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RIDES: Easy Rider: Buying a Motorcycle 101
John Paulo Canton
 
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Riding motorcycles is a wonderful experience. When you get your own bike—one that feels just right—a world of fun will open up for you.
Learning to ride a motorcycle might appear daunting, but it’s not that hard once you learn the basics. Having success as a beginning rider is all about having patience, taking your time and practicing. I know many people, from investment bankers to plumbers, who ride, so it’s not geared to one particular lifestyle. I’ve seen plenty of folks who’ve never been on a bike before and who wouldn’t really fathom buying one, suddenly go out, pick one up and have a blast.
There are two things you need to ask yourself before you buy a bike.

1. What type of riding do you plan to do?
Different people have different needs for their bikes. You may want to go on tours, learn how to race, or just need to get around town in a more efficient manner. There are different bikes in the marketplace for all of those purposes, so in order to pick the right bike, you need to know what you’re going to do with it.

2. How much are you looking to spend?
Do you want to get something a little more extravagant or do you want an affordable entry-level bike with thoughts of upgrading it later? Are you looking for power? These factors all come into play when you’re deciding on your budget.

THE PREREQUISITES
I recommend taking a motorcycle training program before you purchase your first bike. It will provide a controlled environment while teaching you all the safety nuances of your machine. The instructors will walk you around the bike, show you how to operate your clutch and gearbox, and give you in-classroom training. This course guarantees that you’ll learn everything you need to know, including the requirements and features of what you should look for in a motorcycle. And of course, the training will provide a few days on the range, where you’re basically taught how to ride.

TYPES OF MOTORCYCLES
There are four different families of bikes you can buy: touring bikes, sports bikes, naked bikes—actually we invented this bike category (we have a very cool retro design bike that you should check out)—and cruisers.
Here’s a quick look at each category.
Touring Bikes
Touring bikes have a larger gas tank. They’re built for distance and feature an upright seating position, which is significantly more comfortable than other types of bikes. They generally have a rear seat so you can bring a passenger and/or store luggage.

Sports Bikes
A sports bike tends to be aerodynamic. It has a tighter fit because it hides you under the bodywork, so in a race, you’ll be faster. Sports bikes tend to be more uncomfortable to ride but the flipside is the great performance. They’re built to fly.

Naked Bikes
Naked bikes are a big category. They’re generally categorized as bikes without side bearings and other bodywork. Basically, the inner mechanical parts are exposed. Naked bikes are really popular, especially in the urban markets.

Cruisers
The cruisers are the Harleys, choppers and similar motorcycles.
MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION
Once you know the kind of riding you want to be doing, and the type of bike you want to buy, go to the dealership and get on a few models. See what fits you. Sometimes the bike will seem too tall or feel uncomfortable, or certain seating positions will feel awkward. You definitely want one that fits you well. Take a demo ride at the dealer to feel the bike out. If it feels good, that’s the one.

BIKE MAINTENANCE
Maintenance varies from bike to bike. Typical Ducati bikes will go every 7,500 miles without service (with one or two exceptions). Our competitors tend to go fewer miles before needing maintenance, but within that neighborhood.
Service with bikes includes your typical oil change, fluids check and basic maintenance. Then, depending upon the make, there are various things involved like changing the belts in the motor. But if you take good care of your bike, it can last forever. Recently, we had an old bike show where a couple of guys rode there on Ducati bikes from the 1950s. Just take proper care of your bike and it’ll be good to you.

BUYING USED
Be very careful if you’re going to buy a used bike. You need to make absolutely sure the bike’s never been crashed. Typically, when a bike’s been in a wreck, no matter what’s been done to fix it, there will be lingering problems. You also want to make sure the seller has all the service records and the bike’s been properly maintained. In the case of sports bikes, you want to make sure that they’ve never been raced because that shortens their lifespan considerably. It’s certainly worth the time to have a mechanic check it out. Take the same sort of precautionary measures you would when buying a used car.

SAFETY
How much is your safety worth to you? The general rule is that the more money you spend, the better safety equipment you can get. I recommend a top-level helmet—not one that just meets the government standards—a padded leather suit, gloves and appropriate riding boots. A lot of people just wear a leather jacket, jeans and a helmet, but what you wear really depends on how much your safety means to you. Safety is all about wearing the proper gear and not getting yourself into situations that jeopardize your well being.

John Paolo Canton is the Press Officer for Ducati, which has been producing racing-inspired motorcycles for more than 50 years.
 

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