6'2, new rider and looking for great first motorcycle
June 11, 2014 5:20 PM   Subscribe

I just got my Endorsement after taking the Ride Oregon 3 day class and I am itching to get on my own ride and tool around! I am looking mostly at older Hondas (CM4000 specially) as I like their look and they have a reputation for being pretty bulletproof and great first riders. I, as of today, have not sat on any Hondas other than some older dirt bikes when I was younger and a old co-workers 250cc. So what I am asking is, will this bike fit me (6'2, 183lbs, 30' inseam)? If not, any models you can recommend? Since this is my first, I'm not looking to go over 700cc, with a 400-600cc non-cruiser being ideal for my eventual commute on the freeways.
posted by Asbestos McPinto to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I got my first bike last summer to save on gas. Really, I had no interest in riding per se. I was looking at anything in my price range and asking around. Almost every experienced rider said "get a ninja 250." I was sceptical. I don't even like sport bikes, but I'll tell you I'm so glad I did. It is a GREAT beginner bike. You sit up pretty straight. It's light. It's durable. It will last for a very long time, should you want it. It handles like a dream and is really forgiving with the clutch. Gas mileage is great.

For your first bike you'll probably want both your feet to rest flat on the ground and though your tall, a 30' inseam is fairly short, so I'd stick with a smaller bike.

Also, I use it as my commuter bike. I ride it every day, rain or shine. I ride on the interstate in heavy traffic and it holds up just fine. The only concern here is that it is light, so the wind can push it around a bit, but this has never been a real issue for me.

I got a 2004 with 3000 miles for just over a grand. I've got almost 12 on it now and plan to keep going.

I wish I had more to add, but my experience is solely with Ninja.

Good luck finding a bike. Have fun.

P.S. A great book on riding is Proficient Motorcycling. I fully recommend it.
posted by IfIShouldEverComeBack at 6:14 PM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can't answer your question directly but the key is right there in your third sentence, you have to sit on them. Go find some and try them on for size. I'd suggest looking up your local VJMC (Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club) group or other vintage enthusiasts, and ideally go to an event or gathering where you might see a variety of bikes and talk to some of the owners and if you're lucky, get some butt impressions. Bike fitting can be a finicky thing, and even similarly embodied riders can have very different preferences. Then again, being your first bike, you'll probably love it no matter what anyway.
posted by rodlymight at 6:20 PM on June 11, 2014

Get a decent used Japanese sportbike off craigslist. It's nice if the plastics are pre-dinged because you will probably drop it a few times (like while maneuvering in a parking lot, not necessarily a crash at speed).

I started with a Suzuki SV650. It was a great bike. Later I got a Honda F4i, also great. The 600cc 4-cylinder was simultaneously faster yet more docile than the 650 twin. The 600 I4s have very little power below 8-10k rpm, so they are pretty tame power-wise unless you are very intentionally pushing it hard. As far as tempting you to ride too fast, I think the handling on the F4i was way more seductive than the engine. On the other hand, for city riding the SV650 was clearly superior. The twin engine had much more torque whereas I had to slip the clutch a bit with the F4i to get a fast start.

I don't think the Ninja 250R is a good bike for someone your size who wants to commute on the freeway a lot. Sure, it can do it. But it's not great for that. The SV650, on the other hand, can be the commuter bike you never grow out of.

The best motorcycle-related purchase I ever made was a fully custom made leather one-piece racing suit. It was $2000-ish, which is not that much compared to the bike itself. I really loved that suit. It was very comfortable since it was made to fit me perfectly. I bought it to replace an Aerostich that I crashed at 40 MPH. I did not like how the Aerostich faired in that crash.

The best motorcycle commuting purchase I made was a Gerbing electric jacket. Those things work very, very well. I never bothered with the heated gloves and pants (temps in my area don't go below freezing).

Looking back at the various minor crashes I've had over the years, I'd say the one thing that would have been most useful in preventing a lot of them would be antilock brakes. I've heard BMW's system is quite good. But I've never ridden a bike with antilock brakes, so I might be mistaken. It's something to consider though, especially if you will be riding a lot in the rain.
posted by ryanrs at 7:08 PM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have always preferred adventure/dual sport bikes. They aren't the fastest or flashiest but the just work. They are maneuverable, easy to work on (and you will work on them-motorcycles are like horses that way), get good mileage and are comfortable to ride on.

There are TONS to choose from. I really liked by bmw r1150gs but that is a bit much for a first bike and I have a 34" inseam and found it fine but it was a tall bike. And they aren't cheap.

The V strom bikes from suzuki are great, and come in 650 and 1100 so you can take your pick (the 650 would make a great commuter bike).

Kawasaki has the Versys and the KLR650. The versys is more of a street bike with long suspension travel and the KLR650 is almost a dirt bike.

Honda has few new ones to check out and yamaha is importing their super tenere now also.

I found most 400-600 japanese sport and plain motorcycles too small for my frame and lacking in aftermarket support for things like bags that fit.

But most important get the best gear you can. So I highly recommend an Aerostich Roadcrafter suit and a good Helmet. You gotta go try on the helmets. I like Nolans, but everyones head is a little different. I am a HUGE believer in All the Gear, All the Time.
posted by bartonlong at 7:57 PM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also earplugs. Always wear ear plugs. A lot of the better helmets whistle at freeway speed (lots of venting). Decent earplugs will counterintuitively make car sounds more prominent because they block the wind noise.

KLR650 is a tall bike. Good visibility for the rider. It's surprising how much more you can see on a bike like that compared to when you're in a car.
posted by ryanrs at 8:12 PM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Consider the Honda NX650. Good for tall people, you sit up straight, it's a fun bike to ride. Not too heavy, and easy to correct. A good bike to learn on. And very much fun.

In general, bikes that lean towards the all-road direction (or fall squarely in that category) are a great start.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:26 AM on June 12, 2014

Take the next riders’ class, too.

Get a used KLR 650 and thrash it on logging roads and other gravel. You will learn how to handle the bike adroitly, because it is thoroughly punishing to drop that pig. It’ll also suffice as an all-around urban assault vehicle, with a great high vantage point that makes you extra-visible to the cagers.

After you’ve learned to ride, sell the KLR to the next learner and get yourself the bike you want to use for commuting and travel.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 9:04 AM on June 12, 2014

I had a (biggish, at least bigger than you want) BMW, an R1100R, as the last bike before I put away my gloves.
It was a great bike but not perfect: repairs were expensive, and it was a little heavy.
Most importantly though, and I know it saved my bacon on more than one occasion (59th Street bridge off-ramp, slick-ish with oil I'm looking at you), it had ABS. Whatever other flaws it had (I never liked the seat, not really, and the styling was crap) ABS is great.
My next bike (if ever) will be a smaller BMW, with belt drive. Or a Vincent Rapide.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:53 AM on June 12, 2014

Worry less about CCs and more about horsepower. Any Honda Nighthawk 700 or 750 from 1986 on up is a great first bike. Starting around 1991 they are nice looking, versatile and utterly bulletproof and cheap to ride and insure. Nice examples can be had for $2500.

The SV 650 mentioned above is another good first, but a tad small if you're long of leg.

If you like a bit more style, I strongly urge you to look at Triumph Bonnevilles made in the last 10 years. Again, easy to own and ride, and the 885cc motor is very tractable and docile and you can do a lot with them.

BMWs are great, but come with pricey maintenance and parts. Nothing wrong with them, I've owned several, but be aware of the costs you could face.

Other interesting things you can look at, depending on budget - Ducati Monsters in the 696-750 range are fun and predictable. Kawasaki ZR7s, the new Suzuki Gladius is pretty neat.

Also look at the Kawasaki Versys. It's an outstanding motorcycle. 2008 was the first year - can get them for under 5k if you look around.
posted by Thistledown at 1:22 PM on June 12, 2014

You might consider an older BMW, the old 'airheads' are an air-cooled boxer motor and *very* easy to work on. Hundreds of thousands of miles on these bikes is not uncommon, they are built pretty sturdily.
The BMW german engineers tended to design bikes that fit them well, so they are geared towards tall people.
posted by IpsoFacto at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2014

Kawasaki Ninja 650 is sort of a ninja 250 with a larger engine. It is not a sport bike like the ninja 600. It shouldn't be crazy money new or used. You should be able to get one that someone else is moving on from, ride it for a couple years and then move on to something else once you know what you like in bikes.

Kawasaki also has a Versys 650 which might fit a tall person better. I'd think the Ninja would be better on the highway. I don't find dual sports to be fun on the highway.
posted by bdc34 at 6:12 PM on June 12, 2014

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