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Old school fool
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One of the best things about being the moderator for the New Riders’ Forum is getting to read all the great questions that new riders pose. It's great to see people with the courage to come forward and admit they don't know something. Everyone benefits from the discussions these people generate, especially the people who can't bring themself to ask the same question. It's amazing how many people are afraid to ask the basic questions for fear of looking foolish. Of course, not so long ago, I was one of them.

Time plays funny tricks on your mind as you age and my “not so long ago” is over 20 years when you look at it on a calendar. Back then there was no internet and guys learned about bikes two ways: Through their own hard-won personal experience or through someone else’s hard-won personal experience. Since I've already admitted that I could never ask, you can guess how I usually ended up learning.

One of the things I needed to know turns out to be one of the same things that today’s new riders want to know. “What should I buy before I get a bike?" Here is my advice -

1: Buy Knowledge - Buy books, magazines, and pay to take a riding course. Also don't be afraid to ask! Buy coffee for guys at dealerships who look and sound like they know what they are talking about - those guys actually WANT to teach you! Do this enough and you will soon get a coherent picture about what you need to be doing. Learn as much as you can from as many different sources as you can and you will be off to a great start.

2: Buy a decent set of tools - I recommend a good universal motorcycle tool kit. I got one for the equivellant of about $40 US here in Japan. It has almost everything I've ever needed to work on my last two bikes - even the special tools for taking off the farings and dealing with the fasteners. It also works well on cars and around the house.

Honestly, until I was a 100 percent decided that I was bringing a bike home, that is about all I would buy. If something happens and for some reason you don't get a bike, you haven't wasted money on a bunch of accessories that you can never use on anything else.

When you have made your mind up, put your money down and are just waiting to get your baby back home, then I also suggest -

3: Buy a good lock - I only use a disc lock, but I have protected overnight parking and almost never park for very long periods of time in public places. (maybe for about the amount of time it takes to get a hair cut or something) If my bike was more exposed, I would have a cable lock of some kind.

4: Buy a good cover - Whether your bike sits inside a garage, under the eaves of the house or out in the weather, a cover is always a good idea. More than protecting your bike from dust and the elements, a cover keeps out the prying eyes of potential thieves and can also stop little kids from clambering aboard when you aren’t around.

5: Buy good gear - What gear to buy is an entire article on its own and I won't go into it here. If you include cold weather gear, hot weather gear, rain gear, touring gear, sport riding gear and whatever other kind of gear there is there can be a LOT of stuff to buy. Just remember to buy the best quailty you can find - don't go cheap! Also to buy stuff that you will actually use - if your gear isn’t comfortable or suited to the kind of riding you will do, you might not wear it. Gear is no good to you if it is hanging at home in a closet when you crash.

Other than gear, nothing I have listed here is an absolute necessity for everyone. There is no universal starters' kit and depending on your personal situation, you may choose to forego some of these items for the time being. To be honest, just few years ago even I didn’t have most of the things I’ve listed here but I've wised up over time. Like usual, you can guess how I learned...
 

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Pretty good write-up.

The one thing I would add is to call around regarding insurance prices.
Far too often, I hear about someone who found a bike they just couldn't live without and actually could afford to pay for, only to find out the next week that they'd never be able to afford the insurance.
 
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