5 things you must know before buying a motorcycle

January 29, 2015

Before you invest in a motorcycle, here are some specs you'll need to consider to help you cut through the marketing hype and find the right bike for your size, needs, experience and budget.

5 things you must know before buying a motorcycle

1. Engine Size

Many people think that a bike's style, such as cruiser, sport bike, or touring, describes the machine's power. In truth, motorcycles style isn't necessarily related to engine power. The real indicator is engine size, typically measured in cubic centimetres (CCs) of engine volume.

  • Starter bikes tend to hover around 250-300 CCs, while high-end, high-power motorcycles can exceed 800 CCs.
  • Generally, the bigger the engine, the more expensive the motorcycle.

2. Style

Although engine size is the clearest indicator of power, a bike's style isn't irrelevant. Below are the three main categories of road-legal motorcycles, each suited for various uses:

  • Cruisers are large, heavy bikes that aren't as finely tuned as other styles. They won't be as fast, but they will still have plenty of power for everyday use or weekend day-trips.
  • Sport Bikes like those produced by Japanese and Italian manufacturers, are smaller, lighter and very finely tuned to achieve maximum speed. Typically they're very fast but fall short on comfort and storage.
  • Touring motorcycles, which are available from many manufacturers, aren't designed for speed or power, but for long distance trips. Typically outfitted with storage compartments and more ergonomic seating, they're ultra comfy and great for travelling.

3. Seat Height

Seat height should be measured in centimetres and measures how high the motorcycle's seat is off the ground. For safety and control, both of your feet should be fully extended and flat on the ground when seated.

  • If the seat is too low, the bike may be difficult to steer, while a seat that's too high will be uncomfortable.

4. Weight

Although the machine's weight isn't very important for most car drivers, it's an essential stat for bikers.

  • Heavier motorcycles are more stable on the road, as the turbulence from passing vehicles is less likely to rattle a heavy bike.
  • A motorcycle that's too heavy is just as much of a problem, though. Riders should be able to comfortably right a toppled bike and the motorcycle should match the rider's muscle power.

5. Torque

This term gets thrown around a lot in motorcycle parlance, and it's good to know, but not essential. Put simply, torque is how well a bike will maintain its top speed when put under extra stress, like load weight and driving up hills.

  • If you travel over hilly terrain or plan to carry passenger and supplies, torque is important. It is typically measured in kg/m.

It's important to understand the terminology when you shop for a motorcycle. The above terms are a good start for newcomers and remain important reminders for long-time riders.

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