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new car buying guide

Finding the right style of motorcycle is crucial when getting into riding.Andrey Armyagov/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

If this is your year to buy a new motorcycle, congratulations. Get it right, and you’ll have an enjoyable, satisfying season of riding. Get it wrong, though, and your new bike will just create frustration and resentment. So here’s how to get it right.

Choose the right style

If you’ve already owned or even just ridden a motorcycle, you probably know what style you want, but if you’re new to them, the choice can be bewildering. There are cruisers, sport bikes, dual-sport bikes, adventure bikes, touring bikes, dirt bikes, standard bikes, classic bikes, scooters and more, each with their own sub-classes.

The style of motorcycle is a reflection of you. If you’re laid back, you’ll probably prefer a cruiser, but they’re often not as comfortable as they look, especially if the foot pegs are placed in front of the engine for a more-stretched look.

Some of the most popular bikes now are the adventure and dual-sport machines, which have comfortable seating positions and long suspensions that soak up bumps in the road; their wide handlebars and low-end torque make them more responsive for city riding and gravel roads alike. They’re the SUVs of the motorcycle world, but they can be tall, even with adjustable seats. Before you commit to any bike, sit on it in a showroom and make sure at least one booted foot can rest flat on the ground, or at least the toes of both feet.

If you’re considering a dirt bike that’s either illegal or impractical to ride on the road, remember that you’ll need a suitable pickup truck, or a trailer with a vehicle that can tow it, to take it to the dirt and carry your gear for the day.

If you’re new to riding, it’s important to take a training course to learn how to ride properly and safely. Professional instructors will be happy to recommend the motorcycle that’s best for you. Look online or at your local dealership for a course that’s certified by the Canada Safety Council or recognized by your provincial Ministry of Transportation.

Motorcycle shops do not usually allow prospective buyers to take their bikes out for test rides; it can be far too risky for the store if the salesperson can’t come along in the back seat. However, some manufacturers offer test days where you can take a group ride on a designated open-road course with a variety of their motorcycles. Look for these online or at your local dealership, and be prepared to sign up early to get your first choices.

Power down

A powerful bike might look impressive to others, but it will be intimidating to a new rider and harder to manage; if you lose control, you won’t look very impressive to anyone. But not enough power will be frustrating when your motorcycle struggles to do the things you want from it or just can’t maintain speed into a strong wind. If you’re a novice, ask for advice from other riders and err on the side of less power, not more, until you’re comfortable. Many new riders buy a smaller bike for their first season, then trade up the following season once they’ve gained experience.

Ensure a proper fit

Just like shopping for clothes, your new motorcycle must fit you correctly. Be sure to sit on different models in a showroom to find those that are not too tall or too heavy for you to control safely. A bike that’s too small or too light will also be uncomfortable.

Check your insurance

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few models, get insurance quotes. This is essential before you commit; sometimes, the insurance can cost more than the bike itself. In Quebec, some motorcycles are almost uninsurable. This is not just true for powerful sport bikes but for all kinds of machines. Insurance providers make their own rules, and sometimes a bike from one manufacturer will cost considerably more than a similar model from another maker. If the insurance is too expensive, shop around, but you’ll probably have to downgrade the power or the trim level. Don’t be tempted to reduce the recommended coverage.

Keep it simple

If you’re new to riding, then consider a simpler motorcycle without too many distracting accessories and options, and choose the naked version over the plastic-clad version. Chances are that you’ll drop your new bike at some point as you grow used to it – perhaps in a gravel parking lot or when you fail to put the side stand down properly – and cracked plastic can be very expensive to repair. Many new riders buy a used bike as their first machine to minimize the investment and the cost of potential repairs after any mishaps.

Invest in good gear

After the cost of the bike and the insurance premiums, the other major expense is the gear you’ll need. If you’re new to riding or switching your style of bike, then you’ll probably need to budget for appropriate riding gear. Helmets are mandatory everywhere in Canada, and it’s foolish to buy a cheap one. Expect to pay at least $200 for a new helmet, and don’t buy one without trying it on first for size. Generally, you should budget a minimum of $500 for a new helmet, jacket, boots and gloves, and be prepared to pay double that or more for better quality.

Choose your dealership

These days, many motorcycle manufacturers consider dealerships to be “riding destinations.” Even Toronto has very few stores where you can buy a bike, and owners must be prepared to travel out into the suburbs to buy and maintain their machines. If you have your heart set on a particular maker, consider how far away your nearest dealership is from your home before you commit. You’ll want to develop a relationship with that dealer if you’re serious about your bike.