Sunday, February 25, 2007

Motorcycle Buying Tips For Beginners - Cruiser, Sport-Touring, Scooter, Dual-Sport, or Sport-Bike

SUMMARY: What type of motorcycle should a beginning rider purchase? With so many choices, selecting your first motorcycle can be challenging. Here are several tips to help you select the right motorcycle for you.

With so many choices in motorcycles, selecting your first motorcycle can be challenging. Here are several tips to help you select the right motorcycle for you.

What type motorcycle should you purchase?

There are at least eight different motorcycle types (styles) of motorcycles: touring, sport-touring, standard, sport-bike, scooter, dual-sport, dirt-bike, and cruiser.

Many new riders begin their search by looking at Harley Davidson motorcycles. Don't make this mistake. While cruisers are extremely popular they don't necessarily make the best beginner motorcycle. They're heavy, loud, expensive, and unforgiving (loaded with chrome) of minor spills.

Touring motorcycles are generally built for long distance riding. Examples include the popular Honda Gold Wing and the BMW K1200. These motorbikes are heavy, powerful, expensive, and require significant skills to operate properly... making them a poor choice for new riders.

Sport-bikes (also referred to as crotch-rockets) are built for speed, agility, and performance. They're light weight, brightly colored, and quick. Engine sizes for sport-bikes usually range from 600cc to 1000cc.

Note: Don't let a smallish sounding 600cc engine fool you. A Honda CBR600 sport-bike can run circles around an 1800cc v-twin cruiser. Crotch rockets can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds! That's faster than 99% of all production sports cars.

Do sport-bikes make good beginner bikes? Probably not, unless you have the maturity to handle the temptations of power, speed, and agility.

The next style of motorcycle is pretty easy to describe. Dirt-bikes are made to ride off-road. Tread patterns and suspension components on dirt-bikes are very different than their street-bike cousins.

While many models have headlights and turn signals, most won't easily accommodate interstate travels. If you have convenient access to dirt roads or other off-road areas, a dirt-bike is a good beginner motorcycle.

Don't have easy access to off-road areas? Consider a dual-sport motorcycle. These bikes are made to accommodate moderate off-road conditions, and handle highway speeds. A compromise of sorts, they don't perform on-road as well as street bikes, nor off-road as well as dirt-bikes.

But, most dual-sport models can easily travel at interstate speeds and handle moderate off-road conditions. When you take that motorcycle tour (you've been dreaming about) to the Northern tip of Alaska, you'll most likely be riding a dual-sport motorcycle, like the popular Kawasaki KLR650.

A standard motorcycle is an older style that once described the majority of bikes available... hence the term 'standard'. Standard motorcycles are generally upright and moderately priced. Picture that 1970s bike your dad owned. It was most likely a standard motorcycle. While not the fanciest or flashiest bike, standard bikes can be good starter motorcycles.

Scooters? Before you form an opinion here, visit your local motorcycle dealership. Gone are the 50cc mopeds of the 1970s. Instead, several new scooters fancy large 650cc engines and automatic transmissions. With a top speed of over 100 mph, and a 0 to 60 acceleration time below 5 seconds, scooters can keep up with most anything. Want to embarrass a Harley rider or Mustang owner... no problems? A Honda Silver Wing 650 scooter can do both.

Do scooters handle like motorcycles. Sure. Do they operate easily on interstates? Yes. Do they make good beginner bikes? Why not?

A sport-touring motorcycle is the last style of motorcycle addressed here. Sport-touring models are sporty versions of touring bikes. Or conversely, relaxed versions of sport-bikes. This class of motorcycle falls between a touring bike and sport-bike.

The sport-touring class was designed as a balance between ergonomics, engine performance, and long range touring capabilities. It's a popular class of motorcycle that combines the best of both worlds. The Honda VFR Interceptor 800, Triumph Sprint ST, and Yamaha FJR 1300 are examples of popular sport-touring motorcycles. Most models utilize 650cc to 1300cc engines.

Do sport-touring motorcycles make good first bikes? They can. Most, however, are relatively heavy... utilizing high performance engines and creature comforts like hard rear storage bags. Before you select a sport-touring model, make sure you have the discipline to use only the power that matches your skill level.

By David Mixson


Michael said...

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Biker_Blogs said...

Well, there are a few 600+ cc bikes that I'd consider truly beginner friendly. The Honda Shadow VLX and Suzuki S40 / LS650 Savage are pretty good cruisers. If you're taller, look for a 650 cc dual sport - they're basically huge street legal dirt bikes. Examples include the Suzuki DR650 and the Kawasaki KLR650.

If you're looking at sport bikes, though, a 500 will be plenty of power for a beginning rider. A 500 will keep up with all but the fastest sports cars, while being forgiving and predictable enough not to punish the slightest mistakes by giving you road rash. 600 cc sport bikes tend to have around 100 hp, grabby brakes, and twitchy handling - they're a lot to cope with when you're still trying to get your feet to remember how to shift without having to consciously think about it. If insane speed is what you want, you're best off riding a beginner friendly bike until using the controls become second nature, then getting the supersport of your dreams.


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pegasus said...

I found your article useful. I'm an experienced rider, but have never ridden a sport style bike. I am downsizing from a BMW R1200C cruiser, seat height 29.1 inches. I can flat-foot it. I'd like a bike like the Honda 599, Yamaha FZ6, or Honda Interceptor. Unmodified, I cannot ride any of these models because the seat height is too tall(cannot flat-foot it). Seat lowering kits are available. Is a bike safe after instaling a lowering kit? The dealers I've visited do not have demos or allow test drives; Honda does not install a seat lowering kit. The idea of buying a bike with the intention of lowering the seat height is intimidating to me. Have any of you short-legged riders out there resolved this situation?


Thom Hollis said...
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StingRay said...

Nice article, but I'd have to say that there are definitely a few great cruisers on the market for the beginning rider. Cruisers are generally better options for beginning street riders because they have better visibility because of the riding position. The Yamaha Virago 250 is a perfect cruiser to start with and has a great resale value when you outgrow it. Anyway you slice it though, the beginning bike will not be the "keeper" so get a good one to resale or trade up. Yamaha's V-Star 650 series is even easy to manage...about 500 lbs. and a low seat height...perfect for going on the highway without blowing around in the breezes, but easy to control. Beginners should stay away from the crotch rockets until you know how to feel the road better. Full-sized helmet and body position on a sport bike leave you with terrible visibility. Standards are perfect, but have worse resale value. The Buell Blast is a nice option.

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Best Motorbike Parts said...

This has to be a great resource for the beginner. Wish I had this for when I started - my first bike was far too big for a beginner lo.

Faraon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.