I have an uncommon vantage point in motorcycling: On the one hand, I've been riding for several years, I perform virtually all my own maintenance, and I continually strive to improve my riding skills and techniques. However, I still remember vividly what it was like to be a newbie - I'm still in touch with my new rider side. The weed dangling from the footpeg was my first modSo now is a good time to introduce what I wish I knew when I was a new rider. And the way I'd like to frame this discussion, which should span several posts, starts with a general rule:

Every bike is a set of compromises.

The people who design motorcycles know what they're doing. Every bike is the best bike in the world at being itself, and riding the way it was meant to be ridden. If you change something about that vehicle to make it better in one area, you necessarily make it worse somewhere else. An example is speed vs. comfort:


You add a little horsepower, but you also produce more noise and emissions. You take a little weight off the front, but now you have no wind protection and you're covered in bugs by the time you clear the intersection. This rule of thumb applies whether you're choosing a new bike or considering modifying your own.

And there are many such tradeoffs. Speed vs. reliability, cost vs. componentry, utility vs. sexiness...and the list goes on. Point is, there's no best bike, and there's no worst. There can only be the bike that is best for the kind of riding that you do.

Or there might be, like, six. Hey, I don't judge.So, never ask "What is the best dirt bike for racing?" or "What is the fastest street bike I can afford?" Instead, ask yourself the following questions:

- How much am I willing to spend after buying the best safety gear available for my style of riding?

- Where and when will I have the opportunity to ride?

- How much time do I want to spend wrenching vs. riding?

- What role could motorcycling play in my life?

Think about those for a while. Keep them in mind as you take every motorcycle safety skills course you can attend, and you'll have taken the first step toward finding sublimity on two wheels.

There are riders who attend weekend track days to test their speed machines in a battle for the perfect line. Some enjoy the occasional Sunday ride on the parkway, with a buddy riding pillion. Others ride around the block, or around the world. We're going to do a little bit of all of that in the coming blog posts and galleries. I look forward to telling you all about it, and maybe even seeing you out there somewhere.

Ride safely.