18 Tips on Buying Your First Motorcycle: Everything You Need to Know Before Pulling the Clutch
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Purchasing your first motorcycle should be just as thrilling as your first ride and just as smooth as your last. While you may resemble Maverick in a leather jacket and a nice pair of biker boots, it’s important to consider what’s practical when it comes to these badass bikes and your bank account. Whether you’re buying new or used, our experts have covered all the bases on what you need to know when you’re ready for your first bike. All it takes is a dream, a lot of research, and some patience.
First things first: purchasing a motorcycle is much different than purchasing a car. Before you pull the clutch there are things you need to consider, like the type of riding you will be doing. That way, you can get a bike designed for what you intend to do with it. For example, you wouldn’t take your sports bike on a gravel road, just like you wouldn’t drive your off-road bike on the freeway.
From safety and insurance to tips for buying, here’s everything you need to know before purchasing your first motorcycle.
Things You Need to Consider Before You Hit the Showroom Floor: Motorcycle Safety and Insurance
1. MOTORCYCLE SAFETY
Before making your first purchase, you should complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course. Much like a driver’s training course, this is to ensure your safety and as well as others’ on the road. Remember, you will be one of, if not the most exposed driver out there, so it’s important to play it safe.
Even if you are experienced with motorcycles, it’s always good to sharpen your skills with a little refresher course before signing the dotted line.
2. MOTORCYCLE INSURANCE
Your finances may be all squared away for purchasing your new bike, but not so fast, you also need to think about insurance as part of the overall motorcycle cost. In many states, motorcycle insurance is required by law, so this is likely something you’ll need to tack onto your purchase.
Insurance can protect you if you’re responsible for causing personal injuries or property damage. It can also cover your medical bills, theft, damage and more.
Liability coverage is the biggest and most common legally required coverage. It is there to protect you from instances where someone is injured or property is damaged.
- Bodily injury liability
The following optional coverages include protection for you and your property directly.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
- Medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP)
- Comprehensive insurance
Make sure you read up on all plans to make sure you’re covered and protected in case something were to happen on the road.
Crucial Tips on Purchasing Your First Motorcycle
Great, you’ve got your insurance lined up, you know how to ride a motorcycle, and you’re all set on safety. Now that the nitty-gritty is out of the way, you can really start to think about your long-awaited bike.
3. FIND WHAT FITS YOU
Motorcycles don’t come with adjustable features like the seat, steering wheel etc. That’s why when purchasing a motorcycle, you need to find what fits you and what feels right. Remember, what feels right for one minute in the showroom might not feel good on a 5 mile trip around town.
It’s important to consider the different types of motorcycles available. Sports bikes and standard “naked motorcycles” are among the most common.
Sports bikes are ideal for riding at high speeds, as they are leaned-forward with higher footpegs and longer to reach handlebars. On longer rides and at slower speeds, this can be tough on your back, as well as your hands and wrists.
Standard, or “naked motorcycles” are great beginner motorcycles because the rider is in an upright position without having to lean and reach too far forward (much like riding a regular pedal bike).
Cruisers are also very popular but can be difficult for new riders. They’re great for long trips because they are more laid-back, but the high handlebars (a popular aftermarket add-on) and forward footpegs causes riders to have to lean back slightly, which can get uncomfortable. This lowrider seating is not ideal for beginners who are planning on riding at higher speeds for longer periods of time because pulling back on the handlebars can be tiring. Cruisers can also be difficult to ride and control at lower speeds due to their heavy weight, which can be tricky to balance.
If you’re unsure on what you want or where to get started, check out brands like Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Triumph, and Honda. They all have great bikes for beginners. Check out features and pricing for all brands at gorollick.com.
Lucky for you, if you do end up needing to make some changes to your bike, there are a plethora of aftermarket products such as handlebars, seats, and footpegs that can easily fix any of these problems. But remember, any modifications you make should be done by a professional or someone who really knows what they’re doing. You don’t want to end up with some janky put-together bike, which is why it’s important to always do your research.
4. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Ideally, you should do your research before making any purchase. In this case, whatever bike you decide to buy, make sure to learn everything you can about the brand, the model, and where and how you can service it and get parts in the future, if needed. Basically, you should make an effort to know everything about your bike — inside and out — after all, you will be the owner, and this is no small purchase.
Pro Tip: Search for the bike on Google, followed by the words reliability, issues, and reviews, and see what you can find. It might be best to hop in some online forums that are dedicated to the model you’re looking at. Read as much as you can. Whatever it takes to determine whether or not this is truly the bike for you.
5. DON’T GO OVERBOARD ON POWER
Let’s talk about power. You don’t need to go too high up on the displacement ladder for your first motorcycle. In fact, even the average 600cc bike has more power than a lot of experienced riders can use, so don’t try to hang with the Honda Gold Wings just yet.
You should be hanging out in the 500cc-and-under class (small-to-medium displacement bikes). Many manufacturers are even specifically designing bikes in this class for new riders like yourself. Our advice: start with something smaller and trade up for something bigger later on.
Things You Need to Consider Before You Buy the Bike: Seat Height and Bike Weight
6. SEAT HEIGHT
This should be the most important thing you think about when you’re a new rider purchasing your first bike. Being able to plant both feet flat on the pavement is a huge confidence builder for riders who fear dropping a bike at a light (trust us, it will happen one day). Plus, it’s safer to be able to plant both feet on the ground for balance, especially if your bike is heavy.
7. BIKE WEIGHT
After you decide on the type on the bike you want, you should also think about the weight (after all, you will be the one to control this beast). The weight of the bike typically goes up with displacement, though that’s not the case for all bikes, as some cruisers with a more modest displacement weigh a ton.
Tip on Purchasing Your First Motorcycle: Why You Should Buy Used
8. BUY A USED MOTORCYCLE
Buying used for your first motorcycle is good for two reasons.
- If you aren’t feeling the whole motorcycle thing after a few weeks and want to cash out, you won’t have a lot of money tied up in a loan. And let’s be honest, a cheap, used bike is easier to sell than a fairly new one.
- You WILL drop your bike sooner or later. This is in no way a reflection of your skills (which we are definitely not doubting), it’s just the reality of learning to ride.
Pro Tip: If you are buying used, learn how to spot inconsistencies and aftermarket tinkering. You need to know what you’re buying…and what you’re definitely not buying. Check out thousands of used motorcycles for sale.
Tips for How to Buy a Used Motorcycle
9. BRING A FRIEND.
Don’t go on your purchase journey alone. No matter how tough you think you are, you never know who’s on the other end of that ad.
10. INSPECT THE BIKE.
And we mean it! Get in there. Get your hands dirty. Do your research on the bike beforehand and make a list of anything you might have questions about. Get to know your potential future bike before you start throwing money at it.
Pro Tip: It might be wise to bring along an expert, professional, or just someone who knows a lot about motorcycles that can do an inspection as well.
11. CHECK THE VIN (VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER).
Make sure the VIN matches on the bike and on the title.
12. MAKE SURE IT’S NOT STOLEN.
It’s a good (actually, great) idea to check with the local police or DMV to verify that the bike has not been stolen and is legally registered to the same person you are purchasing from. You don’t want to be accused of “stealing” your new bike the first time you hit the streets, do you?
13. NO LIENS!
Make sure there are no liens on the bike. If there were any liens, there would be “released” signatures on the front of the title. If you see those, ABORT. Do not buy this bike!
14. WRITE UP A BILL OF SALE.
This should include seller/buyer information and bike information (miles, VIN, model, price). Both parties must sign and date. You should also make sure that the seller signs the back of the title. To make this even easier, you can have a formal Bill of Sale digitally prepared using LegalZoom. Simply enter in all your information online and print out your professional Bill of Sale!
15. BEWARE OF “AS IS” DISCLOSURES.
This means that once you make your purchase, the seller is released from responsibility if anything goes wrong with the bike from the getgo (i.e. new parts etc.). It would all come out of your pocket, and you might not want that.
16. REMEMBER YOU CAN’T ALWAYS TEST RIDE.
Don’t be surprised if the seller won’t let you test ride the bike. This is likely for liability reasons. Realistically, you should not ride the bike until having properly registered and insured the bike in your name, meaning, you should plan on putting it on a trailer to take home.
17. TAKE IT FOR A TUNE UP.
After you get the bike home, it’s a good idea to make arrangements with a professional mechanic for a full tune-up to make sure it’s in the best working condition possible for your safety.
18. DON’T LIE WHEN PAYING THE SALES TAX.
Seriously, don’t lie on the sale price of the bike when it comes to paying the sales tax. It’s fraud, and if the bike is ever stolen or wrecked, you will end up with the bill, so just be honest.
Well, that pretty much covers everything you need to know once you’re ready to buy your first motorcycle. Remember to find what fits you, do your research, and don’t go too overboard on power! We suggest you buy used for your first bike, but it’s ultimately up to you. Just make sure to respect your bike, respect the road, and enjoy the ride!