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Which Bike? Comments and Questions on what is the best bike for YOU, for YOUR trip. Note that we believe that ANY bike will do, so please remember that it's all down to PERSONAL OPINION. Technical Questions for all brands go in their own forum.
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  #1  
Old 25 Jun 2003
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Location: San Jose, CA, USA
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First Bike recommendations

I just got my permit and am taking the California Safety class this weekend. I do not own a motorcycle yet, but I have been doing my homework, and would appreciate some feedback.

My main interest is in international touring as a new way to travel (I have already been to 60 countries and bicycle toured about 3K miles). I hope to go on my first trip in September (UK for a month), so I have a lot to do to get ready. I have ridden a bicycle a lot (the entire spectrum) rode a moped while in in Tokyo for a few years, and have rented motorcycles when traveling in Asia (pretty casual about licenses).

My plan is to get a license, by a cheap beginners bike and ride it as much as possible during the summer to get ready for my trip. Eventually, I expect I will get a better idea of what bike I would like to own for the long term and will resell and buy another bike. So I am willing to make some short term compromises on this first bike - I especially want to avoid wasting a lot of money on a poor investment.

I used to own a VW Bug - and enjoyed doing all my own maintenance, I have a Chevy Blazer now, and have to take it in to get it serviced. I would like a bike that I could maintain and do simple servicing myself (this kind of experience is good to have when touring).

I am 6" tall, and weigh 275 lbs (part of the reason why I am switching from bicycles to a motorcycle ;-) So I need something a little on the large side (not sure a 250 cc would suit me for very long). I don't have plans to take any long trips in the USA - but that is certainly a future possibility (I currently enjoy touring the USA in my SUV where I can sleep in the back). I don't expect I will ever ship my bike overseas, since it is sooo expensive - instead, I would either find someone to swap bikes with, or else buy something cheap (and then resell it) or if it is for a short duration, rent it. It would be fun to take a second passenger on the bike, but I usually travel solo, so that is being a little overly optimistic ;-)

My first choice for a training bike is a Honda Nighthawk 750. I would like to minimize the initial investment, and cosmetics are of little importance to me - so I am seriously considering a used model. I am more concerned about condition than mileage or age - but I am looking at those 10+ years old with 20K+ miles. Other than giving it a test ride and having a mechanic give it an inspection, I don't know what else to do. I like the Nighthawk because it is reliable, versatile, affordable, plentiful and should be easy to maintain. The negatives seem to be that it has a limited suspension and some of the stock parts (windshield and seat) are less than ideal for long rides.

My second choice (and probably what I would prefer to have for a second bike) is a Kawasaki KLR650. I hear great things about it from those with similar intentions as mine. It has better suspension than the Nighthawk, and would be better in off-road conditions (not that I expect to actually take serious advantage of this cool feature). My hesitation is that I think that I would like to spend more money on this bike since I would probably keep it longer - and I think I would like to have more time to find the one that is best for me.

I have a few others in the 3rd place category (and expect I will have more candidates as I get more experience). Since I am very interested in swapping bikes with owners in Europe, there is an advantage in owning something that would be popular. I hear only good things about the Honda Transalp, but I am concerned that even if I can find a bargain, it might be more expensive to maintain and find used parts in the USA. I am also interested in a BMW R65 (or something similar) - those seem to be very common in Europe - but again, I am concerned about maintenance costs.

My initial budget is $1,000-$2,000 for the first bike, and then maybe up to $3,000 for my second long term bike. My guess is that I will spend $300 on insurance/year, and a minimum of a few hundred more on essential maintenance. I already have an Arai helmet and gloves - but need boots and a jacket - so I expect to spend at around $300 on boots/jacket, another $100-200 on bags and around $300 more to get the license and registration - so there is no sense in being too cheap on the actual bike. Ideally, I could quickly find something that will retain most of its value during the first year.

Does this sound like a reasonable plan? What advice do you have to offer a newbie?

Thanks,

Joel

ps: looking at Craigslist, CycleTrader and Ebay - do you see anything that you think is a good deal for me? How can I get specific advice about bikes I find listed? (I'd be willing to travel anywhere in California).
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Old 14 Jul 2003
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Yhoa Joel,

For what's it worth ... decide on what kind of riding you want to do and where your going to be doing most of it. Next find the make and style that will best meet these needs and one that fitÕs you and your budget. Now I'm not to convinced about buying a so called beginner bike then trading up to the one you think you'll eventual want.

If your first concern is just learning how to ride a bike ... I'm sure you can find a motorcycle school that provides not only lessons but the appropriate bikes to learn on. The point I'm making is save yourself the time and money by buying a bike that most closely fits your needs the first time out.

If your going to practice why not practice on the type and style of bike your eventually going to end up with. As for finding out what types of bikes do what ... there is a bazillion places on the internet where you can find information ... this website included. As for a particular manufacturer well ... there is lotÕs of them out there and everyone has their own favorites and opinions.

Again ... just keep in mind where and what you want to do with this bike and if it will fit you and those needs. As for getting a deal on a bike. My dear old grand pappy used to tell me .... son ... it doesn't cost anymore to go first class. Applying that philosophy to buying a motorcycle ... you can buy a cheaper make or a less expensive model and spend a pile of money trying to turn it into something more. At the end of the day you'll still have the same old bike be deeper in debt and worse off if you would have went the little extra at the beginning. No matter what you decide on ... just get out there and enjoy the world on two wheels.

Good luck hunting and safe riding ....

Murphy



[This message has been edited by Windwalker (edited 13 July 2003).]
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