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new to motorcycles

16 years ago


Lately I've been thinking of learning to ride/drive a motorcycle. A friend has three BMW's and took me for a thrilling ride on his K1. Knowing me, I thought starting out with a scooter would be about my speed, however, I would like to know how much of a bike a 120 pound, 5'2", gal could handle? Definately riding lessons would be in order. How did you gals get out to learn to ride? Did someone encourage you or did you decide to do it on your own? I'm glad to see this forum and look forward to hearing about all your introductions into the motorcycling world of women.


Comments (26)

  • Blue_Fairy
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Good day to you, Zyphergal.
    After dieting, when I first arrived in South Florida, I weighed 121 pounds. I now weigh 140 lbs. and am a 5'6", very thin-framed male. My head would wobble, in the beginning, after I put my helmet on as my neck muscles needed to strengthen in order to hold the additional weight of the helmet up. I can relate somewhat, I think, to your concerns.

    I saw a Suzuki Boulevard 443 pound motorcycle on the internet, and bought it from a local dealer. Then, I went to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, or local MSF, for lessons.

    The MSF, well they provide a bike for you when you sign up for beginner lessons. The bikes are heavy, but a small framed woman in the class had no trouble picking it up after she dumped it during an emergency stop on a curve, (they will show you how to do this ...or you can do a search on the internet, "How to pick up your motorcycle"... and you spend 6 hours a day, usually 1 Saturday and 1 Sunday, on the hot pavement learning to ride. (In South Florida where I live, it's hot pavement,-lessons were held at a local High School's Parking lot.)

    Anyway, after each day of actual on-pavement riding lessons, there are usually two days of this, they make you manually walk the bike up a ramp, after lessons, for you to put it into storage. You then feel how heavy these bikes are, yet you are not lifting the full weight of the bike... one is just pushing it along...keeping it balanced as you walk beside it. The instructors want you to strengthen your muscles, and I would suggest you work out somewhat with weights for a few weeks to a month before taking the course. For instance...I wanted to quit (quite badly) during the last 3 hours of the course yet I spent several hundred dollars for the course and did not wish to forfeit the money, plus..I already bought a motorcycle, others in the class did not have one as yet. I wanted to buy one first to help motivate me through the class.

    During the last hour of the "MSF Rider Course" was the Road Test, pretty easy, after your training...and you must demonstrate your ability to stop, do an emergency stop on a curve (they show you how to do this without falling), and turn the bike around slowly in a tight square, and another smooth wide turn in second gear.

    You must also pass a written exam which is pretty easy.

    You learn in the 1st classroom day... the controls on the motorcycle and how to turn, stop, go, and so forth...on the road and going slow in a parking lot. How to drive using the Seek, Evaluate, and Execute method of motorcycle riding....basically, if you drive safely in a car, you will be a good driver on a motorcycle.

    Once you pass, you receive a card from MSF stating that you successfully completed the course. You then take this card into the DMV and get your Motorcycle License Endorsement onto your regular driver's license. Be sure to get the card back, as you can use it to save money on insurance, motorcycle purchases, ect. For instance, I received a 50 dollar rebate from Suzuki upon completion of their rebate form and proof of Motorcycle Safety Course Completion.

  • sager66
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Google . .
    girlbike scooters

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  • jeanner
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    We're about the same size so I can relate.

    I started with an old Honda 450 - I could handle the weight fine but my feet didn't sit flat. I then got a Virago 535 - nice little bike, the seat sits lower so my feet were mostly flat and I could still handle the weight. I then inherited my husbands Virago 750 when he bought a bigger bike. The 750 turned out to be more than I could handle. When I was riding, the size and weight wasn't an issue but I had a hard time manuerving it. I never dropped it but came close a few times and if my husband hadn't been there I'm sure it would have gone over. But I really think the biggest hurdle is gaining confidence in your abilities. I'm still not sure if the 750 was too big or just too big in my mind!

    I think it also depends on where you want to ride. A smaller bike is nice for short trips. We wanted to take longer trips and the bigger bikes do ride nicer and seem to do better at higher speeds (in my mind at least).

    I also took the motorcycle safety class and I highly recommend it. It's a long weekend but I learned alot and had a great time.

    I don't ride anymore but sometimes wish I had a 250 (or so) for riding around the back roads in the evenings or short trips into town.

  • msmarion
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I got tired of riding on the back! Told DH that I wanted a bike he came home with a 1974 Honda 350 4 cyl. Got my permit rode for 500 miles in the cematery across the street. You have to learn to ride slow before you can ride fast was whit I was told! I upgraded before my road test to a sport bike a 1984 Honda Interceptor. At that time I was the only woman who rode her own bike among our friends. Got my license the week before Laconia Bike week 1985. Had a blast never stalled once in all that traffic!

    Moved to FL 4 years ago and took one look at how they drive here and signed up for the MSF course at our local high school. Had a blast learned alot. Best $250 I ever spent. I found a 1200 Custom Sportster at the local HD dealership that I just had to have. Who ever said that a woman's first bike should be a Sportster should be made to ride one!!! The center of gravity is so out of wack. DH lowered mine which made it somewhat easier to ride. He'd bee telling me for years that I should try his bike, I thought ya right it's going to be too heavy for me. I have no upper body strength. Well a week after selling the sportster I was riding his bike!! Who'd a thunk it! The I found one on e-Bay just like it in better shape and it was just two towns south. Called the guy went and saw it gave him a deposit and the rest is history. Two weeks later I was on my way to Myrtle Beach.

    I'd suggest a Honda 750 Spirit. It's a great bike and you won't be bored with it. You are going to be so bored with a scooter. I have a friend up in NH who has a 250 Honda Shadow, I took it for a ride it was buzzy and I wanted to get off and push to keep up with traffic.

    Keep reaching for the stars! and go for it. You won't regret it!

  • gloriam
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I got my licence 2 years ago. I took the MSF course. I
    rode on the back as a passenger for years. Then I noticed
    all these women riding and decided I wanted to try. So off to
    the Honda shop we went and I bought a Suzuki 250cc and DH
    rode it home. Got my permit the same day. I had never rode
    before. I had a hard time so I learned to ride a 80cc dirt
    bike first, to get my balance. Then I switched to the 250cc.
    Then I got a 600cc honda, now I ride a 750cc Honda Aero.

    I am 5'3" and had to have the 600cc bike lowered. I am also
    63 years young.

  • over_n_under
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    It is one thing to learn to ride on a light weight bike. Trying to get the hang of how to handle a bike and handle the weight can be daunting for some. But depending on where you want to ride, you may want to quickly move away from the light weight (learning bike) to a more substantial bike. I say this because you want something that has enough power to quickly and easily merge into traffic. Some smaller bikes are underpowered. And, the heavier the bike, the easier it will handle in windy conditions.

    The motorcycle safety course is a must. One rule I always follow when riding - I expect that no one can see me unless I am directly in front of them. And even then..... So I have to look out for myself at all times. I never rely on people in cars and trucks to do the right thing, so I am constantly positioning myself to where I am behind them or in a safe distance in front of them. But I never trust anyone alongside of me. I've been riding for 30 years and that 'rule' has helped me so far.

  • sigh
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago


    The MSF is the best thing money that you can spend when it comes to learning to ride. Take that course before you think about what kind of bike to get & you'll have a better idea of what works for you.

    My first bike was a 600cc Honda Shadow. I loved cruisers & this bike was a great, reliable & pretty machine. While I'm taller than you are and so had more of a selection of "comfortable" seat heights available to me I felt much more secure being able to flat foot the bike. It was a small bike but it was heavy with a low center of gravity and you really had to hold the bike up at low speeds. I put a lot of miles on that bike.

    My first ride on a sport bike was a revelation. The center of gravity was higher, so the bike practically held itself up when moving from a dead stop, plus it was better balanced so that you didn't need both feet down in order to hold it up at a stop. I continued to ride the shadow but when I started scraping the pegs on curves I realized that I had outgrown the bike & it was time to move on. After much test riding I ended up with a Triumph Speed Triple...a bike that I never, ever would have thought I'd be riding. It's goggle eyed, naked and ugly with more power than I'll ever need and a more upright riding position than a traditional sportbike but it's a joy to ride. The Triumphs are beautifully balanced.

    I started learning to ride 12 years ago. It was something that I had wanted to do for ages but that my mother had forbidden as long as I lived in her home. Two months after I got married & was living in my OWN home I took the MSF course. At the time passing the MSF didn't waive the road test requirement for licensing in NY so I had to find a place to take lessons & a road test prep course in order to get licensed. I swear that I spent an entire week doing circles & figure eights in the width of a 2 lane road prior to that test and I passed it the first time. That ride home from the road test site was one of the most ecstatic moments of my life.

    Good luck to you!


  • amyben
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Dear Z (and fellow riders)
    At age 19 my then boyfriend taught me to ride his Bultaco at the Korvettes parking lot in Brooklyn.
    At age 40 I finally bought myself a birthday present I knew if I didn't buy then I never would. I found a practically new Kawasaki 500, shiny red, on Long Island. Thinking I knew how to ride, but so long ago, I took the motorcycle safety foundation course, and soon learned I knew nothing. I had one fall after riding for a year. I was turning too fast for my lean and hit a curb. What was a curb doing there in rural Ct? I told myself to take my eyes off that stupid curb or I'd hit it. Not fast enough. I wasn't badly hurt, but my left knee still has a little numb spot. So, If you learn nothing else- make sure you LOOK THROUGH YOUR TURNS.
    I rode for ten more years without incident, but sold the bike some years ago when I felt I was getting too old to risk injury. I'm a woodworker and need my whole body in working order. The Kawasaki EX500 was a great first bike and perfect for women. At 5'7", 125lbs. it was light enough for me and handles beautifully. Very responsive and really quick, but a little buzzy after a few hours. I know a guy who races vintage bikes, whose personal get-around bike is an old EX.
    I'm now 56 and often miss riding. When I see a sport bike behind me on the Williamsburg bridge, I always give her/him room.


  • remodeler_matt
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Hey Z:
    You didn't say what kind of bikes you like, so it's hard to make a recommendation. But you really can't go wrong as long as you get a small, light-weight bike to begin with. And that is why I highly recommend a used dirt bike or a "play" bike, as well as taking a dirt-bike riding course. That way, when you drop it (and you almost certainly will) it's no big deal. Just pick it up and go. When you're ready for something bigger, you just sell it and get what you want.

    The MSF course is certainly better than nothing, but quite frankly I don't think it goes nearly far enough. One day on a dirt bike will develop riding skills that would take months on the street.

    I remember riding along Skyline Drive in the Bay Area on my Sporster in the rain 'bout 10 years ago when a car came whipping out in front of me. I hit the brakes too hard and locked the back wheel, causing the rear-end to start skidding round to the front. Thanks to spending a few thousand hours on the dirt, however, it didn't bother me a bit. I just let up on the brake lever and shifted my weight to bring the skid back. I continued on up to Alice's and a guy who saw the whole thing came up to me in complete disbelief that I didn't go down.

    Here's some great beginner bikes, in my opinion:

    1. Any dirt bike or play bike that is short enough so you can get your feet flat on the ground.

    2. The smallest Kawi Ninja bikes (the 250 or 500)

    3. Suzuki SV650

    4. The smallest Buell (the name escapes me at the moment -- the one with a single cylinder and the colored-through body pieces that don't show scratches when you go down)

    5. Honda Nighthawk -- the MSF "drop-doggy"

    6. If you're only into cruisers, any of the Japanese cruisers with small engines, like less than 500 cc's.

    I love my Sportster but would not recommend it as a beginner bike. It's too heavy. I learned to ride on Honda Trail bikes, starting with the 50cc step-through and graduating to a 110, and I still love those bikes today. I wish Honda still made them.

    I'd be glad to make more specific recommendations if you like. Just tell us more about what you want to do on a motorcycle.

  • sdrawkcab
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    start with MSF class in your area, some people want to ride until they try it then decide its not for them.

    then decide what you want to do with the bike-

    cruise up and down main street showing off the chrome?
    shoot the twisties as fast as you can?
    tour the country via 2 wheels?
    ride dirt and street on a dual sport?

    if you want to cruise and show off the chrome,(Cruiser) a Rebel 250 is a good starter.

    if you want to run twisties (sport bike), the ninja 250 is the best bang-for-your-buck (i still ride one because its fun even for non-beginners)

    if you want to tour, i sugest you start with a small bike like the 250's mentioned above and get some practice in first THEN go get a bigger bike (there are no "beginner" touring bikes).

    im not really familiar with dual sports. but i know there are a lot of choices out there.

    ALSO: remember- its your FIRST bike, not your last, dont let the salesmen talk you into a bigger bike then you want because they are out for more comission off a bigger bike.

    i am a guy, 240lbs, 6'2" and i ride a Kawasaki EX250R and i know girls less than 1/2 my size who also ride this same bike. it cost about $3400 to get into a NEW one. less if you go used.

    REMEMBER allow AT LEAST $600-800 for safety gear

    helmet even if the law doesnt require it !
    MC specific gloves summer and winter if you live in a seasonal place)
    jacket summer and winter
    riding pants possibly summer and winter
    boots steel toed, over the ankle, leather

    if you think skimping on safety gear is fine, i can send you some pics of friends of mine who wore gear vs. didnt.
    think about what it would feel like to slide across pavement at 60 mph on your bare skin. (possibly on you hands or even on your face!) Sweat dries a lot faster than skin heals. and, to be honest, people treat you differently if you walk around in a store in full MC safety gear holding a helmet. just last night i got 1/2 my dinner for free because i talked bikes with the guy at the deli counter for a few minutes. he said, "man were closing in a few minutes, im going to throw this stuff out anyway, i'll just put it in here for you to take home". i doubt that would have happened if i were in street clothes.

    whatever you decide- go slow, have fun, keep the shiny side up.

  • zephyrgal
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Thanks to all the postings! Great advise. As mentioned, my friend gave me a thrilling ride on his BMW K1. Since he owns three BMW's, a GS, K1, and RS, I've become familiar with BMW's. There's a training course coming up in September and another next May. The course offers bikes and helmets but I'm not sure what kind of bikes.

    My friend bought me a nice $300 helmet, red, with flip top shield and all and very heavy. Makes me feel like a space women. He also has leather pants and a sturdy, padded jacket for me to wear. So, some good boots/shoes and my outfit should be complete.

    I'm still a little apprehensive but perhaps once I get on a bike and get the controls I'll feel more confident. It's time this 53 year old gal gets on with life and feel the wind on my face!


  • maryanntx
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Z, I was 53 when I took the motorcycle safety class and had a ball! My instructors were so professional and I learned so much. I would recommend it to everyone just starting out.

  • remodeler_matt
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Hey Z:
    Glad you are serious about protection!

    However, in my opinion, BMW does not now nor ever has made a good beginner's bike. They are just too heavy. Even their smallest machine, the F650, is still well over 400 pounds. Though that is light compared to many machines, it will still be a handful when first starting out. It also has a relatively high seat height, at about 31 inches, which also makes it difficult to handle for most women.

    Please consider a small, used bike -- the smaller the better (I learned on 50cc Honda Trail bikes when I was 6). You pick one up for a song, and sell it when you're ready for something bigger/better/faster.

    I can't tell you how many people I know who bought an unsuitable bike to learn on, and ended up selling it and giving up the sport. And that is a shame.

  • pianojuggler
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    See Noemi's Motorcycle Page, especially the "short biker" info.

    Mrs. PJ has a 1981 Honda CB650 Custom with an aftermarket seat that's a smidgen lower than stock. It's a great bike, plenty of power, and we've even gone on a couple of long trips with her on the CB650 and me (and ALL the camping gear) on the Gold Wing.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Noemi's Motorcycle Life

  • zephyrgal
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    More great advise and links! Thanks, I'm almost encouraged to take the plunge, er, drive. A bike purchase isn't even a thought now but who knows how I may get hooked?!

  • gizmotoz
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    sorry i have to disagree on the bmw not being a good beginners bike, i started on a silverwing, 500cc and did not like the response, dh was riding a 750 at the time, we bought the r65 and once on it i never looked back, i like the fact that the engine sits lower, seems to help my center. started on the 65, went to 100 now on an 1100 and love it. i have ridden several other types and the only other bike that i was interested in was a ducati, very light wet weight.

    i second the safety gear, friends have made comments and my only response is, do you have enough money in the back to live off of in case of a bad spill? I do not....

    good luck and ride in good health.

  • dortycakes
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I have a friend who used to ride on the back of her husband's 1800 Goldwing. After getting into a bad accident, she decided that wasn't going to happen again and got her own 1800. She's very petite and this is her first bike. She did go through the safety course. It is awesome to see this little woman handling such a big bike without a problem. As expected, she is an advocate of wearing full safety gear.

  • crackergal
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Hi Zephergal,
    I rode on the back of DH's bike for years with no interest in having my own bike. Then out of the blue, I started to think "Maybe I could do this myself" I took the MSF course and I was scared to death. The instructors were great, The bikes were sweet little 250 Yamahas but I had NEVER run a throttle in my life. Somehow I passed and got my own Yahamah 250. It took me a long time untill I wasn't spooked everytime I rode. But a year after I wobbled through the course I've stepped up to a Kawasaki 500. Hoo-wee! this is starting to be fun!
    I second all the good advice on safety gear. Look through your turns, the bike will go where you look. And believe that no one else on the road can see you. Every motorist that has ever been in an accident with a motorcycle will always say the same thing, "I didn't see him."
    I would recomend that you take the first available MSF course, find a bike that you can sit on flat footed, and then go ride! Have fun and be safe.

  • the_adams
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Not to repeat what others have said, but...

    I am 5'3 and my husband recently purchased a Honda Shadow 600 for me. Way too big for me to learn on. I couldn't flat foot and it was heavy. I also had a hard time reaching the controls. I got around a parking lot on it and when I was finally almost ready to ride through the neighborhood I hit a curb, landed wrong and broke my hand! Ouch!

    Next time I will get a Honda Nighthawk 250 because I want something with a sporty look and I can flat foot this and it is soooo light. My goal is to graduate into a Triumph Thruxton (Cafe Racer) possibly with a lowering kit.

    If you want a cruiser I would go with the Honda Rebel 250 or 400.

    Personally I would stick with Honda to learn on because Honda's are known to having the most forgiving clutches.

    Good luck and let us know your decission!

  • lellie
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I see many new women riders on Shadows these days...heard nothing but good things about'm.

    Personally...I'm old-school. I believe you should start out on a dirtbike. It's by far the best way to really learn how to handle a bike.

    And...don't forget to take not only an MSF course, but the advanced course down the road, as well.

    Good luck, Z!

  • remodeler_matt
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Lots of good advice in the last three posts. But, come on people, what good is a post that says "I knew someone who learned to ride on the biggest bike you can get and she was just fine"? That's not useful advice for a new rider.

    It's like recommending a Mack Truck for learning to drive, or a Clydesdale for learning to ride horses. Some people may be able to handle it, but it is certainly not good advice.

  • mister_h
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I bought a Kawasaki EX250 for my wife about 2 years ago. She's 5'4" and the bike seems to fit her frame well. The seat height is 29" and weighs around 300 lbs. Engine is a water cooled 250 cc inline two cylinder twin-cam, 4-valve per cyl, making about 30 hp. Handles really well around town due to its smaller dimension and light weight. Looks sporty with a full fairing but sits rather straight up for comfortable riding position. IMO, it is an excellent choice as for the first bike. How fast can it go on a 250 cc engine? Well, I tried up to 85 mph and backed off, but some other EX250 owners say they topped it off at 110 mph which I believe it can do. The part that I really like is that it gets 74+ MPG! Another great enjoyment is that I am riding a $3K bike and passing those $30K Pirius which don't even REALLY get 50 MPG!
    If you think 250 is too small or not fast enough for you, check out its bigger bro - EX500 which I also owned and immensly liked as my first new bike.

  • honey_pott
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I want to say "GO FOR IT!" I am 5'0". I am not a big person. I started on a 700cc Honda Shadow. This is my 2nd yr riding, and she's my baby. I am very comfortable on her, no problems. My advice is, take a day, go look at bikes. Sit on some. Find something that YOU are comfortable on. Only you will know, and you will know, if a bike is good for YOU. Just make a day of it, and don't let anyone rush you into a decision. And have fun.

  • clg7067
    16 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I did the MSF when I lived in Seattle. Learned to ride in the pouring rain in February, but I learned.

  • summersrhythm_z6a
    6 years ago

    This is an old thread, but I have to find out what happened to Z. Z, are you riding a motorcycle now?

  • ssewalk1
    4 years ago

    Apparently not !

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