Pros: Nice small bike for females. Value stays high.
Cons: Somewhat rough ride. Small tank. Road and tank burn.
Ive wanted a motorcycle as long as I can remember. Since Im a very practical sort of person, I thought I would wait until I got the boys through high school or until I retired. Then I got to thinking that I might not be able to handle a bike when Im older. Thats not to say that older folks cant do stuff they want, but Im just not the fireball that I used to bephysically at least.
There are a lot of options on bikes these days, but the bike I wanted bad was a Harley Davidson. There is just something about the American made bike that screams this is it. While youll pay a lot more upfront, Harleys increase in value while other bikes do not. Even my insurance lady told me to be sure to call in with estimates and upgrade the coverage over the years. Otherwise, a wipeout would be the original cost-of-bike which is not reflective of the true value over time.
If youre female and want a Harley, then I would suggest going with the Sportster Hugger.
Some of the guys may rag about the smaller bike being the poor mans Harley or sing the praises of the bigger bikes like the Fat Boy. Thats fine, but the reality is that those big bikes are pushing 1000 pounds. Even the Sportster Hugger runs about 480 pounds which is a lot to roll out of the garage or pick up off the ground. Another thing is that the big bikes just look so manly. I wont say a Sportster looks girly, but it sure looks more like something you would see a girl driving than an Electra Glide.
Another advantage with the Hugger is that it sits low about 4 inches lower than the regular Sportster and lower plus not so wide in the seat on the big bikes. Some women have the leg length to reach and sit solid on the taller and bigger bikes, but I dont. Though my legs are fairly long, I do the toe stretch on most of the Harleys but can sit firm on the Hugger. One thing you want to be able to do is to put both feet flat down to balance the poundage.
On the down side, the Hugger is a louder and bumpier bike than the big bikes. Whether youre driving or riding a Sportster, youll know youve been on a bike. Theres not much to absorb the bumps. And, you dont have much room to haul passengers. The original seat is for a single, but you can get an option seat for two. My hugger came with the option seat and small backrest. A girl in the shop bought the bike with plans to share the bike with her boyfriend. After a month, they decided to upgrade to a bigger bike with more room to sit.
If you decide to get a Hugger (or any model Sportster), then youll find some used bikes (not a lot) and a very few new bikes. Rumor is that Harley plans to up production as they hit the 100-year mark, but Harleys have always been in shorter supply than demand. For now, youll need to keep an eye out or ask a dealer to call when they get bikes in. You can special order and wait, but that will cost more.
I looked at some older bikes and also at the new bikes. The cost difference is small. As I mentioned earlier, Harleys do not depreciate very much. It was worth a little extra to get the new bike warranty which came with the month-old 2002 Hugger I picked out (4 years on all parts). The bike looked brand new, had 1000 miles on it, and several add-ons (including the double seat, battery charger to keep the battery up during the cold months, and full light up on the back lights when braking). That ran $8,700. Its possible to get a Sportster in the upper $6000 range in bigger cities, but this is a smaller area with very limited supplies of bikes. The add-ons are expensive too. Be sure to price out things you want to add on like the seat or the windshield. Even Harley helmets run $100 and up on average.
When I went looking at bikes, I noticed that some dealerships are not female-friendly. The first one I went to which is closest to my house was not a place I could work with. In fact, Im not at all happy about that shop. The salesman was on the phone when I went in. Thats fine. One of the girls in the shop let him know I was waiting. He stayed on the phone a long time. Thats OK. Then he hung up and took a second call. He is sitting in a glassed in office with his feet up on the desk talking on the phone. It was pretty obvious that he didnt think it looked like I could buy a Harley. His mistake.
Speedway Harley in Concord, NC is a new shop. They are the biggest around. I walked in, and one of the guys asked if he could help me. I told him I wanted to buy a bike. He showed me what they had. I bought the Hugger. He helped me figure out what would work for me, hooked me up with a low-cost insurance, gave me credit to get the kids helmets, and he sent the mechanic home with me to drive the bike.
The only male thing the salesman said was he asked me if I would bring the mechanic back. Of course, I would bring him back. How else would be get back to the shop? I didnt say that though. I looked over at the biker mechanic and said: Naw. I think Ill just keep him. Both the guys laughed about that, and the mechanic was real talkative on the way homeall 6 foot 4 of him crammed in my Toyota Corolla. He made several good suggestions for getting started riding and talked about his bike trips and his girlfriend also named Cyndi.
Now, I have my Harley Hugger. Its red and it looks really great. The red with black seats and handles with the chrome really stand out. The Hugger only comes in a few colors (unless custom ordered), but I think the red looks the best.
One detail on this bike thing is that I dont know how to ride. Well, I know how to ride, but I dont know how to drive.
The options to learn are to practice somewhere and then go take the driving license test, get a learners permit (written) and ride without any passengers until you learn, or to go to the community college and take and pass a bike safety class to get a license. Classes are filled up until Sept in this area, the paper test wont teach me anything about actually riding the bike, so I am on option one to teach myself. I do plan to take the safety class when an opening comes up.
After I found where to put the key to crank up, the gears were the first big thing. They are foot pedal on the left foot after pushing together the hand thing with the left hand. You stick your toe under the foot clutch to gear up through 5 gears and push down to gear down. The biggie is neutral, which is between 1st and 2nd. You need neutral a lot like moving the bike and stopping. That has been my biggest challenge. It is hard to find neutral on a Sportster.
Since Im learning on the dead end street beside my house, I only hit 2nd gear so far. This is about 10 to 15 mph. OK. Dont laugh. The slow part is the hardest part from what the guys tell me. Especially hard is turning tight. Bikes do not swivel 180 degrees. You need some turn room or the bike starts to lean way over. If you are really strong, you probably hold onto it. If you arent, then you fall over in the street.
Maybe you guessed that I am not all that strong. I turned the bike right over on the first trip. This taught me another lesson besides make bigger turns. You need to wear long pants when you ride a bike. My left leg got skinned up on the pavement, and my right leg got gas tank burns. I always thought bikers wore leather to look tough. Now, I think that it would make sense to put something on that is more rugged than cotton shorts and a t-shirt. Actually, I go with denim long pants. First, I dont have leather. Second, it is hot as blazes in NC in the summer.
Now, I am riding the Harley up and down this dead end street and slowly learning my Harley. I did not think it would be so hard to ride a bike. Its harder to move and handle than I expected. The gears are a challenge. Turns are rough (though Ive learned to jump clear and let the bike take the tumble).
Since I waited 23 years to get the bike, Im in no hurry. I just drive slow and take my time figuring out what I need to do next. The neighbors probably watch out the windows, but I think they like the fact that I have spunk and that I dont give up. All the neighbor kids think it is grand fun to watch me ride. They like to sit on the bike parked, of course, and make it rev up and sound loud. One of these days, Ill take the kids for a ride. Weve got the helmets, but I would not take a rider for a long time. Id have to be really sure that I could handle the bike and a rider.
Ive only gone through a couple of tanks of gas, but thats a lot of riding on a one-block, dead-end street. Sportster tanks are really small. You can only get 70 miles or so on the 3 ? gallons. If you do a lot of road travel, you may want to consider that. Im wanting to ride here in a small town and on the country roads close, so I dont need a big old tank, which would make the bike heavier and bulkier.
If youre thinking about a bike, be absolutely sure about it. Its a big investment (though a Harley will sell back for what you put into it in most cases). It takes a lot of work to learn how to ride. But, its a great feeling to roll down the road (even at 10 mph) and to know that youll eventually get up to 35, 40, 50 mph. Ive wanted one for ages, and Im glad I finally went ahead and got one. I love my Sportster Hugger.
A book that readers might find helpful in learning to ride is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motorcycles. I reviewed this one at: http://www.epinions.com/content_92161674884