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?
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).