Beginner's Guide to Motorcycles 101

Apr 12, 2024


picture of route 101 sign on the road beginners guide to motorcycles 101

Whether you've just decided to join the riding community or are considering it, this beginner’s guide to motorcycles is your go-to resource for entering the motorcycle world with confidence and safety. From selecting your first motorcycle and acing your license test to understanding the different types of bikes and the essentials of bike maintenance, we've got you covered. Our comprehensive guide also dives into crucial safety tips, the necessary gear, and the importance of taking a motorcycle safety course. So, let's get started on this journey together, ensuring you're well-prepared to hit the road with knowledge and skill.

Here’s What You’ll Learn About Motorcycles:

  • Things to Keep In Mind When Purchasing Your First Motorcycle
  • Tips & Tricks for Passing Your License Test
  • Understand the Different Types of Motorcycles
  • What Size Bike Do I Need?
  • Best Motorcycles for Beginners
  • Bike Maintenance
  • Safety Tips
  • Essential Gear
  • Motorcycle Safety Course

Things to Keep In Mind When Buying Your First Motorcycle

When buying your first motorcycle, it's important to prioritize your needs and understand what you're looking for. Here's a distilled guide to keep in mind:

  1. Know Your Needs: First, assess what you need from a motorcycle. Are you looking for a bike for daily commuting, long-distance travel, or maybe for weekend adventures on winding roads? Different motorcycles serve different purposes; for instance, touring bikes are great for long distances, while sport bikes are better suited for high speeds and sharp handling. Your choice should align with how you plan to use the bike most of the time.
  2. Budget: Consider the total cost, including insurance, gear, and maintenance, not just the purchase price. Motorcycles vary widely in price, and so do the ongoing costs. Make sure you understand the full financial commitment before making a purchase. Remember, safety gear like helmets, jackets, gloves, and boots are essential investments for your protection on the road.
  3. New vs. Used: Decide whether a new bike with a warranty or a used one for potentially better value fits your situation. New riders often benefit from starting with a used bike, as it reduces the stress about scratches or dings that can happen as you're learning. However, if you opt for a used motorcycle, it's crucial to have it thoroughly checked by a professional mechanic to ensure it's in good condition.
  4. Fit and Comfort: Ensure the bike fits your body type. Comfort is key for long rides. Most dealerships will allow you to test ride as long as you have your license. 
  5. Insurance Costs: Insurance rates vary by bike type, engine size, and rider's age. Get quotes beforehand.
  6. Maintenance and Reliability: Consider the bike’s maintenance schedule and reliability. Some models are easier and cheaper to maintain.
  7. Safety Features: Look for modern safety features like ABS and traction control, especially if you're a new rider.

Tips & Tricks For Passing Your Motorcycle License Test

picture of a motorcycle rider on a motorcycle safety course beginners guide to motorcycles 101

Obtaining your motorcycle license involves prioritizing safety and preparation. Begin by enrolling in safety courses such as those offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), which provide comprehensive training over a weekend. Ensure you have the appropriate protective gear, including a helmet and suitable clothing. When selecting a motorcycle for practice and testing, consider models with ABS for enhanced safety, especially for beginners. Starting with a smaller bike that fits your size and skill level is advisable, as it allows for better control and maneuverability during the test. In some states, taking the test on a scooter is an option, provided it meets specific requirements.

Familiarize yourself with the criteria for both the written and riding portions of the exam in your state, and utilize study guides provided by the DMV to prepare thoroughly. Manage test day logistics by planning ahead to navigate potential DMV lines efficiently. Once you've successfully obtained your motorcycle license, take the time to celebrate your achievement—it marks the beginning of an exciting journey into the world of motorcycling, filled with adventure and freedom on the open road. Learn more tips & tricks for passing the DMV test here

Understand the Different Types of Motorcycles

Trying to sort out which type of motorcycle is the better fit for you? Below are some of the most popular types of motorcycles available off-the-lot. Keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list, and some manufacturers name their own categories of bikes. For the most part, motorcycles will fit in these eight categories. 

  • Cruisers: Known for their low seat height and relaxed riding position.
  • Touring: Designed for long-distance travel with comfort features like large windshields and saddlebags.
  • Sportbike: Built for speed and agility with aggressive riding positions and high-performance engines.
  • Adventure: Versatile bikes for on-road and off-road adventures, often equipped with rugged features and higher ground clearance.
  • Adventure Touring: Combine the comfort and features of touring bikes with the off-road capability of adventure bikes for versatile long-distance travel across various terrains.
  • Dual Sport: Combines features of street and off-road motorcycles for versatility in various terrains.
  • Naked: Stripped-down bikes with minimal bodywork and exposed engines, offering a raw and agile riding experience.
  • Scooter/Moped: Small, lightweight bikes ideal for city commuting, featuring automatic transmissions and step-through designs.

Still wondering what type of motorcycle you should get? Click here!

What Size Bike Do I Need as a Beginner?

Choosing the right size motorcycle as a beginner is necessary for your safety, comfort, and overall riding experience. While the engine's cubic centimeter (CC) displacement is a key factor, the most important consideration should be your comfort level with the bike. Generally, for beginners, motorcycles ranging from 250cc to 500cc are recommended because they are powerful enough to be enjoyable and practical for various types of riding, yet not so powerful as to be overwhelming for new riders. 

However, if you mostly plan on city commuting or just looking for a lightweight bike, picking a bike under 250cc might even be the right choice for you. There are lots of bikes in this category that will help you save on gas costs and still have the power you need. 

It's worth noting that the motorcycles used in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Courses often fall within this range, with many of the training bikes being around 150-250cc. 

Ultimately, the "right" CC for you comes down to how comfortable you feel handling the motorcycle. Consider starting with a lower CC bike to hone your riding skills. As you gain experience and confidence, you can then decide if you want to move up to a bike with higher CCs. Remember, the goal is to find a motorcycle that you can control easily and that suits the type of riding you plan to do.

Best Motorcycles for Beginners (Affordable, 300cc, 500cc, & more!)

When picking your first motorcycle, start with something manageable like a 125-250cc engine, as recommended by most safety courses, and try not to exceed 500cc to keep it beginner-friendly. Lighter bikes, in the 300-400 pound range, are easier to handle and less intimidating for new riders. Since there's a good chance of minor bumps and scratches, opt for a more affordable bike, either under $5k used or $4-10k new. Speed isn't crucial at this stage, so a bike with a top speed of 80-120 mph is sufficient and safer for learning. Look for essential safety features like ABS to help prevent accidents. Lastly, consider a bike that can adapt to different terrains if you're interested in exploring a variety of riding environments. View our top recommendations for beginner motorcycles below: 

Finding an Affordable First Motorcycle

Our top three recommendations under 6k:

  1. Honda Grom - $3,599
  2. Suzuki GSX250R - $5,099
  3. Yamaha YZF-R3 - $5,499

Find more “cheap”, yet reliable motorcycle recommendations HERE.

Under 300cc

Our top three recommendations in the under 300cc category:

  1. Honda CB300R - 286cc 
  2. Suzuki GSX250R ABS - 248cc
  3. Kawasaki Versys-X 300 - 296cc

Find more of the best bikes under 300c HERE. 

Under 500cc

Our top three recommendations in the under-500cc category:

  1. Harley-Davidson X 440 - 440cc
  2. Honda Rebel 500 - 471cc
  3. Kawasaki Ninja 500 - 451cc

Find more of our top sub-500cc recommendations HERE. 

Don’t Skimp on Bike Maintenance

Motorcycle maintenance is especially important for beginners for several reasons:

  • Safety: First and foremost, regular maintenance ensures the motorcycle is in safe working order. Issues like worn brakes, old tires, or faulty lights can lead to dangerous situations. For beginners, who are still getting accustomed to riding, having a bike that responds predictably and reliably is crucial for avoiding accidents.
  • Learning the Machine: As you perform maintenance tasks, you naturally learn more about how your motorcycle works. This knowledge helps beginners understand the limits and capabilities of their bike, leading to more informed and confident riding decisions.
  • Building Good Habits: Starting with good maintenance habits early on sets the stage for a lifelong commitment to taking care of your equipment. Learning to regularly check and maintain your bike ensures it always performs at its best, extends its lifespan, and saves money on potential repairs down the line.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Catching issues early through routine checks can prevent minor problems from escalating into major, costly repairs. For beginners, who might not yet fully appreciate the nuances of motorcycle upkeep, sticking to a maintenance schedule can be a cost-effective way to avoid surprises.
  • Enhanced Riding Experience: A well-maintained motorcycle offers a smoother, more enjoyable ride. For beginners, this means easier handling, better fuel efficiency, and a more pleasant learning curve as they become more skilled riders.
  • Resale Value: Should you decide to upgrade to a more advanced bike in the future, a well-maintained motorcycle will have a higher resale value. This practice pays off by providing more resources to invest in your next bike.

Looking for a comprehensive motorcycle maintenance plan and checklist? Visit this article for more tips and tricks and helpful checklists to keep your bike in great condition. 

Safety Tips for New Riders

picture of different motorcycle jackets at a store beginners guide to motorcycles 101

Safety Tips

Here's a quick rundown of basic safety tips for beginners to ensure a safer ride:

  1. Take a Motorcycle Safety Course: It's essential for learning the ropes and improving your skills. These courses also teach you traffic safety laws and might even snag you an insurance discount.
  2. Stay Visible: Use bright or reflective gear and ensure your lights are always on to make sure others on the road can see you.
  3. Follow Traffic Rules: Speed limits, signals, and lane markings are there for your safety. Stick to them to avoid unnecessary risks.
  4. Wear a Helmet: Always wear a DOT-approved helmet. It's your best defense against head injuries in case of an accident.
  5. Inspect Your Bike: Use the T-CLOCS Inspection Checklist to check your tires, lights, controls, oil, chassis, and stands before every ride.
  6. Wear Protective Gear: Jackets, pants, boots, and gloves protect you from injuries and the elements. Make sure they're made from tough, abrasion-resistant materials.
  7. Don’t Drink and Drive: Alcohol impairs your riding abilities. Always ride sober.
  8. Ride Defensively: Be aware of your surroundings, anticipate others' actions, and always have an escape route in mind.
  9. Choose the Right Bike: Make sure you're comfortable with the size and power of your bike. You should easily reach the ground with both feet when seated.
  10. Check the Weather: Be prepared for changes in weather and plan your gear and route accordingly.
  11. Avoid Road Hazards: Watch out for potholes, gravel, and other dangers on the road. If you can't avoid them, slow down and approach carefully.
  12. Carry a First Aid Kit: It can be a lifesaver in minor accidents. Include basics like bandages and antiseptic wipes.
  13. Share the Road: Respect other users by maintaining safe distances and signaling your intentions early.
  14. Stay Alert: Keep focused on the traffic and road conditions. Avoid riding when tired or distracted.

By following these basic safety tips, you're not just protecting yourself; you're making the road safer for everyone. Enjoy the ride, but always prioritize safety.

Essential Gear

Riding a motorcycle brings with it a responsibility to prioritize safety, starting with the right gear, which is non-negotiable for every ride. Essential safety equipment includes helmets, riding jackets with built-in armor, gloves to protect your hands during falls, motorcycle pants that are armored and abrasion-resistant, and sturdy boots designed specifically for riding. Additionally, earplugs shield you from hearing damage caused by engine and wind noise, while eye protection and reflective vests enhance visibility and safety. 

Advanced gear like back protectors, chest protectors, and knee guards offer extra layers of protection. It's also necessary to protect your hair from damage with helmet liners or scarves, and remember, investing in quality gear pays off by providing better protection and lasting longer. 

Keep your gear in top condition with regular checks and updates, and be aware that helmets do expire and should be replaced every 3 to 5 years or after a significant impact. Suiting up with the right gear ensures you stay safe on the road, allowing you to enjoy the ride fully. Learn more about essential gear here

Why a Motorcycle Safety Course is Important

Taking a motorcycle safety course is vital for both novice and seasoned riders. It's not just about learning to operate a motorcycle; it's about understanding the dynamics of safe riding in various conditions. These courses provide comprehensive training on the fundamentals of motorcycle operation, traffic safety laws, effective braking, and evasive maneuvering techniques, all of which are essential for navigating the roads safely. 

Additionally, safety courses often include practical, hands-on experience, which is invaluable for building confidence and competence on the road. Beyond the immediate safety benefits, completing a motorcycle safety course can also lead to insurance discounts, making it a financially wise decision as well. Whether you're just starting out or looking to refresh your skills, a motorcycle safety course is a key step in promoting a safer riding experience.

What’s Riders Share? Largest Motorcycle Rental Platform in the USA

Riders Share is a motorcycle rental platform that connects motorcycle owners with riders looking to rent a bike. With a starting rate of just $25 a day, Riders Share provides an affordable and accessible option for riders to experience different motorcycles without the commitment of purchasing. The service boasts a vast selection of motorcycles available at numerous locations across the USA, catering to a wide range of riding preferences and needs. To rent a motorcycle through Riders Share, renters must comply with the platform's terms and conditions. 

DISCLAIMER: Riders ages 21-25 must have at least three years of verifiable riding experience. Riders Share offers a unique opportunity for riders to explore and enjoy various motorcycles with flexibility and convenience.

Bottom Line for Beginners

Navigating the world of motorcycles as a beginner can be as thrilling as it is daunting. But with the right information and preparation, you'll find that riding is an incredibly rewarding experience. By keeping in mind the key points when purchasing your first bike, understanding the importance of a motorcycle safety course, and arming yourself with essential safety tips and gear, you're setting yourself up for many enjoyable rides ahead. Remember, the journey to becoming a seasoned rider is a continuous learning process. Stay curious, remain cautious, and always prioritize your safety on the road. Welcome to the riding community, where adventure and freedom await.