Skill Levels and Motorcycle ChoicesPosted: May 2, 2009
I’ve been told by my husband that I’m not a newbie anymore. He said: “You quit being a newbie when you told me that you wanted a new bike.” I disagree. If that was the case, I would have entered the realm of ‘experienced rider’ about three months after I started. I still feel like a n00b. Maybe not a newborn newbie, but one that is approaching middle-age, fast. I don’t know… It brings up a good question though: When does one move from being considered a new or beginning rider to an experienced one? Seems to me that there should be a middle ground. Whatever happened to ‘intermediate’? You never hear people answer the question with: “I’m an intermediate rider. Been riding for x years and z miles.” You hear either: “Yeah, I just started”, or “I’m a veteran/experienced/skilled rider”. No middle ground. The question isn’t even so much about when, it’s more about how. Haven’t dropped my bike in x months. Haven’t wobbled around a turn in x amount of time. No more stalling on take-off. I don’t roll back on inclines anymore. I put my knee down, finally. I can take this road in x minutes, going an average of y miles per hour. I did my first Iron Butt. Well, you get the picture.
Then there are all these opinions floating around, mostly in relationship to which bike is right for you. There’s a terrifying number of blogs, posts, articles floating around on the Net about which is the perfect first bike. What you should consider, what you should look out for. How many CCs it should have. Again, you get the point. These just serve to confuse. They are NOT in the least helpful to a beginning rider, especially a woman. When it’s all said and done, we’re still as confused as we were before, probably even more so. The answer? Ultimately, you’re going to learn on it, everybody’s different, so pick the bike you think matches the riding style you think you’re going to do with the looks you know you like and the ergos (how the bike fits your body) you know work for you. Period. Take everybody else’s opinion as just that, an opinion. Make up your own mind. There is no perfect beginner’s bike. If you’re worried that you may be wrong in your assessment, buy used. Then trade up once you’ve figured out what exactly (and I use that term VERY loosely here) you want next. Which brings me to the real dilemma…
Choosing your second bike. This is way more complicated than the first bike. Seriously. You’ve (hopefully) took and passed the MSF BRC (or any other approved safety riding course) to get the coveted ‘M’ on your license. You’ve finally gotten (somewhat) used to your bike and you (more likely) have increased your riding skills by a hefty margin. You figured out what kind of rider you are: Cruiser (you like to relax, tool around at speed limit and enjoy the scenery and sensory input riding provides); Speed Demon (no explanation needed here); Canyon Carver (you really acquired a taste for curvy roads and all that goes with them); Street Warrior (you mostly commute back and forth to work and enjoy the challenges that come with ‘sharing’ the road with cagers); Tourer (you want to get out of town and go forever or to a predetermined destination); Adventurer (you get a big kick out of the yellow signs that read ‘Pavement Ends’); Off-Roader (you found out asphalt isn’t your thing after all and you’d rather go play in the dirt); or a combination of any of these. Obviously, you can’t find out what kind of rider you are until you’ve put some miles on your chosen first scoot. And here the trouble begins… You have done massive amounts of research online; listened to peeps droning on about this and that (as it relates to motorcycling and their opinion of you; figured (mostly) what type of riding you enjoy the most and here we have so many purpose-built and style-over-function and hybrid machine options… AND opinions (yet again) thereof. Some of the bikes on your ‘short list’ (bikes you have under consideration) are marketed to ‘experienced’ riders. Some are marketed to women. Some are marketed to beginners. Well? Who is going to assess your style, sensibilities and skill set and hold your hand and take you bike shopping to make sure that you get the ‘right’ bike for ‘your level’. You. Yes, it’s all you, yet again. And now it’s even harder to make the right choice. Now you are probably looking at a more expensive bike, possibly new, you have to find one that ‘does it all’, and you have to make sure you pick right, or you might find yourself stuck with something that doesn’t fulfill your needs. Really, there is no perfect second bike either. Unless we all quit being human and become mindless drones, we all mature into our riding careers at different paces; we have differing limits; different levels of risk acceptance; different ways of looking at riding; different motor skills; different preferences in looks; different…. well, you get the point. You can ask for opinions, but ultimately it is you who has to make the decision, because only you know yourself well enough to make an informed decision on which bike is the best fit. May it be your first, second, whatever. You are the one whose butt will be in the seat, having to deal with ergos, handling, throttle response, insurance payments, maintenance costs, blah blah blah… and only you can come closest to knowing ‘perfectly’ (and I use this term here VERY loosely, too) what you can handle and what you can tolerate and what quirks are a complete deal-killer.
To say it in short: ‘Get the bike YOU want and need and don’t let anybody talk you into something you feel uncomfortable with or out of something you have your sights set on. Like they say: “Ride your own ride.”; take that a little further: “Buy your own ride.”