How to choose your first motorcycle

Adventure 3 min read

There’s no one motorcycle that’s perfect for all beginners. And they come in so many brands, sizes, and colors—how to choose? Here are five things to consider as you shop for your first motorcycle.

But before we begin, please consider training! Even before you buy your first bike, it’s recommended you take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class. It will actually make choosing a bike easier after you’ve ridden at least one, and you start to figure out what you like and don’t. And bonus—in most states, passing the MSF waives the riding portion of the DMV test.

1. What kind of riding do you plan to do?

First and foremost, what kind of riding do you plan to do? Bikes are designed for different functions—it’s why many motorcyclists own multiples! Will you be mainly on roads or dirt? If on-road, long, straight highways at high speed, or twisty mountain parkways? Will you do short day trips or longer, multi-day treks? Are you setting your sights on a track day, or are wide-open rambling trips more your style?

2. What’s your budget?

Similar to any big purchase, you can home in on your options when you set your price range. For your first motorcycle, I recommend buying used. You may drop it (it happens to everyone!) and get a few bumps and scratches as you learn. Save up for your dream bike when you’re more comfortable with handling. Also, don’t forget to set aside investment for a high-quality helmet and all the protective gear you’ll need. (Quick bonus tip: Always invest in a NEW helmet, but to make your budget go further, you can find great, gently used gear on eBay and in online motorcycle groups! It’s a great way to try brands, styles, and fit before you commit to new.)

3. Consider fit

Seat height in particular can make you feel confident at stoplights, or wobbly on your toes. Find a bike that fits your inseam and allows you to be flat-footed. Sit on as many as possible and get a feel for the length of the handlebars and footpegs—you don’t want to be uncomfortably reaching for either. The best motorcycle for a beginner fits well and makes turning and handling easy. In general, a lighter bike will be easier to manage as a newbie, so check the full wet weight when shopping.

4. What’s your style?

I am NOT going to pretend that looks don’t matter! You want to love your moto and that includes how it looks. Bikes come in so many different styles and designs, it’s important to find the one that makes you smile when you open the garage.

5. Dependability

Unless you love turning wrenches, you’ll want to look for a low-maintenance ride that won’t leave you stranded. Do your homework by reading online reviews of the year/make/model of the bikes you’re interested in. Stay away from rare models that may be difficult to find parts.

Whatever bike you choose, my last recommendation is don’t overthink it! One of the great things about motorcycles is that they generally hold their value and can be easy to resell. If you ride for a while and decide you want something else, you can try again! This is not like deciding on your next tattoo.

Now, get to the used dealer near you, scour the classified ads, go to bike nights to peruse the options, and swing your leg over as many as you can until you find your perfect first ride! And remember, whatever bike you decide to go with, be sure to keep it keep it protected with motorcycle insurance from Progressive. To learn more about comprehensive motorcycle coverage, click here.

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