Monday, June 7, 2010

How NOT to buy a motorcycle

I really like the bike I ended up with, despite the fact that I bought it sight unseen, dropped it on my first ride, and had to spend close to 5 months figuring out how to ride it. I learned some key things about what not to do when you buy a motorcycle.

1. DON’T spend so much time on websites reading reviews of the bike that you forget that riding it is the only way to really tell if it’s the right bike for you.

I wore out my web browser looking at the BMW Motorrad website and drooling over the bikes. After a while I got a notion that the dual-sport brand new F800GS was the right bike. How I came up with that without even SEEING it is a mystery to me. But, within two weeks of making up my mind that I wanted one, I had it on hold in Seattle.

2. DON’T forget there is a big difference from a 1980’s era 125cc Honda dirtbike and an 800cc BMW.

A big difference doesn’t even begin to cover it. I showed up at the dealership with my check in hand and walked around the bike for the first time in September. All that kept going through my head was, “That’s a big bike. A really big bike.” Not that it changed my mind about buying it, I’m nothing if not focused. The F800GS is an enduro bike that has a suspension that can handle dirt and roads, and like most enduro bikes the suspension makes it tall. I’m 5’7” and I have really long legs for my height, but with a standard seat height of 34” this bike is tall. It also weighs 450lbs and is a little more powerful than the previously mentioned Honda.

3. DON’T get overconfident the first time you ride a new bike.

Did I mention that I bought the bike before I rode it? At the dealership they were finishing up the paperwork and told me to take it for a spin. Ok! This was gonna be fun. So I wheeled it out to the parking lot – with help - and jumped on. Well, not really. I actually took two tries to get my leg over the bike and managed to sit on it with my big toes on each side barely touching the ground. “Hmm, maybe I really need the lower seat,” went through my head. Never mind, I was going on a demo ride dammit. Check gauges, side stand up, run switch on, and with a nice little rrrooommm I started the bike.

Put it in first gear, give it some gas and, WHOAAA!!!! Grab clutch and brake and attempt to arrest bike as it leaps forward. Breathe heavily, ok nice and easy take it around the dealership. Phew, up and down some hills, around some curves, stall it out once or twice, and let’s get back to sign those papers!!

4. DON’T drop the bike on your first demo ride.

I was feeling pretty good heading back to the dealership. Slowed down to turn in and headed toward an open parking spot that happened to be right in front of the showroom window. As I pulled in I neglected to notice that the spot wasn’t level. Did I mention the fact that I could just barely touch the ground? Did I also mention the fact that the bike weighs 450lbs? Did you know that if a motorcycle starts to tip over, you have a relatively short amount of time to stop it? I learned a lot about my bike in about 2 seconds as it very gracefully (and fortunately slowly) fell over. In front of all the sales guys watching me. They all desperately attempted to not laugh at me as I picked myself and the bike up off of the ground - they all kept turning around and giggling though.

5. DON’T be embarrassed to take it slow.

After ordering the lower seat, arranging to pick the bike up the next day, and making my way back to my hotel in my rental car through insane Seattle I-5 traffic I finally made a good decision. I figured out that there was no way I was ready to ride the bike in traffic. Not without some nice, quiet back roads where I could figure out what I was doing. So, how was I going to get my bike to Joe’s? Time to fess up to Joe about my problem.

When you ask a BMW motorcycle guy to ride a brand new F800GS back to his house for you, generally the answer is “Sure!!” followed by a very large grin. The bike got to Joe’s without incident, and thanks to his patience and willingness to go riding any weekend I was in Seattle, I am now at least semi-competent on the bike.

Which is good since we leave for the cross country trip in 2 days!!!

1 comment:

  1. I guess that means I could never climb onto your bike, being that I am only 5'3.25"?