By on November 16, 2012

Confession time: the motorized vehicle photograph that adorned my high school locker didn’t have four wheels. It had two. I have always had an interest in bikes, one which has slowly grown from drooling over the 2002 Yamaha R6 (which stayed in my locker through all four years of high school) to buying motorcycle magazines to spending more time reading about bikes than cars. But I’ve yet to buy one for the same reason that kept me from buying a car for so long; insurance.

By the time I was 16, I had enough money saved up to buy a car. Except my insurance would have been around $3500 per year for the clapped out Nissan 240SX I had my eye on. This kind of usurious gouging is an accepted part of life in Ontario, where one speeding ticket or accident can make driving literally unaffordable for young people. I am lucky that Miatas are so unpopular with theives and boy-racers, as my insurance, which started out at $2200 per year, is now a more manageable $1644 per year. Did I mention I have never been convicted of any moving violations and have never had an accident? Meanwhile, my friend in Miami pays $75 a month for both his Corvette Z06 and his F-250.

No surprise then that a bike is pretty much a non-starter for me. I could buy myself a pretty nice bike right now, but insurance would likely run many multiples of what I’m paying now for coverage on my car – a figure that, quite honestly, stretches my modest monthly budget, once rent, groceries and my recreational expenses are taken into account. Ok, I could insure an older GS500 or Ninja 250 but I’m not too keen buying such an old bike and dealing with finnicky carbs and frankly, I find most starter bikes to be pretty ugly.

I know, I know, it’s my first bike, not my last, and it’s a tool to learn proper riding technique on rather than a fashion statement. But a few grand is not an inconsequential sum to me, and if I’m going to spend that much on a bike, I want it to tick all the boxes. Frankly, I’m too cautious to hop right on a 600cc supersport, but the next step up from a starter bike, like an SV650, is above 600cc and is therefore in the next insurance class. What to do then?

The answer is wait; I’ll be 25 next year, and privy to a big break on my insurance premiums, but I’m also waiting for the new Honda CBR500. Yes, there’s a CBR250, but it it’s lacking in both looks and performance, despite rave reviews. The CBR500, on the other hand, not only looks the business, but packs a perfectly adequate 47 horsepower from a 470-cc fuel-injected twin. ABS is also available, and the same motor can be spec’d in a standard or adventure bike as well.

It’s been a while since the motorcycle industry has offered anything intermediate for novice riders. Many were content to go down the path of squidom, hoping on whatever sportbike was on sale, with little regard for life or limb. Anyone concerned about taking the proper steps to proficiently ride a motorcycle had to go use or exercise enormous self-control with a bike that may have been too much for them. But the lack of new riders, shut out by inappropriate motorcycle choices, exorbitant insurance premiums and a rapidly aging customer base means that motorcycle companies desperately need to attract young riders, and the new crop of 250-500 cc bikes are just the ticket.

Nearly half a century ago, a small Japanese company told Americas that “you meet the nicest people on a Honda“. Now they’re trying to re-create that magic, cognizant of the fact that if it can’t play the part of a big boy bike, it better look the part. Kudos to Honda for paying attention to such an ignored demographic.

Now go do this with cars and you’ll be as unstoppable as you were not so long ago.

 Disclaimer: I am not facile-minded enough to suggest that there is a direct analogy between Honda’s car and bikes, but here’s an example of how an accessible, entry-level product can be made to look appealing, attractive and even a bit aspirational. 


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91 Comments on “Generation Why: Two Wheeled Inspiration...”

  • avatar

    I started on a suzuki gs500 (carbed) at 30. I am 37 now and still have my “2nd” bike, an 05-gsxr 600. With 27k happy miles, the bike has given me no issues. The 500 was technically mine as the loan was in my name, but was actually entirely paid for by a friend who at that time didn’t have much credit (from a foreign country). After he paid off the loan, I signed the title over to him.

    Everyone says “you’ll get bored of a slower bike” but I think that highly depends on your personality. For me it’s all about the ride & experience. Wind through your visor/armored jacket, no support beams blocking your view…. I’ve had a great time on my 600, a vtx1300, as well as a honda falcon 400 (Brazil). The falcon is 0-60 in about 8-9 seconds. The gsx-r is obviously about 3.5.

    Also: I’m pretty sure the cbr250r is fi (at least in the USA). IT also has available ABS here and can maintain highway speeds. I really don’t know if you need to wait on the 500 you mentioned if your personality lets you have fun on the 250. You’ll also have a (minimal) used market for the cbr250r..

    It’s a shame >= 600cc puts you in a different insurance class.

    Even with a 600 I’d love to have a little ninja 250 or cbr250 to thrash around.

    I’ve also been looking at the 40-50’ish hp honda nc700x as it gets great fuel mileage & with hard bags is quite attractive. Unfortunately my wife’s last car died at 210k and we are paying off a new car here & about to buy a car in Brazil….2 car payments IMHO too many…That is how life goes sometimes.

    In the meantime I hope to ring up 50k on the gsx-r within the next 5-7 years.

    IMHO all the drivers who complain about nanny-state this/that & think modern cars really have too many safety features really need to buy a bike where you are pretty much 1) forced to shift (in 90%+ of bikes) 2) maintain your “drivetrain” 3) no abs, stability control/other nannies 4) no distractions (radio, touch/mysync/dvd players/etc) in most cases unless you install them yourself or get a premium bike.

    It’s VERY easy to find a nanny-free bike for cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      Derek- Don’t buy a bike- you are 16 times more likely to have a fatal accident riding a motorcycle (NHTSA stats)- Stay with cars and your parents will get to enjoy your company for the next 30 years- just a thought, from a parent who lost his son…

    • 0 avatar

      And this is my beautiful 19 year old son- he would have turned 30 this year- not a day goes by that I don’t miss him…

    • 0 avatar

      PS- Derek: my son’s “first bike” WAS his last bike…

  • avatar

    After owning 4 motorcycles in my life, I can tell you the bike you have pictured looks great to look at, but riding for any length of time is a pain in almost too many areas to list. Get a standard style where you sit upright. Also the bike you have shown will lose a lot in depreciation, for as newer and faster bike comes out, who wants second best if speed is your goal. HP is king and off the line, nothing substitutes for HP and Torque, and both go hand in hand. If you ain’t got it you ain’t going as fast as the guy next to you.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure about that….I’m getting “up there” @ 37 and have done 450+ miles in a day without issue(s).

      Just make sure you stop every 75-150 miles (well you have to anyway for gas @ 150) & stretch out. I think I’d honestly be more uncomfortable riding on a motorcycle with ape hangers…

    • 0 avatar

      The CBR500R has a pretty relaxed riding position. Look at the vertical distance between the seat and handlebars. On sports bikes this is nonexistant. This thing has a good 4-5″ which equates to upright comfort.

    • 0 avatar

      I respectfully disagree about a standard bike being more comfortable. I’d agree if you’re just riding around town, but on the highway the choice is leaning into the wind and leting it support some of your upper body weight, or sitting up like a sail and having all your weight on your butt.
      Of course, if you have an effective windshield/fairing, the upright seating position becomes more suitable.

    • 0 avatar

      I got my motorcycle license more than three decades ago. During that time I’ve worked my way up from a 200 through a 400, a 500 and a (conventional) 750 before finally settling on a ZX-6R. The Ninja fits me perfectly, and even at my advanced age, I wouldn’t dream of owning anything but a supersport. On long rides, sitting upright and being constantly buffeted from the wind tires me out far more than laying forward, tucked behind the fairing and with my weight on the tank. To say nothing of the improved sense of control. I’ve done up to nine hours a day “in the position” without ever a complaint from my back … or anywhere else.

      Having said that, Derek has the right idea to start out a little smaller. I’ve seen too many motorcycling careers cut short when novices insisted on jumping into the deep end, before they’d learned the dog paddle. And I commiserate on Ontario insurance, although now that I’m getting up there it’s finally under $1k a year including collision (which is still ridiculous for a driver with no accidents and a perfectly clean record).

  • avatar

    Possible death and dismemberment are also good reasons to not buy a bike. If insurance is the only thing stopping you, you might consider liability only. That’s how I could afford to insure my ’87 FZ600 when I bough it in 1990, and one of the reasons (along with possible death and dismemberment) I let it go after I laid it down.

    • 0 avatar

      Possible death & dismemberment are a good reason not to drive a car above 40mph…

      • 0 avatar

        Or ever leave your house!

      • 0 avatar

        two ill-informed comments made by men who has never lost a son in a motorcycle accident (as I have)- you are SIXTEEN TIMES more likely to be killed or injured on a bike (NHTSA)- going over 40 mph in a car or leaving your house are both MUCH safer than riding a bike- I have known quite a few men & women killed or injured on bikes- and many whose lives were saved by air bags and lots of steel- so, no, saying bikes are okay doesn’t make them okay, and making facile comments comparing bikes to other activities does not change that fact of life.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry, Jeff, but there is more to life than stats.

        I have safely ridden motorcycles since I was 12 years old, and I am 66 now. I have owned an enormous variety of bikes over the decades but thanks to Air Force motorcycle safety courses and those of the Road Riders and the AMA I’m still around to tell you about it. I am a current member of the Retreads with over 54 years and over 300,000 miles of riding experience.

        I was a Motorcycle Safety Instructor for many years, both in the Air Force and for the State of New Mexico and have the paperwork hanging on my wall to prove it.

        The bottom line remains, “There are old riders, and there are bold riders. However, there are no old, bold riders.”

      • 0 avatar

        There is a highway sign over the road to my house (I-94) that shows the number of motor vehicle deaths and updates DAILY. There have been 868 deaths (as of today) this year in motor vehicle accidents.

        I’m really sorry about your son but calling our comments “ill-informed” is….wrong at best and insulting at worst.

        In illinois (my state) in 2011 145 motorcyclists were killed ( . Did you know 74% of these riders didn’t use a helmet and only 8 wore a DOT compliant helmet? 40% of these had a BAC above 0 !!!

        The truth is that people die from many other things more frequently than motorcycle accidents. Do you rail against those as well? If not, why not?

        in 2010 there were ~ 3600 motorcycle deaths ( in the US. There were 2.4 million TOTAL deaths.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        “I have known quite a few men & women killed or injured on bikes- and many whose lives were saved by air bags and lots of steel”

        I lost a high school friend when she hit ice in her Honda Civic on a mountain pass, lost control, and slammed into an Expedition.

        I still drive over the same mountain pass.

    • 0 avatar

      Insurance and current registration were things I considered optional when I was in my 20’s.
      But that caught up with me as the counties I had lived during that time got computerized and started collecting on old property taxes.
      These days I have full coverage insurance on my bike that I only get to ride a handful of times a year.

    • 0 avatar

      Almost all motorcycle fatalities are from the rider’s first year of riding. Advanced schooling and caution make for a safe experience. The carnage for motorcycle riders falls mainly on young (read risk taking) inexperienced, poorly trained kids on sporty bikes. Sorry for anybody’s loss, but I have been riding since 1968 with no serious problems. Laid a couple down over the years, but with proper technique and protective clothing safety is not an issue. If you live past your first year and keep away from left turns from oncoming traffic, you can get old AND enjoy your life.

      • 0 avatar

        the left turn thing is amazing. many bikers just dont get it……UPS doesnt allow their trucks
        to make lefties when they can avoid it (too much wasted time…) but the vast majority of bikers ride’em like they are in an Escalade covered in reactive armor…..
        Not a lot of pity when I see a bike smeared on the road and it is apparent he was making a left…. too may teenage girls updating facebook accounts in their Hondas to try a lefty on a motorcycle.

  • avatar

    Errr Derek, I think you meant “half century” not “half decade”

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    Something that runs, is used, and is low mileage (most of them) is the ticket. You can keep a bike running much easier and cheaper than a car. Have always preferred bikes to cars except when it’s cold (Canada?) or raining.

    I was almost 30 when I got my first one and that was many many years ago.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Follow your dream. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to get a bike someday.

    But please please please don’t turn into a douche-rider. I’ve seen countless @$$-wipes splitting lanes in rush hour traffic. I’m told that’s not legal here in Ontario.

    But even if it isn’t, then here’s another one. Just yesterday driving home on the 401 eastbound, it was heavy traffic but moving. But some grand master son of a barrel decided not to move with the rest of us and instead drove on the hard shoulder. Car or bike I know that’s illegal.

    Make no mistake, I have no problem with Bikers. Just the ones that decide to put themselves and others in danger because they can squeeze through.

  • avatar

    If possible spend some time on a motorcycle before committing to buy. I love the things, mechanically, the performance, the idea of being in the open, etc. But have never really enjoyed riding them all that much, and not enough to own one. I have spent a fair amount of time on friends bikes ranging from BMW’s to an insanely fast Kawasaki KZ1000 that I should have died on several times over. I also fear the crashes, I rebuilt a Honda MR250 Elsinore dirt bike several years ago. Fun to ride but after a crash I decided I’m too old for that recovery and not a good enough rider to avoid mistakes that lead to a crash. I am committed to bicycles though which I race and ride about 5000 miles a year on.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    This is a no brainer, kid. Start out with a low-buck Japanese motorcycle. Don’t worry about what it looks like, what matters is reliability. Once one of these is running, they’re likely to run forever. In the process, you’ll develop mechanical skills.

    That worked well for me and the 1975 Honda CL360 I bought in 1988. A year later, after figuring out that “yes, I really do like motorcycling,” I acquired an even older BMW from 1970.

    Where motorcycle insurance gets tricky is in what the company will insure. State Farm won’t insure my gear or accessories, but they have a slightly lower price. However, since the replacement cost of my riding gear (helmet, gloves, Aerostich, tankbag, touring bags) almost exceeds the value of the basic motorcycle (1st Gen BMW oilhead) then it’s penny-wise and pound foolish to not go with a motorcycle insurance specialist.

    So shop. Ask questions. And before you get too far into the bike acquisition, price out the riding gear and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses.

    When your done, you’ll find that the thrill-per-dollar and “joy of motoring” factor of motorcycles greatly exceeds anything you’ll find on four wheels.

  • avatar

    Carry liability only and get an older SV650. You’ll be spoiled by the V-twin torque. It’s $85/annually for my 2008 SV650 and I’m in my mid 40’s.

    Then shop for your gear used like my $450 Aerostich Darien and $100 Arai helmet. It doesn’t have to get expensive to ride but can.

    • 0 avatar

      Yea I am shocked dude’s insurance on a non SS 650 is so high. I have a Ninja 650R in NYC and liability + comprehensive is only ~$600/year. This was also after a pretty serious accident within 2 months of riding. Insurance on a car would be about 6x that.

      I am glad Honda is bringing these bikes out. I think motorcycling is too marginalized in the US, both by non-riders and manufacturers. I think we should move to a graduated system like Europe and spread more awareness about riding. I wish I had started riding years ago.

      • 0 avatar

        I, too, have a Ninja 650R (2009 that I bouth new). It
        s registered in Manhattan, but garaged out of state. It costs me about $200/yr for liability and fire and theft. It’s a great bike, by the way. I’ve been riding for 39 years, have owned several liter-class bikes and the Ninja is seriously impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      That’s good advice with the exception of the helmet – don’t buy a used helmet. There is no way to determine if the EPS in the helmet has been damaged through a visual inspection and it’s not worth risking your life to save a few bucks. An Arai helmet doesn’t offer any additional safety benefits over something like a Scorpion helmet that can be bought for $150, though, if you can afford the Arai, they are excellent helmets.

      I could go on all day about helmets, though. Get a full-face helmet (statistically, you are far more likely to strike your chin or face on the pavement than any other part of the head) that fits the shape of your head. The best way to do that is to head to your local motorcycle dealer and try them on.

    • 0 avatar

      Canada is supposedly retarded with insurance… My SV cost me $99 a year for a 23-27 year old male. I sold it this summer and am looking to “downgrade” to a KLX250…

      • 0 avatar

        Parts of Canada. Ontario is the worst because it’s no fault. Plus, everyone is made to bear the burden of the very high theft and accident rates in the Greater Toronto Area.

    • 0 avatar

      Honda seems to have the spiritual successor to the SV650 with the new NC700 bikes.

      • 0 avatar

        Nowhere close. For starters they are about 100lb heavier, and then to boot make about 1/2 the power. They are really efficient scooters styled to look like motorcycles. Not a bad idea but def no SV650 successor.

  • avatar

    Derek – Check out the Honda NC700X. It’s a new model released this year, and sounds like what you’re after. It’s 670cc, has a very low center of gravity for great handling and stability, gets 70mpg. It’s targeted squarely at new riders and commuters. I just bought one myself to take over commuting duties from my gas-pig of a cruiser.

  • avatar

    Try out a Kawi 650 Ninja. Has the looks of a sportbike with the comfort of a standard. Nice torquey 650 twin. Decent aftermarket options allow for customizing, even if you want to make it a small tourer.

    As for insurance, hitting the big 2-5 is the most valuable birthday you’ll ever have. Don’t know if you can buy Progressive where you are but they insure my ’99 Concours for $75 a year liability only. Of course I’m old enough to be your daddy.

  • avatar

    You hit it on the head – great insight from someone who isn’t even riding yet. I’m also very excited about Honda’s new 500s as well as Kawi’s new 300. It looks like after years of being lost in a fog, the Japanese brands are figuring out that the key to motorcycling’s future is accessibility and versatility, a far cry from the “North Americans don’t want standards” drum they’ve been beating.

    The Japanese manufacturers had no qualms about putting heaps of R&D and new technology into the middleweight segment in the 80s, and it paid off on many levels. 400-600cc bikes of every style were flying off the shelves, and new genres of bike were created in the process. Most importantly, new riders were joining the fold from a wide range of backgrounds.

    By the 90s the new product development cooled off and the profit margins got wider for existing technology. By the early 2000s, the only segments that seemed to exist were the hp wars in the supersport class, and the ridiculous displacement wars of the cruiser class. Even the standards of the era (FZ-6, 599) were “tuned for torque” supersport engines in quasi-standard frames – not really ground-up models. Riders who wanted a fun, versatile, affordable bike were basically stuck with stale 80s old holdovers like the EX500 and GS500. Great bikes, but… very old. The SV650, DL650, and ER-6 signaled a sense that maybe there was hope for a reborn standard market in North America, but then the economy went to hell and the easy credit that drove Japanese bike sales couldn’t be found. The last few years have been brutal to dealers and OEMs alike.

    Euro brands have now surpassed the Big 4 on innovation and sales… Triumph, BMW, and Ducati all have very versatile, well-engineered lineups that appeal to a wide range of riders, and they each saw profit while the Big 4 went deep in the red. But none of them make anything smaller than 650cc. In the process, I think the Big 4 are beginning to regroup and realize that the key to success is just what it was in the 80s, attracting new riders and making them feel comfortable. The era of 600cc supersports as “starter bikes” is finally over. I can’t wait to see how Yamaha and Suzuki respond to these new current-tech middleweights from Kawi and Honda – it might be yet another golden age of motorcycling.

    • 0 avatar

      “Euro brands have now surpassed the Big 4 on innovation and sales…”

      Amen. My brother & I were just saying the same thing earlier this week. The Europeans have finally begun to make broader product lines with some outstanding product. Your paragraphs pretty much sum up our whole conversation.

      • 0 avatar

        And having ridden Hinckley Triumphs since 1995, I can’t say enough good about them. Still have my original one, a ’95 Trident that closing in on 112k. With very little trouble and fully 80% of the bike is still original.

  • avatar

    Indeed, Ontario motorcycle insurance has been a difficult system to navigate (if not an outright ripoff) for the 25 years I’ve been riding.

    You’ve waited till 25. An excellent first step Derek, you are well on your way to having a positive motorcycle experience. Allow me to impart some advice:
    – Used bikes only. Buying a well cared for used bike with low km is easy in Ontario. Let someone else eat the depreciation.
    – Start small. A 150-200cc dual sport bike will minimize the initial insurance bill, and allow you to get some riding experience.
    – Buy your dream bike later. Part of the fun is trying different bikes, and if you buy wisely you can move up the displacement ladder as your insurance bill drops and have some varied experiences.
    – Keep insurance coverage. Even if you have to insure a bike for a couple of years when you rarely use it, don’t let your insurance lapse or they’ll put the boots to you again when you go back to riding.

    To make some generalizations about new riders I’ve known:
    – Riders who started before 25 crashed and got hurt or in some cases killed
    – Riders who started with a brand new bike either traded it in or lost interest in motorcycling within two years, and took a loss on the bike
    – Riders who stuck with inexpensive used bikes were able to keep riding through marriage, jobs, kids, mortgages and have a much better overall experience.

    Good luck, there’s not a lot of love for bikes on TTAC but it’s the most smiles per dollar you’ll ever spend.

    • 0 avatar

      Great advice. Do NOT buy a brand spanking new bike. You WILL drop it (most likely at very low speed). A used standard without too much expensive body work is probably the best bet. Something like a DRZ400SM .

  • avatar

    Whatever you buy (and that CBR500 looks pretty good) GET ABS – it will (in the age of idiots texting their way through traffic) quite likely save you a lot of grief.

    Every accident that I ever had on a bike would not have happened if those bikes had ABS.

    My Kawasaki 750S pretty much sits in the garage these days, and I’m thinking of letting it go in the spring, and that’s after owning bikes for 38 years – I’ve just seen too many knuckle-headed drivers out there, and it isn’t going to get any better with the increasing age of the population, and the increasing amount of gadgetry in new cars.

    Oh, and a full-face helmet, motorcycle jacket (with the sleeves set at a forward angle for more comfort) and sturdy pants/boots. (Edit: and good padded gloves; they give good grip and leverage, allowing you to more easily hold the throttle)

    Always assume that people will pull out in front of you, either from side streets, or making a left turn coming the opposite way, EVEN IF THEY’RE LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU. Also, when riding in the country on curvy roads, assume that wildlife (or someone stopped, fiddling with their nav system) will be around the next right-hand bend. I ride with 2-fingers on the brake lever all of the time, and it has saved me more than once.

    After all of that — HAVE FUN! ;-)

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure I’d reccomend someone learn to ride on an ABS bike. At this point MOST motorcycles don’t have ABS, and if you ever plan to ride different bikes you should get used to not counting on ABS. Likewise — this goes for bikes that brake the front & rear together. New riders need to learn how to apply both & when to use more force on one or the other.

      Now if you never plan to ride another motorcycle without ABS, ever, then by all means….

    • 0 avatar

      One of the great benefits of riding a bike is that you really learn about traction and how it relates to braking and cornering. Learning to brake at the limit of adhesion by *feeling* the front tire through the brake lever is priceless. I’m not sure that ABS is such a good idea in that it could make it harder to learn to brake at the limit. This skill has benefits on four wheels as well. It has paid off time and time again, two wheels or four. Riding a bike *requires* more skill than driving a car. You are far more likely to really need your skills on two wheels and, as a result, you get more practice than most drivers.

      Modern safety aids are great, no doubt about it. But removing the opportunity to learn the skills that make one better is a mixed blessing.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent points, one should learn these things, (as I have) but I wrecked twice to do it.
      I believe that there’s some value in “the school of hard knocks”, but on a bike, it could be the last lesson that you learn.
      Plus, I would feel somehow responsible for not stressing that ABS is FAR MORE effective at saving life on a bike, as opposed to saving sheetmetal on a car (though ABS is only now being offered on “affordable” motorcycles, and the data is not yet sufficient).
      The braking skills that you describe can still be learned (though I have no personal experience with ABS on a bike) by learning to brake right up to ABS triggering – but it may be only 95% of a “non-ABS” traction limit. This should only be tried on roads with a safe “run-off” area, with no traffic (or more ideally, at a sponsored “track day”)
      Finally, (since insurance cost was an important factor in the post), the extra cost of ABS could well be covered by a lower insurance rate – assuming that there is enough data on the effectiveness of ABS on MC’s (which I believe the insurance carriers should “fast track” to encourage manufacturers to adopt it on more models).

  • avatar

    I, too, was excited to see the new CB500 series bikes recently advertised.

    I’m 26 and have missed having a bike in my stable ever since selling my 1987 BMW K75 a couple of years ago in preparation for my son’s birth and the accompanying hospital bill. (Hey, you Canadians get high bike insurance, but then you don’t pay hospital bills for stuff like this. Life is a series of trade-offs, I guess!)

    I’ve always loved the middleweight bike class. My first bike was a Suzuki LS650P Savage. It was like a 3/4 Harley Sportster, so suffice it to say it wasn’t all that comfortable, but it was a heck of a commuter bike and fun to wrench on. Performance mods were easy because it had one carb, one cylinder. I installed a K&N air filter, did a procedure known as the “snorkelectomy,” installed a fatter main jet in the carb, and she ran like a raped ape! It saw 90 mph one time. That’s scary on a bike that in all likelihood weighed less than 300 lbs. after I had stripped most of the chrome and unnecessary accessories off of it.

    The BMW was 100 cc and two whole cylinders larger than the Suzuki, with a much taller seat height. I loved it, but it was too complex and cost a small fortune to maintain. Polar opposite of the Suzuki (and most Japanese bikes) in that regard.

    I’ve always wanted a ’70s vintage UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) like the old CB Hondas, but could never convince myself it was worth all the tinkering and the issues that come with decades of neglect or half-assed shadetree mechanic work. These new Honda 500s look like they’ll make great used buys in a few years. Too bad all the Honda motorcycle dealers in my area have closed in the last couple years!

  • avatar

    Bike insurance in Canada is ridiculous. And it has to be full year despite only 5 months of riding time. I believe it’s run by the State which means no competition possible.

    I pay 94 dollars a year for full coverage on my GS650G, including $16 a year for roadside towing and assistance.

    • 0 avatar

      No it’s not run by the state – at least not in Ontario, but it is indeed ridiculous. I am 43 years old with 25 years riding experience and insuring my Ducati Sport Classic for mandatory coverage only was around $1000 per year. The big part of the insurance is not liability per se, but rather injury benefits mandated by Ontario law – which I guess makes some sense. The insurance company’s big exposure is not the damage you are likely to do to someone else or even to your bike, but rather having to pay to look after you when you fall off and mess yourself up.

      So, there is some sense in it, but it is still a ripoff. Proof? If you buy a second bike, the additional insurance cost is exactly the same as you are paying for the first bike. Who calculated that a rider with two bikes is twice the risk as a rider with one bike? Logically, the second bike should cost a small fraction of what you pay for the first.

      When I lived in the US (GA) bike insurance was about 1/5 of what I pay now. Or would pay. I finally got so annoyed that I took the bike off the street and now only ride on the track. Way more fun, and cheaper too.

  • avatar

    I’m not feeling too sympathetic for Derek. If he really wanted a bike he’d already have one.
    The automotive parallel would be: “I’d really like to buy a car someday, but only if it’s an M3 or RS4 and inexpensive to maintain and insure.”

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Just as a data point, Derek, when Honda advertised “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” the company did not sell automobiles. It was a brilliant advertising campaign. In the US, at least (don’t know about Canada) motorcycling was associated exclusively with bad-ass people who kicked butt for sport, smelled bad, dealt in questionable commerce and rode big Harleys.

    So, Honda’s smallest bike was a 50 cc job with a centrifugal clutch that just about anyone could use on the first attempt. And, for several years the largest displacement bike that Honda sold was a 450 twin. Somewhat larger displacement European bikes were around, such as the fairly famous Triumph Bonneville, a 650 dual-carb twin, and the Norton Commander, which, IIRC was 700 ccs.

    Then Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda made Harleys somewhat socially acceptable, at least to the stoner set, in the movie “Easy Rider.” I saw the movie when it was released and never got off on it, straight or stoned, but the use of “Born to be Wild” as the soundtrack for the riding scenes was truly inspired.

    However, the inescapable fact is that two wheels (no matter how modestly or greatly powered) in a 4-wheeled world is a little dangerous. In the summer of 1969 I was working the night shift at the Dolley Madison cakes factory on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles to make some money. There was an interesting collection of characters there, and one of them, whom I called the Surf King, was about 6’2″ 200 lbs. in the right places, blonde and had the kind of skin that doesn’t really tan but turns sort of reddish. The Surf King said he was saving up money so he could go out to Hawaii and catch the winter set (of waves.) When I shared with the Surf King my idea of looking for a used Honda 450, he threw a bucket of cold water on it. He said, “man you could be just minding your own business, not doing anything crazy, riding your bike and then you go around a corner and there’s a greasy spot in the road and Bang! you’ve laid the bike down. Not a good idea; don’t do it.”

    So, I figured if the Surf King didn’t think getting a bike was a good idea, then maybe I shouldn’t get one . . . and I didn’t, even though “you meet the nicest people on a Honda.”

  • avatar

    When I was a 20-something on my first deployment to Iraq I used to lust after the 2003 Yamaha R6 (the one with the black fairing with red flames), but ended up with a Suzuki GSX-R 600. A few months later it met its demise at the hands of a black Camaro without brake lights. The police and insurance company deemed it was her fault and I promptly blew the insurance money on women and partying instead of another bike.

    A few years later I found myself on a third deployment to Iraq during the 2008 fuel price spike. On a dare, I purchased a cheap Chinese scooter when I returned home. I’m not ashamed to admit I loved it. More so than the Suzuki, even.

    Yet a few more years passed and I found myself on a FOURTH deployment. This time to Afghanistan. The Chinese scooter met the end most Chinese scooters meet: it slowly fell apart from shoddy materials and design. I replaced it with a 2012 Genuine Psycho Buddy. I’ve never been happier.

    Moral of this overly-long story: Give scooters a chance!

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I owned a Ninja 250 in college. Great little bike, compact, quick, easy to ride, but if I had to get back on two wheels again, I’d get something like my girlfriend-at-the-time’s $400 chinese scooter. Talk about maneuverable, and the 50mph top speed keeps you out of most trouble.

    • 0 avatar

      Scooters and maxi-scooters are superb for storage. I’m lusting after a T-Max to supplement my motorcycle. I’m surprised more people don’t ride them.

      I’d recommend a Taiwanese scooter over a Chinese model though for the peace of mind. Although there are probably some really nice Chinese bikes out there. Probably not the $400 specials though!

    • 0 avatar

      Scooter Depot has some great deals on those off-brand imports:

      • 0 avatar

        You can buy a decent Japanese- or American-made bike on Craigslist for a grand and a half. It’ll be 15 years old and beat-up.

        Think back to the last Harbor Freight tool you had disintegrate in your hand. Didn’t take long, did it? For me, that’s last week, an Allen key that snapped loosening a bolt.

        Now, think about that tool instead being your swingarm pivot… or your front axle… or your brake caliper mount… or your handlebar… or one of many St. Peter bolts on a motorcycle.

        They’re called St. Peter bolts because that’s whom you’ll see next if they break at speed.

        (Edited for grammar – you’ll see him, so use “whom”)

      • 0 avatar

        What mnm4ever said. (Mine was a ball-end allen key, too).
        Friends do not let friends ride sketchy Chinese motorcycles.

        For the $2500 they’re asking, go find the local version of CraigsList and take your pick of motorcycles with actual manufacturers, parts support and metallurgy involved in their design. Best bet: last generation Ninja 250. You are guaranteed to basically never be able to lose money buying (and then later reselling) this motorcycle.

      • 0 avatar

        @Phil and @chaparral — you have a point, but the last-gen Ninja is just soooo ugly, it looks poverty spec. The current one looks great, but is $3500 or so even for a used one. And ancient Japanese bikes are even more so.

        While I understand the hesitation on the chinese scooters, in reality you get what you pay for even in that market. The $400 knock offs they sell at the local flea market are terrible, but the $2k+ ones are actually made pretty well. You would be surprised at the quality. And it won’t be 15 yrs old, questionably maintained, rusty, or require hundreds of dollars to make road worthy or safe.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Derek, better yet a Vespa with a luggage box. Find one with at least a 125cc engine. Hang with the hipsters at coffee shops; no not really, flirt with hot hipster women at the coffee shops. I had a Sportster, Ducati and a Vespa at one time. All the women that came over wanted to try driving the Vespa.

    • 0 avatar

      Absolutely. Scooters are fun! I’ve rented scooters in europe and in San francisco- there are loads of fun in an urban environment. Unlike a motorrcycle you don’t have to go very fast to have fun. Actually the older 2 stroke scooters are even more fun than the current 4 strokers.

      Another one is mini motorcycles. Z50’s, monkey bikes, YSR50 and Trail 70’s. These are loads of fun too if you can fit on one. My earliest riding and crashing experience was on a monkey bike.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. With all the bikes I’ve owed over the decades, I also did three years one a Jinan Qingqi 150cc scooter. And found that for commuting, if you’re not counting on more than 50mph, a scooter puts a motorcycle to shame in traffic. Currently looking at one of the 150cc Hondas.

  • avatar

    Ontario does not have Government run insurance. That being said,my bike riding friends agree, that its a nightmare.

    @ Derek…Read “DougD” above…great advice.

    • 0 avatar

      Most of the insurance might not be provided by the Government (you can still get Government facility insurance, but its ridiculously expensive) but it’s the regulation (ie no fault, mandated injury coverage) that makes it so expensive along with the Toronto factors.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey thanks. I’ve been preaching this message for 20 years, amazing how many people don’t take it then prove me right.

  • avatar

    My first bike was an asphalt chewing Honda CB 50. It was purchased while in college in the late 80’s and would routinely get trounced by the larger scooters of the day but I didn’t care. After all, I was riding a motorcycle.

    I’m sure your aware of the risks and rewards of riding so I feel no need to repeat. An SV 650 is a great choice but then again I have a thing for V-twin torque. The Hondas are definitely worthy of your consideration but if you’re looking for something a bit more exotic, KTM has just released the Duke 390. It’s a thumper and looks like a lot of fun.

    Ride safe. Ride smart.

  • avatar

    In June of this year, I bought my first “bike”, actually classified as a maxi-scooter. It is a Suzuki Bergman 650 Exec. It has a relatively large motor with plenty of power for a touring bike, CVT transmission capable of automatic or manual shifting, power windshield and mirrors, and ABS brakes. The top speed is governed at 125mph, and I’ve had it up to 90mph before chickened out on the highway. It’s been great on road trips that lasted a week.

    If you;re looking for a well-behaved touring bike, I would recommend looking at a maxi-scooter. Especially if you want to pay $10k instead of $20k+ for a Goldwing or Harley.

  • avatar

    My advice to anyone on the fence, or mildly opposed to riding, is to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and get your license.

    In one weekend, for two hundred bucks, you’ll know whether you’ll enjoy riding, and how fast you’ll be able to improve as a rider to the standard you need to get to.

    I got my license last January. Since then, I’ve driven maybe 2,500 miles, and ridden 11,000. A motorcycle is a lot more convenient, if you don’t mind smelling like an old pair of motorcycle pants. A motorcycle is a lot more fun on the open road, if you aren’t so far over your head that you can’t touch the throttle without panicking. A motorcycle is a lot cheaper to run, if you don’t ride like a blithering idiot. There are riders who get 2,000 miles out of a pair of sportbike tires. There are riders who get 9,000 plus two trackdays. The operator matters more on a motorcycle than a car.

    If you’re lighter than the average motorcycle journalist, a 250 is remarkably quick. For a 200-lb rider, 90 mph top speed and 0-60 in 6 or 7 seconds is all you get. If you’re sub-150, and hide well behind the fairing, you’ll break 100 and hit 60 in the mid-5s.

  • avatar

    Florida doesn’t require insurance on motorcycles, probably why so many young douchie guys ride them like morons here. But it makes it nice for guys like me to get one to ride occasionally without having to spend a lot on insurance.

    As for bikes, consider the newer Ninja 250. It is a really good looking bike that is very cheap to buy and own, I bet insurance would be pretty low too as it is fairly low powered. The problem with bikes here in the US at least is we either have very slow underpowered ones, or too powerful, nothing in between. The Ninja 650 is a great bike but still way too much more a new rider. Personally I am planning to pick up a Ducati Monster 600 or 696.

  • avatar

    At 20 years old I started on an ’89 Ninja 600. The bike was a bit of a basketcase, and it was quick (0-60 in under 4 seconds). Honestly, I knew it then and I still believe it now: I would’ve been better served by a less powerful bike. It would’ve been safer, less stressful, and I’d likely be a more skilled rider today. Ironically, the reason I wound up with the 600 was because I couldn’t find a used 250 for anywhere near the price of my 600.

    For some reason people get really snobby really quickly about bikes. I once had a guy (who drove a rusty, riced Civic) sneer at my bike and say, “If I were to get one it would be an R1.” Well guess what? I had a bike, and he didn’t, and mine was more than fast enough to be fun (and occasionally terrifying). Trust me: a new rider on a Ninja 250 will have a blast as long as he’s in it for the riding and not to show off. If 0-60 in 7 seconds is quick enough for a car, why wouldn’t it be quick enough on a bike that you’re only just starting to learn to ride? And you’ll feel confident chucking it around much more quickly than a more powerful machine.

    I find it ironic and a little silly that even track riders will often have a less powerful bike for the track than what they ride on the street. Why? Because no one but a near-pro racer could exploit a modern sport bike’s full power on a track.

    In the end, I think a motorcycle is one of those things like travelling – people like to say how much they love it because it makes them sound interesting, but few really mean it enough to put in the effort to actually do it. For years, I made the compromise of living in the city where a car wasn’t necessary, and that freed up the cash for a couple of nice bikes. People thought I was stupid for having no car and a $15,000 VFR, especially when it was near-freezing and raining out when I rode to work, but then they’d also tell me how lucky I was to have such a cool ride.

    Derek, whether you get a bike or not is up to you, but if you’re making excuses, it’s because you didn’t want one badly enough (which is ok; after an accident I replaced my VFR with my Miata, too. I may get another cheap one just for the track one day).

  • avatar

    Man up and buy an older japanese bike, learn how to fix it as well how to ride it. From there move on to faster and newer machinery, with its associated higher costs.

    Nothing feels quite as good as having properly synched and jetted a pair of carbs and then tearing around on a post-tune test ride.

  • avatar

    Does Canada make you insure off-road only bikes as well? Another great cheaper (and safer) way to get into motorcycling is get a dirt bike. They are very inexpensive and its hard to not have fun on them. No licensing, registration, insurance, very little chance of a car running you over on the trails. I am betting Canada has some incredible off road riding areas too.

    I am moving very close to this huge state park thats specifically for dirt biking, it will be about a 15 min drive away. You just made me think about getting some motocross bikes instead of a street bike!

  • avatar

    As long as it is quiet go for it. I hate the loud bikes. If we could carry guns and shoot bad drivers with no penalty, the roads would be much quieter.

  • avatar

    Wow ! Even my highest insurance in the USA state NJ has very cheap MC insurance . Probably since they figure most involved in a bad crash will just die and not have to have the large cost of a long hospital stay and therapy . My advice would be to look for something like a good used SV650 , pay cash , and insure it for liability only – if indeed that is an option in Canada . Isn’t summer only like two weeks long up there anyway ? Can’t imagine a very long riding season up there including spring and summer so insuring for 6 months only then turning in the plates and re-registering when the riding season begins might cut costs if that is an option . One great thing about motorcycles is that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot and absolutely blow the majority of cars off the road when the light turns green . And corners are so much more fun !

  • avatar

    Do not buy a new motorcycle.

    The return to sensible displacement and respectable equipment at a reasonable price is alluring, but many motorcycle buyers do not focus on the intangibles of ownership so the manufacturers ignore the intangibles as well. The big problem is crash protection.

    ‘Dress for the crash, not for the ride’. I’m sure you’ve heard this simple maxim before. Unfortunately, bike manufacturers do not apply this maxim to bike construction, which puts pressure on the new rider demographic. Crash protection is left to the aftermarket, and riders are forced to sift through mountains of unrefereed information about the pros/cons of various modifications and various products. Crash protection could be engineered and equipped as standard, but the manufacturers prefer to leave the bikes largely unprotected. Experienced riders are partly to blame for the situation, but the motorcycle manufacturers also had incentives to make the bikes fragile. If a bike is totaled, and the rider has collision insurance, the manufacturer gets two sales. The problem became so bad in the middle of last decade that many insurance companies stopped offering collision for the US market.

    If you want to be smart, find a used bike with a cash strapped owner. People are often forced to sell their bikes b/c they can’t afford upcoming maintenance like new tires, chain, valve-adjustments. You can get these bikes for a nice discount and provide the current owner with much needed cash.

    BTW, the CBR 250 does look the business. It is not styled according to the existing CBR1000RR; instead, the CBR250 is styled after the Honda V4 concept bike.

  • avatar

    You’re in Ontario? two words then: State Farm

    when I was 24, 2001 Honda CBR600F4i was $1100/year with liability and fire/theft.
    after I turned 25, 2004 Honda CBR1000RR was… $1100 per year.
    My 2008 CBR1000RR was full coverage and was … $1210 per year.

    Trick is, they require having a car with them. My 2011 Mustang is 89$ per month full coverage. And you need to have 5 years driving experiance. (they didn’t care if I had an M1, M2, or full M)

    And as for gear coverage? Well, I was cut off and crashed my 2001 R1 (downsized due to house purchase) in July. They paid for my jacket, pants, boots, and 750$ Shoei.

    Your price might vary in Toronto, but shouldn’t be too far off.. I’m in Ottawa.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Some advice from a Decade+ casual (only 40K miles or so) motorcyclist.

    a: Buy an Aerostich. One and done. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made as a motorcylist was not buying a ‘stich as my first riding suit. I bought one (finally) 6 years ago, and its brilliant still.

    b: Get a bike with ABS, which both good beginner bikes out there (the new Ninja 300 and the CBR500 offer). On a car, if you lock a wheel, eh, whatever. On a bike, if you lock the front and don’t react in a bare fraction of a second, you WILL crash.

    c: Look at the new Ninja 300 first. Its down a bit on power, but should be gloriously thrashable as its also down a good 40 lbs or so on weight. There is a reason the Ninja 250 was the best selling bike in America, and the 300 is everything that the 250 was with More Powah. If I had the time to do more trackdays, I’d pick one up and sell my SV650 trackday toy…

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I love Bike entries on TTAC.

    Too bad on Canadian insurance.

    I have a 2011 CBR250RA. Its nice on paper, and OK in person. Its very lightly constructed of cheap materials; built very carefully to a very low price. Bolts snap instead of coming off. Its deeply inferior in this regard my old EX 250F8 which was my last 250. That EX was quite a bit faster, a much more exciting engine. Same when compared to my old 2004 GS500F or old 2001 SV650 or current 2004 AN650 and 2006 DL650. The CBR is sitting for sale in my local Yamaha shop, waiting for spring. I have good reason to fear the CBR500 is made of the same cheap stuff as the 250.

    If you were in my camp I would push strongly towards clean low mile GS500F or an earlier E. That is one sweet bike. It was panned at the time of original release for its agricultural engine. Only revs in a nice snarly yet balance-shaft-smooth-twin fashion to 9k before dropping off. Hahaha. Costs $0.40 to rejet both carbs so it pulls smoothly from 2k in top gear and gets 60mpg. Admittedly crap suspension just like the 2013 CBR500 in the photo or any cheap bike.

    FI is nice I suppose, but carbs work fine if you don’t let them sit for years without riding. Go look at the expense and hassle of changing a fuel filter on an FI bike.

    ABS is nice I suppose. I have never locked up and went down in all my decades of riding. I have crashed doing stoppies.

    For actual comfort buy a touring bike, ride inside a wind bubble. The AN650 is not a touring bike and while huge it is cramped. People do love them but mine goes up on the block next spring.

    • 0 avatar

      Out of curiosity, which bolts did you snap off your CBR250RA? I took my fairings off to add my fuel controller, but didn’t have any issues with bolts.

      I did have a rattle near the windscreen, but it turned out to be the bolts that hold the gauge surround to the front fairing. A bit of thread-locker blue fixed that for good.

      I did lock up the front on my other midi-scooter and rashed up the plastics during the slide. Hit a patch of oil while braking and evading an obstacle. Went down in the blink of an eye. Although I practice my panic stops, I’m nowhere near perfect all the time. I find it very useful for riding year-round in rain.

      ABS is very nice to have; it frees up valuable attention and concentration to let me pick and commit to an escape route.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny ro

        I put a two brothers can on it, and the muffler clamp bolt snapped coming off on that bike with 800 miles on it. Broke another forget which. Others were seemingly torqued too tight, very hard to remove. The can is way too loud, went back to OEM.

        Kevin Cameron wrote in Cycle World a while back that oil patches on asphalt do not bother modern tires, partly because they are made up of petroleum. You get a gallon of liquid petro out of a car tire if you process it right. I was surprised to read that about the traction. Not sure I quite get it.

      • 0 avatar

        Now that you mention it, I did snap one of the bolts for my stock exhaust during removal. I wasn’t going back to it since I enjoyed my Leo Vince SBK exhaust far better.

        Oil and wet leaves are very low friction. I haven’t read that Cycle World article, but maybe Kevin Cameron was talking about oil patches affecting the durability of the tire and not grip? Racing bikes have catch pans underneath to catch dripping oil and safety wire to prevent backing out of drain bolts. Oil is very slippery.

  • avatar

    OK, let’s get something straight right out of the box. Your first motorcycle is not going to be cool, it’s not going to give you street cred, it’s not going to be the hot ride that picks up the chicks. That’s your second ride. Your first ride is going to (hopefully) be some old Japanese cruiser (no, I don’t care what style of bikes you’re into, I’m assuming you want to become competent at riding a motorcycle) in decent cosmetic and good mechanical condition.

    The reason for the above is: You’re going to dump it. At least once. Most likely, repeatedly. Sportbike bodywork is expensive. Cruisers have the one wonderful trait of being incredibly forgiving to rider stupidity.


    My first bike (1976) was a Kawasaki G3-SS (100cc 2-stroke street). Yes, I outgrew it within four months and replaced it with a ’72 Honda CB350. But in those four months I learned how to ride on a bike that I could actually handle, and had a horsepower rating commensurate with my experience as a motorcycle rider.

    End of old fart rant. And yeah, of the innumerable people in the last 36 years that have asked my advice, only one has listened to the above and followed it. She’s still riding. She’s one hell of a rider thru the twisties.

    • 0 avatar

      This is why I ended up on a Triumph Bonneville for my first bike. It’s not insanely fast, and it’s a standard.

      Insurance is dirt cheap and just going out and riding it puts a grin on my face. Lastly, it’s a classic style with fuel injection so it starts everytime and yet looks great.

      By riding this, I get outside of the whole cruiser/sportbike argument and just get to enjoy riding.

      It’s definitely not fast, and the only drawback is that it’s a bit heavy for a beginning rider. It’s so easy to ride though that I don’t see that as much of a problem.

  • avatar

    Another nice thing about buying a used Japanese bike is that the J-manufacturer motorcycle styling is cyclical. (Forgive the wholly unintended pun.)


    I bought my Zephyr well-used as a first bike. I’ve laid it down four or five times, twice at a decent clip. The old guys are right. Be careful.

  • avatar

    Funny that… I’m Canadian as well and I started riding when I was 17 because the insurance was CHEAPER on a bike. Cars were completely out of the question. And I never looked back; I still ride bikes, don’t own a car and have no desire to own one. I only come on on here for the entertainment.

    Think you have it bad in Ontario eh. Have a look at what we have to endure in Quebec and tell me how terrible things are for you again…

    Right, now about when you are getting into the saddle (and you’d damn well better, because if you are going to waffle over it online you’d better be prepared to follow through or I’ll be sorely disappointed). The SV is a superb choice. I had one. Fun. Easy to modify. Easy to fix. Good power. Good handling. Good brakes. Good comfort. Not a dumbed down beginner bike at all. It’s my number 1 recommendation for beginners who are put off by weedy Ninja 500s and craptacular GS500s. I got mine as my third bike and I had a lot of fun with it.

    For new, sub 600cc there is also the Ninja 300/400 which looks decent.

    The real ticket for a fun, cool, ass-kicking beginner bike is a 400cc Japanese import. Lots available in Ontario. Look for a Honda VFR/RVF400 or any other 400cc-four cyl supersport from the late 80s early 90s. Avoid beat up ones, pay the extra for a clean and well maintained example. You’ll be rewarded with a sparkling, honest-to-god sportbike that just happens to have a very manageable powerband (limited to a 60hp). Be warned that parts are hard to get, but generally they are well built and dead-nuts reliable if maintained. What little does go wrong can be fixed with parts from other models. I had a VFR400R and I miss it a lot. That little thing taught me how to carve twisties and properly flog a sportbike. Also super cheap to insure.

    DO NOT go all squidly and buy a supersport/superbike. Please. For the love of all that is holy. If you don’t hurt yourself, you’ll probably scare yourself shitless and never get on a bike again.

  • avatar

    At the risk of sounding like your MOM… :-)

    Know your TIRES!

    First: Get a bike that has alloy wheels and is spec’ed for RADIAL tires. Spoked wheels and inner-tube tires might be OK for looks and cruising, but if you run over a nail (especially in a corner), your tire will go flat much faster as the air has an extra path of escape (around the tube, into the wheel, and through the spokes and un-sealed bead).

    A “touring” or “sport-touring” tire will have less (but more consistent) traction than a “sport” tire at different temperatures, wear more evenly, and last longer, because they use a “harder” compound (some modern tires actually have a harder compound for the center tread area, and a softer one for the outers).

    I would suggest the “touring” tire for a new rider, because there are fewer “surprises” – you can step-up to a sport tire once you learn the handling and braking limits on a “less-sticky” tire.

    If you want the most traction and performance in the twisties, then a sport or touring-sport compound will give you the best experience, keeping in mind that they have to be “warmed-up” by a few miles of riding before you can push them. If you go riding in cold weather (less than 40 degrees) sport tires may not reach their maximum traction at all, and you have to recognize this. They also wear much faster – generally, 2000-3000 miles before the rear tire gets thin.

    If you choose “sport” tires, replace BOTH, even if there’s still tread on the front – most riding is spent upright, so tires still tend to wear “flat” in the center; if you replace just the rear, the bike won’t handle properly, as the rear tire will have a “rounder” profile, vs. the “flatter” profile of the front – you’ll end up riding differently (due to muscle memory), then if you replace the set, the bike will “surprise” you with how easily it “falls” into turns.

    “Sport” tires are so “cutting edge” that you’ll find differences between different manufacturers in wear, temperature, noise, and at-limit adhesion, so recognize this, and learn the differences. Once you find a set that you like, stick (heh) with them. I’m running a set of Pirelli Diablos on my Z750S right now, and they do stick like the “devil”, but not when cold – and they’re pretty expensive, too.

    Remember, you have to break-in any set of new tires with 50-100 miles of riding, using the method of “increasing aggressiveness” in your corners, until you’ve worn off the “rubber nipples” and the slick new rubber to the point where your “chicken strips” (the unworn area on the sidewalls) are at the point where your old tires were (depending on your personal cornering limits).

    I reiterate the importance of ABS, but that’s only while braking – the choice of tires is super-important when you’re NOT braking.


  • avatar

    Let logic prevail, don’t but a motorcycle. I know the mental process your going through:

    You know that the death rate is 20-200 times higher than cars, but you can put that aside. You’ll get the best safety equipment. A lot of the deaths are caused by riders being idiots, and you won’t be that idiot. My answer to this is that your wrong, and you should really think about your willingness to die. You will ride aggressively, excessively fast. You will. Yes, you will. Youre 25. A coworker of mine knew a man who was in an accident, and he walked away. His girlfriend died though, she was on the back. Same coworker stopped riding when his safety instructor from the training course lost his head, literally. Look at the riding forums, most have a section dedicated to “RIP Rider”. Just do yourself a favor and think about it. It’s all anecdotes, but there are truths to anecdotes.

    None of those arguments worked on me though. What stopped me was a friend who I respect. He said “I know you’re a careful guy. Before you go for it, think about the time, the money, and the fact you live in Toronto. It’s the time. You won’t want to commute with it. In Ontario its cold half the year. Some people can find the time, if that’s their thing. But I know you, you like exercise, traveling, cars, your friends, your career, running, cycling, backcountry camping, you family, etc. how much time will you honestly be able to enjoy it?”

    my .02

    • 0 avatar

      20-200 times? Hmmm…

      “Motorcycles are the most dangerous type of motor vehicle to drive. These vehicles are involved in fatal crashes at a rate of 35.0 per 100 million miles of travel, compared with a rate of 1.7 per 100 million miles of travel for passenger cars.”

      I love statistics. It looks like I can ride another 2,857,142.86 (100 million/35) miles before I get killed on my bike, given that I’m not already dead…

      • 0 avatar

        When you adjust for riders who were drinking, that number gets substantially closer.

        Drinking and an activity that requires balance is very poor judgement.

      • 0 avatar

        Another way to look at those numbers – cars protect their passengers. It has actually become hard to die in a cage. Motorcyclists are far less likely to get involved in any crashes in the first place. That being said, if your bike does crash, you are quite likely to die, or at least lose some crucial spare parts.

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