How-to Buy a Motorcycle

September 22, 2009
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
Cruiser Editor |Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS

Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

When it came time to test the four bikes for our  4000 Newbie Shootout  we drafted some of our own aspiring riding talent from around the office..
All your friends have motorcycles and now is the time to ride but are you ready for one?

You’ve just gotten bitten by the two-wheeled bug and are ready to leap into the world of motorcycle ownership. But before making a blind leap of faith, here’s a few helpful tips that will help in the decision making process when you do decide to spring for a bike.

1. What is my experience level? Be truthful to yourself. If you are brand-new to the sport, the best thing to do is to take a class, like the RiderCourse offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Do this before you buy a motorcycle to make sure that that riding a bike is for you. Spending money on the class is much cheaper than throwing down cash outright for a motorcycle, then discovering motorcycling is not for you. If you’re returning to biking after taking a long break, take a refresher course or borrow a friend’s bike for some parking lot stop-and-goes.

2. Decide what motorcycle is best for the style of riding you want to do. If you’re a newbie, don’t go out and buy a superbike just because Valentino Rossi is your idol. Will you be commuting to work or do you want something that is street legal and still capable of doing some light trails? Are track days the ultimate goal or are a few short trips around town what you have in mind? Will you be riding solo or are long road trips with a passenger the way you plan on rolling? Be sure to add your riding ability into the equation.

Out on the open road  the Fly 150 doesnt run anything down  but you can ring it out to 55 mph after counting up to 13-Mississippis.The Suzuki is powered by an air-cooled single-cylinder engine.Aside from the much-complained-about foot controls  there isnt any great weakness on the Virago.
What type of motorcycle do you need? What kind of riding will you be doing? These questions will help you find the right type of motorcycle.

Do your research. You wouldn’t run out and buy the first car you saw, would you? So why should buying a motorcycle be any different? Invest some time in researching the model of motorcycle you want online. Manufacturers list features, specifications, and MSRP on their websites, and there are free motorcycle websites that feature first ride and review articles on almost every style of bike, so do your research first. Here’s a link to most of the major manufacturers to get you started: 

Aprilia     BMW    Ducati    Harley-Davidson    Honda     Kawasaki    KTM    Suzuki     Triumph     Victory     Yamaha

The little Ninjas riding position is comfortable and upright.
The Kawasaki Ninja 250 is a good choice for a first motorcycle for its low cost, easy to ride and you can it sell when you are ready to move up.

4. Figure out how much you want to spend. Just like cars, some motorcycles have higher resale values than others. Different styles of bikes ring in at different price levels as well. A Kawasaki Ninja 250 is a great starter bike that lists new for only $3,999, while a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster has a MSRP of $6,999. And don’t be afraid to haggle the price. Know the MSRP beforehand and use that as a negotiating point when dealing with the motorcycle salesman. Take into consideration that you will have to pay taxes, set up fees, and documentation fees. If possible, pay cash, which gives you more bargaining power and dealers will often take a percentage off the top for cash. For riders who plan on trading in their bikes, make sure to know the value of your trade-in and demand to get an honest price in trade. Check what the motorcycle lists for on Kelley Blue Book.

5. If at all possible, test ride your motorcycle. Many dealerships offer demo rides. Motorcycle rallies are a great place to test new bikes as well. First off, you’re going to want to see how tall the seat is and whether you can place both feet comfortably on the ground when stopped. Make sure the seat is comfortable as well. Roll on the throttle and run through the gears, then find a clear area and get on the brakes a few times. Take it to a parking lot and see how it handles at low speeds, then find a freeway and open it up. Make sure to find some twisty roads to find out whether you’re comfortable with its handling. Try it before you buy it!

Early on the first morning of Biketoberfest  a long line has already formed to sign-up for a demo ride on the new VMAX. Biketoberfest marked the first event where the new model was available for a demo.
Riders crowd around demo bikes like a pack of wolves ready to test out this Yamaha Vmax. Testing a bike before you buy it can tell you if the bike is going to match your riding style.

6. Legalize it as soon as possible. Take it to the DMV and get it registered in your name. If you buy direct from the dealer, they will run you through the process. If you buy a used motorcycle, make sure the seller provides you with a copy of the title and registration that is in their name. Also, buy insurance. Not only is it required by law, but it’s just plain smart to protect yourself in case of an accident.

7. Buy the proper motorcycle riding gear. Not only does the proper gear look cool, but it can save your hide and possibly your life in case of a crash. Get a helmet that meets Snell/DOT standards, buy a durable motorcycle jacket, gloves, some reinforced riding pants and boots. If you ride long enough, you’re going to get rained on, so spring for rain gear while you’re at it.

Buying your first motorcycle should be fun. Just be realistic and don’t bite off more than you can chew. You can always get the bike of your dreams after you’ve developed your riding skills.

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