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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.

NC700X at its big unveil at the NYC motorcycle show.


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.

The bike is sexy, too. 😉


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.

Sweet shot of the Ninja 250. Image (C) Kawasaki.


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.

The 2012 edition of the venerable V-Strom 650. Sweet look but no fire roads on this one.


6Honda 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.

Sexy little thang.


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.

Something about 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.

The Sertão version of the G650GS.


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.

Damn that's sexy. Image (c) Kawasaki.



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.

Yeah. That'll turn some heads. Image (c) Triumph Motorcycles.




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.

In the immortal words of Annie Savoy, "Oh my..." Image linked from motorride.net.


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.

Husqvarna president Kris Odwarka shows off the Concept Baja.



What do you think? Any contenders I overlooked? Fire away!

Last year I wrote about my favorite motorcycle dealer in the region, Martin Motorsports, and outlined some of the motorcycle dealership best practices they deploy to make visiting their store a pleasure.

Now, the flip side of the coin. My least favorite dealership in the region, which – ironically – used to be a part of the Martin Motorsports family (they split up a few years ago and are now under separate ownership.) Its called Eurosports and it’s a Coopersburg, PA-based Triumph, Ducati, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, and Vespa dealer. Here are some of the reasons why I won’t ever visit this dealership again:

My text to my friend Pete demonstrates my frustration.

1. Let your customer stand around for almost an hour before saying hello.  Eurosports has a couple of bikes in inventory right now that I’m interested in. I went there on Saturday morning, literally with the title to my Rocket III and my checkbook in hand – totally prepared to make a deal.  Nobody said “hello”, “I’ll be right with you”, “Can I help you?”…nothing. I might as well have been invisible.

2. Treat your customer like a criminal for asking for a test ride. When the salesman finally did deign to speak with me, he reacted with horror when I told him I wanted to take a test ride. He said I could only take a ride if an employee rode with me, and that they were likely too busy to do it on Saturday. He asked me to come back on a weekday when it would be convenient for him (not for me though, as it would require taking a day off from work.)

Sorry, but I’m not making a several-thousand dollar purchase without taking the bike for a spin. And if Martin Motorsports, Montgomeryville Cycle Center, and other local dealers can let me take a ride on a bike without an employee in tow, then you can.

3. Don’t have your inventory current on your website. One of the bikes I was interested in test riding was a really nice 2005 Triumph Bonneville. It had a lot of extras and was barely used. In fact, one of my thoughts was to trade my Rocket and cash for the Bonneville AND a V-Strom they have in stock. When I got there, the Bonnie was parked in front, and it was beautiful. But when I asked the salesman about the bike, he informed me it was sold.

Frustrating. As of this moment, the Bonneville is still listed for sale on the dealership’s website. Nothing on the advertisement indicates it has been sold. The fact that the salesman – who witnessed my disappointment that it had been sold first hand – didn’t take the action of removing it from the website speaks volumes.

4. Don’t let your customer speak to your experts. My experience on Saturday morning wasn’t my first frustrating experience with Eurosports. Last year, I wanted to upgrade my Triumph America to get more power from it. I was thinking of a big bore kit, a hot cam, airbox removal…something. A friend told me to speak with one of the mechanics at Eurosports because this gentleman is known to be a magician with the Triumph 865cc engine.

I called the dealership several times. Explained that I wanted the legendary mechanic’s input as to what to do with my America. And I got the stiff-arm from the service desk employee who answered the phone (who is to this day the rudest person I’ve encountered at a motorcycle dealership.)

With 15 minutes on the phone with me, the mechanic could have made a $2,000 sale. Instead I ended up getting frustrated and giving up, and a few weeks later traded the America for the Rocket at a competing dealership.

5. Have a cramped, small, uncomfortable showroom with not a lot of stuff to buy. Unlike Martin’s expansive showroom, which I can’t walk through without finding a shirt or jacket to spend my money on, Eurosports showroom is about the size of a closet. On Saturday there were boxes of merchandise laying all over the floor in various states of disarray. If Saturday is the dealership’s busiest day, I suppose the messiness of the dealership tells me everything about how important the customer is to them.

So like I said to my friend Pete, I don’t ever have to visit Eurosports again. There are lots of places to spend my money. Eurosports isn’t one of them.

Ironically right up the road is the skeleton of Crossroads Harley-Davidson, once a thriving Harley dealer just south of Allentown. It’s shuttered now – a sad reminder of what can happen to a motorcycle dealership that doesn’t keep it’s eye on the ball. Perhaps a cautionary tale for the folks at Eurosports.

Some observations from the media event at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show this morning:

Honda unveiled a bike for the masses in the NC700X.

Honda introduced a bike that will grow the market. The NC700X from Honda was the first unveil of the morning and it set a strong tone right out of the box. It’s a purpose-built machine, with that purpose being to expand the North American market. It’s geared toward the new motorcycle rider, or the returning rider, in an accessible, easy-to-like format with your choice of manual or automatic transmission. According to Jon Seidel, PR guy for Honda, the engine is based on the engine of the Honda Fit.

You see where Honda is going with this: to make a motorcycle that is like their cars. Reliable, rideable, and accessible. I’m sure they’ll get slings and arrows sent their way for an appliance-like bike, but in this case I’m all for it. The more riders, the better.

I straddled the bike and even at 6’2, it fit just fine and I didn’t feel cramped at all (unlike some other smaller bikes I’ve tried out like the Kawasaki Versys 650 and the BM GS650.) I’ll be anxious to test one out when they hit dealerships this summer.

The Victory Judge unveil.

Polaris is working hard. And it’s working. I noted yesterday that I thought the buzz headed into the show was all about Victory. And it was easy to see why. The Victory folks are good guys who are pushing hard to unseat that ‘other’ American cruiser manufacturer. Victory was busy as hell this morning, unveiling a custom bike that will benefit the family of a downed motorcycle rider (the unveil was a sincerely touching moment, as the builder’s voice waivered throughout his presentation in sadness for the loss of his friend and colleague…to a car accident.) and then pulling the cover off of the new Victory Judge, another mean-looking cruiser. Tomorrow they’ll show off the Cory Ness custom version of the Judge.

The Triumph booth was mobbed all day.

Triumph is the hottest girl at the high school dance. You know, the one who knows she’s hot? The one everyone wants to talk to that you can’t get near? I’m not just saying this because I’m a Triumph lover. It was impossible to get a conversation going with a  Triumph employee this morning. The booth was absolutely mobbed from start to finish. They have some of the hottest models and it was even a challenge to get close enough to one of the bikes to see it upclose or try it on for size. The silver Triumph Explorer looks great, less than 300 lucky American collectors will get the Steve McQueen commemorative-edition Bonneville, and the new Speed Triple R is simply badass.

The Ducati fashion show was…awkward. I don’t even know where to begin. The sight of bikers with leather and tatts standing around while fashion models strutted down a catwalk in clothes that were just not suited for motorcycle riding, was odd to say the least.  When Ducati started sending bare chested male models down the runway, it went from odd to downright creepy. I looked around, and the folks in the audience were grinning uncomfortably, looking at each other with a quizzical WTF? look on their face, looking at the floor…it just didn’t work.

That said, the Panigale, the Diavel, and the Multistrada are just gorgeous, work-of-art machines.

Harley is not even trying. I hate to bash any motorcycle company, but on a day when every other manufacturer was cranking out new technology, pulling the covers off cutting-edge machines, showing off their research and development prowess, Harley sent their PR guy out to address the press with a 15 minute monologue about their motorcycle museum. Their museum. They showed off a bike from 1932. 1932.  And the poor PR guy had to spend time in his talk discussing the Evel Knievel section of the museum, and the toys (yes, toys) they have on display. Oh boy. When is the next flight for Milwaukee?

I mentioned my disappointment with the Harley presentation to an exec from another motorcycle company, and he replied, “They have 30% market share. They don’t have to do anything.”  That’s called corporate arrogance, folks. Given what I saw from the other manufacturers this morning (especially Polaris, which is now coming after Harley with two guns blazing – Victory and Indian), they won’t have that share for long.

Husqvarna president Kris Odwarka shows off the 'belle of the ball' Concept Baja.

Husqvarna Stole the Show. It only made matters worse that Harley had to follow Husqvarna, which blew the roof off the Javits Center with the unveil of their Baja 650 Concept, a fantastic dual-purpose bike that combines the look of a 1960’s scrambler with 2012 technology. The coolest thing about this bike? A dashboard built into the crossbar of the handlebars. It seemed pretty clear in talking to Kris Odwarka, president of Husqvarna North America, that this is a concept that will become reality, although the timeframe and price point was decidedly unclear.

The media stayed pretty much in formation, traveling in a pack from booth to booth during the first half of the morning. But once Husky displayed the Baja, all that changed. Half the pack remained in the Husky/BMW booth trying to get close to Mr. Odwarka, while the other half continued on to see the Harley monologue. From that point forward, the media pack was quite a bit smaller and the Husqvarna booth was jammed.

I didn’t check off a couple of the to-do’s from yesterday’s pre-show list. The new Cory Ness Victory won’t be unveiled until tomorrow and that’s when The Gunny makes his appearance. Given the weather forecast I’m not sure if I’m going to stick around for it. And I never connected with my favorite Girlie Motorcycle Blogger or her fella.

But I will say this. The guys from Iron and Air are rock solid. Just three guys from New Hampshire who set out to create a new eZine on custom motorcycles who are kicking ass and taking names. This is a full-time endeavor for them, so that should tell you their level of confidence. Good work, guys – can’t wait for the launch!

As I mentioned in my first post, I spend a lot of time on weekends visiting local motorcycle dealers and testing out new bikes. I’m grateful that most of the dealers in my area support test rides and will let me take a spin. I’ve even been honest with them: “I’m not looking to buy.” They seem to get it. Maybe I’ll take a ride and just have to have the bike. This has happened recently. Twice this season, in fact.

So as the season winds down, I’m going to list the bikes I tested this year and provide a brief blurb on each. When I put this list together, I was pretty shocked. I’ve ridden a lot of different bikes this year.

With my Rocket III Touring on the Blue Ridge Parkway, October 2011. The Rocket was made for trips like this.

1a. Rocket III Touring. Numero Uno on this list is the bike I currently own. I rode the R3T a number of times at a demo day at Eurosports back in May. I liked it so much I ended up shopping for one and bought my current ride from Hermy’s later that month. Since then it’s been a love/hate relationship. In summer, on a 90 degree day, in traffic, I hate this bike. It is like riding a convection oven, it throws off so much heat from that 2300 cc powerplant. When I’m filling it up with gas, I hate it. I’ve averaged 30 miles per gallon this year and more often than not been in the mid 20’s. But when I’m rolling up heavy miles and cruising along on a nice twisty, or passing a tractor trailer on the slab, I absolutely love it. When I’m on a trip with my friends and hauling my camping gear, I love it. When I park it on Main Street in New Hope next to about a dozen ElectraGlides and the peeps walking by stop to look at my bike and ignore the Harleys, I love it. Read the rest of this entry »