How To Pick A Second Bike

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How To Pick A Second Bike

There comes a time in every rider’s life when loving one motorcycle just isn’t enough anymore. A second — or even a third or fourth or fifteenth — is needed, just so we can feel whole. But, which one should you get? Here’s how to pick a second bike.

Background Photo by Chris Hunkeler

Kawasaki Ninja 300R

Start With Your First Bike

What do you ride now? Is it practical, everyday transportation or is it something ridiculous and impractical? If it’s the former, you likely want something a little more special to ride on high days and holidays. If it’s the latter, you probably want something that works all day every day and which won’t be stranded for months while you wait for some obscure part to make its way to your extraordinarily expensive mechanic all the way from Austria or Italy.

Or, do you have other needs? Do you want something so capable on long trips that you can’t ride it everyday in the city? Do you want to start getting dirty? What about racing or track days? Identify what it is that your first bike can’t do and think about what a second bike could add.

Honda CBR1000RR

Try And Eliminate Overlap

There’s no point going out and buying an 1199 if you already ride a CBR1000RR. With two bikes, you want to add breadth, not just expand your collection.

So let’s say you currently have that CBR1000RR. A great bike for hitting the canyons or track and even surprisingly capable of commuting or, with some small comfort modifications, maybe even some sport touring. But not so hot at carrying a passenger, sitting on the highway for days at a time or making a larger trip to the grocery store. So maybe a large sport tourer like a BMW R1200RT makes sense. Two bikes with widely divergent applicability equal a greater whole than bikes with overlapping roles.

Suzuki DR-Z400SM

The Economical Option

You’ve finally seen reason (likely after paying for your first valve adjustment) and realized a Ducati 1199 Panigale doesn’t make sense for the daily commute. Can you add a second bike and save money? Absolutely. Figure out your total annual mileage, then calculate the running costs on that Panigale. Higher mileage is going to require more tires, a higher insurance premium, more servicing and more depreciation. So, what if you slashed its mileage to weekends only? In some cases, the money saved will fund the purchase of a small motorcycle. Factor in whatever it is you’re paying your chiropractor for your Ducati-induced backpain and you can probably fund the purchase of a large motorcycle.

In this example, a small commuter will make the most sense. It’ll be faster, easier to ride and safer in city traffic, much more comfortable, achieve much greater fuel economy. And, honestly, something like a DR-Z400SM will just be a lot more fun, too.

Ducati 916 SPS

Buying With Your Heart

If you’re already pretty practical with your daily ride, then a second bike can be a great way to fulfill a lifelong dream. Have you always wanted to park a Ducati in your garage? Well, why not pick up the one that was in that poster on your bedroom wall when you were 13? A second bike is free from the need to start every time you push the button, so is a great opportunity to pick up something classic. Us? We’d much rather have a 916 SPS in our garage than the latest and greatest. Not only is doing so an easier financial pill to swallow, but it’s simply a much more special — and personal — purchase than simply swiping your credit card at ProItalia. It’s also one that will fill your nights and weekends with projects, something to which you can apply tender love and care too and something that will increase your knowledge of motorcycle mechanics and therefor help you more fully experience and enjoy all aspects of motorcycling. Plus, passing your Panigale-mounted friends on a classic just feels good.

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  • Archie

    I can relate to this through a third-party experience from a friend of mine. He had owned a BMW S1000RR for about two years already and decided he wanted to add another bike to the stable since he had a lot of disposable income saved and felt like spoiling himself. He’d already been riding for some 30 years and had never been able to say he ever owned more than one bike at a time. Now truth be told, the BMW already ticked a lot of boxes for him; it was a toy and a tool in equal parts for both the road and track; it was his (occasional) commuter and his race bike simultaneously. It lived a very diverse life and excelled in many aspects, but the same thoughts crossed his mind as Uncle Wes echoes to us now; “Why not have two?”. After a lot of research and test rides, he decided to go the Supermoto/Naked route. Specifically, he bought himself a brand spanking new Bimota DB10 Bimotard – the dardiest tard on the planet – an absolute weapon on the track and frankly hilarious fun on the road.

    Then he highsided it on a mountain bend and spent a month in hospital getting himself glued back together while it was written off as a hideous, mangled mess of metal. He bought a new Hilux with the insurance money instead and decided the BMW was more than enough bike for his needs, thank you very much.

    Moral of the story: well, uhm… Crashing isn’t so bad when you have more than one bike, I guess.

    • Justin McClintock

      For some reason I read that as Helix (as in the old Honda scooter) the first time and I was thinking, “Seriously? WTF?!”

  • E Brown

    Nice article, and speaks to me because I’ve got three bikes but I’m looking to go down to two. Though many wouldn’t see it that way, I see my CB400T and NT650 as overlapping quite a bit – they ride differently, but they fit the same “capable daily rider” niche. The 3rd bike, a CBR600RR, is a sensible choice for 2nd bike – fun, powerful, track-capable when I get the urge, nice-looking. But for the type of leisure riding I do – sunny-day touring rather than zipping around covered in dead cow – something else would work better.

    My since of irony and inner math geek like the idea of riding a CB550 day-to-day and a CB1100 for interstate and country road tooling about. More sensible, perhaps, would be modern triple and a retro-classic to cruise on, say a FZ-09 and Bolt or Street Triple and Bonnie.

    • Justin McClintock

      Keep either the CB400T or the NT650, get rid of the other two bikes, and buy a ADV bike or a FJR or CB1100 or somesuch. Sounds like that’d fit your needs perfectly and be incredibly cool at the same time. Just my $.02 of course.

  • Justin McClintock

    My second bike never starts when you hit a button. Heck, it doesn’t HAVE a button to hit. I bought my DT175 because it was about as far away from my SV1K as you could get. Well, that and it was dirt cheap. Oddly enough, bike #3 sorta splits the difference…DRZ400SM. That thing’s gonna bet me arrested someday.

    • PattonStrength

      Agree on the DRZ-SM. Its just so easy to rip it through the city.

      • el_jefe

        Yup. Although I think mine is defective, still can’t make it do like in that pic…

    • cocoaclassic

      DRZ FTW!

  • Geert Willem van der Horst

    An important question, that causes a daily struggle :)

    • Steven Mansour

      What the people really want to know is: How do you pick your seventh bike?

      • PracticalBatman

        lol I was just thinking that :P

        If you live somewhere with lots of fair weather riders you can pick up a bike with clogged jets pretty cheap. Just bought a ninja250 with dirty carbs and 1400 miles for 900 bucks. 2 hours of work and it runs great!

  • atomicalex

    Most important concept is try something new. Supplemented my (at the time) broken GS with a CBR250R for a while. Good FSM, was that a blast. Got me thinking about all kinds of different aspects of riding. Also forced me to work out a bit. lol

  • Tiberiuswise

    You guys have been singing the praises of the DR-Z and Wee-Strom since I don’t know when. I picked up one of each and when you’re right, you’re right!

  • mms

    4 years ago, I was fired for being “unreliable”, after being unable to get to work for 2 consecutive days after my at-the-time only bike blew up while I was riding it (well, almost– I had time to hit the kill switch, put the stand down, and hop off first, or this would be a different story). Learned a valuable lesson about the necessity of having more than one vehicle.

    Now I have a heavy yet nimble bobber for zipping around town and windy days, a big reliable cruiser for touring, a half-nekkid beater sportbike for commuting, a shiny red retro sportbike that fires my soul for those esoteric moments and twisty roads, and Russian iron with a sidecar for snow. No more than 3 have ever been out of commission at once, so I’m “reliable” (ahem), but am already researching dual sports for next time…

    • Ryan Kiefer

      It’s for this reason (and snow/ice days) that I made sure I could get to work by bus before I sold my car and went moto-only as my primary form of transportation.

      • mms

        Yes but you’re clearly smarter than I am ;) At the time, I lived in Southern California and had a commute close to 40 miles each way. Could have ridden the bus, but it would have taken nearly 5 hours. Had an entirely different job at the time i went moto-only.

  • JT

    I’m thinking either a Striple R or FZ-09 to compliment my Bonneville. Not sure when though. An ADV wouldn’t be bad either.

  • SteveNextDoor

    “There comes a time in every rider’s life when loving one motorcycle just isn’t enough anymore.” Also known as, “Day Two.”

    • Rameses the 2nd

      If you are thinking about buying a second bike on day two, you have purchased a wrong bike. I know it happens quickly, but it shouldn’t happen on day two.

    • Davidabl2

      “Day Two” will inevitably come at some point..though for a few it may be more like “the seven year itch”

  • MichaelEhrgott

    KTM 950 Adv and XR650R plated = my perfect combination :)

  • Beale

    How do I stop buying bikes? It’s becoming a problem.

    • Blake Harrison

      I have the same issue. But is this really a problem??? I don’t think so!

      • Slacker

        Well some might say it’s a problem… but a good problem to have.

    • zion

      Send me the money you would be spending on the bikes. I’ll take on the burden for you…. I’m nice that way.

  • Brian

    seems like the only limiting factors for supplimental bikes would be storage and aquisitional fundage accounting.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    I have a Triumph Scrambler and I have been thinking about buying a second bike and can’t decide if I need to go with a naked street fighter type bike or a real sports bike. My Triumph is a great bike for everyday commute and leisurely fun weekend rides, but I want to get something fast for corners and twisty roads. I am in love with FZ-09, but feel that R1 or a similar super sports will complement my Scrambler better. Too bad that most dealers around here don’t allow test rides. Otherwise, I think my decision will become much easier.

  • Davidabl2

    Something hat hasn’t been mentioned before is the tribal aspect of bike choice..Like it or not when you get a bike you join a particular bike “tribe”
    And (to a lesser extent) the same thing happens even when you choose a particular helmet style.
    While it isn’t mandatory that you hang with your tribe(s),,there IS some truth in the famous advertising slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”

    As a three bike owner I find that I ride with and socialize with a different bunch of folks for each bike.
    In my part of the country, the old bike folks seem to be a more interesting bunch than the new bike folks.

    That said, It seems obvious that everybody should have one bike with off-road capability to help develop their skills set

    • Justin McClintock

      This is true. Certain folks dig my SV. Certain folks dig my DRZSM. And everybody gives my DT175 weird yet happy looks. “Look mommy! That bear is riding a minibike!”

      • Davidabl2

        Hopefully you aren’t riding anywhere near S.F.’s Castro district when they say that. Heh.Heh.
        The only DT’s I’ve seen in recent years were at bike shows…
        By the way I’ve got a Gen1 SV and am thinking about a DRZSM or one of the older.cheaper DRZ350′s.

        • Justin McClintock

          There are advantages and disadvantages to the DR350 vs. the DRZ400…especially the SM. The SM will cost more, but it would cost far more than the price difference to bring the suspension up the the level of the stuff on the DRZSM. The DR has two things the DRZ really should though…a tachometer and a 6th gear. That said, the DRZ is still MUCH quicker despite being saddled with the 5 speed. Interestingly enough, I’ve had a chance to compare the first hand as my brother has a DR350SE. It’s fun, but I certainly wouldn’t want to give up my DRZ for one.

          • Davidabl2


  • Dan Sciannameo

    How do you buy your eighth bike?

    • Jesse

      Likely with cash.

    • Justin McClintock

      Open Craigslist, find something that looks interesting in your budget, and buy it. Chances are you aren’t trying to fill any niche at that point.

  • HoldenL

    I have a one-bike stable: a Versys. I want to add a CRF 250L. And a Grom for my wife (but I’ll probably put more miles on it that she will).

    • zion

      Right now I’m a one bike guy, too. I have a laundry list of second and third bike choices….however, having bred a few times too many, I need to feed the devil spawn. (Not to mention they’re clamoring for dirt bikes!)

    • Slacker

      At this point my BMW R1150RS is an awesome commuter/sport-tourer/Canyon-carver (I ride a lot…), but I’ve been thinking about wiggling my ’94 Yamaha TW200 out of its corner space and going trail-riding. I had it lowered with a VTX250 rear shock so I could train my younger sister and girlfriend on it, but I wanna ride it some more. Unfortunately, there are about 5 motorcycles between me and it, and to move them all out in the cold just seems like a crime…

  • runnermatt

    I know this is doubtful, but considering the timing of this story it appears it was inspired by my comment on the story “2014 the year of the… ?” from a few days ago. Realisticly I know this story has been planned for a while and I know I’m not that important or influential.

    However, this story confirms my line of thinking for my second bike, i.e. gets something that fulfill what my current bike does not. I have a CBR250R for commuting and eventual track days/schools after some improvements (tires, brake lines/pads). I want to do some ADV vacationing and am looking at the NC700, CB500X, Vstrom 650, Versys and KLR650. The only question I need to answer at this point is how much off road do I want to do and how much work do I want to do to the bike.

  • sospeedy

    The most important question not answered….how to get buy in from the significant other?!

    • JT

      Already have the wife’s blessing for pretty much any bike. Plus I don’t have a car payment.

      • Jason 1199

        I paid off my truck as quick as I could leaving some monthly income dedicated to just bikes. Seems to work but I had to promise her an outfit w matching shoes to get a green light for bike #3

        • Slacker

          It’s always shoes with the lady, isn’t it?

    • A P

      Simple. Have an SO that rides…

  • BillW

    “Why do you have two motorcycles?”
    “Because I don’t have enough room for three.”

  • Loren Andrews

    I have to ask. does anyone know gear they guy on the first picture on the 300 is wearing. It looks so badass. Im pretty sure its dainese pants and TCX boots but i cant tell for the rest

  • Jason 1199

    I’ve been lucky enough to own everything short of a cruiser and have settled on this 3 bike formula:

    Enduro: for 2up, hauling, off road exploring, errands, bad weather, touring

    Sport: for when you want to just ride for fun, day trips, track

    Supermoto/naked: summer city bike when you’re not hauling items/people

    You could easily combine any two as well

  • Flaks redder også liv

    My KTM 690 enduro R has been my main ride for a few years (along with a Honda CRF250X and an old Honda XL600V Transalp. But last year I started considering a non dirt, or sports bike. Ended up with a 2001 Harley Electra Glide. Great fun! A bike that is not easy to ride fast on was just what I needed :-)