Some advice for choosing your first bike

I bought my first street bike when I was 17 for $500, an old Honda VF500 Magna that was covered in barn dust and didn’t run. I spent the rest of that summer cleaning carbs, tracing wires, and talking to people more in-the-know about these things than I. By that fall I had it purring like a kitten, which it still does today. In a perfect world I would have bought a shiny new sport bike, but I was young and broke and I had an obsession with the idea of tearing down the road on a motorcycle. I would have settled for any bike I could get my hands on. My advice to anyone looking for their first bike? Do what I did.


You need to ask yourself whether your heart is in it for the experience of seeing the world in a new way, or whether you’re just dreaming of a shiny new toy. If you’re truly in it for the experience then any bike will do for now. Besides, without some experience on a bike, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re looking for. There are a a lot of different types of bikes out there and no bike is perfect for everyone, so you need experience to figure out what you like and what you don’t.


Stop drooling over the Harley website and check out the classifieds instead.


Get something well within your price range. There are a lot of good running bikes out there for less than $1000 if you look around carefully. They won’t all be pretty and some will need a little bit of TLC, so choose wisely based on your level of technical savvy. This is where knowledgeable friends come in handy. Just find something that runs, feels comfortable when you sit on it, and is safe (brakes work, from isn’t rusted through, etc.). I would recommend that you stay away from anything bigger than 650cc.


Remember that this is your first bike, so you will have lots of learning to do on it. There is a good chance that it is going to hit the ground a couple of times while you’re learning. I used to drop mine sometimes when coming to a stop or backing it out of the garage. It happens. The heartache of dropping an inexpensive used bike is much less than dropping a brand new one.


After a couple of years, if you decide that riding is truly for you, you can start saving for a new bike. Or you could opt to do what I did, and improve your first bike bit by bit over time. In any case, don’t drop the cash on a new bike until you’ve had some experience and you know whether riding is for you.