Help me buy my first bike

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by the_jest, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. the_jest

    the_jest Adventurer

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    Right. Been wanting to ask this for a while, but now it's time.

    I'm a noob, been riding for five months or so, having taken the MSF course. I'm currently on a 2007 Yamaha Virago 250, which is actually a fine bike; I've learned a lot from it and am very happy with it (apart from some mechanical issues), and it's fast enough for my current needs and abilities. However, it's also not the bike I really want. When I ride it I feel like I'm doing it for educational purposes, not for pleasure, and when I'm next to my R1200GS-riding friends I have to crane my neck upwards to see them, and I hope they don't step on me. Also if there's any wind on the highway or bridges I feel like I'm gonna get flipped into the next lane, or the river.

    So I think it's time to start planning for the spring. I live in New York, and will be using the bike mainly for fun on the weekends--I commute on foot or subway, so any mid-week rides would be short and around town.

    Here are some of the things I do or don't want:

    • More or less middleweight. I don't need massive power, and couldn't control it yet anyway, and I don't want to deal with an enormous bike. Right now I just walk my bike across the street, without turning it on, when I need a new parking spot, for example.
    • Naked. I have no interest in off-road or dirt, and long touring isn't a big priority; I don't like the look of fairings; I'm not really interested in cruiser style.
    • New(ish). I'm mechanically inept, and while I'm hoping and planning to learn more, I'd like a bike that will Just Work, and preferably can be taken in to the shop on warranty if it doesn't.
    • European (rather than Japanese or American).
    • Comfortable enough to go on longer rides, perhaps with a passenger. Not cross-country camping, but more than 45m.

    I haven't started test-riding yet (will probably wait until closer to the spring), but I'm trying to learn what I can beforehand to focus on the likely candidates. Some of the things I've been considering are:

    • Triumph Bonneville + related. Pros: EXACTLY what I want a motorcycle to look like. I've straddled them and it just feels right. Supposedly relatively good for beginners. Comfy for passengers. Cons: Every single thing I've read has said that the Bonnies ride like 40-year-old bikes--not powerful enough, muddy handling, 80 pounds heavier than they should be. Would make me look like a hipster doofus.
    • BMW F800R. Pros: Reviews pretty great across the board, in every way. Good for around town, longer trips, going fast, carrying a passenger, whatever. Reliable. Cons: Hate the asymmetrical headlights. Would make me look like a yuppie doofus.
    • Ducati Monster 696 or 796. Pros: Love the look. Supposedly great performance. Cons: Virtually impossible to carry a passenger. Too sporty? Would make me look like a Eurotrash doofus.

    I'm open to any thoughts or suggestions at this point. Thanks all!
    #1
  2. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    Should add the Guzzi V7 to your list. Lighter than the Bonneville, more timeless in appearance than the F800 or Monster.

    Girl not included.

    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. Navin

    Navin Long timer

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    You didn't mention a budget or storage which are huge factors.

    You like fairings, you are a new rider, you want low weight, not too much power.

    Go read my posts in the Ninja 300 thread. I'm a devout KTM owner but I was looking for lightweight feel, low displacement and street only. It isn't a super high quality rig like my former KTM 950 SMR but it is coming along well, can be ridden just as fast and feels 200 lbs lighter than it is, it is literally 50lbs lighter than my 950 was already.

    Standard ride ergos, very managable power, looks like a ZX 10 from 20' away. Upgrades are cheap, easy and effective.

    Most improtant, it can be a great learning tool. You really learn to ride on smaller bikes as opposed to making up for mistakes with a throttle twist.

    With the exception of the Euro build, many of which are not built there anymore anyway, the 300 is your bike.

    OOPS! Sorry, thought you wrote that you liked fairings!
    #3
  4. abnslr

    abnslr rides a motorcycle

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    It looks like you're quite concerned about looking like a doofus. Seriously, though, I agree with the addition of the Moto Guzzi to the list for consideration. I have had, in a somewhat similar situation, a very good experience with a 2012 F650GS, so I think the F800R you're considering is a good way to go as well. As apocryphal as it may be to say here I'd take a look at the Harley Davidson's offerings as well -- the black 1200cc sportster rather appeals to me, and a friend of mine owns a black V-rod and just loves it. Just because you buy a motorcycle doesn't mean you have to buy the "lifestyle" they try to sell to go with it.
    #4
  5. abnslr

    abnslr rides a motorcycle

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    Is she available as an option?
    #5
  6. davevv

    davevv One more old rider

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    Triumph Bonneville/Thruxton/Scrambler or the newest versions of the Guzzi V7 are exactly what you are describing. Of the Triumphs, the Scrambler is my personal favorite. It fits me better than the others and is a blast to ride. I had one for two years.

    The new Guzzi V7 just came out this year and comes in Classic, Racer, and Stone versions. I'd personally go with the Stone for the cast wheels and upright/standard riding position, but that's just my opinion. The older V7s are fine bikes as well, but have plastic gas tanks that sometimes swell and cause problems with paint and fitment. I've never owned a V7, but have had three Guzzis and they are very nice machines.
    #6
  7. catweasel67

    catweasel67 Honda XRV 750 RD04

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    I'd get yourself along to a decent bike show and a few dealers and start making notes on bikes that catch your fancy as you walk around.

    Sit on a few, see which ones are comfortable for you. If I were you I'd avoid specialised bikes for now, try and stick to a general purpose. From experience I doubt if you'll own it for more than 2 years. After that you'll trade up to a more focussed bike...track...touring..sports..off road..that sort of thing....

    Budget wise, price up (just roughly) the gear you'd like to buy before you buy the bike...a new lid? luggage? bike security? tank bag? GPS? What about insurance? 1st service? (Where's the nearest service agent?) that sort of thing. Here in Europe that lot could see you nudging €2k without any issues.
    #7
  8. JustKip

    JustKip Long timer

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    With the Guzzi, the girl will show up pretty quick
    #8
  9. DAKEZ

    DAKEZ Long timer

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    The best kept secret in the motorcycle world is the Triumph Street Triple R. (not the Speed Triple)

    At 6'5" I am too tall for it or I would own one. It is the happiest motorcycle I have ever ridden.

    :ricky
    #9
  10. the_jest

    the_jest Adventurer

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    Thanks for the various Guzzi mentions. I was actually going to put that down on my list, because it is one of the things I had considered; I like the look a lot but I've read a few reviews that suggested it really didn't have enough power. (I say this with full recognition that it'll still be more power than I need, and that the people who write pro reviews have very different expectations from me. Nonetheless, when I see comments, either on this or on the Bonnie, that it's slow, then these comments do sink in.)
    #10
  11. davevv

    davevv One more old rider

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    The comments you are referring to are kind of a pet peeve with me. "Didn't have enough power." Enough power for what? If you read these forums and magazine reviews enough, you'll find similar comments regarding almost every bike made. There's always someone out there who thinks any bike needs more power. Too much is never enough for a lot of folks. The fact is that the various Bonnies and V7s are very capable machines. Sure, they don't handle like sport bikes, but they weren't designed to and they do handle well enough to be fun. They don't have the rip your lips off acceleration of a VMax, but they're not dogs either. They're not ideal highway tourers, but they're half the weight of a GoldWing or ElectraGlide and they will run all day at highway speeds without breaking a sweat. You don't ride the spec sheet, you ride the motorcycle. And with many bikes, Guzzis in particular, they are a much more enjoyable machine than the spec sheet might indicate.

    If you really decide you need something with a bit more power but in a similar vein, try the Triumph Tiger 800. They're pretty nice bikes as well.
    #11
  12. Cat0020

    Cat0020 El cheapo

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    Stuck on Euro brand names?

    For under $3k, you could probly find a used SV650 that would have all if not most of the power you need and serve you well beyond your riding skills for years to come.

    Mechanically, SV650s are quite reliable and simple to maintain. OEM parts are pretty cheap, aftermarket parts are plenty available if you desire to upgrade later.

    If you live in a big city and want to get a bike on the cheap without worry of vandals, accidental tip-over's to turn costly, SV650 can be a good choice.
    #12
  13. Existence_Inc

    Existence_Inc The Wanderer

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    ^^ THIS!

    ~Ex
    #13
  14. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    A very nice bike, but not the best option for his sixth month as a motorcycle rider, IMO.
    #14
  15. JustKip

    JustKip Long timer

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    I'm 56 years old and started riding a little over 40 years ago. Bonnies LOOK like 40 year old bikes. When I first sat on one in '05, I thought "This feels like most of the bikes I owned in the '70s". Then I took it out on the road. It's very much like the bikes I had back in the day, only better in every way.. More power, better brakes, but only slightly better suspension.
    I like the look, and enjoy the ride (and a friend now owns that very bike I test rode and I've put quite a few miles on it) but I would never buy one.
    Here's why; Although modern Bonnivilles (and thier variants) ARE better in every way than bikes of 40 years ago, modern motorcycles in general are even better than that, with the possible exception of the smallest and cheapest beginner bikes(Ural and Enfield not withstanding). Most modern bikes are purpose built. Sport, touring, cruiser, etc. There are a few "all arounders" that do a decent job of touring, sport, and comuting, and of those pretty much all will outperform a Bonnie in every way. For example, for less money you can have an SV650 and get better performance in the twisties, better acceleration, and better fuel economy, better brakes, another gear, and over 50 lbs lighter. The same goes for an Fz6 or 8. The problem with those is that they're not particularly passenger friendly...and that's the one thing a Bonnie does better than many modern bikes; a sedate, 2-up cruise.

    If you want to spend a little more (OK, $4k more) than the price of a Bonnie, a Triumph Tiger 800 will be a much better touring bike, better 2-up, better in the twisties, similar peak torque and nearly twice the horsepower and twice the rev range/power band. Oh, and better fuel economy/range. It's more comfortable than the Street Triple for longer trips and 2-up, and more than sporty enough for your stated requirements.

    I ride a R12GS and rode from Cali to TX with a friend on a Tiger 800 in march. She kept up with me at speeds of 80-90 all the way across AZ, NM, and TX for 3 days and 1800 miles. It was her second bike, after riding a Ninja 500 for a sseason.
    #15
  16. DAKEZ

    DAKEZ Long timer

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    Actually it is a perfect bike for a new rider as it is polite and user friendly for normal riding and as the rider gets to know the bike he/she can tap into the performance aspects of it. (those too are polite and manageable)
    #16
  17. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    I'd definitely go to a bike show and sit/demo a few. Daytona Bikeweek is coming up in a few months. You may have a bunch of demos closer though.
    #17
  18. BigDave75

    BigDave75 Will Work for Food!

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    Less is more, go small and cheap for your first one and see what you like, then go big!!!
    #18
  19. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    I think you need to ride the Bonnie before you cross it off your list. I don't know who's saying it doesn't have enough power -- consider this: it makes three times the horsepower of your Virago 250. Yes it's heavier, but nowhere near three times heavier. 60hp is PLENTY for a motorcycle, and more than enough for somebody who's only been riding 5 months.

    V7s are gorgeous but they aren't cheap.
    #19
  20. JerryH

    JerryH Banned

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    You are a perfect candidate for a Yamaha V-Star 650. It is a larger version of the Virago 250, and has enough power to take you anywhere you want to go. It even has shaft drive. And best of all, it can be had for a very reasonable price.

    But I have to admit I don't understand your aversion to the Virago 250, IF you fit on it. I have a Goldwing, and still put 20,000 mostly highway miles on a Honda 250 Rebel, just for fun. I find traveling on a small bike to be a blast. I only sold the Rebel because I was to big for it, and it wasn't all that comfortable. I am currently looking for another 250, and plan on giving the Suzuki GW250 a chance before buying anything else. I have also had several 125-150cc scooters, and still have 3 of them, including a Yamaha Vino 125 that I put 24,000 miles on. If you like the riding position of the Virago, I would definitely stay away from any type of sport bike. Their primary function seems to be some kind of torture device.
    #20