Women Riders

Purchasing Your First Bike

Written by  October 31, 2003

So you want to ride solo! Congrats on your decision to become a riding diva on your own scooter. Assuming you have completed a motorcycle safety course, passed the state written exam, and obtained your motorcycle license, it’s time to buy a machine. Let the fun begin!

So where do you start your search for the perfect ride? Here are a few suggestions that helped me when I purchased my first bike and I hope they help you as well. If anyone has other tips you’d like to share, please bring them on.

Unless you have already done your homework and know the make and model of bike you want to buy, you might start by checking out the web sites of the motorcycle manufacturers you are considering and research the models in which you are interested. Our Motorcycle Manufacturers page contains links to some of the more popular manufacturers which should help you get started. Most manufacturers provide detailed information on the bikes they offer and have easy to use comparison charts to help you narrow down your search.

I found it helpful to print each page of the specs for a comparison and read the reviews from riders who critiqued the bike’s handling on various road surfaces, curves and altitudes. Yamaha’s web site even listed the pros and cons of particular models, which I found even more helpful.

While features such as style, size, color and accessories are important, for those of us who may be somewhat “vertically challenged,” don’t forget to check the seat height to make sure you can touch the ground flat footed.

Next, go to the National Automobile Dealer Association (N.A.D.A.) or Kelly Blue Book web site and check the retail price for the year, make and model you are considering. This will give you a base price to compare with the asking price from a seller. Unless you live in an area with a year round riding season, off peak times such as late fall and winter are traditionally the best times of the year to find a great deal. Purchasing a bike during this time normally leaves you more room for negotiation.

With my Polaroid camera in tow (now digital), I visited several dealerships and looked at both new and used bikes. Also make sure to check out the classifieds in your local newspaper and check with local motorcycle clubs and organizations in your area that may have members selling their bikes. If you have friends or business associates who ride, make sure to tell them you are looking for a bike and you may be surprised how fast word of mouth gets around in the motorcycle community.

One obstacle you may encounter with certain individuals and dealers is not being able to take the bike for a test ride. I was lucky when I bought mine, because the dealer just took a copy of my motorcycle license and off I went. You can at least ask, and all they can do is say no. Speaking of test rides, many of the larger motorcycle rallies offer free demo rides from various manufacturers. Normally, all that is required is a motorcycle license, DOT approved helmet, boots, gloves and protective eye wear. This is an excellent way to really see how a bike feels and handles before making a purchase.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when checking out a bike:

Is the seat comfortable and can you touch flat-footed? You can wear different height boots, but you don’t want to be tipped-toed
Is the weight of the bike well centered? The weight isn’t as much of a factor when riding down the road; however, you want to be able to easily move the bike around when trying to get out of a tight parking spot or backing out of your garage.
While sitting in an upright position, are the handgrips in an easy to reach and comfortable angle? Your arms should be slightly bent to avoid fatigue on longer trips.
Can you reach the highway pegs, if equipped? If not, can they be adjusted?
If equipped with a windshield, can you see over it while sitting in a comfortable position? In inclement weather, your windshield can become hard to see through, so it’s important you can see over the windshield.

Also, make sure to find out as much as you can about the bike and its history. How many owners, highway or city mileage, are service records available, where is the bike normally serviced, has it ever been wrecked, is there an extended warranty if buying a used bike from a dealer, and how negotiable is the price. If you’ve done your homework, you should be able to negotiate a price that is acceptable to both you and the seller. If not, don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal and look at other bikes. Make sure to get a business card and take a photo of the bike before leaving to help you remember certain features.

Whew! Are you exhausted yet? I was so drained that I went home and changed into some comfy clothes, fixed some popcorn, grabbed a cold one, and sat down to digest all the data I’d gathered on each potential bike. I matched the pictures with the specs I’d printed from the Internet, which made it much easier to sort out.

Your final decision should be based on “how YOU felt on the bike.” Did it fit your body type? Write down the pros and cons of each bike to help you start the elimination process. Don’t be pressured to buy a certain brand if it didn’t feel comfortable to you. Advice and support from family and friends is greatly appreciated, but ultimately, you are the one who will be riding it, so you must be the one to make the final decision.

I previewed six bikes before buying my 750 Yamaha Virago. When I sat on it, I knew it was the one. It fit me perfectly and had all the accessories I wanted. I was so ecstatic I could hardly wait to take it home and turn the dream of riding my own bike into a reality!

I have found that if you respect your bike and the power behind it, use good common sense, and always ride within your ability, you will have a long and happy life as you join the ranks of fellow riding divas!

- Goldie
“Never ride faster than your angel can fly”