So there are a few things that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but which haven’t worked out because of money or space constraints — flying isn’t really in the budget now (and I’d hate to start and stop again, so I’m not going to start flying again until I’m sure I can commit for five years or more), and picking up a mid-70s sports car and restoring it is impractical without a garage.

On Friday, though, I realized that there was a third option that is affordable and accessible that I’ve always sort of had in the back of my mind but never really though about: a motorcycle! To my surprise Candice was not completely horrified by the suggestion, and while I’ve always joked that my (car-)driving style would get me killed on a bike, I don’t think that would be a problem when I’m vulnerable on a bike. I’ve also got a great commute along a parkway and country roads which would be a whole lot of fun on a bike (even without the speeds I go in the car).

So I found the folks who provide the local safety course and picked up the local Bike Trader to start looking for a starter bike. I figure I want a standard (not sportbike, not cruiser) bike somewhere around 400-500cc, because there’s nothing available in the 250cc range here, and this week’s Trader has (in Canadian dollars):

  • 1983 Honda CX500, 30k km, $1500
  • 1979 Kawasaki 400 LTD, 44k, $1500
  • 1983 Yamaha Virago 500, 24k, $1600
  • 1984 Honda CM450E, 31k, $1450
  • 1979 Suzuki GS425E, 9k (!), $1700
  • 1982 Yamaha Maxim 400, 86k, $1000
  • 1979 CX500, 28k, $1500

Thoughts from motorcycle folks on those bikes are very welcome. :-) I’m budgeting for a full-face helmet, jacket and gloves too (I figure jeans and Blunnies will be OK for below the waist for beginner speeds, and then I’ll look into pants and boots later).

Then again, I’m already a champion enduro rider, apparently…

7 responses to “Motorcycle?”

  1. My partner has a Virago 750. The Virago 500 will be fine for learning, but it will probably feel underpowered as you get used to riding; also, it’s much more of a cruiser than you might think.

    My first bike was a ’81 GS450E. They’re alright as long as you get one in good maintenance condition; mine was a POS but it ran (sort of). If you’re getting an older bike, contemplate what you’re going to do if it dies and you need to get rid of it.

    If you haven’t already, consider lurking on NEDoD (or another of its geographic-regional chapters), an online motorcycle club full of geeks. They’ll have useful skills commentary, albeit with lots of social noise on-list.

  2. As far as pants go, jeans will be fine. I only say this after seeing someone go down at 45 MPH and seeing the results. Denim holds up pretty well against road rash. I wear boring ol’ combat boots since they’re what I had around.

    Some of those prices strike me as a bit… steep? I’d recommend looking into the Kawasaki Ninja 250 and 500. The seating position is practically like a standard; it’s the same bike, really, as the 400 series. A Ninja 250 is going to run you a lot less than that ’79 (!) 400 LTD. My Ninja 500, which doesn’t have the fairings on it, looks like a standard other than the non-round headlight.

    All in all, Ninja 250s are just great beginner bikes, darned fun to ride, easy to maintain, reliable, and have superb handling for being an entry level bike. I got a 500 because the previous owner smashed it up (hence the missing fairings) and thus was charging less than I could find any 250s for at the itme.

    (I paid $400 US for my 1996 Ninja 500 with about 12k miles, which came in working condition, but with dents, dings, and no fairings.)

    Poke around eBay if you haven’t already done so. The prices and selection on eBay (looking at just listings in a 60 mile radius) on completed auctions vs. Cycle Trader are two totally different worlds. I have no idea why this is so. I recently bought a sportbike off of eBay and have nothing negative to report about the experience. If anything, completed auctions on eBay are an easy way to appraise prices where you live.

    Full-face helmet is good, if only to keep the cold out; then you don’t have to look silly wearing a scarf in 10 C weather. Eye protection is not optional, as you’ll learn once you’re behind, say, a truck full of gravel and forget to flip your visor down. I have a “textile” (i.e. not leather) jacket that ran my $250 US. It’s got all kinds of padding that would, I guess, be useful in a crash.

    If I were you, I’d hunt for a Honda Nighthawk 400 — I might have the model wrong; I’ll hunt for the URL tomorrow. It’s a beautiful bike and was unavailable in the US in the early 80s due to some stupid tariff, but they were marketed in Canada. I’d kill to get my hands on one right now! It’s pretty much the epitomy of a standard and should run you under $2,000 Canadian. (It also seems every rider has had a Nighthawk at some point in his or her past, along with wistful tales to tell of it.)

  3. You have your heart set on a motorcycle? Thought about a Vespa? The new models are well sweet – go for the higher powered one though, even as a beginner bike the lower model will feel like you need to push it!

  4. Yeah, definitely motorcycle. Scooter in full gear is a bit dorky for me, and there’s no way I’m riding without gear that passes the sander test — plus there’s the matter of having something suitable for the (highway or fast country road) commute to work.