Why new riders shouldn't get "needs some work" bikes

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What have you been dreaming about since you were 10?

Working on a motorcycle


Riding a motorcycle?

Assuming that you want to ride a bike and not learn how to be a mechanic, your first bike should be a running motorcycle that has been ridden and maintained regularly. Condition is more important than mileage. In fact, lack of mileage often means it's been sitting, which usually causes unexpected problems. And your average Ninja 250 can do a lot of miles in its life.

The problem with a 'needs work' motorcycle as a first ride is that it's easy to get discouraged trying to get the thing to run. This often leads to a loss of interest in riding, or thinking "Oh, motorcycles need too much work", or selling the project for a loss and buying something that runs and can be ridden right away.

It costs more (up front) to buy a running bike, but we've seen it over and over: Newbies who buy projects always complain about the expense and lack of reliability. Your smoking great deal won't be that wonderful if you keep running into problems you don't know anything about and you can't trust it to get you anywhere if you do ride it. And if you're going to pay someone else to do any of the work, the deal only becomes worse.

You should still learn how to do your own maintenance. Any bike owner should. But there's a difference between being able to do some work as it comes due and HAVING to do the work before you can ride the bike. Being forced to learn mechanics before getting to enjoy any riding is too depressing for most new people to deal with. Plus, you have no foundation of knowledge upon which to make a judgement of what's a quick/easy/simple job and what's going to cost several hundred dollars, need specialty tools, and push you way out of your comfort zone. Starting with a bike in good running condition provides a baseline for evaluating changes in the bike's performance. You'll know when something doesn't sound right or operate normally.

As with most things, you shouldn't just look at the purchase price. Although your first bike will likely be the most expensive single item you purchase, a motorcycle is just a part of your total financial investment in motorcycling. It is not unusual to spend as much or more money on safety gear, tools, gas, luggage, insurance, and tires in your first year of riding as you do on your bike. Spending a few hundred dollars more on a bike that is well-maintained might seem like a lot of money, but it's a relatively small amount compared to the total cost of being a safe and responsible rider.

Before this club took on the "no projects for newbies" stance and actively tried to discourage them, there were lots of frustrated new riders trying to fix up "cheap" bikes. Only a very small number of them ever managed to get them on the road and running right. You'll have a lot better time if you start with a motorcycle that works the way it should.