As the grip of even the most mild winter loosens and people begin to venture outdoors more due to desire rather than necessity, many of us are anxiously awaiting the time when the weather will be warm enough to get back out and enjoy the open road on two wheels again! Every season, another generation of riders will get their permits or lisences, and will begin shopping for their first bike. What are some things to look for and to look out for? With a little planning, your perfect ride will be as good as in the driveway!
Motorcycles have been around since just after the turn of the century, when the Harley Davidson company started making the machines that would become the stuff of legends- since then, countless manufacturers have dreamed up a bike for every rider, every occasion. Engine sizes range from tiny 47cc (which stands for cubic centimeters, a measure of the displacement of the engine… but more on that later!) up to 2000cc behemoth touring models! Which one is a good beginner bike? There are almost as many answers to that question as there are beginners!
The first thing to take into account is the physical size of the rider- when on the bike, holding it up in a standing position, you should be able to stand with both feet firmly planted flat on the ground. If you find that you’re standing tiptoe to hold the bike up, it’s too tall! This is an important safety issue, because, remember, the ground will NOT always be level everywhere you need to stop, and you need to be in control of your machine, which will weigh between 400 and 600 pounds! If you’ve found the perfect bike, but it’s a little too tall, fret not, because there are ways of making them lower- by changing the rear shocks or the seat to name two.
The next question is, how big should the engine be for a beginner? This is open to some discussion, but a motorcycle with a 500cc engine is a good starting point for most people. Though I have known beginners who bought a 1000cc monster as their first bike, I don’t recommend this! If you get something too small, however, you’ll likely have outgrown it in only a few months time, and will want something bigger- 450 to 650cc models are small enough to handle, but will still keep up with traffic without putting a strain on the machine, or the nerves of the rider! When riding against the wind or in fast traffic, when you’re out of throttle and trying to give it more, you’ll only be pushing the machine to its limits, making it run hotter and thus, potentially wearing it out quicker!
When you’ve found the prospects and have made sure you can flat foot them, the next thing to look at is the condition of the bike itself- is there any rust? If so, is it severe, or light? When looking at the tires, they should of course hold air, and should have a good amount of tread on them- you can test them by putting a penny with Lincoln’s face upside down in the grooves- does the tread at least touch Abe’s hair? If it does, the tire is good- if not, you’ll probably need to replace them before long if you plan on riding much, and you can count on spending at LEAST $70 plus mounting, more for better quality tires! Also get down on the ground and look at the bottom of the engine. Look for signs of oil leakage- if left unchecked, this could lead to a VERY costly repair bill- if you see a leak but want the bike anyway, check the oil constantly, change it more often than you “need” to, and have the seals replaced as soon as possible (or count on putting a lot of oil in your engine!) Certainly not least of the steps, start the engine and listen to it run! Did it have a hard time starting? Does it make any strange noises? The out of place noises should be fairly obvious- and always question things! If possible, bring someone familiar with motorcycle mechanics with you when you shop- they may catch something you wouldn’t have thought to look for and save you a headache further down the road.
The next step is to enjoy! SAFELY enjoy- remember, you’re smaller than the other vehicles on the road, and you cannot count on others to watch out for you! Take it upon yourself to ride safely and defensively, and you’ll experience a joy unmatched by most for years to come!