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Best Beginner Motorcycles: So, what kind of bike should I buy to start?

 This only applies to someone who wants to ride a cruiser, specifically, a Harley cruiser. All of you BMW and sportbike folks can just move onto the next interesting post. (Just having a little fun here!)

Now that all the BMW and sportbike people have moved on to the next post, I need to warn all of you dyed in the wool, Harley, buy American, never ride rice-burner folks to move on also. I am about to offend your sensitive side. I am going to recommend that the beginning or re-entry, “I really want-to-ride-a-Harley” crowd, go out and buy a Japanese cruiser.

Yes folks, a Japanese cruiser, 250cc to 450cc, relatively light and easy to handle, a starter bike. I say starter bike because, if you start riding and come to a profound decision that this motorcycle riding business sucks, you do not have $10 to $20 thousand hanging out there on a Harley purchase. Plus, that, once you figure in the Harley Tax (Oh, you haven’t heard about that yet?), sales tax, drive-it-off-the-lot depreciation, and you can add another $4 or $5 thousand to that total.

Here are two examples I pulled from eBay in an intensive five-minute search (smile). Both will sell between $1,000 and $1,500. Not that cheap, but remember, even a Sportster will cost over three times that amount.

1999 Suzuki1999 Suzuki, GS GZ-250

Miles: 11000, Engine Size (cc): 250

2003 Honda2003 Honda, Rebel

Miles: 3348, Engine Size (cc): 250

Don’t be hesitant because of the smaller engine size (250cc – 450cc), these bikes are a lot lighter than their big brothers and as we all know, the lighter the vehicle, the faster the vehicle.

The idea is to find out if you are really that excited about riding. These bikes will get you into traffic, offer an easier learning curve and let you find out if you like all of this without getting too committed.

If you plan on riding with your significant other, best friend or just hoping to get lucky, make sure you buy a bike that already has seating for two. You don’t want to start investing money into this motorcycle because you will have a tough time getting it back when you sell it. Buying a new seat or exhaust is not cheap and when you are looking at a 90-day turnaround, just leave everything stock and ride it.

A private party is the way to go and do not be surprised if the seller will not let you take it for a test ride. Put yourself in their place, somebody you don’t know from Adam gives you a real looking driver’s license, hops on your motorcycle for an around-the-block ride and you never see them again. Be patient and if they will not let you ride it, ask them to ride it and follow them in the car looking to see if the bike tracks straight, accelerates without a lot of smoke, and just overall performance.

If it is possible, have a motorcycle mechanic check it out. Let the seller ride it to the neighborhood cycle shop and pay the mechanic $50 to make sure you are not buying someone’s nightmare. If no mechanic is available, spend some time taking a good look at the machine. There are some pretty cool online buying guides that will help you make a smart purchase.

Anyway, that’s my advice. Buy a cheap starter bike to find out if this is what you really want to do.

Keep in mind that whether it’s a cheap Japanese cruiser or the real-deal Harley, buying your personal riding gear is an independent thing. Your personal riding gear, (helmet, leather, boots, etc.) doesn’t care how much the motorcycle cost when you hit the pavement, so buy quality stuff, that fits, and will be there for you when you need it. (Check out my matrix.) Don’t be surprised if you spend $1500 on a motorcycle and then spend even MORE on your personal rider gear.

Ride safe and keep the shiny side up — Frank