Five Common Mistakes When Buying a New Bike

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Categories: Ask RideApart, Expert Advice

It’s not just buying a new motorcycle that’s exciting. Merely entertaining the idea of getting a new set of wheels under you is enough to give you goosebumps. Upgrading to a new bike or adding one to your growing stable is enough to keep you up at night (in a good way, of course), and if you’re anything like us, you put together spreadsheets, put stacks of brochures on the kitchen table, join even more motorcycling forums for advice and change your wallpaper to show your dream bike. But there are other bumps involved aside from the goosepimple kind, and it’s wise to approach your new potential purchase with patience, wisdom and copious amounts of research. Here are five common mistakes made when purchasing a new motorcycle. Learn from our collective blunders here at RA and go into your next purchase like a two-wheelin’ Yoda.

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Buying Way Above Your Skill Level

This might be the single biggest mistake new buyers make. Whether buying used or new, it’s easy to get in over your head because we all like to think we’re more capable than we actually are in real life -- like guys who put 300 lbs of plates on the bar for the bench press just because they can knock out 50 pushups. Wrong. It’s hard to leapfrog levels, like going from a very manageable, very comfortable Yamaha SR400 to a mad BMW R 1200 R instead of something like a Triumph Bonneville. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible to manage it if you’re a cautious and safe rider -- but as is more often the case than not, too much motorcycle is just too much motorcycle. Just like a car, it’s better to drive a slower car skillfully than a supercar like an idiot. Build up your skill level before you jump up to the upper echelons of skill and motorcycle type. Riding a 500cc roadster and then hyper-advancing to an insane sport bike like a Ducati Panigale R is not wise at all.

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Buying Without First Riding

You won’t know if your next motorcycle is right for you by reading up on it and staring at photos constantly. You need to ride it. Ideally, it’s a good idea to ride the bike in a comfortable and safe environment, so if you have a generous buddy who owns the motorcycle you want, ask him to let you ride it on a low-traffic street. If it’s a dealership, just know that they will ask you to sign and show proof of insurance. Show up with safety gear on so you don’t look like some irresponsible dolt. Then, get a feel for it to find out if it fits your physique comfortably. Familiarize yourself with every aspect of the bike before you set out to ride. Can you easily reach everything including brakes, clutch, etc? How is your riding position? These are all important factors when first trying it out. Ride as long as they will let you so you know if the bike is within your skill level and comfortable. Don’t be too excited to buy and be patient.

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Failing to Talk to Other Owners of the Same Model

There are plenty of forums out there -- the beauty of the internet. Talk to people who already own the bike you’re looking for. Ask questions and read reviews about what some of the bike’s issues/advantages are. How are owners coping with maintenance problems, if any. You might visualize yourself on that very bike but the actual day-to-day use of it might be a completey different experience. Even though your heart might be set on a Honda CB1000R, but you might discover that it’s actually not the bike that would be best for you for the kind and extent of riding you do. Getting parts might be difficult, especially if the bike you want is vintage and obscure, compared to modern, mainstream motorcycles. That being said, there’s nothing like wisdom gained from experience out there, and there are always seasoned riders willing to share theirs with you. Glean from it.

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Buying a Bike That will Destroy Your Bank Account

Just as you should ride a bike that’s way above your skill level, you also shouldn’t make the mistake of committing yourself to a bike that will prevent you from eating three squares a day. Like other major purchases -- TVs, homes, cars, technology -- we like to get the best, and we stupidly sacrifice in other areas to get what we want. Dumb. Don’t fall into the common pitfall of buying on impulse. Do the research not based on how much you believe can afford, but do the calculations based on your monthly budget and keep the purchase to a manageable percentage of your take home pay. Also, factor in potentially increased insurance rates based on the cost of the bike, the displacement and the type of motorcycle. Insuring a Honda Grom will surely cost you less than insuring a Ninja H2.

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Buying the Wrong Type of Bike

You might think a sport bike is your heart’s desire, but if you’re commute is long and arduous, it might be wiser to opt for something with a more comfortable riding position and seat, better fuel economy and one with better storage and a taller fairing. You might look cool in a leather racing suit, but you’ll be as miserable as all hell if you’ve got to sit on it for an hour in 90 degree weather. Just because you love watching MotoGP doesn’t mean you should go for a similar motorcycle and look like one of them. Buying the right bike for its intended use lends to feeding the passion of riding for years to come. Don’t become disenchanted because you chose poorly.

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