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  1. #1
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    School me on beginner motorcycles...

    So, this is a little off season, but I have always wanted to ride a motorcycle. And since I'm turning 40 in May, it seemed like the perfect time to start researching my options so that I can meet that goal. Where else to turn for info except TGR?

    I know there's a maggot motorcycle thread but upon initial review, i didn't see much in the way of suggestions on starter bikes, and searching didn't bring up much, so I figured tech talk would be a good spot to place this.

    First off, I'm signing up for a full basic riders course (15 hours) in April, and in Maine that will obviate the need for taking a rider test for getting my license. Plus its probably a good idea anyway...

    So...about me....I have a pretty strong MTB background but have never been on a motorcycle in my life. 5'8 and 165 normal length legs and torso.

    Read a lot about starter bikes online and it sounds like a 250 of some type might be the best to start with. I've seen great reviews of the KaWA Ninja250, the Honda CBS250 and the Vstar 250...but all seem very different. I'm not crazy about the sportbike look right now..I envision the bike for commuting on nice days to work (60 miles one way), around town runs, and fun day tours.

    I know I'll need all kinds of gear too.

    So what did you consider in a starter bike? Lessons learned that would help a beginner? Any tech tips on bikes, new vs used, fit, sizing, shape and any starting gear appreciated as well. thanks all.

    Sent from my XT907 using TGR Forums
    "A local is just a dirtbag who can't get his shit together enough to travel."

    - Owl Chapman

  2. #2
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    First decide on style such as cruiser, cafe, enduro or other then ask again and I can help
    I need to go to Utah.
    Utah?
    Yeah, Utah. It's wedged in between Wyoming and Nevada. You've seen pictures of it, right?

    So after 15 years we finally made it to Utah.....


    Thanks BCSAR and POWMOW Ski Patrol for rescues

    8, 17, 13, 18, 16, 18, 20, 19, 16

    2018/2019 (24/32)

  3. #3
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    Dec 2012
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    Yes, sit on a few bikes at the dealerships. After you decide on a style, I would look to get at least 500cc and not a 250cc. I learned to ride on a 750cc, and I'm retarded. So if I can do it...
    Last edited by Timberridge; 01-22-2013 at 07:06 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterslovo View Post
    First off, I'm signing up for a full basic riders course (15 hours) in April, and in Maine that will obviate the need for taking a rider test for getting my license. Plus its probably a good idea anyway...
    This is smart. Is it through the National Safety Council, where you get 10% of insurance for life? I did and boy was it worth it. Grew up on dirt bikes so I laughed off the thought of taking this stupid class, but it really helped a ton getting me ready for the road. You'll learn a lot more than you think you will, with the added bonus of taking your road test through them.

    One of the best beginner bikes out there is the CB750. Cheap, parts available everywhere, easy to work on and such a great engine (for what it is). I would hesitate to get a 250. They just can't get out of their own way really. Go with a 500 bare minimum. Trust me, you will regret a 250. My first was a zx7r and I was much smaller than you. not condoning the crotch rockets, but you don't HAVE to go fast on them. With my size (and yours) a 600 would be tits. That's what I should have gone with at first.

    Think about how long you'll be on the bike. I loved my zx7r but anything over 20 miles and I was one handing it stretching my back.

    I still suggest the CB750 to anyone though.
    Brought to you by Carl's Jr.

  5. #5
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    Buy a dual sport...DRZ400 .. on road off road and easy to learn basic dirt bike and way more fun than a cruiser. pick up cheap and are so much fun.......sold mine for like 2500 with only 2300 miles on it.... change the bars to pro taper ....good luck and dont buy a crotch rocket.......
    always forward but never straight

  6. #6
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    Oct 2005
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    Hey Pete, decide where you want to be riding. I bet you have a ton of cool paved back roads close to you. Heavy bikes are scarier to turn when you are learning. If it's all paved something for roads in the 5-700 class. If you haven't ridden much, that will feel like a ton of power and speed.

    If you want a little more "off-road" capability, an enduro/dual sport bike would be great. I've had street bikes, a couple of "crotch rocket" sport bikes, and a couple dual sports which have always been my favorite. You give up a little road comfort and you sit a little more upright but you get the ability to ride on dirt. My next bike will be either a KTM or BMW dually around 800cc but that's down the road. There are some great options in 4-600cc that you could check out if you go enduro style.

    Also consider if you want you lady on the bike. Some bikes won't handle two up. Then again, you probably won't be taking any passengers anywhere until you are proficient so this might be a bike or two down the road.

    Keep your head on a swivel and get some good riding gear. Helmet (full face), padded jacket, kevlar gloves, thick pants and boots. People do wreck and a lot of times could be a lot better off if they weren't going 70 in a t-shirt and flip flops.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker/boarder View Post
    Buy a dual sport...DRZ400 .. on road off road and easy to learn basic dirt bike and way more fun than a cruiser. pick up cheap and are so much fun.......sold mine for like 2500 with only 2300 miles on it.... change the bars to pro taper ....good luck and dont buy a crotch rocket.......
    Listen to mtnbiker/boarder. The best way to learn how to ride is to do it on a dirt bike. You will get better so much quicker by trail riding than you would riding on the street. A mistake on a trail is fairly low consequence. The street, not so much. An enduro bike is the perfect starter bike.

  8. #8
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    Super Sherpa,disc brakes,e start,both feet on the ground at stop-low seat height.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bfly View Post
    Listen to mtnbiker/boarder. The best way to learn how to ride is to do it on a dirt bike. You will get better so much quicker by trail riding than you would riding on the street. A mistake on a trail is fairly low consequence. The street, not so much. An enduro bike is the perfect starter bike.
    While I respect the dually idea, if you ride on the streets like you ride on trails, you're probably going to kill yourself.
    Brought to you by Carl's Jr.

  10. #10
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    Thanks thus far all. Great stuff. I'm realizing there's a lot of stuff I need to consider still but that's cool...part of the process that I really enjoy is educating myself to make more informed decisions.

    Oh, and part of this being finally pursued on my part was totally inspired by watching Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on their longwayround trip across Europe and North America. Awesome.
    Sent from my XT907 using TGR Forums
    "A local is just a dirtbag who can't get his shit together enough to travel."

    - Owl Chapman

  11. #11
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    Nov 2011
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    Read this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Proficient-Mot.../dp/1889540536

    It is a must-read for any rider, new or old.

    I 2nd the DRZ400. Used to have one, great bike on and off road, easy to handle, plenty of power. Tire choice is important, too.

    FWIW, I rode for 20 years, on and off road, cross country, Trans-America Trail, Mexico, etc. Sold my bikes when I realized that half the drivers aren't looking at the road. Dirt road/off road is great, just be careful in traffic.

    Oh, and whatever bike you get, install a dual-tone air horn. Make your bike sound like an 18 wheeler. And go ATTGATT--all the gear, all the time. Check out advrider.com for all your moto questions, too.

  12. #12
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    Dec 2007
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    my $.02:

    Get a reasonably cheap street bike like a Suzuki SV 650. They're well mannered and won't be a maintenance headache. It'll go fast enough that you can have fun, but it's not such a ridiculous piece of machinery that you will kill yourself quickly. They handle well, they'll stop well, and they won't vibrate your balls off whenever you come to a stop light. You'll also be able to ride 2 up if you want to (once you're comfortable riding).

    Why I would suggest something like the SV650 over any other bike:
    -Cruiser bikes tend to be heavy and don't handle particularly well. It never ceases to amaze me how little horsepower Harleys manage to produce out of such a massive engine block. And you'll look like a 40 year old having a midlife crisis if you buy one. If you already own a jacket with tassels, you can disregard this advice.

    -"True" dual sport bikes are fun, but they don't handle as well on pavement and the smaller / friendlier ones often struggle with highway speeds because they're geared a bit lower for off pavement riding. They also tend to have high seats, which can mean touching the ground is a bit of a struggle if you're not tall. That's bad when you're first learning - falling over at a stop light would be embarrassing and somewhat dangerous. While riding on trails can be a good way to learn, it can also be a real headache - this largely depends on what kind of beginner / intermediate trails you have in your area. I've injured myself riding dirt bikes far more than I've injured myself riding street bikes. All that said, there's a significant gray area between street bikes and "true" dual sport bikes. Something like a V-strom 650 might be worth looking at. They're not particularly dirt worthy, but they'll do ok on dirt backroads (depending on tires). They're generally similar to the SV650, just less sporty (more upright riding position, cushier suspension, geared a little lower).

    -full blown sport bikes are stupid fun and easier to ride than you might think. You will get yourself into trouble. Wait until you've got some ride time under your belt before you dive into something like that.

    -250's are too small - they're basically glorified mopeds. You'll outgrow it quickly, and something like a 650 isn't really any harder to ride. Yes, the 650 will go faster if you want it to, but it's not going to rip you off the back of the bike every time you glance at the throttle.


    Regardless of the bike, the most important thing is to keep your head on a swivel. Personally, I like having a slightly sportier bike just because it means I can both brake and accelerate much quicker than most cars on the road. I've had cars pull out in front of me, merge into me, etc. A bike with decent power means I can blip the throttle and accelerate away from any problem situations. My point is that, from a safety perspective, I think I would feel less safe on an underpowered bike (i.e. a 250) or a bike that's not geared to go highway speeds (i.e. the smaller dual sports).

  13. #13
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    Feb 2010
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    I have a DRZ400S. While it is a fun bike, not sure I would suggest it as a first bike for someone who is 5'8. It's a tall bike, which makes stops & starts a little harder, especially on an incline. Being able to flat foot, while not a need, absolutely makes life easier for a newbie.

    Decide what style appeals to you, what you want to get from riding first. Buy a bike that you like, because if you like to ride it, you'll ride it a lot. Riding a lot = learning a lot. If you buy something that doesn't appeal to you, you're not going to ride it, and therefore won't learn shit.

    This doesn't mean go buy the new ZX-10 because you like it.. if you want a sportbike, a SV-650 is a great place to start. Plenty of power, with a very forgiving, predictable motor. Comfortable-ish ergos. Can be found all over the place for cheap. Parts are super available. Also has a very high ceiling, so you won't get tired of it in 6 months.

    If you want more of a standard type- a couple year old Triumph Bonneville wouldn't be a bad pick. Comfortable, they look good, very easy to handle..

    Cruiser? Honda Shadow, Suzuki Boulevard or Triumph America. Harley Sportster 883 isn't a bad option either.

    Fuck what anyone else says- what kind of riding do YOU want to do? Then choose accordingly.

    Taking the MSF is a great place to start. You'll be fine. Over the ankle boots, good leather gloves and a leather jacket. No need to go spend $500+ on an Arai helmet just yet, but go try on as many as you can, and buy the one that fits you the best. LOTS of good helmets in the $200 range. Don't buy a $80 Vega. Bell, HJC, Scorpion, Icon all make good lids.

  14. #14
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    I came here to vote for a SV650, and also say everything else Toast said. There are other bikes in that category too- the approx 600cc street bike- but the SV650 seems like a really good mix of light weight, maneuverability, comfort, versatility, sportiness, etc etc.

    I highly recommend buying used, as you will surely drop it a couple times.

    250 is too small, you really will outgrow it within a couple of weeks. Cruisers are dumb, they look cool but handle shitty and if you start there you'll probably never learn to ride well, plus most of them are slow and not as comfortable as you would think. I don't think trail riding prepares you well for the road, the reflexes and habits you need are very different.

    Taking the class is the right first step.
    that's all i can think of, but i'm sure there's something else...

  15. #15
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    Nov 2007
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    all bikes are fast...even the little 250's.

    Yes, it's all relative, but one thing about bikes is that if you think a car is fast a bike of just about any displacement will soon allow you to realize that no car is fast unless it cost about a $250k. A bit of an exaggeration and there are exceptions of course, but nobody knows what fast is until they've been on a real bike.

    That said, there are some good opinions posted here but my advice is start small. Yes, if you go out buy one of the new beginner 250's like the CBR you'll likely outgrow it and eat it on resale. But there is no shame in an old Ninja 250 or 500: excellent riding position and cheap. Enduros are another great option in the 250 to 400cc range. Again: great riding position and cheap but enduros usually have a high saddle height which sucks at lights for a newbie.

    Get something small and used to learn on...especially since you've never ridden before.

    Yes, dirt is the best place to learn bike handling skills, but @ 40 you're not going to be a fearless 14 year old so I don't necessarily believe you'll gain much more from doing any dirt riding at this stage (that sounds a little harsh as 40 isn't old; hope you get my point).

    Of course buy used. Beginner bikes are always in demand. Get one. Learn on it. If you end up liking riding: flip it and get something more along what your tastes dictate. At least @ 40 you should have developed some taste and self confidence so you likely won't be swayed to a crotch rocket. I love the things, but you have to be railing for those to be fun (seriously: they numb you to anything short of supersonic speeds and are absolutely boring as hell unless you are killing it on them or you really get off on pretending you're a racer but just out on the street even though you've got an inch of rubber unscathed on each side of your rear).

    I digress....

    I do think a sportbike should be your last choice as a beginner bike, even if of limited displacement. The riding position is just not friendly enough.

    The CB750 was recommended (is that the Nighthawk?) and is a common larger basic bike. Nothing special but it is a tank. the SV650's are rad, in my opinion, and have a lot of character, but I think those are more a matter of taste than a great beginner bike but if you like the style of those, that is the type of bike that a beginner could buy and live with for a long time.

    chances are with no riding experience you are going to drop it. I know everybody thinks they won't but they do. And if you've got a bunch of pristine new crank covers or plastic body work, your bike instantly takes a big hit on resale the moment it hits the ground. It takes little to do a lot of cosmetic damage.

    So I suggest finding cheap and comfortable. There are many options. nothing wrong with old and ugly as long as it's cheap and made in Japan. You'll use it and abuse it and flip it for what you paid for it then maybe get something more along the lines of what you really want. The key is feeling confident and comfortable out on the road and that takes some time to develop.

  16. #16
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    I just noticed that your commute is 60 miles one way. That's a looong way to go on a little 250 (or even a 400 for that matter). Presumably much of that distance is on highways. At highway speeds, you're going to be pretty much pinned on those little bikes. That's unpleasant for you (usually pretty "buzzy") and it isn't the best thing for the engine either. If you have even moderate physical coordination, you shouldn't have that much trouble picking up the basic mechanics of riding a motorcycle. I don't think you gain much by getting a really small bike - the hard part of riding a motorcycle isn't making your bike do what you want it to, it's making sure some lady on her cellphone doesn't run you over.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by toast2266 View Post
    I just noticed that your commute is 60 miles one way. That's a looong way to go on a little 250 (or even a 400 for that matter). Presumably much of that distance is on highways. At highway speeds, you're going to be pretty much pinned on those little bikes. That's unpleasant for you (usually pretty "buzzy") and it isn't the best thing for the engine either. If you have even moderate physical coordination, you shouldn't have that much trouble picking up the basic mechanics of riding a motorcycle. I don't think you gain much by getting a really small bike - the hard part of riding a motorcycle isn't making your bike do what you want it to, it's making sure some lady on her cellphone doesn't run you over.
    Yes...it could be all highway, or only a few miles, depending on route. I'd probably opt for mostly back roads...much more enjoyable, safer, and only adds 10 min to the overall commute.

    Sent from my XT907 using TGR Forums
    "A local is just a dirtbag who can't get his shit together enough to travel."

    - Owl Chapman

  18. #18
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    60 miles? Holy shit.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Sizzler View Post
    60 miles? Holy shit.
    LOL. Such is working and living in Maine. That said I telecommute much of the time or have meetings much closer to where I live...

    Sent from my XT907 using TGR Forums
    "A local is just a dirtbag who can't get his shit together enough to travel."

    - Owl Chapman

  20. #20
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    +1 on a SV 650

  21. #21
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    I was going to suggest a "dirt bike" based motorcycle or a SM because you can drop those without a problem but a 60 mile commute might be too much.

    +1 on the SV650.

    Also you might want to consider a F2/F3. I started with one. Very reliable, comfortable and dirt cheap now. I just got another one, after owning a KTM SMC, to tour from Toronto to the West coast. There's isn't another bike out there I rather be on for this trip
    Last edited by daught; 01-22-2013 at 02:23 PM.

  22. #22
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    I owned a Kawi Versys for a bit, and that bike was stupid fun. 650, but with a lot if grunt for city and canyon riding. I got it cause I can't do a sport bike with my bad back, and the upright riding position was much better for long rides.

    People make them a more off-road worthy, set them up or touring and I even saw an awesome street fighter setup on one if you're feeling really like a mid life crisis.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterslovo View Post
    Yes...it could be all highway, or only a few miles, depending on route. I'd probably opt for mostly back roads...much more enjoyable, safer, and only adds 10 min to the overall commute.

    Sent from my XT907 using TGR Forums
    Agreed that back roads may be more enjoyable, but I wouldn't necessarily call them safer though. Highways usually have good site lines, relatively good pavement, limited entry / exit points, and a wide shoulder in case someone merges into you. Sure, the speeds on backroads are probably a bit slower, but if someone pulls out of a blind drive directly in front of you when you're going 40, you're going to have a bad day. Just some food for thought...

  24. #24
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    Rider Course = A+++

    Getting any 250, and you will regret it like everybody else said. You probably end up selling it after two months.

    For commuting 60 miles one way and general riding around town or light back road tours, I'd lean towards a cruiser, with a small windshield. Probably in the 500 to 750cc range. You can do it on a sports bike, but just not as pleasant. Maybe something like a Honda nighthawk or shadow, or similar bikes from other mfg.

  25. #25
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    Sep 2012
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    171
    You guys really suggest the Suzuki sv-650 as a beginner bike? 0-60 in under 4 seconds is faster than most "hot" sports cars, a lot of bike to get yourself in trouble with! I bought a dual sport as my first bike and am still very happy with it after 2 years. It's a klr 650 and I have to say it has been bomber, not too fast, not to slow. It is a bit of a tall bike for u but with a corbin seat these guys made it work:

    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=254501

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