Complete Motorcycle new guy questions

Discussion in 'Moto Club' started by lilslyk, Apr 30, 2005.

  1. lilslyk

    lilslyk

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    So I'm 21, have never owned a motorcycle, have only ridden one once. I'm moving to LA in a few weeks and am looking to take a motorcycle safety course, then get my license and get a motorcycle.

    I have absolutely no clue what to look for in my first motorcycle. I am 6'0", 170, and don't feel the need for an extremely fast bike. I would like to keep it around $2000 and get something that will be fun to ride, that I can learn on w/o feeling like scratching it, get good gas mileage, and most of all won't need to be fixed every other week.

    I've looked around a bit on Cycletrader.com and ebay, but I have no clue where to even start. I like the looks of a "crotch rocket" but don't know if I should get myself into that on my first bike.

    Are there any makes/models you guys can suggest? What size engine should I look for (250 too small?)? I'm leaving this open ended because of my complete lack of knowledge on the subject.

    Thanks for any input guys,
    slyk
     
  2. wanderinwalker

    wanderinwalker 1911

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    First off, you're off to a great start. ^c Watch out, this sport is addicting and can suck all of your money in no time flat!

    Go do the MSF course. It will help you immensely. I did not take it, and though I don't regret starting the way I did, I would not recommend that way to everybody. I can guarantee you I have plenty of "bad" habits that would probably see me failing an MSF course right now. ;g

    Secondly, based on your size and the way I hear traffic moves out there in LaLa Land, get something like a Ninja 500 or GS500. You should be able to find a clean, used example of one of either for around $1500-2000 without much trouble. Ninja 250s are fun too, and if you don't do any highway cruising are a good place to start. Plus they sip fuel. The one we had around here for a couple of seasons got like 70 mpg, no matter how hard I twisted the throttle and wound it up!

    Next, gear. Budget gear. Think of spending a few hundred for a Snell-approved full-face helmet, an armored jacket, gloves and over-the-ankle boots at a minimum. I admit, this is all I have at the moment, but if you can afford a pair of moto-specific boots and pants (or overpants), they are worth the investment. Figure another $400-1000 here, depending on what strikes your fancy.

    That should pretty much get you set up. And a tank bag to carry things in too. Sure, you can get away with a backpack, but once you've had a tank bag, tail pack of saddle bags on just one trip, you'll never want a backpack again! (Or a bungee net works well for securing your backpack when needed.)

    There, that looks like a pretty good list. Good luck, go to it and try not to be too intimidated. Remember, everything else on the road is out to get you on a motorcycle, and behave accordingly!

    (Oh yeah, and once you've got a few thousand miles under your belt, step up to an SV650... ;) )

    BTW, I am 21 myself and will warn you, insurance on anything bigger than a 500 gets rough fast, unless it's a cruiser. And I've been riding two-wheeled motorcycles since I was 10/11.
     

  3. fnfalman

    fnfalman Chicks Dig It

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    Ninja 250. A brand new one would set you back less than $3000, so a used one is easily $2000. With the right rider, it's a deadly performance machine. Overall, it's just cheap and fun.
     
  4. lilslyk

    lilslyk

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    WanderinWalker thanks for the really great info! That post helps out a lot.

    Sorry again for my newb questions...gotta love forums though, great way to get educated quite a bit very quickly. Sometimes you don't even know enough to knwo what to search for (this would be one of the cases).

    Where would you suggest I look for the best prices on quality gear? I don't want to compromise safety, but want to get the best prices available. At the very least I will always ride with over the ankle boots, leather jacket, gloves, full face helmet. I have looked on ebay for helmets but have NO idea what is good quality and what is just manufactured to be cheap.

    Also, for the MSF course is there a website that I can go to to check times and locations or is that something I should check in the phone book once I get out there for? Wondering if it's a nationwide thing or what...

    Again, thanks for the great words, I'm really getting excited to get a bike!
     
  5. Dandapani

    Dandapani

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    Good idea, however, this fellow is a biggun. He needs a few more CCs. The Ninja 500 is a better option for him if he likes that style. The GS500 recommendation above is good also.
     
  6. DaisyCutter

    DaisyCutter

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    I'm almost identically your size. I happened to learn how to ride in the dirt, I started young and have a lot of hours riding dirtbikes. The basics of operating the throttle and clutch, as well as shifting gears was as natural to me as brushing my teeth when I decided to get a streetbike.

    My first streetbike was a 1200cc model. I had no problems controlling it.

    IMO, motorcycle riding is something you should learn young, not when you are 18+ years old. The learning curve can be painful, and young people benefit from their lack of fear. Riding and wrecking dirtbikes makes them less prone to panic on the street.

    I think at your size a Ninja 250 would be a liability. I'd look for late 80's early 90's streetbikes, in the 650-750cc range. Nighthawks and Zephyrs have a more standard riding position than a racy bike. Horsepower is a good thing when you need to get out of trouble. Ninja 500's and Suzuki GS500's are good too. Also, consider getting a dual sport bike, like a DR350 if you just wanna putt.

    For gear, try out stuff at the dealer to determine your size, then get closeout stuff online for 30% of the price. Try www.newenough.com and others.

    FWIW I highly recommend busting your cherry on the dirt vs. the street. Dirtbikes and mud are a lot more forgiving than stretbikes and F-250s.
     
  7. ibfurloughed

    ibfurloughed

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    Daisycutter,
    I couldn't agree with you more about the riding in the dirt first statement. I too learned young on dirt bikes.

    STUFF happens the first 40 or 50 miles on motorcycles has either addicted or scared away countless people from motorcycles. Those weekend driver safety course instill more confidence and less skill than you want to know. Don't get me wrong, it's a great thing and you should do it. However, all riding is done in a controlled environment at slow speeds with instructors telling you what to expect be every manuver. I have personally seen people graduate from these course go out buy a Buell Blast, make it 50 yards down there street and wrap up around a mailbox.

    If there is anyway you can get some time on a dirt bike like a Honda XR 100. You will learn more bike skills in 2 hours playing in the dirt than you will all weekend at the course.
     
  8. wanderinwalker

    wanderinwalker 1911

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    You know, I've often thought the same thing about the age of learning to ride. I spent way too much time out dirtbiking through highschool, and the skills learned have probably kept me upright and in one piece more often than not. Skills like how to handle a slide, a spinning tire, unexpected obstacle, sudden manuvers, etc.

    Perhaps you should look hard into learning to ride on a dirtbike lilslyk. It is a much more forgiving environment to learn in.

    Oh yeah, and www.newenough.com is a great place to search for good prices on gear.
     
  9. sublime

    sublime

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    I second the recommendation to at least consider a dual sport bike. Maybe something like a Suzuki DR-Z400. That way you can use it in the dirt and do a little sliding around and horse play, yet sill ride it on the street. Granted you aren't gonna want to ride 70 mph down the interstate on it, but hey any goober can ride a bike in a straight line down the highway. As a plus, it could be turned into a supermotard down the road and you'd have yourself a really fun machine.
     
  10. MikeG22

    MikeG22 CLM

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    I started on a 95 gs500. Great bike to learn on. Has enough power, was super cheap, insurance was like 87 bucks a year full coverage or something funny. No plastic side fairings (which are expensive to replace if you drop it) which is nice. Learn to go fast on one of those and when you are finally ready to step up to something bigger you'll be totally ready. Another benifit is you can probably sell it for what you bought it for so it's a no-lose sorta situation. I would skip the whole dual-sport thing. It's not like LA is in the country and there are just trails and dirt all over to go ride on. You will want a dedicated street bike for around there. Ask on http://socalsportbikes.com/ for good shops around LA. You could take a potential bike there to get it checked out before you agree to buy it, or perhaps find someone in the area that will go with you to look at the bike and help you to see if the bike needs anything. Great group of guys on there.

    The little ninja 250's are too small for you. It will be funny looking and feeling to ride one as they are just really small and don't have enough power to carry someone around such as yourself reliably and safely, espically with LA drivers and traffic.

    For helmets, anything by Shoei or Arai are good. You can get some great deals on solid color Shoei's that offer some of the best protection for a fair price. Another option that seem to be good are the new Scorpian Exo's. Alot of bang for the buck in these. HJC are ok as well, but definitly not Shoei/Arai quality. Regardless, if you are going to buy a helmet online you HAVE to go to a shop and try on that exact model beforehand. You want something that is comfortable but pretty snug/tight. It will loosen up some as you wear it. With it on and you trying to move it the skin on your forhead should move with it. You shouldn't have any problems with pressure points though such as pain in your temples or anything like that. Try it on and sit in the shop with it on for 10 minutes to make sure it is comfortable.

    MSF classes can be found here: http://www.msf-usa.org/ Passing the MSF here will give you your license. You will need to take the easy written test before you take the MSF. If when you go to the DMV you get a copy of the motorcycle handbook and study it while you wait for your turn to take the test you should be fine passing that portion.
     
  11. jthuang

    jthuang On The Jazz

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    1. MSF course. Not only will you learn properly (instead of learning on your own and developing bad habits, like me) you will also get a break from your insurance!

    2. Budget for gear (already mentioned above). I'd set aside at least $500 of your $2,000 budget. Safety gear is not to be trifled with!

    a. Helmet. While I am a big fan of Shoei helmets ($$), keep in mind that the DOT and Snell approved helmets basically provide the same amount of protection. What you get for your $$ with a Shoei or Arai is comfort (ventilation, etc.) and cool graphix. Don't be afraid to go with a DOT/Snell certified HJC or whatever ... you'll save bux that way.

    b. Jacket. A good quality (not "mall leather") leather or textile jacket is key. Road rash is not fun, and cheaper (low quality) jackets will not hold together in a crash. You want something that will have zippers/ties at your waist and wrists. You don't want either part of the jacket riding up during a crash when you're sliding on pavement!

    Soft armor is mandatory IMHO, with an option to go with hard armor if you like it.

    In addition to newenough.com (already mentioned), try the closeouts here:

    http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/closeouts.aspx?division=99

    c. Get quality gloves and boots. Don't be the squid wearing flip-flops on the interstate. ;T

    3. Buy a used bike. Even if your name is Nicky Hayden, Mike Mladin or whatever, chances are that you WILL drop your first bike at some point or another. If you buy a shiny new bike (especially one with fragile plastic fairings), your heart (and wallet) is gonna break when you mess up your new bike.

    I'm not saying you'll crash in a plume of flame at 100 mph ... my first "drop" was at 5 mph when I hit the curb wrong trying to pull into a gas station. ;J

    Do a search on the web for the rec.motorcycles (does anyone use USENET anymore?) used motorcycle FAQ. That will give you lots of recommendations and tips on evaluating used bikes for sale.

    In addition to the local papers, try to scan the bulletin boards (physical and electronic) at your local colleges. Lots of students seem to buy/sell bikes.

    4. Try to go with a standard riding position bike. Standard means you're basically sitting straight up. Sportbikes will require you to lean forward on top of the tank while some cruisers will put you backwards. Neither is optimal for learning. Look at the now-discontinued Yamaha Virago or Seca for examples of bikes with standard riding positions.

    Best of luck!
     
  12. fnfalman

    fnfalman Chicks Dig It

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    Just because a helmet has DOT and Snell protection it doesn't mean that it has the same protection as another DOT/Snell helmet. DOT or DOT/Snell mean that the helmets carrying those stickers meet the basic requirements for said certifications, not that they both provide the same levels protection.

    RiDE Magazine in Britain just did a test on a bunch of helmets that meet the UK's basic requirements. They all didn't come out the same. The ones with better protections are usually the big name ones like Shoei and Arai. An HJC was rated as "good buy" because it has good protection, good ventilation, reasonable comfort for a low price.

    Here's a link to modular helmets test. http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/accessoriesandgear/fliphelmets/
    These helmets are not Snell certified, but the DOT test is consistent and they did a Snell drop test on them anyway. Shoei ranked best in both of these tests. Guess which one is the most expensive in the bunch? Shoei.

    There's a reason why Arai and Shoei are considered to be top brands and command a heftier premium than most other helmets.

    But more importantly, the best model from the best brand does you no good if it doesn't fit. Now that I know how my head fits in what helmets, I'll buy my helmets online and save quite a few bucks. But for the first helmet, I'd pay the extra bucks and let a reputable vendor help me find one that fits properly.

    jthuang is also correct with his assertions on the Shoei and Arai helmets as far as ventilations and comforts as well. Would I consider an HJC or a KBC? No. I can afford better. But if I can't shell out $400-600 for a good Shoei or Arai? I'd look at an HJC and wear deeper earplugs or something.

    Another thing about helmets is that if at all possible, get one with removable liners. They get sweaty and nasty real quick and the removable liners can be taken out to be washed and dried. Yeah, you can clean the fixed liners too but then your helmet will be wet inside for days.
     
  13. Ralphumor

    Ralphumor NRA Life Member

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    Thanks everyone for posting VERY good info. Its hard to say what one should start out on if they have NEVER rode. I too started in the dirt and my thoughts were "Im young and my dad has good ins. I will heal and my bike will cost me money. Ill take the crash and save the bike." Ole to be young and dumb again. Get as big as you can and get a standard riding position. Dual purpose bikes are great but I would end up where I should not be. Take the course it does help on ins...Remember you are invisable and NO ONE CAN SEE YOU!!! Ride like that and you should be ok. Also it doesnt matter whoes fault it is it will still hurt like hell........Ride safe and wave often!!;f ;f
     
  14. jthuang

    jthuang On The Jazz

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    And Motor Cyclist magazine (Jun 2005) just did a test on a variety of Snell, DOT and ECE helmets.

    A Z1R (ZRP-1, $100) and the Pep Boys house brand (Raider) helmets were ranked ahead of the Arai (Tracker GT), AGV (XR2, $450) and the Suomy (Spec 1R, $400).

    FWIW, the HJC (AC-11, $200) did not beat the more expensive helmets mentioned above. Shoei (my preferred brand) did not submit a helmet for testing.

    Moral of the story is that more expensive is NOT always better in terms of safety. Dollars spent on advertising and image do not always equate to more safety for your noggin. Even if you disagree, the point may be that not all tests have agreed that the more expensive brands protect you better than the cheaper brands.

    For a beginning rider on a budget ($2000 for the bike, jacket, helmet, gloves and pants) it would not be a good idea to drop $4-500 (almost 25% of his budget) on a helmet that may not protect as well as a $100 helmet without the fancy name or graphics. Fit and ventilation are another matter, but be cognizant about the safety aspects first when considering a helmet.
     
  15. fnfalman

    fnfalman Chicks Dig It

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    I got the magazine issue and I read the article. Definitely food for thoughts.
     
  16. quinch

    quinch Turgid Member Millennium Member

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    I second the motion for a dirt bike, preferably beat up. You'll learn to be a better rider, save $, and keep a bike running.
     
  17. KyleB

    KyleB

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    I'm pretty sure someone of his size would be happier on a slightly older 600. He will out grow a 250-500 WAY to fast
     
  18. 45acp4me

    45acp4me Pissed puppet

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    Another vote for www.newenough.com and a GS500 or dual sport, the Bandit 400 should also be looked at. Budget at least another $700 on gear, your body is worth it.

    Regards,
    Glen
     
  19. Tyler82

    Tyler82

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    I grew up riding in the dirt, the best way to learn the art. Get a ninja 250 or 500. I bought a used 250 last year. The bikes are cheap (something like $3000 brand new) and insurance is cheap. The bike is very confidence inspiring. You'll feel like Valentine Rossi in the corners. If your a squid the 250 isn't the bike for you... it won't easily do stoppies or wheelies, but it will teach you the fundamentals of riding on the street. It's not the best best freeway bike, but for in town riding, it can't be beat!
    Yeah, eventually you'll want bigger bike but the 250 will serve you well until your ready.
    Oh yeah, gear is essential. Dress for the crash, not for the weather!!
     
  20. KyleB

    KyleB

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    lilslyk, I'm going to have to disagree with the 250 and 500 suggestions again :)

    I'm not at work so I can actully make a decent post this time. A couple of years old 600ss bike is perfect to learn on. They corner great and are VERY forgiving if you make slight mistakes.

    I have been riding/racing bikes for a while if that counts for anything.

    I got my first bike when I was a senior in high school and it was a '98 Honda CBR 600 F3, and it was a great bike to learn on, but I did get bit by the suzuki bug and it has been that way every since. I would recomend a slightly dated gsxr 600.

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