It always amazes me the amount of new riders who want to start off riding on a 1000lbs+ bagger. They’ll look at safety reports, depreciation charts, insurance costs, winter storage etc. But they never stop to properly address the elephant in the room.
Should a beginner get a big motorcycle? A heavy motorcycle is not a good idea for most new riders. They are harder to handle, more powerful and cost a lot more to fix if they are dropped. Something that new riders are much more likely to do. You’re better off starting on a smaller motorcycle and working your way up.
But there is a lot more to it, read on to learn all about it.
What is considered a heavy motorcycle?
This is all relative. What might be light to one person, might feel heavier than Thor’s hammer for someone else. One thing we all agree on is 500lbs is a lot of weight to try to move around and that’s not even on the heavy side for a motorcycle.
A typical cruiser will start around 700lbs and can go all the way up to 900lbs. That’s quite a bit more than a 300lbs to 500lbs sport bike.
Usually when people refer to heavy motorcycles, they are talking about large cruisers or baggers and touring motorcycles. These are the big boys so to say, tipping the scales at 1000lbs or more.
So while all motorcycles are heavy, I would say when you get above 700lbs you are in the heavy motorcycle category.
Are heavy motorcycles hard to ride?
For me I never really noticed much of a difference when I first started to ride a heavy motorcycle. Sure I was aware of the weight and the sheer size compared to my sport bike, but I had already been riding for a while, so I had a good set of skills. It was just a matter of getting used to the dimensions of the motorcycle.
For a new rider, they will be more difficult to ride. One thing is for sure, they are not forgiving when it comes to tipping. Once a 1000lbs bike starts to tip, good luck.
Let’s say you have a 400lbs sport bike and you are coming to a stop. As you put your foot down your boot hits some oil and it slips. While this sucks, it’s not that big of a deal, just quickly regain your footing and all is well.
On a 1000lb touring bike, this is not the case. When your foot slips and the bike starts to tip, unless you can squat 1000lbs and bench press a smart car, there is zero chance you will save it from tipping. The motorcycle is going to tip over, so better get clear.
When it comes to moving and riding, heavier motorcycles tend to feel more solid and sturdy on the road. You don’t notice the weight at all once you are moving, if anything the extra weight gives you a bit more confidence in the motorcycle. Making the ride feel a bit smoother.
However your stopping distance is going to be a bit longer than on a lightweight sport bike. So when you get your first heavy motorcycle, get out and practice some emergency stopping.
We’ve gone over the whole weight thing, but there is one more thing. Power, bigger motorcycles tend to be more powerful. This is something that you need to get used to if you are coming from a smaller motorcycle or maybe even just starting off as a new rider.
On a smaller motorcycle, when you crank the throttle the bike will move quick, but it won’t try to pull your arms off. But a larger, more powerful and torquey bike will do just that, making it easy to get in trouble if you are too generous with the throttle.
On a positive note, personally I found riding a heavy motorcycle was a bit more easy and less involved in traffic. I didn’t feel like I always had to change gears. I would get going, change to second gear and just cruise. Much easier.
Should a beginner get a big motorcycle?
This a tough one, I would say probably not. This is for a couple of reasons. The first being the cost. It’s a fact, bigger motorcycles cost more. There is no point in dropping a ton of money into something you might not even enjoy or have the time for.
I have a buddy that did this, before he even got his license he went out and bought a Harley, dropping a ton of cash. Problem is, the guy is busy all the time. So 3 years later, it’s still sitting in his garage.
He hasn’t even got his license yet. TBH, judging by his work schedule, I doubt that will change anytime soon. Now he has a ton of money sitting in a motorcycle that is depreciating in value and he hasn’t even taken it out on the road.
Not to mention what happens to a motorcycle that sits for years at a time. Engine gaskets dry out, oil and fuel gets gummed up, tires get flat spots.
Then you also have the whole cost of repairing a dropped or damaged motorcycle. Sure riders of all experience can drop a motorcycle, but the chances are much greater amongst newer riders.
This means if you have a freshly leased $25k bagger, you are always going to be worried about dropping the thing. (Rightly so, it’s probably your dream bike.) But do you really need the extra stress?
Think of this, do you really want to drop your dream bike and mess it up, costing you thousands of dollars to fix? Or do you want a smaller cheaper bike you can drop a couple of times when learning and not think twice about? Just pick up the bike, check it still works and off you go. Then in a year’s time, sell it off and get a better motorcycle.
You need to be free from the fear of damaging your bike when you are learning. You should only be focused on one thing, getting better at riding. A $25k bagger is not the right bike for this.
Then there is the weight issue. For an experienced rider this isn’t that big of a deal, motorcycle skills are universal. If you know how to properly handle one bike slowly, you can handle any bike slowly.
The problem is, as a new rider you don’t have these skills and confidence yet. Building this takes time and practice. A heavy motorcycle will make it much more difficult to do this.
When you are learning to ride a motorcycle and working on your slow riding skills, a lighter motorcycle will be much more forgiving of mistakes. Do you want a 1000lbs touring bike falling on your leg because you tipped it while trying to do a u-turn from a full stop? Nope, it’s not going to feel nice and is not going to do anything for your confidence as a new rider either.
Not only that, there’s the whole power and torque issue. Bigger motorcycles tend to have bigger and more powerful engines. This is perfect for an experienced rider who knows how to use this torque and get the most out of the engine. But as a new rider, you don’t, so it’s not the best.
That’s not to say that if you start off on a big motorcycle you are doomed, there are plenty of riders who do just that. I know a few that started off like that, with a big heavy bagger. They all did fine, but if you ask them they will say they wished they had started on a smaller motorcycle. It would have been easier.
If you are worried about looking like a dork riding a smaller motorcycle. Don’t be, we have all been there. Riding a beat up old motorcycle, mismatched gear on, with a goofy look on our face as we struggle desperately not to stall during take off.
There is no shame in getting a smaller motorcycle and working your way up. I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that 90% of motorcycle riders started off just this way. Nobody is looking down on you, if anything it will probably make most fellow riders smile and remember when they were just starting out. I know it does for me.
Should I try to stop a motorcycle that is falling?
The short and safest answer is no, but there is a bit more to it than that.
While it’s usually the safest to just get clear and let it tip, that isn’t necessarily true if you are moving. When you add movement to the mix, you increase the chances of an injury simply from falling. On top of that, there is usually a good chance you can still save it from tipping over, so its best to try your best to avoid a crash or tipping the bike over.
If you are stopped, or close to stopping. You no longer have to worry about injuries as much from falling off a moving motorcycle. The only thing you really need to worry about is the motorcycle causing injury to you if it falls on you.
Motorcycles are heavy, as mentioned above even the lightest motorcycle will weigh in around 500lbs, heavier bikes tipping the scales at 1000lbs or more. That’s literally a ton of weight.
Much more than your puny human bones can handle, regardless of how much milk you drink. It only takes around 160lbs of pressure to snap a leg bone, 25lbs for smaller bones.
You can see where I’m going with this. If you drop your bike you can usually ride away or at the very least walk away. If you break a leg, you are not walking away or riding away.
If you start to feel your bike tipping, you’re probably better off to get clear and let it tip and learn from your mistake.
When it comes to whether or not you should get a big motorcycle as a beginner, to me the answer is pretty straightforward… nope. It’s better to start off on a motorcycle you can easily handle as a new rider.
But what is heavy for me might not be heavy to you. Body size and strength do play a role. So you need to decide, what is best for me as a rider with my current skill level?
If that means hopping on a 125 motorcycle or a 250 ninja for a season, then do it, but be honest with yourself. The last thing you want is to get a motorcycle and then be terrified of it.
I hope you enjoyed this article, until next time happy riding!