The global market is flooded with thousands of motorcycle models, and the US alone has over 46 motorcycle builders. This diverse selection can be overwhelming for any rider making their first purchase. Over the years, we have encountered both beginners and experienced riders looking to buy motorcycles. It is not always an easy decision, especially for the first time.
Choosing a motorcycle involves three steps: assessing your riding needs, researching the perfect bike for these needs, and finally, striking a good deal with a reliable vendor.
Your choice of a motorcycle will depend on your intent. It could be for cruising, sporting, touring, dual-purpose, standard, or dirt biking. Let’s face it—inexperienced motorcycle buyers are more likely to make purchasing errors. Here is my simple step-by-step guide designed to help you through the process.
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How To Choose Your First Motorcycle in Three Easy Steps
The bike you decide to buy should be perfect for the purpose and within your means. For you to arrive at the right choice, you might want to consider the following steps
- Define Your Needs
Motorcycles have different features, which vary depending on the rider’s intention. The starting point to owning your first motorcycle is identifying your riding needs. You can do so by answering the question, “Why do I need a motorcycle?” You could be looking for a motorcycle for long-distance travel, sporting, cruising, commuting, and off-road riding.
It is also essential to figure out if you will be riding on the streets or on the dirt. Some bikes are specially tailored for either or both.
Some excellent choices for a street bike include adventure bikes, dual-sport, touring bikes, sport bikes, and cruisers. If you are looking for an off-road biking experience, you should choose a dirt bike or an enduro bike.
Your needs are closely tied to your biking abilities. Also, aspects such as your age, height, and weight determine the kind of features you will be looking for.
Since you are a beginner and have not perfected your skill, you might be looking for a simple beginner motorcycle bike. For instance, a cruiser bike is appropriate for daily commuters until they are skilled enough to ride a giant machine.
Researching entails familiarizing yourself with the different motorcycles, specifications, and price ranges. As you do your research, remember you need an easy and comfortable bike.
One critical feature when assessing bikes is the engine capacity and power, also called torque and horsepower output. As a beginner, you need to choose a conducive engine size and power matching your skill level and intended use. The ideal motorcycle engine size for beginners is 500cc to 700cc and 60hp.
The Different Types of Motorcycles Include:
These are light and ultra-fast bikes designed for handling the track and are rather difficult for beginners. They are categorized as per their use into hyper sports, super sports, middleweight, and lightweight. These bikes have a high-revving and smooth engine, thus sprinting faster.
Suppose you are looking for a sports bike. You have many choices, including adventure sports bikes, sports touring bikes, dual sports, and naked bikes. Each manufacturer designs bikes with different engine capacities and power output.
Sports bikes’ engine capacities and output power vary, with the lowest having 300-500cc and power output below 50bhp. The highest have engine capacities of 750cc up to 1,000cc and even higher power of approx. 310bhp, and speeds exceeding 400 km/h.
If you are looking for a sports motorcycle, you might consider:
Cruiser motorcycles are commonly known as choppers. They are ideal for riders looking to ride on long-distance tours, street riding, and daily commuting. Also, these are larger and heavier bikes weighing 500 to 700 pounds, meant for comfort instead of speed.
Cruiser motorcycles make it a perfect choice for beginners because of their low seat height of 26 to 36 inches and a more relaxed seating position.
There is a wide range of cruiser rides with different engine sizes and chassis sizes to meet riders’ specific needs. The engine sizes for these bikes range from around 500cc to 1800cc.
The latest cruiser models include:
- Yamaha V-Star 250
- Honda Rebel 1100 DCT
- Royal Enfield INT650
- Kawasaki Vulcan S.
These bikes are suitable for beginners, and they have features of both sport and cruiser bikes. However, they offer a more comfortable upright riding posture.
Their weight-to-power ratio makes the bike easy to control or ride. They also require less skill, have higher power, and accelerate pretty fast on the open road. Some naked bike models include:
- Triumph Tiger 800XC
- Yamaha Super Ténéré
- KTM Duke 390
- Kawasaki Z400
- Yamaha MT07
Cafe racer bikes are designed for younger riders looking for speed. They are relatively small and light, thus ideal for short, fast rides. While you can purchase a cafe-designed bike, some riders prefer to customize bikes based on an existing model. The idea is usually to make the bike sport-light by dismantling the essential parts.
Some cafe race models include:
- Royal Enfield Continental GT 650
- Suzuki SV650X
- Kawasaki W800 Café
Touring bikes are much larger and heavier. They are ideal for open, off-road touring or countryside excursions, multi-day tours, and cross-country adventures. Even though they offer a smooth ride, they are challenging for beginners.
You may want to consider the following touring bike models:
- Kawasaki Versys 300
- BMW GS 310
- Suzuki DRZ400
Off-Road and Adventure Bikes
Off-road motorcycles are designed for riding on gravel, dirt, or mud. Since they are not intended for use on the road, they are often towed to their site of use. However, you can choose between an entirely off-road bike or one that’s street legal. On the other hand, adventure bikes are ideal for riders who enjoy off-road and conventional riding.
If you are looking for an off-road bike, here are a few options:
- Honda CRF450R
- Yamaha YZ450F
- Kawasaki KX25o
Once you have chosen your ideal bike, it is time to make a purchase.
Dealers offer diverse prices on the same model. For this reason, you need to check out different dealers and their terms of payment. You can pay in cash or through a financier. Motorcycle manufacturers also offer great deals on some models. Thus, you should take time and assess the options on the table before striking a deal.
Remember, you can opt for either a new or a used bike. If you choose to buy a used motorcycle, you’ll need to check and verify the following documents:
- Forms 28, 29, and 30
- Sales receipt of two-wheeler
- Address proof and passport size photos
- Road tax certificate
- PUC certificate
- Two-wheeler insurance policy
- RC (Registration Certificate) book
Also, legal requirements and policies differ from one state to the other. Some of the standard requirements for riders include:
- Proper licensing based on engine displacement
- Passing of Rider education program
- Standard driving license
- Necessary gear, including helmet and eye protection
- Rearview mirrors, handlebars and fenders, and blinkers
Buying a motorcycle for the first time can be overwhelming with excitement. And unless you had a specific ride in mind, it is difficult to determine if you made the right choice. You, therefore, need to take your time and do your research to arrive at the perfect decision.
I've diligently categorized my motorcycle gear recommendations into all available categories, with the aim of providing you with a comprehensive analysis that showcases the absolute best options for all your needs. These items are the culmination of in-depth research, extensive testing, and personal use throughout my vast experience of 50+ years in the world of motorcycling. Besides being a passionate rider, I've held leadership positions and offered consultancy services to reputable companies in over 25 countries. To See Top Picks and the Best Prices & Places to Buy: Click Here!
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government, educational and nonprofit organizations: