How to Choose Your First Bike: Episode 2
Questions such as “Do I really need a bike?”, “What would I like to do with it” or “How big my fist bike should be?” have hopefully found some decent, yet not definitive answers in episode one. It's now time to move on to other important matters associated with choosing your first motorbike...
So many different models, how could I choose the right one?
Let's say you already have your mind set about what kind of a motorcycle rider you'd like to be. Still, after somewhat defining the class of your first bike, you just learn that it comes with lots of other sub-classes and even more, there are so many types of motorcycles. How do you choose the best one?
First of all we should stress that there is hardly “the best motorcycle”. The word of these machines operates on some principles which are slightly different to those guiding the rest of our lives. Whereas a certain bike model or type will fly a certain guy's kite, the very same bike may look odd, weird, ugly or even be repulsive for another. But when it comes to buying the first bike, the best choice is almost all the time a neat mixture of looks, power, comfort and money.
Different types of engines one could find on a bike come with their own pros and cons, and these pluses and minuses vary in direct relationship with what the rider is expecting. You'll most likely never see a chopper with a 4 in-line engine, as there are quite few sportsbikes with V-engines.
Likewise, motocross bikes come with smaller engines, many of them with 2-stroke design. There simply is no best bike, but a best bike for a certain purpose and rider. You should remember at least one thing: 2 cylinder engines, most of them known as the V-twins, rev a bit slower, but produce more torque for the same rpm.
On the other hand, the 4-cylinder engines, out of which most of them are the in-line type, allow for higher rpm values, produce more power when revved up high, but will also be heavier and bulkier. Or you could look into the single-cylinder motorcycles also known as “thumpers”: they deliver great torque and awesome fun (and vibrations, too), especially when you're thinking about off-road machines. Suzuki DR800 (the DR Big), Yamaha Tenere, F-650 GS BMWs are just a few terribly funny and reliable bikes.
Does my bike fit me?
Another important aspect of deciding which bike to choose concerns the ergonomic details: by all means, you should be as comfortable as possible while riding your bike, and we're not thinking about avoiding rain or sun. Bad posture leads to aches in a very short time and the pleasure of riding can transform into a nightmare in just 2-3 hours.
Much like choosing clothes, a bike should fit its intended rider in terms of height, distance and positioning of the handlebars, type of seat and last but not least, weight; and failing to chose a fitting bike will doubtlessly end up in dramatically diminished pleasure you'll draw from riding it.
Even though at the first sight you'd be tempted to believe that a certain bike model is “as good as it gets” for you, it's well worth trying to sit on one if not even take it for a quick spin before spending your dime. Elbows and wrists can become strained and sore on a sports bike if you ride on bad roads, but conversely, the comfortable straight-up position on a chopped might affect your already weak back.
Knowing where and how do you expect to use your bike and learning about each type's particularities will help you make a better decision, and acknowledging your own physical limitations (if any) will spare you a lot of future trouble. Issues with the back or wrists, knees, overall body mass or height, they're all affecting the way you sit on the bike and ultimately, the way you ride.
If you're the (always proud) owner of a big beer-belly, then it's less likely you'd feel comfortable on a Busa or on the RSV we mentioned earlier. If you're the kind of shorter, skinny guy, a Suzuki Boulevard might be way too big for you, no matter how much you like it; and riding all stretched up for many miles will not be pleasant, for sure.
Bikes can change... a bit
Nobody is perfect and no bike is perfect, at least having these two matched is rare, happy as it may be when this happens. If you're on a bike you feel good but still think it could be a bit better, don't jump to other models to soon: bikes can be adjusted. It's true, these modifications may not seem spectacular in the first place, but you'll be amazed how much does an inch (2.4 cm) really mean.
A lot of manufacturers offer different seats exactly because they know how things are going. 2 inches (roughly 5 cm) can make the difference between selling a bike or not, no matter whether we're talking about a higher or a lower seat. This distance may seem small and of lesser importance, yet it will make the difference between barely touching the ground with your feet while the bike is upright and you having a firm grip of the motorcycle, heel on the pavement.
But it's more than the seat which can be adjusted: handlebars can receive raisers and levers, switches can all be rotated and thus brought in proper and easy reach. The position of the front brake lever (on which by the way, you should always keep two fingers) and the clutch one can also be adjusted for best comfort and easy squeezing; cramped fingers and hands means longer reaction times and sloppy maneuvers and nobody wants that.
If after all these adjustments the handlebars and their command levers and switches still don't feel right, it's most likely that the bike isn't the best for you. You could spend your money on new custom handles, but since it's your first one you'd better go for somethings that needs less workshop hours. And of course, you should always keep in mind for the future that changing the shape of the handlebars affects the way a bike steers!
Since there's more to riding a bike well than hands, the position of your feet relative to the gear shifter and rear brake lever is also very important. Being able to act fast and precisely can not only increase the fun but will also better your chances to make safely through perilous situations. Thankfully, these levers and the footpegs are ever so often adjustable to a great extent and this makes bringing them to the desired position much easier.
Customized levers can be fitted on most bikes, especially choppers and sport bikes and they are meant to make the rider as comfortable as possible. Modding kits are available for gear-shift levers and rear brakes and they can change things quite a bit on the bright side. Nevertheless, provided you're not planning to spend too much dime on modding your first bike, you should make sure your feet do not have to travel too much in order to shift gears up or down, or have good control over the brake.
All in all, choosing the ideal bike comes with certain rules, some dos and don’ts, but it also comprises a guessing game. The seat-feet-hands trio plays a decisive role in choosing your bike and it is also related to the physical comfort. In the end, the fun comes from being able to ride well and safe. Choose well, friends, and ride even better!
Catch us in two weeks for the final episode of this series.