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missyrat
06-16-2006, 04:50 AM
Hello Everyone,

I am a newbie in California who is going to take the MSF course next week.
I have been reading all I can on this great site as well as others, and of course I've been looking at gear and bikes.

Bikes I've been interested in (not in any order):
Honda Shadow VLX and 750
Yamaha Virago 535 adn 750
Yamaha V-Star
Kawasaki Vulcan 500LTD (not a fan of the 750 styling)

Obviously I'm highly inclined toward cruisers and while I'm quite sure I know nothing about bikes, I do know that I don't want an 1000cc or something like that, while I'm a very cautious person I'm also young (20), I'd like to live a long life and be able to learn properly.

So I have a few questions:
First - Any recommendations of other bikes I should look at? Ones with similar styling to the ones I've listed that are good for beginners?
Second - Any reason any of these bikes are bad for beginners? Any recommendations out of the group based the next question?
Three - This is my big question that is my big fear right now - I am home for the summer in Northern California but go to college in Portland Oregon - if I practice riding everyday is there any way I'll be ready for the freeway by the end of August? Because I will of course want to take my bike with me.
I will be able to stop overnight once or even twice if necessary so it wouldn't be trying to make it in one shot (its about 600-650 miles but I can't take as long as I need getting there) - and I have a choice between a slower coastal highway and an Interstate - so I don't have to ride with 4 lanes of cars the whole way either.
If this is possible and plausable to do please let recommend which bikes above (or any others) would be best for making this trip oncec or twice a year, I also hope to use the bike to take many day trips out of Portland on both the freeway and country roads.

Thank You all in advance for your responses and such a great forum!
-Erik Tylek Kettenburg

aprilmaybe
06-16-2006, 10:59 AM
Woo Hoo more west coasters! Hi and welcome.

I'm not as up on cruisers as i am on the sportier side of things. I know people that started on the Vulcan 500 and the V-Star. Both of those are great starter bikes. I'm sure peolpe will chime in with more specific information.

As for the freeway, the answer is maybe. You might be ready for it and then again maybe not. My first freeway jaunt was about 2 months after my MSF, I don't know that I would have been ready for a trip that long at the time. Of course in your situation, I would most likely choose PCH anyway. I've heard the part north of San Fran is stunning.

I wouldn't worry about it too much yet there are other options. You could rent a trailer or put it in the back of a truck to get it there.

Good Luck!

MsPotatoPotatoHead
06-16-2006, 11:23 AM
Welcome, missyrat!

Any of those you listed make decent starter bikes. The best of the group are (in no particular order) the VLX, the Virago 535, and the Vulcan 500. Of the three, the Vulcan may be the most versatile. Sit on all of them to see which feels best to you.

Just remember, when it comes to cruisers, the heavier the bike is, the longer it will take you to become a proficient rider. A Virago 535 was my first bike, and it was an excellent combination of light weight, easy handling, and enough power for the mountains (roughly 20% of a bike's power is lost at this altitude - 6500 ft.).

A lot of deciding which bike to get will depend on ergonomics, but the main thing to keep in mind is that this is your FIRST bike, not your last! So if the bike you start out with turns out not to be your ultimate fantasy, at least let it be a good learning tool. Most starter bikes (especially if you buy them used to begin with) will hold their value and you can turn them around in six months or a year for close to what you paid for them (sometimes more!).

VanDawg38
06-16-2006, 11:55 AM
Regarding the freeway, my first trip was from one onramp to the next offramp and it scared the crap out of me. That ground sure was whizzing by fast. (look up!) It was really noisy, too. Ear plugs make a huge difference in comfort and endurance.

It doesn't take long to get comfortable traveling at speed, IMO. Once you realize you're not going to get blown off the bike, or across three lanes of traffic, you begin to relax and things start to slow down for you.

Probably the safest route to take to Portland would be slabbing up I-5. The nice thing about interstates is that everyone is traveling the same direction and there are limited access points. Pleny of food, gas and inns along the way, too. Higher LEO presence should you require assistance as well. Boring ride, however.

Coming up the coast would be infinitely more scenic and twistier, but a little more dangerous. Pleny of rest stops along the way, but you've got to pay more attention to oncoming traffic and vehicles pulling onto the highway. You can't let getting stuck behind a slow moving RV frustrate you, either.

If it were me, and time wasn't an issue, I'd take the PCH and my camera.

As to your bike choices, they're all fine. The Vulcan 500 is probably the best performer, but the least cruiserish.

Clair
06-16-2006, 12:22 PM
Agree tht the VN500 is the most versatile bike of the lot, probably has the most power too. I'd go with the VN500 or any of hte Honda 750s ... Shadow, Aero, etc. Basically, for cruisers, anything in the 250-800cc range makes a good bike. You just need to find one that turns you on and feels good to you.

As for highway riding ... not an issue. Practice a lot in the beginning. Practice a lot in parking lots and around town. You'll naturally migrate to highway riding at some point and should be fine by the time you leave for school. A windshield will be usefull for highway riding, btw.

Bobthearch
06-16-2006, 12:32 PM
Of the bikes on your list, I've ridden the V-Star 650 and the Vulcan 500. Of those two, the Vulcan runs the best (smoothest, quietest, and fastest). The Vulcan is also lighter-weight, less expensive, and better suited for short riders. The V-Star Classic has the full-fender styling that I prefer and is more comfortable (I'm 5'9" and 200lbs). If limited to buying one or the other, I'd have to vote for the V-Star.

Good Luck and Best Wishes,
-Bob

Wookie
06-16-2006, 12:56 PM
As others have mentioned, the bikes you are looking at are good starters. Some of the bigger ones will be a bit borderline due to weight, not power. It will be more a matter of personal preference and where you feel your ability is to handle the bike.

As for the freeway, I had no problems with the freeway when I first started riding. The first ride I had after picking up the bike involved a long stretch of 65mph. My wife took a while longer but was up to highway/freeway speeds within about 4-5 rides.

Heading up to Portland is fairly familiar to me since I live in the Portland area and have ridden down south and back before. My suggestion would be to head up HWY 101 to Lincoln City, then head NE to Portland. In the fall, it's one of the most beautiful rides you can do. The scenery is second to none, the speeds are not to high, lots of places to stop and it can be done in two days.

The thing with riding on the freeway is that the speeds are high and mid sized cruisers can get pretty buzzy at those speeds. Also the rides tend to be pretty boring. That combination makes for a pretty dull ride compared to what is 60 miles away on the coast.

Have fun picking out the bike, test ride if at all possible and keep us informed on your bike decision and progress...:mrgreen:

mediajackl
06-16-2006, 01:00 PM
Welcome, Missyrat!
Good list you got working there. Only one, off top of my head, I would add is the Buell Blast, although its not cruiser-ish. But it is Harley-ish :) .

After MSF/BRC, you'll know a lot more about what you feel ready to handle. A 750 cruiser, remember, was considered a pretty big bike not too long ago (Brando rode a 500 in 'The Wild One.') So, depending on your size and skill, it might not be a terrible idea to consider a smaller bike before you go to a 750. Although starting on a 750 is not out of the question.

Can you make the freeway ride in August? Depends how much riding you do before then.
Get comfortable, then do brief spurts of freeway riding, one exit to the next, and back; then longer stretches.
Going at speed on relatively straight roads is not an issue; it's simple, actually. But you are out there dealing with cars and semi rigs probably doing over 80. That is a little spooky at first, and the tension can be fatiguing. But if you work up to it, doing 300 miles in a day is not a huge deal.

Kind words about site: It's a communal effort. Of which you are now part. And we expect you to do your share by sharing MSF and bike-purchase stories. ;)

Have fun, enjoy the adventure.

Addendum, re Brando reference: Saw a source which says his bike in the film (his own bike), was a Triumph 650. The point still holds.

remy_marathe
06-16-2006, 01:22 PM
Like VanDawg, my first freeway jaunt scared the crap outta me; I got funneled onto an entrance ramp and then had no choice but to continue on the freeway to the next exit. It gets better fast.

Practice daily and don't feel like you HAVE to be ready, as mentioned above there are other options and you should never rush yourself to ride in uncomfortable situations. Everyone's different; I think I was freeway-ready within a month, but not freeway-savvy for a while longer. Meaning- I was able to make jaunts on the freeway within a month, even very long rides. But there were some skills that I hadn't had enough occasions in a month to practice; high winds still gave me trouble, I'd had ZERO rain experience, my hands tended to fall asleep worse because of the new rider death-grip, I don't think I'd encountered an edge trap before; little things like that.
So if you do feel you're ready for the ride a month and a half from now, give yourself lots of time and the freedom to pull over, take breaks or call off the entire day's ride altogether. You'll still have a lot to learn at that point, ready for the freeway or not.

lostlogic
06-16-2006, 02:09 PM
I was on the freeway within a week of learning to ride... I put myself on a pretty agressive learning curve though. By 10 days after I had my bike, I took a long super slab trip from Chiago to St. Louis.

missyrat
06-16-2006, 02:37 PM
First of all, Thank you all for your great responses!
You've all given me the confidence to continue to pursue this and see where it takes me - I know that if I'm not ready for the trip North when the time comes then I can always park it untill the next chance I get or trailer it up.
Are there any other bikes not on my list I should look at? Just trying to get a nice broad list so I look into everything and hopefully find a few I like so I can find a good deal on one.

Thanks Again!
-Erik

MsPotatoPotatoHead
06-16-2006, 03:12 PM
If you aren't married to the idea of a cruiser, other good first bikes are:

Sportbike style:
Kawasaki Ninja 250/500
Suzuki GS500

Dual-sport style:
Kawasaki KLR-650
BMW F650GS

These are just a few others that come to mind. The dual-sports will be taller than the other bikes mentioned, so if you're not overly gifted in the inseam, they may not work for you.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

kflippo
06-16-2006, 03:30 PM
Of the bikes on your list, I've ridden the V-Star 650 and the Vulcan 500. Of those two, the Vulcan runs the best (smoothest, quietest, and fastest). The Vulcan is also lighter-weight, less expensive, and better suited for short riders. The V-Star Classic has the full-fender styling that I prefer and is more comfortable (I'm 5'9" and 200lbs). If limited to buying one or the other, I'd have to vote for the V-Star.

Good Luck and Best Wishes,
-Bob

Sorry Bob, I am going to have to disagree with you on the V-Star 650. The V-Star 650 has a lousy clutch. The Friction-zone is very small. I know this from expierence. I had a V-Star 650 and I traded it back in after 300 miles. The 650's clutch is not forgiving. If you rev to low and start to engage you kill the motor. You rev just a little bit more then the bike launches you towards the first ditch. The V-Star 1100 on the other hand is a wonderful bike. Much more forgiving when someone new is getting use to sycronizing the throttle and clutch. I have never been on the Vulcan so I have no opinion on it.

MsPotatoPotatoHead
06-16-2006, 03:52 PM
All of the smaller Yamahas I've ridden had a very unfriendly friction zone. The V-Star 1100 I rode had a shorter friction zone than my Kawasaki, but still more generous than the other Yammies. Still, I figure if you can operate a Yamaha in the friction zone, you'll not have any problems with the friction zone on other bikes!

missyrat
06-16-2006, 05:07 PM
All of the smaller Yamahas I've ridden had a very unfriendly friction zone. The V-Star 1100 I rode had a shorter friction zone than my Kawasaki, but still more generous than the other Yammies. Still, I figure if you can operate a Yamaha in the friction zone, you'll not have any problems with the friction zone on other bikes!

MsPotatoHead, Have you ever ridden a Virago? If so would you say its friction zone was unfriendly as well?

I was under the impression the V-Star 1100 would be too much power and weight for a beginner - is that true? For the record I'm 5'9" and ~140lbs

Thanks for the continued replies everyone!

theraphosa
06-16-2006, 05:20 PM
Sorry Bob, I am going to have to disagree with you on the V-Star 650. The V-Star 650 has a lousy clutch. The Friction-zone is very small. I know this from expierence. I had a V-Star 650 and I traded it back in after 300 miles. The 650's clutch is not forgiving. If you rev to low and start to engage you kill the motor. You rev just a little bit more then the bike launches you towards the first ditch. The V-Star 1100 on the other hand is a wonderful bike. Much more forgiving when someone new is getting use to sycronizing the throttle and clutch. I have never been on the Vulcan so I have no opinion on it.

I'd have to disagree with you on your commments regarding the V-star 650. I think you must have just gotten one with a bad clutch. I tried the Suzuki M-50, The V-star 1100 and a Harley 883 before I settled on my V-star. I had no problem with the friction zone on any of them but, for me anyway, the easiest to get moving was the V-star (2005 Classic), It had/has more of a natural feel.

The only time I ever killed was once at a stop light when I was feeling self conscious about the two big Harleys idling behind me....

I agree that the 1100 is a sweet bike, it was just more bike and more money than I wanted to start off with.

JMO

bob

mediajackl
06-16-2006, 06:00 PM
MsPotatoHead, Have you ever ridden a Virago? If so would you say its friction zone was unfriendly as well?

I was under the impression the V-Star 1100 would be too much power and weight for a beginner - is that true? For the record I'm 5'9" and ~140lbs

Thanks for the continued replies everyone!


<<< NOT Ms Potato...(not that there's anything wrong with that :) )
but while I'm here...
I've ridden a Virago 535 (a friend's bike) several times, never noticed a friction-zone problem. I do have an issue with the handlebars on that particular model being a little too narrow for what I consider optimal countersteering.

No, the 1100 is not going to pass muster here as a first ride. Too heavy. The post was comparing the perceived difference between control response on the V-star 650 and 1100, not endorsing the 1100 for you.

MsPotatoPotatoHead
06-16-2006, 06:13 PM
My personal experience has been that Yamahas have a narrower friction zone than most other makes of motorcyle. Anecdotal evidence such as other rider's reports and magazine reviews tend to support this observation. It's not that they have "bad" clutches, just that a narrow friction zone can make it difficult for a newbie to find it the first few tries! I rode a Virago 250 in my BRC, and it had an almost nonexistent friction zone (my impression as a new rider). Any of the instructors could get on that bike and make it sing. As it turned out, I was lucky to have had that experience; it prepared me for the equally narrow friction zone on my first bike, a Virago 535! By the time I sold the Virago, I no longer noticed the "lack" of a friction zone on it. The V-Star 1100 I rode around the same time seemed to have a slightly wider friction zone, but still narrow compared to any bike I've had since.

I was definitely not recommending a V-Star 1100 as a first bike, just saying that the bigger Yammies might have a little more generous friction zones. Or perhaps it's that the newer Yamahas do? In any case, that one little thing shouldn't put you off of Viragos; it may frustrate you a little at first (and by that I mean the first couple of hours), but you will be a better master of the friction zone as a result!

Mediajackl mentions the narrow bars on the Virago 535 - at your size and weight, I don't think that will be an issue. It wasn't for me. I would unreservedly recommend the Virago 535 as a great first bike!

Missy B
06-16-2006, 10:31 PM
No input in this thread, except to ask....

Dude, what's up with the screenname??

OK, carry on....

Oh..right.... :wavey: Welcome to the site! You're in the right place to get some good feedback! (Except where I"m concerned. They just let me hang around here and act cool in my cape and tights.)

:mrgreen:

Bobthearch
06-17-2006, 12:05 AM
Originally Posted by Bobthearch
Of the bikes on your list, I've ridden the V-Star 650 and the Vulcan 500. Of those two, the Vulcan runs the best (smoothest, quietest, and fastest). The Vulcan is also lighter-weight, less expensive, and better suited for short riders. The V-Star Classic has the full-fender styling that I prefer and is more comfortable (I'm 5'9" and 200lbs). If limited to buying one or the other, I'd have to vote for the V-Star.

Sorry Bob, I am going to have to disagree with you on the V-Star 650. The V-Star 650 has a lousy clutch.

Yes, there are pros and cons to each of the two bikes. That was the point of my post, to compare the highlights of each bike, not a detailed analysis and not to convince readers to buy one bike over the other.

The reason I'd choose the V-Star Classic is primarily the style and personal fit; I don't like the Vulcan's bobbed fenders and narrow tank as much, and the V-Star is less cramped for me than the Vulcan. Additionally, the V-Star shifted a bit smoother and has shaft drive (vs. chain on the Vulcan). Plenty of good reasons to buy either bike.



Are there any other bikes not on my list I should look at? Just trying to get a nice broad list so I look into everything and hopefully find a few I like so I can find a good deal on one.
Missyrat,
One other small-midsize cruiser that you might want to sit on is the Suzuki Savage. It's the size of a 250, but with a 650cc single-cylinder engine. The only pro-Savage comments I can make are regarding the very low seat height, very light weight, low price, and the novelty of a belt drive. Want to know what it's like to ride a Savage? It's like sitting on one of these:

http://www.southern-tool.com/store/media/142_997276854.jpg

Best Wishes,
-Bob

missyrat
06-17-2006, 12:36 AM
No input in this thread, except to ask....

Dude, what's up with the screenname??

OK, carry on....



Was that directed at me? If so, thanks for the welcome and here is a bit about the screenname
Its from back in the day when I was a wee thing in elementary school and I had a pet rat named missy, this coincided with my family getting internet for the first time and it became my screenname and it has stuck ever sense. In fact I run a public poetry site at missyrat.com and that site has got me alot of web programming business and led to my current summer job with a major web development firm - it of couse has got me a lot of funny looks and questions too, but hey I grew up with long hair AND a strong love of my country, two things that get you alot of funny looks and questions apart (in Northern California at least) and even more together!


Thanks again for the welcome
And thank you all for the answers and welcomes, I can already tell I will be here frequently and I'm looking forward to my safety course more and more!

Any opinons on the 750 models of many of these bikes like the vulcan, virago, shadow etc? As a beginner bike that is - I don't ask cause I want more speed rather cause I want to have many models to choose from when I'm trying to find a good deal.

Thanks again!
-Erik

azpenguin
06-17-2006, 01:54 AM
The 750's are do-able, but that's kind of pushing it. But I definitley get the whole thing about wanting a bigger selection of bikes!
I'm in the camp of recommending the Vulcan 500 as a first choice. They're fairly light and easy to handle, but the engine has got plenty of power to pull anyone around. The Savage (Or S40 as Suzuki now calls it) has decent power, but importantly it is also a bike that requires very little maintanence. Belt-drive, air-cooled, single cylinder - and it's only 350 pounds. The Shadow VLX is beginner friendly, but keep in mind that it weighs 500 pounds.

Just remember when you're looking at bikes - you're buying your first bike, not your last.

missyrat
06-17-2006, 02:09 AM
Just remember when you're looking at bikes - you're buying your first bike, not your last.

That sure is a favorite quote around here - I know that if I enjoy it as much as I think I will then I'll surely trade up as I get better, I just wanna make sure I get a good deal now and something that can handle the necessary freeway driving between California, Oregon and anywhere else I may take it.

divecop
06-17-2006, 02:28 AM
missyrat:

I have an S40 and it takes me anywhere I want to go. I ride with another Law Enforcement Officer and he has a Vulcan 500 and it has even more power...he is always on the interstate going somewhere. I think for a first bike both of those are great to get along with. The main difference would be the belt drive on the S40 - less maintenance than the chain. Just remember - as you gain experience you can move up to a bigger bike if you want...:bars:

Mer
06-17-2006, 07:26 AM
Any opinons on the 750 models of many of these bikes like the vulcan, virago, shadow etc? As a beginner bike that is - I don't ask cause I want more speed rather cause I want to have many models to choose from when I'm trying to find a good deal.

Thanks again!
-Erik
I started on a 750 Shadow (ACE) and had no problems with it. The learning curve might be a bit steeper but it worked for me. I took that bike on long trips, highway etc and had no issues. I was able to keep that bike for 2 years before I moved to a bigger bike. Good luck in your decision and have fun looking!