|04-02-2012, 09:55 AM||#1|
Joined: Sep 2008
I Ride: 04 CBR1k
New rider Q and A..
This is the time of year that a lot of people start thinking about getting their first bike, and we get a lot of "New Rider" threads asking about "Best Bike For A Newbie", "Best Tires", "Best Oil", etc. I thought it might be helpful to condense what I think the consensus has been on these subjects. Of course, these are opinions, and if any new rider reads this, you have to take in the advice and choose what you believe is the right choice for you on any of these subjects. No "one size fits all" answer will ever be a universal fit.
What Bike Should I Buy?
This will have a as many answers as there are people to answer it. This is a question that I get a lot, and i'll give you the answer that I always give. I ride sport bikes, as do many of the riders on this site, but this answer applies to cruiser riders too. Siimply put, your first bike should not be your dream bike. Your first bike should not be powerful, or flashy, or expensive. You're probably going to knock it over in your driveway, or at a stoplight, or in the course of your first few months of learning. Trust me, I did it. It sucks, it hurts to see your baby scratched up and dented, and it's going to hurt a lot worse if it's an expensive bike that you just started making payments on.
Be smart, reign in your pride, and commit to riding a less than perfect bike for the first few months and (at least) the first 5 or 6000 miles. The only thing you should be concerned with on your first bike is that it's mechanically sound. Don't pay extra for flashy, or shiny, or new.
What bike to get? What type of bike do you want to ride later on? Cruiser? Sport bike? Adventure? I know more about the sport side of things, so let me speak to that. 2 bikes continually pop up in conversations with experienced riders when this question comes up. A Kawasaki Ninja 250, and a Suzuki SV650.
-Ninja 250. Small, light, short reach to the ground.. More than enough power to commute at highway speeds, but not so much power that it will spit you off if you screw up with the throttle, and believe me, you will.
"But I'm going to get bored on a 250"! No, you won't. I ride a 1000cc sport bike, and the 250 is a hoot to play around on.
"It doesn't have enough power"! Yes, it does. As a new rider, you don't have the experience needed to handle the huge power increases that are readily available if you goose the throttle a bit too much on more powerful bikes. Even an older 600cc bike will get you into trouble in a big hurry if you come into a corner too fast or when riding in less than ideal circumstances, like rain.
"All of my friends ride bigger bikes, I won't keep up". First, you shouldn't be worried about keeping up with anyone at this point. You just don't have the experience to ride fast. As a new rider, you should be riding with people that understand this, and aren't pushing you to ride beyond your abilities. If your friends on faster bikes aren't willing to be patient while you learn, riding with them is a hazard to you, to them, and anyone else on the road with you. Are these friends going to buy you a new bike if you wad yours? Are they going to pay your bills, or god forbid your funeral expenses, if you wreck? No. You are.
"I'm too big for a small bike". I'm 6.0, 225lbs, and the Ninja 250 carries my big ass around just fine.
"But I don't want to be stuck with a learners bike"! Look.. Bikes are dangerous, and the learning curve can be spectacularly unforgiving. Do yourself a favor and be smart about this. You have all the time in the world to ride whatever you want later on. For right now, set your focus on learning how to ride, and not on on having the hottest piece of sex on 2 wheels. A learners bike will teach you the basics without terrifying you. Ever wonder why there are so many 2 or 3 year old sportbikes with a few scratches and low miles for sale? People let their balls over ride their brains and get scared away from riding.
"But my friend started out on a 600/1000/Hayabusa, and he was fine"! Great! Good for him! For every story you hear about that type of scenario, there are probably 10x more tragic stories about people who believed that and had really unfortunate results. I'm tired of RIP threads. Someone out there loves you, and deserves to have you around.
-SV 650. Light, seat is low, and while it has more power than a 250, it's still not so much that it becomes unforgiving. These bikes are phenomenal commuters and great bikes for playing on the weekends. All of the arguments and answers above for the 250 apply to this bike as well.
Both of these bikes are popular as first bikes, so scratches and dents are common. A 03 or 04 ish 250 with less than 15k miles can be had for around 2k or less. Aside from signs of obvious abuse or really spectacular crashes, these bikes were designed for new riders and will damn near run forever. A similarly aged SV650 with less than 15k miles can be had for about 2500-3000. These really are great bikes, so again, barring obvious thrashing, these are usually bulletproof.
Be smart. You can buy either of these bikes for a fraction of the cost of a newer one. Buy it, ride it for a few months, drop it once or twice, and unless you wrap it around a tree you can sell it for damn near what you paid for it. Then you go out and buy something a little more powerful, a little newer, and you learn even more. It's steps on the path to learning.
"What oil should I use"?
Simply put, use the best you can afford. There are people that use car oil in their bikes, and swear by it. There are also people who use uber expensive racing oils and wouldn't dream of using anything else. When you buy your bike, asking about its maintenance history is a must-do, so ask what type of oil the previous owner used. Generally speaking, it's probably best to stick with what they were using. Different oils are designed to do different things, and changing to a different type isn't ideal, unless they were using garbage. For instance, it's generally inadvisable to switch from synthetic to regular oil, but not vice-versa. There is no perfect answer to this question, but there are a thousand less than perfect opinions. When in doubt, ask your local dealer what they reccommend.
More important than what oil you use, is how often you change it. Changing the oil in your bike can cost quite a bit at a dealership, and it might seem easier to put a few thousand more miles on your bike between changes because of it. The wise alternative is to learn how to do it yourself. It really is a simple task, and easily accomplished with a few cheap tools. The first time you change your oil yourself, the money saved will more than pay for the tools. If you need help learning how, ask around here. Many experienced riders here would probably be more than happy to walk you through it if you provide a little beer or a pizza. The westside forums also have monthly maintenance meetups in the summer. Grab your oil and filter, show up, and learn just how easy it is.
"What tires should I buy"?
What's better, Chevy or Dodge? Few topics will inspire a heated discussion among riders like tire selection. I have a friend that swears by cheap Shinkos, and another friend that puts the most expensive Pirellis known to man on his bike. My answer to this is more middle of the road. Few things on your bike have a greater impact on safety and performance like your tires. Tire shape, tire compound, tire size and tire manufacturer all have huge impacts on performance, quality and longevity. Since there are so many types of tires, and so many different riding styles, I always reccomend the same thing. Multi compound tires. Bridgestone BT016s and Dunlop Q2s are my favorites. They both last through many miles of commuting, they both have plenty of grip in all types of weather and riding, and they're both a very neutral design. Bear in mind that there is a big difference between the OEM multi compound tires that came on your bike, and the same manufacturers after market tires. OEM tires simply aren't as good as aftermarket.
A quick note on tire sizes. Yes, a big fat tire looks cool, but your bike was designed to use a tire in a specific size range. Getting a huge tire changes the way your bike handles in a big way. Stick with the size that it came with.
"Where do I buy tires"?
Your dealer will have a good selection of tires for your bike, but they're going to charge you a small fortune to buy and mount. Buying tires on line or at shops like Cycle Gear can save you hundreds. If you find a local bike mechanic, many will charge a fraction of what dealers want to mount tires. You don't have to spend a fortune if you shop around.
What helmet/gloves/gear should I buy"?
Everyone has a favorite brand or type of gear, but this question is easy. Buy the absolute best you can afford. Dress for the crash, not the ride..
Clothing brands that I always trust are Alpinestars, Dainese, Fieldsheer, Joe Rocket and Cortech. Are there other brands that will protect you? Absolutely, but these are brands that I've had personal, first hand experience with. They can be a bit pricey (especially Alpinestars and Dainese), but they cost more for a reason. Better fit, more comfortable, and better protection. A good jacket can easily cost you $400 or more, but it will last you for years. Synthetic will be cheaper, and is usually better in wet weather. But there simply is no substitute for a quality leeather jacket. Never, ever buy anything from ICON. Every piece of ICON gear i've ever bought has been complete garbage, buy at your own risk.
There are few parts of your body that are more fragile, or more important than your head. Do not skimp on your helmet! Any helmet that passes the DOT or Snell testing will provide at least a baseline of protection. So why do some helmets cost so damn much? The biggest difference between a $200 Scorpion and a $700 Arai really comes down to design, quality and comfort. The Scorpion will protect your head, but the Arai will have superior padding, comfort, and aerodynamics. If you can't afford a lot of money, buy yourself a Scorpion EXO700/1000. Decent quality and pretty well built, and you can find them all day long on the net for $200ish. If you can afford a little more, I personally love my Shoei. You can find last years models online for $350ish.
A lot of cruiser riders wear half or 3/4 helmets. I don't want to walk into that minefield, but I will say this. I have worked in critical care healthcare for about 16 years. Well over half of impacts to helmets that happen during crashes happen on the face or chin. When you're standing there in the helmet aisle imagining how cool you're going to look in that half helmet, spend a second or 2 thinking about your mouth impacting concrete at 65mph and sliding for a few hundred feet. Your choice..
Other gear.. At a bare minimum, you should be riding in a helmet, quality gloves, quality jacket, jeans, and a solid pair of over the ankle boots. If you can't afford all of that before you swing your leg over your bike the first time, you should not be riding yet. If you think a jacket or gloves are expensive, ponder this. Is that $300 you saved by not buying a decent jacket more, or less expensive than broken bones and extensive road rash? Jacket, helmet and gloves=$500. Ambulance ride, ER visit, X-Rays, and treatment=$20,000 and up.
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|04-02-2012, 11:00 AM||#8|
Joined: Jun 2007
Blog Entries: 2
I Ride: like an asian. You scurred yet?
Great post, sticky this shit.
Or else I'm gonna derail every thread that involved the following:
"I've never ridden in my life, i'm 18, and i'm looking at an R1 or a GSX-R1k"
"I just bought a new gsxr, what kind of oil should I use?"
"Can I just buy a rear tire and leave the front since i mainly wanna do wheelies all day?"
|04-02-2012, 11:19 AM||#9|
Joined: May 2009
From: sammamish, wa
I Ride: 2006 Suzuki GSXR 600; 2007 Yamaha FZ1 (the Mrs.'s bike)
What no mention of a Busa as a 1st bike. Come on! You can rock some awesome matching ICON gear too.
Seriously though...fantastic post and great advice. It should be a sticky.
|04-02-2012, 12:48 PM||#11|
Joined: Oct 2010
From: Marysville, WA
I Ride: 08 675, 72 XL250, 93 PW80, 80 GS250
Great post Doc!
I'll add one more thing in the vein hope that this sinful habit finally dies.
Don't start your new-to-you four stroke and rev the piss out of it straight from cold. It is not cool and it will probably shorten your engine life quicker than using any brand of motor oil (changed at it service limit).
......Ok I'll add one more thing. Get a service manual for your bike. Most of them can be found free online from a google search. Even if you don't do any of the work yourself it will give you a greater understanding of your bike, what to look for, what to check and when to check it.
........one more? Ok, don't be seduced by cheap helmets that barely meet the requirements and were generally designed for people that ride mopeds not high powered sports bikes. All the approved helmets are based on minimum requirements. Some exceed them by a large margin. Do your research.
|04-02-2012, 01:12 PM||#12|
WMRRA 1st VP
Joined: Oct 2008
I Ride: lawnmower
I'd like to add this also
|04-02-2012, 01:41 PM||#13|
Joined: Jul 2009
From: Kirkland, Washington
Blog Entries: 1
I Ride: Yamaha V-Star 1100 Custom
Coming from a long time cruiser rider, one of the best cruiser bikes to learn on is the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD. It also has a rock solid reputation for surviving the abuses endured while learning.
The rest of the information applies to cruisers equally.
|04-02-2012, 02:08 PM||#15|
Joined: Jan 2010
From: The greater Pomeroy area...
I Ride: It started out as a Bonneville...
I'd highly recommend a Yamaha V-Star 250 as well for those interested in going the cruiser route. Highway speed capable with my fat ass and overnight bags on board, reasonable handling (especially after changing the stock handlebars), light weight, and low seat height. Also, a V-twin and more chrome than other 250s .
|04-02-2012, 02:37 PM||#16|
Joined: Aug 2011
From: Tanasbourne, OR
I Ride: '08 R6, '07 S2R 1000, '15 SR400, '10 Ninjette #257
Fantastic post. Should have a quiz on this as a requirement to start posting. Definite must-read.
EDIT: Bah. Gotta spread some love... I'll get ya later.
|04-02-2012, 02:54 PM||#17|
Joined: Mar 2011
I Ride: behind the girls.
Nice work Doc!
1) the new cbr 250s are going to be another option for the small bike...and in a couple years some used one's should start showing up for cheap.
2) try to get something better than jeans as soon as finances allow. There are a few things worse than road rash...picking pieces of your jeans out of your freshly minted road rash is one of them.
|04-02-2012, 04:46 PM||#19|
Joined: Sep 2008
I Ride: 04 CBR1k
As to the jeans, I think having a solid pair of jeans and a good jacket is better than trying to spread limited finances around and end up buying a cheap jacket and cheap pants. I meant it to be "at the bare minimum", meaning there should be a quality pair of pants at some point. Thanks for adding that though, good point.