View Full Version : Another beginner biker requesting help

03-07-2006, 12:31 AM
Hello everyone! I've been browsing the forum, and it seems that this is a good place to get me well informed on bikes in general.

I've been contemplating for some time on getting a bike, for convience sake. I live in Toronto, Ontario and i'm a University (UTSC if anyone knows) student. 18 yr old. I only need a reliable (possibly good looking) bike to get me to my university and back during spring, fall, and summer. Maybe downtown if i really need to. I'm not sure on the price ranges either. My main concerns are, as i've said before, the reliability, look, and price range of the bike.

The question is, which bike would suit me the best?

Thanks for all your help in advance.

03-07-2006, 02:14 AM
Hey there, welcome aboard. My brother went to Queen's U in Kingston!

As for bike advice... we need a bit more info.

You ask about price - well, what's your range? Remeber you'll need to include cost for gear (say $400-500 USD) and insurance. Can't remeber what the deal is with safety classes and licensing up there, but we have a few Canucklehead ;) members that I'm sure can help. You can certainly get a good used beginner bike for $2000 USD, often less, depending...

Reliability? Most scoots are pretty darn reliable these days, but personally I feel that riders need to have some comfort with doing basic maintenance.

Type/look of bike? Lots of personal preference there. Just from what you've said so far I was thinking a scooter may work for ya (could again depend on licensing issues and such). If you're not into scooters, there are beginner-friendly bikes of all flavors... cruisers, sporty bikes, dual-sports/enduros, etc. Whatcha like? You guys get at least a few models that don't see US showrooms.

At 18 and in college I'd generally assume you have some traffic experience with a car. If not, common wisdom is actually to get some road time in a "cage" for a year or two so you learn to understand traffic behavior, identify potential hazards, etc. with a higher degree of safety than starting "cold" on a bike would afford.

Let us know! Lots of good folks here that are happy to help. :thumbsup:

03-07-2006, 02:49 AM
Nice, i also have a few friends that go there as well.

Well i have some experience inside a "cage", not enough for me to feel like i know the roads completely.

I'd say i would have about 4000 CAD to spend, after my summer jobs. And i'll have a continual part time job over my academic years.

In terms of look, i'd want to get a sporty looking bike. Not a scooter for sure haha. And since it's a beginner's bike, i would certainly not want it to go too fast.

03-07-2006, 03:10 AM
I've been asking these questions on the board long enough to know your choices (they are the same as mine).
Ninja 250, Ninja 500, Suzuki GS500f

03-07-2006, 03:45 AM
Heh, ok... look for a used one of these...

It's the updated version of the Ninja 250 we have here, but we don't get this newer model. :neutral:

LowDownSinner - an MSF instructor who's been riding since before you were born (ok me too I think) on everything from scooters and dirtbikes to big Harleys and track bikes - can tell you all about his Ninja 250. I believe his basic review is:
...and the expanded review <not just LowDown's> is something like "maybe the best sportbike you could start on." Several members here have or had one.

It may offer more top-end speed than you want (will do 90-100mph+ if pushed), but if you're looking for sporty and somewhat restrained, this is it to my knowledge*. I admit I don't know what the other manufacturers offer in Canada, but a lot of Ninja 250 fans in the states wish they could have the updated ZZR here.

I'm a little concened about your limited(?) experience driving. Understanding traffic is a biggie in my book. It's been almost 20 years since I made a copy of my mom's car key and started driving :razz: and at this point I'm practically psychic about identifying what nearby drivers are going to do. I'd feel better about it if I knew your experience was with a manual transmission.

For what it's worth, bike prices will be slightly better for the next 6-8 weeks than when real warm weather arrives.

Happy hunting!

[* BrookylnBoy mentioned the other two US models we'd usually recommend... look 'em up if you haven't. Fit-wise, I'm a fan of the GS myself, though the newer "F" model with sport plastics may be outside your budget.]

Oh and if there's a motorcycle safety class available, take it!

03-07-2006, 11:50 AM
First thing you need to do before anything is find information about Canada's MSF equivilent. That is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation here in the States. The course you'd be looking at here is the BRC class, the Basic Rider Course where yuo're taught how to ride and operate a MC. I'm sure CA has something similar. That's what you want first before anything else.

Gear ... ATGATT is the mantra most of us live by here. All The Gear All The Time. That means MC type boots, so over the ankle. MC jacket of some kind, most have armor. MC gloves. Helmet is a must, FF is the best for full safely. Although a lot of us wear jeans while riding, more protective jeans or pants are preferred.

IF you're looking toward a sport bike, the 250-500cc range is plenty good enough for you. The Ninja 250 can fly and will be wonderful to learn on and give you years of fun riding. If the cruiser side has an interest for you, the Kawi Vulcen 500 is a great sized bike with tons of power and speed.

I haven't been to Toronto and years and years, but I do love the city.

03-07-2006, 12:36 PM
damn, I would definately go after that 250 ZZR if they sold it here. So much better looking, and sportin all black too!

03-07-2006, 06:46 PM
Thanks for all the help!

I will be wearing ATGATT, it'd be far too dangerous without it, espicially in scarborough :razz:

I'll probably have to choose between the ninja 500 and 250, but i'm leaning towards the 500 in terms of just thinking it looks awesome. Now that the bike is chosen, what exactly should i be looking for when i look for a used one? Such as... minor details i should check out to insure i'm not getting ripped off.

I think i can find most motorcycle training courses from the "Ministry of transportation for ontario" department, which is also where i take my m1. Edit : I found a safety instruction course thats incorporated into the m2 course, so after i take this course at centennial, i can get my m2 right after without having to take the drivers test.

This is all still in the future, but i want to be informed before hand haha.

03-07-2006, 06:52 PM


03-07-2006, 09:25 PM
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is insurance rates- May be totally different in Canada and I'm sure differs within states in the US, but an 18 year old with any bike classified as a 'sport bike' (our insurance company refers to them as "Ninja bikes") is going to be exorbitantly higher insurance rates vs. riding a cruiser or a scooter of the same cc class.

For most college students I know, funds are somewhat limited, and this may become a big factor for you. It's not going to be fun to own a bike if the insurance rates are killing your spending money!

Good luck!

03-07-2006, 10:27 PM
Thanks for the link tom.

Yes you're probably right. I plan on getting a quote on my insurance soon to see exactly how much i'll need to pay. But i do plan on holding a part time job, so that should pay for my insurance fairly well. I'll just need to do what most university students do when low on cash, go for the free things in life! haha.

In terms of safety equipment, i know i'll need the full accessories for maximum protection, but what brands should i be looking at?

03-07-2006, 10:29 PM
Joe Rocket, FirstGear, CorTech/Tourmaster all make good stuff at decent prices.

Check out http://www.newenough.com Look at the closeout section where they liquidate older merchandise...some very good deals to be found there.

03-07-2006, 10:49 PM
And remember gear should be tight- not restrictively so, but tight enough that armor will stay in place if you ever actually need it. I didn't know that and bought my first riding jacket too big. :neutral:

03-07-2006, 10:56 PM
Welcome to the board Iohue!
For gear shopping check out Parker Brothers Powersports, 5324 Dundas St. W. This is the dealership where Joe Rocket was born. I haven't been there but have purchased from them at bike shows. Good selection and prices.
For bike shopping check out McBride Cycle 2797 Dundas St. W. This is Toronto's biggest, best and oldest bike shop. They sell all 4 Japanese brands plus Triumph & BMW. No better place to "test-sit" bikes! Good reputation.
For training it looks like you've found the Canada Safety Council's "Gearing Up" Motorcycle course since you mentioned Centennial. I took my course at Georgian College in Barrie. For more locations/information check out their website at http://www.ridertraining.org/
Good luck!

03-08-2006, 12:43 AM
For bike shopping check out McBride Cycle 2797 Dundas St. W. This is Toronto's biggest, best and oldest bike shop. They sell all 4 Japanese brands plus Triumph & BMW. No better place to "test-sit" bikes! Good reputation...

:shock: :shock: :shock: :shady: :fatyo:

That's insane! And I though I had it good with dealers of all varieties within an hour. There's one chain with all four major Japanese brands, but the BMW/Triumph dealer is a lone entity half an hour from there.

If this Toronto dealer of yours starts carrying Aprilias a/o other misc. Euro brands, I'm moving to Canada!

Ok my bro and his family are moving back there soon anyway, but still...

03-08-2006, 10:50 AM
Nice, now i know where to get my protection and bike haha. Thanks cinder!

03-08-2006, 03:49 PM
From what i've read so far, it seems the best options are ninja 500, 250r, and suzuki 500. Is there any other possible options? i want something sleek looking similar to that of the triump models, if possible at all.

03-08-2006, 04:16 PM
If you mean the Triumph speed triple, unfortunately the only bike as pretty as that is... the triumph speed triple. On a part-time college student budget, you might just have to get a suzuki GS500E (unfaired), remove the headlight and duct tape a couple of flashlights to the front for a similar aesthetic. Use duct tape that matches the bike's body-work for a classy effect.

03-08-2006, 04:25 PM
There are a lot of different Triumph (http://images.google.com/images?q=triumph+motorcycles&hl=en&btnG=Search+Images) models. Do you mean their standards, nakeds, sportsbike or cruiser models? Off the top of my head, the Buell Blast is a newbie friendly bike in that standard or naked bike category. If you can find an old Bonnie from Triumph they are sweet bikes. They don't have the old Suzuki Bandit 400 in Canada do they?

03-08-2006, 05:17 PM
Well not nesscarily naked, but i do like the triump 675 look, or the kawasaki z1000 look. But the z1000 seems to be the only one which has that robotic look. I'd say the daytona 675 has the look i'm going for the most. I know i should stick with bikes under 500 cc, but they're just so very nice looking haha. On the other hand, the ninja 650R looks good too...its over 500 cc a bit, 649 i believe, is it too much for a beginner to handle?

03-08-2006, 06:03 PM
Dont' be too terribly wrapped up in getting a bike based on looks. Sure it's important, but find one that FITs you. Some riders find the sportbike crouch to be hard on the wrists, while others the cruiser slouch to be hard on the back. If you're after the Daytona 675 look, consider the Suzuki GS500F (http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=GS500F&sa=N&tab=wi) with the full baby gixxer look. Or.. find a good Ninja 500R with the lower fairing.

The new Ninja 650R has been touted by the magazines as a starter bike, and it's also comparable (almost) to the SV650. Both are good bikes that riders with a little experience can handle. But not nearly as docile as the 500 or the 250.

Consider as well, that you are a student riding to school. Would you want to park a brand new 650R or SV all day in a student lot.. subject to being touched and maybe bumped by other students and cars? Oh BTW, I sat on a 650R, it has even less underseat storage than my SV, which means books and locks and anything you need to carry will have to be in a backpack or saddle bag.

03-08-2006, 06:17 PM
Hmmm.. thats very true. Can you give me an estimated size for the underseat storage capacity for the 650? I know that looks shouldn't be the defining aspect for my decision on which bike to purchase, but i do plan on going and sitting on all the bikes i'm interested in before actually buying them.

I read about the GS500f a bit, and although it looks nice, i heard that the plastic comes off very easily when you take a fall?

Which bike do you find more comfortable asp?

03-08-2006, 06:36 PM
My SV has enough storage under the seat for the tool kit and a couple cans of soda. The 650R .. about a wallet and a 1/2. .. there isn't really any storage. My old 500R, kind of like the 650R, room for a wallet or two.

Don't let that be the deciding factor. FWIW I love my SV, the position is more aggressive than the 650R, which is more upright, handlebar a bit wider and narrower in the saddle (good for short inseams). Actually, to be honest I miss my 500R as a commuter bike - the SV is fast, fun and beautiful, but for noodling in traffic and doing the daily grind (rain, dirt, city battles) the 500 was just right b/c I didn't have to worry about it being noticed by thieves and sticky fingers.

Can't vouch for the plastic on the GS500F, haven't heard that. Maybe go to GStwins.com and ask?

03-08-2006, 07:05 PM
Yeah, the SV... in silver and black looks -really- good. And it has alot of storage space from what you say. Is the SV very durable? because if i get something like the sv, i doubt i'll need to switch bikes for at least a few years.

03-08-2006, 09:47 PM
Doesn't Canada have a tiered licensing system? Can you even test on a SV650? Anyway, I just got mine and while I can see how it could possibly be recommended as a beginner bike, I was also pretty caught out by the amout of torque there is on tap. It just wants to pull from the get go, where the little Ninja was pretty docile up to about 8000 RPMs.

03-08-2006, 10:03 PM
Ninja 250 - bulletproof
Ninja 500 - bulletproof
GS500 - bulletproof
Maintained examples are trouble-free. Proven designs and lots of cheap parts and support.

SV - so far so good... but if you drop it bwahahahaa, a new tank is $552, new radiator $469 (BTDT).

Can you even qualify to ride an SV under the restricted license? Or is there a cc limit? Check around for insurance rates, I'll bet the SV is quite a bit higher than the 250R.

If you're sensing a bit of reluctance on my part in recommending the SV it is because it's a grey area bike for beginners; you're entering the realm of a high performance motorcycle. Even the Moto Guzzi Breva 750 and Ducati Monster 620 are better beginner bikes in comparison.

BTW recommended reading: Form Equals Function (http://2kcrew.lunarpages.com/asp125/F=F1.htm)

I applaud your asking questions here. There is a vast pool of knowledgeable riders to guide you in making the right choice.

03-08-2006, 10:15 PM
McBride's is a cool place...the main floor is the showroom for the Japanese bikes, upstairs is the parts department and all the gear. Walk out a side door, 10 steps to another building which houses the BMW showroom in the front and the Triumph showroom in the rear. The service department is somewhere in there..... A few years ago BMW demanded it's own separate showroom from it's bike dealers here. Many could not comply-just didn't have the facilities so they dropped the brand. As a result most BMW car dealerships also now carry the bikes...talk about a place to drool....I'll take an M3 and a K1200 please.....

03-08-2006, 10:21 PM
Speeddemon & asp125-
The graduated licensing system in Ontario does not have any cc limitations. Basically, the restrictions are privilege and tolerance based. An M1 allows you to ride, but not at night, no passengers, no super-slab highways and 0 tolerance for alcohol. Passing our version of the MSF will give you an M2 which lifts all restrictions except the 0 tolerance for alcohol. Passing our version of the ERC with an actual roadtest will give you a full M with no restrictions, .08 is now your legal alcohol limit.
To obtain an M1 you must take the province's written test and you have to hold this license for at least 60 days, you cannot get it Friday, take the MSF then get your M2. To get your M2 you must pass the province's roadtest or the MSF, you must hold this license for at least 22 months (dropped to 18 months if you take the course). To get your full M you must pass another provincial roadtest or take the ERC which includes a final road test. While not a perfect system it at least keeps the greenest newbie from sticking his wife on the back, at night, and hitting our version of the interstate with 0 experience. Obviously it also helps keep drinking & riding in check. Has it saved any lives? Probably.

03-08-2006, 10:23 PM
You should definitely be worried about parking your bike at a school. The shinier it is the more likely some meathead's gonna try to impress his girlfriend doing something stupid or messing with it. Park a perfect shiny SV in a school parking lot and you're practically certain to have somebody screw with it.

Consider, instead, a junker. Sexy appearance? Not especially. Sexy price? Very. Sexy Insurance rates (looooooww) VERY. Guarenteed not to be screwed with? Oh yeah. Still running fine despite half-assed maintenance and being stored under a plastic tarp in some doofus's shed? Surprisingly often, yes.

What you need is an old UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle). These are the 80s GS (zuki) CBs (Honda) Ksomething (Kawasaki) and Yamaha something or other. They're near impossible to tell apart from a distance. All air-cooled flat 4 numbers. The GS, CB, and KZ's are especially indestructible, in roughly that order of indestructibility.

At any rate, a UJM means you have basically bottomless access to cheap parts, customizing options, and a price tag that'll leave you plenty to customize with. They're great first bikes (the smaller ones anyway.) because when (not if) you drop them making some noob mistake, there's very little to break, and anything that does break is minimum bid on Ebay. Power wise they were the performance bikes of their day, but most of them have very predictable throttle response, and semi-modern braking systems.

They're the ultimate do-anything platform, since you can start with the exact same bike and transform it either into a sporty machine or a touring bike. The original Goldwing was a big UJM with a fairing on it, and the gixxer's grandpa is in the picture below.

They all look about like this:


03-08-2006, 10:37 PM
Iohue, you're welcome! Got my hubby's Joe Rocket Revolution boots from Parker Bros. at a show for $99 (CA $$), these boots list on JR's website for $159 (US $$) every other dealer who had them were selling them for $229 (CA $$) and up. Not sure how the deals are in the store but they were great at the shows! Since Joe Rocket was started by one of the original partners in this dealership I suspect should be the best place to buy....

03-09-2006, 12:34 AM
...As a result most BMW car dealerships also now carry the bikes...talk about a place to drool....I'll take an M3 and a K1200 please.....

You're killing me!! :razz:

03-09-2006, 02:34 AM
Wow, thanks for all the replies!.

Yeah, the main factor thats holding me back from choosing a SV over the 500s is the fact that i will probably drop it at some point. But the SV is just so sexy, i can't stop staring at it sometimes hahaha.

In terms of people touching my future to be bike, i don't think it will be a big issue at my campus. We have a bunch of cyclists here, and most of their bikes are in respectable conditions. We also have police that go around the campus, and a security guard by the entrance to the parking lot. That and the atomosphere is relatively nice.

The UJMs are probably out of question for myself, i just can't see myself riding one. They are probably very good bikes, but just not my cup of tea, so to speak.

Edit: after reading the form and function article, first part, and realizing that the 250s ninja doesn't actually cost that much at all, i think it'd be alot safer if i just learn from that first then move on to the SV. I'd rather scratch up a bulletproof bike, and suffer minimal damage myself, then destroy my nice bike and wind up in lots of pain.

03-09-2006, 04:41 PM
Iohue I can see you have NOT checked on insurance in Ontario. I think you will be looking more seriously at the 250 & 500cc bikes you have mentioned rather then the larger irons like Triumph. Especially as insurance is NOT low in cost plus you are at the dirty end of the stick & not 25 yrs of age or older.

Just for some interest remembering we here in B.C., obtain far lower insurance then most Provinces bar Alberta. Also I am looked upon as a Star Drivers so that means said prices I put down are with 43% discount already taken off them. Plus I only have Liability along with Fire & Theift.

The 4X4 truck was $544.00 though I had to purchase a NEW SUV & so at 2.8% interest I had to have FULL coverage so the price was hiked up to an additional $384.12.
Okay so I have a '97 Yamaha YZF600R & it will be $934.00 though remember that is only Liability along with Fire & Theift. My '00 Honda 929 will be $1134.00 while my '04 Honda 954 will be $1265.00.

So time to see if you can find a firm in Ont that will quote you some costs for variations in m/cs & feel sure you will be thinking differently. So far I feel, most of the people on this board, that have corresponded with you are Americans & believe me prices are so different in Cdn compared to the States. The same in protective gear. For instance I just ordered a pair of protective trousers in the less costly fabric end, not that you will be buying the latter, though you might be looking at a decent jacket, helmet, & gloves. Said trousers will cost me IN AMERICAN DOLLARS $181.98, including shipping, PLUS Cdn Customs. You cannot ride all season & several seasons later on with the same pair of protective trousers so I am looking at my fourth pair though remember I have been riding steadily since '46. Sort of the same with a protective jacket for again they tend to show wear & are hard to keep clean. Like a good full face helmet & I have been wearing Shoei since early in the 80s YET every 5 yrs (if the helmet has not taken a blow when you pranged your bike) is the time for a new Shoei helmet. Nothing is cheap these days.

Cinder is probably the only other Cdn that has been helping you along. I do apologize Cinder for you had to be Cdn what with info on where to deal along with info on m/c riders license. Just that I got so deep in trying to advise him to check around on insurance & not be so keen on more costly & larger bikes that I got off line & forget you.

03-09-2006, 05:21 PM
well i'm fairly certain the insurance rates are high in T.O, but i'm sure i can get a quote from my TD bank relatively easily when i need to. Its not that big of a problem since i know how insurance can be very expensive, and i've taken that into consideration already.

03-09-2006, 10:05 PM
Chris-LOL, yep, going into a place like that with no money is just cruel and unusual punishment!

Smitty-It's OK! You were pointing out one of the most costly things for a new, young motorcyclist. Good info. As far as the currency issue goes he has enough large dealerships in Toronto he can buy all he needs locally.

Iohue-Does TD even insure bikes? It sounds like you've done your homework but alot of companies don't deal with motorcycles. The company I have my car, house & snowmobile with won't insure my bikes. My hubby has a different company for his car and sleds and they won't either. Both our brokers suggested Primmum. They are supposed to have the best rates. We have all 3 bikes with them.

03-10-2006, 07:11 PM
Yup TD insures bikes, they have quotes online.
I've noticed that alot of people view motorcycling as extremely dangerous, is it as dangerous as its made out to be? I'm sure there are dangers behind it, but there are dangers in many things... just wanted to know what the experienced riders think of this.

03-10-2006, 08:55 PM
Yup TD insures bikes, they have quotes online.
I've noticed that alot of people view motorcycling as extremely dangerous, is it as dangerous as its made out to be? I'm sure there are dangers behind it, but there are dangers in many things... just wanted to know what the experienced riders think of this.

Well, yes, it IS more dangerous than life without a motorcycle.

Some dangers and their management:

1) There's nothing around you like in a car. In a crash it's just your flesh and bones against the other vehicle's bumper
True. This is why good motorcycling involves a whole new way of thinking in avoiding the crash in the first place.

2) If something goes wrong mechanically, like a flat tire while you're moving, you'll crash more easily and injury is certain
Once again, if something goes wrong, yes, it will probably be way worse. Again this is where a whole new way of thinking comes in. Do you normally drive your car until the tires are bald and there's steel plies showing? Or do you drive until you have a blowout? Can't do that with a bike. Your best approach (but not the only approach) is take an active interest in the condition and maintenance of your ride, and fix stuff BEFORE it goes bad. That means stuff like changing tires before they get bald, etc. Will this cost more? Yes. Even if you do your own wrenching, this will take more of your time. It's like flying an aircraft. You can bet your bottom dollar that good pilots make sure the aircraft is in best condition before they ever take off.

3) People don't see you on the motorcycle so they're more likely to run you over
True again. This is another case of where your new motorcycling way of thinking comes in. Best approach is see the trouble before hand and take measures to avoid it. Examples are staying out of people's blind spots, wearing high visibility gear, watching for drivers who aren't paying close attention and creating more distance between you and them, picking the less crowded times and roads to ride on, learning to watch all around you while riding, and forming escape plans constantly for all road dangers.

As one example, there's a side street on a 4-lane country highway where several cars usually pull out into traffic on my way to work. When I'm riding, about 1/4 mile from the side street I pull into the left lane so the cars pulling out have a (hopefully) empty right lane to merge into. I go left lane here before I can even see the side street.

4) Injuries are worse in a motorcycle accident
Absolutely true. Unfortunately I have firsthand knowledge of this. In the auto accidents I've been in, I've never had any injury. In my one motorcycle spill (lowsiding fall, slipping on gravel while leaned over in a turn) I thought afterwards I'd broken my foot when my bike impacted the side of my foot. It swelled up and hurt like ....it hurt. I'm still slightly limping from that fall 15 months later. I was wearing full gear and safety-toed boots by the way. The doctor said if I hadn't been wearing those boots I would have had a broken foot.

Before the spill I was thinking how great a rider I am and I ate this huge slice of humble pie. The fall felt like the hand of God slapping me back to reality "YOU AREN'T AS GOOD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE" so this was a good lesson in "the day you stop being scared is the day you crash" Said another way, if you don't respect the dangers, the dangers bite you with big fangs. I've been a much more cautious rider ever since.

How's that for some answers to your questions?

03-11-2006, 05:47 AM
You're on a roll tonight Max! Kudos!

Not much to add... maybe summarize...

Motorcycling is inherently more dangerous, considerably so. If you look at the numbers you are much more likely to get hurt or killed on a motorcycle... BUT there's a couple things to remember:
Those numbers include ALL riders. They include riders who are stunting, they include riders who are riding as hard and as fast as they can, they include riders who are getting snockered in a bar before riding on.
Every decision you make, either before you get on a bike, or while you are on it, changes your personal odds away from the "average" odds. Make wise decisions that move you towards being a better, smarter, safer rider and your personal odds improve greatly.

Welcome aboard!