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Guide to choosing the right motorbike

A worm's-eye view of a red sports motorbikeOK, so you’ve passed the various bike tests, got the licence, got money in your pocket to buy a motorbike – but now, looking at the many different types of bike available, you’re confused as to which sort to go for. No problem, just read on for some helpful tips on how to choose the right bike.

Fit for purpose

The first thing to do before buying a bike is to know exactly what it will be used for.

It’s probably not a good idea to go for a car-sized 2000cc Kawasaki Vulcan if all you need is a little 50cc to nip through city traffic on your daily commute. Likewise, that same 50cc runaround is not the bike to choose if training for next year’s Paris-Dakar rally. 

Once you know what the bike will be used for, you can narrow the field and choosing becomes that much easier.

Know your limits

If you fancy yourself as the next Valentino Rossi and you’re dead set on a sports bike, be aware that motorbike insurance companies will not offer cover to a novice rider for such a powerful type of bike until you have a track record of proven experience.

This may seem at first like an unfair restriction – after all it’s your money and you should be able to buy what you like – but if bike insurance companies are doing this then they must be doing so for a reason. And the reason is that in the past, too many inexperienced riders opted for powerful motorbikes that were beyond their ability to control, and consequently ended up in serious accidents.   

Basically, know your limits and buy a bike that you’re well capable of safely operating.

Set a budget

Motorbikes can cost hundreds of pounds or tens of thousands of pounds. If you’re on a budget, a smaller, less-powerful bike will be cheaper to run, less money to tax, and could have lower bike insurance premiums.

Fixing a budget will also help protect your bank balance when looking around a showroom. It’s the easiest thing in the world for an experienced salesman to upsell a wide-eyed customer to a more expensive model that they simply don’t need. So set a budget, stick to it, and don’t be tempted by that beautiful bike you can’t afford and don’t need.

Second hand bikes

If buying a second hand motorbike, here are some basic tips:

  • Check the bike’s service history to make sure it’s been properly maintained
  • Check it has a valid MOT certificate
  • If you don’t know much about bikes yourself, take along a friend who does
  • If the bike doesn’t look safe to you, walk away
  • Never buy a second hand bike from a lay-by or car park. Only buy from outside the seller’s home and check their ID against the name on the registration document
  • Check the bike’s history. For around £20, companies like HPI will check to see if a vehicle has been previously written off, damaged, stolen, or if there’s any outstanding finance 

Bike insurance

New riders will pay higher premiums at the outset, with premiums gradually reducing with experience (and assuming no claims are made). The thing to do is to use the internet to shop around for great deals on motorbike insurance.

One tip that may help keep a lid on the cost of motorcycle cover is to keep the bike garaged, or at least locked up off road overnight. 

In terms of the type of insurance available, bikes are similar to cars. 

Fully Comprehensive bike insurance is generally the most expensive option but covers the rider for damage to their bike as well as other vehicles involved in an accident. It will also cover liabilities for injuries caused to a third party.

Third Party, Fire and Theft bike insurance covers you against damage or injury to another person or vehicle but not your own bike. And, as the name suggests, it also covers against fire damage or theft of your bike. 

Third Party bike insurance is the most basic cover, and excludes insurance for fire and theft of your motorcycle.

Find out more about motorbike insurance