Before you buy the bike of your dreams, ask yourself some important questions.
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Nobody really has to buy a motorcycle. But these days plenty of people want to. And you may be one of them. Before you plunk down your money, swing your leg over the seat and feel that warm breeze of freedom, you need to resolve several critical issues.
Am I an experienced rider?
How do I intend to ride?
The kind of riding you're interested in fairly well dictates the type of bike you should shop for. Conversely, the kind of bike you ride largely defines your motorcycling world and lifestyle. So, besides selecting the motorcycle based on its mechanical and performance attributes, consider what circles you'll likely be riding in—so to speak. If you don't think of yourself as a racer or a biker in the Wild One vein, and you would be comfortable at, say, an Eagles reunion concert, consider a traditional bike. People attracted to sportbikes, on the other hand, tend to indulge in extreme activities—think The Fast and the Furious. only on two wheels. If you want to hang with the hip-hop crowd, maybe you're a sportbike candidate. Folks who enjoy the touring lifestyle tend to be older—often they're retirees—and are in no kind of hurry when they watch the scenery go by on all sides. If an RV lifestyle or dinner theater appeals to you, so might a touring bike. But if you want to put some adventure into a long daily commute, you may be cruiser-bike material.
How much should I spend?
It's a discretionary purchase—the mortgage comes first, okay? Depending on the type of motorcycle you choose, you can expect to pay anywhere from under $5000 to $25,000 for a new bike. Motorcycle dealers, like auto dealers, will do what they can to help you with financing options, and many offer used bikes as well.
Do I really need a new bike?
For many riders, a used motorcycle is a better option. Besides being more affordable than a new bike, a used one is a sensible transitional machine. You may find that the bike you bought to get you back in the game is somehow lacking after you've spent some serious time on it. And the reality is, sooner or later your first motorcycle is going to hit the pavement. There's no reason that the bike you ding up needs to be an expensive one right out of the crate. Give yourself a few months to get comfortable—then you'll be more than ready for a new set of wheels.
Is this the bike for me?
As you shop, consider your body type: If you cannot put both feet flat on the ground when the bike is upright, it's too tall for you, period. Also, if this is your first bike, or you've never ridden anything scarily fast, don't even look at a high-performance bike.
That said, if you see yourself using the bike primarily as daily transportation, consider a standard, or traditional, bike. If you used to ride years ago, these will look familiar, but feel better thanks to electric starters, fuel injection and disc brakes. If your commute is a long one, you typically do it with a passenger and you want a bit more style, the next logical choice is a cruiser. If you intend to spend many hours and miles in the saddle with a passenger sitting behind you, you need a touring bike. For a little more performance in a touring bike, there's a subset called sport/touring. If you primarily want to straighten curvy roads, your needs will be best met with a sportbike. If you want a basic commuter that can keep going when the pavement doesn't, look at a dual-purpose bike: a standard bike with extra ground clearance and knobby tires.