Recently we talked about the experience of buying your first motorcycle. We covered where to find your first bike, how to spot damage, leaks, and scams like a pro, and how to stay safe and remain objective during the process. Today we're going to cover a few lesser-known things you can do to mentally and physically prepare for throwing a leg over your very first motorcycle.
Chances are you've spent hours researching this very topic. You've seen people talking about riding basics like counter-steering and throttle control, and you’ve probably watched a few stunt compilations and clips from races like the Isle of Man TT. You’re well on your way to becoming a true motorcycle nerd, and whether you’re planning to hop on a street bike, dirt bike, cruiser, or something else entirely, you’re off to a great start.
There are four lesser-known ways to open your mind and body to the idea of riding a motorcycle. They might sound a little strange at first, but they offer things you simply can't get from YouTube.
Top 4 Ways to Prepare to Buy Your First Motorcycle
4. Get the Dealership Experience
This one is pretty simple: go kick some tires at your local motorcycle dealership.
For many riders, dealerships are associated with salesy salesmen wearing sales shirts and sales ties and sales shoes, trying to sell “units” and charging tons of money for even the most basic shop labor. At the other end of the spectrum, you have people who seem to think it’s a great idea to buy a brand-new Ducati as their very first motorcycle. And let me tell you, that’s a bad idea.
For the best experience, visit a dealership during non-peak hours. Go on a Tuesday afternoon when nobody’s buying anything, that way you're not wasting the salesperson’s time and effort. Be upfront and say you're not buying anything today (unless you are). Tell them you're about to buy your first motorcycle and you want to get a feel for the size, weight, and features of different styles of bikes. And if they’re not helpful, go somewhere else.
Especially if you've never ridden a dirt bike or motorcycle at all, sitting on different bikes will not feel how you think it will. Motorcycles are big, heavy, often unwieldy machines, and it's best to get a feel for that before jumping into traffic on your first motorcycle. This will also give you a chance to try on gear, like helmets and jackets, and get an idea of what everything costs in the world of two wheels.
Spend an hour or two at a dealership and you'll be better prepared to hit the road. You’ll learn:
How a motorcycle works and feels
What new and used bikes cost
How gear and accessories fit
Just promise you won’t test-ride a new motorcycle unless you’re 100% sure you won’t crash it!
3. Ride a Friend’s Bike
Maybe you already have some friends who ride motorcycles. If not, you will soon!
My first motorcycle experience was on my friend’s Kawasaki Z750S, a sport bike with 107 horsepower and a top speed of 150 MPH. In hindsight that was a little ambitious of me, but the experience went well, and it allowed me to get my feet wet without investing any money. And I didn’t drop it!
Like needing job experience to get a job, the problem with buying your first motorcycle is that you won’t be able to take it on a test ride unless you already have riding experience. This is not a time to flex nuts or try to apply all those YouTube skills – you definitely don't want to crash someone else’s bike.
Most riders drop their first motorcycle, so if you ride a friend’s bike you should be prepared to have that conversation if something happens. If you don't have any friends who ride, there is another way….
2. Rent a Moped
I know, I know. I just suggested that one of the best ways to prepare to buy your first motorcycle is by pretending you just got a DUI.
But hear me out.
Renting a moped is a cheap and efficient way to get what is essentially the complete motorcycle experience.
For all intents and purposes, a 49cc moped handles the same way as a full-on motorbike. You have to counter-steer, lean, use a throttle, brake with your hands, and maybe even work a hand clutch while shifting your own gears. Those are the same things you’d do on a Suzuki Hayabusa, but a moped has a small amount of power that’s easy to manage and won’t get you in trouble.
A 49cc rental moped outranks borrowing your friend’s motorcycle for one major reason: you won't be the first person to damage it. As long as you don’t total the thing, you’re not going to owe the rental company much (if anything) for minor scratches or a low-speed tip-over. In most states you don’t even need a motorcycle license to ride one!
Renting a scooter as your first motorcycle experience will give you a feel for:
Putting your feet down at stops
Stopping, going, and shifting with your hands
Being invisible in traffic
1. Look in the Mirror
I'm pretty sure I'd lose my rights to the Internet by saying that the best way to prepare to buy your first motorcycle is renting a moped. Lucky for me, it isn’t.
We all know that motorcycles are dangerous. Even the most experienced, meticulous riders can fall victim to plain old bad luck, and nobody – I mean nobody – is too good to make a mistake now and then.
Like a seasoned airplane pilot, you won't think about the risks after you’ve been riding for a while. The most important thing will be to watch other drivers like a hawk, and the most successful beginner motorcyclists are self-aware from day one. These riders know how their actions are perceived by others, and they have a reasonable idea of how other drivers will react to their actions.
What’s more, they know what their machine is capable of – and they’re prepared to use it defensively if needed.
By getting your first motorcycle you're signing up to operate a vehicle that can be thrown out of control by a single piece of gravel. Woodland creatures will become harbingers of tragedy, and traffic? They wouldn’t see you if you were riding naked shooting fireworks with a donkey on your back seat.
It’s a balancing act that takes months to truly master. Don’t rush it and you’ll do just fine.
Top 4 Ways to Prepare for Your First Motorcycle
Tour a dealership
Ride a friend’s motorcycle
Rent a moped
Do your research
Did we miss anything? Have a secret that helped you prepare to buy your first motorcycle? Tell us in the comments!