Choosing Your First ‘Big’ Motorbike

There are so many things to consider, beyond price, when choosing your first ‘big’ motorbike after passing your test, and I thought the easiest way to do this was to write this from my personal point of view as a female rider.  If there are other ladies out there facing the same dilemma then maybe, just maybe, reading about the things I had to consider may help you in your choice of motorcycle.

I will try and briefly list the points I had to consider when choosing my bike.  Things like the physical size of the bike, its engine size, and the fact I had a restricted license so had to consider how a restrictor kit would affect my choice of bike.  What the seat height was, how wide it was and how much of my feet would be on the ground when at a standstill.  Where the centre of gravity of the bike was and how balanced I would feel on it.  And lastly what type of bike to buy and how old a machine I would get.

The Seat Height
The first thing I considered was the seat height of the bike.  I’m 5 foot 3 inches tall with an inside leg measurement, wearing my bike boots, of 32 inches (odd proportions as over half my height is legs!) and I’m about the 8 stone mark so I’m not exactly well built!  The physical size of the bike was as far as I was concerned rather an important issue. 

I had learned on a cruiser style 125cc and after riding that and being so low to the ground I was convinced, when choosing my next bike, that I would be happier being able to get all of both feet on the ground.  So I was looking out for a bike which wasn’t too tall. 

Being able to get all of both feet on the ground isn’t necessary.  Some people aren’t bothered by it, while others are.  I just found it made me feel that little bit more confident, especially when moving the bike around with the engine switched off, for example getting it in or out of the garage.

Don’t forget you can lower a bike if your heart is set on it.  Check out my posts on Ride Height Adjuster Kits to see what your options are in that respect.

The Width of the bike
The width of the seat and bike can be an issue as well.  If the bike is wide then obviously your legs will be further apart when sitting on it.  Sorry ladies but it is true!  You may find that sitting on a wide bike will have you on tiptoes where as a narrow bike of similar height will enable you to flat foot.

The Weight Of The Bike
This was rather important to me as well, being small and slim.  I didn’t want to have a bike I would need help moving around, it would be very annoying (and possibly a tad embarrassing!) if I needed help moving it round all the time!  Once you are used to riding a larger bike the weight will become less of an issue, as it has with me.  

The Centre Of Gravity
How low or high the bikes centre of gravity is may be an issue.  With a lower centre of gravity the bike may feel more stable for you.  Where as one with a high centre of gravity can feel top heavy.  When I first sat on the GSX-R750 I realised how high its centre of gravity was and was afraid if I leant it over the weight might catch me by surprise and I would drop it, and that wouldn’t be a good thing to do! 

Yes, more considerations! This bike-buying lark is a minefield! 😉

The Engine Size
As I have previously mentioned on this blog I passed the UK restricted motorbike test on a 125cc bike.  This basically means that I am restricted for two years from the date of my test as to what output any motorcycle I ride can have.  Any bike I buy must have a power output of less than 33bhp, or be restricted to that by other means. 

So when looking for a bike I checked the list of ones with power less than 33bhp and decided I didn’t want any of them!  So the next step was to check which bikes could have a restrictor kit fitted so they were under the 33bhp.  I soon found that there are loads of bikes which can be restricted! 

So there were plenty I could choose from, but when you consider my previous points the field was narrowed down again.  I had to choose a bike that would take the restriction happily, after all what’s the point of buying a small, light, narrow 1000cc bike and then restricting it? None as far as I could see! So a bike with a 400cc-600cc engine seemed the way to go, the choice of which model depended on all the rest of the issues I have already mentioned. 

New Or Older Bike
As much as I would have loved to ride out of a dealer on a brand new bike I decided that this was really something I didn’t want to do.  My first big bike was going to be the one I carried on learning on, the learning curve just doesn’t stop once you have passed your test!

Chances are you will at some point drop your bike, and which would you swear about more.  The brand new bike you have just bought or the 15-year-old one which already has a few dings?  I would really swear at both but, in all honesty, if it was a new bike the swearing would be more profane and a whole lot louder!

Me? I went for the older bike..

Lastly.. 😀

What Type Of Bike
Cruiser, Tourer, Dual-Sport, Commuter, Sports?

This seriously comes down to personal choice.  I personally love the sports bikes (and the old Z650’s) but my new baby had to be a sports bike.  The best advice I can give is to go to as many bike dealers as possible, see what sorts of bikes ‘float your boat’ and make sure you sit on as many as possible until you find the one which feels just right. 

Following advice from my nearest and dearest I settled on the Honda CBR400RR.  Easy to restrict to 33bhp, small enough that I can reach the ground very easily, light enough that I can move her around and a low center of gravity which means she corners like she is on rails.

Am I happy with her, and my choice, after almost a year?

🙂 You bet I am! 🙂  

You may also want to take a look at these posts which contain more advice and tips.

Bikes Girls Can Ride

Girls And Modern Sports Bikes

Daytona Ladystar (M-Star) Boots – Help For The Vertically Challenged Motorcyclist!

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3 Responses to Choosing Your First ‘Big’ Motorbike

  1. Owlet says:

    Thank you for write up on choosing your first “big” bike. Like you, I am 40 something, passed my test this week, am apparently having a mid-life crisis(my 18 year old daughter’s opinion)and now looking for my first big bike, restricted of course (u-turns are the bane of my life. I have found your article very interesting as at 5’4″ and 9st the choice is quite limiting, therefore I felt I should let you know how helpful this has been. Weight of the bike was an issue for me, but the centre of gravity never entered my head and it really makes sense to make sure it is fairly low for extra stability. Thank you once again.

  2. Raven says:

    Don’t worry about U-turns anymore.. Chances are you will never have to do another one again! I certainly haven’t since passing my test!

    I will turn anywhere I can if it means not having to do a u-turn 🙂

  3. gypsylady says:

    IMPO most people seem to approach buying first bike as if it will the “last” bike they will own. Which in many cases it might be. For new lady riders my suggestion is to think first of the learning curve. :)Keep in mind you will be able to upgrade at later date. Start small once you have the basic then you will find a whole range of mtorcycles to determine which FITS you best. The learning curve is different for each person as style of bikes but to be a safe rider I would tend to be more conservative.

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