Riding a motorcycle is one of the most visceral experiences (short of flying a fighter plane) you’re likely to engage in. It requires your total attention while at the same time freeing your mind from the mundane cares of the day. And that experience is heightened when you throw a leg over a brand new bike and punch the starter for the first time. Whether you’ve been riding for years or are just now considering your first motorcycle, we’ve compiled a list of what to look for when buying a new motorcycle.
New or Used
Once you’ve made the decision to buy a new, or new-to-you, motorcycle one of the first considerations is how much you’re prepared to spend. And it’s that element of price that often leads buyers to consider purchasing a used bike.
It’s true that there are plenty of low-mileage motorcycles on the used market, and many of them are in fair to good condition. But unless you’re a mechanic, or have a trusted mechanic who’s willing to inspect a used bike for you, you’re never really sure of what you’re getting if you buy used, especially from a private seller.
Low mileage, especially on a motorcycle that’s several years old or older, means the bike has spent long periods of time just sitting. Motorcycles were made to be ridden, and all kinds of bad things can be traced back to inactivity. Fluids begin to thicken and lose molecular integrity. Rubber parts, like hoses, gaskets and tires, begin to dry out and crack.
After you’ve plunked down your cash and ridden off, all of those problems just waiting to reveal themselves are yours and yours alone. And that brings us to another shortcoming of buying used from a private seller; you’ll need to have the entire purchase price up front. Many dealers who sell pre-owned motorcycles will offer financing, even on used bikes, but you generally won’t get as good a deal on the terms as you can when purchasing new.
When buying a new motorcycle the price may be a little higher, but virtually every manufacturer offers a good to very good warranty. And many dealerships have pre-paid maintenance programs that you can roll into the purchase price of the bike and finance. If you need new gear (like a helmet, jacket, gloves or the like) to go with your new motorcycle, dealers will often give you some sort of a discount since you’re buying a bike from them at the same time.
There is one other category of motorcycle you may want to consider that splits the difference on price between new and used. That’s the “new, non-current” motorcycle. These are bikes that are new but left over from previous model years. Bikes in this category will carry the same factory warranty as other new models, but since they’ve been in the dealer’s inventory, sometimes for two or three years, you can often get a great deal on them.
Which Type of Motorcycle
Consider the type of riding you’re most likely to do. Do you picture yourself on a cross country ride? Will you be using your new motorcycle for daily commuting? Are you going to hit the trails on the weekend and ride the same bike to work come Monday? Is cruising with friends on the back roads or to your favorite eatery more your style? There’s a new motorcycle made to fit each of those needs and more.
While there is no official standard for identifying motorcycle types, there are several classifications that are universally recognized. Though manufacturers continue to innovate and add sub-categories, the type of motorcycle that is right for you is a major factor in what to look for when buying a new motorcycle.
Sportbikes are built for speed and handling. The combination of high foot pegs and a relatively long reach to the handlebars on a sportbike puts the rider into a position leaning over the fuel tank. The high ground clearance of a sportbike means that they are excellent in carving through curves, but they generally have higher seat heights which will challenge shorter riders to be able to reach the ground with both feet at a stop. Sportbikes have high performance engines and strong brakes that must be treated with respect.
Cruisers feature a leaned back riding position and engines tuned for low end torque which makes for a more relaxing ride. Their lower seat height makes handling the heavier bikes a little easier.
Standard, or naked bikes, have a more neutral riding position. These are general purpose motorcycles that are often recommended for beginning riders.
Touring motorcycles are built for long rides and generally include fairings and/or windscreens and luggage. Full dressers are touring models based on the cruiser style that usually have hard saddlebags and a trunk. Sport touring bikes are based on sportbikes, but have a less extreme riding position.
Dual sport, or dual purpose or on-road/off-road bikes are street legal but feature many of the attributes of dirt bikes, such as a high seat height and exceptional ground clearance.
Whichever type of riding you plan to do should help you narrow down the type of new motorcycle you consider. It’s important that you find a bike that not only fits your style but your body type and riding experience. If this is going to be your first new motorcycle and you’re determined to buy a sportbike you may want to consider one with a smaller engine size, in the 250 cc to 500 cc range. Likewise, if you’ve decided on a dual sport bike be sure to visit a dealership and sit on one to see if your feet can reach the ground at a stop before you buy.
As you research your purchase you’ll probably consider a number of other factors. Many of these will be limited by the type of motorcycle you decide on, but even within a certain category of bike you may find some variations.
Drive type is one such consideration. The final drive on a motorcycle is the means by which power is transferred from the engine to the rear wheel. The types of final drive are chain, belt and shaft. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. Chains are more efficient at delivering power to the rear wheel, but they also can be messy and require more maintenance. Shaft drives are quiet and require very little maintenance, but they do add weight to the motorcycle and aren’t as efficient in transferring power. Belts are neater than chains and require less maintenance, but aren’t available on as many types of bikes as chains.
Fuel delivery system is also something to think about. Many motorcycles now come with electronic fuel injection (EFI) systems as opposed to carburetors. EFI systems require less maintenance and are generally more efficient, but they will add to the cost of a motorcycle.
Some manufacturers are now offering anti-lock brakes (ABS) on certain models. There are advantages to ABS, but it will add to the final cost of the bike. And if you’ve been riding for years without ABS it may take a little getting used to.
Engine displacement, or size, is a big consideration. Many manufacturers offer a variety of engine sizes within a model family. The size of the engine is going to determine a number of things about a motorcycle, such as price, gas mileage and insurance rates. So even after you’ve decided on a specific model of motorcycle you’ll need to think about how big an engine you need. A bigger engine is going to provide more power, which will be a good thing if you’re a bigger person or plan on regularly carrying a passenger. But it’s also going to add to the weight of the motorcycle, which will make it relatively more challenging to control and maneuver.
When you buy your new motorcycle can also have an impact on how much you pay. Unless you just can’t wait another second to get on that new ride and start cruising the boulevard, if you buy during the off season, in most parts of the country from fall to very early spring, you can usually find better deals than you’ll get when demand is higher in the middle of the riding season.
Three “Must Dos”
If you’ve been riding for awhile chances are (hopefully) that you’ve already done the first two of these “must do” items. The first, get licensed. Every state requires motorcyclists to be licensed to ride on public roadways. Studies have found that unlicensed motorcyclists are much more likely to be involved in accidents.
Get training. A Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class will do wonders for a rider’s (especially a new rider) confidence. A beginning or advanced rider class will also equip you with skills that will not only last a lifetime, but may save your life on the road. And most insurance companies will offer discounts to riders who have passed a class.
Read the owner’s manual. No matter how long you’ve been riding, when you’re buying a new motorcycle it’s important to be as familiar with it as you can. The manual will cover all of the features of your new motorcycle as well as maintenance intervals and tips for storage during the off season.
Where to Start Looking
There are a lot of things to look for when buying a new motorcycle. So many in fact that it may be a challenge to know where to begin. PowerSportsTV.com offers some wonderful resources to help you get started. You’ll find reviews not only on specific model motorcycles, but also on motorcycle dealerships.
When you do a search for a motorcycle, PowerSportsTV.com will not only give you a review, but will also show you comparable models by other manufacturers and a list of dealers in your area that carry that bike.
Now that you’ve read this article and have a little basic information, click on the “motorcycles” tab at the top of this page to discover more of what to look for when buying a new motorcycle.