PHOTOS | HELEANA GENAUS
Tips for choosing your first motorcycle
Full disclosure – this writer has been only been riding a motorcycle for a couple of years. I was not born wearing motorcycle boots, my hand-feet coordination has been described as charmingly clumsy, and pre riding, my knowledge of mechanics extended to ‘key turns on, key turns off’.
Ironically, I am therefore in a good position to dispense some tips on what to look for when buying your first motorcycle, because I had to learn it all from scratch and ask some pretty dumb questions along the way. But from a more official standpoint, I have also sought advice from Deus Ex Machina Workshop Manager and Head Technician (and super nice guy) Jeremy Tagand. Jeremy has been riding since he was 3 years old, so with his personal and professional experience it’s safe to assume he knows what he’s talking about.
Straight up, the most important piece of advice is when sitting on the motorcycle your feet must touch the ground.
It doesn’t matter how heavy the bike is, what cc* it is or how it looks. If your feet can firmly touch the ground, you will have a much better chance of being in control. And this means you can stop the bike from tipping over, and given that you are learning there is a good chance that this might happen. “Your first bike should be good to ride, not necessarily beautiful” Jeremy warns. “Learners must prioritize safety over looks.”
Next, Jeremy says it’s important to consider what you are using the bike for. Is it a daily commuter? A weekend only long country rides idea? Are you off road? On road?
If you’re using it purely as a city commuter, a 125 or 250 cc will be fine. But if you’re after longer trips, you’ll want to look at something bigger, around a 400 cc or so. “Don’t be shy about a 400 being too powerful” Tagand says, “you’ll quickly get used to it”.
Do keep in mind though, that the bigger the cc, the heavier the bike will be. For me, I was a bit overwhelmed at the idea of anything heavier than a 250 and I’m glad that I started at the smaller end.
As to Sports bike vs Café Racer vs Dirt Bike, that’s really a personal preference. This writer has always loved custom culture, so I went with a Suzuki GN250 (seen above). Its riding position is incredibly comfortable, and the bike is pretty light so I felt in control. Having said that, I have now upgraded to a 400 cc, as I’m now much more confident and looking for extra power. However Jeremy started off riding sports bikes, being surrounded by them as he grew up being an apprentice in his uncle’s Kawasaki dealership in France. At Deus ex Machina he works more on the café racer style, so you could say he doesn’t pick a side when it comes to bikes, he loves them all.
When asked to recommend a bike for a learner, Jeremy suggested these two:
- Yamaha SR400, as it has the potential to be anything you want once you have progressed on to your P’s (provisional license) and beyond.
- Yamaha R15 V2 because it’s the perfect entry level sports bike, not too big and really fun to ride!
Jeremy’s tips for buying your first bike
- Definitely go and see it! Get out there and have a look at different styles to work out what you like
- Your feet must touch the ground
- Have a motorcycle riding friend or family member come along to test ride it for you as well. Does it ride straight, handle well and sound good?
- Ask about servicing history and if it has been in an accident
- Check the kms and the year of the build – you don’t want too many kms and the older the bike the more temperamental it might be
- Generally speaking, a Japanese or English brand bike is of the best quality
Don’t forget that every Country or State has different motorcycle laws, so please also make sure you consult with your local motor registry to see any restrictions around engine size or other limitations before making your first purchase.
*ps, if you were wondering, cc stands for cubic centimeter.
Erica is everyone’s support crew and personal cheerleading squad. A lover of all things moto and vintage, she is a red-lipped founder of the Throttle Dolls, splitting her time between her custom Sportster and her convertible BMW ‘Brenda’. As a regular IVV contributor, Erica shines a light on Petrolette road style, and standing on your own two feet when it comes to selecting vehicles, mechanics and gear.