10 Basics Before Getting Your First Motorcycle

You’re thinking of getting your first motorcycle and you’re filled with questions. What kind of motorbike should I get? Is it safe? Can I afford it? Are there any hidden costs in owning a motorbike? Which dealer should I buy from? These questions are all common considerations when deciding what kind of bike to get.

Most of us want to buy a motorbike for different reasons — be it the frustration of getting stuck in everyday traffic, the coolness factor or the thrill of the fast life. Before you make that purchase, here are 10 things to think about first.

1. Basics

Just like any four-wheeled vehicle, two-wheeled motorbikes require some skills before you start going off into the sunset. Consider going to a Motorcycle Safety Foundation-certified center in your area and go through the Rider Education and Training System (RETS) with them. This foundation was founded by US motorbike manufacturers and distributors. Considering that this will be your first motorcycle, they know how best to train anyone to ride a motorbike safely.

Don’t just get simply trained, immerse yourself on everything about motorbike riding. Get to know safety maneuvers, the best gear to wear during a casual everyday ride, and even how to fall safely just in case you get into an accident. Knowing how to fall properly in a motorbike accident can be a matter of life-threatening consequences and just getting away with some scratches.

After going through the training, make sure you have your license updated to include your motorbike training. Check with your state’s DMV to know how they process licenses for motorbikes.

2. Costs

Most don’t discuss this but there are actually three costs to consider relating to motorbike ownership. Add all these up and you’ll have a rough estimate of your first motorcycle’s total cost.

Bike cost

This might be the most obvious cost to think about. Choosing the right bike for you might be all about the looks, but do consider the cost of the initial purchase. Whether it’s new or secondhand, either one will impact your personal finances. This should also include regular expenses and maintenance costs.

Road user’s cost

This should include the cost of updating your license and registration of your new vehicle. Since this is your first motorcycle, it’s best to review all the government regulation fees involved so as not to be surprised when you register your new or pre-owned motorbike. 

Insurance cost

Many often overlook investing in this, which makes it all the more crucial. Even the most cautious drivers are at risk of getting in accidents. Having insurance for both you and your motorbike will give you the reassurance that you are protected so you can enjoy your ride for an extended period of time.

3. Be Informed

When deciding what to get for your first motorcycle, it’s important to read up and do your proper research before making that purchase. That way, you can familiarize yourself with the different models and give you a better understanding of what it takes it to own a motorbike for the long term.

Books are a good option to learn the basics of owning your new motorbike, from riding techniques and motorcycle types to maintenance and more. It can also give you useful tips on how to maintain your motorbike.

Alternatively, the internet has a plethora of current information that can be extremely helpful when picking out your first motorcycle. Check out reviews from other riders on what models are best to help you narrow down your choices and weigh your options.

4. The right type for you

There are many motorcycle types in the market today and each type is suited for different purposes and environments. Pick the one that fits your daily lifestyle and personal interests. We have categorized them into five groups:

The Casual Ride

white cruiser parked on the roadside pavement in a neighborhood
Photo by Kirk Thornton from Unsplash

This includes all your everyday motorbikes, from cruisers to scooters. This type of motorbike is the first choice for many new riders, mainly because of their comfortable seating positions and ease of control. Their speed and power can vary, depending on the cc value of the engine. The higher the cc value, the bigger the engine capacity, which generally means more power generated.

The Fast and Furious

chrome teal sports bike parked on the pavement
Photo by David Cephei from Unsplash

These bikes are not for the faint of heart. They are known for their high power and boast speed levels of up to 200mph. If you’re a beginner rider, there are options that are easier to control but they are still very powerful so try them at your own risk. Another downside is that they tend to compromise on the comfort in the design so if that’s important to you, this type might not be for you.

The Rugged

two white-and-orange and black dual-sport motorcycles on rocky ground against the sunset
Photo by Taras Chernus from Unsplash

These are more for the weekend warriors, suitable for anything from adventure biking to cross-country dirt-road rides. These bikes have a strong engine and equally robust gear-mech that enables the engine to provide the wheels maximum traction. Most of these bikes are characterized by their off-road wheels and tall yet light body. These features provide the best support for off-roading since traction is essential in all weather conditions.

The Long-range Roadster

deep red touring motorcycle against a dark wall with a round opening letting in light
Photo by Harley-Davidson from Unsplash

This type is fairly uncommon. They are mostly used for cross-country road travel, equipped with a full array of luggage compartments and a large gas tank. This one has all the comforts of a car packed up on a linear wheeled vehicle and offer options not commonly seen on a regular motorbike.

The Futuristic

orange and black electric motorcycle with a slanted ceiling in the background
Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash

Modern motorbikes are fast, sleek and sometimes even more environmentally-friendly — what’s there not to like? Short-range scooters in this type are especially popular for city riding. Commonly used as delivery or courier bikes, these are what manufacturers envision the future for motorbikes. The only inconvenience is that they might rely on alternative power sources, like electrical power, which might not be as accessible in every city.

5. Power isn’t everything

engine of a Triumph motorcycle
Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

Most experienced riders would point out that the motorbike’s power or engine torque should be one of your main points for review when choosing your first motorcycle. While that is important, do consider what you’ll be using the bike for as well.

Let’s say you are planning to utilize your bike daily for a city commute, then getting a Casual Ride-type bike should be at the top of your consideration. Not only will you be saving on gas but it’s more comfortable for driving around the city.

On the other hand, if you are planning to use your motorbike for a long-distance trip with a considerable load, the Long-Range Roadster type might be a better option. Most of the time, these bikes come equipped with a 2000cc engine powerful enough for long distances without any strain on the engine. However, keep in mind that more powerful engines mean a heavier and more gas-guzzling motorbike.

6. Your height vs. Bike’s height

bad and good examples of how a rider's feet should be touching the ground when seated on a motorcycle
Photo via lexhaminsurance.co.uk

This one is more of a personal factor rather than technical. Each bike is different, just like how each rider is different. Your dream first motorcycle might look cool and have all the features you want but if its build is too high or short for you, it will affect your riding experience. To avoid this problem, test out the different bikes models in the shop first.

Try mounting and dismounting the bike to determine if your legs can comfortably and easily swing over to the other side. When seated on the bike in a stationary position, see how far your legs reach the ground; ideally, both feet should be planted flat on the ground with a comfortable bend in your knees. If the height isn’t right, consider another bike or ask your dealer how they can adjust the height for you.

For shorter riders, don’t lose hope! There are still many ways you can find a bike that fits you. Find a bike model that has a lower seat height or allows you to have more control for safer maneuvering.

7. Is bigger heavier?

The weight of the bike is another key factor of consideration as you need to be able to lift it up when it falls over or to put it on the stand when parked. Sometimes, looks can be deceiving; accessories and other features can actually add on to the bike’s frame, making it look bigger and bulkier. 

For example, some electric bikes are made from aircraft alloys which are tough but lighter than most metals. These bikes tend to be bulkier due to the placement of the batteries but once fitted with weight-efficient batteries, they become lighter as well.

Always consider looking into the general weight of your bike when buying your first motorcycle. This is why it’s so important to test out the different models at the dealership so that you can have a feel of how you can handle the weight yourself.

8. Deal or No deal

Try to know more about the motorbike dealer you are going to purchase your first motorcycle from. This way you’ll know more about any of the offers or discounts they are giving away. They could provide you greater discounts if you pay by cash rather than card. 

They might even have a buy-back guarantee for their motorbikes. This would be especially great when you’ve decided that the bike you bought is not right for you and are having second thoughts.

Most importantly, ask your dealer about the after-sales support services they provide. This will serve you best, in times that you’ll need your bike to be serviced by professionals. If there are any special membership benefits, they’re worth considering as well.

9. New or pre-loved

Let’s face it, we’re always looking for anything brand new and in perfect condition. With motorbikes, classics and vintages can be the best. There are always pros and cons of getting an old bike versus a new one.

A souped-up older bike with everything you’ve always wanted in a motorbike might be cheaper than getting a brand new one with the same features. However, new bikes are more likely to have a complete, full-length warranty that can give you that extra reassurance for your first motorcycle.

When deciding what kind of motorbike to get, it should boil down to two things: budget and experience.

Budget

Always consider your budget first and foremost. If you are scrimping just to buy your first motorcycle, a pre-loved but well-maintained motorbike might be better. However, do keep in mind that some of the more classic or vintage models might have a higher market value so do your research and explore your options.

Experience

The older the bike, the more issues it might have with use. Older bikes might also not perform as well or have modifications made by the previous owner that make them perform differently from the standard model. Are you confident enough to handle those issues if you were to buy the bike? Make sure you know what is the state and condition of the bike you’re buying and then decide if you’re able to work with that.

10. Get geared up

man in full motorcycle gear putting on his gloves while standing near a motorcycle on the side of the road
Photo by Shajan Jacob from Unsplash

Getting the proper gear is probably the last thing you think about when getting your first motorcycle — what use is gear if you don’t even have the bike first, right? — but it is just as crucial. The right gear can make riding more comfortable and can even save your life.

Get jackets and pants that are tough enough to protect you from the wind and minor injuries if you fall over — jeans aren’t gonna cut it. Consider what are your wet weather cover-up options if you get caught in a storm on the road. Pick the right helmet for the kind of riding you’ll be doing; if you’re using your bike for more off-road activities, you’ll need a more heavy-duty helmet designed for those environments.

Of course, motorcycle gear can up the coolness factor of riding a bike — who doesn’t want to look effortlessly stylish as you cruise along the road? Feel free to find options that are in your favorite styles and colors and use them to represent your own personal style.


At the end of the day, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Getting your first motorcycle is a big investment and it takes a different skill set to know how to handle and control than any other four-wheeled vehicle.

Plan ahead and make a well-informed decision. That way, you’ll not only enjoy your first motorcycle more but you’ll be able to stick with your decision for a longer time.

 

Mr Maxim
Mr Maxim is your go-to guy for all things men's lifestyle. If you need help getting your mojo together, Mr Maxim has all the tips you need to survive as a modern man in the 21st century.

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