Motocycles for Newbies - A collection of info

JipJopJones

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So I know there is plenty of info in the Random Thoughts thread, but it's all spaced out, so I thought I'd make a thread dedicated for new riders.

I, having just gotten my license, have a few questions.

What's a good bike to start out with?

I'm a poor college student, so I've been looking at old Honda CBs, CJs, Suzuki TSs and things of the sort. The more info I have the better off I'll feel about diving into purchasing a bike.

Also... I have no gear.

I was looking at HJC CL-16 helmets today. They seem to fit nice and are reasonably priced ($160)
I was also looking at the Basic MC Jacket (leather) from River Road. It's pretty cool looking, but I know very little about anything to do with gear.

What else will I need? Boots? Gloves? Pants?

Perhaps I'll update this first post with more info as it's given to me; that way we have a complete resource for new riders. :cool:
 

RdKetchup

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A good starters bike on the sporty side of things, the Suzuki SV650 (naked, handlebars) or SV650S (faired, clip-ons).

650cc liquid cooled V-Twin putting out around 70hp. Fast enough to get you into trouble, but a bike that can grow with you and perfect also as a first track bike.

In fact, if I buy a newer track only bike to replace my '88 FZR 400, I would really consider getting another SV as an alternative to the usual 600 ss candidates.

 
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JipJopJones

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Looks like a nice bike, but what sort of price can they be had for? I'm looking for something under $2000, remember... poor student. :p
 

RdKetchup

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Brand new they where relatively cheap, around 6 or 7000$ around here.

Second hand here people are asking a lot in my opinion, like 4500$ for a 2006 or 6500$ for a more recent one.

I believe between 3000 and 4000 is a good price for one in good condition.

The more recent ones are available with ABS, and with full fairing instead of half fairing for the S.

The pre 2003 were actually the first generation, with a more bulbous look, and where using a carburetor instead of FI. A first gen like that could probably be found around 2000$.
 

Der Stig

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Also look at HJC CL-SPs with Snell M2010 ratings.

I picked mine up on closeout for around $110, although it was silver, and I wanted white or black. Just keep an eye out on closeouts, that's how I've gotten the majority of my gear (or used).

I have Alpinestar SP-1 gloves that I picked up for $75 that seem to be decent and I've picked up some Sidi Vertigo boots for $120 used on eBay. Spectre will be able to shed some more light on their merits as I have yet to wear them.

The pants I'd recommend are these: AGV Tellurides. They seem to be a solid pair and are well reviewed. Go on Revzilla for videos of gear reviews and advice for sizing.
 

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You've got the right idea for bikes. Old Honda CBs and the latter "Nighthawks" (with the exception of the 750sc) for the most part are pretty user friendly as are the CX500's. Also are the Suzuki GS series, older Bandit 600's. Kawi KZ's and the 250/500 ninjas also can be had in decent shape. I'm not sure about the exchange rate/bike market in Canada but I imagine you should be able to find a few of the aforementioned bike in decent shape for your price.

As far as helmets go, I've never owned the HJC CL-16, I did have the predecessor to it though, the CL-15. It wasn't a bad helmet, but I would definitely check out the Scorpion EXO-400/700 helmets.



A good jacket should have CE armor in the shoulders, elbow, and a decent back pad.

A good pair of pants should have CE knee armor and some form of hip padding. A really good pair of pants will have full length/hip length side zippers.

No jacket can be comfortable in all conditions. But a good jacket, one with a removable quilted liner, and closeable vents, can handle a wide variety of temps.

There are 3 primary Jacket/pant materials: Leather, textile, and mesh.

Leather arguably offers the best protection and it has the cool factor, too. It's also pricey, uncomfortably hot in the summer, stiff in the winter/fall, and miserable in the wet. Which is why I'd only wear leather if I were carving up a canyon or doing a trackday.

Textile is the most versatile. It's affordable, offers a good degree of weather protection as well as crash protection. A well-ventilated textile jacket can handle temps close to 90F. Cheaper textile jackets, with poorer ventilation, can be unbearable at 75F.

Mesh offers the least crash protection, but is crucial for riding in hot weather. A good mesh garment should at least have textile panels on the high-impact zones like the elbow,shoulder, and knee.

River Road jackets don't have armor, so that rules it out for me. I wear a Firstgear Kilimanjarro as my primary jacket in temps of 20F to 85F. Anything hotter and I wear a mesh, anything colder and I usually take the car. Firstgear jackets aren't cheap, but Tourmaster jackets offer some of the best bang for your buck.

Gloves should be leather and over-the-wrist "gauntlet" style with some form of knuckle protection. Palm sliders are also ideal. Also make sure the stitching is reversed so that it dosen't dig into your skin.
I recommend the cortech adrenalines.

As far as boots go, I prefer to wear sportbike boots for their protection. I'm not a fan of touring boots, they're too flimsy for me.
 

JipJopJones

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Great info guys! Keep it coming!

I'm learning more and more, I've been doing some of my own research too.

I was looking at a pair of pants, I can't relocate them right now, but they were Denim reinforced with kevlar. They looked cool and seemed as though they might be something I could just wear to work/out/etc so I didn't have to worry about getting changed and such. Does anyone have any opinions/experience with these?
 

Rossco

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Most of those Kevlar jeans don't have armor. I wear Firstgear HT overpants. With their hip-length side zippers I can wear them over my work pants, and put them on/take them off with ease.

You may also want to consider a one-piece commuter suit like the Olympia phantom or the Tourmaster centurion.

 

Spectre

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A good starters bike on the sporty side of things, the Suzuki SV650 (naked, handlebars) or SV650S (faired, clip-ons).

650cc liquid cooled V-Twin putting out around 70hp. Fast enough to get you into trouble, but a bike that can grow with you and perfect also as a first track bike.

In fact, if I buy a newer track only bike to replace my '88 FZR 400, I would really consider getting another SV as an alternative to the usual 600 ss candidates.

Some insurance companies believe that to be a sportbike and thus it falls under the 599cc Rape Rule.

Rolling in some prior posts/discussions from the other thread so I don't have to retype them:

Would a mid 90s FZR600 be an ok bike to start with? There is one in my apartment complex and I really like the look of it. It's the one with the double circular headlights. Just looks cool to me. They seem pretty cheap, but I'm not sure how older Yamahas are.

Or....I've read that the Honda 599 (hornet elsewhere in the world) is a good beginner bike. However, I cannot seem to find any for sale. Are they rare? I think they look awesome.

The FZR is a sportbike; as a new rider you will promptly be raped for insurance on it and rightfully so because the stats say you will probably have a total loss wreck with the thing in the first year. Even if you don't write it off, you are a newbie. You will drop it at least once within the first six months worth of regular riding - and being a sportbike, probably multiple times. That is a 100% certainty - and then you'll have all that nice broken plastic fairing to find replacement parts for. They're not cheap, either.

The 599 is essentially an older CBR600F4 with no bodywork. It's a sportbike by another name, so the usual problems with sportbikes apply - way too fast for a newbie. 599s bought by newbies tend to end up totalled. It makes 95hp at the crank. Did I mention it's the only slightly slower, slightly smaller sibling of my black sledgehammer aka the 919? :p

You want to avoid all sportbikes and sportbike derivatives. A good rule of thumb is "Does it have an R in the alphanumeric model name?" If yes, it's probably a sportbike and you're going to get raped on insurance.

Newbies should get something 500cc or less, preferably 60hp or less, older, naked, fairly light, cheap and Japanese. (There are some few exceptions to these that were built specifically to be starter bikes - the later Nighthawk 750, Yamaha Seca II 600, Suzuki Bandit 600 among others) When equipped with the appropriate crash bars it will shrug off the usual newbie drops with minimal to no damage, they will be cheap to buy and repair, they're cheap to insure, and if you do total it nobody will care. More importantly, they will be pretty forgiving (due to weight and engineering) and won't go fast enough that you don't have sufficient time to correct any errors (most of the time). Most importantly, unlike sportbikes they won't teach you that the throttle is the answer to all problems - because it's not. It's really sad to see newer riders who started out on a sportbike get into a situation that they can't throttle out of who suddenly discover they don't have a ready answer to the problem (or worse, discover that the throttle made the problem worse and now they're really, really screwed); usually it ends up with them going to the hospital or worse when actually learning to use the rest of the bike other than the throttle would have saved them.
Eh, I'm a little on the fence about recommending a Bandit 600 as a starter bike.

On one hand, it is fairly drop friendly, thanks to the absence of a lower fairing. Mines been dropped at least twice and it has only a few small scratches on it. the comfy standard handlebars are also user friendly compared to the clipons you get on the gixxah's.

But it also has quite a lot of pep (80hp) . Feels quite top-heavy with a full tank of gas, and has a high seat height to it. I'm 6'2" with riding boots on and have a 32" inseam, and I can flatfloot it, but just barely. Although I'm sure there are options about lowering the bike for shorter riders.

So if you're on the tall side, have dirt/scooter experience, and/or did exceptionally well on the MSF BRC, then a 600 Bandit would be an ideal beginner bike. Keep in mind though, I bought the Bandit after putting 13k miles on a 500cc cruiser.
It's at the top end of the newbie scale, but it's generally regarded as a member of the "acceptable for newbies" list. Usually for the taller or heavier newbies and/or those that, as you said, did well at MSF. However, it's light enough and does not have the razor sharp killer reflexes of a true sportbike.

Believe it or not, it's actually slower in many respects than that other classic newbie semi-sporting bike, the EX500 - the EX runs a 3.76 second 0-60, the Bandit 600 does it in 4.1-4.5. Despite the larger engine, the Bandit barely edges the EX in the quarter, too - EX does it in 12.73 s @ 102 mph, Bandit is 12.59 sec. @ 106 mph. So performance wise, it's pretty suitable. Much like the 91-03 Nighthawk 750, some people bought them and found they were enough bike for them - then never upgraded.

However, most of them are likely to be an unwise choice for a newbie if for no other reason than cost. They're not really that cheap on the secondhand market yet - a decent starter bike can be had for $1000 or less at this time of year, and running Bandits generally aren't in that price range.
***

You will drop your first bike. Don't buy something you absolutely love until later.
***
The number one worst thing about a newbie learning to ride (and make no mistake, for the first six months you are still learning the basics in the real world) on a hypersport/high power machine is that they only ever seem to learn that applying the throttle is the solution to every problem that presents itself.

Yes, the throttle is an answer to quite a few problems.
No, it's not necessarily the best answer.
A thousand times no, it isn't the correct answer to a number of problems.

Those who start out on less powerful and more forgiving machines learn that there is more than one solution available to them to apply to problems on the road - such as maneuvering and brakes. They also learn conservation of kinetic energy and how to keep their speed up in turns better (as Blind mentioned, but which should be reinforced.) All of which makes you a better rider, so come the day when that idiot cuts you off, you have more than one tool with which to deal with them. As I mentioned recently:

Most importantly, unlike sportbikes they won't teach you that the throttle is the answer to all problems - because it's not. It's really sad to see newer riders who started out on a sportbike get into a situation that they can't throttle out of who suddenly discover they don't have a ready answer to the problem (or worse, discover that the throttle made the problem worse and now they're really, really screwed); usually it ends up with them going to the hospital or worse when actually learning to use the rest of the bike other than the throttle would have saved them.
"When in doubt, throttle out" does not necessarily apply to bikes and can actually get you killed.

Additionally, anything over 599cc will get you hammered on insurance as a newbie rider (with some few exceptions such as that Nighthawk 750) and you don't even want to think about a non-cruiser over 1000cc. The new CB1000R that replaced the 919 in the Honda lineup literally has double the insurance premium for everyone vice the 919 because it's a literbike.

Edit: I'd also point out that despite the power and speed advantage (among a host of other advantages) the 919 has over my 700 I still find the 700 to be far more entertaining to ride. Raw power is not necessarily everything, especially when we're talking about bike speeds - a 'slow' bike is still faster than 90% of the cars on the market today.
***

I dunno if this helps or not but if you are discouraged about the costs of protective gear, you may want to look in the "closeouts" section of online bike gear websites.

Also, as you can see from some of CrazyJeeper's bike related threads/posts, it helps to befriend someone who knows alot about motorcycles. Now while you may not find someone here on FG who is in your area, you can always check your local bike forums. I've been on a local bike forum for about a year now, and I've already bought a bike off of a fellow member, found someone that does tire changing for cheap, and found several people near me who are mechanically skilled.
Check out NewEnough.com (EDIT: renamed MotorcycleGear.com) They specialize in last-year's gear, closeouts, etc. Also if you are in the US and take MSF you get a 20% off coupon for your first purchase at Cycle Gear. There's no limit on the amount or the number of items. I don't know if there are any places that do something similar in your country.

I've done business with Cycle Gear for years. They have a 100% satisfaction no-hassle policy, it once took three special orders to find moto pants that fit my Sasquatch-size frame and they never charged me a restocking fee. Kiki just ordered a Dainese suit that they had to order from Italy, if it doesn't fit when it arrives they will take it back no questions asked.
Let's do some hypothetical shopping here to show people how little getting good quality gear costs - with just a tiny bit of careful shopping.

Helmet: HJC CL-SP, $70
Jacket:FieldSheer Air Tour Mesh Jacket , $100
Pants: Fieldsheer Four Season Overpants, $90
Gloves:Fieldsheer Apex 2.0, $81
Boots:Icon Patrol Boots, $120

Total price: $461, for name brand gear.

Add a pair of glove rain/thermal covers for $20 or so and a ThermoPilot liner for the jacket and you've got good solid basic gear for most temperatures you will want to encounter on a bike, from 110F Texas summers down to around 40F North Dakota falls. Also good against both sun and rain.

This was just the results of a random glance through the usual suspects of closeout motorcycle gear. You can do better if you do a bit more shopping and digging, or do not want all-weather gear (helped a friend put together a summer-only set for $260 last year.) Women's gear can be even cheaper.
You don't have to go broke buying gear when you start out and you don't have to get crap gear, either.
(Note that above links go to well-known motorcycle gear discounters and closeout houses.)

Another good place is motostrano.com and their two wheel steals or motostrano.net (their outlet store). They have awesome deals. :)
Check upthread for prior gear recommendations and vendors like NewEnough/motorcyclegear.com, motorcyclesuperstore.com and Motorcycle Closeouts.

I can personally attest to the protectiveness and effectiveness of Joe Rocket, HJC, Sidi, and Knox products. Don't buy any recent Fieldsheer stuff, they seem to have gone south with the new owners and I am distinctly underwhelmed by my new Prodigy I got from them; older stuff is fine.
Look at NewEnough's discounts section. I saved quite a bit on my Joe Rocket jacket as it was a clearance item.
If you shop carefully, you can get that down to $500 or less, and still have good name brand gear.

Observe: http://www.newenough.com/browse/best_deals

Helmets are best purchased in person, though - until you know your sizes and brand preferences.

This guy has a nice project bike that would be a decent learning bike (though a bit on the large side, it was intended to be a big starter/return bike): http://dallas.craigslist.org/mcy/741316990.html


Amusingly, this issue's "Under The Radar" featured bike for Motorcycle Classics is... the Nighthawk 700S! http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/2008-07-01/Under-The-Radar/1984-1986-Honda-CB700SC-Nighthawk-S.aspx
As for the gear thing... the people riding the older Japanese models tend to be the ones that care the most about their bikes' technical aspects. Often they've rescued them from languishing in barns and garages or from idiot previous owners. They have no intention to let their bike get trashed after having spent so much time on their mount, so they are also likely to protect themselves (gear *helps* you operate a bike safely.)

The touring bike riders often have spent $20-30K on their bike and accessories and see no reason to not protect themselves as well as their bike.

The Harley riders and squids on sportbikes tend to be "checkbook" bikers - they bought a lifestyle or just bought a speed high. They care little about the technical aspects of motorcycling, and whenever something goes wrong, they break out the checkbook for someone else to take care of. Protection is something they just don't think of, believe it conflicts with the "image" of the lifestyle they bought, or believe it is for people "afraid of crashing".
Well, there are many vendors that sell the CE-approved joint armor for just that purpose. There's quite a few of them on eBay.

However, most "normal" clothing is NOT as strong or protective as bike gear. Jeans will get blazed through in a second if you slide on the pavement; likewise denim jackets. Even leather jackets not intended for bike use will get burned through quickly in a slide. Ask me how I know. :p

In addition, most non-riding clothing is not cut properly to be used on a bike. It bunches and stretches in places that become uncomfortable or can be unsafe.

There are *many* vendors of motorcycle gear out there. You are not limited to looking like "Harley scum" or a Power Ranger. If you so desire, there's someone making the A-26 Bomber Jacket in bike-weight leather, cut for a rider, and you can get matching overpants - or even specially reinforced jeans that won't burn through quite so easily. Likewise, there are many more options in gear than what you probably have seen.

Heck, you can even get modern versions of German WW2 motorcycle dispatch rider gear. So you're not really all that limited.

And, in order to NOT get shot by my fellow bikers, I will follow the rule about "always post pictures of attractive women in motorcycle gear when discussing gear at any length" and add this:









Having problems seeing what could *possibly* be dorky about the above imaged gear....


***

A word of caution to the new riders here: look well ahead of your front wheel. I was cruising around on some back roads today and my nice paved road suddenly became a gravel path. Fortunately I saw it well ahead of time so it wasn't an issue. You never know what you're going to come across out there.
***


I'll post other observations later.
 

Eunos_Cosmo

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Would a Harley Sportster be a decent starter bike? Seems to be kind of in between cruiser and standard. Big engine, but not very powerful (883 version). Seems pretty simple. They are pretty light too.
 

Spectre

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Motocycles for Newbies - A collection of info

No. Even Harley said they weren't which is why they had Buell make the Blast.
 

caro

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If it has to be cheap, I would go for one of those:

Honda CB 500
Suzuki GS 500
Kawasaki ER-5
Yamaha XJ 600 Diversion
Suzuki SV 650

If you are brave, you can also try Fazer 600. Don`t go for 90`s Ninjas, etc.


They are pretty light too.
They look tiny, they are quite heavy.
 
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cdbob

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How would you guys rate the Honda CRF250L? It seems it offers pretty value for a dual sport bike. I'm kinda on the fence because it's a cheap bike ($5000 new), but I question how long it would be before I outgrow it. I also seems in comparison to other (more expensive) bikes to be heavier.

I could also try to get an older bike (or a two stroke) but used prices seem pretty steep.

Any thoughts on Dual Sports?
 

Spectre

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Too tall and top heavy to be good beginner's street mounts. Also, DPs like that don't have the best braking ability even for their size. You might also want to check out the oil change interval on the CRF - it's pretty low time, like 10 hours or something.

For the same price get one of the new CBR250s or wait about a month and get one of the CB500 triplets.
 
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