Top 10 Things To Do Before Buying Your First Streetbike

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

Your friendly staff has been there. Really. We all remember that moment when we decided we wanted to become motorcyclists. We will also never forget the day we threw a leg over our first street motorcycle. No moment in life – with the possible exception of parenthood – has so many hopes and fears associated with it.

Let’s just start with the most immediate duo at the moment of leaving the dealership or receiving the keys from your bike’s previous owner: “I’m going to have so freakin’ much fun on this bike!” and “Please, God, don’t let me drop my new bike and look like a newbie!”

Deciding to become a motorcyclist and buy your first streetbike are choices that come from the heart and soul. Still, you don’t want to leave your thinker out of the process. I’m like most people in that I like to lead with my heart and follow with my head, but I generally don’t make a move on big decisions until I’ve consulted both.

10.Take a Motorcycle Safety Course

While an argument could be made that taking a motorcycle safety course should be number one on this list, making it the most important item and last one you should complete to ensure that the information will be fresh the day you pick up your bike, it should really be undertaken as early in the process of buying your first bike as possible. The reason is pretty simple. Motorcycling isn’t for everyone. Unfortunately, some people don’t find out until after they’ve spent thousands of dollars acquiring one.

As a former instructor, I can vouch for the upset experienced by people who, during the course of the class, discover that, although they really want to ride, the simple truth is that, for any number of reasons, they really shouldn’t. Or can’t. Either way, the decision is much harder to swallow after the motorcycle has been purchased.

We don’t need to get into all the benefits of completing a class. You can read about them here.

9. Research! has reviewed nearly every streetbike made in the past 20 years, plus many dirtbikes, so you’ll find a wealth of info right here on these pages. Once you’ve found a few bikes you’re interested in, browse around on some forums dedicated to those bikes to see what owners have to say about them…

8.Consider a Starter Bike

No, a starter bike is not going to be your dream bike, but whatever it is, it will hold a special place in your heart. Remember your first crush? First kiss? First time you made another person’s toes curl? Your first bike will be like that.

Be aware of your novice skill level. Yeah, everyone wants to be a pro, but the reality is you have to earn that status. Rossi didn’t start with MotoGP bikes. You shouldn’t start with top-of-the-line either.

Fact: You will drop your first bike at a complete stop for the silliest of reasons. Fact: Statistically, you are most likely to crash during your first year of riding.

Look at smaller, lower-powered, less expensive bikes. The good news is that the current crop of motorcycles in this category are nice looking, fun to ride, and even feature some cool technology. The days of small-displacement bikes being the training bras of motorcycling are over.

What’s The Best Beginner Bike?

Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Your First Motorcycle

Beginner-Ish Sportbike Shootout + Video

7. Prepare A List of New Bikes You’re Interested In

The first time you look at a list of motorcycle models, the alphabet soup of names can make your brain hurt. As mentioned before, doing research can help you come to grips with the secret code of motorcycle names. As your list of bikes begins to grow, look at the features that these bikes have in common and prioritise them into must-have and nice-to-have groups. Let these guide your further research.

6. Look At Used Bikes

Now that you have a list of bikes and features, take a look at the used bikes available locally that might fill your needs. Yes, there is a certain assurance of quality that comes with the purchase of a new bike, but there are tons of used motorcycles available. Since a new bike’s value takes a big hit the moment you ride it off the lot, used bikes become instantly more attractive. Besides, you might be able to find a starter bike that a formerly new rider is looking to upgrade.

5. Scope Out Local Bike Shops

If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with multiple motorcycle shops/dealerships, visit them all. If any offer events, attend one. The shop selection process is similar to trying on new clothes. It may take a while to find something that fits you. Once you do, start building a relationship with the folks there. Look at the new and used bikes offered to see if any suit your needs. Buy stuff from them once you get a bike. Yeah, you can usually save money ordering online, but local shops are great resources for new riders. The employees will be more likely to help you out if they see you as part of their community instead of someone who comes in to shop and then orders online.

4. Look At The Loan Cost Beyond Just Monthly Payments

The monthly nut you’ll pay for the privilege of riding your bike is important. If you can’t make that for the years you sign up for at the time of purchase, you’ll end up selling your bike. However, look into the future. Is it prudent to buy a less expensive bike now, when you only have an inkling of what kind of rider you are going to be? Should you get something less expensive, with lower monthly payments, so that you can afford to buy gear and accessories over the life of your motorcycle? What about maintenance costs? If the money isn’t there after your payment, are you going to play Russian Roulette by riding with worn out tires or brakes?

While considering these issues isn’t sexy – and is really hard when you’re all hot-and-bothered over a particular motorcycle – they will affect your enjoyment of your bike over the long term.

3. Price Insurance

If you’re young and male and have speeding tickets on your record, you know you’re going to take a beating on insurance. However, even people with pristine records will benefit from finding out how much it will cost to insure their bike. Remember, if you’ve got a loan, you’ll need to carry full-coverage insurance. So, factor that into your monthly budget. Insurance costs often play heavily in young riders’ decision to unload their motorcycle after just a year or two.

After pricing insurance for new bikes, many new riders realize that they need to buy a used starter bike that they can afford to pay cash for and reduce their insurance costs. Remember though, what you’re really doing is self-insuring for repairs to your own bike if you have an at-fault accident.

2. Buy Proper Gear

We get it. You’re getting ready to drop thousands of dollars on a bike, or you’re signing up for several years of payments. The idea of spending even more money on gear sounds like a crazy additional expense. The truth about motorcycling is that crashes happen. With proper gear, you can walk away from an incident with bruises instead of skin grafts. When faced with that kind of medical payment – even just the copay – the cost of quality gear doesn’t seem that expensive.

In recent years, gear manufacturers have increased the selection of high-quality, reasonably priced gear. You don’t need to be a Wall Street investor to own cool-looking gear, anymore.

1. Be Prepared To Have Motorcycling Take Over Your Life

You may think you know how much you’ll love motorcycling, but beware. The first streetbike is the gateway drug to a lifetime of moto-addiction. Soon, you’ll find that your weekends are filled with motorcycle-related activities. Your old, non-riding friends will wonder what happened to you. Your clothes will become more and more motorcycle-focused. You may even consider throwing your life away pursuing a career in the motorcycle industry. Don’t worry, as long as you only own one motorcycle, you’re relatively safe. However, as soon as a second bike moves into your garage, all bets are off.

Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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2 of 6 comments
  • John B John B on Jun 03, 2016

    Great list Evans! I would add one item to your list. Think about what kind of riding you want to do: Daily Commuting; Track Day Specialist; Iron Butt Long Distance; Dual Sport Adventures; One or Two Up; Sunday Cruising; Off-road; or all of the above. If I were new to motorcycling today, I would consider the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. That bike checks many boxes for new and experienced riders.

  • Sloan Essman Sloan Essman on Jun 22, 2016

    A Honda 599 as on "6 -buy a used bike" was my first, and it was bought used. Loved it but later got something with a little more wind protection for long trips (VFR800)