When you first start riding there's a lot to learn. Don't base your expectations on the movies, find out what most riders wish someone had told them before they bought their first motorcycle. Plus, scroll to the bottom for links to resources.
Start with a Motorcycle Safety Course
A lot of people who end up riding Harleys® say they grew up on dirt bikes or once took their uncle’s motorcycle around the block, and that makes them feel like there can’t be all that much to jumping on a bike. While background knowledge is great and will definitely give you an edge over first time motorcyclists who have absolutely zero experience, it doesn’t prepare you for Dallas rush hour traffic or riding bad roads in bad weather.
A motorcycle safety course starts you out with good habits so you don’t have to un-learn bad ones later. You’ll get training on riding in different situations, start riding defensively from the beginning, and get set up for receiving your motorcycle endorsement. Plus, a lot of the class takes place on a motorcycle, so it’s not exactly a drag.
Include Gear in Your Budget
Buy gear you like and feel good in, and wear it every time you ride. You’re much more likely to put on your jacket and helmet if you feel like they keep you comfortable and look good.
Armored pants and motorcycle gloves will make a huge difference in a minor incident, because your knees and hands are often the first thing to hit the ground and they can protect you from abrasions.
Don’t Start With Your Dream Bike
Match your bike to your skill level. Some people dream of riding a big badass motorcycle for a long period of time, and that dream is what finally drives them to learn to ride. That’s a good thing. But because they picture themselves roaring along dark misty roads on a hulking monster, that’s the only type of bike they’re interested in looking at.
Riding a motorcycle is not like riding a bicycle. Just because you mastered two wheels with pedals when you were a kid doesn’t mean now that you’re bigger, motorcycling will come naturally. There’s a learning curve. Even the most basic beginner motorcycle is more powerful than you might realize.
Some parents buy teenagers a reasonably priced, safe, easy to drive vehicle when they first get their license because they know accidents are likely during the learning phase. Most people call that sensible. Other parents buy their kids expensive sports cars then wonder why the ‘vette gets wrecked. Most people call that stupidity, or at least a waste of hard-earned money and a good car.
When you start riding, buy something that fits your body type and the type of riding you’ll be doing, but don’t jump right to the most expensive, most powerful and most technologically advanced. Give yourself six months or so of riding, then evaluate which bike you really want.
Research Your Choices
We sort of hate to offer this advice because we’re a Harley-Davidson® dealership. You definitely need to sit on bikes you’re thinking about to check out the fit, but that shouldn’t be your starting point. In other words, don’t just walk into a dealership with no idea of your budget and riding needs, pick out the best looking shiny and fall in love.
Decades of riders wish someone had told them not to buy their first motorcycle based on emotion, but instead based on research. The more you research, the more informed you are. Check into maintenance costs, insurance costs, pros and cons of that particular bike and so on. (Hint: Use our website to get a quote from Full Cycle Insurance and to browse bikes in your price range.)
Research a couple of different options, then head to the dealership and actually check them out. Try to keep your mind as open as possible and evaluate which of your choices is the best fit for your frame. One bike might be perfect for riders with long legs and long torsos, while another might be a better choice for people who aren’t as tall.
You Really Do Get What You Pay For
It’s not a bad idea to buy used when you buy your first motorcycle, but if a deal seems too good to be true, be wary. One of the top things riders wish someone had told them before buying their first motorcycle is to not be tempted to buy a used one that needs work just because it’s cheap. Unless you’re able to do the work yourself, it will probably end up costing you much more than you planned, and a bike in bad shape is a safety risk for riders of all skill levels.
Harley® Riders are Awesome
All the above is gleaned from a variety of sources, but this one is personal. I wish someone had told me before I bought my first motorcycle what a friendly, helpful group Harley® riders are as a whole. I think before I started riding I had watched all the same movies as everybody else where Harley® riders don’t talk much, they just roar up to the bar and look menacing, sometimes knocking a few heads together.
Then one day I watched Easy Rider for the first time. Yeah, I was an adult, I had a sheltered childhood. But the intro was all it took, suddenly it grabbed hold of me this intense longing to ride. I’m impulsive, and I always like a challenge so that weekend I signed up for my motorcycle safety course and a few weeks after that I got a little Honda. I didn’t even consider buying a Harley® because I didn’t plan to spend a lot of time shooting pools at desert saloons picking fights with people who looked at me the wrong way.
But before long I wanted a more powerful bike, and I kept coming back to Harley® because, well, they’re iconic. As I shopped for the right bike I started to realize that Harley® riders are like this worldwide community. A lot of them are definitely obsessed with their bikes, but in a good way. It’s like being part of a really diverse family where there’s always something going on, always someone willing to help or offer advice, and always coming up with new ideas I want in on.
Prepare to Get Addicted
I expected riding to just be another thing I did, like taking up photography or gardening only cooler. One thing I’m kind of glad no one told me was how addictive riding can be, again in a good way. Harleys® aren’t cheap. Bike modifications cost money and you’ll probably never be done. There’s always more gear to want. But there are a lot of things in life that are more trouble and expense and don’t bring you a fraction of the pleasure.
So if you’re ready to get started, we can help. These tools will help: