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Old 04-27-2005, 02:01 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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Beginning Riders Info............

Information to assist new motorcycle riders in getting a safe and successful start.

1st Things First
If you are a USA resident, sign up for a MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) approved beginning rider’s course. The course is about 16 hours spread over two or three days.

Why take the course? Some states waive the DMV riding test if you pass the course. Some states require you to take such a course if you are under a certain age. Your insurance company may charge a lower premium. You will learn valuable information that will make life as a beginning rider easier and safer.

Small (125-250cc) bikes are provided for your use during the course. The classroom part of the course will cover the basics of safe riding on city streets and the highway. The riding part of the course will teach you in a parking lot environment how to handle and manuever a bike at low (0-20 mph) speed. Contrary to what you might think, a motorcycle is inherently stable and easier to handle at higher speeds. At low speed it is an obstinate and unstable beast.

Why not have a friend or family member who rides teach you? Bad idea unless the person is a qualified, experienced instructor. Riding a motorcycle is a dangerous activity. You owe it to yourself and family to learn from qualified instructors.

Your First Bike
Should you buy a bike before taking the MSF course? You can and many have done so. It is best, however, to wait until you are licensed so you can test ride before buying to be sure it suits you. If you do buy early, keep it in the garage until you have passed the course and are licensed. Until you have received proper instruction you are not qualified to do any more than sit on the bike uttering vroom, vroom sounds.

While waiting to take the course you can be doing research to prepare for buying your first bike and properly equipping yourself with safety gear. If you are not yet sure of what style bike you want to ride, this is the time to start learning more about the different types of motorcycles.

Chances are the bike you really want should not be your first bike. It will be too large and/or too powerful for a new rider. Keep in mind that this is your first bike, not your final or ultimate bike. A common recommendation is that you spend a year of so (3,000 miles) on a 400-500cc standard style bike, or a 600-800cc cruiser style bike, or if you have long legs a 400-650cc dual sport bike. Think twice and then think again before buying a larger bike. Do believe the mantra: liter bikes (900cc and up) and 600cc or greater sport bikes are not for new riders.

Another frequent recommendation is to buy a used bike, preferably one without fairing which is expensive to replace should you drop the bike. Doing so saves the large first year depreciation incurred with a new bike. By not investing too much in your first bike, you won’t have to keep it as long to get full value from it. Put the money you save into your second bike savings account. After a year or two of riding, you will be much more knowledgeable about the type of bike you really want and have the experience to handle a larger or higher performance bike. Also, don’t be surprised if you drop the bike at least once at barely moving speed, while stopped or while parking the bike. It is easier on the ego and wallet if the bike you just dropped (or allowed to fall) is not brand new. If you shop and buy wisely you can resell the bike, after riding it for a year or two, for not much less than you paid for it.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s manufacturers reduced the number of small bike models exported to the US. Our choices today are limited. Some 1990's and later models suitable for new riders are listed below.

* indicates the model is no longer in production.
BG is a link to a review of the bike in the Buyer’s Guide.
Other links are to other reviews of the bike.

Standards & Sport-Standard

AlphaSports (Hyosung): GT250 Comet

BMW: F650CS, F650GS

Honda: CB250 Nighthawk

Kawasaki: ZR550 Zephyr*

Suzuki: GS500E (unfaired)*, GS500F (faired)

Yamaha: XJ600S Seca II*

Sport Bike

Kawasaki: EX250R Ninja, EX500R Ninja


AlphaSports (Hyosung): GV250

Honda: CMX250 Rebel VT600 Shadow VT750 Shadow

Kawasaki: VN250 Eliminator* EN500 Vulcan VN750 Vulcan VN800 Vulcan

Kymco: Venox 250

Suzuki: GZ250 Marauder: S40 (was LS650 Savage): S50 (was VS800 Intruder):

Yamaha: XV250 Virago XV535 Virago* XV650 V-Star Reviews:

Dual Sport

Honda: XR650L

Kawasaki: KLR 650

Suzuki: DR-Z400 DR650

Bike Age
Be extra cautious about buying a bike more than 15 years old. Doing so exposes you to outlays of cash to repair the bike and/or make it safe for the street. Rubber, belts, seals, fuel tanks, seats, cables, wiring and the like deteriorate with age. They deteriorate faster if the bike is not ridden and maintained regularly. A bike that has not been ridden for a long time is a bike to skip. It may look like a good bike and good deal at first glance, but it is most likely a money pit in disguise. You, as a beginner, don't need the grief. Also, newer model bikes are safer and more enjoyable. Brakes, suspension, handling and reliability are much better on newer model bikes.

Your Gear
“You buy gear for the crash, not for the ride.” —Author unknown.

Helmet, jacket, boots, gloves and pants designed for motorcyclists are important and necessary items to be acquired. You can discover which products are best for you and your budget by talking with other riders, reading product reviews on the web and asking questions on discussion board forums. Buy your gear for its protective qualities, not as a fashion statement.

Plan on spending between $500 and $1,000 for your gear.

If you buy online be sure to carefully check the return and exchange policy and be prepared to send the item back for a different size. I strongly encourage you to buy the helmet from a local, knowlegeable retailer even though it is more expensive than buying online.
(Support Our Local Shops First !!!!)
You must wear the helmet before buying to ensure a proper fit.

The helmet is the most expensive and important item. Buy the best quality full-face helmet you can afford. 1/2 and 3/4 (open faced) helmets do not provide any face protection while riding or sliding over the pavement and ground after a crash. It must meet DOT (Department of Transportation) standards. You will be safer if it meets Snell (a more rigid) standard.

Fit and comfort is all important. The only way to get a correct fit is to try it on, do some basic checks and wear it for a short while before buying. A wrong size helmet will seriously dampen your riding enjoyment and decrease your margin of safety.

A textile motorcycle jacket with a removable cold weather liner, CE (a European standard) approved armor and ventilation openings that can be zipped shut will provide satisfactory protection and reasonable comfort in all but the coldest and hottest of weather. Your best and most economical choice in the long run is a jacket that: is armored, is good for three season riding and keeps you dry when riding in light rain. For torrential downpours buy a rainsuit and keep it handy under the seat.

Buy gloves specifically designed for motorcycle riding. You will want different gloves for moderate temperatures and hot summer days. Summer gloves will be ventilated for comfort. Winter is another matter. Buy a pair that is suited for the season in which you are starting to learn. Look for leather gloves that are sturdy, have padding over the knuckles and for the heels of your palms. The seams should be sewn on the outside. Inside seams may rub against your fingers and cause discomfort. The thicker the leather the better the protection. Leather from deer and kangaroo are stronger than cowhide but are more expensive.

Riding in street shoes, let alone flip flops, is just not cool. A pair of sturdy, leather boots with slip resistant soles and sides that are high enough to completely cover your ankles is the lowest level of protection you should go with. If you can afford them, buy a pair of motorcycle boots that have extra protection for the toes and ankles. If you plan on using work boots, the soles should be thin enough and flexible enough to provide feedback when using the rear brake. And remember to tuck the laces in securely when you ride.
Nothing sucks more then a shoelace getting wrapped around your gear shift lever or rear brake lever.....

Jeans are better than shorts. That’s about all you can say for them. If you can afford them, buy a pair of leather pants; or a pair of armored textile over-pants that have a removable cold weather liner and wear them over your jeans or shorts. You will be very happy you did should you ever go down with the bike.
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits
--Albert Einstein
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