Maybe you were driving down the road when you noticed two motorcycles waving to each other as their paths crossed, and something inside you wanted to be one of them.
Or perhaps there was a “bike week” gathering in your area and you felt a little nudge as you watched them cruise by while you stood in line at the coffee shop.
Whatever the catalyst may have been, a light has gone off inside you and you have made the choice to ride a motorcycle.
But what kind do you choose?
At first glance, all of them seem to somewhat alike. It’s tempting to just run to the nearest dealership and buy the first one that catches your eye.
But first, there are two important questions you should ask yourself.
- Where do I want to ride?
- What is my personal style?
Where do I want to ride?
Do want to ride across the country? Then you may end up spending most of your time on straight highways. Bigger, cruiser-style motorcycles are ideal for this. Other bikes are better suited for twisty country roads.
Much of this has to do with the physics of the way the bike is set up.
For one, there is something called rake. Rake has to do with the forks and the front wheel of the bike. A bike with a larger rake would be like a chopper with long forks. The longer the rake, the more the bike wants to go straight. That means you can take your hands off the handlebars and it will still continue straight. The bike that Peter Fonda rode in “Easy Rider” was like that, but the rake need not be that much of an extreme to affect the handling.
Longer rake bikes are great for highway riding, but they are not so good for twisty back roads.
Some bikes are designed to handle turns better, like racing or speed bikes (think motorcycle racing with its turns). A tighter rake makes the riding experience (for those of us who like twisty roads) more fun; you are not fighting the physics of the bike; instead it wants to turn.
So, are you going on highways or country roads?
Are you commuting daily, or taking shorter trips? A street bike (think Fonzie in “Happy Days”) might be the right choice for you whereas a larger bagger bike (a motorcycle with luggage on the back and sides) is more suited for longer trips.
So think about where and when you will be riding your motorcycle. Get this firmly established in your mind so you won’t be tempted to buy a bike that is not suited for your purpose.
What is my personal style?
I have found that the style of bike can be a very personal choice. Are you attracted to things like old wristwatches or classic cars? Do you have a strong nostalgic connection to a certain time period? Then perhaps some of the modern day classic bikes would appeal to you. Or perhaps you like everything modern and Sci-Fi movies like Tron? You are high-tech and totally modern, maybe speed bikes catch your eyes because of their current look and feel?
Perhaps you like the idea of being able to bring a lot of things with you, as for long trips. You want the most comfort possible for you and maybe a passenger. A bagger, or cruiser styles are great for that, because they are bigger bikes with a comfortable seats and opportunities to store your luggage.
Then again, you could be a minimalist. You like things stripped down. Café’ Racer bikes are worth considering as they are motorcycles that have been cleaned down to the bare essentials.
The main thing is, you need to choose a bike that is right for you. Not something another person tells you is cool, but one that appeals to you.
And one more piece of advice, if at all possible, buy a used motorcycle for your first bike! This is for two reasons. First, odds are you will dump it or scratch it as some point and quite likely sooner rather than later. A used bike will already have its flaws so you won’t feel so bad when you do. Second, when you begin to ride you will start noticing more and more about other bikes and what you like. Your style may change. Many times you can customize your bike to allow for this, but sometimes you may find you want a completely different bike. It’s better not to invest in something brand-new only to end up trading it in and loosing money.
So what’s the best choice for you? Something that is comfortable, closely matches the type of riding you will be doing, and suits the person you are!
Don’t be in a hurry, you’ve started a great adventure so enjoy every moment along the way!
David Ianetta was born and raised in Boston, MA. After moving around in his younger years, he now lives in North Carolina. David has a passion for riding motorcycles,often exploring the scenic back roads of NC with is wife, Rika, who rides her own along side him.
David also writes a Daily Blog for Freedom Biker Church called, “Daily Rock“ located at www.freedombikerchurch.com and is a contributing writer for Southeastern Rider magazine.