Novice Rider Upgrading to Larger Bike

by Gale Nelson
(Sequim, WA USA)

Day 2 of MSF Course -- What Fun!

Day 2 of MSF Course -- What Fun!

I've enjoyed reading all the posts and comments on this forum. It's been very educational.

I'm 56, 5'4", 110 lbs. I rode dirt bikes as a youngster, had several minor crashes, but loved bombing around. Then as an adult I was in a nasty wreck as a passenger and figured I'd never get on a motorcycle again. But my husband got a Yamaha Road Star (Warrior) 1700 and last fall I got brave enough to climb on board for a couple of rides. I loved it--but was incredibly nervous. I decided I might feel more comfortable if I were the one driving, so I signed up and passed the MSF on a Suzuki GZ 250. It poured rain the entire weekend, but I loved every minute of it!

I loved Suzuki and found a nice used one a week after I took the course. But within 15 minutes of being on the road doing 45 - 55 mph, I knew I would eventually need a bigger bike. I decided to ride that bike for awhile... so I did--about six months. I sold it yesterday and am now in the market for a bigger bike. I tried a used Vulcan 750 (it felt top heavy) and a Boulevard S40 (it felt quite comfortable, but not much bigger than my 250). I am torn between one of the great cruisers available, and a more standard/sport bike, like the BMW 650, Moto Guzzi Breva 750, and the Ducati Monster. I would like something fairly light and well balanced, with a gas tank that doesn't require filling every 100 miles. My husband and I would like to do some long distance riding/camping, and I want to be able to easily cruise around town.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a place where riders could test drive all different kinds of bikes before committing to purchase one? Is there such a thing and I just don't know about it?

I would appreciate any suggestions or comments.

Thanks, Gale

Comments for Novice Rider Upgrading to Larger Bike

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Jul 01, 2010
Suzuki Boulevard C50T
by: Sandra

I cannot say enough good things about my Bouley C50T! I thought I wanted a great big bike for my first ride - but I am so glad I found this cruiser which looks great next to hubby's HD Softail but weighs about half, cost about half and insures for about half. I love the thought of owning a Harley, but I love seeing some money left in my account, too! And I'm not afraid it's too big for me. She DID dump me, rather unceremoniously, the first time I jumped on her...guess I had to learn a little respect for the power of my White Dragon! LOL

Apr 08, 2010
Buell Blast
by: Kris

I bought a 2002 Buell Blast, and I LOVE it! 500 cc, 70 mpg, 365 lbs., and she is so easy to ride. I am also thinking of upgrading (to a larger American made bike). Harley Davidson is no longer making the Buell ... : ( maybe a used Buell Ulysses ...

Mar 31, 2010
Go for the BMW 800
by: Anonymous

If I had not already settled on my Yamaha FZ1 I would have a BMW 800.

It has a low center of gravity, narrow seat so you can touch the ground, an upright seat position and it has detachable bags all which makes it perfect for touring...

I do agree though, it does not have the snap my FZ1 has, but if you have not ridden a bike like the FZ1 you won't know the difference.

Try everything,

Good Luck!

Mar 31, 2010
Thanks again, all.
by: Gale

Thanks for your ideas and suggestions. I live in Washington, but have been in California for the winter. None of the dealers here do demos due to insurance rates, but they do rent bikes. So I may rent a bike... and will try to test drive some for sale. I also plan to get to other dealers in the next month or so, that carry Harley, BMW, Ducati and Moto Guzzi.

I recently met a gal (her husband owns California Motorcycle Tours ca-motorcycletours.com), and she said she rode a Sportster at first, but never felt great on it. She got a Buell Blast and felt much more comfortable, but it couldn't really keep up on the tours, so she got a Ducati Monster, modified it for long distance riding, and loves it.

I appreciate the feedback for everyone.

Mar 31, 2010
by: Janice

If you are planning on owning one motorcycle (how is that possible) I ride BMW dual sports in the 800cc range. Years ago bought a BMW F650 found it to be too light (a strong side wind can blow you off the road) and I disliked the lack of torque. The older airheads are like John Deere tractors, they'll go anywhere and do anything you ask of them. My favorite ride is my Ducati 750 Monster. I would say it is not for beginners (my own opinion) they rev higher and are tricky in parking lots and in-town. I ride the Duc just about all summer. I love it. I also ride a Ducati 900SS CR, but has clip-ons and wouldn't be suitable for long distance if wrists are an issue. If I had to just own one bike, if I am looking at your picture correctly, your center of balance is directly under you. As an old horseback rider, it makes sense and a BMW 800 would be perfect, ride it around town and take off into the mountains on the same bike.

Mar 29, 2010
New Ride
by: Anonymous

Why don't you find some demo days at various dealers and try out the bikes that you have in mind. I also suggest you go with a Harley, the Heritage Softail is relatively light and is good long distance, or around town. Good luck with your search. Cheers

Mar 29, 2010
by: Alystar Mckenneh

I don't know which state you live in but some of the dealerships here in CA have rental places attached to them. Go rent for a day and see what you like. Or you could try road testing bikes for sale.

I am a Harley girl myself. I rode dirt for years and the Ninja is a great bike for the highway but if you want to travel you might consider a touring Harley.

Mar 28, 2010
Take it from Me, Don't Get the S-40
by: Rene L.

Congrats! Take it from me, don't go with the S-40. You will definitely outgrow it, and I agree with the other woman's comments about the lack of overall comfort and practicality. I took the course last year and immediately bought a new S-40 because it was light and easy to handle. After 11 months and 3 times into the dealer for miscellaneous repairs (bike kept malfunctioning), I decided to join the big girls and traded it in last week for a Suzuki C-50T. I was interested because I loved the look and loved that it came with bags and a windshield, but was really afraid of the weight...that is until I rode it!

I was so surprised to find that the heavier bike is actually easier to ride and much more stable. I liked riding the S-40 (when it wasn't in the shop) but I absolutely love riding the C-50T! It feels amazing - geez like a real motorcycle!

Anyway, whatever you decide to get, make sure keep us posted and post pics! Good luck and happy riding.

Mar 28, 2010
Test Drive
by: Rocco

A good way to shop around is to call private owners that are selling bikes. Most of the time they will let you test drive. I have known dealers to let you test drive. Don't forget to try the V-Star 1100 classic. Nice fit for a lady.

Mar 28, 2010
OK, so I sat on...
by: Gale

...a bunch of bikes at the dealer today. Kawasaki 650R was too tall and felt top heavy, but I realize it could be lowered a bit and I could get used to the weight/balance. I sat on a Suzuki Gladius and a Yamaha FX6. Also Vulcan 900, Suzuki S40, M50, C50, Yamaha VStar 750, Honda Shadow (Aero & Spirit) 750. Of all the bikes, the most comfortable for my frame were the M50 and the Spirit--both felt heavy, but I'm sure I could get used to them, too.

Met a gal about my size at the shop who rides a BMW 800 and loves it. Says it's light weight (about 400 lbs dry), well-balanced and comfortable. She had it lowered so she can flat-foot the ground. Those of you who ride BMW, would you recommend the 800 over the 650?

I appreciate the feedback and ideas--keep 'em coming!

Mar 28, 2010
Just Upgraded
by: Sharon S.

I rode a Suzuki S40 for three years, but hard to find after-market parts, not much room for bags, and seat isn't comfortable for the long haul. Forget finding an after-market one-no such thing. I finally found a Honda Shadow 750 Aero (2006). I brought it home yesterday, after adding several accessories. It is a little heavier than my S40, but well-balanced, easy to hold, very low, comfortable seat (under 26 "), and has a 3.7 gal tank that doesn't seem so big. They let me ride it in the parking lot, and I was sold. I can't wait for a road trip! This bike is lighter than many larger cruisers (a Suzuki C50T is 651 lbs., the Shadow Aero-553 lbs., but with all the features and comfort. Check out the Honda website for more stats.

Mar 28, 2010
by: Gale

Thanks for the feedback. My husband and I are going to a shop today that has a lot of bikes--I'll sit on a bunch and see how they each feel. I hope they have the Ninja 650R. Unfortunately they don't carry Moto Guzzi, BMW or Harley, but I'll check those out eventually. I'll be back here to see what others come up with, too.

Mar 28, 2010
Quick Light Bikes
by: Judy

You want something quick, light, capable of freeway speeds but with comfort? I don't think a Cruiser style bike really fits that bill very well.

There are several sport style bikes that DON'T have the discomfort of low clip-on style handlebars, but rather a seating position more like a standard, 70s style bike, with wide dirt bike style bars and footpegs closer to right below you rather than rear set like all out sport bikes do.

One of these is the 650R Twin Kawasaki Ninja. It's designed especially for shorter women, with a low seat height of about 29". Very nice condition used ones ('07-'08) can be found for around $3500-$4500. I recommend you try it out, I think you'll like it.

Mar 28, 2010
Test Rides
by: Raven

Like you, I am 56 years old and started riding as a passenger. It wasn't long before I wanted to be up front and in control of my own ride. I also took the riders course. I started on a Honda 250 - but knew right away I would need something bigger. I wanted a bike that had the weight down low. I went to a 1200 Harley Sportster. It was a nice starter bike and I really liked the weight. It was great for a year but a rough ride. Our Harley Davidson shop holds a demo days twice a year where you can demo just about any of the bikes. You get a half hour ride. It enough time to judge if you want more or not. I moved to the Harley V-Rod and rode it for two years a beautiful bike and very easy to ride - but the gas tank is to small. Now I ride a Harley Fatboy, It's perfect for me. Smooth and comfortable for all types of riding. I would suggest checking out your local bike shops for a demo days.

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