- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 12 March 2008
When you’re new to biking, it’s hard to know what to buy, or who to trust for advice and that’s just buying your first bike. There’s also clothing, a helmet, training and insurance to consider as well! So here’s some Frequently Asked Questions on the topic of getting kitted up for the road. Grab a cuppa and enjoy!
I want to get my first bike, but I haven’t a clue what to buy. I just want something second-hand, fairly cheap, but reliable, for messing about on at the weekends. And I’d like a red one too – any ideas?
Tough question. Assuming you have passed CBT2 and are over 21, you can look at any bike, of any size – even big red ones. But you’ll find it next to impossible to get insurance on a large capacity machine as a first bike. So look at used bikes like the Suzuki SV650, Honda CB500, Yamaha Fazer 600 or a street-trail bike, like an Aprilia Pegaso 650.
All of those can be bought in the £1500-£2,500 price range and should be reliable, simple to maintain, cheap to service and reasonable to insure, depending on where you live, occupation, points on licence etc.
How do I know which bikes are hard to insure, is there a blacklist somewhere?
No blacklist, but bikes are rated like cars, in various insurance groups.
Insidebikes sponsor is Carole Nash Insurance – the UK’s number one, – so call us on 0800 298 5500 to find out which group a bike is in. When you see a bike you like, note the registration number, then call us before you buy something which costs an arm and a leg to insure. There are 17 insurance groups for bikes and things like GSXR1000s, Fireblades etc are obviously in the higher groups. Many Q plate machines can be hard to insure too and it’s wise to avoid buying a heavily modified, or customized bike as your first motorcycle.
Start looking at bikes in the Groups 5-10 area for your first machine if you want insurance premiums to stay fairly low. The Aprilia Pegaso is group 9 for example, whilst the Suzuki GS500 is a Group 7.
How much will it cost to insure my first bike?
It depends on all sorts of factors, like your age, your postcode (and the theft rates in that postcode), riding experience, points on your licence, where the bike is stored overnight and if it has an alarm fitted.
My mate says you can get your No Claims Bonus transferred from your car insurance, onto your bike insurance – is that right?
Nope. NCB is not transferable.
OK, I’ve got my eye on a bike, a Kawasaki ER500 in fact – and it’s a red one. Should I buy leathers, boots and all that fancy stuff, because I don’t plan on going very fast?
The simple answer is to buy the best protective clothing you can afford, because as a novice you are more likely to have some kind of minor accident, than someone more experienced. Falling off hurts, even at low speeds and a head on impact with something solid can be serious, even fatal.
You can improve your chances of walking away from accident by wearing a tough jacket made from leather, or Cordura, with CE armour inserts. Buying tough armoured jeans, or waterproof trousers, plus wearing leather boots may save you from a broken leg too. Bike shows are good places to buy cheap kit and of course e-bay is good for used bike clothing, if you don’t mind wearing someone else’s sweaty pants.
What’s does ‘CE marked’ actually mean?
The CE mark is a European standard applied to Kevlar armour pieces, which are typically sewn inside the shoulder, back, knee, hip and knee areas of biking clothing. Kevlar is the stuff bullet-proof vests are made from, so it absorbs impacts very well.
The best clothing manufacturers use CE armour in all vulnerable points likely to take an impact in the event of a crash. Some cheaper brands will use non Kevlar padding on areas like the back, elbows, shoulders etc, which isn’t as good, but is better than nothing.
Helmets should have a BS standard mark on them and it’s our recommendation to choose a helmet that meets the ACU Gold standard – which is necessary to go road racing. Top makes include Arai, Shoei, Shark, AGV etc.
I see loads of clothing on sale that is ‘waterproof’ but how do I know if it is?
As far as we know, there isn’t any clothing that can guarantee to keep a rider dry in British weather. However, most jackets, trousers, boots and gloves that have the Gore-Tex fabric in them are as waterproof as you can get, when riding through a monsoon in August. Gore-Tex is a registered trademark, so it will be visible on the jacket, or boots and the label attached to the item in the shop.
Right, let’s talk helmets. Some of them cost £500, some cost £50 – what’s the difference, aren’t they all just plastic shells and foam padding at the end of the day?
Well yeah, but that’s like saying a BMW 6 Series is a box of metal on wheels, just like a Fiat Punto isn’t it?
One has more performance and is built to a much higher specification than the other and the same applies to helmets – expensive ones are more likely to save your life, in various accident scenarios, than a cheaper model – end of story.
How do I know what my size is?
Most helmets are available in sizes 54-62, which cover most people’s heads. But don’t assume that you are always a size 58, regardless of the helmet brand, as there can be a little variance between manufacturers fittings. Also, some brands have thicker padding than others, which might be uncomfortable on parts of your head or face. Try loads of helmets on.
Also consider the fit and interior comfort, the reduction of ear-damaging wind noise and the chances of the visor keeping the rain out. These all differ from one helmet to another. The golden rule is to try lots of helmets on in a bike shop and test the EXACT fit around your head.
Once the helmet buckle is done up and adjusted correctly under your chin, try waggling the helmet up and down, and side to side. It shouldn’t be too tight on your head (this can cause headaches for some people, plus make it hard to fit spectacles inside too) but should not move much in any direction.
Should I have a flip-up type helmet, as I mainly do commuting?
You might well fancy a helmet with a flip-up front section, which are a little noisier at speed than a traditional full face lid, but flip-up helmets are ideal for low speed commuting, or scooter riding – plus you don’t frighten shopkeepers and petrol station cashiers when you enter their premises with your lid on, because your face is visible for their CCTV systems.
My mate Kev said that if you drop your helmet on the floor it’s useless and might split open in an accident – is that true?
It’s unlikely to happen. Most helmets are capable of taking a bump onto the tarmac without suffering any lasting damage to the outer shell. Use your common sense and check the helmet for visible damage if you drop it onto a hard surface.
If you crash at low speeds however and the helmet takes an impact you should replace it, just to be on the safe side. Generally, a helmet which is five or six years old can be slightly weaker than a new lid, so consider replacing your helmet every three or four years.