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Thread: My considerations for 1st Bike

  1. #1

    My considerations for 1st Bike

    48 years old, 220# +/-, 6’ tall, 32-33” inseam. Not muscular, but pretty fit (except I’ve developed a bit of a gut).

    Riding experience = at the age of 18 a friend showed me how to ride on a Kawasaki 1000, just going around a baseball diamond. I quickly sold the car and bought a Honda CX 500. Ended up selling that and getting a truck when winter came around. Knocked the girlfriend up, and money kept me from riding.

    Currently … Divorced for many, many years now, the kids are grown, have a career, I don’t do drugs or drink.
    I want to ride again!! Especially enjoyed two lane country roads just north west of the city, back in the day. Leaning into the turns, with few intersections. Little to no traffic. Good times…

    Took an MSF class about a month ago. Ride was a HD Street 500 (Only choice as everyone rode one, not what I would choose). Did OK mostly, but I REALLY struggled the second day with the figure 8s inside the box. All of the low speed maneuvering I found challenging (offsets on the first day were tough). The figure 8s were especially tough, I think because as I would make the extreme handle bar turns, my throttle & clutch control would vary. The instructor said it was because I “looked down”. Either way, I withdrew myself from class at the figure 8 portion. Was getting very frustrated, and feeling like I was delaying other riders in the class, and knew (even if the instructor wouldn’t tell me), that I’m not quite ready to be out on the street riding again yet. All in all, I’m glad I took the class, as it re-familiarized myself with motorcycles. I plan to retake it after getting some parking lot time on my own. I live near some decent sized parking lots that will require maybe 1/10th-1/4 mile to access without having to get on major roads.

    Planned riding… I want to get back to those country roads, of course. I also would like to ride to work (construction), which often requires some highway/turnpike time, depending on the particular jobsite. I know I will need to work up to that. I imagine that for a while I should stick to parking lots and (after getting the endorsement) weekend mornings downtown Tulsa, where there is almost no traffic, very low speed limits, plenty of intersections and stop lights (every city block), and varying uphill and downhill starts/stops (depending on the chosen street).

    So, all that said, my considerations for choosing a ride….

    I prefer a cruiser for now, eventually moving up to a touring model.

    Prefer air cooled vs liquid, I think. My gut tells me that a radiator is just one more thing to break or leak, if/when I should drop it.

    Oklahoma roads are notorious for being “washboard”. Even/especially the turnpikes and highways.

    Am thinking it would be wise to get something with “color” instead of black… for visibility sake. Also, I’m confident that black, in the Oklahoma summer sun is not a good mix.

    MSF class strongly suggested ABS, and I would tend to agree, but not sure it is absolutely necessary.

    I understand that fuel injected is supposed to be better. I assume due to lower maintenance issues.

    I sat on a Virago 250 a week back. Thought it was physically small. I liked the slenderness of it, and there was little weight. I wasn’t really comfortable though, feeling as if my knees were poking up in the air.

    Saw mention of the V Star 650 here, and they seem priced good on craigslist. So went up to a dealer that has a couple of used ones, before getting the hopes up of those with ads on CL. I felt way more comfortable on it, too a point. Knees didn’t poke up and everything felt good ergonomically, but it did seem bigger than I expected… width wise. Felt like I was sitting on a huge Harley (even bigger than the ‘06 Superglide (loved the feel of that one) I sat on at the dealership, during a break at the MSF course). A bit intimidating even. Maybe it was that fuel tank. The weight wasn’t really off-putting, after leaning her from side to side, but they had them packed pretty close together, and I couldn’t put much lean on it really. Loved the foot boards too. Both feet could easily reach the ground flat footed. It seemed to be what I “think” I am looking for.

    I’ve read a number of reviews and discussions here, stating how this is a pretty good starter bike. Have also read about some of its drawbacks, namely the pain in the rear valve adjustments every 4k miles, and the “fraction zone”, which I understand there is a fix for, with an aftermarket part.

    I guess what I’m asking here (very long winded and poorly), is would this be considered a good starter bike for ME, considering my difficulty with the low speed maneuvers at MSF. I assume I would likely need to widen that friction zone with the aftermarket clutch handle.

    No it’s not Fuel Injected. Nor does it have ABS. While it may be able to handle the 75mph speed limit, as I understand it…with some vibration, it’s not really designed for continuous 75 mph speeds, if I read the reviews correctly.

    Also, and probably my biggest question, is the fact that I was a bit intimidated by its perceived width, a “red light” not to go ahead? Or is it possibly like when I went horseback riding, where I was intimidated by the size of the horse they put me on (rented) but it turned out to be the gentlest, most well behaved horse one could imagine renting?

    What else do you recommend I consider, based on all of the above?

  2. #2
    Flirting With The Redline 8000 Posts! Trials's Avatar
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    From your description you have never even sat on a truly lightweight and easy to control motorcycle. Learn to ride on a silly little dirt bike, make lots of mistakes and learn from them, crash numerous times and discover that it really can be survivable, stick with it until you actually get good at riding and then you will never again feel uncomfortable controlling any motorcycle that you throw a leg over

  3. #3
    Flirting With The Redline alba's Avatar
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    Your description of figure 8's reminded me of my training class. For the life of me I couldn't get the hang of that and it started to get me down. I had to give myself a mental kick and remind myself I was there to have fun. I came very close to a vicious circle of beating myself up for not being able to "get it", which made me tense and nervous which made my riding even worse, which made me beat myself up ......

    It sounds like you did something similar. I managed to proceed with the class and passed everything else with flying colors but it took me about 4 months of practice before I could master those dam figure 8's! I would retake the class again if you can and focus more on learning and being relaxed about the whole thing. Walking out the class with a "pass" doesn't mean a whole lot other than you can legally ride. It certainly doesn't mean you have mastered anything.

    I can't help much with choosing a cruiser but I would suggest you at least look at dual sports. Physically larger than most bikes and a lot lighter than cruisers. Also designed to handle drops so less worry about damage. Not being worried about dropping the bike will go a long way to mastering the figure 8.

  4. #4
    Thanks guys. It sounds like you both believe the V Star would be a poor choice for me, at this time anyway.

    Alba, after I read Trials' post, and knowing that I not only don't want a "strictly" dirt bike, nor have quick and easy access to trails of any sort, I did a craigslist search for MOST of the dual sports mentioned in the beginner bike sticky thread. I was surprised at how much more expensive they are than the V Star 650s. In general the least expensive dual sports are more expensive than the most expensive 650 Stars. I assume the least expensive are ragged out, and the most are a bit overpriced, but still... on average, they are quite a bit higher.

    I won't count them totally out though. I like to think I stay open minded in most things.

    Assuming that the 650 Star is not right for me, and the dual sports don't really appeal to me and cost more than I want to spend on a bike I would hope to only have for a few months, ... I searched craigslist for some of the other cruisers on the beginners list. There are a couple of the GZ 250s at very reasonable prices.

    It's hard for me to tell, by reading the GZ 250 specs, just how big the bike is. Looks to be quite a bit lighter, about the same height, and a few inches shorter wheel base, and a few inches thinner than the Star (which I wouldn't have minded spending more on, as I think it would have filled my need for a longer time). They are approximately half the cost of the used V Stars also.

    Maybe I should be leaning that direction. 1500-2k on a first bike, to mainly be used as a test prepper & parking lot practice, till I get the M endorsement, then deserted city streets and such for the rest of this years season. Maybe I would be ready to move up to something more in line with my goals by next season.

    I'll take the MSF again, after I get enough parking lot time in to feel I could maneuver a busy gas station safely.

    Thoughts??

  5. #5
    Flirting With The Redline 2000 Posts! AlwaysLearnin's Avatar
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    Trying to see how you'll fit in a bike without actually sitting on the particular bike?

    Try this site:
    http://cycle-ergo.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lezbert View Post
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by AlwaysLearnin View Post
    Trying to see how you'll fit in a bike without actually sitting on the particular bike?

    Try this site:
    http://cycle-ergo.com

    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk
    You should get some sort of bonus points for this post!! Thanks for the link!!

  7. #7
    Moderator/RiderCoach We've stopped counting... Missy B's Avatar
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    Welcome to our lil corner of the internet, Count!

    I agree with alba's post that I would try the class again and don't let the U-turns exercise get into your head. You don't have to be perfect to pass the class and get legal to road, so if you don't master the u-turns, that's ok. And you may just surprise yourself and ace it during your skills test. It happens.

    As far as the V-Star, it's a fine starter bike. Whether it is a good bike for you? Only you know that depending on how you feel on it, what style you like, etc. The cycle-ergo website is great for that, too, but be sure you butt test as many bikes as you can. I am 5' 7" but my inseam is 33 inch so bikes like the Rebel are not comfortable for me. I don't ride our fleet cruisers on the u-turn demos because of the bars hitting my legs, for example. But the KLX250S is fun as heck for them.
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  8. #8
    Flirting With The Redline 8000 Posts! Trials's Avatar
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    Mine was strictly a recommendation on how to become a more proficient rider, not so much a recommendation for a street legal motorcycle type or model, once you can ride decent any motorcycle can be a total blast to ride Ride everything you can get your hands on and don't discount models that don't seem correct for your perceived interest, ride them too. Focus on the required skills you are currently lacking; balance, brake, clutch and throttle control. The lighter and more maneuverable your ride is, the easier those things are to experience and eventually master nobody will deny the wisdom in that.

  9. #9
    Flirting With The Redline 10,000 Posts! Shadow Shack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CountofQ View Post

    Prefer air cooled vs liquid, I think. My gut tells me that a radiator is just one more thing to break or leak, if/when I should drop it.
    I've been riding radiated bikes for 20 years now, the only one that I dropped had a leak due to the "crash bar" collapsing into it. Had that shiny chrome plated piece of thin copper tubing not been on the bike it would have fared much better (and I also would not have been pinned to the foot peg and dragged like a rag doll either).

    As far as non-crash issues are concerned I had one bike that needed a new O-ring on the thermostat housing and two others that needed a fan trigger/sensor replacement. With a dozen bikes/20 years behind me that really isn't a deciding factor.

    Am thinking it would be wise to get something with “color” instead of black… for visibility sake. Also, I’m confident that black, in the Oklahoma summer sun is not a good mix.
    Good luck with that in today's market. An overwhelming majority of the Japanese bikes are YABOB (Yet Another Blacked Out Bike).

    Fortunately as you go used and into the realm of discontinued models the colors open up to a much wider variety.

    Saw mention of the V Star 650 here, and they seem priced good on craigslist. So went up to a dealer that has a couple of used ones, before getting the hopes up of those with ads on CL. I felt way more comfortable on it, too a point. Knees didn’t poke up and everything felt good ergonomically, but it did seem bigger than I expected… width wise. Felt like I was sitting on a huge Harley (even bigger than the ‘06 Superglide (loved the feel of that one) I sat on at the dealership, during a break at the MSF course). A bit intimidating even. Maybe it was that fuel tank. The weight wasn’t really off-putting, after leaning her from side to side, but they had them packed pretty close together, and I couldn’t put much lean on it really. Loved the foot boards too. Both feet could easily reach the ground flat footed. It seemed to be what I “think” I am looking for.
    (skipping to the end)
    What else do you recommend I consider, based on all of the above?
    Sounds like you sampled the "Classic" trim. The Custom trim is more narrow/choppery in appearance.

    If you prefer that "classic" style check out Honda's 750 Shadow ACE (and Aero, although the ACE is a better performer), Kawasaki's 800 Vulcan Classic & Drifter (if you can find the latter), and SUzki's Volusia/Boulevard C-50 & M-50 and Marauder.

    If the chopper-esque "custom" look does it for you check out Honda's 600 Shadow VLX & 750 Spirit, Kawasaki's 500 Vulcan & 800 Vulcan Custom, Suzuki's LS650 Savage/Boulevard S-40 & 800 Intruder/S-50, and the aforementioned V-Star Custom. The various 883 Sportsters will fit this bill as well.

    I’ve read a number of reviews and discussions here, stating how this is a pretty good starter bike.
    All of the above should fit the same bill. Just keep in mind all of the above --- including the initial V-Star Classic you sampled --- are "B grade" beginner bikes (save for the 650 Savage/S-40). The small bore camp (250 Rebel & 250 Virago/V-Star along with the Savage/S-40) are A-grade beginners, they're just more suited for uninitiated riders with lighter weight and better maneuverability.

    The problem is most "riders" will try to convince you that you'll outgrow an "A-grade beginner bike" in a matter of weeks and want something more. While you may indeed want something more, the simple truth is for everyday commutes these bikes can not be beat. While these bikes can do the aforementioned sustained 75mph rides, you're at the end of the power band on these bikes and the larger motors simply perform better for the freeway role.

    Have also read about some of its drawbacks, namely the pain in the rear valve adjustments every 4k miles
    You're not necessarily adjusting them every 4K miles, rather the service manual calls for an inspection...while the possibility exists that they may need adjusting it isn't something that is enacted every 4K miles...more likely every 8K-12K miles. You're just checking them at that interval, and most bikes call for that check at 4K-6K intervals.

    I guess what I’m asking here (very long winded and poorly), is would this be considered a good starter bike for ME, considering my difficulty with the low speed maneuvers at MSF.
    The generous rake & trail dimensions of cruisers hampers that box maneuver more than anything else, it just takes some getting used to. A more nimble bike like, say...a 250 Rebel will nail that maneuver so much more easily.

    Now someone may have to confirm this for me...IIRC the Street models incorporate a +2-3º raked tree (I know for a fact the new 300 & 500 Rebel models do) and this can serve to impair the box maneuvers as the front wheel rotates left to right on a different plane than the handlebars, meaning it isn't turning in as steep as the handlebars indicate. If it is a standard tree then the technique needs work...turn in tighter, look where you want to go, and "counter lean" (meaning sit more upright/perpendicular to the ground while the bike leans) at the low speeds mandated for that tight maneuver. At higher speeds you lean your body more than the bike...but that's not something you'll do during the riding test, rather something to consider as you progress to higher speeds later.

    No it’s not Fuel Injected. Nor does it have ABS. While it may be able to handle the 75mph speed limit, as I understand it…with some vibration, it’s not really designed for continuous 75 mph speeds, if I read the reviews correctly.
    It had better be designed for continuous 75mph riding, that aforementioned 600 Shadow & 250 Rebel can both do a sustained 75 and both were designed back when there was still an international 55mph speed limit law on the books. The V-Star came out long after that 55mph barrier was broken so if it can't handle a 75mph sustained ride then there's something wrong with that particular bike rather than the model/line.
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  10. #10
    Trials, I gotcha, and agree with your statement about balance, brake, throttle, and clutch control. Although I don't feel any desire to ride trails, I definitely need work in all those areas.

    It also sounds as if you all are encouraging me to re do the MSF before practicing a bit more on my own, or with another (long time) rider I know. It had been so long since I had ridden that I hardly felt "one with the bike", and the scrutiny of the coaches (not that they were harsh, as they weren't) and being watched by other students just compounded my nervousness.

    I kind of have to listen to the more experienced riders here (to do otherwise would just be stupid).

    So... MSF first, or inexpensive bike and parking lot practice first?

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