Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.
August 8, 2012 8:59 AM   Subscribe

How and where do I buy a motorcycle in NYC?

I am a first-time motorcycle buyer (first-time rider, avid road (bi)cyclist). I have taken the Introductory Motorcycle Experience, loved it, got my permit, and am taking the Basic RiderCourse through MSF next weekend. I will almost certainly be using the standard Suzuki cruiser they provide for the course but want to buy (hopefully) soon after completing it.

I have no idea how to go about buying a motorcycle here (or anywhere, for that matter). I have never purchased a vehicle (though I do drive occasionally). I expect I will be able to ask my instructors these questions as well, but I'd like some basic working knowledge of this process in advance. Very sadly, I have no friends or family members who ride motorcycles to ask (yet!) :o(

In a past post I saw it's recommended to buy used since I will probably drop the bike, etc., but I'm wondering if it's worth the risk of getting something that's not in good working order? I guess I'd need to have it inspected by a mechanic, but of course I do not have one, nor do I know how to find one and am confused about the process of signaling desire to purchase/demanding inspection/committing to purchase. Is it recommended to purchase from a dealership? I had trouble locating bikes on craigslist and am a bit leery of purchasing that way as a first-time buyer with limited motorcycle knowledge and no knowledgable friend to accompany me.

I am looking at Kawaksaki Ninja 250R or Honda CR250R, but am also open to cruisers, though I've heard they are heavier and thus less desirable for a beginner. My intended use is some limited around-town riding, but mostly to take weekend trips of probably no more than 5 hrs one-way (with planned overnight stay). Budget: preferably < $6,000.

Do I need to arrange for winter storage for my motorcycle? If so, what are my options and what can I expect to pay?

Finally, can anyone recommend where to buy some good quality protective gear (in NYC? I'd like to try it on if possible?). I'm female, if that matters :o)

Thank you in advance for your advice!
posted by xiaolongbao to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't eliminate cruisers because they're heavier. My first bike was a Honda Shadow 600 (it looks like they don't make the 600 anymore?) and it was fabulous for me because of the low seat height. I'm a female of average height (5'6) and loved being able to touch my feet to the ground with knees bent when I was at a stop. Also, the low center of gravity made turns a lot more comfortable.

Are there any motorcycle dealerships near you? Even if you decide to buy used, it might be nice to go to a dealership and sit on a few different bikes and see which ones feel comfortable to you. The minute I sat on my Shadow I knew it was mine. Get a bike that you love, not one that people tell you is better for you because you're a beginner. I did a lot more long road trips than it looks like you're planning, but I would have outgrown the 250cc that people were recommending I get almost right away. A 250 is pretty small to take on interstates with gear strapped on.
posted by shornco at 9:37 AM on August 8, 2012

In a past post I saw it's recommended to buy used since I will probably drop the bike, etc., but I'm wondering if it's worth the risk of getting something that's not in good working order?
I've purchased two used motorcycles, in both cases the former owners spent a great deal of time explaining the prior service history, current issues, and upcoming issues. Motorcycle riders generally stick together and try to help each other out. It should be easy enough to tell the difference between a seller who is hiding something (says little, skittish about answering questions) and one who is honestly happy to help you out (won't stop talking about seemingly trivial stuff, down to where to get great deals on part X, and all the speed traps to worry about on your ride home).

I've never actually met a rider who is trying to mislead a new rider, though I imagine that there must be at least one person like that in the world.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:42 AM on August 8, 2012

A small cruiser (250-500 cc) isn't going to be heavy. I wouldn't dither too much about cruiser vs. sportbike, just pick whatever suits you/is most comfortable. (Cruisers uniformly have lower seat height, if that's an issue.) I agree with b1tr0t that most riders selling used bikes won't deliberately mislead a new rider, but I would NOT say that, unfortunately, about some bike shops that sell used bikes exclusively. You may be better off at a dealership, some of which sell used bikes. (Don't let a salesperson convince you that a 600 cc sportbike is a good "beginner bike." It's not.)

Regarding Craigslist, I find that the listings move down the page so fast that you pretty much have to check it several times a day, especially for beginner bikes. Keep trying!

You should either arrange for winter storage or get used to the idea of pushing a bike back and forth through the snow and ice for alternate side parking. You should also, if you park on the street, get used to the idea that it will get knocked over eventually or immediately :-\

On preview: Unless you outweigh the bike all by yourself (ha), a 250 is fine on the highway with gear. I speak from experience: my first big trip on my first bike, a Yamaha 250 V-Star, circumnavigating New York State.
posted by scratch at 10:00 AM on August 8, 2012

Craigslist, Craigslist, Craigslist.

My first bike was a 1991 Honda Nighthawk 250cc, the very same model I learned to ride on in my MSF Basic RiderCourse. I bought it through Craigslist, looking for almost any good starter bike. When I outgrew it in a year (i.e. became confident enough in my riding skills that I started riding on highways and noticed with my weight on it I couldn't get it to go faster than 50), I sold it through a friend for 25% more than what I paid for it. ;)

If you want to take longer rides, a 250cc probably isn't for you. I was mainly looking to commute on back roads until I got more confident in my riding skills.

My second bike was a crotch rocket (2003 Suzuki SV650S) and though it was good for highway commuting, I regret buying it: it was very uncomfortable for the long rides I liked to take through my Meetup group. My financial situation got really tight and I sold it through Craigslist to pay bills; I haven't been able to buy a new bike since. :( Someday, someday...

A bit of advice: You'll likely get a better deal if you buy your bike at the END of the riding season -- September or October in the NYC area I think. Most people want to buy a bike at the beginning of the riding season; sellers realize this and jack up their prices accordingly.

As to winter storage: When I first learned to ride I lived in the Boston area, and stored my bike, usually covered, in my garage. Basically my winter storage routine involved taking the battery out and putting it on a trickle charger, then throwing some Sta-Bil in the gas tank. I later moved to northern Virginia (milder winters) and kept it outside, covered during the winter -- it was fine.
posted by tckma at 10:07 AM on August 8, 2012

er... replace "trickle charger" with "battery tender." Two very different devices. Don't hook your battery up to a trickle charger all winter.
posted by tckma at 10:15 AM on August 8, 2012

There's a bike night at the Ear Inn in Soho on Tuesday. In my experience people there are very friendly, especially to new riders, though it's more of a sport bike than cruiser scene. Strike up a conversation, and you may quickly find yourself with new motorcycle friends who will be thrilled to help you shop for a new bike.

You do not have to store your bike for the winter, but it's a good idea. Moving your bike for alternate side parking in the snow is a bitch - doable, but a bitch. Also there are risks...salt is not good for bikes, and my boyfriend's first Ducati was totaled by a snowplow. Do you know anyone outside the city with a garage, or even covered carport? Parents of friends are a great resource. If that doesn't work out, there are garages that specialize in motorcycles. I'm familiar with Ryder's Alley, which does winter storage for $80 a month.

So far as gear goes, I love Rev'it, which I think does an excellent job of actually fitting a female body. They have a sample sale twice a year in Red Hook; unfortunately I'm not on the mailing list any more, but again, ask at the bike night. Otherwise, it's available from several local shops, but expensive.

There are also gear deals to be had on Craigslist, especially for women. It is such a common thing for a man into bikes to buy his wife a full set of gear, thinking she'll learn to love motorcycles, she wears it twice, and it languishes in a closet for a couple of years before being resold. But check carefully for any signs of wear (scuffs, scratches, sagging, etc...will be pretty obvious if it's not in new condition as advertised) because gear needs to be in good condition to protect you as it's supposed to.

posted by psycheslamp at 10:16 AM on August 8, 2012

i love my 2008 ninja 250R more than i could ever express.
posted by austere at 10:58 AM on August 8, 2012

I would probably try to buy a motorcycle from somewhere in the suburbs or in the outer (garage-bearing) neighborhoods in the city, since a street-parked motorcycle has probably had a very rough life. You see enough tipped-over motorcycles around the city to give you pause.

For the same reason, if you'll be street parking, it's probably best to get a bike that's already a bit dinged up, rather than a shiny new bike. You hear about motorcycles getting stuffed into the back of vans, too, so you probably want a good lock.

Here's a parking guide I found online:
posted by akgerber at 2:00 PM on August 8, 2012

I had a cruiser in NYC and it was miserable! You need something upright and nimble so you can flow with traffic. I have a Suzuki SV650 now and it's perfect.

I've bought two bikes on Craigslist and have not had a problem. Visit them in person, of course, and back out if the seller seems shady (but that has not been my experience). Make sure the engine doesn't look all cruddy. And look up the Kelly Blue Book value ahead of time. Don't pay much more than that.

There is a motorcycle repair class at Queens College that is very helpful at learning the basics of engine repair and maintenance.
posted by valeries at 3:26 PM on August 8, 2012

If weight is the only reason you're not looking into cruisers, reconsider that. At 250cc the weight is negligible, and beside that the geometry is so different between a sport bike, cruiser, and a dirt bike. I can gently set my 1200cc Harley down on its side and pick it back up, my 600cc enduro would fall over if you looked at it funny and was a pain in the ass to get up back upright.
If you don't have anyone to help you out, I'd see what dealers around you sell used bikes, and see how they look on yelp or whatever is used in New York. Plenty of dealers will tune ups and maintenance even on a used bike.
posted by gally99 at 9:32 PM on August 8, 2012

Thanks, everyone. Sorry I'm late back to the thread. I passed my class and I'm using your suggestions right now to shop for my bike and gear. I'll post back with my results & recs for posterity!
posted by xiaolongbao at 8:31 AM on August 20, 2012

« Older Below the staff is my happy place   |   Where can I find a good programmer, and how on... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.