- This topic has 14 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 12 years, 4 months ago by skippersusie.
Cruisers for Beginners
November 12, 2010 at 11:19 am #4269
Hey guys. I have a friend that wants to get into motorcycles. I’m helping him with general advice about taking the MSF Beginner Riders Course, and other info about getting started, but he is interested in cruisers and I’m more into sport and sport-touring bikes. We went to a dealer yesterday to look around, and of course the salesmen sits him on a used Honda with over 1000 CC engine. Appeared to be a good bike at a good price, but you know the red flag was going off in my head that this may be too much bike for a beginner. My friend is a taller guy, but that doesn’t seem to be as much an issue on a cruiser with the feet being out in front of you. I know that this has been discussed several times before, but can one of you more cruiser-oriented guys (Munch perhaps) go through the run-down of some of the better choices for a beginner cruiser, including some of the pros and cons for each? I personally think the Honda Rebel and the Suzuki GZ250 would be too small for him, although they might be good choices for riding in the class. And Owlie, what was your bike again?
I realize we already have a recent post about Cruisers, and a post about Beginner Bikes for Tall People. but neither of them were going where I wanted to go on this. Thanks for any input.November 13, 2010 at 1:45 am #28776MunchParticipant
Well lets see…. rule of thumb for cruisers…. low end is the power….just as the seat height is….
Straight out of MSF….. depending on maturity 750cc max…. younger dare devil type… 500cc til he/she scares the piss and vinegar out of them.
I started on the Vulcan 500 parallel twin (same motor as the ninja 500) The engine is tuned down a bit to give that low end torque that cruisers are better known for. The bike overall length is short giving it the agility like that of a sport bike. It’s light weight and IMO perfect for most beginners. They aren’t dog slow but the aren’t power monsters either. Learn how to work em … and I mean WORK them and you can get triple digit speeds. But….no one should do that on purpose on the highway anyways. (It was an accident…. promise! )
Vstar 650’s are good starter cruisers too. Some are more attracted to the 650’s mostly for the customizing options that come with it. Short over all length though for my liking the exhaust needs an overhaul. I like a grunt to my bikes….not loud… but at least to be able to hear it. My buddies GF has a 650 and that thing snuck up on me at the shop …. and no one was working O.O .
Honda Shadow 750 is also a good option… though I would be a tad more slow on the uptake for this one. Reports back from local owners says that the throttle is easy to deal with but it will launch if you caught un awares. Haven’t ridden one so I can’t attest to that.
Anything much over that and not only are you stepping into a higher torque value that can really mess a new rider up but also overall weight and not to mention that 1000cc invisible line with insurance.
The huge difference when I went from my V500 to my V900 was the torque. Miss judge your down shift and its well more then enough to send your back wheel into a short slide. Not a mistake you want to learn to control while your learning everything else. The next is the bigger the bike the longer…not usually by much OE but enough to notice on total turning radius. I can get the 900 in a fairly tight turn…. can bang a U-ey the width of my driveway (single car driveway). Though the V500 with practice can probly cut another overall 2 ft out of that. The weight issue for beginners is not in the ride… at speed any bike is light … it’s when you make that small miscalculation in the parking lot and you have to try and keep the bike from going down. I haven’t dropped either of my bikes (knock on a lot of wood) but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been close…. the V900 is at my strength limits to wrestle the bitty back up from a near drop.
Make sure to also emphasize rear brake usage with your friend to…. this is an understated point due to sport bike popularity ( I am guessing). You WILL be using the rear brake A LOT in slow maneuvers, parking lots, heck even depending on the set up of the brakes…. just normal braking. Talking to friends around that are sport bike riders there is a huge difference in control between the two styles and back brake usage.
Honda Shadow 750 ( highest I would go)
Oh and Owlies S40 Thumper…. she’ll have to re review that for ya!
… I am sure there are more but those are the main 3 that will be easy to find.November 13, 2010 at 2:07 am #28777
I appreciate your time in writing that up. I’ve pointed out this post to my friend. He’ll be keeping an eye on it.. Maybe someday he will be adding his own comments on here as well.November 16, 2010 at 6:53 am #28792IshkatanParticipant
I have a newly minted M on my license… and a whole 10 hrs of sitting in a parking lot on a 250… but when I was a kid I had a couple days on a Vespa and it was very natural. Sooo….. I am about to buy a 2006 Honda Silverwing Scooter. 583 cc and owners say it will cruise at 70 on the highway. I took my intended for a short ride down a street and if anything it is too nimble. The 600 lbs is largely concentrated at hub level so the bike leans really easy and I think would be easy to pick up if dropped…. but it is not hard to keep vertical in the parking lot or on a neighborhood street. Hi-way remains to be tested – after I learn to ride the parking lots and back streets.
As I see it the main advantage is that there are no gears – twist to go, breaks on left and right hand just like a bicycle, feet just brace. So I can concentrate on traffic, lean and road until those reflexes become more natural and automatic. Once I know I won’t get frightened away from riding on the road I may consider a “real” bike with gears – like a Goldwing. Or I might stick with big scooters and driving comfort.November 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm #28794
A co-worker bought a Burgman 400 w/ABS the other day and asked me to ride it home from the dealership for her, so of course I jumped at a chance to try one of these beasts (something I would personally never consider buying myself) and I just wanted to pass along a few observations from this experience. Lets dwell on positives first; It has 2 wheels, the body work offers good protection similar or superior to a full fairing motorcycle, the riding position is perfect for typing, if you are actually striving for perfect office seating posture when riding. You could wear a skirt and high heels riding this thing, (too bad I’m a guy or that one might actually work for me;) ummm …it’s quiet, did I mention it has 2 wheels? OK, now I’m really struggling here and I think you get the point, this is without a doubt the least exciting motorcycle I have ever ridden, I know scoots are popular and want to stay positive here, but damn! riding that thing I never felt so totally invisible and vulnerable in traffic. Automatic Yuck! Sorry but it did Not make for easy riding for me, I had to anticipate needing to accelerate and grab a wrist full of throttle well in advance of anything happening. The throttle response and suspension felt far more like a 250cc single cylinder snowmobile than a motorcycle. It does have excellent engine braking and that’s another plus, right ?:i I rode the entire time with one finger on each brake lever, (mostly to remind myself not to clutch) and discovered that by applying both brakes equally, felt like I would never want more brake force than one finger on each lever provided, the engine braking was so good in fact, I only needed the brakes for about the last yard on stopping, (or to activate the brake light so I didn’t get rear ended). A faster throttle might be a nice upgrade, and I guess some people might think it’s a good thing you could not pop a wheelie if your life depended on it, let’s hope you don’t come across any road debris or pot holes, because your only option would be to brace yourself and plow into it.
Other than being uninspiring and automatic, here are my 2 biggest complaints about the behemoth Burgman; The handle bars are so far back and close to your body that the bar mounted mirrors are near useless, you need to turn your head to view the vibrating mirrors and it would be far superior if they were mounted low and forward on the fairing. The flat foot forward leg stance made it impossible to lift your butt off the seat and the most comfortable place for my feet was right where the floor boards are cut away to put your feet on the ground.
For a fraction of the cost i’d go with a CBR125, a Ninjette or an S40 (Owlie’s ride) and feel safer for it, but if you do wear a skirt and absolutely need that trunk space, the Bergman would still be way more enjoyable to park & ride than a smart car. …just trash the mirrors, ride flat out and the heck with the guy behind you :iNovember 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm #28795
That was funny TR! Echos most of the reasons I would not consider a scooter. But, who knows, maybe when I get too old to pivot my left foot up and down! Hope we’re not offending Eon!November 16, 2010 at 9:34 pm #28796
I seen the video, Eon rides his exotic way out front and bucks er flat out the whole timeNovember 16, 2010 at 9:54 pm #28797eonParticipant
No offense taken but not surprisingly I have a different take on things. First off, I obviously have a different background than TR. If I had his years of experience riding before I got on a scooter I might say exactly the same things. But I don’t and a big scooter was my first and still only ride. To me there are good and bad things to say about them. If you are aware of them before you buy then I see no reason why you should regret buying one, but I would say that about any bike.
First off the bad. They are heavy. My 500cc MP3 comes in somewhere around the 540lbs mark. I don’t know why a scooter seems to be heavier than a comparable motorcycle but it does seem to be the case. Just something to be aware of.
Second, they are expensive. Again I don’t know why but again they seem to be much more expensive than a comparable motorcycle. This was the one factor that almost prevented me from buying. If you buy a scooter brand new you are going to take a big hit in the wallet when the time comes to sell it on.
Third, it aint no sportbike. This seems pretty obvious but a ‘big’ scooter engine size is still on the lower end of motorcycle engines. With all that extra weight it lugs around don’t expect to be burning off other bikes at the lights. Still, I’ve never had a problem dusting off cars at the lights.
Positives? Major one is storage space. Every scooter comes with a ton of space under the seat (somewhere around 40 liters is common). I’ve added a top box to mine and with a bag in the step through area I can carry a lot of groceries. And this is important to me as I don’t have any other means of transport. A lot of motorcyclists dismiss scooters as toys but IMO it is the exact opposite. My scooter is a workhorse and gets treated as such. It would be much harder to live with just a bike as a sole means of transport. To come close it would need to have top and side bags to match my storage capacity.
Second, protection from the elements. With just about every scooter out there your legs are shielded from the wind and rain. Again, if your bike only sees sunny days this might not be an issue but for me it is a major plus. I went on a ride recently with a V-Strom rider and we got caught in a downpour on a muddy road. Her legs and boots were drenched and covered in mud while it looked like I stepped off the showroom floor. Guess who was wishing they had a scooter that day
Third, they are belt driven. You might lose some power that way but at least you don’t have to clean it every 500 miles.
I guess I would summarize them as being immensely practical while being almost as much fun as a regular motorcycle. If you only ever plan on riding on nice days then a Ninja 250 or small cruiser would probably be a better choice. If it has to double up as a means of transport then at least consider one. There are plenty of choices out there from my MP3, to the Burgman to the very sexy T-Max.
To answer some of TR’s points:
Automatic: There is an argument for brand new riders getting an automatic as it allows their limited attention to be focused on the road and not which gear I am in. This is not something I am going to argue one way or the other but I have read more than one review recently of automatic motorcycles. Even hard nosed moto journalists are asking what is the advantage of manual transmissions (though I think those bikes have more sophisticated automatic transmissions than scooters)
Visibility: I have no idea why you felt less visible and more vulnerable on a scooter than a motorcycle?
Engine Braking: I actually have almost no engine braking and I thought that was common on scooters. Could be wrong but it is something I hate about my scoot.
Debris: Not sure what you are saying here. Are you recommending popping a wheelie over any debris or potholes you encounter? That might work for you trials guys but the rest of us will swerve around it. And I can swerve just as effectively as a bike.
And lastly (promise, had no intention of writing War and Peace here), for new riders the single most determining factor of how much fun or how fast you can go is you, the rider. I’ve only been riding 2 years but take it pretty seriously and have taken as many training classes as I can. I ride with some cruiser folks on 1600cc bikes who have years more experience than I have but they cannot keep up with me in the twisties. I can shift my butt over easier than they can. I have more ground clearance than they do. I can stand up and they cannot. I love gravel roads and they hate them.
I can see why experienced riders would dislike scooters (unsprung weight and all that), but for new riders they will not be able to tell the difference. After 2 years and 24k miles I am ready to try something new. Once I have a regular bike I will be able to make a more effective comparison, and I might become a haterNovember 17, 2010 at 2:02 am #28798
But I should clarify the items in question.
On the subject of automatics, I’m the last guy you want to listen to, I have a hate for them (on anything other than a limo, hearse or tractor) for maybe all the wrong reasons: I service my own vehicles, everything from my 55cc. chainsaw right up to my 6.4 liter twin turbo Diesel sees my wrenches, consequently all my cars and trucks have standards because they are way easier for me to service. I know my way around simple hydraulics but zero about torque converters & auto car trannys. 2) I learned to drive standard, VW beetle to be exact (the thing was so old, it had the split rear windows and a wooden stick under the hood, that you dipped into the gas tank to see how much fuel you had) 3) We had a Husky 444 snowmobile and Ski-doo’s with the Salsbury clutch drives, they were dirty to work on and ate belts like candy. Even before that, a dual engine Jigger equipped with an evil belt drive system and if you know what those rigs were like, you will have a better idea why I dislike rubber belt drive anything. (‘Jigger’ was the six wheel drive predecessor to the Argo, I’ll post a picture some day, just for a laugh.) The second bike I owned was a Honda 90 step-thru (semi-automatic with 3 gears plus neutral) a real blast to ride and actually very fast in the small gravel pit, once I fitted it with full knobby tires. (almost impossible to blow up! I never rode that on the road (legally)
On the visibility thing; that’s a hard one to nail down; I was either very conscious that I couldn’t flee, or had a feeling the car drivers had no respect for my presence. …could be that’s how it is all the time and I just never noticed before.
On the road hazard thing; happens on my ride following the Bergman lady to her house, there was a series of asphalt speed bumps and they really slowed me down a lot more than her in her car. My built in reaction is to brake in advance of a an unavoidable bump (with obvious care not to get rear-ended) then off-load the front front forks (cease braking) and slightly transfer my weight to the pegs (rearward) for impact. On that scoot, everything I tried felt unnatural and I was plowing those bumps. Thankfully road hazards are not normally tall enough to require a ‘Zap’ although I think I could Zap a curb or concrete block on my Ascot. Swerving only works if you have somewhere to go and not carrying way too much speed.
I agree with all Eon’s points stated and agree the bikes weight is not a factor, I’m totally used to riding a heavy motorcycle, just not the one’s with little wheels.
You can ride with me any day Eon, you lead;) …unless we happen to swap bikes for a try.November 17, 2010 at 2:58 am #28799eonParticipant
LOL…I do want to try one of those little 200lb bikes you bounce around concrete blocks on, looks like a lot of fun.
If you do a lot of your own work then I can see how a scooter would be a pain. Apart from the automatic you need to take a lot of plastic off to do some basic things, and on my scoot at least its like a complicated jigsaw puzzle with tiny little screws that never seem to quite go back in the way they come out.
And I guess I should clarify one aspect of the automatic belt drive on my scooter that I loathe. Once you have some miles on it develops a ‘grundle’ at low speeds (say <10mph). Any less than that and the clutch is not fully gripping the belt (or something, I have zero mechanical knowledge). Basically it is slipping at low revs which makes a nice grundle sound as you sort of lurch down the road. I think this is a side effect of cheap parts and some folks have upgraded to HIT clutches and report that fixes the issue. Not sure if this is common to all scooters or if it's Piaggio being cheap on the parts.November 17, 2010 at 4:11 am #28800MunchParticipant
Sooooooo how did a beginner cruiser thread end up as a debate about scooters?
Besides….mini can- ams dont count as scooters…..lol….just kiddin
Seriously though…… no more picking on new forum members about thread jackingNovember 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm #28804
I’ll just drop a pearl of wisdom for any belt primary drive vehicle owners, before Munch kicks us off this Cruiser thread 😮
Just like the Salsbury clutch on a snowmobile, 100% of the force is on the sides of a V drive belt, the rubberized nylon belt wears and friction burns rubber material away, until the hardened steel clutch cones are spinning against burnt rubber and expose nylon (or kevlar) thread material. This is why you should never roll on the throttle slowly with a CVT clutch, get on that throttle harder at first, so the clutch positively engages then back off on the gas to moderate your speed. Applying the throttle slowly before the clutch engages, equates to slipping a dry clutch on a standard transmission vehicle. Replacing the belt should make the grundle go away, and consequently, it will restore the original speed ratio that your bike had when it was new. On a seriously worn Salsbury clutch, the steel cone faces can have ‘chatter’ marks worn right into the metal and only replacement will cure that problem.
Did you know; Leonardo DaVinci sketched the first CVT in 1490 making your scooter’ clutch design more than 520 years old ! … maybe Leonardo worked with PiaggioNovember 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm #28805
and try to get things back on track, but I was getting too much entertainment out of it.
It has been kinda slow here on BBM with winter coming on. Nice to see something taking off and running wild.November 18, 2010 at 12:10 am #28807
Scoot Cruiser prototype,
Sorry guys I just couldn’t resist the urge to entertain you some more
Besides, this thing has the coolest rear view mirrors I have ever seen on Any motorcycle, …rear-facing cameras display video to the “mirrors”. http://images.gizmag.com/gallery_lrg/2303_04.jpg
AND it’s only ever been ridden by a Japanese supermodel !November 18, 2010 at 7:24 am #28808skippersusieParticipant
Awesome advice as usual…. Thanks for adding the VStar 650 to the list!!!
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