For new riders, buying their first motorcycle can be an exciting and challenging task. There are so many things to consider, and it’s easy to let your enthusiasm lead you to bad decisions. So, before you jump onto the first bike that you see, run through this guide and double check that you’re making the smart decision.
New v. Used
Considering that many new motorcycle riders get into riding to save on transport costs, not everyone is going to be in a position to purchase a new bike. But, if you are, there are certainly some advantages on buying a new model. As well as not having to worry about past damage or service issues, new bike riders can ride the most updated models, and are often covered by some kind of service warranty.
Private v. Dealership
Regardless of whether you’re buying a new or a used bike, buyers can purchase from a dealership, or from a private seller. There are benefits to both. A dealership can offer more peace of mind for the sale, as well as in many cases a warranty of some kind. On the other hand a private seller may provide a lower price, but buyers should inspect the bike fully before committing to the sale.
If you’re a learner motorcyclist, you must only ride a motorcycle that is on the LAMS (Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme) list. The list contains a variety of motorcycles and scooters that are suitable for motorcyclists on their restricted novice license. Most bikes up to 260cc are included on the list (with some exceptions), and for bigger riders there are options on the list up to 660cc bikes. The full list can be found here, and should be checked prior to purchasing.
Inspecting An Older Bike
If you’re intending to purchase a second-hand motorcycle, it’s important to take the time to inspect the bike properly and ensure it isn’t going to be a lemon. There are a few things that potential buyers should do at a vehicle inspection, that can help in making the right decision.
Bring a Torch and a Buddy
It always helps to bring someone else with you if you’ve never inspected or purchased a motorcycle before. This is especially true if your friend is more motorcycle savvy than you. They can help you inspect the bike, and often see things that you may not see in your excitement to buy the bike. Bringing a torch is a good idea as it helps you to better see various details on the bike, even during the day.
Make Sure The Seller Doesn’t Warm Up The Bike
If you live in a colder climate, make sure you request when making a time to inspect the bike that the seller doesn’t warm it up. Many sellers do this to mask the challenges of starting a problem bike on a cold morning. But, if you’re using the bike for transport, there’s no point buying one that take 30 – 45 minutes to warm before it can be properly ridden. Most bikes should start without issue when using a little choke.
Don’t Settle For The First One
Shopping around is key in buying a motorcycle. As well as giving you a chance to see what’s available in your price range, it lets you look at some different models, and see what’s suitable for you. The more bikes you look at, the more experience you’ll have in seeing what is right with the bike, and what isn’t.
Look At The Appearance
The first thing to look at is the overall appearance of the bike. Check the fairings for scratches and damage, and have a look over the bike for anything that suggests a drop or crash. Many first bikes have had their share of little accidents, but it’s important to distinguish between something small, and something that could cause issues for you later.
Sit on the bike to check the brakes, and ensure that they engage as soon as you pull the brakes. You shouldn’t have to pull far to feel the brakes engaging, and if you do this is a sign that something isn’t right. Also, have a look at the brake pads, checking their thickness, and ask about recent replacements.
Use your torch to check out the fuel tank. The tank opening should be free of rust and debris, and the inside should be clear. Remember that anything in the fuel tank can make its way through the bike, and mess with your carburetor, so look carefully.
Tyres can be replaced on an older bike if they’re the only thing that’s wrong with it, but replacements can be expensive for learner riders without much budget. So, look carefully at the tyres to check for damage (cracking in the surface), and take some time to examine the tread. The tyre should have even wear, and should still have 1.5mm of more of tread remaining.
Check All The Lights
Again, lights are only a small thing, but issues in the lights could be indicative of other electrical issues. Use your friend to help to make sure all the lights are working properly, and that all go on and off when they’re supposed to.
Sit on the bike and pull on the front brake at the same time as leaning down on the suspension. You should feel a little give in the forks, which indicates the suspension is working correctly. Afterwards, make sure you check the forks for signs of leakages.
Chain and Sprockets
The chain on your motorcycle will need to be replaced at some point in its life, possibly more than once. But, this is another expense, and is worth inspecting closely before you buy. Check the chain by pushing on sections of it to ensure that it is moving without rust or corrosion, and take a careful look at the sprocket teeth to ensure they aren’t overly worn.
If you’re a learner rider, some sellers may not be happy with you heading out for a test ride on the bike. But, it is an important part of purchasing to feel how the bike really rides, and how it feels for you as a rider. If you aren’t confident in riding the bike yourself, see if any of your friends who are motorcycle licensed and with more experience would be willing to help you out.
Talk To The Seller
Before you even think about making a decision on your bike you need to quiz the seller on the bike’s history. Ask about the crash and damage history, and be aware if the seller’s story doesn’t line up with what you’re seeing on the bike. Check the service records for necessary servicing, and make sure there haven’t been any modifications that could stop your bike from being approved through LAMS. The seller should know about the bike they’re selling, and if they don’t or they seem suspicious, check VIN numbers before committing.