Riding a Motorcycle You Don’t Own

Insuring a Motorcycle You Do Not OwnA lot of newbie riders learn to ride on a friend or relative’s motorcycle.  That way you can learn whether or not riding is for you before going out and investing a ton of money in a bike.  And even if you can insure a bike without a license, you typically can’t register one.  And you can’t get a license without knowing how to ride.

Of course, this scenario asks for a lot of trust from the friend or relative who is loaning you his/her bike.  After all, beginners are quite likely to drop a bike at least a couple of times.  Plus there are collisions and other issues to think about.  For this reason, if you are going to be borrowing somebody else’s bike for any extended period of time, you might want to think about insuring a motorcycle that isn’t yours with a non-owner’s insurance policy.  This type of policy typically costs only half as much as a normal one, and it typically only covers liability.  Still, it could be a very good idea.  To find out how much such a policy will run you, you can, of course, get some motorcycle insurance quotes.

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Best Beginner Dual Sport Motorcycles

Kawasaki KLX250

Kawasaki KLX250 Dual Sport

A dual sport motorcycle is, by definition, a bike which can perform both on- and off-road. Typically, a dual-sport is based closely off of a dirt bike which is designed foremost for trail and off-road endurance riding, but which has been modified with the necessary headlights, turn signals, metal gas tanks, smog-reducing equipment, and other miscellaneous items needed to make the machine street-legal. This dual combination of tarmac and dirt utility is, obviously, the basis for the term “dual-sport.”

Dual-sports offer several advantages for beginners:

  • Low Cost of Entry:  these bikes are typically significantly more affordable than most streetbikes. You can also find pre-owned models at very low prices. Sometimes you can find these motorcycles for $1000 or less.
  • Moderate Power Delivery:  nearly all dual-sports come with single cylinder engines, usually air-cooled, which provide a consistent torque and power range that is comfortable for beginners.
  • Broad Range of Uses:  obviously, these bikes allow you to ride on a varied range of terrain, from urban commuting to fireroad exploring to off-road hare scrambles.
  • Solid Reliability:  these bikes are built to be dropped, bumped, and otherwise abused. They are built to be hard to break, easy to fix, and low on maintenance. The military has, for instance, used Kawasaki KL250 dual-sports for use in the field.
  • Low Insurance Cost:  You will not have to take out a high risk motorcycle insurance policy on a dual-sport. These machines are some of the cheapest bikes to insure.

The primary disadvantage of dual-sports for beginner riders is the seat height. Even if a novice rider is tall, he or she may be more comfortable on a bike which is easily manageable. Many dual-sports, especially the 650cc models such as…

  • Honda XR650
  • Kawasaki KLR650

Have seat heights of 35.0 to 37.0 inches. That is quite tall. Even the 398cc Suzuki DR-Z400S has a seat that is 36.8″ tall. Think of these heights in relation to your inseam. Pretty tall, eh? Most riders will not be able to touch both feet when sitting in the saddle. For the beginner, this is not a very manageable position in which to find yourself.

Dual-sports in the 250cc range tend to have lower seats. Not all of these are still in production, but you can find great deals on used models. Here are the top 200-250cc dual-sports:

  • Honda XR250L
  • Kawasaki KLR250
  • Kawasaki KLX250
  • Suzuki DR200SE
  • Kawasaki Super Sherpa
  • Pitster Pro LXT 250
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Hyosung 250 Bikes for Novice Riders

The 250cc class of bikes is a favorite recommendation for beginner riders. For many years, there was little competition at this level to the Kawasaki Ninja 250, at least in terms of dedicated streetbikes. There was the Honda XR250L, the Kawasaki KLR250, and some other 250cc dual-sports, but for the average rider who wanted a seat-height that allowed them to touch both feet to the ground flat-footed, the Ninja was about the only option.

Hyosung 250R

Now Korean manufacturer Hyosung has brought out two new alternatives, the Hyosung GT250 and GT250R. The non-R version is a naked bike that retails at only $3499 new. Seat height is only 30.0 inches – about as low as you can hope for from a full-size streetbike these days. Dry weight is 330 pounds, and that featherweight is propelled by a 27 horsepower 249cc V-twin mated to a five-speed transmission.

The GT250R is pretty much the same bike only with trick full-fairings. They add an extra 47 lbs to the bike’s dry weight, but there are four color schemes available, and the bike just looks sexy. Price is $300 more than its “naked” sibling. Both Hyosung 250s have inverted forks and dual disc brakes.  The 250cc displacement is good enough for some solid pep, but small enough to keep your motorcycle insurance company happy — no exorbitant premiums.

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Buying a Used Ninja 650R

One of the bikes that’s often recommended for novice riders in the Kawasaki Ninja 250R or 650R.  The Ninja 650R frame houses a parallel-twin engine that spits out a respectable 62 hp and can propel the bike down the 1/4 mile dragstrip in 12 seconds flat.  However, that same twin, being parallel, is shorter than a v-twin, and the bike is narrower than a big inline four such as the ZX-6.  This makes the bike easier to handle for smaller riders, and the comfortable, more upright riding position is better for everyday commuting and touring stints.

Many riders opt to purchase a Ninja 650R used.  The prices are great:

  • 2006 model:  $3645
  • 2008 model:  $4420

But there are few things to keep a look out for when inspecting used specimens.  Some 2006 models have misaligned engine models that are prone to cracking, so check for this.  Also check for coolant leaks around the lower fairing, or evidence of previous ones.  A weak seal often allows oil to collect at the junction of the crankcase and airbox.

Here’s a video of a guy who has now ridden his 650R over 40,000 miles!

Visit here for more information on the best motorcycles for beginners, and stay tuned for more bike reviews.

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The Best Beginner Motorcycles for Novice Riders

When first starting out in the world of motorcycles, there are many styles to choose from. However, you must decide where and how you will ride most often to make the best choice for you.

If you will mainly ride in town where speeds are low, then a smaller motorcycle will suit you very well. Generally, the smaller the bike, the more nimble it will be. The Honda Rebel 250, Kawasaki Ninja 250, and Suzuki GZ250 are better suited to a jaunt through the city than a long ride on the open road. However, it is important to note that both are highway legal and fully capable of highway speeds, but they are designed for a better in-town experience. A general MSRP for this class is around $4000. As a side note, this small class of motorcycles usually performs best with smaller riders and are commonly used in a Certified Beginner Rider Safety Class.

If the open road calls you, then a bigger bike is in order. The mid-size cruiser class of motorcycles generally ranges from 500cc up to 900cc. There are many choices with weights around 500-600 pounds and power ranges from 40-70 horsepower. This is plenty of power and size to get you out on the highway while still feeling nimble around town. MSRP in this class ranges around $6000-$8000 depending on model and options. Some model suggestions are the Honda Shadow, Harley Sportster, Suzuki Boulevard, and Kawasaki Vulcan900.

I don’t normally recommend sport-bikes for beginners since most are purpose-built for power and speed, not ease of operation. However, I will say that most manufacturers offer 500cc to 650cc sporty bikes that are easier to control than their more powerful counterparts and are better suited for the motorcycle novice. If this is your style, then look to Ninja 650R or Suzuki SV650. MSRP for sport-bikes runs from $4000 to $12,000, so there is a price for everyone’s budget.

Ninja 650R

The Kawasaki Ninja 650R

There are larger bikes on the market, but due to their size, they are a little tougher to maneuver. This is especially important when attending a certified rider’s safety course, which I highly recommend. The course instructors will teach you normal riding and proper emergency maneuvers that could save your life. With the proper choice of motorcycle and a completed rider’s safety course, you will be well on your way to an enjoyable and safe lifetime of riding.

Also be sure to invest appropriately in motorcycle safety gear such as helmet, gloves, boots, and jacket.  Never ride without safety gear, or without having your bike insured by a trusted motorcycle insurance co. Full coverage policies are smart if you can afford them, as motorcycles are especially vulnerable to theft and damage.

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