Motorcycle Shopping

By Chelle Cordero

January 21, 2011 5 min read

The 2007 comedy "Wild Hogs" depicted four middle-aged suburban men who decided to pursue adventure on a cross-country motorcycle trip; it's rumored that the opening scenes have been used by the American Motorcyclist Association as a lesson of what NOT to do.

Humor aside, there are a lot of things to do before you get on a motorcycle and travel somewhere, even if it is just down the street. Choosing the right bike is vital, from the right size for you to the right type of bike based on the reason you are riding. Many new motorcycle owners salivate at the idea of riding a super-bike.

There are several types of motorcycles from which to choose. Cruiser, sport, touring, standard and dual-purpose are the most common options. Some types of motorcycles are considered interchangeable by some experienced riders.

Kawasaki's media relations department says that new riders have a variety of entry-level machines from which to choose. "People often have an idea of what they want. They see the bikes that their friends are riding, and they do research and understand their own lifestyle."

First you have to think about what your level of experience is. If you are completely inexperienced, consider taking a motorcycle safety class. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is one of the recognized providers of motorcycle riding classes for beginners and those who want to improve their skills. In a basic course, you will learn how to operate a bike, about safety gear and how alcohol or drugs can impair your ability.

What are your plans for using the motorcycle? Are you planning to use the bike for a daily commute across town to school? Or will you be taking long trips on the highway for vacations? Or do you plan to do a bit of off-roading along rugged trails? There are different bikes for different folks, so match your choice with your plans.

How big are you? Your height and weight will affect not only how you fit on the bike but also how much control you will have at higher speeds. New riders should be able to put both feet on the ground when stopped; more experienced riders can handle taller bikes more confidently. Sit on the bike at the dealer, and see how you feel and how well you can reach the handlebars and controls. Lean forward as if you were riding into the wind. Does it feel comfortable? Take the bike for a test drive before you buy.

Cost is obviously a factor, so be sure to shop around. There are several great entry-level motorcycles that will let you feel the adrenaline rush, get you where you want to go, and not break the bank. For those beginning their two-wheeled journey, the Kawasaki Ninja 250R sport bike is a great choice, with prices that start at $4,000 or so.

Cruiser, sport and touring bikes are generally heavier and more powerful machines than other bikes. Touring bikes are best for long-distance trips, when you carry luggage and possibly a passenger. A sport-touring bike requires a less severe posture and may be more comfortable for the longer trip.

The sport-touring 2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager is tuned to deliver peak torque and horsepower, and it has a large frame, comfortable passenger seating and a fully integrated luggage rack. The price for this flagship bike is less than $17,500.

Standard bikes sometimes are called "naked bikes" because they lack or have minimal windshields and fairings. These bikes are street-worthy and usually a good fit for a new rider. Dual-purpose bikes work well on streets and on defined off-road trails. They feature a higher center of gravity and a good suspension to handle uneven ground.

Scooters and mo-peds can be terrific ways to get around and see the sights. Scooters have smaller engines, which are fully encased, than motorcycles, as well as smaller wheels. Mo-peds were popular during the '80s and are a bicycle-motorcycle hybrid with small engines and alternate pedal power. Local laws vary regarding licensing.

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