7. "Don’t Ask for Advice if You Don't Want to Hear a Real Answer".
A common pattern:
1. Newbie asks for advice on a 1st bike (Newbie wants to hear certain answers)
2. Experienced riders advise Newbie against a 600cc bike for a first ride (this is not what Newbie wanted to hear).
3. Newbie says and thinks, "Others mess up while learning, but that wont happen to me" (as if Newbie is invincible, holds superpowers, never makes mistakes, has a “level head”, or has a skill set that exceeds the majority of the world, etc).
4. Experienced riders explain why a “level head” isn’t enough. You also need SKILL, which can ONLY be gained via experience. (Newbie thinks he has innate motorcycle skills)
5. Newbie makes up excuses as to why he is “mature” enough to handle a 600cc bike”. (skill drives motorcycles, not maturity)
6. Newbie, with no knowledge about motorcycles, totally disregards all the advice he asked for in the first place. (which brings us right back to the VERY FIRST point I made about “knowledge of subject matter”).
7. Newbie goes out and buys a R6, CBR, GSX, 6R, etc. Newbie is scared of the power. Being scared of your bike is the LAST thing you want. Newbie gets turned-off to motorcycles, because of fear, and never gets to really experience all the fun that they can really be. Or worse, Newbie gets in a serious accident.
8. The truth of the matter is that Newbie was actually never really looking for serious advice. What he really wanted was validation and / or approval of a choice he was about to make or already had made. When he received real advice instead of validation he became defensive about his ability to handle a modern sport bike as first ride (thus defending the choice he had made). Validation of a poor decision isn’t going to replace scratched bodywork on your bike. It isn’t going put broken bones back together. It isn’t going graft shredded skin back onto your body. It isn’t going to teach you to ride a motorcycle the correct way. However, solid advice from experienced riders, when heeded, can help to avoid some of these issues.
I’m not trying to be harsh. I’m being real. Look all over the net. You’ll see veteran after veteran telling new riders NOT to get a 600cc bike for a first ride. You’ll even see pros saying to start small. Why? Because we hate new riders? Because we don't want others to have cool bikes? Because we want to smash your dreams? Nothing could be further from the truth. The more riders the better (assuming there not squids)! The reason people like me and countless others spend so much time trying to dissuade new riders from 600cc bikes is because we actually care about you. We don't want to see people get hurt. We don't want to see more people die in senseless accidents that could have been totally avoided with a little logic and patients. We want the “sport” to grow in a safe, healthy, and sane way. We want you to be around to ride that R6, CBR600RR, GSX-1000, Habayasu, etc that you desire so badly. However, we just want you to be able to ride it in a safe manner that isn’t going to be a threat to yourself or others. A side note, you may see people on the net and elsewhere saying “600cc bike are OK to start with”. Look a bit deeper when you see this. The vast majority of people making these statements are new riders themselves. If you follow their advice you’ve entered into a situation of the blind leading the blind. This is not something you want to do with motorcycles. You may also hear bike dealers saying that a 600cc is a good starter bike. They are trying to make money off you. Don’t listen.
8. HELP IS ON THE WAY!!!
Speaking of help, this is a great time to plug the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) course. The MSF course is an AMAZING learning opportunity for new riders. The courses are offered all over the USA. A link for their web site is listed at the bottom of this post (or do a Goggle search and check you local RMV web page.). The MSF course assumes no prior knowledge of motorcycles and teaches the basics of how to ride a bike with out killing yourself (and NO, just because you passed the MSF course it does NOT mean your ready for an R6, GSX, CBR, etc). They provide motorcycles and helmets for the course. It is by far THE BEST way to start a life-long relationship with motorcycles. In some areas if you pass the course your motorcycle license will then be directly mailed to you. This means that you DON’T HAVE TO GO TO THE RMV, AT ALL!!!). That alone should be enough reason to take the course. Also, in some states you will get a discount on your insurance after you’ve taken the course. But wait, there is more! Some manufactures (Honda, Yamaha, etc) offer rebates if you take the course and then buy one of their bikes. Check their web sites / local dealers for details. I can’t plug the MSF course enough. It the best deal going for new riders. Period.
By the way, the short answer to the question, “What should I get for a first bike?” is as follows; (1) First choice, a used bike that is 500cc or under. A new 500cc bike is good, but it would suck if you dropped it. Plus, it will depreciate in value the second you drive off the dealers parking lot…not good when you want to resell it for that brand new R6, GSX600, CBR600, etc. (2) Any used OLDER 600cc sport bike (like 1980’s, early 1990’s). Go here Used Motorcycle Evaluation Guide
for the most compressive guide on “how to buy a used bike” that has ever been written. (3) Any other used “standard” style of motorcycle.
Good “sport” type bikes for a first ride are as follows:
Honda: early 1990's Honda F2, F3, F4, 599
Kawasaki: Ninja 250cc, Ninja 500cc, early 1990’s ZX-6E or ZZR600.
Suzuki: GS500E, early 1990’s Katana 600cc, SV650*, SV650s*
Yamaha: early 1990’s Yamaha YZF600R*
*Suzuki’s SV650 and Yamaha’s YZF-600R can be quite a handful for a new rider, but they can also make great bikes.
Also, a GREAT book to check out is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles, 3rd edition”. The book coves everything from picking out a first bike, simple repair, anatomy of an engine, how to buy a used bike, riding gear, tips for surviving on the road, racing, etc. You can check this book out almost any major bookstore, Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more
, or The Complete Idiots Guide
MY ADAVICE FOR ANYONE LOOKING TO GET INTO MOTORCYCLES WOULD BE TO BUY THIS BOOK AND READ IT COVER TO COVER ABOUT 2 OR 3 TIMES. AFTER YOU HAVE DONE THAT, THEN TAKE THE MSF COURSE. You’ll go into the course with some great information that will greatly enrich and hasten your learning experience. It will also give you a HUGE advantage on the written test at the conclusion of the MSF course. Trust me on this one, buy the book. At the very least, go hang out at Barnes & Nobel for an afternoon and read as much of the book as you can until they kick you out of the store.
I hope this information was helpful, and feel free to email me with any questions. I haven’t even mentioned riding gear. Get it. Wear it. People who wear a tank top, flip-flops, and shorts while riding don’t look so cool when it comes time for a skin-graft (or when a bee goes up their shorts). There are two types of motorcycle riders: those who have crashed, and those who will. Dress for the crash, not the ride.
A number of people have emailed me recently and asked the following question, (1) “I have ridden a friends street bike a few times, and grew up riding off-road bikes. With this history, would I be OK on a modern 600cc bike?” (2) I’m a bigger person, should I get a larger cc bike to compensate? The answer to both is “No”. Off-road and street riding are totally different worlds. Granted, someone with off-road history knows things like shift patterns, how to use a clutch, etc but the power, weight, and handling of street bikes are a different ball game altogether. As for larger people, additional height or weight does not mean that a bike is going to go “slower” to a degree that would in anyway justify a larger bike. Someone who weighs 250lbs can get themselves in trouble just as fast on a R6 as someone who weighs 150lbs. If you are taller, you’re going to be cramped on almost any sport bike. The best advice is to sit on a number of bikes and see which fits your body the best. Note, this does not mean that you should get a new GSX-750cc as first bike because it fits you better than a 1991 Honda F2 (a much better choice for a first-time rider). Once you got the basics down, then you can go for that better-fitting GSX-750cc, but not beforehand.
chris (dot) sedition (at) gmail (dot) com
Motorcycle Safety Foundation
(web site for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation)
Contributors to Content:
“Drewser600” / Sportrider
“Z_Fanatic” / sbw.sportbikes
“Ancosta” / NESR
“Tevo” / Sportrider