With the calendar ready to flip over into a new year, many resolutions are being made. What are you going to do differently this year than you’ve done other years? What new things are you going to try? What have you always wanted to do but never gotten around to it? Maybe this is a milestone year and you’re feeling self-induced or external pressure to make a change.
While you can have the bravest and best intentions, it pays to do a little soul-searching before taking the plunge into anything. Although often there’s no time like the present, sometimes circumstances make waiting advisable. Empowerment means taking control of your destiny, and sometimes that means saying no.
Although the points below refer to motorcycling, insert whatever big step you’re thinking of taking and consider these 10 things before committing:
- Cost of a motorcycle. Whether you buy new or previously owned (strongly advised for a new rider), there is a significant cash outlay. Consider not only the initial purchase price but also any customization you may need/want, accessories – like saddlebags, gas consumption, storage, maintenance (more below).
- Cost of Gear. Good quality gear is a must for safety. You may pay more for something that combines function, fashion and fit. You’re worth it! At a minimum you’ll need boots, an abrasion resistant jacket, gloves, helmet and preferably riding pants. While you can get by with the basics to get started, you’ll also want to add rain gear and riding gear suitable for different weather conditions.
- Insurance. Shop around before you purchase. There is considerable variation between insurance companies. Factors that influence the price include your age, experience, riding courses, driving record, model type, size and year.
- Reason for wanting to learn. If it’s because in your heart this is something you really want to do, then you’ll find a way. If you’re considering it only because someone else wants you too, then stop right now. It will never work. You won’t enjoy it and risk harming yourself or someone else. Besides, there will be something else that does fit you better and you’re missing out on that while doing something you have no desire for.
- Maintenance. Motorcycles are mechanical and need routine and periodic maintenance. While it’s fun, convenient and easy to do some of it yourself, not everyone has the interest, tools or space to do so. Shop time can easily run close to $100/hour and since good mechanics are hard to find, you may have to wait — not a nice thought when you’re ready to go on vacation. Research the cost and availability of replacement parts, especially on used bikes.
- Companionship. Finding others to share your experience. Initially, it can be daunting to try something that no one in your family or social circle participates in. Eventually you’ll meet like-minded others and a whole new world will open for you.
- Storage. Ideally, motorcycles should be stored indoors. At minimum, they need to be kept covered when not in use. In most of Canada and much of the US, winter weather precludes us from riding. Unsheltered winter storage is hard on bikes and to be used only as a last resort.
- Research. There are lots of self-proclaimed gurus out there. Although many will give good advice, others can mislead while their confidence misleads you into thinking they know what they’re talking about. Forums can be good but most times you don’t know the credibility of the contributor. Ultimately, it boils down to safety. There’s very little between you and the road. You’re in control. Make well-informed decisions, even if it takes longer.
- Location. Finding places to ride. Living in a big city has it drawbacks. Riding in rush hour traffic or a busy downtown is not fun and much riskier. Getting to those scenic back roads that are meant for riding can be a challenge. You may need to start at off-peak times or find a friend who resides in a more suburban or rural setting and will let you park your bike there.
- Time. Finding time to ride. You need to ride to keep your skills sharp. It’s also better for your bike. If you don’t have the time, then perhaps its better to wait a season or two until you do.
Riding is an exhilarating, freeing and rewarding experience. But it’s not for everyone. If it’s not for you, it’s not empowering and you won’t experience those pleasures — until you redirect your interest to something that IS for you.