind you, and you can’t go fast enough to get out of his way, and he’s late for a greaseburger and beer, and…

I like Turbo Dog’s suggestion of a used dirt bike as a starter. They’re light and maneuverable, and you can get your keeper bike after. I might go a bit smaller than his 250CC, to maybe 175, if you’re a small person. 500CC is a lot of dirt bike, though - I’ve seen some that were so tall that I couldn’t hold 'em up. (Yeah, I have short legs) Find something that’s comfortable for you to support while stopped at a light.

You didn’t say where you were storing the bike when you weren’t using it. An untended bike can be stolen faster than you can say “unclebeer”. If you don’t have a garage or some lockable enclosed place, I’d reconsider this whole idea.

The safety course is a great idea. Do that, pay attention, listen, and practice. Get a good helmet, too. Remember - use a $40 helmet only on a $40 head.

Any bike under a 600 will be good. if it’s only for street I wouldn’t even think about a birt bike or anything like it. Realistically you want something that you can actually go somewhere on. my first bike was a Honda Shadow 600 VLX that had power but not so much that it would get me in trouble. I’d also go with a shaft drive if you can find one, there’s one or two early 80 shaft drive 500s out there though off the top of my head I don’t remember what they are. The reason for a shaft drive is there will be no chain to oil and if it’s not going to be moving much it will rust etc.

I’m also gonna suggest “The Idiots Guide to Motorcycles” that has a list and pictures of bikes and the pro’s and cons of each. Also DON’T learn to ride from a friend, even though they have good intentions it’s best to learn from the MSF.

These days I am trying to decide whether or not to buy a scooter. I’m looking specifically at a 60s - 70s Vespa or Lambretta. These bikes are extremely cool. They still retain their style in this era when middle-age, rich guys are the most likely to buy Harleys and the avoid the cheese associated with crotch-rockets. I think that they are going to be the next big thing.

They are fairly easy to maintain, fairly reliable, and not terribly expensive ($1000 - $2000 for one in pretty good shape). Now, this should all be taken with a grain of salt as I’ve never owned a motorcycle or scooter of any kind. So, I may not be the best source for info.

You can look herefor more on these scooters.

[sub]Geez! I’m writing like I’ve only been speaking English for a year or so. Must be the jet-lag.[/sub]

I’d first of all like to congratulate you on the MSF Riders Safety Course choice. Bravo.

If you are a bigger guy (5’10 and up, 180# and up) I would recommend a crusier at least 600 or 750cc. I have a used '83 Magna 750 available if you are near SoFla, I’m 6’2, 220# and it fits me alright. If it has a passenger backrest all the better, a great place to bungee cord things to, or to hook a backpack. I personally require windshields, but you won’t know that until you’re going down the road over 45mph or so. Try CycleTrader to see what is available in the your area. Ditto on the shaft drive, too. There are lots of 700/750 Shadows out there, but I think they have chains.

Keep your knees in the breeze and the chrome side up.

trying browsing the boards over at some of these places:


they’re happy to answer all sorts of newbie questions, having answering them millions of times before.
Personally, I’d reccommend taking the MSF first, then thinking about a bike. The course is geared towards beginners. The ninja 250/500, also, is good for a beginner depending on your size, though many will tell you that you’ll outgrow the 250 real fast.

I ride a 250 ninja. Bought it cheap, can ride it as long as I want, and get the price I paid for it back. It’s a good all around bike.

I’m a big fan of Yamahas. Except for The Honda that Wouldn’t Die (a 1979 CX500), all of my bikes have been Yamahas; starting with Enduros (street-legal dirt bikes) and currently a 600cc Seca II.

I’d suggest getting a 600cc street bike. While a “sportbike” would be nice, my “standard” Seca II has been the perfect bike for getting around the L.A. area. I’ve ridden it from Los Hideous to Novato (north of San Francisco), Las Vegas, San Diego and Lake Havasu too. A 600cc “standard” bike has all the power you’ll need, is economical, relatively inexpensive to buy, and won’t rip your arms out of your sockets while you’re learning to ride.

As I said, I love Yamahas. But Honda has a reputation for superior reliability. They have a 750cc Nighthawk that is a “standard”. Once upon a time its style was called the UJM: “Universal Japanese Motorcycle”, as all of the HYKS (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suziki) bikes looked pretty much the same. The Nighthawk retains this classic look. Yamaha’s standard-class bike is the Seca II. A couple of years after Yamaha came out with the Seca II, Suzuki built a clone called the “Bandit”. I’ve heard it improved on the design. I’m not familiar with the Kawasaki standard.

There are a lot of cruiser-class bikes out there. IMO, they are not as stable as standard-class, but they’re more comfortable for extended riding. They’re also very trendy now and a lot cheaper and more reliable than a Harley Davidson.

Expect to be “behind the bike” at first. I was surprised when I switched from the CX500 (a mini touring-class bike that looked like Honda’s version of a Moto Guzzi) to the Seca II. The lighter, more powerful Yamaha did jerk my arms a bit the first couple of times I took off.

You’ll have to develop a new set of instincts when you ride. Things can happen quickly on a bike. I see a lot of “left-seat zombies” in the 90-100 miles I drive every day. They’re just not paying attention. When you ride, you’ll need to look out for them. You’ll also need to get rid of any zombie habits you may have. Thinking ahead can keep you alive. Things that wouldn’t concern you in a car are very important on a bike. If you “panic brake” a car you don’t have to worry about the car slipping out from under you. A bike can go on its side. You probably aren’t concerned too much about dirt or gravel on the road. If you’re on a bike, you need to be aware of it, as the bike can slide out from under you in a turn. I started riding when I was six. I developed my “riding instincts” on slippery, rock-strewn dirt roads. But I’ve gone down on the Seca II. I hit a flattened aluminum can that I didn’t see in a left turn and the rear wheel slid out from under me.

I’ve never ridden a scooter, but they seem to have a high centre of gravity. They might be more efficient around town, but I prefer a “real” bike. And don’t ignore the freeway. I think it’s safer than being on the street since everyone is going in the same direction and there is no cross traffic.

Most important thing to remember on a bike: It’s supposed to be fun! Have fun.

Harley Davidson Fatboy with straights.

I took the Safety Course and got my license a few years ago, and for a first bike I really liked the Virago 500. If you want something a little smaller (engine wise), the Honda Rebel is a nice little bike. I prefer the Virago 500 mainly because I like a low bike (short) as I’m only 5’4". It just had a great feel- nice easy clutch, etc. I would worry a bit about a scooter being able to get out of the way of other drivers, just in case you end up in a bind.

You’ll love the course- I hope your instructors are as good as mine were :slight_smile:


Zette: I think the 250cc Honda Rebels are/were the coolest! Never had a chance to ride one though.

My ex-G/F (who was also 5’4", BTW) had a '70-something CB-360T (not the more common CB-350) that a friend gave to her. It had a modified seat so that her feet would touch the ground. She bought a Yamaha Seca II after I bought mine.


don’t be completely swayed by the scooter ney sayers. Plenty of them come with enough pop to get you out of trouble when you need it.
I drive a 50 cc Aprilia Habana derestricted, and I love it. It looks well, it performs well, and is perfect for city traffic.

If you want a larger sized engine, they also come in 125cc variety.

Forget about the new style scooters. They suck. Stick with the classic models and styles.