The pure joy and thrill of cruising down the highway and scenic curves on a two-wheeler is breathtaking. Dangerous though it may be, any motorcycle rider can tell you about the sense of freedom and excitement it provides. No car, no matter how expensive or luxurious it is, can match the feeling. But riding a motorcycle requires sharp skills, quick reflexes, a keen mind and ability to keep your cool under even under adverse situation.
Here’s a quick rundown of everything all motorcyclists should know about owning a motorcycle, including road safety and up keep of their fun-ride.
The first thing you should know is the bike basics.
Motorcycles have come a long way since they were first introduced by the legendary German designers Wihelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler in 1885. Now we have different kind of motorcycles for different purposes. However, they mostly fall under the five basic categories:
• Sportbikes: They’re especially popular in the U.S. Sportbikes are designed for high performance and higher speed. They need intense power, therefore, it is recommended to avoid one during the first few of years of your riding life.
• Cruisers: When we say cruisers, we mostly think about Harley Davidson. However, there are many other bike manufacturers making cruiser bikes as well. Ideal for a laid-back riding position, they are not made for super-high performance situations like racing. They mostly have large engines.
• Dual-sport: These bikes, at their most basic, are just dirtbikes and it is generally illegal to ride them on public roads. However, slapped with some lights and mirrors, manufacturers are trying to make them street-legal. Supermoto bikes are also a type of dual-sports bikes; the only difference is that they have street-only tires. Dual-sports are a good choice for new riders due to their smaller engines and light-weight. But they usually have very high seats and for some these bikes can be too tall to ride safely. If you want them, considering buying bikes that are installed with lowering kit.
• Touring: They come in shapes and sizes and are ideal for long-distance travel. Some of the touring bikes such as BMW K1600GTL or Honda Goldwing have large fairings windshields, luggage trunks, GPS and even stereos, making them best-suited for travelling longer distance. Besides, there are others that are more stripped-down and come with high seats to allow for off-road riding. They provide excellent riding experience but as a new rider you might like to avoid them for their weight and high price.
• Standard: These bikes include elements from all other categories of bikes. In fact, most of the common bikes fall into this category. Standards are good and provide better riding position. These bikes are the best bets for beginners.
The key features of your bike are important in terms of both road safety and maintenance. For example, motorcycle engine size is measured in cubic centimetres and it is usually included as a part of the bike’s name, though not always. You need to know this kind of information when buying parts for your motorcycle.
The seat height is also important and you’ll probably need to upgrade it at times. Whether you are buying a motorcycle or upgrading an old one, remember that your seat height must be at a level where your feet comfortably touch the ground while in a sitting position. Depending on your height, you need to select a seat height that feels solid while sitting.
Also, consider the weight of the bike. If you’re planning a lot of highway riding, heavier bikes are good choice but they are also difficult to maneuver. Take the weight of the bike and your strength into consideration when buying a motorcycle.
New vs. Used
One thing to remember here – your dream bike should never be your first bike. Cruisers and sportbikes are dreams of many, but it is better to start riding on a basic bike at least for the first couple of years. Also, don’t buy a new bike until you’ve some riding hours under your belt. You’re more likely to drop your bike more than once when start riding on one and you will never like those scratches and dents on your dream bike.
However, when you are buying a used motorcycle remember that there will be some inevitable repairs to go with it. You will undeniably spend less money on a used bike, but do consider the amount associated with repair and maintenance. Buying new bikes, on the other hand, has its perks. It will definitely run great and besides, you new bike is backed by a warranty and offers on maintenance.
Those who have a strict budget, opt for used bikes but make sure all the legal documents are in place and the bike-seller has a clean title i.e. there are no lingering ticket or worst still, the bike is not stolen.
You Need Gear
It’s just not the motorcycle, you’ll need biking gear. Abide by the code of “all the gear, all the time” for your safety and others. Put on your helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots every time you ride. Go for the full-face helmets as they provide the best possible protection. Besides, it should be DOT-approved and fit you correctly. As far as helmet brands are concerned, Scorpion, Bell, Icon, Schuberth and Shoei offer quality products.
For nice and comfortable gloves, you can rely on Scorpion, Alpinestars, Dainese and Icon. Irrespective of the brand, make sure your gloves have knuckle protectors.
Get Licensed, Ride Legal
You will need to get a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license to ride legally in the U.S. Besides, statistics show that riders who are unlicensed or invalidly licensed are more likely to get involved in a crash. The reason behind this is that licensed riders take motorcycling seriously, ride sober and legally.
The process for licensing and endorsement varies from state to state. Some states also need you to have a motorcycle learner’s permit when you’re learning to ride one. Here again, you have to sit for a written test. Your local Department of Motor Vehicles is the best place to get more details about these processes.
Insurance is another factor you need to consider. Make sure you have the required motorcycle insurance coverage to avoid legal harassment as well as to save you back should you meet an accident.
Last Few Words
Now that we have discussed almost everything you need to know about owning a motorcycle, there is just one important factor you need to remember. To ride a motorcycle you need training and by training we mean from someone who is professionally trained to do the work. You best friend is probably an excellent rider but he is not necessarily your best teacher. There are many riding courses that are specially designed to match your riding skills and help you to become a licensed motorcyclist.
Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers such rider courses, passing which will automatically make you eligible in many states to get a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license.