Being a motorcycle salesman by trade, I am continually confronted with questions regarding which brand, type, or size of motorcycle is best suited to the needs of a new rider. Despite what the internet forum guru might have you believe, the reality is motorcycle engineers have yet to endow us with the perfect, catch-all first bike. Motorcycles are almost as varied as the people who ride them.
When searching for a first bike the most important thing is to have the right mindset, figure out where and how you want to ride: commuting, touring, riding off-road or even racing, and concentrate on bikes meeting those requirements. The temptation to indulge our Ego and materialism is strong when we have so many beautiful and powerful machines on the market today. A smart shopper will take the time to analyze his or her budget, skill level, and usage in advance so as to narrow the field and shorten the purchase process. When you find yourself in a showroom full of motorcycle lust, leaning towards bigger, faster, or more luxurious bikes, repeatedly ask yourself if the added features will genuinely improve your enjoyment of the sport.
Out of all the aspects of buying a first bike, the mostly hotly debated topic is size. Size can refer to engine size, weight, seat height, or even the exterior dimensions of the motorcycle. Focus on ergonomics and power. Test ride as many bikes as possible before pulling the trigger and get a feel for the reach to the bars, the angle of your back, and the position of the foot controls as well as stability when you’re at a stop. What’s comfortable for a 5’4” 120 lb female will likely not be for a 6’4” 250 lb male, if you evaluate things for yourself you can be confident in your choice.
In the case of power engine design is often much more important than engine size, look at 0-60 or ¼ mile times for perspective bikes to get a good idea of the real world performance. For me, this was the hardest part of buying my first motorcycle. I was a teenager with images of wheelies in front of bikini clad ladies on the beach and face distorting acceleration swimming in my head. The fantasizing brain isn’t realistic in telling you about medical bills and the feeling of embarrassment when it goes wrong. A first bike should be quick enough to merge safely and generate excitement but not so fast that caution hinders enjoyment. It’s always better to ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow and if you are spending all your time keeping the beast in check, you can’t develop the fundamental skills needed to enjoy the ride and ride well.