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Inside Bikes

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Those of you hit the Carole Nash International Motorcycle and Scooter Show at the back end of 2008 will know that there are plenty of new motorcycles about to be put on sale at your local dealers in 2009. From the new Yamaha R1 and Suzuki GSX-1000 superbikes through to the Honda CBF 125 commuter, Buell XB12 Adventure series and VMAX muscle bike, there will certainly be no shortage of choice if you’re in the market for a new set of wheels.

Now, I’m well aware that a guide to buying a new bike may not be the best topic to cover as Britain’s banks keep hold of what little money they have with the economy in recession, but it’s not all doom and gloom at the moment. In fact, the motorcycle industry has shown a fair bit of resilience against the credit crunch.

Whilst the car industry slumped in 2008 by 11.3% – a figure that has prompted a series of cut-backs at some of the industry’s biggest names, the motorcycle industry held up more favourably. A sales drop of 3.4% on the previous year, whilst not what the industry would have wanted, was met with optimism by the MCIA. The number of learner-legal motorcycles leaving dealer forecourts was perhaps the biggest positive, signalling that two-wheeled transport continues to attract a new following.

Sales will probably slow down again in 2009 but there will be people out there looking to get their hands on a new, or first, bike and so it’s well worth giving our top buyers tips.

Firstly, we’ll be looking at how best to select the right bike for you. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the nitty-gritty number crunching and giving you tips on how to beat the salesman.

The search for that new bike should begin well before you’ve set foot in the showroom and doing your homework will pay-off in the end. This is a big purchase, so make sure that you get it right.

Firstly, decide on your own budget. Consider how much are you are looking to spend on the bike and, if necessary, factor in the cost of riding kit, motorcycle insurance and any other accessories that you may need. Also work out how you’ll finance the purchase. Will it be cash, dealer credit, a personal loan or some other form of finance?

Once you have a figure in your head, you should be starting to get an idea on the bike that you want. Whilst your heart is probably going to want to overrule your head on this, think about what you will be using the bike for. 1,000cc superbikes aren’t designed for getting snarled up in city centre rush hour traffic but of course, they are more fun when you hit the country roads in the summer.

Once you’ve pictured your perfect bike in your head, draw up a shortlist and seek out more information about each bike. Whilst top speeds and 0-60 times are great numbers to look at, make sure to seek out other key information. How much will you be paying in bike insurance for your new wheels? What are the guide prices? Is there a waiting list? Check web forums for comments from current owners – is there a hidden (and potentially expensive) problem that appears to be common to the bike?

By this stage, you may have crossed out one or two options on your list although that’s not necessarily the purpose here. If you’ve done your homework well enough, you should have an idea of the sort of questions that you should be asking the salesman.

The next stage is the trip to the showroom. If possible, take a knowledgeable friend along with you as they should be able to help you with any questions that you may not have thought of and give you reassurance on your choice of bike.

Here, try not to get into the “buying” mindset straight away. Convince yourself that this trip is all in the name of research.

If possible, get a test ride on the bike or bikes that you’ve got your eye on. The purpose of this of course, is to see whether the bike suits you and also allows you, particularly in the case of a used bike, to spot anything untoward. If you can’t have a test ride, at least sit on the bike to make sure that you feel comfortable on board.

Do this for every bike that is currently on your shortlist and you’ll soon develop an idea as to the bike that fits both you and your budget. Now is the time to shop around.

If you are buying from new, then you’ll probably be making your way to a local franchised dealer and aside from a few promotions and offers here and there, the chances of finding any noteworthy disparity in price between dealers is fairly small – they all run from the same book and so they’ll probably all have the same price tags on the same bikes. You may find differences in finance packages however, so look out for any dealers offering 0% offers or attractive APRs.

If on the other hand, you are buying used, there are a few more options. Local dealers will have a stock of used bikes in the showroom and there is also a sizeable private trade, with classified ads packing publications like Bike Trader and MCN. Check the prices from both and remember that whilst trade dealers will tend to charge a premium, there is more security in your sale.

If you are buying used, make sure that you run the bike’s registration number through a vehicle check service, such as HPI. These verification services check, amongst other things, that the bike isn’t registered as stolen, has finance outstanding or has been a bike insurance write-off. Also check the V5C log-book, MOT and service history yourself – the seller should have all of these things to hand.

Once you have decided on your bike, it’s time for the number-crunching.

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