Where to start
First things first.
So you're wanting to learn to ride a motorcycle but don't know where to start? We've got you covered. First things first, you really should get some experience on a bike, and get your license before buying one. Not everybody does it this way, but if you do, you'll probably be better off. Getting some experience on a bike will help you decide what type of bike you might want to purchase, how large of a bike you'll feel comfortable on, and if you get your license before buying one, you'll be able to actually ride it home after you buy it. We did a little Q&A with Beth after taking the H-D Riders Course, check it out here.
Buy a helmet and some gloves and sign up for the Riding Academy.
There are other riding courses through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation that you can take a look at here as well. Every state course is going to vary a little bit, which is why we like the Harley-Davidson course. In the H-D course you'll learn on a little bit larger bike, their new 500cc Street vs. at some MSF courses, where you'll be on an older 250cc bike.
At the end of the H-D course, you'll take the riding test on an 883cc or 1200cc Sportster, making it so you have no restrictions on your motorcycle endorsement. Whereas if you take the test on the 250cc bike, you could be restricted to only riding a smaller cc bike. Needless to say it can be a headache. Especially if you test on a 250cc bike, then buy a 1200cc bike, and have to re-take the riding test.
So now you have your license, know the basics of how to ride, and have an idea of what you're really getting yourself into... kidding, kidding, you'll be obsessed soon enough if you aren't already. Now you need to find yourself a bike. There are many options here and you're probably swimming through loads of foreign information and craigslist adds. Here's a few questions you need to ask yourself?
What kind of riding do I want to do?
Are you wanting to go cross country, or just putt around town? Do you want to be comfortable on long trips, or is style more important to you? We have riders who do all different kinds of riding, and that is a beautiful thing. If you're wanting to go on longer trips, you're going to want to start with a bike that is over 400cc's. That would probably be the minimum. But then again it can still vary a lot from there. An older bike that is 400cc's just isn't going to go as fast as a new bike that is 400cc's. We'd recommend even going bigger if you want to do long trips.
What style of bike is my favorite?
You really should start looking through craigslist, and going to dealerships. Don't be scared to walk into a dealership and tell them you just got your license and are trying to find the right bike for you. A few manufacturers to look at might be Harley-Davidson, Yamaha, Honda, BMW, Triumph, Indian, Kawasaki, Ducati, and Suzuki. They are all going to have very different styles of bikes, so figure out what you like, then narrow it down from there. Do you want a touring bike, cruiser, cafe-racer, bobber, chopper, bullet bike? So many options...
What is my budget?
This is really going to dictate what you end up with. Buying a new bike is going to be more expensive then buying a used bike, but then again buying a used bike can come with all sorts of headaches. Just like cars, older bikes will have more problems than new bikes. If you are buying used, see if you can have a motorcycle mechanic look at it before purchasing. Usually the seller can bring it into a dealership to get an inspection done.
What size of bike should I start with?
This depends a lot on what kind of riding you want to do as well as how confident and comfortable you are. Larger bikes will take a little longer to get comfortable on, however, if you buy a larger bike you won't be needing to upgrade in 6 months. If you're feeling pretty nervous and want to take it slow, start with a smaller cc bike and take your time. We know a women who is 5'2 and 90 lbs and started with a 1200cc sportster and was fine. We also know a women who started with a 250cc bike, then moved to a 400cc bike, then got a 1200cc bike, and now is on an 1800cc bike and handles it no problem. Both are great, it really just goes back to what you want.
Time To Get on The Road.
Now you have your license and a motorcycle, you're ready to get on the road! The first couple of months riding will be a lot of learning. We always say the first rule is don't get too far out of your comfort zone. If you're uncomfortable at fast speeds, slowly work up to them, if you're uncomfortable with canyon turns, work up to them. It's not a race, and as soon as you push yourself too far is when accidents happen.
We also recommend riding by yourself to start out with. If you're a new rider riding in a group, it can be a lot more to think about. Where the other riders are in relation to you, keeping the right distance, staying in line, etc. You can also run into problems if the group is going faster than you're comfortable with and trying to keep up. If you're considering going on a group ride, take a look at the route, and make sure you're comfortable with everything on it before going.
Just because we recommend riding by yourself to start out with, doesn't mean you shouldn't join The Litas right away. As soon as you have your license and a bike, submit your info to your local branch! A lot of groups will host beginner rides, wrench nights, etc. Events that aren't going to require you to go 85 mph down the highway in a group of 15 women. We of course do rides that are technical and more advanced, but ask the organizer what the ride is like and see what they recommend before attending.
In the mean time you can get to know the other riders, have women to ask stupid questions to, and go to the events that you aren't going to be riding at, or are geared toward beginners. We have all different skill levels, ages, and types bikes and welcome all women on motorcycles.