How to Buy Your 1st Motorcycle – For Short Riders

Key Considerations for Your First Streetbike – Short Riders Edition

Kawasaki ninja EX300 side view white background

There are countless guides for finding your first motorcycle, but I created this guide specifically to help shorter riders get comfortable with bikes.  We break it down for what to look for in this guide:

 

Size – Seat Height, Wet Weight, & Riding Position

Engine Sizes, Types, and Recommendations

Other Factor – Costs, Parts, and Support

 

Size – Seat Height, Wet Weight, & Riding Position

  • Seat Height – Lower is better, narrower is better.
    • Most motorcycles released in the past couple decades list seat height in the manufacturing specs.
    • Narrow seats are better for shorter riders.  Narrower seats make it easier to get your legs to ground.  The width of seats are not listed on spec sheets.
  • Weight – Lighter bikes are easier to handle
    • Wet weight- the weight of a motorcycle with all fluids including a full tank of oil, gas, coolant, etc.
    • Dry weight – the weight of a motorcycle without fluids such as gas, oil, etc.
  • Riding Position – Relatively upright bikes  are easier to turn, and more comfortable.
    • aggressive ergonomics found on 600cc sportbikes lead riders to place more pressure on their arms, tightening forearms/shoulders, making it more difficult to turn.  On my first motorcycle, a Kawasaki EX500, I replaced the stock bars with clip ons after lowsiding the bike on a hill.  I noticed that riding the same bike in a more aggressive riding position made me more likely to wand to go faster.

Engine Sizes, Types, and Recommendations

  • Engine Size: Usable Power – Bikes producing predictable amounts of power are better.  Even the least powerful production motorcycles are faster than 90% of cars on the road.  Parallel twin or V-Twin engine bikes are more ideal for street riding, as they have more torque, as deliver power more consistently through the RPM range.  600cc sportbikes look cool, generally have inline 4 engines (i4) and are powerful at high RPM’s, but gutless below 7k.
  • Recommended Engine Sizes for New Riders
    • Twin Engines – 250-300cc – Produce around 30HP and 18 lbs of torque
    • Twin Engines – 650-750cc – Produce ~65HP and 45 lbs of torque
      Compared to bikes which have the engines below, most motorcycles with twin engines are slightly smaller, more ideal for the shorter rider to start making their mark.
  • Engines not recommend for beginners
    Having power is fun, but having above a certain amount makes it really easy to get in trouble.  On many modern motorcycles, the moment you think about going faster, you’ve already twisted the throttle ever so slightly, and have already picked up 10 MPH.  Developing the vision to see all the threats in front of you, as way to avoid such threats, and muscle memory to maneuver a motorcycle are especially important on bigger bikes.

    • 4 Cylinder Engines
      • Inline 4 (i4) 600 cc’s and above – Produce 100+ HP with 45 lbs of torque
      • These engines are found mostly on sporbikes such as the R6, CBR600rr, and others
    • 3 Cylinder Engines
      • 675cc’s and up – These produce 100+ HP and 50 lbs of torque
    • 2 Cylinder Engines 800cc’s and above
      • Twin engines over 800cc’s tend to go on physically larger, heavier motorcycles.  There is a saying that when it comes to producing power: “There is no replacement for displacement.”  Having a more powerful bike makes it easier to get into trouble much more quickly, and heavier motorcycles are more difficult to handle at low speeds.
Other Factors – Costs, Parts, and Support
  • Affordability – This depends on your budget, but ideally, a starter bike can be bought and sold for around the same amount.  Most riders drop their first motorcycle, period.  It hurts pride and wallet a lot more to drop a shiny new bike.  While there are exceptions, it’s better to get a relatively inexpensive used motorcycles, ride it for a little while to build up skills and confidence, then sell it for nearly the same amount when ready to upgrade.
  • Non-Bike Costs to Start Riding
    • Gear: Ideally, this would include at least a helmet, gloves, jacket, riding jeans, and a decent pair of riding boots.
    • Bike insurance:  May be required in your state, is generally the most most expensive for younger riders on 600cc+ sportbikes
    • DMV Fees for registration, transfer of title, etc.
    • Tires: Tires are your connection to road, and similar to a good helmet, isn’t a good place to be cheap.
  • Part availability – Mass produced motorcycles from reputable manufacturers tend to have lots of parts available.  When you first get a bike, you’ll probably want to be riding it as much as possible. If something breaks on the custom or exotic motorcycles you just got, parts can take much longer to arrive, and are less likely to be available at local motorcycles shops.
    • The most famous Italian brand of motorcycles gets most parts shipped worldwide from warehouses in Italy.  During the month of August, most people in Italy are on vacation, which result in significant delays.
See additional resources available for buying motorcycles both new and used including:

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