Life and Style

College 101: Choosing a Motorcycle

Lately, I’ve been really into the idea of getting myself a motorcycle. I’ve spent most of my life in areas where motorcycles didn’t seem very practical, but now I live in an area where there are lots of beautiful places to go riding. This isn’t a midlife crisis thing or anything like that, I promise — it’s just that, because my circumstances have changed, I’m finding myself interested in motorcycles without really having much background knowledge about them. So I’m a little wary of going to a dealership or something where a salesperson will pitch me on some motorcycle or other without my knowing what I’m talking about, you know?

So experts, my question is this — where should I start? What do I need to know about motorcycles and shopping for motorcycles? Any help will be appreciated!

Motorcycles are wonderful vehicles, and there are lots of reasons that so many Americans own and ride them. Of course, some areas and states are more motorcycle-friendly than others, so it’s perfectly understandable that your change in scenery has prompted you to think more about your riding options!

As a true beginner to motorcycles, you have a lot to think about. The first thing you’ll need to realize is that there are lots of different types of motorcycles. A stripped-down cafe racer is going to give you a very different experience from a big bike made for hours-long rides. You should think about what you want to accomplish with your motorcycle and match your needs to the type of motorcycle that suits them best. You’ll find different options at different price points within each category, so don’t worry too much about those things just yet. Instead, focus on these big-picture categories.

Now you have a sense of your goals and what sort of motorcycle you’ll eventually get. But before we go shopping, we need to talk about riding skills and safety. Riding a motorcycle is not the same as driving a car or riding a bike, so you should take lessons to make sure that you learn proper techniques and are ready to pass your licensing tests — which you’ll need to do, because a motorcycle license is different from a driver’s license. Prepare carefully for your first ride, gear up with the proper safety equipment, and get the help of a trained instructor.

Learning how to ride and getting practice — perhaps on different types of bikes — can also help you develop a sense of what you’re looking for in a great bike. That way, you’ll know what features to keep look for as you shop.

Once you’ve handled everything that we’ve talked about so far, you’ll be ready to go shopping for your first motorcycle. Let’s talk about how do that.

Shopping for a motorcycle isn’t all that different from shopping for a car. You’ll want to start by establishing a sensible budget for your purchase. Then, stick to this budget. It’s not a good idea to let your spending limits creep up, because vehicle debt is only a healthy financial choice when it is within your means.

Fortunately, you’ll find lots of motorcycle options at different price points within each of the categories of motorcycles. You should also consider used motorcycles. Shopping for used motorcycles could allow you to reach for higher-end models while still making your budget work. Of course, you’ll need to find a sweet spot! If you go with a really cheap and heavily used motorcycle, you could end up paying more in maintenance costs than you save in purchase price (plus, it’s never a good idea to drive an unreliable motorcycle — it’s not safe). But a lightly used motorcycle of a recent model year could be the ideal way to make your budget work and get all of the motorcycle features that you want.

Shop around online and at dealerships and take some test rides. If you’ve done the work of learning to ride and getting your license, you should be in a good position to determine which bikes suit your needs. Have fun shopping!

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