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New or Used Bike?

14772 Views 74 Replies 53 Participants Last post by  Lil-devil
I'm not sure where you live, but here in KY (not the best place to shop for a bike, but a fantastic place to ride one), the Harley dealerships are sold out, usually ahead of time.

If you really have a thing for Harleys, look around at used sportsters and test-ride a couple. You may find out that you don't like something about them, but that would be a decent novice bike and you don't have to spend 18K to own one.
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I wouldn't get caught up in the 100th anniversary hype, unless that is really your thing. I would recommend starting on a used bike that weighs considerably less that even a Harley Sportster. This really helps with the dropped in the parking lot while I was barely moving factor. If you just have to have a Harley a lot of Harley riders start out on sportsters and then move up, so you should be able to get one used in good condition.
What if you buy it and for one reason or another don't like riding? If you've NEVER ridden - I'd take the riding course first and see how you do. Then I'd seriously consider getting a cheapo rat bike. Ride for 3-4 months this summer and if you are still alive and just HAVE to get a Harley than saw off an arm and a leg and get one.

And you WILL drop it. Maybe not while riding but possibly in a parking lot, garage, etc. :)
If you have never ridden I might suggest the following:

1) Join the AMA

2) Get yourself into a MSF Riders course

3) Look for a couple year old Sportster 883 or a Buell Blast! This way you can find someone else who has fixed all the oil leaks

4) You might want a to look at a Honda Rebel as well for a first bike.

Don't get caught up in this Harley 100th BS. Also don't get caught up in these full dressers either. I've own them and then are big, slow and not very fun. I've had more fun on sportsers than any other Harley big.
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Excellent point. Lots of people like the idea of riding, but actually riding is another story all together. This is why we see more Harely-Davidson clothing stores than H-D dealerships. I often tell people to get a cheap ($3k) used bike to spend a seaon on. You can usually sell them for at least half what you paid for them, even if you dropped it and negelected it a bit. If you never ride again, you're out less than $2K, but if you become a real motorcyclist, you'll make a better buying decesion and never regret the dough you spent.
I would say start out with a 500cc machine or smaller for at least a year before buying a Sportster or any other larger machine. That advise is from the experience of seeing too many people crash bikes that they couldn't handle. If you make it a whole year without a serious incident, go buy a Harley after that. As was said above join the AMA and take an MSF course. Get out on the road alot to get "real world" experience and wear protective gear.
If you do want a Harley, don't waste time in the used bike market. Used ones are selling for nearly as much as new, so buy new and get the warranty.

Buy a used Japanese bike first to get some experience. Then if you decide to keep with riding go for the new HD.
I.......sssss........thhhhhe....spo....r..s..ter... r....e..a...l...y... (ops sorry my hands were still vibrating from getting off a sportster.) The sportster is not really a good beginers bike... No Harley is. You didn't state your size/wieght.

even the 883's can be a handlefull to pick up after a fall. There are plenty of good beginner bikes out there, that other beginers have out grown. You will out grow a buell Blast real fast.
an older used dual sport might be an option for you, you can practice braking and balance offroad without having to worry about cars, then after your MSF course you'll be able to ride it on the street and see if you still like it, THEN you can get something like an SV650. They have plenty of power, good brakes and handling and are light and compact, Sportsters are still fairly heavy bikes even though they're light for HD's it's not a good idea to jump in with a spendy bike while you're still learning. light and cheap is the way to go to start.
also, here's an interesting point.

when I first started riding, I was all about the harley. woo. american, big, loud, great image, etc. I bought a honda cb550 as a 'learner' (1000 bucks, 2000 miles and in perfect condition) and soon found out that there is no way I could ride a cruiser style bike. they just don't do corners the way I want to.

I recommend you do the same. buy "a bike" and you may find that you are not a cruiser person.
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Have to agree with pretty much all these post. Don not buy a new Harley for your first bike, unless you really like buying replacement part and touch up paint. Not to mention the cost of re-chroming parts after you drop it; and you will drop it.

Get an el-cheapo disposable bike to break youself in on and then after a few thousand mile on it, you get rid of it and buy the ride of you dreams.

Good luck, welcome and enjoy
Re: You will NOT drop the bike!

if you're careful. I bought my first bike 3 years ago at the ripe age of 46. I had never ridden anything other than a bicycle before I started to ride my new bike (Yamaha 1100 V-Star). I have put 10K miles on this bike without ever dropping it. The V-Star weighs well over 600 lbs, handles pretty well and, in my humble opinon, is a good first bike you will not outgrow in one riding season. I should point out that I took the MSF course BEFORE buying my bike, and I spent the first few months riding around my neighborhood before venturing out onto the highways and byways. Learn to ride through MSF, buy the bike you want, and have a ball!
You don't want a Harley as a first bike...

Only the Sportster 883 (and the hideous Bee-Last) are suitable for a beginner, all the others have WAY too large an engine and can be very unforgiving of minor throttle glitches, as even at a walking speed, almost all of the engine power is available, such that knocking the throttle (say, if you hit a railroad track or pothole) and the bike will buck you.

Get a used EX500, EX250, SV650, or similar first bike.
It might be cool to have a 100th anniversary Harley, but I would listen to your biker friends advice. They're probably not trying to deprive you of anything, and just helping out. Harley's are big, and heavy. Do you really want to try to tug up an 800lbs bike from the pavement? My 430lbs YZF damn near took my shoulder out of its socket when I slipped on a stray stone in a parking lot (it happens). Just my $0.02, no matter how cool the bike, it's a lot less cool when you have to ask a stranger to help you hoist it back up :)
Re: You will NOT drop the bike!

Personally, I don't know anyone who has ridden for more than 5 years without a tip over, even if just in the drive way. I salute you for making it "tip free" thus far, but don't tempt fate.

As to the Yammie being a good starter bike, I'd respectfully disagree. Though it is definately a good bike and fun to ride, it isn't what I would call a "confidence builder". Steering is a bit too slow and braking is just ok.

Plus, it'd be very easy for a new rider to get carried away adding chrome and doo-dads that the total cost of the bike would sky rocket. Should it tip or, worse, he decides he doesn't want to be a motorcyclist, he could easily be out $4k selling it at the end of the season. With an old 500cc bike like a GS500 or EX500 he wouldn't be out that much even if he let it rust in the yard for the next 20 years.

Besides, right now he's leaning towards a Harley, so let him ride for a year and learn to value reliablity, performance, and reasonably priced parts. That'll do more to drive him towards a V-Star than any single post you could make here. :)
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I couldn't agree more with the postings here. Nothing against H-D, but for your first bike you could get SO MUCH MORE in a used non-H-D for your money. For example, my first bike is a 1997 Honda Nighthawk 750 (OK, maybe a LITTLE big for the 1st, but what the heck?), 5000 miles, excellent condition, $3,700. And guess what? I LOVE it! Even came with a custom fairing and engine guards, which were very much appreciated when I dropped the bike while standing still in my driveway! Try THAT with a $20,000 bike and being able to live with it! Buy used, make all (most?) of your mistakes, then if you still want go buy your dream bike!
A lot of the time, dealers around here seem to have Sportsters in stock, but a waiting list for the big twins
Another reason to get a cheap, standard bike first is that you might find that you like a different style of riding that you thought you would. Once you get riding, you may get addicted to the twisties and decide that, for all the looks of the Harley's, something with more ground clearance is more appropriate for what you want. Or not. The point is that a cheap first bike gives you the opportunity to find out what you like and don't like about riding before spending a big chunk of money!
Re: You don't want a Harley as a first bike...

Don't know if I'd put the SV650 in the same category as those other two you mentioned. A stock SV has more horse and is lighter than any big twin Harley, minus the VROD.
Resist the urge to buy new. I bought a new Ninja ZX-6R. Although it worked out for me, its expensive. Longride has some good advice. Also, think of cost of insurance, tires etc. You might not like a HD and then your are stuck with it. I am not a HD expert but I don't think Sportsters have that great of resale value. If you want HD, buy a used one. There are plenty of used HDs here in Seattle.
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