T Nation

Basic Riders Course: Complete

So today I finished taking my Basic Riders Course for motorcycle riders and passed very nicely. I took the class to figure out if riding would be for me.

Guess what? It is.

I now have 6 months to go to DMV (oh joyous days) and just take the computer exam to get my motorcycle license (successful completion of the BRC satisfies the driving portion of the licensing exam).

I went into this class having: (1) never been on a motorcycle and (2) never driven a standard car in 15 years or so. So, after many early stalls, I began to get comfortable and actually do pretty well.

My thinking was I would do all of this, get my license and then figure out what to do about an actual bike. After finishing today, I realized that was kind of silly because everything is fresh with me and I need lots of practice… like, right now.

So here’s my question (and yes, I have asked this before, but now ask it based on some new info described below):

For a new rider just starting out, what would you generally recommend for a bike? I am leaning very much towards used (no need to drop a new one although having a warranty would be nice) and something in the 600cc range. Both my instructors and several bike owning acquaintances (this is the newer part) recommended about that bike size based on both my size and the fact that getting less would cause me to get bored of a smaller bike REAL quick.

Finally, in terms of style of bike, I’ve long leaned towards a sport bike (but I also think the Ducati Monster is kind of nice… of course, I think all Ducatis are pretty damn nice). I want something sporty, nice handling and would not be overwhelming to me, but also not something I would feel limited by in 3-6 months.

Anyone else have thoughts/opinions on this?

Suzuki SV650 – tweaks aplenty are available, it’s relatively cheap, insurance is low, it’s comfy, you get great low-end torque for in-city riding, and it carves canyons like a sportbike. You should get a couple of hard years before you will feel limited.

Resist those who will espouse liter bikes, at least for a first. No matter what you get, you’ll run out of talent long before the bike runs out of capability – learn how to get the most from whatever you get.

Also, now that you’re close to being legal, go to a school and really learn how to ride. Cali Superbike School, Schwantz, whichever. I’ve been to several – PM me if you want the lowdown on my experience with each.

Finally, in California, when you show up to take the written test, you must take half the written automobile test if you haven’t taken it in the last two years. Your state may differ, but you may want to check it out – it can be an unwelcome surprise to have to take two tests.

Let me know if I can help.

I agree on the SV 650. If you can find an older Yamaha FZ400 (or FZ whatever), look into those too. As for the people who say you’ll get bored, that won’t happen if you keep trying to make yourself a better rider. Once you can wear down the edges of your tires faster than the middle, then go for a more powerful bike.

Don’t forget to keep insurance costs in mind.

[quote]Madman2 wrote:
Don’t forget to keep insurance costs in mind.[/quote]

How much does insurance on those things usually run? I really do have no idea on that kind of thing.

[quote]sdspeedracer wrote:
Suzuki SV650 – tweaks aplenty are available, it’s relatively cheap, insurance is low, it’s comfy, you get great low-end torque for in-city riding, and it carves canyons like a sportbike. You should get a couple of hard years before you will feel limited.

Resist those who will espouse liter bikes, at least for a first. No matter what you get, you’ll run out of talent long before the bike runs out of capability – learn how to get the most from whatever you get.

Also, now that you’re close to being legal, go to a school and really learn how to ride. Cali Superbike School, Schwantz, whichever. I’ve been to several – PM me if you want the lowdown on my experience with each.

Finally, in California, when you show up to take the written test, you must take half the written automobile test if you haven’t taken it in the last two years. Your state may differ, but you may want to check it out – it can be an unwelcome surprise to have to take two tests.

Let me know if I can help.[/quote]

and

[quote] Doug Adams wrote:
I agree on the SV 650. If you can find an older Yamaha FZ400 (or FZ whatever), look into those too. As for the people who say you’ll get bored, that won’t happen if you keep trying to make yourself a better rider. Once you can wear down the edges of your tires faster than the middle, then go for a more powerful bike.[/quote]

Good points to ponder from both of you fine gentlemen, so thanks!

My goal is to spend the time to become a very good rider. I plan on taking my time to get the feel for things just around town and in parking lots before I try anything too sporty (i.e. highway riding. lol).

I actually read some good things about that Suzuki, so both of your echoings along those lines is just a little more proof in the pudding. I can assure you I am in absolutely no rush to jump into a liter bike. That is the kind of thing that sounds 10X worse than giving a 16 year old with a new driver’s license the keys to a new Shelby Cobra.

Now, I had not heard of Connecticut requiring my re-taking any of the regular driving test, but I am curious about it now.

A school will teach you to corner and to avoid target fixation, which are things you can’t easily (if at all) learn on your own. It’s worth the $ if you can swing it and might save your life.

I raced an SV650 to great success – they can be as sporty as you want them to be.

If you have a 50-cent head, buy a 50-cent helmet – invest in the best you can afford. Also, get into leather; if you want to carve canyons, get back and chest protectors. I’ve lost a friend who crashed and was punctured by a footpeg in the ribs. I can offer buying advice if you want it.

Look beyond the corner and keep the rubber side down. Cheers.

[quote]Kuz wrote:
I went into this class having: (1) never been on a motorcycle and (2) never driven a standard car in 15 years or so. So, after many early stalls, I began to get comfortable and actually do pretty well.
[/quote]

I had the same problem when I took the class, stalled out many times at first, but once I got the hang of the clutch, found the turns and manuevers rather easy.

I love the Ducati Monster, but I didn’t want to be the dumbbass with the great bike who didn’t know how to ride. And I dropped my bike twice in the first year.

My first bike, which I still have, is a Kawasaki KLR 650. It sits really high, and you have to be tall to ride it. This makes turns a little awkward, but the height helped me to get comfortable in traffic because I could see everything around me better, so that was a plus.

Negatives: 1- the wiring on this bike sucks ass. Due to electrical problems, I have been able to ride this bike for about 5 months out of the last year. 2- If I went above 80 I think the bike would explode. I am definately ready for a new bike.

I wanted a Ninja when I first started riding. I have heard nothing but great things about them.

But you need to go out and sit on a lot of bikes. The most important thing is how it feels to you, and that you are comfortable with the way it handles. You also shouldn’t be shy about starting with something over 750cc. Heavier bikes ride smoother. Since you aren’t going to be riding it for very long you don’t need to worry about looks, or even reliablity at this time.

Motorcyclist magazine did a study last year on helmet impact protection.

The cheaper DOT only rated helmets were generally better than the expensive Snell and DOT rated helmets.

Snell requires helmets take multiple impacts but since most accidents are a single impact event Snell rated helmets may not be the best choice.

Buy an expensive helmet for comfort and features but realize it does not protect your head any better than a cheap full face helmet.

I suggest you buy a bike that you think you will outgrow in a year or two. It is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than to ride a fast bike slow.

[quote]Kuz wrote:
I can assure you I am in absolutely no rush to jump into a liter bike. That is the kind of thing that sounds 10X worse than giving a 16 year old with a new driver’s license the keys to a new Shelby Cobra.
[/quote]

The bike only goes as fast as you want it too. However the insurance is cheaper on the smaller bikes.

I got mine insured through progressive. First quote was $145 a year. The closest competition was about $450 for the exact same coverage. A week later progressive dropped to $105, and now it’s $75 a year.


The SV’s rock. Here is my 2003 Suzuki SV650S. I converted the clip-ons to a handlebar for more comfort and control at normal speeds. If you like the style of the Ducati Monster, check out the naked version of the SV650.

My insurance is only $150 a year, and I am a male under 25! Overall it is a pretty inexpensive way to get in to motorcycling.

The weakest point of the SV is the suspension. If you are a heavier guy, you will eventually want to replace the fork springs and rear shock.

[quote]Kuz wrote:
Madman2 wrote:
Don’t forget to keep insurance costs in mind.

How much does insurance on those things usually run? I really do have no idea on that kind of thing.[/quote]

It’s kinda like car insurance. It’ll be different for whatever you get. Of course it will depend on the coverages that you select. Talk to a couple of dealers in your area to see what all is required so you will be able to get some quotes.

Also check out the various manufacturers websites to see what kind of deals or incentives they might offer through their riding clubs. Geico offers deals on insurance with the Riders Of Kawasaki (ROK) club. And definately don’t forget to check with your car insurance company to see what kind of discounts they might offer for multiple policies and for your education course. I can go with my car insurance company and get motorcycle insurance cheaper than even using some of the dealers incentives.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
I suggest you buy a bike that you think you will outgrow in a year or two. It is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than to ride a fast bike slow.[/quote]

Huh… interesting take. I will have to give that some thought for sure…

In my 10 years of riding, there are 2 bikes that I always recommend for beginners.

1)Suzuki SV 650
2)Any type of Street/Trail dirt bike. You sit high, can see traffic and jump curbs if need be. If you drop it, you can fix it with pliers and a screw driver.

The biggest thing to learn when starting out, is how to read traffic and figure out what they are going to do, or more importantly, not do. You have to assume that no one sees you.

Ride sober, ride safe and wear your gear!

Good luck.

I can’t add much. The SV650 does rock, prefect first bike imo(unless you are 12 and want to ride in the dirt). About the Rider’s Safety Course, do they still teach you to ride on a Honda Trail 90?

[quote]Gymguy17 wrote:
In my 10 years of riding, there are 2 bikes that I always recommend for beginners.

1)Suzuki SV 650
2)Any type of Street/Trail dirt bike. You sit high, can see traffic and jump curbs if need be. If you drop it, you can fix it with pliers and a screw driver.

The biggest thing to learn when starting out, is how to read traffic and figure out what they are going to do, or more importantly, not do. You have to assume that no one sees you.

Ride sober, ride safe and wear your gear!

Good luck.[/quote]

Somewhat odd question, but when everyone is recommending the Suzuki SV 650, do they mean the “regular” SV 650 or the SV 650S?

Also, what about the Suzuku GS500F? It seems to be a bike Suzuki puts out for beginners and has a bit of a lower seat for a little more comfort/accessibility.

Again, thank you everyone for your thoughts and help on this.

[quote]analog_kid wrote:
I can’t add much. The SV650 does rock, prefect first bike imo(unless you are 12 and want to ride in the dirt). About the Rider’s Safety Course, do they still teach you to ride on a Honda Trail 90? [/quote]

For me it was a Honda Nighthawk. The bikes were pretty much 125s and 250s, although they did have a few Buell Blasts (which the cocky guy in the class who thought he was so advanced dumped).

I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the only difference between the 2, was the 650S has a fairing around the headlight, and looks more like a sportbike. I bet that added “S” will add a few bucks to the insurance costs, something to keep in mind. Engine wise, they are the same bike, and as someone mentioned, tons of performance parts available.

The GS is a good bike also, but you’ll likely outgrow it much faster than a SV. The SV will keep you entertained for years. The GS is definitely more entry level, not as much performance etc, probably more comfortable too.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
I suggest you buy a bike that you think you will outgrow in a year or two. It is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than to ride a fast bike slow.[/quote]

I agree with that if you care to deal with selling a bike after only a couple years.
I would agree if you find something you can whip around easy and get the hang of riding really well and know your limits…but if you’re like I was I got sick of how slow my first bike was.

I bought it for the same reasons, I didn’t want anything too nice in case I dropped it.
I’m not expert but I ended up laying down the GIXXER I bought, and everyone I know that rides says the same thing. it’s not if you drop it, but when.

my point is if you’re the type of person that can hold back a bit and get to know a bike that’s on the quick side I would go with a GSX-R 600 or a honda 600RR or something like that, because you won’t get tired of it.
If you’re the type that’s going to push limits right away and get into a bad spot, then go with something slower.

Not sure if that’s any help but figured I would try.

As for the 650 v 650S question, Gymguy got it right – the difference is the fairing.

Honestly, I think you’ll tire of the inline twin GS before the SV – the SV will have an entirely different torque profile and is likely to be more comfortable from the outset. You’ll have to rev the GS more to get into a reasonable torque and HP band, which translates to a lot less fun in traffic. I think you’ll enjoy the SV more, but try them both.

And finally, for guys like me HP is a sickness – there’s never enough. To lost’s point, in my opinion, you’ll always wonder what it would be like to have more.

I always tweak my bikes looking for more punch, for better fuel mappings, better handling, etc., even though I already have the power/weight ratio of a Formula 1 racecar. It’s never enough. Learn to use what you’ve got before searching for more.