There’s not a lot out there that can get you as excited as the thought of buying a new bike. The fantasy of riding something shiny and new really gets the heart racing and the mind wandering. Sometimes, however, we let those feelings lead us astray and we do something really stupid, like buying a new motorcycle without going through the proper processes.
Buying above your skill level
This being a problem has been mostly (but not entirely) fixed for learner riders thanks to the introduction of LAMS class motorcycles, but being human we always seem to manage to overestimate our abilities.
This can come in multiple forms. While the immediate thought is a bike which is too powerful, other considerations include a bike which is too heavy for you to safely control or a bike that has a riding position that doesn't agree with the rider.
It’s easy to get in over your head because we all like to think we’re more capable than we actually are in real life, no matter how self-deprecating we may be.
As such it is hard to skip size classes of motorcycle straight to the top and come out the other side scot-free. Just imagine the shock of going from a very manageable, very comfortable 25hp 250 to a mad 209hp 1200 instead of working your way up with something in between to actually as a stepping stone. Not only can it be intimidating, it can be downright dangerous for the ill-prepared.
That being said, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible to manage it if you’re a cautious and safe rider – but it is much more common to find that too much motorcycle is just too much motorcycle. Just like in the car world, it’s better to start out with a low-powered hatchback and learn to control it skilfully than jump in a supercar and drive like an idiot.
Build up your skill level before you jump up to the upper echelons of skill and motorcycle type.
Buying the wrong type of bike
This is quite possibly the easiest trap to fall into, and sadly, we often don’t realise it until it’s too late!
We all know it is very easy to fall in love with the idea of a particular motorcycle, but often our actual riding requirements can differ drastically, often ending with resentment for a bike that should be your pride and joy.
Buying a Superbike sounds like a fantastic way to get your thrills on a daily basis, but the reality of riding one in heavily congested traffic is a completely different kettle of fish.
On a similar note a cruiser style bike is great for taking in the scenery on a long ride, but in inner-city traffic can be a heavy handful.
Before you buy, be realistic about the type of riding you will be doing. Buying the right bike for its intended use can help feed your passion for riding it for years to come.
Buying without first riding
One way to make sure you're not buying the wrong type of bike is to ride any prospective purchase before you buy.
Honestly, I thought this was something of a myth until a friend of a friend bought a bike sight unseen and hated the thing with a vengeance within a month thanks to its uncomfortable rider ergonomics.
Not only is it a straight-up risk, in general, to buy any vehicle without first giving it the full once over to check its not a lemon, but there are also a few things that only a ride will tell you about a bike.
Do the brakes work? Does it accelerate and change through all the gears cleanly? Does it wheelie? These are things you’ll only find out properly if you take the bike in question for a ride first.
A best practice is to take it on a least a 30-minute loop, trying to work in as many riding scenarios as possible. If it doesn’t meet your expectations in any respect, walk away. It’s often not worth trying to troubleshoot a new to you bike or trying to improve it to fit your wants in the long run. Especially when you’d rather to be simply out riding it.
Failing to do your research
The fantastic thing about the internet is there are plenty of owner’s forums out there. These are a perfect tool for connecting with people who own the bike you’re interested in, and an even better way to find out any quirks the model has. Ask questions and read reviews about what some of the bike’s issues/advantages are.
You might think of yourself on that very bike but the actual day-to-day use of it might be a completely different experience from what you imagine. Even though your heart might be set on a Honda CRF1000 Africa Twin, your actual needs might be more CRF250L Rally.
Sometimes getting your hands on servicing or spare parts might also be difficult, especially if the bike you want is vintage or a not particularly popular model. Dealers don't hold stock for every part for every bike, so wait times can sometimes be more than a couple of weeks.
There are many reasons to get in touch with a models owner base, and as riders, we’re always happy to share our experiences. You never know, you might even make some friends out of it.
With the easy to get finance which is available these days, it is all too easy to overextend yourself beyond your actual means. Yes, there are meant to be processes in place to prevent this but let’s face it, there are always ways around your bank manager.
If you dig yourself a financial hole, or more likely your circumstances change and you can’t afford to eat three square meals a day, you’ll soon come to hate your shiny new motorcycle for the poverty it has put you in.
Don’t fall into the common pitfall of buying on impulse. When you do the research into a bike, don’t just do it on how much the initial outlay will be. You’ve also got to include factors such as servicing, insurance, rego and even fuel economy into your decision.
After all, you want to keep the purchase to a manageable percentage of your take-home pay so there's enough left over to actually enjoy riding.