I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

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I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#1 Unread post by Flat Knuckle » Sun Mar 17, 2013 5:26 pm

Apologies for what will be a somewhat long first post.

I'm a little tired of putting gas in my car, never mind that my boss got the catalytic convertor hacked off his van while it was parked at work. To that end, if I only carry a lunch-pail to work, I figure it makes some sense to commute by bike. Though I've pretty well decided on a bike, I'd still be open to opinions. First, though, a little bit about me:
  • Age: 34
    Height: 6'2" (188 cm)
    Weight: 175 lbs (79.5 Kg, if I did the conversion correctly)
    Previous riding experience: None whatsoever (I do plan on taking a new rider course, even though California doesn't mandate it for me)
There are some characteristics I'd like in my first mount, too:
  • 70-80 miles per gallon combined would be ideal, but nothing lower than 60 MPG combined
    Legal to ride on, and with enough power for, the freeway (if ever my commute makes freeway driving a necessity)
    Simple enough that I can do most, if not all, maintenance myself
    Reliable
    A riding position that lets me keep my back upright
    Low enough that I can flat-foot it (almost never a problem for me)
I'm looking primarily at 250cc bikes, despite the guy at the BMW dealer believing that a 500cc Royal Enfield would be ideal. (It's a cool bike, but I think it could be a little much...I'm preparing to buy my first bike, not my last!) I've all but ruled out every sportbike on the face of the planet, as I don't want to lean forward, and I'm not a big sportbike fan, anyway. I'm not seriously considering dual-purpose bikes because the one I sat on was so tall I couldn't flat-foot it. Therefore, I've been gravitating toward small cruisers. I'm most seriously considering the Virago/Star 250, but, as I stated before, I'm welcome to other options as far as criusers and standard bikes go. I'm not necessarily against a project bike, but I'd prefer to buy it and ride it right away.

I think I've done pretty well with the bike, but what about protective gear? My biggest question about protective gear is quality; I'd really like to purchase a helmet, jacket, gloves, and knee guards that are USA-made, if possible. I wear steel-toed boots to work, so I don't think there should be any issues in that department. The jacket and helmet would also need to be well-suited to a hot area, as it gets very hot where I live. Finally, DOD policy specifies that anyone who rides a motorcycle on a military installation must wear a safety vest. Though I thought that was silly when I was on active duty, I now think it's actually a pretty good idea.

Thanks in advance to all who reply...looking forward to reading them!

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#2 Unread post by BRUMBEAR » Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:40 pm

An Enfield is a fine starter bike as well as a blast or an ex500, The thing these machines allow you to do is grow the 250 is a fine starter bike but... Here it comes your a pretty big guy and that machine will not have highway or passing power. Puddle jumping it'll work but believe me you will boar quickly of in town traffic and commuting.
As far as gear goes well Joe Rocket or Bilt make great mesh gear with padding back protection and they wont break the bank. I always use this rule of thumb. What hits the ground first? a. Your hands feet and face. So GOOD Gloves GOOD BOOTS and a full face helmet.
I never dress for the ride I always dress for the crash cause the ride is gonna be great regardless :D
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please note my avatar and notice I am not leaning forward, naked bikes give you great power,brakes and handling without giving up comfort or vision.
Best of luck in your endeavor.
Last edited by BRUMBEAR on Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#3 Unread post by jstark47 » Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:43 pm

A Royal Enfield would not be "too much". Traditionally they've had a bad rap for reliability issues, but the new C5 and G5 Classics with the UCE engine are supposed to be much better. Whether they're freeway capable is something that can be debated. I've chased one on the freeway going 65+, but I don't know how long it could have sustained that.

Basically, there's going to be a bit of tension between "70-80 mpg" and "freeway capable". Not impossible, but depends on your idea of freeway capable (power to spare at 80mph versus barely able to sustain 65mph).

If cruisers appeal to you, you might check out a Suzuki Boulevard S40 (older versions were called "Savage"). 650cc single, but not too much horsepower for a noob, and can keep up on a freeway if you thrash it. No idea what the mileage is.

Re: safety vests, I live near the Dix/Maguire/Lakehurst superbase in Jersey. Riders in high-viz vests are a daily sighting around here, so frequent that nobody thinks anything of it.

Re: gear, I hear you about US-made, but my recommendation to you as a noob is just get whatever fits, protects, feels good, and doesn't break the bank. By the time you meet all those criteria, you usually don't have a big range of choice, so don't let country of origin get in the way of getting geared up.
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#4 Unread post by Flat Knuckle » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:53 pm

BRUMBEAR wrote: ATGATT
please note my avatar and notice I am not leaning forward, naked bikes give you great power,brakes and handling without giving up comfort or vision.
I've heard ATGATT before, and I agree. I'll go with a full-face helmet, especially since California is a "helmets for everyone" state and I don't really want to eat some of the bugs that fly around here. I'll also consider the naked bikes, though the cruisers have more appeal to me.
jstark47 wrote:A Royal Enfield would not be "too much". Traditionally they've had a bad rap for reliability issues, but the new C5 and G5 Classics with the UCE engine are supposed to be much better. Whether they're freeway capable is something that can be debated. I've chased one on the freeway going 65+, but I don't know how long it could have sustained that.

Basically, there's going to be a bit of tension between "70-80 mpg" and "freeway capable". Not impossible, but depends on your idea of freeway capable (power to spare at 80mph versus barely able to sustain 65mph).

If cruisers appeal to you, you might check out a Suzuki Boulevard S40 (older versions were called "Savage"). 650cc single, but not too much horsepower for a noob, and can keep up on a freeway if you thrash it. No idea what the mileage is.

Re: safety vests, I live near the Dix/Maguire/Lakehurst superbase in Jersey. Riders in high-viz vests are a daily sighting around here, so frequent that nobody thinks anything of it.
Royal Enfields were kept out of California for a while due to emissions requirements, so all of ours might have the UCE engine; I'll have to look into that. As for freeway capable, if it can sustain 70 MPH without overheating or running too close to redline, it'll work for me. (I don't climb many hills, so my idea of freeway capable might be a bit lenient compared to others.') I've looked at the Boulevard S40, and while its MPG rating is toward the bottom of my target range, I might have to consider it more seriously. I live not too far from Lemoore Naval Air Station, yet I don't see many safety vests. Of course, California riders in particular have to ride like nobody can see them yet everyone is out to get them.

Thanks for your replies, gentlemen!

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#5 Unread post by dr_bar » Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:07 am

Just a small addition to jstark47's comments regarding gear...

Don't buy something you won't wear, sounds logical, but it is very common to see people make an expensive purchase of gear, only to have it hanging in their closet due to fit, lack of air flow or whatever... Comfort is king, right behind protection.
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#6 Unread post by gsJack » Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:39 am

I started riding on a CB400T at age 52 and traded it in on a CB750K six months and 6k miles later, it just wasn't fast enough for freeways I thought. Truth of the matter is looking back I just didn't really know how to ride it yet. Now I've done my last 14 years and 175k miles on a couple of GS500s getting about 60 mpg overall, a little more summers and a little less winters, and consider it a go anywhere do anything bike. Did my last 400 mile interstate days at 75-80 mph indicated back in 04 at age 72 going to the Smoky Mtns to play. At your age you might want to consider a little more than a 250cc cruiser, if you really take to riding you'll soon want more bike. By the way, I'm a big guy too, was 6' 2'' and about 230# when I got the first GS500. If I get one more bike it'll probably be a 250cc sportbike but it's time I slow down and stick to the back roads.

You mentioned wanting an upright riding position and that's what I wanted too, on my four 80's standard type Hondas I referred to it as a cruiser slouch. I had both back trouble and butt trouble riding them on longer rides. Haven't had a bit of back trouble on the GS500 with a slightly lean forward riding position.

I rode with an open face helmet for years and in short pants and a short sleeve shirt summers until I started hanging around on the mc forums 10-15 years ago and got myself closer to ATGAT riding, full face helmet and armored jacket and boots at least, you can start out ATGAT.

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#7 Unread post by BobK » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:07 am

I'd choose a CBR250 or a Ninja 250 or 300 before a Royal Enfield.

But you'll probably keep the riding gear a lot longer than you'll keep your first bike.

In hot weather, a good mesh jacket and riding pants will keep you cool, as long as you're moving. I like flip-up helmets. Once you get moving, flip it down and the airflow will keep you cool.

In the old days I used to ride in shorts and sneakers. 40 years later I still have the scars to prove it.

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#8 Unread post by Flat Knuckle » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:53 am

BobK wrote:But you'll probably keep the riding gear a lot longer than you'll keep your first bike.
Unless they no longer fit, that's exactly what I plan to do.

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#9 Unread post by BobK » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:15 am

Unfortunately, my gear seems to keep shrinking. It must be from all that riding in the rain.

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#10 Unread post by BRUMBEAR » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:47 am

I'll go with that, however I think it may be do to the gravitational alterations brought on by BIG GULP and MickeyD abuse, I call it global increasing it's a new phenomenon. I am gonna petition the Government for a grant to study this :D
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#11 Unread post by Flat Knuckle » Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:50 am

I went to another dealership after work yesterday, and that one had some Virago/Star 250s. I like that riding position, so I'm pretty sure my first bike will be a smaller cruiser. Still need to head into the north part of town and get a feel for the Boulevard S40.

I'll also have to take a more serious look at gear soon. On that note, do I really need boots specifically designed for motorcycle riding? I'm typically required to wear steel-toed boots for work, so if those will suffice, I can save some money on gear. If not, or if I'm better off with motorcycle boots, I'll have to put a set of saddlebags on the shopping list.

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#12 Unread post by MmeMagpie » Thu Mar 21, 2013 1:10 pm

If they're heavy duty, cover your ankles, and make your feet happy you're good.
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#13 Unread post by Hanson » Fri May 03, 2013 11:46 am

Flat Knuckle,

I am in a very similar situation and I have been thinking about these issue a lot as I look for my first motorcycle. I am also 6'2" tall.

I want to chat just a bit about economy and mileage as a function of the performance of the bike because a lot of people, and this might not include yourself, do not have a good understanding that the savings derived from improved mileage is not linear with the change in MPG.

Lets say that we have a fairly long commute of 50 miles each way. I am picking some nice round numbers for this illustration and this gives us a commute of 100 miles a day or 500 miles in a week. Let us also use a nice round number of $4.00 for a gallon of fuel.

15 mpg = 33.33 gallons = $133.33 my pickup truck

40 mpg = 12.50 gallons = $50.00 a typical largish motorcycle
50 mpg = 10.00 gallons = $40.00 a larger midsized moto with a savings of $10 a week over a large moto
60 mpg = 8.33 gallons = $33.33 a smaller midsized moto with an additional savings of $6.67 a week
70 mpg = 7.14 gallons = $28.57 a small motorcycle with an additional savings of $4.76 a week
80 mpg = 6.24 gallons = $25.00 perhaps a scooter with an additional saving of $3.57 a week

Notice how the savings decrease form $10.00, to $6.67, to $4.76, and finally to $3.57.

For each increase in 10 mpg in fuel economy, the savings derived from that increase gets smaller. The relationship between fuel economy and savings is not linear. To put things in perspective, the savings between 60 mpg and 80 mpg is only about one hour of work a week at minimum wage even when commuting 100 mile each day. In contrast, the difference in performance between a 250cc and a 500cc bike is large and performance is also a significant safety concern when traveling on the highway.

What is the perfect balance between safety, performance, utility, economy, and aesthetes in a motorcycle is going to depend heavily on your personal goals and tastes. From your posts is it clear that economy is an important consideration, and I hope this reply will help you make a great choice on the balance between economy and performance. Respectfully, please understand that I am not trying to tell you what choice to make, I am only hoping to provide a bit of information that will help you make the best possible choice for yourself.

One very interesting motorcycle from a commuter utility perspective is the Honda NC700X. This motorcycle was designed with great on-bike locking storage and remarkable fuel economy for it's size and performance. The two cylinder engine of the NC700X is basically half of the highly evolved 4 cylinder engine of the Honda Civic and the motorcycle gets an amazing 65 to 70 mpg while still being fully highway capable. What we give up on the NC700X is that the engine is not a typical high revving motorcycle engine and instead red-lines at only about 6.5k rpm. The NC700X has modest performance compared to most motorcycles of similar displacement but much improved fuel economy. In contrast, the new Honda CB500F, which looks to be a great starter bike, has similar performance with a smaller displacement engine but only gets around 50 to 55 mpg.

I am not advocating for Honda, I just picked these models from a single vendor to illustrate that bikes are engineered for a purpose, to appeal to specific market segments, and in many cases the engineers have done a good job balancing the various characteristics of the motorcycle for the intended market niche. Most 250 motorcycles are designed for new riders with a low entry price, easy handling, and modest performance to help new riders acquire skills in comparative safety. As a consequence of low power they also tend to be fuel efficient, but a starter motorcycle is not necessarily a good commuter motorcycle especially for a larger men or women. Moreover; total cost of ownership is going to be impacted by a lot of factors other than just purchase price and fuel economy, some of which include maintenance costs, depreciation, insurance costs, and opportunity costs. I wager that a significant majority of motorcycle riders never think deeply about the many factors impacting the economics of their purchases and I think this is wonderful. The fact that I do think about such things is likely a personality defect.

Safe Travels,
Richard
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#14 Unread post by Mithrandir » Mon May 06, 2013 6:31 pm

Hanson,

Thanks for the math on the relative cost difference at different MPG levels.

I guess if ~$20/1000 miles will make or break the budget, I might need to reconsider the merits of a motorcycle purchase.

I would also need to consider the difference in insurance and maintenance between a 500cc compared to a 250cc motorcycle. I am guessing that the difference would be relatively small depending on the insurance company and the maintenance required.

I think that a 250cc motorcycle would be enough for any speeds up to 70mph. On the highway, the lack of "muscle" of a 250cc would require more planning in my passing and riding at higher speeds. The available power of a 500cc would make passing/accelerating much easier in the 70-90mph range.

Is there significant difference between the cornering ability of a 250cc vs. 500cc motorcycle (say a Honda cbr250r vs. Honda cbr500r/f/x)?

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#15 Unread post by storysunfolding » Mon May 06, 2013 6:42 pm

If you believe the guys that race the 250s in WERA, there is a difference in cornering. It's much easier to corner on a 250 than their 600 and 1000 cc sportbikes :lol:

Given how fast those guys go and my own experience on the ninja 250 you won't have problems passing at 80 mph. Most guys that talk down on the 250 cc sportbikes never truly rode one or opened it up.
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#16 Unread post by Lion_Lady » Fri May 24, 2013 9:56 am

Straight miles per gallon isn't the whole picture. Motorcycles go through tires about 3-4 times a quickly as cars @$250-$300 pair. Then there's your protective gear - NOT to be ignored if you plan to commute. The more often you're out on the road, the greater the chance of an incident with a careless driver. General maintenance can be pricey and sometimes will take time, esp if you need a part. Then insurance... it adds up quickly.

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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#17 Unread post by MmeMagpie » Fri May 24, 2013 10:16 am

I have to get new tires very 10k miles (8 mos). With mount and balance, the bill is about $400.

As far as insurance goes, stay under 750cc for the bargain pricing.

Don't rule out the 750's just yet. Mine gets about 50mpg (it's too small for your tall frame, so look at other models and brands).
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Re: I've just about decided on a bike...but what about gear?

#18 Unread post by NC Narrator » Fri May 24, 2013 9:41 pm

I like the Boulevard S40. I'm short (5'3") so I needed a shorter seat height. I looked at the 250's but I discovered most of them have a maximum speed of around 55 or 60mph. As far as I can tell you have to assume that speed is on a flat with average weight and no headwind. My concern was that the speed limit on at least part of my commute is 65 mph - which we ALL know REALLY means everyone is going 70-75mph. I just wasn't confident that most of those 250's could handle that AND go up a hill.

The V-stars fare better on maximum speed, but when I tested a couple I found that I felt like I was about the kill the poor little hamster in the motor. I used to have a '73 Beetle - technically you could get up to 65 mph on a downhill stretch with a following wind, but the engine was redlined all the way and sounded like it was about the toss its cookies.

Also - windscreen! After my ride home on my new (to me) bike, the windscreen became the new priority piece of equipment. You know that feeling you get when you stick your hand out the car window on the highway? Yeah, that's your head when you turn it to see if someone's about the smear you across the pavement.

I talked my hubby into the bike by playing up the gas mileage for my commute (1 hour each way, 4 days a week), but in reality I mostly just wanted it for the enjoyment. Luckily I work 2nd shift, so I'm heading to work in the middle of the afternoon and coming home in the wee hours of the a.m. Mostly the only company I have on the road are semis and the highway patrol. And critters. And bugs. Big bugs. Full face helmet is recommended.

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