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Basic Beginner Motorcycles - Part 2

By Walter F. Kern

Part 2: Some basic recommendations

If you gather 100 motorcyclists together and ask them what bike you should get for a beginner motorcycle, you will first be asked a lot of questions. The experts will want to know how old you are, how tall you are, how much you weigh, whether you are male or female, where you live, your experience, whether you've taken the MSF course, etc.

Then you will get 100 different answers recommending a bike for you. How do I know? I read the messages in various motorcycle beginner forums. Every newcomer asks the same questions and depending on which forum members choose to answer, the bike recommendations vary all over the place.

There are some common denominators, however. Almost everyone agrees that a beginner should first take the MSF training course. This course will teach you what you need to know to safely ride a motorcycle. It won't make you an expert but you will learn things about motorcycles and riding that many untrained riders of over 30 years don't know.

Next, you should buy a cheap bike with as little plastic on it as possible and which contains some engine guards to protect the bike, and you, should you have a spill.

Many experts recommend bikes such as the Suzuki GS500, the Kawasaki EX500, the Honda 250 and 450 Rebels, the Honda Shadow VLX600, the Honda Nighthawk 250 or 750, the Suzuki Bandit 600, and the Yamaha Seca 600. These would all be used bikes you may be able to buy under $2000, maybe as low as $600 in some cases. As I said earlier, my first bike was a 1981 Honda CM400T. It was eight years old at the time. There are still some of these running around too.

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It hasn't been that long since I was a beginner and I vividly remember all the questions I had about beginner motorcycles and bikes that came after that. Here is my history. Yours may end up being similar:

  • My first bike was a 1981 Honda CM400T. I bought it from a friend for $600. It had a windshield, crashbars, and ran well. Both my wife and I used it as a starter bike and both took our motorcycle driver test on it.

  • My second bike was a 1991 Honda Nighthawk CB750. This was a new bike purchased from my local dealer. I rode the CM400T for maybe a year before I got the Nighthawk. The CM400T was eventually sold for $600, the same amount I paid for it.

  • My third bike was a 1990 Honda Pacific Coast (PC800). It was an 800cc machine with a shaftdrive and rear enclosed liftup trunk, a unique motorcycle useful for any distance.

  • My fourth bike was a 1994 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH1200. I was getting my itch to break the Honda habit and bought this from a friend. It vibrated a lot and made exhaust noise I didn't like. I sold it after a couple of years and went back to my Honda habit.

  • My fifth bike was a 1998 Honda Gold Wing. Notice the progression in size. When I was a beginner, I never thought I would be able to handle a Gold Wing but time and experience made the transition easy. I sold the PC to a friend in our motorcycle club.

  • My sixth bike was a 2000 Honda Gold Wing. No, I didn't crash the 1998 Wing. I converted it to a trike for my wife.

  • My seventh bike was the conversion of the 2000 Gold Wing into a trike using a Motor Trike kit installed by a dealer in PA.

See pictures of my seven motorcycles.

Here is the bike history for my wife who started in motorcycling at the exact same time I did:

  • Her first bike was a 1981 Honda CM400T. This is the same bike mentioned above.

  • Her second bike was a 1989 Honda Shadow VLX600 cruiser. This was a new bike purchased from our local dealer. She got the first new bike while I continued to ride the CM400T for maybe a year.

  • Her third bike was a 1990 Honda Pacific Coast (PC800). I sold my Nighthawk and continued to ride her VLX600 until she was sure she liked the PC. Then I traded the VLX600 in on a second PC for myself. I bought and installed a CB on both PCs so my wife and I could communicate.

  • Her fourth bike was a 1998 Honda Gold Wing trike. This is the trike I converted from my 1998 Gold Wing. Eventually, she sold the PC to a friend in our motorcycle club.

See pictures of Jane's four motorcycles.

Choosing a beginner motorcycle is not an exact science. It depends on many interrelated factors. It is one of the rites of passage that every motorcyclist goes through to begin his or her adventures in motorcycling.

All our Motorcycle Views Forum members have traveled the same road you are starting down. Their experiences can help you to avoid costly mistakes. Take some time to become familiar with the forum and post your questions. Deciding to be an active forum reader and contributor may turn out to be the best decision you ever make in motorcycling.

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