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Old 03-20-2010, 09:51 PM   #1
jeff10236
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Default Signed up for the Rider's Edge/MSF course now what?

I signed up for the Rider's Edge/MSF course at a local Harley dealer about a mile from my apartment for the end of April and first weekend in May. I've been thinking about doing this for years (I turn 40 in July, I've thought about it since my early 20's) and now I'm finally getting my license. What next?

Here is my plan:
-Take the class and then get my license the first week in May.

-At a local community college they also offer safety courses. One option is a 2 1/2 hour refresher, mostly (all?) on the bike, for those who failed the first time, those who passed but want more practice, and anyone else who wants a quick safety skills refresher. I will probably take this the weekend after I finish my RE/MSF course (they charge $45) and again the weekend before I buy a bike. They also offer an Alternate Basic Rider class for those with riding experience but no license ($230). I may take this instead of the 2 1/2 hour course (can't have too much training) just before I buy. I may even take the MSF's Experienced Rider Course (the C.College doesn't require anything but your license, the basic course, and your own motorcycle) right after I get a motorcycle (I think the ERC could mean a discount on motorcycle insurance). I'm older and more conservative these days (some may say wiser), so I figure it is best to be as safe as possible.

-I've bought boots. Not specifically motorcycle boots- I have a EEEE foot (I can sometimes make due with EEE footwear), finding boots and shoes isn't easy. Hopefully, the boots I've bought will be sufficient, if not I may be able find some heavy duty work boots that are wide enough.

-I'm about to buy the gloves and helmet required for the class I'm taking. For the helmet I'll be going as cheap as possible now (just pick up a $30-50 half or 3-quarter/open face helmet for the class) and decide what I want when I get a motorcycle. For the jacket or long-sleeved shirt, I'll probably just wear a jacket I already have and continue to research what I want in protective gear and buy it just before I buy a bike. Same with protective pants or chaps (I'll probably go with a cruiser so I may get chaps- plus I can put them on and take them off over my regular pants so I can be dressed for work and for safety).

Some general questions:
-Insurance: How does the price of motorcycle insurance compare to car insurance? I know a lot of factors are taken into consideration- age, location, possibly experience- so I'm just looking for generalities here. Am I best off going with the same company I have my renters insurance and car insurance with for the multi-line discount, or are some companies especially good for motorcycle insurance?

-Repairs: What are some typical things to go wrong on a motorcycle? Clutch, exhaust, alternators, etc? What are some maintainance items needed on a motorcycle that cars don't need? I think I saw somewhere that someone mentioned a particular bike and mentioned that it had self adjusting valves. I don't think a car has been made since the early 90's that needed valve adjustments (the Toyota Tercel, and maybe some other cars, did into the early 90's). Also, are prices for work usually going to be comparable to car repairs, or are motorcycle parts generally more or less expensive?

Some gear questions:

-Helmets: I know for safety alone, full face helmets are best. However, it gets very hot and humid in MD in the summer (85-95 degrees, with humidity that rivals some of the worst you'll find in the country). I'd worry that for summer use it may be too hot. How well does a full helmet ventilate and are they as hot as they seem? I'm thinking a full face helmet for cooler weather, and the half-helmet or 3/4 helmet I buy for the class in the summer.

-Winter gear: I realize I'll need some pretty well insulated gear to ride in the winter. What all do I need? Do full face helmets provide any protection from the cold or do I need a balaclava or at least a knit hat as well?

-Armor: I plan to buy a leather jacket with either built-in armor or pockets for armor, beyond that it gets a little confusing. CE approved? CE standards? What other standards are there, what do they mean, which ones are meaningful?

Last edited by jeff10236 : 03-20-2010 at 09:54 PM.
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Old 03-20-2010, 10:26 PM   #2
jeff10236
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I also have some motorcycle questions (yup, I read all 40 some pages of the new riders thread)...

First, out of the Japanese brands, are there any major differences in reliability? I know the reputation is that Harley isn't quite as good, but is much better than the used to be. Is that a fair assessment? Where would Triumph (the current bikes) fit?

From looking over that 40-some page monstrosity, and looking at other sites, I've noticed that the 250 Ninja is probably the most recommended beginners bike. Less so on the other site I've been checking, I've noticed that dual purpose bikes are just as lauded here for beginners. While I'm sure both are terrific first bikes, I don't like either dual purpose or sports bikes.

I am almost 6' tall (though with short legs, I have a 30" inseam) and I weigh 295LBS. A small bike probably would be pretty uncomfortable, it probably would be far too underpowered for me on the highway, and I'd outgrow it far too fast. With my size and build, even if stylistically they weren't my preference, I'd probably be most comfortable on a cruiser with some size to it.

Since I am a first time buyer, I was first looking at cruisers in the 500-650cc range. However, at several stores the salespeople suggested that staying at 500 or lower is just for sports bikes, especially with my size. Cruisers are geared differently, the engines are tuned differently, and the bike is bigger and heavier. An engine size that would be dangerous in a sports bike may be the minimum in a cruiser. It has been suggested that (especially with my size) a 500 or 650 would get old very fast and that something in the 750-900cc range would be an acceptable beginners bike that I wouldn't outgrow in a year or two. Since I've heard that at several dealers (with no suggestion from me) I might be inclined to believe it. On the other hand, I've also noticed that the vast majority of the bikes they have in stock are the 750-1100cc mid-range cruisers so they may be just trying to move stock.

In addition to a full on cruiser, I also like the HD Sportsters (the guy signing me up for the class thought I'd find one too small and uncomfortable after an hour or so riding), a mid-70s to mid-80s UJM, or a Triumph Bonneville. I noticed that several here on the big thread seem to dislike cruisers as a first bike. These are basically my non-cruiser options (the Bonneville, Sportster, or UJM).

I've also noticed that most people suggest used. New riders will eventually drop their bike, with a used bike we won't mind the scratches. This is also an occasional additional reason given for going small and light- it will be easier to pick up. However, I've noticed that there are some nice deals new right now and the price difference between late model used motorcycles and new ones is small (and actually, sometimes the new bike is cheaper). Right now I can get a new 2009 Honda Shadow Aero 750 for $5000, the Spirit for $5300, used they seem to be in the $4000-5500 range (though sometimes with some optional equipment). With the resale values of Honda, HD, and Triumph especially, I figure I could buy one new on the smaller side, ride it for 2-3 years, then (when my car is paid off) buy the $14-16K Harley I really want (and may be ready for around then) and sell the "old" bike for almost as much as I paid for it (well, assuming it isn't too scratched up from being dropped).

Of course, I'm looking at all the brands cruisers in the 750-900cc range (assuming they will be relatively safe for a beginner). As for smaller 500cc beginner bikes, I like the Suzuki S40 and Kawasaki Vulcan 500, and the 650cc Yamaha V-Star looks like an interesting compromise.

I've thought about a late 70s or early 80s UJM in the 300-500cc range. They are pretty lightweight so bigger may be too much, and in this range they should have a good amount of power. They are stable designs, and were always pretty reliable. However, a 15-25 year old machine will have problems, and parts may be difficult to obtain. So, I have almost ruled this out (though $1500-2500 for a nice starter bike may be hard to resist).

The two big wildcards are the Triumph Bonneville (or America and keep the cruiser styling) and the Suzuki TU250X.

I can get the Bonneville for around $7000-7500 new right now. The retro British styling is nice. From reviews I've read it seems like it would make a good beginners bike- it is stable, it is user friendly/forgiving (clutch is easy to operate, hard to stall, etc.), and even though it has an 865cc engine one of the biggest complaints the magazines have is that it is underpowered (maybe a good thing as a beginner). Unlike a sports bike, touring bike, or many cruisers, there isn't much plastic or additional metal hanging off it to get scratched up if I end up dropping it once or twice. Also, being a little different from what I want to end up with in a couple years when I upgrade, it may be nice to have that variety.

I'm strongly considering the Suzuki TU250. It is styled after the 70's UJMs, it seems to be very popular with the magazines, and just looks interesting. The design should be very stable (despite its size, it sounds like it does OK on short highway stints), it would be fun, and it would get great mileage. It also doesn't have many add on's (and is inexpensive) so dropping it may not be a huge deal. I only worry that I may be just a little too heavy to get much out of it. However, at $3700MSRP it would be cheap to buy new and it would be a fun "about town" bike. So, with the price, being pretty different from what I'd upgrade to, and being fun, if I go this way I'd probably keep it when I upgrade in a few years.


Oh, one really "wildcard" option, I may start out with a scooter. It is a little cheaper, I can get one anywhere from 150cc-500cc so I have a lot of power options, and they are light so anything over 200cc should be "enough". They also get incredible gas mileage. However, I hear that they do handle differently than motorcycles, and most have automatic transmissions, so I'm not sure how much the skills built with the scooter would transfer.

Last edited by jeff10236 : 03-20-2010 at 10:45 PM.
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Old 03-21-2010, 08:11 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff10236 View Post
Some general questions:
-Insurance: How does the price of motorcycle insurance compare to car insurance? I know a lot of factors are taken into consideration- age, location, possibly experience- so I'm just looking for generalities here. Am I best off going with the same company I have my renters insurance and car insurance with for the multi-line discount, or are some companies especially good for motorcycle insurance?

-Repairs: What are some typical things to go wrong on a motorcycle? Clutch, exhaust, alternators, etc? What are some maintainance items needed on a motorcycle that cars don't need? I think I saw somewhere that someone mentioned a particular bike and mentioned that it had self adjusting valves. I don't think a car has been made since the early 90's that needed valve adjustments (the Toyota Tercel, and maybe some other cars, did into the early 90's). Also, are prices for work usually going to be comparable to car repairs, or are motorcycle parts generally more or less expensive?

Some gear questions:

-Helmets: I know for safety alone, full face helmets are best. However, it gets very hot and humid in MD in the summer (85-95 degrees, with humidity that rivals some of the worst you'll find in the country). I'd worry that for summer use it may be too hot. How well does a full helmet ventilate and are they as hot as they seem? I'm thinking a full face helmet for cooler weather, and the half-helmet or 3/4 helmet I buy for the class in the summer.

-Winter gear: I realize I'll need some pretty well insulated gear to ride in the winter. What all do I need? Do full face helmets provide any protection from the cold or do I need a balaclava or at least a knit hat as well?

-Armor: I plan to buy a leather jacket with either built-in armor or pockets for armor, beyond that it gets a little confusing. CE approved? CE standards? What other standards are there, what do they mean, which ones are meaningful?
Welcome, Jeff! I was over your way last night (Ruby Tuesdays for grub).

First, insurance depends on the bike age, power, number of add-ons, and whether the rider has taken the safety course. If you are going to take the Rider's Edge course, you don't need the other one. They will teach you pretty much everything you need to know to get started. Motorcycle learning is lifelong. Shop around for insurance. I had GEICO for auto (best price) but their MC insurance was waaaaay too high.

Second, modern full-face helmets are ventilated quite well. I live at the beach, which is just as humid (if not more) than where you live. I have ridden with a full-face helmet as long as I have been riding without major discomfort. Buy the helmet that fits your life and your riding style -- some is better than none.

Third, for riding in winter make sure to layer. Winter sports base layers also work well for riding. I have overpants and an insulated riding jacket for temps down to about 45. Below that, I would recommend a heated liner for at least the jacket (Gerbings makes good stuff). I ride down to about 28 degrees and have never felt like I needed the heated pants liners. You'll need some sort of neck/face protection. I don't care for balaclavas. I use neck turtles (aka neck gaitors). Look up stuff from Schampa.

Lastly, some bikes take more maintenance than others. Some people enjoy doing their own maintenance. Others just want to ride. You need to decide what type of rider you want to be. I bought my Buell because of the low maintenance requirements (as compared to Ducati). Hydraulic valves rock!

Hope that helps!
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Old 03-21-2010, 09:19 AM   #4
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Thanks for the welcome. I envy your living at the beach- I am a special ed teacher so my job is pretty easily transferable, I have thought about moving to OC, or the VA or Del. beaches myself.

Is motorcycle insurance usually cheaper than car insurance for the same person? Here, I'm assuming reasonably comparable choices in cars and bikes (i.e. not some 1100cc supersport screamer motorcycle and a staid Toyota Camry sedan for the car- in my case I drive an old BMW 325i which will be replaced in a few years by a mid-sized SUV, crossover or a Subaru Outback; for the motorcycle I'll probably buy a 500-900cc cruiser or the Bonneville and in a few years I'll upgrade to a Harley or comparable Japanese cruiser).

I'm glad to hear that full-face helmets are pretty good for ventilation. They are certainly the safest (face protection in a crash could be a good thing). Maybe in a few years, with some experience, I may go to smaller helmet for other reasons, but it sounds like you are telling me that MD summers aren't a reason to choose one.

I'm not a huge balaclava fan myself. I'm glad to hear that you think I could get by with less (so hat, and mask or scarf for the neck and face should do it?). Would a full helmet that is vented well enough for summer use give any real protection from the wind and cold? Even if I go with a full-face helmet during the summer, should I stick with my idea of a summer and winter helmet and find one without much ventilation for the winter?

As for the maintenance, are motorcycles easier to work on than cars? I'm not that mechanically inclined, but I'd love to learn (of course, after the warranty expires, or if I go used). For the types of bikes I'm looking at, how often should I expect to bring them in (and pay) for regular scheduled maintenance? Compared to a car, if I keep up with the maintenance, how reliable should they be?
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Old 03-21-2010, 07:16 PM   #5
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For the bikes, I'm now leaning against the Triumph (it is at the top end of my range, or just over it) and the TU250 (cool little bike, but it may be a little too little for me).

For the 500-650cc cruisers, I think I like the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 best based on my reading, some visits to dealers, and online research. The V-Star may be the nicest, and it looks and feels like a full-sized cruiser (nice, but possibly a negative in a first bike), but it is also the most expensive. May as well get an 800cc Suzuki for a couple hundred more. The Suzuki S40 has a 650cc engine like the Yamaha, and the Kawasaki is the only true 500. However, on the bigger 800-900cc machines I liked the feel of the Kawasaki a lot more than the Suzuki (that is sitting in the showroom of course- no license yet means no test drive). Both the Suzuki S40 and Kawasaki Vulcan 500 seem to be well liked by the online reviews. So, it comes down to looks- the Vulcan's engine fills the engine window pretty well, while the Suzuki leaves a lot of air- I just don't like the look on the S40. I haven't actually sat on either the S40 or Vulcan 500 though, so my opinions of them may switch when I do (I'm only assuming that the brand that feels best while sitting on them in the showroom will be the same in the 500-650cc machines as it was on the 800-950cc machines). It will be very interesting to see which I prefer if I'm allowed to test drive (all the dealers around here that I've visited so far require that you have your motorcycle license for a year before you can test drive).

Anyway, that said, I'm thinking in three main directions.

A new Vulcan 500 or S40 (probably the Vulcan). On Ebay I've seen buy it now prices on the Vulcan that will keep me under $4100 with fees (another $500-600 to ship though, so I'll have to see if I can get a local price around $4000). At that price, it won't be too bad if I drop it, I'll have the warranty, and I'll know it has been taken care of (if I get a 500cc or 650cc bike I can probably go a couple years before I have to replace it). If I don't drop it, I probably won't lose more than $1000 when I sell it in a couple years.

The other main option is an older but cheap bike. A early to mid-80s Japanese bike (especially a Honda) may be the way to go. Buy under $2000, get one or two good seasons out of it, and trade/sell it and get something better next summer or the summer after (depending upon how the bike is doing). I've seen several mid-80s Hondas (VT500 Shadow, CB500 and a CX500) locally for around $1200-1800, some looked very nice. I also saw an old Honda Silverwing 650 for under $1700. A little newer, but the same idea, I've seen some decent mid-90s bikes for similar prices (a nice 1998 Suzuki LS 650 Savage for $1500obo, and a nice '96 Kawasaki Vulcan 750 for $2200). I could also go cheaper, in the $500ish range, and if it only lasts a few months, who cares. This would let me buy something right away with the least pain, and especially the cheaper option means that if it has some trouble I'm not out much. These would also be the least psychologically painful to drop.

The third option is somewhere in between. Get something used, but newer (anywhere from 2-10 years old), and look out for bargains. The first choice here are the same bikes I'm looking at new, but look for one with some cosmetic blemishes used where I could save a thousand or so (I've seen 1-3 year old versions of the 500-650cc bikes with some scratches and sometimes dents for the $2200-3000 range). I've seen 3-8 year old Harley Sportsters for $3500-7000. I've seen 4-8 year old versions of the 750-900cc bikes for $3500-6500.

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Old 03-21-2010, 07:38 PM   #6
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Another bike to consider might be the Kawasaki W650. It's a copy of the older 70's style Triumph bikes. Here is a link:

File:Kawasaki W650 2000 Retro High Bar.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

They weren't terrible popular, but ones can be found somewhat cheap. Here is an example:

Kawasaki : eBay Motors (item 260569061922 end time Apr-04-10 14:34:31 PDT)

I think that at 6' tall, you will find most smaller cruisers too cramped, and the ones that fit taller riders too powerful. My recommendation (at 6'5") would be to get an older standard and learn on that for a year or two. Another great example is the Honda CB750. I started on a 1985 Honda CB700SC, which had plenty of power and plenty of room.
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Old 03-21-2010, 08:10 PM   #7
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Wow, that is a nice bike!

If I could afford another thousand or two I think the Bonneville would be my perfect first bike. Size is "just right", not too big and not too small. Enough power for highway use and my size, but without being overpowered for a new rider. And of course, a lot of class.

That Kawasaki looks like it has the same advantages, for less money. They do seem to be just expensive enough that I'd need a loan. I wonder how easy it is to get a motorcycle loan from the banks these days, or if I'd have to find one at a dealer to get dealer financing.

If it was a little less money the 883 Sportster would also probably be a good option. Bigger than the small cruisers, smaller than a full-size. One of the few standard motorcycles made anymore, and with the 883 most people think it is underpowered so it may not be too much for a new rider (while enough to satisfy me for several years). New, they're over my budget, but I might be able to get one used without too much trouble.

As for the small cruisers being too cramped, while I am tall, and I am big (nearly 300LBS, I am losing, but I'll always be big- nearly 200 LBS while in the Army), I do have a short inseam. Looking at the measurements in the brochures, the Suzuki S and C 50 have the same seat height as the S40. The Vulcan 500 is actually a little taller to the seat than the 900 (28.1" v. 27"). However, the difference in the wheelbase is 2-3". With my short for my height arms and legs I'll have to sit on one to see how it works. The 800-900cc versions feel right on the showroom floor, but I didn't sit on the smaller 500-650cc versions (other than the slightly larger V-Star which didn't feel too small).

So, my first priority is to find a dealer with the Vulcan 500 and S40 so I can sit on them and see how they fit. I also may start looking for used Sportsters, Bonnevilles, and Kawasaki W650s.

Those early-to-mid 80's Japanese bikes are looking interesting. I haven't read anything but good things about the Honda CBs, CXs, and VT500 Shadows. While they are old, a ton of those bikes were made. So, how is parts availability for those old Hondas? The '90s cruisers wouldn't be bad either- but then, other than price, I'd have the same issues as with today's (the smaller ones may be too small, the bigger ones may be too powerful as a first bike). For both the '80s and '90s bikes, the fact that I could easily drum up the cash right now is nice (for any more than $2000 I'd need a loan, or I could sell $1000-1500 worth of guns which would take time).

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Old 03-21-2010, 08:23 PM   #8
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Oh, back on gear, I have definitely decided upon a full-face helmet. I haven't decided which one yet. I might go cheaper for the class (but still DOT certified so it should be decent), and give myself some time to decide what I really want. On the other hand, if I will buy a nicer helmet shortly after I get a motorcycle, I may as well start now so I only have to buy one.

DOT certification is the minimum standard for the class. I see DOT helmets ranging from $30 online to $500+. How good are DOT standards? Is there that big a safety difference between the $30-60 helmets and the $300-600 helmets? Is it more a durability and comfort difference? Would I be fine long term with something in the $80-120 range from HCI or HJC or do I need to pony up $300+ for Shoei or better if I really want decent protection?

Of course, another reason to buy cheap now and wait on the good helmet is style. Get basic black, or white, or matte, or whatever now, then get something that matches the bike I buy later. However, if it is the difference between acceptable and poor protection, I'll ignore aesthetics and buy the better helmet up front and wear something generic when I buy my motorcycle.

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Old 03-22-2010, 04:36 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff10236 View Post
Oh, back on gear, I have definitely decided upon a full-face helmet. I haven't decided which one yet. I might go cheaper for the class (but still DOT certified so it should be decent), and give myself some time to decide what I really want. On the other hand, if I will buy a nicer helmet shortly after I get a motorcycle, I may as well start now so I only have to buy one.

DOT certification is the minimum standard for the class. I see DOT helmets ranging from $30 online to $500+. How good are DOT standards? Is there that big a safety difference between the $30-60 helmets and the $300-600 helmets? Is it more a durability and comfort difference? Would I be fine long term with something in the $80-120 range from HCI or HJC or do I need to pony up $300+ for Shoei or better if I really want decent protection?

Of course, another reason to buy cheap now and wait on the good helmet is style. Get basic black, or white, or matte, or whatever now, then get something that matches the bike I buy later. However, if it is the difference between acceptable and poor protection, I'll ignore aesthetics and buy the better helmet up front and wear something generic when I buy my motorcycle.
An HJC, Icon, or Joe Rocket helmet is just fine. Some of the higher $$ brands are lighter or have better features (i.e. ventilation, anti-fog shields, etc.). One of the best bang-for-the-buck helmets is Scorpion. Most importantly, buy a helmet that is comfortable -- that fits your head.
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