Ride safe: Selecting the right motorcycle

May is motorcycle safety awareness month. Throughout the month, the Office of Safety and Environmental Health will provide motorcycle safety related information in an effort to increase awareness and lower mishap rates among Coast Guard riders.

Written by Dale Wisnieski

Motorcycles line a road leading up to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Galveston, Texas. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Metcalf.

Motorcycles line a road leading up to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Galveston, Texas. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Metcalf.

Many new motorcyclists enter the sport because of family or friends who ride. It is the same family and friends who often influence the type of motorcycle that is purchased. Many don’t buy a cruiser if they are going to be riding with sport bike riders and vice versa.

Motorcycles vary in size, shape, and capabilities. While there are many factors that influence a purchase decision, selecting one that exceeds your experience level could have serious consequences.

How do you know if you’re making the right choice?

When shopping for a motorcycle, take the time to research different bikes. First, ask yourself what type of riding will I be doing? The answer to this question will narrow down your search to a specific class of motorcycle such as a sport bike, cruiser, touring or dual sport.

Next, visit a motorcycle dealership. Whether looking for a new or used motorcycle, dealerships offer the opportunity to look at each class of motorcycle at one location.

Begin by sitting on the different motorcycles. Are your feet flat on the ground? Is the suspension adjustable? Can you reach the clutch and brake lever, and are they adjustable? Can you handle the weight of the motorcycle? What about body position, do you feel comfortable? The answer to these questions can narrow your search to a specific brand and model.

Engine size needs to be considered. Sport bikes vary from 600cc (cubic centimeters) to 1300cc depending on the brand and model. Cruisers and touring models usually start at 1200cc. How much power do you need? Are you planning on getting into racing? If not, do you really need a GSXR 1000 RR (Race Ready) just to ride around town or as a commuter? Race ready motorcycles may seem cool; however, the temptation to maximize the bikes capabilities has gotten some of our riders in trouble.

Does the motorcycle you’re considering match your skill level? Have you taken training? This is a serious consideration. Start out with a smaller motorcycle and look to upgrade as your skill level and riding interests grow.

Have you considered what insurance will cost? Call your insurance company and ask for quotes on the different models you’re considering. You may want to call several companies and compare quotes.

Finally, consider the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) you will need to buy. Dual sport riders tend to buy jackets, pants, boots and helmets that protect them both on-road and off. Sport bike riders tend to buy leathers that protect them while on a track. The cost of PPE varies and should be considered when making your purchase.

Finding and buying the right motorcycle takes time and should not be a rash decision. Many individuals buy motorcycles without taking the time to do the research and regret their initial purchase.

Like buying a car, purchasing a motorcycle is very exciting – do the research. Making the right choice leads to a better riding experience!

Ride Safe!

If you would like to get involved or need additional information on improving you unit’s motorcycle safety program, please contact Dale A. Wisnieski at 202-475-5206.