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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-09-2011, 11:35 AM Thread Starter
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Another total newbie

So, basically, I got the itch one morning to learn how to ride a motorcycle.

I got my permit and I took the MSF basic course (being AD military it's mandatory, but also free and didn't have to wait very long) and had fun.

Anyway, between my next paycheck and coming tax return, I've got about 4k to spend on toys and I'm really thinking of buying a bike. Plus I have the added advantage of living on a military base with a lot of massive, vacant lots and basically abandoned backroads to practice in and get the basics down before I have to deal with normal traffic.

I've already been to both the bike shops I could find close to post; my budget means I've been looking at all used bikes. I've found a couple candidates in my price range. I'm not set on a cruiser or a sport bike, I'd like a mix of fun and practical, really.

2003 Honda Nighthawk 750. Forgot to check miles. Like the way it feels. I'm 6' and about 200. I liked it, but I don't know if it's too powerful for a beginner. They were asking 3.5K.

2004 Honda Shadow 600. 6k miles, IIRC. Most comfortable cruiser I've sat on so far. Also 3.5K.

2001 Kawasaki Ninja 500R. 10k miles. Seen these recommended a lot and I liked the way it felt; only other sport bike in my price range was a GXSR 600 which I figured would be too much bike. I want to say they were asking 3k, but that seems high from my research.

Are any of these really worth considering?

Meanwhile, on Craigslist in the last week there's a 2008 Ninja 250R, 5k miles, 3000$, and a 2002 Buell Blast with 4k for 2100$, maybe should try to see if they're still available.

Wouldn't be opposed to a Ninja 250, they seem to come up every 3 weeks or so on Craigslist, but would it be better to buy from a dealer for a first bike? I can see the definite advantage of ease of delivery...
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-09-2011, 09:21 PM
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Nighthawk: Might or might not be too powerful for a beginner. They make around 70 HP, and while I like to recommend 50 HP or under for a new rider, the way the Nighthawk delivers those 70 ponies might be gentle enough for a new rider.

Shadow 600: Way too expensive for what is, in my opinion, a puny looking cruiser. Performance is also so-so.

Ninja 500: Excellent starter bike. Makes around 55 HP IIRC, and has an upright seating position similar to the Nighthawk. WAY too expensive, though. I see 2006ish models going for $2500 here. I bought a 2000 Katana 600 for $2400. I wouldn't touch a 2001 Ninja 500 for anything over $2000 personally.

Buell Blast: At your height it will be too small. Performance is comparable to the Ninja 250, with the Buell winning in the low end and the Ninja winning on the upper end of the RPM scale.

Whatever you do, do your research. Use Kelly Blue Book and NADA websites to get an idea of what the bikes are worth. I also like to search the completed listings on eBay to see what people are ACTUALLY paying for a bike (and don't be afraid to print out several winning auctions to haggle price).

BTW, I've bought all used bikes. My first and third bikes I got the previous owner to deliver the bike for me. They will usually agree if it is a reasonable distance.

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2003 Suzuki Bandit 1200 (naked) - SOLD
1984 Honda Gold Wing GL1200 (stripped)
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-09-2011, 11:04 PM
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Get out of the dealership where the only thing you're paying extra money for is a good detailing job.
For you, I would recommend a Suzuki GS500 or SV600.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-10-2011, 02:22 PM
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Shadow 600 is a great bike. Low end performance is outstanding for a 600cc engine. Bulletproof mechanicals. Nimble and great for around town and some expressway driving. Extended trips on it will leave you wanting for more bike but, all in all, a good machine. Definitely not worth $3,500 though. I would say anything under $2,800 and you're in the ball park.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-10-2011, 10:51 PM
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Personal preference would have me suggest the Shadow, but all the bikes listed are good bikes, if they have been maintained.

My only caviat is with the Nighthawk, I do agree it might be a bit more powerful than I would recommend for a beginner.

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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-13-2011, 05:49 PM
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The Nighthawk 750 will be the best of those in the long run. It is docile enough that it won't intimidate you in the beginning and will still delight you as you gain experience and skill.

Honda has been making the air cooled inline 4 for decades and they are reliable beyond reproach.
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