Beware of used bikes without a roadworthy
Lucas Gordon, owner of Sixty Degrees Motorcycles in eastern Melbourne, says the most common mistake novices make is buying second-hand bikes without roadworthy certificates. Usually they have taken at face value the seller’s claims that “it just needs a set of tyres for a roadworthy” or somesuch … to their later cost.
Budget at least $1000 for riding gear
Echoing Rob Salvatore’s concerns, Lucas Gordon says novice riders err in spending their entire budget on the bike, leaving nothing for riding gear. Initially, it is best to allow $1000 for protective gear including a quality helmet, textile riding jacket, kevlar jeans, boots and leather gloves.
“We encourage them to think about what riding they are planning on doing, whether it’s weekend fun, daily commuting or a bit of both. If they want to do long highway cruising, then a sports bike is not the answer,” says Lucas.
There are many new bikes for new riders
Sixty Degrees repairs and maintains bikes but does not sell them, so Lucas has no vested interest when he suggests Japanese bikes – renowned as economical and reliable – are a good place to start looking.
That takes in a lot of machines such as Honda’s CB series of 250cc and 400cc bikes, Suzuki’s GS 500 and the smaller-capacity units of Kawasaki’s Ninja series.
“There’s no reason (novices) shouldn’t buy a new bike,” he says. “They are very cheap for what they are. You can still buy a very good-quality learner bike for $5000 or $6000. People who are older tend to take their time. They might be looking for something for weekend cruising, like the Yamaha 650.”
Cruisers, with their lower seat height, can also be an answer for riders of shorter stature. “One of the biggest issues for women and shorter people is being on their toes a lot,” Lucas says. “Cruisers like the (Yamaha) Virago 250 are an answer there.”
It’s ok to change your mind
Rob Salvatore recalls mentoring a new rider who quickly switched from a budget 250cc bike to a mid-range 600cc. With the greater weight of the larger bike came the impression at least of better stability and braking, because something every rider has to decide for themselves is whether their object of desire has the right “feel” for them.
“The other question for young riders is that bikes are now offering ABS (anti-lock braking systems) as an optional extra for $500 or $1000,” Rob says.
“Fundamentally, I think riders should learn to ride and brake a motorcycle to a high skill level. They should never rely on the tricks or the technology. But a day spent testing a BMW ABS bike left me thinking that the most sophisticated modern ABS systems are really quite good.”
Ian Munro is a Melbourne journalist with 35 years’ motorcycling experience.