by Vanessa @thefullthrottlefamily
Did you recently have a bike epiphany and decide that you want to dedicate the rest of your life and the majority of your savings to the exhilarating world of adventuring on two wheels?
If so, this article may be for you. Much can be learned from others’ experiences but many fail to disclose that this new “hobby” of motorcycle riding is the most time-consuming, addicting and outrageously expensive decision you will ever make. But it’s also the best, so congratulations!
Is choosing your first motorbike more difficult than choosing a spouse?
As a brand spanking new rider, you first have to decide what kind of riding you want to try, and keep in mind that where you begin this journey is not necessarily, where you will end up. This is especially difficult, as you will quickly learn that there is no such thing as a bike that can truly do it all or at least do it all “well”. This is why many hardcore riders end up with entire garages, containers or even living rooms full of motorcycles! If money was no object, one could argue that incurable bike addicts would very likely have at least four bikes! Yikes!
1- A “pure” Dirt Bike
2- A Dual Sport Bike
3- An Adventure Bike
4- And any of the following: Sports Bike, Fancy Bike, Useless but cool bike, Ural and maybe a Harley…
Most new riders barely have the money to afford one bike, riding gear and insurance so for most buying several bikes is out of the question. What you decide to purchase will invariably be made by losing several nights of sleep researching and pondering every aspect ad nauseum. (Yes, this is Latin!)
Is a Dual Sport Bike the gateway drug to the sport?
Choosing a Dual Sport “DS” bike for your first motorcycle is a very smart and prudent choice, and yes those are not words often associated with folks who blast through trees and rip down winding dusty logging roads. A Dual Sport bike is generally a 4-stroke motorcycle that shares dirt bike and adventure bike characteristics. These bikes are legal to use on the road (with a motorcycle license) and will be equipped with all the necessary road gear such as mirrors, horn and signals to keep the popo happy. When equipped with DOT knobby tires it can take you adventuring on all kinds of gnarly crazy trails. You will be able to go everywhere with your DS right from your driveway with no need for trailering. As previously mentioned no bike is perfect at everything. A DS bike will be heavier than a dirt bike on trails and will very likely lack in power and comfort compared to a larger adventure bike when riding on the road. However, it offers a taste of both worlds, which often lets you decide in which direction you may want to steer towards in the future.
Today’s current DS lineup offers various beginner-friendly options, “The bigger the better” is a concept that does not apply to beginner riders, and remember your first bike does not need to be brand spanking new! You will 100% drop it, scratch it, break it, maybe even drown it, and perhaps eventually outgrow it. You may be thinking to yourself, I don’t want to outgrow my bike so why not get something bigger right away. The temptation is real, however by getting something too powerful and large you risk slowing down your learning curve or worse injuring yourself. These could lead to having to down size your bike or could cause you to give up this wonderful sport altogether.
How to know if you are compatible?
A few factors make bike shopping for newbies a little challenging! For one, finding a bike to test ride can be hard on your nerves as no one wants to accidentally damage someone else’s ride. However, once you own a bike and are confident with your riding skills, ride swapping can be quite fun and make future bike decisions that much easier! Secondly, some motorcycle dealerships offer demo rides if you have a valid motorcycle license, which can be enlightening, but again this could feel intimidating to someone with no riding experience. You can also lose yourself on the internet watching videos and reviews but there are so many variables such as your height and weight that may make a bike right for one rider and yet totally wrong for you. Lastly, you may see something that looks interesting being sold privately online but unsure if the bike is mechanically sound or worried about purchasing a misrepresented bike. If it were easy, everyone would be riding right?
If you have taken the bait thus far and are leaning towards a DS bike you may notice the numerous options come in various displacements and with substantial price differences. A tip to navigate the complex bike market is to separate the “Foofoo” bikes and the “High Maintenance” bikes. And yes those are both terms of endearment.
FooFoo bikes tend to be smaller Japanese DS such as the Yamaha XT250/TW200/WR250R- Honda CRF250-CRF300 and Kawasaki KLX230-250-300. These bikes will be less expensive but heavier and sturdier which is not a bad thing for a new rider dropping it like it’s hot. Most also come with passenger foot pegs unlike the higher performance DS bikes.
The high maintenance bikes are the KTM’s, Husquavarna’s and Beta’s which can also be purchased in similar displacements 250-500cc. They will be lighter, likely taller and require a more regimented maintenance schedule than an entry level Japanese Dual Sport. These more powerful and faster DS are based closely on the race bikes offered by those brands. The power delivery of a race bred engine such as a HuskyFE350 may be overwhelming and discouraging to a new rider and possibly make it more difficult to learn the basics such as clutch and throttle control. Perhaps consider not drinking the Kool-Aid right off the bat. Lastly, the price of purchasing a NEW high maintenance vs foofoo bike could be as steep as a $10000 difference. Ouch! A low cost-of-ownership is very important to a new rider because often those people are also new bike mechanics. Learning to maintain your bike has a similar learning curve to learning how to ride. With accumulated seat time, riding techniques become automatic and with accumulated garage time so does the maintenance.
No one said finding the right dual sport would be easy!
Regardless if you end up choosing a DS, a dirt bike or an ADV bike, join a local riding club or a FB group and make sure to at least sit on every bike you can before purchasing your new sweetheart. There will be some awkward moments while you get accustomed to each other like any new fling. Nevertheless, those ups and downs, bruises and busted parts will all be worth it for the adventures and great times.
Whatever you decide, here’s wishing you and your new bike a happy ever after, and unlike a spouse it’s totally okay to upgrade your ride in a couple years!
If you enjoyed this, check out Tracy’s Ride Report!