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This is a question that comes up time and time again on the internet: what’s the best bike for a first time rider. And any time someone writes on the subject, it’s like whack-a-mole: you’re gonna get hit in the head by someone who disagrees with your list.
I’m doing it a little different and taking a page out of People Magazine’s formula with my list of the sexiest bikes for first time riders. Let’s face it. Part of the appeal of riding a motorcycle is the massive incremental sex appeal that it gives the rider. Someone who knows how to throw a leg over a two-wheeled beast and launch it is by definition sexier than someone who doesn’t.
I had a few criteria for this list. (1) the bike had to be less than 1000 cc’s, which I think is the upper limit for a first time rider. (2) the bike had to be available in the 2012 model year. And (3) the bike had to cost less than $10,000 out the showroom door (not hard to do considering criteria #1, but I’m putting it out there anyway.)
Normally I wouldn’t recommend anyone – let alone a first time rider – buy a brand-new bike. You end up paying dealer setup fees and shipping which can add another grand to your purchase price. There are so many bikes available used that if you don’t have your heart set on a bike that was just introduced, you can find low mileage late model year options on Craigslist or Ebay or the motorcycle forums and save thousands. But for the sake of setting a line in the sand, these are all 2012 models.
Here’s my list:
10. Honda NC700X. This bike is set to hit showrooms later this spring. I saw it’s debut at the New York Motorcycle Show and it’s very cool. Just please please please – if you buy one – don’t get automatic transmission, OK? It automatically eliminates the sexy quotient.
9. Triumph America. Cruisers are sexy, and the Triumph marque adds a little something-something. I rode this bike for three years and if you’re a new rider in the market for a cruiser, I can’t say enough about it. In a sea of homogeneous middleweight cruisers (take the badges off a Vulcan, Shadow, Boulevard, or Star and you’d have a hard time telling them apart), the America stands out.
8. Kawasaki Ninja 250. Many fellow riders think that a first time rider should consider only 250 cc and below motorcycles. I think this approach really limits choices. Nevertheless, the Ninja 250 is just a great looking bike that owners love. On the motorcycles subreddit (fantastic motorcycle forum – go there if you haven’t already) a Ninja 250 owner crossed the 30,000 mile mark this week, so it’s NOT a bike you’ll outgrow.
7. Suzuki V-Strom 650. The 2007 edition of the V-Strom is my current ride and I’m thrilled with it. It’s comfortable, versatile, nimble, easy to ride and easy to love. The 2012 version is less versatile (it’s off-road capabilities have been stripped away) but it’s still a great-looking machine and in fact is sexier than the 04-11 Weestroms.
6. Honda CBR250R. I saw this bike sitting on the floor at the NYC moto show and it definitely qualifies as sexy. It also tends to win all of the 250 cc shootouts that the motorcycle pubs do every year.
5. Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. So many people who get a M class license want to ride Harleys, and this is the only one that really qualifies as a bike for first-time riders. And my brother-in-law recently let me take his Dyna for a spin and I have to admit there is definitely something intoxicatingly sexy about riding a Harley.
4. BMW F650GS. Nice bike, looks great, goes off road, has that BMW logo on the tank that just gives it that extra boost of sex appeal. Plus riding a BMW Adventure-Sport bike automatically links you to Ewan and Charley, even if the tires never see dirt and you never eat The Stew of 100 Testicles. I tried out a 650GS last year and found it a bit small for my 6’2″ frame but still…gotta be on this list.
3. Kawasaki Ninja 650. Drop-dead gorgeous. Looks fast standing still. Getting great reviews from the motorcycling press. Comfortable to straddle with a neutral upright riding position. A flat-out winner.
2. Triumph Bonneville. Just one of the coolest bikes on two wheels. 60’s retro sensibilities and all of the modern technology, fun to ride, turns heads everywhere it goes, moddable to your heart’s content. A fantastic, fantastic machine.
1. Ducati Monster 696. The Monster is a work of art. There is some debate as to whether it’s really for first time riders (in fact there was some discussion about this very point last night on Reddit) but I vote yes. And it simply defines sexy. At Fast by Ferracci here in the Philadelphia area, you can get a Monster for $9,947.70 out the door ($8,795 MSRP plus 6% sales tax, $525 dealer prep and freight, and $100 documentation fee) so it just qualifies for the list.
Honorable mention: Husqvarna Concept Baja. C’mon, Kris Odwarka. Pull some strings and make this beauty a reality! If it were available today, it would be #3 on my list. And there would be one in my garage.
What do you think? Any contenders I overlooked? Fire away!
Yesterday I picked up the Rocket’s replacement at Ferracci’s. I considered a lot of different bikes – too many – and ultimately decided on the bike I’ve wanted in my stable and pined after since last summer, the venerable Suzuki V-Strom 650.
This is a big departure for me in a lot of ways:
- My first non-Triumph. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license in 2008 were Triumphs, first the America then the Rocket III Touring. As a result, I’ve got dozens of items of Triumph garb and all my motorcycle helmets have Triumph stickers. My name on at least a dozen online motorcycle forums is PersonalTriumph (a reference to both my allegiance to the Triumph marque as well as some personal accomplishments.) When I decided on the ‘Strom it was hard to face the fact that I would not have a Triumph in my garage. I suspect at some point in the future I may have another though.
- My first non-cruiser. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license were cruisers. The ‘Strom is my first sport bike.
- My first dual sport. The ‘Strom is designed for light-duty off-roading. I’m going to do some research and find some fire roads up in the Poconos to give this a shot. I’ve already experimented with a lap around my yard. (Don’t tell my landlord though!)
My first impressions after about 24 hours of owning the ‘Strom are extremely favorable:
- Twitchy. This bike handles like a dream. I think about turning, and it seems to turn. I’m sure other sport bikes handle better, but coming as I do from the land of cruisers this is a really welcome change.
- Fast. I was worried that going from the 2300cc Rocket to the 650cc ‘Strom would leave me longing for the days of plentiful roll-on power. It’s a non-issue. In fact, the ‘Strom feels faster than the Rocket. I was on the highway this morning, cruising along at what seemed like a comfortable and reasonable pace. I looked down at my speedometer and I was going…well…way too fast. I need to be careful.
- Light. After ‘rassling with the 900+ pound Rocket for the better part of the past year, it’s such a nice change to have a lightweight machine that I can easily roll around.
- A bargain. I bought my V-Strom used. It’s a 2007 with around 10k miles on it that I got for less than $4,000. (Bonus: I was able to bank several grand after liquidating the Rocket.) But a brand new leftover 2011 with ABS and a warranty can be had at your local Suzuki dealer for around $7 grand. Even a brand new 2012 is just over $8 grand. It’s a fantastic machine for the money.
- Its good to be in love again. After spending the past year falling in and out of love with the Rocket (and even feeling vague trepidation about it during the good times) it’s wonderful to once again have a bike that gets my heart pounding and my pulse racing every time I look at it.
There are a lot of folks who love the Rocket III, so don’t let my bad experience color you if you’re considering the bike. In fact, I think my friend Art will ditch me when I tell him the swap-out that I made, because he is so enamored with the Rocket. One of my fellow Rideitors on the Reddit motorcycle forum stated it best: “although you did enjoy it for a while I think you have eliminated a lot of the things you don’t want in a bike because they don’t fit your riding style. Its a little like dating the hot girl who turns out to be a superficial, high maintenance pain in the ass. Well said, my friend. Well said.
If you’re a new rider, definitely put the V-Strom on your list of bikes to consider. I’ll keep you all updated as I get more experience with this bike.There is also a lot of help online at Stromtrooper, the V-Strom owners forum, which I have found to be one of the most comprehensive, active, and friendly motorcycle forums on the internet since I started lurking there last August.
Well my year-long love/hate relationship with the Triumph Rocket III Touring is officially over. I had posted it for sale back in February on Craigslist and had exactly one person come look for it about a month ago. He lowballed me and I declined. I never heard back from him (or anyone else) and had pretty much decided to just ride the bike for another year and give it another chance.
Then out of the blue on Wednesday the guy called me and told me he was ready to buy and would pay my asking price. He and a buddy came last night with a cashiers check, put it on a trailer, and its gone.
So ends this saga. I was enraptured last spring by the notion that bigger is better. I tested the R3T at a demo day and decided I had to have one. A few twists and turns later I had the big, powerful, head-turning bike I wanted. I hated it almost from the beginning:
- It was hot. And not in a good way. The 2300 cc engine generates a crap-ton of heat, and made the bike wickedly uncomfortable to ride in the summer months. I’d arrive at work after my morning commute drenched in sweat. If I got stopped at a red light I would literally have to turn the motor off. I’m convinced that Triumph de-tuned the demo bikes at its demo events or richened up the fuel mixture to make this less noticeable because the demo bike I rode (and I took 2-3 turns on it) didn’t run hot.
- It sucked gas. Ask any Rocket III owner or Triumph dealer what the MPGs are on this bike and they’ll say, “Oh, about 40 miles per gallon.” It’s bullshit. This thing drinks gas like a drunken college fratboy drinks beer.
- It was expensive to own. My premium doubled the day I bought the bike. My gasoline bill went up by at least 40%. Tires and maintenance were expensive. It goes on and on.
- It was heavy. Backing out of my parking space at home became part of my workout routine.
I should have known all these things. I lost sight of it though after getting drunk on the notion that bigger is better when it comes to motorcycles. My very expensive lesson learned: it isn’t.
The Rocket added insult to injury when the shifting mechanism failed in August, leaving me stuck in third gear permanently. The repair cost me three weeks of ride time during the nicest time of the year. To Triumph’s credit, they covered the repair under warranty even though the manufacturers warranty had officially expired a month earlier (big assist to Steve, the service manager at Manayunk Triumph, who facilitated this and who tolerated my daily calls for a status update.)
There were good times too. My trip through West Virginia and North Carolina in October was an absolute blast on the Rocket. The bike was just flat-out built for rolling up miles on the open road. There were times when I would twist the throttle and that 2300 cc beast would spring to life and I would feel nothing but…joy. Ultimately when the dude called and told me he would take the bike, I decided it was an opportunity to reset and pick something else.
Tomorrow I’m going to pick up its replacement. It’s already paid for. Stay tuned…
Yesterday I was at Martin Motorsports for its annual show “The Modern Classics.” Once again Martin’s demonstrated why it’s the best motorcycle dealership in the Philadelphia area, bar none.
The dealership turned it’s showroom floor into a motorcycle show which, in Martin’s words, “celebrates the motorcycles of the 60s, 70s and 80s that made big contributions to their eras with their technology, style, performance or establishing new trends…the bikes you remember…the bikes that made you a motorcyclist!”
It worked, in spades. The place was packed with hundreds of people and the bikes on the showroom floor were an amazing collection of rolling works of art. My friend Scott and I agreed: if someone gave us the freedom to pick any bike on the floor to take home, it would be damn-near impossible to make a decision.
The folks at Martin’s just get it. It’s not just about selling bikes and performing service. It’s about celebrating motorcycles, celebrating being a rider. Every weekend at Martin’s is a happening, even run-of-the-mill weekends when there is nothing special going on, even if it’s just to stop by and look around.
Enough words. Enjoy the pictures.
This was posted by a fellow motorcyclist on Reddit, so I can’t take credit for finding it. Just wanted to share and share it some more.
I hope like these Taiwanese gentlemen, I’m still riding well into my 80s. Enjoy!