If was to get into motorcycles, I thought I wanted something small and light, without a huge amount of power. Something – conventional wisdom says – I would not hurt myself with. I wasn’t twenty-one anymore and didn’t want some crotch-rocket to set my remaining few hairs on fire. No, That desire would actually – and rather unexpectedly – come later. Some Google-fu turned up the Ninja 300 straight away: New as of 2013, 300cc, and an all-new platform built on top of the wildly successful but now discontinued Ninja 250R. At this point I’d never considered a secondhand bike. This is considered unwise in motorbike lore, the reasoning being you will lose money on a new bike, and will surely damage it, being a new rider. The first is definitely true, and it didn’t bother me as much as it should, as I’ve never been that sensible with money. The second isn’t necessarily true at all, even if it sounds prudent. There was also a matter of practicality – I knew fuck all about motorcycles, I would therefore not be able to meaningfully inspect a potential purchase, or ride it home. None of these problems were intractable, but they were sufficient to raise the volume of my inner desire for something new and shiny.
I wasn’t sure why I was drawn to Kawasaki; somewhere in my head was a warm feeling toward the brand, but I don’t know where that came from. Maybe it was my initial sighting of the 250R, but I definitely liked the Ninjette. Likewise I liked sport bikes, despite the slightly chavvy image. I think I have to admit that perhaps there’s a smidge of hooligan in my otherwise pretty straight demeanour.
Choosing a motorcycle is a matter of wading through the glut of choice. There’s a wealth of content on the internet. YouTube has countless videos of whatever bikes you’re into, but, Pareto’s Principle definitely applies: Eighty percent of the the reviews are crap when it comes to actually informing the viewer. Pottering around on a Honda for a few miles and pronouncing that it “feels pretty good, YouTube!” after talking about your merchandise isn’t useful, even if it’s fun to watch over a morning coffee. There’s an entire subculture of riders equipped with a GoPro and microphone, collectively known as motovloggers it’s kind of fascinating and worth a blog post on its own.
I did find a number of channels that I ended up watching many hours of, if for nothing more than the creators were so enthusiastic and likeable. There’s really too many to write about, but a handful stood out in the beginning and I’ll write why.
Chaseontwowheels is a Georgia-based bloke whom records a lot of ‘first rides’ on new bikes, courtesy of a local dealer. Over time, I formed the opinion Chase isn’t a particularly thorough tester, but he doesn’t pretend to be, and he’s highly watchable, and his videos are well made. His impression of the Ninja 300 was somewhat tepid, but despite that, I liked what I saw. What he disliked about the bike – modest power, questionable long term satisfaction, I saw as a strengths for a new rider looking for a good all-rounder they won’t kill themselves on.
In that review, Chase remarked:
I definitely feel like if you get one of these you’re gonna…I feel you’ll outgrow it eventually…which is why I recommend [a] 650 bike.
He’s not wrong. Sort of. This is a very, very common sentiment regarding 250/300cc class bikes. There is some truth in it, but it depends on what you’re looking for in your riding. Again, that’s another topic I want to write about, as it it much more complex than it may seem.
For a rider in his first year, I loved Iamramekin’s early videos. He’s zooming about on a meaty Yamaha R6 these days, but his early videos on his Ninja 250R are lovely. Here’s one where he takes his bike around the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) range. This is of particular interest to a beginner, because in the USA, you’ll be doing this. More on the MSF course in another post.
If you concluded I’d sold myself on the Ninja 300 from the start, you would be right, but I did digress for a while and very nearly talked myself out of it. The way I saw it was, I wanted a 250/300 bike, and the Ninja seemed to be the best one. Between me and a new bike, there were still many things in the way, both real and imaginary. I still hadn’t even sat on one.
The reader may have spotted there’s a lot of feeling here, but little in the way of hard fact. One thing you learn about motorcycles is, there’s a vast amount of opinion. A lot of it is just that – opinion – and there’s few easy answers. If you ask a forum what direction you should go, you won’t get a clear answer. Part of this is because of the diversity in motorcycle culture, and this in itself is totally different in the UK and USA.
I needed to knuckle down and establish how I really felt about this. Get to first principles, what I want, and why. Then figure out how to do it.