Bike buyer's guide: finding the perfect ride
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With an overwhelming array of different options in the motorcycling world, just where do you start on your journey to find the perfect ride?
Today we’re looking at three popular motorcycle styles and the basics of what to look for when you’re in the market.
Bike buying basics
Just like when you’re in the market for a car, there are a variety of checks you need to do when buying a motorcycle as well as a couple of hoops to jump through if you’re new to the world of two wheels.
Firstly, you’ll need at least a class 6L licence to ride any motorcycle over 51cc. Obtaining it opens the door to testing bikes before you buy, which is a must.
Secondly, you’ll want to ensure a bike is in tip-top condition before you part with your money. That means checking it over visually and mechanically with particular attention to the final drive, tyres and braking systems.
While a bike that has been “dropped” once or twice is nothing to worry about, signs that a bike has been abused or unloved such as scraped bodywork, surface rust or bent brake/clutch levers are a good reason to walk away and find something in better condition.
Your Bike Buying Checklist
- Check the bike for fluid leaks or safety issues
- Check when the tyres were manufactured - old tyres are bad news for grip
- Check for crash damage
- Make sure basic safety items are working
- Assess the overall condition of the bike
- Sit on the bike and make sure it fits you
- Start it up and make sure it fires easily and runs well
- Take a test ride or have a trusted licensed rider do it for you
Commuters are one of the most popular segments in New Zealand motorcycling and there have never been so many options.
First up, a great commuter needs to have a reasonable seat height. Too low, and you’ll disappear amongst the rest of the morning congestion, too high and you’ll have trouble safely touching down at a stop.
In a similar vein, you want a bike with neutral handlebars. Bikes with clip-on race-style bars look great but often sacrifice steering ability at low speeds, while wide handlebars can present problems of their own in regard to adding to physical width and/or rider comfort.
When the name of the game is getting from A to B in an efficient manner, fuel efficiency becomes a strong consideration. After all, how often do you want to spend each week sitting next to a fuel bowser? Most modern bikes tend to have a fuel range between 200-400km, so keep this in mind if you have a particularly long commute.
So what are bikes to avoid? While a cruiser may look cool, its super-low seat and wide handlebars are not an asset if you’re trying to see and be seen among the clutter of cars on the motorway, while a nimble sports bike might be too much of a thirsty handful for commuting duties.
Look for bikes with a neutral riding position and a smaller engine if it’s just a daily commuter, with an engine over 400cc if you also see yourself enjoying a weekend ride on the side.
The best commuters are typically found in the Learner Approved (LAMS) class, which are bikes with sub-660cc engine size and less than 150kW of power per tonne. These tend to hold their value well due to being learner-legal while also being frugal and easy to ride.
It’s the picture that sells motorcycling to the masses: that laidback cruise down to the beach, a pumping V-twin thundering along and a leather jacket to top it all off. If this is your motorcycling ideal, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind before you part with your hard-earned cash.
Cruising the streets all weekend means you’ll want to be comfortable and finding the right fit for you at the point of purchase is crucial.
Finding the right ergonomics that suit you as a rider are key when purchasing a cruiser.
Cruisers tend to come in two styles, either with a forward-set footpeg or a centre-set footpeg. While forward controls are iconic as a certain American brand and are quite comfortable for taller riders, they don’t allow you to take the weight off your behind on longer trips. Centrally mounted pegs are easier for shorter riders and allow you to put weight directly down into your feet, but can be cramped for tall riders.
While most cruisers will have a twin-cylinder engine in common, a useful consideration is to look at what the final drive is. While Harley-Davidson and Indian tend to opt for a belt drive, another option is a shaft final drive as found on BMW’s new R18 cruiser. Both styles require much less maintenance than a traditional chain and are drastically cleaner too.
When it comes to bang-for-buck performance it really is hard to beat a motorcycle. While the days of the superbike being the pinnacle of motorcycling lust are long since past, the class is still the best way to get the most thrills per kilometre.
With modern superbikes now possessing in excess of 150kW in a chassis weighing less than 200kg, it’s unsurprising that they also possess some of the most sophisticated technology in motorcycling. With traction control, cornering ABS, wheelie control and power modes, the processing power behind a modern sports bike is as staggering as the price. Expect to pay in excess of $40,000 for the latest and greatest.
If pretending you’re a MotoGP hero isn’t your thing, then a naked sports machine could be more your speed. These bikes often use a detuned version of a brand’s superbike engine and excel on the street thanks to wide handlebars and upright ergonomics.
These bikes tend to be ridden hard, so ensuring servicing has been completed per the manufacturers specs are important if buying used.
If you’re after a raw bike that might actually increase in value, look for a late 1990s to early 2000s model in good condition. They’re hard to find, but collectors are already looking at snapping them up.