Now that you have an understanding of the different types of motorbike, the time has come to choose one! There are many aspects that can influence your decision, and the following guide will highlight some important factors to consider when shopping for your first bike.

 

Purpose

There are many purposes for owning a motorcycle; commuting, off-road racing, track racing, or even buzzing around back roads on a Sunday morning. There is a kind of bike suited to almost every purpose.

When shopping for a motorbike, ask yourself: “What are you going to be using your bike for most?”

For commuting, for example, 125cc commuter bikes like the Yamaha YBR 125 are used the world over for getting from A to B because of their low running costs, frugal fuel consumption and ease of use.

If you will be using A-roads on your commute you may want to consider something larger to keep up with faster moving traffic. Conversely, if you will only be riding in town, a scooter may be a better option. If you plan on using your bike both on and off the road, an enduro or adventure bike would be a an ideal candidate.

Age

Unless you have your full category A licence, your age will play a big part in what bike you should get. At 16, a moped is your only option. At 17, you are able to ride any motorcycle up to 125cc and 15bhp. The restrictions for all the categories of licence are explained here.

 

Experience level

Consider how suited the bike you’re looking at is to your current skill level. That superbike may look beautiful, all clad in brightly coloured fairing, and may sound just as good, but in the hands of an inexperienced rider, can react unpredictably and violently to any wrong movement and is potentially a big accident waiting to happen.

Assess your own riding level objectively and pick a bike to match. For the learner rider aged 17 or older, a 125cc commuter is perfect first bike, with a 125cc enduro coming in a close second with its higher center of gravity and more aggressive power delivery. There will be plenty of time to work your way up to a sports machine if you are so inclined, but if you can’t wait, there’s always the option of an advanced riding course.

 

New or used?

Deciding whether to buy a new or used motorcycle should not be a decision taken lightly. New bikes are a relatively risk free purchase, with warranties, free servicing, and the latest technology, but all of this comes at a price. Like cars, new motorcycles lose a chunk of their value as soon as they leave the show room, so for new bikers this could mean a sizeable loss when the time comes to move onto a bigger bike.

Used bikes are often the more practical choice for learners who intend to upgrade when they pass. Learner friendly motorcycles like commuter bikes are abundant and cheap, they’re also always in demand and as such do not depreciate at anywhere near the rate new bikes do. When the time comes to sell, you should get most if not all of the original purchase price back, as long as you’ve taken care of your bike.

Used bikes, of course, also have disadvantages. They vary in condition, reliability and fuel economy depending on how they have been treated by their previous owners and the process of buying privately can be risky. The next page will give you essential advice on buying a second hand bike so you can minimise the risk of buying a badly maintained or abused machine.

 

Running costs

Motorbikes are cheaper to run than cars as they generally have better fuel consumption, are cheaper to tax and MOT, and parts are not as expensive, but running costs should still play a part in your decision.

If you are looking for as frugal a bike as possible, a scooter is the best option; giving up to 120mpg and featuring small fuel tanks, these bikes are made to get you to your destination as cheaply as possible. On the other hand, enduro or supermoto bikes with two-stroke engines are generally quite uneconomical as they need to have oil added to the fuel, which they then use twice as fast as their four-stroke siblings. They are also bad for the environment, and so may cost you more in tax.

 

Insurance

Motorcycles are in general cheaper to insure than cars, but that doesn’t mean insurance should be ignored as a factor when buying a bike. A buying a large, powerful superbike straight after getting your category A licence will obviously be very costly, so consider choosing a motorcycle befitting your skill level if you want to save on insurance. Some modern bikes are fitted with alarms and most can be fitted with tracking systems which can also have a positive effect on insurance premiums. Other ways to save on insurance will be discussed later on in the Prepare chapter.

Engine configuration

How many cylinders your bike has and how they are arranged can have a dramatic effect on the power, economy, and comfort of your bike. The some of the most common configurations are as follows:

  • Single cylinder – Most commonly found in small capacity commuter bikes and mopeds/scooters, but also found at larger displacements in motocross, enduro and supermoto bikes. Very economical at smaller displacements (upto 250cc) but more thirsty at sizes above 400cc. These engines have lots of torque for their size and are much lighter than other configurations.
  • Parallel twin – Featuring two cylinders placed next to each other, these are most common in medium sized commuter bikes and some vintage bikes. More powerful than a single cylinder equivalent but less torquey, these offer a happy medium between power and weight. Parallel twin engines are also very economical at medium displacements, unlike three or four cylinder engines.
  • V-twin – Found most commonly in cruisers at very high displacements, these offer incredible torque, but not much in the way of power for their size. They are comprised of two cylinders arranged in a V formation. Larger engines and can cause significant vibration if revved hard. V-twin engines are also found at more modest capacities in Italian naked bikes, tuned to offer more power and less torque.
  • Three cylinder – Not as wide as a four cylinder, but almost as powerful, these engines are found in medium to high capacity naked bikes and offer the plenty of power and punch while being narrower and lighter than four cylinder engines.
  • Four cylinder in-line – Like a parallel twin but with twice the cylinders, this is the most common configuration for medium to large naked bikes and superbikes. These engines are very powerful, with very smooth power delivery but also the widest of the common engine configurations, so can be unstable at low speeds if not handled properly. Four cylinder engines tend to be the most uneconomical of the common configurations.

Buying a new bike is a fairly straight forward process, so on the next page we will explore the more complicated and sometimes dangerous world of buying a used bike.

Buying a Used Bike Safely >