Guide to buying your first motorbike

Carlton Boyce / 06 April 2016



An increasing number of older riders are buying their first motorcycle, enjoying the start of their two-wheeled career with the benefit of decades of four-wheeled driving experience behind them. 

Such an approach has a lot to commend it, not least the more plentiful availability of money and common-sense, the two commodities that teenagers aren’t necessarily renowned for having much of…

Choosing and buying your first motorcycle can be a daunting experience, so here are our top tips for getting it right first time!

Read our guide to riding with a pillion passenger.

Budget

No matter what your budget, you’ll need to apportion some of it to safety equipment. 

You’ll need protective boots, gloves, trousers, and jacket, plus a decent crash helmet as a bare minimum, with many riders choosing to add a waterproof suit, tailored leathers, a reflective vest, and thermal underwear too. 

The final bill will top four figures, even if you choose carefully. Having said that, I’d always rather spend top-dollar on the protective clothing, even if that means I have to settle for a slightly slower/older/higher-mileage motorcycle.

You’ll also need to account for insurance, tax, and a first service – and for those coming to motorcycling from a car, you’ll be surprised how frequently you need new tyres, too.

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Style of motorcycle

While most of us would love a high-revving sports ‘bike to emulate Barry Sheene (few things date us like our heroes…), I have to accept that my back couldn’t take more than a few minutes of being hunched over like that. At 6’ 3”, I’d also look pretty silly, so I might be better off looking at something with a more upright stance.

You’ll also have to consider the sort of journeys you intend to undertake on it: long-distance motorway work carrying a pillion passenger, for example, would mean buying a very different bike compared to someone who wants to pootle along country lanes for an hour-or-so at a time, with no pillion passenger.

While I’d be the first to admit that with motorcycles style is everything, please don’t let fashion completely over-ride function. There are plenty of good-looking motorbikes out there in every class. 

Tips for sharing the road with other motorists.

Engine size

In the same way as you should always buy the largest pizza, you should always opt for the largest engine size you can. 

I’ve yet to meet a biker who has sold a motorbike because the engine is too big, but I’ve met plenty who sold their 250cc after a few months to buy something larger.

Of course, reason is a factor too but if you’re struggling to choose between a 350cc or a 500cc, go for the larger machine.

The only exception to this is might be if you do a lot of city riding, in which case a lighter and more wieldy bike that is easier to thread through traffic might suit you better.

Guide to protecting your motorbike during cold and wet weather.

New or secondhand?

New motorcycles are reliable, come with a comprehensive warranty, and will impress total strangers. A decent secondhand motorcycle will be just as reliable, can be insured with an off-the-peg aftermarket warranty to protect against mechanical calamity – and who cares what strangers think?

Seriously, if you’re new to biking, or regaining long-forgotten skills, there is a lot to be said for running a slightly tatty motorbike for a year or two. Dropping a £10,000 motorcycle hurts an awful lot more than dropping one that cost £2,000.

Go steady

Having encouraged you to buy the biggest bike in your budget, you need to understand that a modern 500cc bike is vastly more powerful than the 500cc bikes of your youth.

So if you are a born again rider, please take your time to get used to it and remember that the throttle moves in both directions.

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Get some training

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), so my advice to take one of its motorcycle courses won’t be a surprise. 

Do you have any tips for first-time motorcyclists? We’d love to hear your advice in the comments section below!

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.