Lee Carnihan – A Few Good Tips for Students Buying a Motorbike

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As a uni student, you’re probably on a budget (definitely on a budget) and if you can’t afford a car but still want the freedom and independence from owning some form of transportation, a motorbike might be your best option.

The benefits

Firstly, motorbikes are usually cheaper to buy and run than cars. Take for example, the Suzuki GS500. Known as a fantastic bike for beginners, the Suzuki GS500 is small but powerful and “gets great gas mileage”.

If you’re interested in buying one, you’ll be looking at anything between £1000-£2000 depending on whether you’re buying used or new. Not only are these reliable rides fairly cheap, they’re also good looking and nippy, so they’ll get you where you need to go in style.

By law, you have to wear a helmet. A basic helmet should cost you around £30-£40 and will give you the protection you need. Even though a full set of riding leathers isn’t a legal requirement, it will protect you from injury, especially if it includes body armour. Falling off a motorbike at 30mph “will rip through normal clothing” and you could end up seriously injuring yourself or worse, which is why it’s best to invest in some kind of protective clothing.

A set of leathers offers excellent protection, but this would to set you back £700+. Instead, you could invest in textile protective clothing – made from Kevlar and ballistic nylon for example – because it’ll be a lot cheaper and still provide a very good level of protection. You can also upgrade textile protective clothing and wear body armour, so you’ll receive even more protection.

Motorbikes are usually cheaper to insure than a car, and they’re also extremely fuel efficient, whereas filling up a car costs a lot more.

Other than being one of the most affordable vehicles to buy and run, motorbikes are nothing if they are not fun. Nothing can beat the freedom and exhilaration you gain from riding through the open air.

Motorbikes are great if you’re on a budget and you want the freedom that comes with owning your own transport. But there are also times, where you’ll wish you had a car…

The drawbacks

Two words – helmet hair. It’s unavoidable. Just make sure you carry a comb with you at all times!

Storage is also a major problem with motorbikes. Unlike a car, which has a boot, a motorbike is very limited. But there are ways around this. You can attach objects onto your motorbike with “straps, bungees or other retention methods”. As long as the object doesn’t “impinge on your ability to comfortably control a motorcycle” you should be able to carry almost anything.

Safety first

Fashion faux pas and storage issues aside, whether it’s rain, snow, or sweltering heat, you can’t avoid the elements on a bike.

There are some very real dangers to be aware of when riding in extreme weather, especially the heat. Even if there’s cloud cover, you should always take regular breaks on long rides and carry a bottle of water with you to rehydrate yourself.

Dehydration can creep up on you and seriously affect your awareness and ability to control the bike safely. And of course, riding in the cold brings the risk of black ice.

The best advice is to always check the weather and check your bike before you head out.

Persuading your parents

One of the major problems you’ll have to tackle before even thinking about buying a motorbike is persuading your parents. They’ll undoubtedly share their concern that the ‘roads aren’t as safe as they used to be’.

However, there’s a lot more awareness around motorbike safety than there ever was. For instance, the number of motorcyclists killed and seriously injured in the UK has fallen since 2008, “when 493 motorcyclists were killed and 5,556 were seriously injured on Britain’s roads”.

This statistic has lowered immensely due to increased awareness, but the number is still high which is why there are further precautions that you can take to ensure your safety (and to keep your parents’ minds at rest): further skills training, wearing the right gear, and choosing the right helmet.

Choosing a bike

Mopeds are not very powerful, but they are ideal for travelling short distances. With an engine capacity of 50cc, a moped’s “top speed will be restricted to 30mph so it’s no good for faster A-roads”. But if you’re wanting to travel long distances, then you’re going to need a more powerful engine.

In this case, a motorbike would be perfect for the job. But there is another option: the scooter. Scooters are so named due to their vintage design, and can have an engine capacity up to 700cc.

Dealer or no dealer – used or new

Buying from new can be expensive if you buy the bike outright, but there are ways around this. For example, leasing a motorbike is more affordable because the monthly payments can be low and usually, no down-payments are required. Plus, major repairs are often covered by a warranty, however, maintenance costs are not covered. Besides, if you buy or lease from new, you’ll get the peace of mind knowing that this shiny, beautiful, brand new bike has had no previous faults and no previous owner.

Buying from new outright can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, it’s usually better to lease a motorbike or buy used. Buying used will be a lot cheaper and you could end up with a great deal. As long as you know what you’re looking for, you won’t end up with a piece of worthless junk.

Key things to look out for

You’ll be needing a bike with low mileage, preferably below 20,000m (this may seem like nothing for a car, but for a motorbike that’s quite a lot). You’ll also need to check for signs of an accident or a drop by looking “at the condition of the brake and clutch levers, bar-end weights, straightness of the bars and instrument cluster”. Make sure you check the fuel tank for corrosion or rust. And don’t forget to check the visible frame: there should be no visible damage including any dents or kinks.

Getting qualified

If you’ve got a full driving license, then you’re legally allowed to ride a moped (50cc) without needing to take the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) test. The CBT is a mandatory test that you’ll need to pass if you want to ride a motorbike up to 125cc on the road.

If you don’t have a full licence, you’ll need at least a provisional to take the CBT test. All riders have to pass the theory test before taking the motorcycle test. Once you’ve passed the theory test, the practical test, and gained the CBT certificate, you’re good to go.


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