What bike should I buy?
This is one of the most common questions I find myself faced with during the journey I share with my students of all shapes and sizes! I obviously work for Honda as a DVSA instructor, but I have also worked for Kawasaki and run many independent schools, so I really don’t have any particular axe to grind with any particular brand or anything to gain by promoting any brand.
The very first question to ask yourself is this: Am I in love?… When we fall in love, we tend to overlook all kinds of shortcomings, impracticalities and sometimes glaring issues, all because we have become besotted with the beauty of shape, form and sometimes (foolishly) with the ravings of professional reviewers (often racing drivers), in bike magazines.
So now you have spent your hard earned money on that shiny sports bike that has captured your heart and it looks mighty cool sitting in your garage, ready to transport you to delight and fantasy.
The only trouble is that you are in fact facing a 1 hour commute in the rain, filtering through traffic on a bike with solid suspension, doesn’t like idling or riding at slow speeds and has a power band that kicks is (usually scarily) at 13000 RPM. Oh and you are almost bent double with your knees around your ears, wrists hurting and a cricked neck. The shine soon goes off the fantasy if what you actually NEED is a commuter bike, with comfort, accessories and use-able power/handling/features.
The opposite is true of course! Don’t get a commuter bike if you are looking for a track day fun bike or just an occasional toy when the weather is great and you are doing short trips for fun.
So the short answer to that golden question is: “What are you going to be using the bike for?” which is a big question and one that requires answering honestly. The hardest thing to do when you fall in love is to strip away the fantasy and see the real truth behind the shiny bits and imagined realities!
Bikes come in all shapes and sizes, so make sure you are at least in the right ball park. You can choose from lifestyle machines such as Harley Davidson and the high end Italian manufacturers, all of which have their appeal, but you also have adventure style bikes, sports bikes, street bikes, naked bikes, fully faired touring bikes, scooters, small medium and large capacities, muscle bikes… the list is quite long.
Within each of these categories you can usually choose from a couple of different variant model options, usually between naked and faired machines with the same engines and running gear. Have a long think about what you are actually going to use the bike for and see what features might suit this activity. Fairing, upright seating positions, comfy seats, softer suspension, heated grips and luggage are all clearly more practical for the daily commuter who rides all year round, using a bike as every day transport.
A different set of options would apply to someone who wants to travel around Europe, on roads, and different again for someone wanting to cross the Sahara!