Choosing Your First Motorcycle
Updated: Jun 6, 2021
So you’ve decided to buy a motorcycle (yessssss!)
You might already have a particular bike or style in mind but it’s always a good idea to make an educated decision and to carefully consider all of your options first. You don’t want to end up with a bike that doesn’t really suit your lifestyle or needs that you’ll end up selling a year or two from now because you don’t ride it. So let’s run through some of the most common types of motorcycle and their pros and cons so hopefully you can choose the best option for you.
Standard refers to a pretty wide range of motorcycles that are popular due to their simple design and upright riding position, as they sit nicely between a laid-back cruiser and a forward-leaning sports bike. Available in a span of different capacities (125cc and upwards) and possible to kit out with luggage and custom accessories they make great all-rounders and an ideal choice for your first motorcycle.
The seat height is usually around the shorter to middle range meaning they are great for most women. They tend to be ‘naked’ bikes, so you haven’t got a bunch of fairings or fancy bits of plastic on the outside which make the bike lighter and easier to do maintenance on. Standards are the OG’s of the bike world and arguably offer the most pure and unfiltered motorcycle riding experience out there.
See the: Triumph Street Twin, Honda CB650R, Ducati Monster, Yamaha MT07, Suzuki SV650
A cruiser (like the name suggests) is made for cruising around town. They’re usually designed to sit lower to the ground with a smaller seat height and they possess engines that are tuned for low-end torque which typically makes them easier to ride as you don’t have to change gear as frequently to accelerate. Styled on American motorcycles from the 1930’s to 1960’s it’s easy to recognise a cruiser when you see one, with Harley Davidson being the most well-known manufacturer. Totally customisable and capable of loading up with luggage, they make the perfect bike for a quick trip to the shops or a longer weekend ride.
Within the cruiser division, there are a number of other sub-styles such as choppers and bobbers which make this a particularly diverse category. However, they all share some similarities like the feet-forward and arms-wide riding position along with (commonly) large-displacement V-twin engines.
Now I’m totally biased towards cruisers as this is my personal choice of ride. I find them to be very comfortable and easy to manoeuvre although they can get quite heavy when it comes to the more powerful models. But in my opinion, these are the coolest looking motorcycles out there, they *ooze* badass-ness.
See the: Harley Davidson Sportster, Indian Scout, Honda Rebel, Kawasaki Vulcan
Sport bikes are crafted with an intoxicating blend of speed, handling and agility at their core and their forward-leaning ergonomics mean they’re perfectly designed for carving up corners. Most models come with fairings (fancy bits of plastic that often completely enclose the engine, and windscreens that deflect the wind at high speeds) and because of their high foot pegs and long reach to the handlebars they position your body forward so that you’re pretty much leaning on top the fuel tank (like a race bike).
These bikes are generally lightweight, and the higher seating position allows the rider to lean the bike over without scraping the foot pegs or fairings. However, the unique style of these motorcycles mean that you may end up sacrificing comfort and fuel economy in exchange for power, so you should carefully consider if this is the right option for you. If you’re a shorter lady, you may want to try a few of these at a dealership as the higher seat means you might be balancing on your tippy-toes. That being said, you shouldn’t be intimidated by these absolute beasts. Especially if you’re interested in taking part in track or race days in the future. You can totally learn to ride one of these!
See the: Kawasaki Ninja ZX6R, Ducati Panigale, KTM RC390, Yamaha R1, BMW S1000RR
Touring motorcycles come in all different shapes and sizes, and although you can mod most bikes for this purpose a touring bike is specifically designed for covering long distances and providing the upmost comfort whilst doing so. They feature large-displacement engines and usually have fairings and screens to protect you from bad weather. With much bigger fuel tanks they can go for miles before needing to fill up and the upright seating position of these bikes should allow the user to comfortably ride for hours before needing to stop and stretch their legs.
Touring bikes are made to carry pillion passengers and luggage, which is fantastic if you’re riding purely for pleasure and get your kicks doing major road trips and putting down serious mileage. However, as you might expect the increase in size does make them incredibly heavy (these bikes can be anywhere upwards of 850 - 900 lbs or 390 - 410 kgs) so this probably isn’t going to be the optimal choice for a new rider or first bike. Oh, and not to mention they are also some of the most expensive bikes on the market!
Within the touring category you’ll find some specific styles: you’ve got baggers and dressers (if you’re into cruisers, these are the touring bikes for you) and then there are sport tourers which (you guessed it) more closely resemble a sports bike. Under this umbrella you’ll also find adventure bikes which are designed to be used off-road but are street legal and have no issue adapting to use on tarmac. Many long distance commuters opt for adventure bikes as they’re comfortable and can hold a decent amount of luggage.
See the: BMW GS, Triumph Tiger, KTM Super Adventure, Honda Goldwing, Harley Davidson Electra Glide
Scooters & Mopeds
Some folks might say that scooters aren’t ‘real’ motorcycles, and I guess that all comes down to what your definition of a motorcycle actually is. In my opinion, if it has two wheels and an engine it’s probably a motorcycle. Would I personally want to own a scooter? Not really. It’s just, well… I don’t feel like scooters are *quite* as badass as other bikes (I’m sorry okay!) However, this is purely down to my own personal taste and what I will say is that if a scooter gets you on the road (and on two wheels) that’s gotta be a good thing.
If you’re the kind of gal that just needs a little run-around or something to get from A to B and you don’t need a motorcycle for long distance commuting (or going really fast) then a scooter might be a great option for you. They are light-weight and sit lower to the ground which makes them super easy to manoeuvre and ideal for zipping around city streets. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and varying capacities (50 - 500cc) and as such they make pretty fantastic starter bikes.
What about Mopeds, aren’t they just little scooters? Well… yea actually they kinda are. The difference between mopeds and scooters is that mopeds are smaller in size and power, having teeny-tiny 50cc engines and top speeds of around 28 miles per hour. Typically mopeds are ‘twist-and-go’ machines (i.e. automatics) and they’re much cheaper than scooters. They’re also particularly favoured by crowds of teenagers that occupy almost every McDonalds car park, as once you’re 16 years old you can legally ride up to a 50cc moped on the road with Learner plates and without a passenger if you’ve completed your Compulsory Basic Training (CBT).
See the: Yamaha X-Max, Honda PCX 125, Piaggio Vespa, Peugeot Speedfight 4, Aprillia SR 50 R
If you’re thinking of purchasing an off-road bike, you probably already know everything you need to know about these motorcycles so I’ll keep this one brief. Off-road bikes (also known as dirt bikes) are designed for use surfaces that are not conventionally paved like gravel, mud, sand and snow. In comparison to street bikes, off-road bikes are lighter, more flexible and have super high ground clearance. Plus they are geared higher to provide more torque when riding off-road. You can spot a dirt bike by their signature knobbly tyres and incredibly tall seats (honestly I don’t know HOW some people even get their legs over these! It’s a skill for sure). Most also don’t have any mirrors or lights, so you wouldn’t be using these around town or for your commutes. Within this category you’ll also find Motocross, Enduro, Rally and Dual Sport bikes to name just a few.
See the: Kawasaki KLX, Husqvarna FC, KTM EXC-F, Honda CRF
So there you have it, we've pretty much broken down all of the most popular types of motorcycles that you'll see on the road. Now I know all this might be a lot to take in, especially if you are completely new to this. But this is really just the tip of the iceberg! Each moto brand usually carries models in all of these categories and with varying capacities too. There are an amazing array of motorcycles on the market and with so much on offer you can definitely find a bike that is totally perfect for you.
Although it might be tempting to go for what looks the nicest, try to think practically. Write down what you want and (more importantly) what you need in a motorcycle and do some research online before you walk into a dealership. Like I said at the start of this post, the last thing you want to do is to buy a motorcycle that doesn’t fit your lifestyle that you end up selling a year or two down the line because you don’t ride it. And trust me, that friendly sales person at the dealership probably isn't going to tell you that the bike you're looking at isn't right for you seeing as their wage is usually based on commission...
Once you’ve whittled down your list of potential candidates you can start checking out reviews from other riders and begin planning a trip to your local dealership to see them in the flesh. I really hope this quick guide helps you and if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below. Be safe and happy riding!