Letters To The Editor


Donna Warren

February 2005

This month we received a question from a new rider:

"I found a 1984 700cc honda shadow and am wondering if it would be appropriate for me to learn on. The riding position felt ok. The pegs are further forward than I am used to however the balancing was fine....Do you know if any of the gals owns this type of bike. If so I would like some input.

Any info would be appreciated...Remember I am a beginner who spent a couple of hours on Drew's BMW and don't want to start with a rebel 250. I need a bike to practice on so that i could get my license and cruise with you gals. So let me know..."

As usual, I sent the question out to the membership for their opinions. Here's what they had to say:

From Laura J: "The Shadow 700 is kind of a heavy bike to manage for a beginner so it is probably not appropriate. I started out on a Kawasaki 550 LTD which I thought was heavy too. Dropped it lots of times when I stopped, started or just trying to wrestle it into a spot in my garage. I was really proud of myself when I finally had it mastered and could easily flick it around. It took several years before I was really confident to get a bigger bike. Not to say a beginner couldn't manage a big bike, but a smaller bike would give a beginner more confidence providing a safer, more enjoyable ride."

From Liz Sm: "Sounds a bit big for a beginner, but I agree with what someone else said - depends on her skill, confidence level, and one more thing - lower body strength.

My first bike right out of the MSF course was a hand-me-down Honda Shadow 600. I could flat-foot it and in spite of my 5 foot 1 inch height, and felt very comfortable on it. I dropped it twice, but only in situations where I would have dropped ANY size bike. And yes, I picked it up myself both times.

Now I'm on a 750 Shadow, which has just a bit more oomph than the 600. Better for highway speeds, and a little more power when the light turns green. Also a bit heavier than the 600, but now I have several thousand miles under my belt (or under something).

Bottom line - if she can try the bike (particularly low speed maneuvering, say, in a parking lot) - that would be best. Once in motion on the road the bike's weight becomes much less of a hindrance, and more of a help. Just my 2 cents..."

From Judy H: "No riding experience at all? For someone with no experience I'd recommend a Rebel 250 if she wants a cruiser. If she's tall and thinks that's just too small, a Kawasaki 454 LTD would be good. For something a little sportier, a Ninja 250 or a Ninja 500 (EX500), or a Suzuki GS500. Oh, and take the MSF course first if she hasn't already."

From Janet B: "I started on a 1986 Honda Shadow 500 and rode it for 6 years. It was a great bike for me and I would highly recommend it."

From Angela K: "That might be a little intimidating - I would suggest she take the MFS safety course before she tries to ride that by herself. I started on a Honda Shadow 600 and had never ridden before, I was a true beginning. It was suggested I take the safety course and after riding a 250 for two days I would be ready to ride a bigger bike...and they were right. I think Honda's are great bikes and the Shadow 600 was a great beginner bike."

From Laura S: "Although I started with the 800 CC hugger sportster, it was short and most of the weight was low. I believe that the Shadow may be too much for her, unless like Judy said, she is tall."

From Jean L: "I started on the Sportster 883!!! I spilled once with it and that was before the MSF course! I had no problem handling the bike after I took the class and became more confident. That Honda should not be a problem unless she is too tall or too small. "

From Linda S: "I think a great deal has to do with how tall she is. A VLX has a long wheel base and may be difficult to learn to make tight turns. A vulcan 500 or 800 has a shorter wheel base and would be easier to handle. I think the easiest bike of all is the 650 Suzuki savage I had. Some of the Intruders are narrow and lighter. It really depends on how she feels the bike fits her. A bike with less weight and reasonable power is good to learn on. An older used bike is a very good choice to learn on. Is the bike "top heavy" for her if she leans it over. How does she feel about the bike?"

From Bill D: "It depends on how big the beginner is and her confidence level. A 4'8" woman might be best served by starting with Alex' Honda 250 Rebel. A 5'10" woman might be able to start with a 500 Shadow and not drop it too many times in the first season."

From Michele M: "If I didn't meet my Honda 250 Rebel (Harley look alike) in my travels, I wouldn't be riding. That's because I'm very short. I feel I had to crawl before I walk. Gave me many happy trails and the confidence I need. I'm ready for the next right bike for me. I'll know it when I sit on it. That's how it happened with the Rebel."

From Cath G: " I started on a 650 Suzuki Savage. I thought was an excellent beginner bike, small, low riding, dependable, easy to control, easy to pick up and easy to maintain."

All very good advice. The correct beginner's bike depends on the rider's height, physical strength and feeling of confidence and budget. Taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course is most important thing you can do. If you are a short rider, check out this link for more information on bikes for short riders.



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