It's a bad combination, but one were seeing more and more...
For some reasonthere's always a "new rider; what should i get for my first bike" posting near the top of the list. What worries me is the majority of these new riders want to rush out and buy the latest and greatest 1000cc ( or even bigger ) sportbike. The thread appears fairly regularly on other message boards i frequent, and you can probably guess how it progresses. The experienced riders caution against a new, big bike, and recommend buying a used 600, or something even smaller. Then there are always the people claiming that starting on a big bike is not only fine, but implying that the new rider's manhood would be called into question if he didnt start on a big bike.
It's all i can do not to respond right away in capital letters that buying a big sportsbike for your first motorcycle is crazy, but thankfully, with the amount of traffic on the message board, these threads have become fairly predictable and follow to that logical conclusion for the most part. Generally - and thankfully - cooler heads prevail and the new rider is swayed to a smaller bike.
What intrigues me is the reasoning some people use for starting on a new 1000. Some are confident they can handle the power, having ridden dirtbikes for a number of years as a teenager. Others claim they can't afford to buy a smaller or used bike now and then trade up in a year or so once they've gotten some experience. Still others, from what they write, are worried they will outgrow a 600's performance after just a few days. My gut feeling tells me many of these people are looking for just a single positive response to justify the purchase to themselves, rather than real advice. To me, entering motorcycling by buying a new literbike is like rushing out and buying a Gibson Les Paul to learn how to play guitar, going to St. Andrews for your first - ever round of golf or deciding to climb Mount Everest on a whim. It's just not something i would even consider.
Today's literbikes, as fast and powerful as they are, are docile enough to easily accommodate a new rider, and many people turn that fact around to infer that a new rider can cope with a literbike - which is definately not the case. Now more than ever, extreme care and restraint are needed when riding big bikes.
Every time we go for a ride in our local canyons, we see what are most likely the results of the new rider / big bike combination: a telltale rear - tire skid straight off the edge of the curve, indicating the rider came into the corner with too much speed, panicked and rode off the pavement with the rear brake locked on. I shudder every time we pass such a mark, hoping the rider didn't go too far off the road and only has a wrecked bike to worry about.
I realize that people looking to get into sportbikes are bombarded with the flash and glitter of the latest and biggest bikes, and face a definate lack of information as far as the smaller or used bikes are concerned. You can point the finger at manufactures and dealers for guiding new riders to literbikes rather than towards something more appropriate - there is more money to be made selling a new R1 or a GSX-R1000 than an R6 or a GSX-R600, and much more in new bikes than, say, five - year - old EX500's.
You could also cite how ridiculously easy it is to obtain a motorcycle license in most states. In California it's a simple matter of completing the written test and then riding around a few dots in a parking lot. License in hand, your free to ride any - sized bike you please. Tiered licensing, in which new riders are limited to smaller bikes for a number of years befor being allowed free reign, is one answer. That is a practical solution employed in many countries, but here in the U.S., with it's open spaces and freeways - it would certainly hinder the growth of our sport.
Rider education is another solution, and we are lucky to have the Motorcycle Safety Foundation ( www.msf-usa.org, 800-446-9227 ) and its training courses. New riders can take the basic RiderCourse in lieu of "riding the lollipop" to obtain their license, and i would urge everyone - license or not - to take the course if they haven't. I'm certain anyone who's taken an MSF course would see the danger in starting out on a big bike.
As we see on our message board, most beginner riders - once the experienced riders have pointed out the risks involved - gravitate to a 600. It's simply a matter of the riders who have been there befor using their voice of reason and guiding new riders in their buying decision. If this helps to reduce the number of those skid marks i see running off the road, Then this post will be well worth it.
by: Andrew Trevitt