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Choosing my first bike.

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by abh, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. I am looking for a first bike, it's quite confusing sorting through the plethora of options, so I thought I'd throw my thoughts out there and see what people think.

    My Background: I am 178cm (+- 5’8”) and 85kg. I have limited experience tearing around a farm on a small dirt bike. I want to buy a bike for commuting/a bit of fun. I also want to keep the bike beyond my L’s, and so am willing to invest a bit more $ into it if need be. I’d like to buy second hand, nearly new (< 3years old, <7000km). The bike must conform to LAMS.

    Because I’m not going to buy for another 6 months or so, I have plenty of time to research and have a number of bikes on my shortlist. The next step of course will be to go into the dealers and have a look, and sit on the bikes and so on.

    Disclaimer: My opinion is based solely on my own research, i.e. reading reviews and forums, I have not sat on or ridden any of these bikes. If you think you know better than me, you probably do. Also, as far as looks go, they're relative, and are of course based purely on my own opinion and taste.

    I’ll start with bikes that I have ruled out.

    Bikes that didn't make the grade

    Hyosung GT250R. A great looking bike, I like the fact that it has EFI, but I’ve read too many posts about dodgy quality. This bike has been struck from my list.

    Honda CBR250RR. Nice looking bike, but I don’t need or want a pocket rocket.

    And now for the bikes that I am considering. I think all of them are good bikes, but it’s just so hard to choose. I'm not so interested in bigger bikes that had reprogrammed ECUs for LAMS (eg Ninja 650 RL ABS) as they’re expensive, and what’s the point of a bigger engine that you can’t use? However I could be talked around.

    The Shortlist

    Suzuki DRZ-400SM. This bike is the odd ball on this list. I like that it’s super light at 146kg, very manoeuvrable and highly versatile. From what I’ve read, this bike is about the most fun on two wheels. However, I’m concerned that at my height of 178cm, the 890mm seat height may be a bit high. Also, I’m not sure how the bike would go on the highway, the single cylinder may be a bit buzzy, and the dirt oriented seat a bit uncomfortable. Also, this bike is ugly.

    Honda CB400. I really like this bike, with its 4 cylinder, EFI, VTec variable valve timing etc. If this was cheaper it would be number one on this list.

    Suzuki GS500F. This seems to be a good, reliable bike, good for freeway riding, and commuting, and cheap to maintain. Not the sportiest bike around, but a solid performer. The looks are unconvincing; I don’t like the front headlight, I think the Kawasaki Ninja 250R is much better looking.

    Ninja 250R. This seems like a really great bike, and for quite a while this was on top of my list, I like it for its solid reliability & build quality, great looks, full fairing, price, 6 speed transmission.

    Honda VTR250. This is a great looking bike, and from all reviews, is reliable, efficient, handles well, cheap to maintain and importantly, is easy to ride. This bike seems to be the best all rounder.

    Have I missed any other obvious choices?
  2. not considering the cbf 250, very forgiving for a learner and not to bad looking
  3. cbf's are pretty rubbish.

    Have you thought about any of the restricted bikes? sv650 etc?
    Personally I would also look at a spada, mechanically very similar to the vtr250 and typically a bit cheaper and very nice to ride.
  4. The problem with a VTR is they only have 5 speeds but virtually every other bike has 6 speeds.. It becomes a fair problem on the freeway if you don't do the ridiculous 80/90 license limits. I ride a 250 (Hornet) with 6 gears and it sits at ~10,000rpm at 110 so I don't know how well a VTR would do with only 5 (keep in mind it's has a much lower redline than my bike though). The vibration would drive me insane on a vtwin at that RPM too (I'm not sure how it is on the VTR but many twins have pretty severe vibes at higher speeds). If you don't do much freeway riding they are excellent bikes however and highly recommend them.

    A friend of mine had a GS500f and I got to ride it a bit. I didn't like it too much - it sort of seemed like the Toyota Camry of bikes ie reliable and cheap but it just didn't have the 'fun' that my Hornet did and the main reason I bought the bike was for fun since I don't commute on it. That said it was still a nice ride and I rate the suspension of it over the Hornet.

    The Ninja 250r is a good bike, they've sold volumes of them for a reason. The only issue is you'd want to have comprehensive insurance (add another $2k and have another $1k lying around for your excess) as if you come off at a fairly decent speed which is not unlikely during your restricted period you are going to do some fairly expensive damage. I'm not sure if you could street fighter one either as I think you need parts of the fairings for a pink slip (this may just be internet mythology though). This is why I'd recommend a naked like the Hornet/Suzuki GSF250 Bandit, SV650, VTR250, Cb400, GS500 instead of a fully faired bike.

    If you don't want a CBR because it's a 'pocket rocket' I think a DRZ400SM will be way too much to handle. They are much quicker.

    Have a look at some Honda Hornets? Only problem is they are quite old + tyre prices are a bit much for a 250. As Liley said SV650's are quite nice bikes too, it's probably the pick of all the restricted LAM's bikes. Agreed with the CBF250. It's nice to ride as your very first bike (as in during the pre-learners) but I'd say you will tire of the 22hp quickly. There's no way you'd want to keep it after LAM's is up.

    Other than that your choices are pretty good!
  5. +1 with Toadcat's comments.
    From the short list I'd still choose the GS500F over the Hornet. Yes I ride a GS500F so I am a little prejudiced ..but in my time on two wheels I have owned 2 vespa scooters,a GSX250, GSX650G, GSX1100S, CBX250, XJ900, VT250, XS650,GT250..The GS is a great,honest and willing all rounder.
    The Hornet has more get up and go and I'd describe her as a fun bike to ride..as much fun as a barrel of monkeys..but at a price..she revs higher and with the Vtec system (making all that get up and go) she is more expensive to service..oh and more expensive to purchase over the GS.
    With the LAMS bikes why would you limit yourself to a 250?
    After 6 months on a 250 I'd bet one of my redundant body parts that you'll be looking for a bigger bike.A bigger bike holds the road better and has the advantage of more power..less revs for the same speed as a hard working 250=less wear and tear.
    I agree with the other suggestion of adding an SV650 into the mix for consideration,grunty,punty and handles like a cat on carpet.
    Keep in mind the pedigree of the bikes you have short listed..the GS has been around for the best part of 20 years with no major engineering changes to the donk..that speaks volumes for the design integrity and longevity.
  6. Looks like a good list, and it looks like you've done a fair amount of research.

    Only recommendation I have is that if you can buy a bike that will last you after your restrictions, and you won't feel "forced" to upgrade, it might be better.

    Right now I think the best deal in that regard is the Ninja 650RL. Better than a GS500F, at least as good as a GSX650FU, and the restriction is easily removed when you are ready. Only issue is that there are not many second hand ones out there yet.
  7. Have to recommend the GS500 too.

    Many have been happy keeping this bike beyond their L's and is a great commuter.

    Admittedly it doesn't look as good as some of the others mentioned but I tend to think everyone falls in love with their first road bike regardless of how ugly it may in fact be.

    Best of luck with your hunt.
  8. Hi abh and welcome on board. Seems like you have done a fair bit of research and have a good shortlist.

    This is based on my recommendations as I was exactly in your position less than a year ago.

    Suzuki DRZ-400SM. At your height I agree that the seat may be a bit too high as I am 10 cm taller and even I found the seat a bit on the tall side. Being a single cylinder it isn't suited to tackle long freeway/hiway journeys but shouldn't have problems doing the odd hour 100km/h freeway trip.

    Honda CB400. You said it, it is pricey and you get what you pay for which is a tried and tested product and technology in abundance. Highly recommended if you can afford it.

    Suzuki GS500F. Looks aren't as convincing as the cb400 but again a tried, tested and very reliable bike. Just like the cb400 a good allrounder though I prefer the naked version. Good price and recommended.

    Ninja 250R. Australia's biggest selling learner bike and for a good reason. Good power, looks nice and forgiving ride. If you like the looks go for it as it will make you a happy camper but you will probably outgrow this and below bike sooner than you would the gs and cb. Due to having full fairings insurance will cost high and some learners drop their bikes so repairs can be costly in comparison to nakeds. Recommended.

    Honda VTR250. Nice vtwin bike and priced well too. If it floats your boat and you like the looks go for it and is another good learner bike. Also recommended.

    Don't forget to budget a few grand for some decent gear and you're on your way.

    Good luck and have fun with your choices and keep us posted.
  9. If you seriously want to keep the bike after your L's and P's then I'd suggest you get either the CB400 or GS500. You're likely to get bored with a 250 fairly quickly.

    The 400sm (or any other super motard) will be lots of fun but won't be all the comfortable for touring.

    Other bikes to consider are the ER6L, FZ6L, SV650 (lams version). There's also a bit of exotica like the Ducati M620Lite.

    Even though they aren't my thing, don't totally dismiss the LAMS cruisers. I can't quite work out why, but some people love them.

    When the time comes to buy the bike, try and take them for a test ride first. I know that some dealers aren't keen for a learner to test ride their bikes, but if they really want the sale they'll let you. Also, take someone along with you who knows what they are talking about. This is useful to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, but it also helps to stop you from being overwhelmed by the experience and being 'forced' in to buying something that you don't really want.

    There is another train of thought that says that you should buy a cheap piece of crap first, then after a few months on your P's buy a better bike.
  10. Also another thing - you can do all the 'calculations' of which bike is the best to buy but may come out with something completely different. I think buying a bike is much different to buying a car. When you buy a bike you buy one YOU love. Sometimes they're not the best (why people ride ZX10r's -hehehe) but YOU personally love them. Just test ride heaps of them. Buy the one which brings the biggest smile to your face.
  11. No one ever mentions the SFV650 Gladius.

    Would be a bike that you could keep for years, with enough power to keep you satisfied after your L's.

    Another one you may want to consider....
  12. that's because its fugly..if you want a LAMS 650 look at the SV or the GSX650F
  13. If you're looking at the DR-Z400, also consider the DR650. Does everything, costs nothing and, with the suspension set to low, should be OK for your height. You can get aftermarket lowering links as well, which give you a bit more.

    Along similar lines, is the V-Strom LAMS legal? It's another bike that owners rave about.

    Failing those, though, the GS500 is very hard to beat in terms of bang for your buck as an all-rounder, with no serious known vices in spite of having been around for ever.
  14. VTR 250 = Win


    Well its an option anyway...Pretty fun and reliable, good resale value, if your into it its an idea.
    The bigger bikes have their own attractions too
  15. There's no reason a motorcycle equipped with a six speed transmission would have a higher top speed, or more relaxed cruising, than if the same engine was coupled with a five speed transmission.
  16. I dont own a gladius but would consider geting i reckon there prety sweet lookin
  17. drz400sm gets my vote hands down.

    you get proper brakes, proper suspension and real handling unlike most of the LAMS bikes you listed.

    seat height shouldnt be an issue for you, they arent that tall.
  18. It works out as about 160kW/ton, doesn't it? And the power:weight ratio needs to be under 150kW/ton for it to be in the LAMS, right?

    It certainly isn't on the current Victorian list.
  19. I've just had a look at the gear ratios for 5th and 6th for each bike - they are actually the same quite strangely. I know my car runs a bit high RPM on the highway and it could really use a 6th gear, so I was just thinking it might apply to a bike too, especially a 250 without the insanely long 1st gears that many litre bikes have. That said - 6 speeds is still better - the closer ratios make the bike accelerate much quicker than the more spaced out ratios in the 5 speed.
  20. I can't comment about other small bikes, but the VTR is a brilliant little bike, will happily do 110 all day at 8'000rpm and it will give you no impression that it is straining in the slightest. I never felt the vibration to be much of an issue, but I've little experience of 4 cylinder bikes, so maybe I'm missing something.

    They've heaps of torque for a 250, and this makes them both easy to ride as well as having a little bit up its sleeve to make you smile. I only ever began to feel its was underpowered for what I was doing when I had someone on the back. It coped, but this was the only time I really felt it was working and would consciously leave changing gear til a little later. I'm 5'10 and 70kg, so not too much smaller than you, and reckon that, if you've not used to riding bigger bikes, you wont feel like your missing anything until you do.

    One of the things I used to love about mine was the speed/gear/revs would work out as:
    60 kmh in 3rd at 6'000rpm (indicated; my tacho under read by only 2 or 3%)
    70 kmh in 3rd at 7'000rpm
    80 kmh in 4th at 6'000rpm
    90kmh in 5th at 6'000rpm
    100kmh in 5th at 7'000rpm
    110kmh in 5th at 8'000rpm
    (This was with the stock exhaust, btw, and I don't know what swapping it would do to these figures.)

    The other bikes I've ridden haven't had this nice symmetry to the numbers, and I found that, after a while, I'd tend to stop looking at the dials and will just be listening for the engine notes. Around the city, 6000 in 3rd or 4th will be your friend. I wouldn't trade my current bike for the world, but I do miss this about the VTR. It'll happy pull from 3 or 3500 rpm and has a nice pick up in power as you head through 6500-7000 (from memory it red lines at 11'500). In traffic you'll be happy running the bike between roughly 4000 and 6500.

    The only thing I've heard people complain about is the position of the mirrors, but for me, I thought they were pretty well placed, so this might have something to do with the size of the rider rather than the bike itself. My only thought is that seat hight might feel a little low for you.

    What people have said about them holding their value is also true. I got mine prior to LAMS coming in, and thought I'd loose a bit when all the new riders overlooked the 250s for the 400s and 650s, but still ended up selling it for only $700 less (plus a new rear tire) than I paid for it, and that's after putting 14'000 clicks on the dial. Just make sure to shop around if you do decide to go for the VTR (or any bike really). If you're willing to take your time and travel a few extra k's to see those bikes other people can't be stuffed getting out to, you should do well.