With so many amazing models to choose from, how do you make sure you’re picking the right one when it’s your first bike? We’ve put together a guide that should help you pick the right bike for you.

Choosing your first bike is an exciting time. Some riders know exactly what they want, working towards a particular bike for months or even years. Other riders don’t have the first idea what their first bike should be.

That’s why we’ve put together a fun, easy quiz with a supporting guide, all powered by the knowledge both I and the rest of the Lexham team have accumulated over the years! Don’t worry, the quiz won’t ask for your inside leg measurement or your National Insurance number. It will just ask you a few short questions before suggesting which bike might be best for you.

If you still have questions leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you out.

Take our quiz and find your first motorcycle!

Types of bike

Before you pick the model, it’s best to start with the type of bike you’re after. Once you know you want a scooter or an adventure bike, you’ll be able to narrow things down to the model, which means making your decision will be that much easier.

Mopeds and scooters

Mopeds are designed for low speeds, whereas scooters are best used around town and are excellent commuters that provide lots of storage, as well as pillion provision. They can vary from small urban commuters to sports scooters and you can even get maxi scooters that are capable of touring! Small capacity models won’t be full of power, because they just don’t need it, so you can find plenty of inexpensive models, but that being said there are some powerful scooters available!

Standard, roadsters, naked bikes

These are versatile and general-purpose bikes, although you shouldn’t take them off-road - they’re not that versatile! But as long as you’re sticking to the tarmac and you want something a little more than a scooter, these are excellent bikes for beginners, and an extremely popular choice for commuters. 

Adventure

Adventure bikes are designed to be jack-of-all-trades, and can be taken off-road, so they’re often known as dual purpose, dual-sport, ADV (short for ADVenture) and on/off road bikes. They offer good luggage options, and have a higher seat height than normal to accommodate off-road use. They can be expensive, but could potentially avoid the need for two bikes if you want both on and off-road use.

Sports

These bikes are aerodynamic, very light, very powerful and designed for high speeds. Because they’re designed for speed rather than practicality, this results in a less comfortable riding position, as well as minimum pillion provision and storage. Insurance is likely to be more expensive than other models too.

The potential power and insurance costs mean that sports bikes are not often recommended for new riders, but there are plenty of models to choose from if you have your heart set on one.

Off-road

A bike with a very specific use. Often not road-legal and only built for competition use, these are designed for dirt tracks and are very light. Other than adventure bikes, there’s no substitute for an off-road bike.

Touring

These are the bikes for someone who wants to sit back (literally) and enjoy the ride. Touring bikes are designed for long trips, and therefore sacrifice the sort of aggression and aerodynamics of a sports bike in exchange for comfort and practicality. You’ll enjoy a large luggage capacity (if you choose to have boxes attached), as well as great pillion provision. Tourers also tend to be loaded with gadgets for the rider’s convenience. The downside is that they are very heavy and expensive, meaning they aren’t often recommended for new riders.

Classic/Vintage

From Triumphs to Royal Enfield, there are such a wide variety of unique and stylish designs amongst classic and vintage motorcycles, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. These are the bikes you own for the sheer pleasure of owning them.

And you’ll need to be sure you enjoy that pleasure because due to their age, they can be more prone to mechanical failure and can require more maintenance. Parts can be both hard to find and expensive, but that being, if a bike is more than 40 years old, it’s exempt from the need for MOTs or tax!

Cruiser

Cruisers place their emphasis on looking good at low speeds, meaning they offer a relaxed riding position with a low seat. Passengers don’t need to be excluded, you’ll find some cruisers maintain their style while offering a large dual seat with backrest. The low seats mean they can be good for shorter riders, but they tend to be heavier than other bikes.

Test ride your motorcycle

If you already have your licence or CBT, it’s absolutely worth asking to take the bike for a test ride if the option is there. If possible, take someone with you who has a good knowledge of bikes!

When taking a bike for a test ride, watch out for these warning signs:

  • bike pulls to one side or another (hold the bars lightly on a smooth stretch to check)
  • doesn’t steer smoothly
  • unusual noises or vibrations

Be sure to check the gears, clutch, and brakes.

If buying used, be sure to inspect the condition of tyres. Scratches and dents suggest drops and potential damage, oil or lubricant stains suggest potential problems with the moving parts.

You might think rust is a cosmetic issue, but it can be more serious than that. British weather means a bike is likely to often be exposed to water, dirt, and gritting salt that can lead to rust, and some bikes are more prone to rust than others. But be sure to check any bare metal parts, the paintwork, suspension arms, frame, mud guards etc. for signs of rust. Rust in any of these areas could be costly to put right or be a general sign that the bike hasn’t been properly cared for, so dig a little deeper if you spot some.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the bike’s full maintenance history; it can tip you off to potential problems that could either tell you to stay away, or help you to haggle on the price!

Finally, remember if you buy from a dealer you should receive a warranty and these can often be extended by buying an aftermarket warranty.

Insuring your motorcycle

Like it or not, insurance is an integral part of choosing your first motorcycle. After all, you don’t want to buy a fantastic new ride only to discover you can’t afford to insure it!

Insurance companies consider a wide variety of factors, so it’s impossible to say with certainty that a specific bike will cost a lot to insure. But bear these factors in mind while choosing your bike:

Age (both yours and the bike!)

Many insurers tend to charge higher premiums to young riders and the newest bikes, as well as when the ride and the rider have a number of years below their belts. The sweet spot is when both of you have a few miles on you, but not too many. If you’re a young rider and worried about premiums, be sure to get a quote from Lexham - we specialise in policies for you!

Engine size

Though there are certainly exceptions, generally a powerful engine will be more expensive to insure. But think carefully about what you need before you pick a less powerful engine. Don’t lumber yourself with a bike that isn’t powerful enough for your needs.

The bike itself

Is it a desirable bike? That might increase the risk of it being stolen. Are there many others like it on the road? That might make it cheaper and easier to repair. Are you likely to be riding with a passenger? That can potentially increase your premium (it depends on the insurer). If in doubt, get some quotes ahead of viewing and/or test riding the bike.

There are dozens of factors that insurers consider, so don’t try to think of them all, and don’t let them put you off the bike you want, but do be sensible (within reason)! Don’t buy a desirable bike without adequate security, and don’t buy a rare import without being sure you can insure it.

The best thing to do is get a quote online for that bike you have your eye on. Once you have a quote, it will normally last you for 30 days, so you'll have plenty of time to book your test ride and make sure the bike is for you without worrying about the insurance.

You can also get in touch with one of our specialists - with decades of experience in scooter and motorcycle insurance, we can help you get affordable cover to help you get the bike you really want!

Motorcycle slang

When you go for your test ride, the seller might be using terms you're not familiar with. But don't worry, just like any other community, there's some slang to learn! You’ll pick it up quickly, but we’ve listed some of the more common terms to give you a head start!

  • Aftermarket: parts that aren’t made by the original manufacturer
  • Fairing: the plastic body parts
  • Front end: everything in front of the petrol tank
  • Headers: where the exhaust pipes meet the head of the engine.
  • Kickstand: keeps the bike upright when parked.
  • Lump: the engine.
  • Lung: the cylinder.
  • Muffler: reduces the sound created by the exhaust
  • OEM: short for Original Equipment from Manufacturer, which means it was made by the original manufacturer, as opposed to a third party or aftermarket manufacturer.
  • Pannier: adds luggage space to either side of the bike.
  • Rear end: the back of the bike, incorporating the swing arm, rear wheel, etc.
  • Rearsets: typically where the foot pegs are placed on sportsbikes, these are further back and higher, often adjustable, to give greater ground clearance for your feet = more lean angle.
  • Rebound: the distance the suspension travels when returning from compression.
  • Restricted: an engine that has been limited to a certain horsepower to make it eligible for a rider who does not yet hold a full motorcycle licence.
  • Sump: part of the lubrication system which sits at the bottom of the engine. Check regularly to ensure it isn’t leaking oil into the path of your rear tyre.
  • Swingarm: attaches the rear wheel to the bike frame.
  • Top end: the top of the engine.
  • Yoke/Triple-Clamp: where the handlebars are connected to the top of the front forks.

A question of height

If you’re worried about whether you’ll fit on a bike, don’t worry too much as most bikes can be adjusted to accommodate your height one way or another. But seat height is often less of an issue than you might think. Our own Brett Tinkley stands at a mighty 5’ 6”, but he can sit on a bike with an 840mm seat height with no problems.

And if you’re still worried, take a look at this tool - it takes a few details about your measurements and shows you how you’d fit on a particular type of bike. Very useful!

Adjusting your motorcycle

Even if you’re buying your bike new, you may want to adjust it. Ideally, you want to be able to rest both feet flat on the ground while sat on the bike.

On some bikes you can pull out the rubber stops under the seat to lower it slightly, or use larger stops to raise it. You can also replace the seat entirely. If you’re a shorter rider, think about narrowing the seat as well as lowering it, for instance, some cruisers come with very wide seats!

You can adjust your suspension to alter the comfort of your ride. But only attempt this if you are confident, otherwise ask if your dealership can do this for you. This also affects the height of the bike itself, so make sure you adjust the side stand too. For more information, take a look at our more in-depth guide to choosing a motorbike for your height and size.

You also have options for aftermarket screens, rearsets (which alter the placement of your feet, often bringing them higher, or relaxing a sport riding position), and handlebars/risers (which can also alter your riding position i.e. higher bars can relax a sports position).

Any adjustments or modifications need to be disclosed to your insurance company. They won’t all attract a higher premium, but it’s worth talking to them before you make any drastic adjustments to your bike.

I hope that’s helped you figure out which kind of bike is right for you, but don’t worry if you still have questions - choosing your first motorcycle is an incredibly personal decision! But we’re happy to answer any questions you might have or offer any advice if we can. Just leave a comment with your question below, or let us know what you think the best starter bike is!

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