Advice for a Sixty+ New Rider

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by mikem9, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. mikem9

    mikem9 Wanderer

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    Your thoughts? A friend in his 60's is considering getting into motorcycles for the first time in his life. He rode a few times when he was in his 20's but mostly is pure newbie. Interesting that he's dreamed about motorcycles for years and knows all the coolest vintage and modern vintage bikes.
    He asked me for my advice. BTW - he's not a tall guy.
    Here is my follow-up email. What do you think and would you add anything?

    "You asked me my opinion and I've thought about this more. You seem to have a "motorcycle taste" that is in line with mine. Since you say you don't like Harleys, but you like the looks of truly vintage or modern vintage bikes such as BSA's, Nortons, Triumph Bonneville & Scramblers etc, I think I have a feel for what you are looking for.

    Now that you know what you like, you can do like the rest of us and have a great hobby of constantly looking and dreaming about bikes.

    Here is my advice. Think of motorcycling for you as a two-step process:

    1. Find a light and inexpensive dual-sport bike, preferably used. If you buy used, they really hold their value. Learn on the dirt and low traffic neighborhood roads. Find a bike that you won't mind dropping in the dirt. Work on your bike handling skills. Make the process of mastering skills a hobby - a quest, if you will. Become a clutch, braking and traction control master.

    Once you get a motorcycle is when the real learning starts. When I first decided to get my first street bike (I had dirt and dual sport bikes for years) one of my buddies said, "you won't really know what you want until you get your first street motorcycle. That is when you will learn." He was so right.

    Here is a good Cycle World article on why learning in the dirt is good for street.

    Learning in the Dirt

    Learning in the Dirt
    CW lists the top 10 reasons why dirtbike riding is good for streetbike riders. Learn more at CycleWorld.com.
    https://www.cycleworld.com/2012/10/30/learning-in-the-dirt

    2. While you are learning on the dirt and neighborhood roads, keep studying, reading, going to see bikes etc. You will figure out more about what you want. Once you feel your skills are up to speed, then buy that cool bike that you've had your eye on. You can then sell the dualsport bike for near what you paid for it, keep it as a back-up or for your son's to go ride, or you can take other friends who are thinking of getting into the hobby.

    Examples of Cheap, low seat dual sport bikes made in the early 2000's to now.

    Yamaha XT225

    Yamaha XT 250 - these are newer, but heavier, I prefer the 225.

    Suzuki DR200

    Honda CRF250L

    Kawasaki KLX 250

    You could also consider a bike like a Suzuki TU250 or Yamaha SR400 (Kickstart only which is don't recommend), but I don't think you'd want to drop these. Might dent the tank etc. "
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  2. Emmett

    Emmett Been here awhile

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    Suggest a riding course to him; off-road and street.
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  3. kwthom

    kwthom Retiree apprentice - willing to learn

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    Take the BRC (street) course *before* even seriously considering buying a bike. Then he'll really know if he wants to get back into it.
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  4. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Scottsdale

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    I am 69. My spouse just started riding last year. She is 65. We bought her a nice new Vespa 300GTV. She took the MSF course before she started riding the Vespa. We tow our bikes behind our Winnebego and ride together when camping in the Winnie... We have started using Sena communicators so we can stay in verbal contact when riding together. That helps a lot. She also rides once per week on country roads maybe 40 miles total per trip. So far so good but she makes me nervous. Not that she can't ride, because she is very skilled riding road bicycles ad that seems to transition well for her. It's cage traffic that worries me.

    Personally, I think your buddy should drop the whole idea and do something else for fun and recreation. If he really dreamed about riding motorcycle like he claims, he would have been riding for decades just like the rest of us. The odds are too high he gets hurt starting at such a late age.
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  5. Hvymax

    Hvymax Been here awhile

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    If he was taller I would say KLR650. There are quite a few inexpensive mid size retrobikes that should fit him just fine. I see a lot of old 650 twins around. They are very versatile. Once he is past the dropping it off the stand phase he can restore or convert it into any number of fun configurations. Cafe/Scrambler/Adventure.
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  6. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    OP, I think you gave great advice. I'd add as others have, that he should take the MSF or other class as well. Though it is possible to jump right in with a street bike, I think it is too easy to get into trouble at street/cruising speeds, and crashed/dropped street bikes are costly in terms of bike (and rider) repair. Also, if your friend lives in N. GA as you appear to, there are so many great small paved and unpaved back roads in the area (and on up into NC, etc.), that one can find a lot of great riding "poking along" on a dual sport. Also, on many of those roads with which i am familiar it is very easy to over-ride the sight lines if one rides too fast (as one might be tempted to do on a dedicated "street bike"), and that is a bad way for a new rider to find out what might be hidden around a corner.
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  7. BetterLateThanNever

    BetterLateThanNever Long timer

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    I started at 55, and here's what I'd add to what's been written here:

    Ride often. Very often. As often as you possibly can. And on the curviest roads you can find (straight roads tend to build false confidence, IMHO).

    The fact is, we're pretty old to be not just teaching our bodies new things, but new reflexes. There's simply no substitute for repetition, and technique isn't worth much if it's not automatic.

    I'm out well over 100 times a season, and I'm convinced it's a big reason I'm still in one piece and don't get freaked out by anything, including my own errors.
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  8. Caballoflaco

    Caballoflaco Been here awhile

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    Do you know how long it's been since he's ridden a bicycle or if he still can? Is he still in decent shape, or is he sixty pounds overweight and gets exhausted walking 500 yards?

    The answer to those questions would determine if I encouraged or discouraged someone your friends age from riding. Someone who's reasonably fit or has a lot of experience on two wheels is at less risk of hurting themselves than the guy who's carrying enough extra weight (or who's weak and underweight) to almost guarantee broken bones in even the lowest of low speed drops. Also, if someone is relatively fit their neuromuscular system will be much more up to the task of learning a new skill regardless of age.

    In the end, the advice I give to anyone who wants to learn is to take a basic riders class before buying a bike. It's the advice I took ten years ago at the ripe old age of twenty five and it was a great introduction to motorcycling for a guy who came from a non motorcycle background.
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  9. curtis6870

    curtis6870 Long timer

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    Sounds good but forget the dirt.
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  10. SnipTheDog

    SnipTheDog Been here awhile

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    My two cents would be to forget the street, but start out in the dirt. Learn how the bike works in many different scenarios in varied terrain. Then move on to the dual sport or street portion of the ride. A CRF230F would be great starter bike for an adult beginner.
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  11. Hvymax

    Hvymax Been here awhile

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    230 is too small for the street. A mild mannered 500 or 650 with the right tires will be versatile enough for most any beginner while powerful enough to handle any motorcycle task.
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  12. Hvymax

    Hvymax Been here awhile

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    The other problem with dirt is most people don't have access. I have acres of land but wet grass is almost as bad as ice even with Big Blocks!!! Definitely start with the MSF course and take your time developing skills preferably on group rides. Frequently people aren't comfortable in corners and stand the bike up out of fear. If they are following someone they should be more comfortable seeing it being done. After some miles and experience he should be competent on his own.
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  13. lvscrvs

    lvscrvs Long timer

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    Another vote for staying out of the dirt. Falling down in the dirt is fine when you're a youngster, but even a mild fall could do a lot of damage to an older person. I think the constant contact patch of the pavement will help him to build confidence faster. There are lots of low power, low weight standards or cruisers for him to choose from to get started, including some of the dual sports you've listed. If he goes for a dual sport I would point him toward one he can easily get his feet down flatfoot on. This will also help him to feel more confident getting started. Of course he should take the beginning rider course.
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  14. scfrank

    scfrank Old farts riding club.

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    Sounds like you and your wife should be towing a Jeep or Miata.
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  15. scfrank

    scfrank Old farts riding club.

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    I agree with this. Taking 5 years to learn in the dirt might be half his riding career. He’s too old to learn falling down Get him a small street bike and take some training. Preach situational awareness. Ride where’s there little traffic.
    #15
  16. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Scottsdale

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    Yeah you are right. I should get rid of all of my motorcycles and my wife's Vespa because you didn't like my post. The OP asked for our thoughts, so I gave him mine. But I get your side of it. Your profile says your 'dream ride' is your next attempt at the Blue Ridge Parkway... That explains a lot. :D
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  17. longslowdistance

    longslowdistance Long timer

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    ABS and traction control are good ideas.
    The Vespa GTS 300/GTV is a good choice (has both), but the seat is pretty high for a scooter.
    Consider Zero (electric) if not planning really long rides. No clutch, no shifting, smooth, quiet, linear power delivery, almost no maintenance. Yes they are expensive and range limited.
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  18. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Been here awhile

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    I started riding when I was 58. My experience as a teenager was mainly to spend more time in the hospital than on the bike.

    Have him take the MSF BRC or equivalent. The get a used 250ish bike. He can resell it for about what he paid for it. Spend at least a year on the 250, learning. Avoid rush hour and heavy traffic. Try a little dirt see how it feels. Get all the protective gear he can afford. Ride as often as he can. The XT225 was a great suggestion. My wife took the BRC with me and it took a couple thousand miles on her Xt225, before she figured out she did not like dirt riding.

    I have been riding for 6 years now and have moved up twice in size: DRZ400 now a WR450. Also Have a Vstrom 650 for the highways. I found I prefer riding dirt and prowling the back roads in either the mountains, forest or desert. He probably will need to some time to figure out what he want to do.
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  19. CaseyJones

    CaseyJones Ridin' that train

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    Interesting take. I know that it's MUCH harder to learn something at that age than earlier...I learned to ride in my 20s; learning other motor skills, like a recumbent bike (I got one cheap) I'm finding much, much harder.

    I wouldn't advise him not to try - you never know; and I DO know that negative people are ignored and shut out. That leaves him open to getting victimized by a sales dude at some shop, selling him something entirely unsuitable.

    I'd say: Buy used, and with one eye on selling it if it doesn't interest him. Taking the rider course first, is a good plan. Give it a try; and if he doesn't like it, he's not in the hole for a new machine he doesn't want to use and can't easily sell.
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  20. SnipTheDog

    SnipTheDog Been here awhile

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    It's a dirt bike, not a street bike.

    No dirt around Georgia/Tn/Sc/Ky? Huh? Sorry for you.

    From the article:
    10. Dirt is a better overall environment for learning to ride motorcycles.

    Besides the fact that a dirt surface is much more forgiving than pavement, softer, there are also far fewer distractions out on the trail than on the street. There are no cars or pedestrians to avoid, traffic laws to obey or pretty girls walking along the sidewalk to distract you. Sure, there are hazards in the dirt, but they’re nothing like the abundant distractions found on the street. Dirt riding is where you should learn to become a great rider so that when you hit the street, those skills will better ensure that you will never make a big mistake in that less-forgiving environment.


    Well, opinions were asked and opinions were given. IMHO, the dirt is a far safer alternative to the street.
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