After “mastering” a particular bike, some riders like to climb the displacement ladder one rung at a time, gradually going up in engine size—and that’s always a prudent choice. Others like to zip up the ladder and jump from a starter bike to one a couple rungs higher. How you climb that ladder is up to you, but buying more bike than you are comfortable handling will take the joy out of riding.
So now that you’re armed with a bit of experience, how do you go about choosing that next bike? You’ve begun to recognize your personal preferences so obviously you want a bike that fits your own riding style. But you don’t want to select a bike that’s going to be too big a step up for your skill, experience and comfort levels. After all the point is to truly enjoy the experience, right?
Choosing the right bike for you
First off, be realistic about determining what your motorcycle’s primary use will really be: what kind of roads will you be riding most of the time, and how often and how far are you going to ride? Variety is the spice of the two-wheeled life—just as it is in life in general—so you need to make some realistic decisions based on your personal priorities. That is, why settle for a bike that’s only “good” when a little homework will help you find the one that’s “best” for the way you ride?
For example, do you have a preference for engine configuration? Different kinds of engines make their power in different ways, and they return different subjective sensations to the rider. Now that you’re more experienced, maybe you want longer-distance comfort. Or maybe you’re looking for sport performance. If you figure the bike is for commuting, weekend rides, plus hitting the road for a week, which factor takes priority?
Realistically assess your experience level and pay attention to body style—both the bike and yours. Choose a motorcycle that you feel confident you can hold up, especially if you’re inseam-challenged. Can you get both feet down at a stop or are you comfortable sliding your bottom to one side and balancing the bike with one foot? Generally, cruisers have the lowest seats, while dual-sports have the highest. Make sure the bike is powerful enough for your riding level so that you don’t quickly become bored with it, but don’t buy a bike with more punch than you are comfortable with.
To help you in your decision-making process, visit your local Honda dealership to sit on bikes and determine what seating position you prefer—upright (usually standards, tourers, cruisers or dual-sports) or leaned forward (sportbikes), and how far the reach to the handlebar feels. The same with your feet/legs—some people like having knees bent with their feet below them, and others prefer feet forward. And just because your previous bike was a certain style doesn’t mean you necessarily want to stick with that same style again. Maybe you want to change it up and go from a cruiser to an adventure bike or vice versa.
Then there’s the heart factor; initially, most of us are attracted to the style and color of a motorcycle. After that love-at-first-sight impression, make sure it offers the appropriate weight, seat height, ergonomics, creature comforts and displacement for what’s going to keep you happy. You also want to be able to handle the bike efficiently and confidently at slow speeds.
And don’t worry about stereotypes; even though certain motorcycles might be classified as “beginner” or “intermediate” bikes, they are what you make of them. One person may be moving up from a 500cc bike, while another person will be completely satisfied with that same 500 as a long-term motorcycle. It’s your decision to make, and yours alone.
A bigger pie than ever before
Whatever your decision may be, it’s very likely you can find it in Honda’s lineup. New as well as seasoned riders can readily find affordable motorcycles that are user friendly and easy to manage. Better yet, those choices have been greatly expanded in recent months. For many women who have to deal with short inseams, motorcycle choices in the past have been limited. With Honda’s newly broadened selection of bikes with low seats and low center of gravity for easier handling, that piece of the pie just got way bigger; Honda’s lineup includes no less than 13 street-going motorcycles ranging from 234cc to 750cc. That gives us a lot of choices.
In the 250cc range, Honda offers a cruiser, sportbike and dual-sport; the CBR250R, Rebel and CRF250L are all great for around-town use and longer rides. Double that displacement and a trio of new-for-2013 CB500s adds another rung between the 250cc variety-pack and the venerable CBR600RR. If price is a consideration—and it is quite often—the CB500 series includes a sport bike, a naked bike and an adventure bike, each priced at under six grand. All three have very handy seat heights and modest curb weights.
Step up another 100cc and you can select a model from Honda’s newly expanded 700cc series: there’s the CTX700 with a fairing, the naked CTX700N, and the popular NC700X introduced in 2012. All three of these models are powered by the same torquey parallel twin engine with cylinders canted 62 degrees forward for an extremely low center of gravity, making these practical bikes even more appealing for women riders. And all three are offered in both manual (6-speed) and fully automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) versions for simplified operation, plus available Anti-Lock Brakes. The DCT’s automatic shifting is a boon for new riders just mastering the intricacies of riding. The 2014 CTX-series bikes (starting at $6,999) feature comfortable and roomy riding positions with forward-set controls and footpegs. Not only are seats low at 28.3 inches, but the low center of gravity makes for agile handling at all speeds. All three machines are also very fuel-efficient.
If you like the idea of riding an adventure-style bike, the NC700X offers sporty handling, longer-travel suspension and a taller seat. A unique feature is the 5 ½-gallon utility compartment located where a fuel tank is usually situated. Fuel is carried under the seat, which helps centralize mass for agile handling. And, this adventure-style bike has a calculated fuel economy estimate of a whopping 64 mpg—that’s hard to beat!
Honda’s four midsized 745cc V-twin cruisers in the Shadow line all offer very low seat heights ranging from 25.7 to 29.4 inches. All offer easy handling thanks to a low center of gravity and have a calculated fuel economy estimate of 56 mpg. The wealth of options here between the Shadow RS, Phantom, Aero and Spirit means you can find the one that really appeals to your specific tastes. Plus there are always more options for fine-tuning your bike’s looks and functionality through the addition of Honda Genuine Accessories. From the 750cc cruiser line, you can keep climbing the displacement ladder on a wide variety of motorcycle styles—cruisers, sport bikes, sport touring and full touring machines. Many women ride Gold Wings from one state to the next and figure that’s the best bike around, hands-down!
Some final thoughts
Whatever your final choice may be, be sure to carefully consider all the factors and make sure you are getting good value for your money. Stepping up in engine displacement could mean less fuel efficiency. If the bike requires premium fuel, is that a deal-breaker? If you’ll be carrying a passenger, the passenger might want some say on what that rear seat feels like! And if you like to add touches to make the bike uniquely yours, find out in advance what accessories are available. The cost of insurance is also a good thing to look into before you buy. If you’re financing your new ride, look into Honda Financial Services—their services and programs are as high in quality as the Honda you’re thinking of purchasing.
Talk to other riders, talk to your Honda dealer, read up on motorcycles you’re interested in, and keep an eye out for dealers or events that offer demo rides. With so many choices in styles, sizes and performance levels designed to accommodate just about every body type and a variety of riding conditions, you can find the motorcycle that’s the perfect fit for you.