If you've been following along, you probably remember that I recently got my motorcycle license after taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. (To catch up see Part 1)
Now that I had my license, I was only missing one other critical item before I could start hitting the road like a bad-a__ mama-jama - a motorcycle! So, clearly, my next step was to set out to find the perfect bike for me.
Let me tell you, looking for the right motorcycle definitely takes a bit of time. With all the different types of motorcycles out there, I needed to see which style fit me best and which one I would really love to ride. And the easiest way to do that was to try them all out! (My husband was equally excited about this aspect of looking for motorcycles - since he would also have to try them out so we could "talk about them.")
The first thing that we did was look for used bikes. After all, this was my first bike, and I didn't want to worry too much about scratching it, dropping it, or spending too much money on something I was still learning. So we started with used motorcycle sites on the Internet, Craig's List, and the good old Classifieds.
Finding a "beginner" used bike in great shape was a bit harder than I originally thought. It's amazing to me how stupid people must think others are - for example, we went to look at a Suzuki GS500E that the owner said had never been dropped or abused. My husband talked to the owner over the phone and really pressured her on the topic because it was a 45 min drive to see the motorcycle. Needless, to say, when we got there and were looking over the bike you could see deep gashes all along the engine casing - clearly showing that it had been dropped and probably wrecked. After some angry words from my husband, we left. Unfortunately, this wasn't an isolated incident.
Frustrated with looking at used motorcycles, we decided to try some dealerships and discovered that the size and style of motorcycle I actually wanted did not cost much more new than used!
I thought that going to the Dealers was an interesting experience, to say the least. The best part of it was the stares. Picture this: My husband and I would be browsing through the bikes, sitting on them to try them out, and inevitably, a salesman would ask what in particular he was looking for (automatically assuming that my husband was the buyer). With a slight smile on his face, he would confidently say "Actually, this is for HER." And then we would watch what happened. The ranges in response were anywhere from "interesting, but let me continue to show you this bike because I am not sure how to talk about this to a girl," to "wow, that's really cool." Sometimes it was frustrating, but it never failed to be entertaining! At the last shop I went to, they actually dealt with me directly and that was where I bought my Suzuki SV650.
Ta da! With my new motorcycle, I'm finally starting to understand why my husband spends so much time in the garage.
Let me share some things that I learned along the way in buying a bike:
First, try as many bikes out as you can. (Really, that means sitting on them and starting them up, as many people selling used bikes, and some dealers, won't let you try them out.) New, used, big, small - they all feel and look different. What you may think you want one day, may turn out to be your least favorite of them all! Also, knowing what you want in a bike is really important. (I personally wanted something more upright so my feet could be safely flat on the ground when on the motorcycle. I also wanted something that was relatively light so that I didn't feel like I was fighting a heavy load.) Looking at used motorcycles is a great way to see a lot of different styles.
Second, bring an experienced rider with you! At the places that would let us, I had the pleasure of watching my husband get to test all the motorcycles (which was a complete bummer). But I also had the pleasure of watching him tell the person selling her "gently used" Suzuki gs500E that it HAD been dropped, wasn't in "pristine" condition, needed new brakes, had no oil, and that the tires had about as much tread as a baby's butt. As a non-experienced rider, you don't necessarily know what to look for. And especially with used bikes, you need to be careful to not get taken advantage of!
Third, and I know the following point is counter to what most people think, but I'm going to say that for brand new riders buying smaller bikes, it's actually better to buy new than used. Here's why: First, most smaller motorcycles were owned by other new riders so a majority of them are pretty beaten up. Second, since there aren't many small engine size bikes on the market today, you usually can buy new for only slightly more than used. Of course, your mileage may vary on this advice.
My first motorcycle was a used Harley SuperLow 883 Sportster. I signed up for an MSF Course last year in July, attended the classroom part on a Thursday, and the next day, the Harley dealership called up my husband to let him know that a "hardly" used Harley Sportster just rolled into their shop. Apparently, the man got it for his wife, but after only 75 miles, decided it was too much for her to handle, or something like that.
So even before I started the field instructions for Sat-Sun, that Friday afternoon I already had a motorcycle to ride LOL, even before I had any experience starting one up ever in my entire life! So talk about pressure to pass the course lol.
And sure enough, I was the only "newbie" in class. Most of the people in my class either had a little bit of experience already and needed to get the endorsement. Heck, there were two young guys there who could teach the course themselves! but I chugged along, and enjoyed the lessons.
I am not going to lie. It was tough and I was even thinking of not going back Sunday, because I was having a hard time keeping the motor running. I kept stalling, and then the assistant instructor pulled me aside. I thought she was going to tell me to pack up and leave that I wont pass, but she took time to give me a one to one lesson on slowly releasing the clutch while applying a little throttle. So I managed to hang in there after all, thank goodness for her.
So the next day, I passed my evaluation, with the whole group cheering me on. What a nice bunch of people! After just a couple of months, my husband decided lol, that it was time for me to graduate to a Softail Slim, so Softail Slim it is now for me. I have 1277 miles on it thus far. Just got the 1,000 mile maintenance done on it. can't wait to go on my first long road trip with it someday. :)
I do feel a little sentimental letting go of the Sportster but the Softail Slim was easier to handle, surprisingly. Safe riding to all! :)
Thu Jun 6, 2013 at 7:26 AM
Absolutely awesome article!
Really helpful for me as I am a first time bike buyer myself!
Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 11:26 AM
Awesome article! Great information. One of my friends is interested in learning to ride, and i sent her this article straight away. I've been riding about 8 years now. My first bike was a SV650 as well. Great starter bike. Hell, great anybody bike. have fun and stay safe.
Mon Sep 12, 2011 at 6:32 PM
In Pennsylvania, the BRC is even cheaper! The course is free (paid for by DMV fees)! One thing I thought was interesting was your recommendation to buy a new bike over used. I think for your case, getting a 650 sized bike, you were probably right. That said, my wife and I just started riding, and we opted for a new Ninja 250, and while I won't say it was a "mistake" to buy new, I did drop it on the second day (stupid newbie mistake), and while my wife is still undecided, I now know for SURE that I want a bigger bike than the 250. It would have been less painful to learn that lesson on a used 250. Regardless, there's always something to be said for a new vehicle that you can feel confident in and trust vs. some junker. Even a little banged up, the 250s seem to hold their value, so even if we do end up selling hopefully it won't hurt too bad. Good luck on your journey!
Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 1:05 PM
carrie i enjoyed your article its been 20 years since i rode so i thought with the kids grown i would get another motorcycle so i got the motorcycle then the permit then when winter was over i took the motorcycle course $275 but it was worth it taking the course .
Thu May 26, 2011 at 10:34 PM
Carrie-love the article so far. My husband is a"sightseer". I wanted to be in charge of my own ride. So i too took a course, through an HD dealership. It was awesome. For christmas '05 i was given a yamaha star 650classic silverado!! Loved it. Course my testing was the local high school parking lot. He drove it there and home but the practice was great. In march of '08 i bought my new yamaha classic 1100. Love it. My son in law (an avid biker) went with me the honda1300 test ride. Too much. The 1100 test ride was to a parking lot. Low speeds were my worry. I could maneuver and handle the bike well. I was sold. Celebrated my 50th this year and have over 26,000 miles on that 1100 yamaha bought in march '08. Ride ladies ride! No other therapy like it!!
Fri May 6, 2011 at 7:07 PM
Took the MSC, recommend it completely,trained on a kaw 125,only women in the class I did everything the boys did, I have a Kaw Vulcan 500, which I LOVE,100 mi on already, have a great riding partner husband of 36 years, not ready for freeway yet working on speed and shifting up and down and accelerating, still behind my hubby ,but on my own bike,LOL (Peggy)
Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 5:20 AM
Fun article. Unfortunately, 1 of my greatest regrets is that I didn't complete the course I took 2 wks ago. I've wanted to ride since I was a pre-teen & saw the 1st Bad News Bears movie where Jackie Earl Haley rides a Harley. My b/f of 11 yrs has ridden since he was 10, so I assumed I'd learn early in the relationship but $$ issues kept him from having a bike until this past summer. Bought a 2009 Night Train. Now it was my turn! I didn't like being a passenger. Felt too vulnerable. Co. I worked for went out of business, so felt w/the time I had & a little 401K $$, I'd get my own bike (1993 Honda Shadow VLX Deluxe) & take the local Harley dealer's 5 day course. I didn't realize how out of shape I was. 45 yrs old. 80 lbs over weight...My will was there by my left hand almost immediately had trbl w/the clutch. A different bike helped the 2nd day, but the inflamed tendon was already screwing w/my focus & after "getting back on the horse" repeatedly, a talk w/instructor & some tears, I left at noon on Sunday. Demoralized-feeling like a loser-embarrassed to tell my b/f I had to drop out. BUT...I've since realized the only shame will be not finishing what I've started IF I REALLY WANT TO RIDE...& I do. So, b/f is picking up where class left off & I'm having a blast. My bike is heavier to steer than the Buell I rode in class, but clutch is fine & I'm doing so well! Not quite road worthy but will be b/4 end of season (in a cpl wks for sure) & will retake course in April to get my endorsement. So I agree with the others that the class is so important in terms of safety - I had enough of it to know its value. But even the class doesn't teach how to take off with confidence from a traffic light & make fast, tight right hand turns (ex: from parking lot into moving traffic)-my b/f has been wonderful & I'm determined to have a blast next season...I encourage all women who might have left the course to return to it - to finish - and to enjoy the feeling of being one w/the bike!
Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 4:42 PM
Hi Carrie. LOVE your SV650 - it's gorgeous! I am on my 3rd motorcycle. I started riding 6 years ago beginning with a Yamaha Virago 550. Then, needing more power, traded for a Suzuki Intruder 800. I loved that bike. But then my husband bought a Suzuki GSXR 1000. The difference between a sport bike and a cruiser were worlds apart. I need one! So trade-in again - bought myself a GSXR 1000 too. I have been riding this awesome bike for 3 years. My husband and I try to ride every Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. The first commenter is correct about dropping a bike - I did on my 2nd ride on the GSXR. I strongly suggest that you add riding pants to your wardrobe - some with knee & hip pads. I should have had them when I fell - they might have prevented the severe bruise on my hip. Leathers, jeans (like Draggin' Jeans), or any other tough material, with pads, will save your skin (literally).
Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 11:21 AM
hello! Fun to find your article when I checked into this site for the first time. Congratulations and am enjoying your share. Took the rider course when I turned 50 because I finally figured out if I kept waiting to end up w/a husband who rides I'd NEVER go anywhere. Riding is wonderful solo or w/a group and became instantly fun because I started out w/a 1980 Honda 650 and then graduated to a used Honda VTX 1300-purple, sparkly w/tassles. Made the rounds of the local shops, read and learned online, and asked questions every chance I got for a year before I found my VTX on consignment. Developing rapport w/the local shops and salespeople gave me confidence and having experienced riders to talk to was important because I still don't know very much. What I have enjoyed is building my riding buddies group and looking forward to my next adventure. Safe riding!
Wed Jul 1, 2009 at 12:00 PM
Soo kewl to read your article. Thanks for sharing. I am a mother of three, now grown and gone, with a dream to own my own bike. I am now a proud owner of a Honda 750Aero. Not too big but big enough for me--smile. I also would highly recommend taking the Riders course. It helped me soo much in confidence and basic wisdom on the road. Now I need some warm weather so I can get out there and make some memories
Sat May 9, 2009 at 6:49 PM
I love reading about other ladies learning to ride. I learned on my Dad's 125 dirt bike at 14, but only rode on the back of my husband's until a couple of years ago. I took the free IL course (ought to be in High School for all kids!), dropped my husband's hand-me-down 1100 and then bought the 250 Virago. The dealers try to push you into a bigger one, but I wanted to make all those learner mistakes on a small bike. When my son got his license he took a 600 mile ride with my husband on it to get his newbieness out too. She was so fun, but not made for long trips so I traded up for the Spirit 750 - all I need. Guys always want to take their test on my 250, but I said "take the class!" The stats show how effective it is. Only sad part, I used to take photos as we rode, my husband is great at juggling me turning and angling for the best shot. Not gonna try it while I'm steering....Ride On!
Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 9:01 AM
Thank you so much for the above article and I'm looking forward to part III. My husband and I bought a Harley Electra Glide in 2006 which I dearly love to ride (passenger), but lately I've been getting the bug to ride my own, so I too, am going to take the Motorcycle course this summer.
Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 8:51 PM
when i was in the motorcycle biz i always called starter bikes boomerang bikes because they were always back after a year! it is better to buy new and take good care of your bike you get your money out of it every time with a beginner bike.
Fri Mar 13, 2009 at 9:53 AM
Great article. Reminded me of teaching my significant other to ride my Yamaha Virago, 1000. After getting her license she bought her own Virago...a 750. Mistake. She promptly moved from NJ to California and was there for 6 years. Upon moving back to NJ she gave the bike to her son, and we went looking for a new bike for her. I had a Harley and while at a Harley dealer in Pa. he convinced us that she could handle the H-D Heritage Classic. I then bought myself a new Harley and gave the Heritage to her. She is 5'4", 125#, and handles the bike like a real champ. We have been to several rallies, Sturgis, Laconia, and now that she's 62, we still have a passion for riding. My advice to any woman, do not be intimidated by getting the largest engine you can afford, and do not be afraid of the big bikes. If I were to drop the Harley, I cannot pick it up by myself either. DON'T drop it. (easier said than done). I agree with the previous poster, that there are only two kinds of riders...those that have fallen, and those that will. Another piece of advise, always wear a helmet. Do not go by state laws. Also, rememeber, buy a $10 helmet, if you have a $10 head. Get the best one to suit your needs.
Mon Feb 16, 2009 at 5:18 AM
Started on Honda Hawk 450
2005 XL1200 Custom Harley Davidson Sportser
2007 Heritage Soft tail Classic
Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 7:42 AM
Welcome to the Ol' Girl's club! I love it when I see other women out riding. It's the best feeling in the world to own and operate my own bike. I ride a Honda 1100 Spirit (after riding a Honda VLX600 for a year) and enjoy every moment on it or tinkering around it. I love adding upgrades and accessories to make it truly unique. Ride on!
Thu Jan 8, 2009 at 10:59 AM
I am on my third street bike and as they say, third times a charm. I have a 2006 Triumph America 790cc and love it. My first street bike was a Kymco Venox 250. Then I wanted something bigger so I got a 750 Honda Shadow (basically because it has loud pipes!!) Then I decided to buy a brand new bike, was thinking of a Kawasaki Vulcan. I was getting to test drive the Vulcan when I glanced to my left and saw it - this beautiful Triumph. I had to have it. I can handle this bike better than all of the others I have ridden. I love it and would totally recommend it. Hey, Duchess - like your three things!!!!!
Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 5:40 PM
As a woman that recently purchased her own bike, I am totally with you!!! Got a Honda VTX 1300C... It's the best thing I ever did!! Every girl needs to have her own and and know how to use three things... a power drill, a vibrator and a motorcycle!!!
Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 6:45 PM
I too just got a bike after 30 years. I had a 250 Honda in my 20's but now am in my 50's and just bought a 500 Kawasaki. I love it. It is a real smooth ride. I had to get use to the weight and riding again was a scary experience the first 2 times out but now I love it. I love to ride the winding roads in Arkansas, the senery is out of this world. Love your story and can't wait to read part 3. Loved reading everyone elses comments on girls riding bikes. Will defently check back to read updates.
Wed Oct 8, 2008 at 12:13 PM
I too just got my license this spring. I went to the Illinois Motorcycle Saftey course and felt that it was the best thing. The course gives you confidence that you wouldn't normally get so quickly. The instructors are phenominal and so patient. I initially signed up just to get some experience and hopefully get over my fear of bikes (had a spill when I was in my early 20s riding on the back of a bike and did not get on one again until last fall -- not enjoyable at all!!!) My husband and I stopped at the Harley dealer to purchase helmets for a snowmobile and now own 3 bikes between the two of us. (2 are mine.) As you can see, the class not only help me get over my fears but also showed me the freedom of the "open road". The course also gave my classmates and I great experience in all types of weather. (Early April class in Illinois - rain, ice, sleet, wind, snow and some sun.) We rode in them all within the 2 days of riding. I started out with a used GZ250 so I wouldn't get upset when I dropped it and I did go over (no injuries except for pride) and then moved up to a Honda Shadow (600cc). The 250 is not made for Interstate travel nor could it keep up with the "big boys". I have now rode over 1,000 miles since April and loving every minute of it. I strongly urge anyone I run into that is thinking about riding (bike or scooter) to take the course. It is well worth the cost - whatever it is. Illinois also has the added benefit that if you pass the course, you provide a copy of your card to the insurance company and you get a discount. I may not be a Harley mama (unless I am on the back of my husband's Police special) but I am a motorcycle mama and enjoying the wind blowing through my hair. (That is the hair that hangs down from the helmet I originally bought for the snowmobile!) Keep smilin and ridin. I cann't wait for Part 3.
Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 9:56 AM
Hi Carrie, I love it whenever I see women out riding. I started riding back in 1971 with a mini bike and graduated to a 350F Honda in 1973 (the year I graduated).When I was ready to buy a bigger bike (the trail 70 had a heck of a time keeping up with the bigger bikes ha ha) I told my Dad I wanted to buy a motorcycle for my first vehicle. Back then it was hard to find a bike that I could sit on and both my feet could touch the ground. This was the first year Honda made this little four cylinder bike. I had so much fun with it. The first two years I had it I put 20,000 miles on it. Back then in this small Iowa town there was no other females riders. Now several kids later and still scrimping I have a 1982 V45 Magna and a 1999 Harley Sportster Hugger. Acutually I like sitting on the Magna better. Anyway now my sister rides, my daughter, my three sons, we all going riding when we can get together and its great. Be safe and enjoy the ride. There is nothing else like being out on the road.
Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 3:49 PM
Carrie, I just received my bike license and have clocked 900 miles so far. But, for safety sake I would not forgo the safety course. It was eye opening. I ride a '08 1200 Harley Nightster and it is a perfect fit. I did add a Reach seat and pull back handle bars on it for comfort. Also, a windshield, bars and luggage rack (very small).I don't ride alone yet but the women in the family all own their own. There is also women biker groups in Michigan. Well, I'm glad that there are so many more women out there riding. One thing, I always try to wear light color shirts or jackets, just so I get the extra head turn from drivers.
Sat Sep 13, 2008 at 7:52 AM
Carrie,in Ohio you pick up your permit packet, take a written test and then take the riding part of the test. If you pass all sections you get your license. You do not have to take the safety course. I took the written test, passed and a week later I took the riding portion. Within 2 minutes I rode 5 courses and received 100%! My husband has been the best teacher and always rides behind me. I am still with the bike I started with in 2005. It is a Honda CM400T. This bike is immacculate and is a 1979. We leave tommorrow for an 11 day road trip...no destination except East. By next spring I hope to get a bigger bike as mine doesn't quite keep up with my husbands Goldwing. I will never get rid of my Honda 400. It's great that you ride your own bike and I hope that you have many an opportunity to get out there and ride free. My hubby feels he has lost his riding buddy. But he didn't marry a buddy he married a partner...a riding partner. Wish you the best and be careful out there and watch for the other drivers!
Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 9:40 PM
HI CARRIE! At age 44, I have just discovered the absolute JOYS of being a passenger on the hubster's HD ELECTRA GLIDE (with windshield - you may want to look into one if your bike can have one put on - REALLY saves on road weariness, I've been told). ANYWAY..I have also decided to take a course ($250 here in MASS - ouch!), have indeed "sat on and moved" a number of HD's at dealers' stores - tho can't actually test drive one yet - bummer! - to get a FEEL for the ride, with feet FIRMLY on ground, the weight of bike, everything that I would either need to buy after-market to make it rideable for ME...I LOVE that you are writing this, and am eagerly looking forward to next installment!! TY for the advice re: hubby coming along to "ask questions," I'd have no clue! I LOVE being on the back of hubby's bike, but, indeed, also want to be able to ride my own (he's already told me I won't be riding HIS baby - LOL!) anytime I want. Since the hubby had old leathers, I thankfully don't have to go out and buy those, unless want something fashionable - his OLD is pretty darn OLD!! lolol...BTW, here in MASS, there are MANY women rider clubs, even have one in my hometown, IRONMERMAIDS. BEST OF LUCK, ride safe, enjoy the wind .... BLESSED BE, connie
Fri Aug 1, 2008 at 10:22 PM
Carrie I love the artical. I am currently a passenger,that is untill next summer I am taking the riders course Im so excited, Ive always wanted a bike of my own.Your artical was great! Cant wait to read part 3!
Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 3:48 PM
I also bought a Yamaha 650 Silverado for my first bike...Loved it but needed more power so this summer moved up to a 800 Triumph America...My husband and I have logged many miles together and I sincerely hope to see many more ladies out there enjoying the open road...As an old gal (pushing 60) I get my share of looks and some guys initially are hesitant to ride with me...Once they do ride with us I get a lot of awed respect (what can I say, I have to keep up with hubby's R3)...have fun and be safe
Wed Jul 2, 2008 at 9:20 AM
Two years ago I bought a Yamaha 650 Silverado. I really love it but I think I would like a sport bike also. I have looked at all of them and so far I like the Buell Blast. I am only 5'1" and want something I'm comfortable with. My husband has mentioned a lowering kit but I need to do more research. Good luck out there and be safe.
Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 11:54 AM
Congratulations on the new scoot. I've heard very good things about the SV650. Enjoy it and I look forward to the next installment.
Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 10:03 PM
Funny, I had the same experience here in Quebec minus the odd stares from salesmen/saleswomen, they did not flinch when I made an issue about the colour :-). We also went through all the used bikes, to come to the conclusion that new was better for us, my husband did all the talking and asked all the right questions that I would have not thought of. Finally I also chose the 2008 SV650 for it's sporty look, it's upright position, light weight, I did make a few minor adjustments, lowering kit I am only 5'4", race pipe, solo seat, etc... I have also been going out to the garage to sit on it, start it, go a few feet........LOL, see you all out there soon, I hope!
Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 4:59 AM
Carrie, great article...can't wait for part 3!!! I'm currently a passenger thinking about taking the class(costs way more here!), but still in "considering" mode. Thanks for sharing your story!
Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 7:08 PM
good for you - remember "keep the shiny side up" the other advice i'd give is there are 2 kinds of riders - those that have dropped their bikes and those that are going to drop their bikes. trust me it usally happens in front of bunch of good looking members of the opposite sex.
Sun Apr 20, 2008 at 8:00 PM