Choosing a Motorcycle

Exciting! You’ve decided to get a bike and change your life. Bike shopping can be really fun. This is also sort of a complicated process. If you’re brand new to riding, chances are pretty good you know what you want in your head. You have a certain type of bike that you think looks good. Please, if you’re thinking about buying a bike based on looks alone, take an extra week or two, do some test rides and other stuff I listed below, and make a better-informed decision.

  • What looks or sounds good to you – Looks matter! Part of motorcycling is the love for your bike. You probably already have something in your mind that you like. Some people like the cruiser style, some people love bobbers, some people love super sports, no matter what it is that’s probably where you should start looking. You want to be proud to own a bike, and that usually starts with how it looks. You want a bike that makes you look back it after you start to walk away. One you go into your garage to look at three times a night. A bike that will make you want to take care of it. And a bike you’re not bored with.
  • New vs. Used – Don’t go out and buy your dream bike for your first bike. Get a used bike with a scuff or two, because chances are pretty good you’re going to add scuffs to the bike. This is like getting your first car; most parents won’t get their kid a brand new car for the first car, for a number of reasons. You have all those reasons (minus a couple if you’re a grown adult), but with the added reason of the possibility of you dropping it. Bikes don’t depreciate as much as cars, which is nice, but a lot of things will change after you buy your first bike. You might decide in 3 months you don’t really like the bike you bought, you might want to upgrade to a better bike for a number of reasons, you might decide the style you bought isn’t what you actually want, there are a ton of things that may happen. Buying used makes a lot of sense. The only issue with used bikes is that you may not always get a warranty, so you might have to do some maintenance on your own (look for a maintenance post by me in the future), and you’re on your own if something breaks. But with the money you likely saved that shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Choose a suitable bike style – You might think a supersport looks awesome, but if your main goal is to tour the country with a motorcycle, a supersport probably isn’t the best option. There are a ton of classes now: adventure, dual-sport, standard, naked, supernaked, café, supersport, sport tourer, cruiser, bagger, and more. No matter what you want to do with a motorcycle, there is a class and bike that is suited well to it. Of course, you don’t always have to pick the exact class for the action you’re doing, but sometimes it’s a good idea. For example, a standard or naked bike can do many different things, from sport touring to time on a track. However, you wouldn’t want to get a cruiser if your main goal is to do track days.
  • Rub your ass on everything – My biggest piece of advice before buying your first motorcycle: sit on as many as you possibly can. Sit on all different styles, all different years, sit on everything. Chances are high that the ideal bike that you had in your head changes once you start getting to know how the different bikes feel. Seating position is incredibly important, and remember that you’re going to have to live with this bike every day, and don’t think that you won’t put in 10+ hour days in the saddle.
  • Test rides – You wouldn’t think about buying a car before test driving it would you? Just the same, you shouldn’t buy a bike without test riding it either. You want to be sure that the bike you’re about to spend thousands on is the right one for you. A test ride is especially important for a used bike. During a test ride of a used bike, you need to pay attention to all the little noises and feels and vibrations and make sure they’re not bad things. A test ride may make a big impact on your choice.
  • Reviews – Video reviews are a good place to get some info as well. Be wary of the Joe Shmoe reviews; while they offer a different perspective, they also might not have ridden that many bikes, and may have no idea what they’re talking about. Head to one of the more trusted review sites that are generally a bit better at comparing bikes to each other (see my post about YouTube sites Of course, those sites and riders still have their own preferences and judgements, so I try to watch as many different videos as I can to see if something is a trend about the bike.
  • You don’t need a big bike to start on – I don’t care what you’re doing, you do not need a big-engined bike as your first bike. There are some riders out there that are tempted into getting a big bike, or maybe they’re told that it’s the only bike to have. There are a lot of reasons, but I’m not sure most of them really hold up well. This is sort of the same mindset as a teenager not having a fast/nice car: if your buddy was buying his kid a Mustang GT as his first car, what’s your first thought about that? Is it that he’s probably just going to wrap it around a tree (or into a crowd)? Yeah, mine too. Except on a bike, you’re far less likely to survive a wreck like that. Most bikes are all pretty tame if you keep your right hand in check, most people can handle them below about 6k RPM or so (talking sport bikes here, that’s all relative). But where people really get into trouble is when peer pressure takes over, or emergency situations. Beyond the safety stuff, starting on a smaller bike can make you a better rider. They weigh much less and learning how weight and leaning affect the motorcycle is much more apparent, and with less power you need to learn the correct techniques in order to ride faster. One negative thing I will say about the 300-ish class bikes is that some of the components aren’t awesome, the most important one being the brakes. If you get one of these, allocate some money for brake upgrades.
  • Forums – I have a love/hate relationship with forums when it comes to buying new bikes. On one hand, this is the best place to learn about common issues. On the other hand, just because of the nature of forums, you mostly have people asking questions to issues, so there’s a much higher ratio of bad things to good things about a vehicle. You have to remember that, and just make sure that the issues people are complaining about aren’t huge issues that would be costly to fix or unbearable to live with.
  • Price – Obviously price is going to be a factor. It’s real easy to see something you love and disregard the price. But with anything in life, you need to sit down, keep emotions in check, and see if it’s financially reasonable. It helps to put things off for a week or so, think it over. I get that it’s tough if you’re young or have bad credit or whatever, but you never know what may happen. When talking about finances it’s highly subjective and case-dependent so I won’t say much more, but just make sure the deal you’re making is the right thing to do for you.

This is just some things you should be doing before buying something new. There are a lot of things to think about, but this is a happy time that you want to get right. You make the right decision and you’ll be on a bike for life. If you make the wrong decision, it could possibly put you off forever. No pressure, but use your head and have a good time. Happy hunting!


If you have anything more to add let me know!


Be safe out there, and ride your own ride.

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