Buying a Motorcycle: Narrowing my Selection

When you hear the word Motorcycle, what is the first image that pops into your mind? For many, I would expect to hear vivid descriptions of a big cruiser with a loud exhaust or a colorful sport bike screaming at high RPM’s. I think a lot of what you envision has to do with your background and what you may see running up and down the road on a regular basis.

For me – I envision a Retro Standard and I think it has a lot to do with my upbringing. Before my father got married and had kids, he was an avid rider. Through most of my childhood we lived in a row home in Philadelphia. Even though my father wasn’t riding, he held on to his various bikes. He had one tucked away in our back yard, one was kept at my grandparents house (a block away), and a third was kept in a rented garage space. There was also a fourth bike but I don’t recall where that one was being stored.

All of those bikes were Standards from the 1970’s. There was a Husqvarna Dirt Bike (I don’t remember much about it other than being told it was an automatic – which was unusual) a small Honda CB350, a bigger Honda CB750, and a massive (to me) Honda CBX 1000. With the exception of the dirk bike, the others are what I envision as a typical motorcycle.

Honda CBX

When my family was finally able to get out of the city, we moved to Berks County and three of the four bikes came with us. None of them were in running condition but all were seen as project bikes that just needed a little time and effort to get back on the road. The one that didn’t make the trip was the Honda CBX. It was the bike my father seemed to care most about and, unfortunately, it was lost when a fire broke out in one of the adjoining rented garage spaces.

Years after the bike was gone, my father would talk fondly about the CBX. He would tell us about the wide six cylinder engine and how unique and fun it was to ride. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the CBX was kind of a flop for Honda. They didn’t sell very well and were complicated machines – Honda eventually resorted to giving them away to trade schools.

Despite the slow sales and short run of the the Honda CBX, my father loved that bike. By happenstance he stumbled onto another one some years later and bought it. He rode it for a number of years before it was pulled apart for a repair. He still owns that bike and it isn’t far from running. I’d like to see him get it back together one of these days and take it back out on the road.

All these years later, the Honda CBX has developed a cult following. Out of curiosity I did a quick search and found a handful for sale – the least expensive of which was $10,000. While I’d kinda like to have one for nostalgia, they are too expensive, too heavy, and too complicated for someone as inexperienced as myself.

My Father’s Honda CBX didn’t have a Fairing or Storage

Shopping for My New Bike

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I haven’t been on a motorcycle in at least ten years. I’m very eager to get back into the pastime and I’m currently going through the process of shopping for my next bike. I’ve spent countless hours browsing online at Local Dealerships, Not-So-Local Dealerships, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace – looking for what might be my next motorcycle.

What I’ve discovered in my searches is that my area has an abundance of pre-owned Cruisers and Sport Bikes available. The Standard / Naked Bike selection isn’t nearly as diverse but there are a fair number of bikes to choose from. I’ve narrowed down my Wish List to two similar bikes and I’m very conflicted.

The screenshots below are some examples of what I’ve been looking at – they aren’t necessarily the exact bike I’m looking to purchase. Some are New, others are Pre-Owned, all are from my local Martin MotorsportsOpens in a new tab. Dealership.

Honda CB500F

Honda CB500F

Looking at my next bike from the perspective of Power, Styling, Reliability, and Pricing – I think the Honda CB500F is a great choice on paper. It is a nice mid-range bike that isn’t too small or too big for a rider starting all over again. It is a bike that I can not only learn on but something that I think will hold me over for a little while before I feel the urge to upgrade.

Another big bonus with this motorcycle is that it is available with an ABS system. While this isn’t something I insist on having, for the small price increase I think it is a very worthwhile option. ABS falls into the category of I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

The biggest drawback with the Honda CB500F is a that it is only a 500. While it would be great to learn on – eventually I’m going to want a bigger bike. That urge may come after a season or it may come a couple of years down the line. Regardless of when that times comes, I’m already seeing the 500 as a holdover before getting something more substantial.

Honda CB650F

Honda CB650F

Of all the motorcycles I’ve looked at there is one that I absolutely love – the Honda CB650R. The retro styling with the round headlight, the inline four-cylinder engine with the four headers – for whatever reason, it makes me think of my father’s Honda CBX. I realize there is a world of difference between the two bikes but I can’t look at either of them and not think Damn, that is a really cool bike…

The problem is that the CB650R is a new bike with virtually no pre-owned market. At $9,100 (without the optional ABS package that I would want) the bike alone is already over my All-In Budget of less than $8,000.

This is where the CB650F comes into play. This bike has been around for a couple of years and is available pre-owned. The price is at the high-end of my budget but it would provide the same styling as the CB500F with the inline four-cylinder engine that I’m so find of. Additionally, the power delivery on this bike seems more suitable for someone in my situation.

One option that I can’t overlook is the size. It is light enough to be nimble and easy to maneuver while also being big enough that, unlike the 500F, I’m not looking at it as a holdover until I go bigger. I can honestly say that I think the Honda CB650F would be a bike that I would ride for a number of years (or until a pre-owned CB650R came along at the right price).

Yamaha MT-07

Yamaha MT-07
This isn’t the Blue that I prefer – it looks like that one has been sold

I realize that just a few paragraphs ago I said that I narrowed my Wish List down to just two bikes. I wasn’t misleading you – I am 90% certain that my next bike will be a Honda CB. With that said, there is just something about the Yamaha that calls to me. I love the look of it, especially in the blue paint scheme, and pricing on them is appealing.

What scares me about the Yamaha MT-07 is the massive amount of low-end torque it produces. While this is great for experienced riders that want to rip around, I’m concerned that one rookie mistake could lead to a volatile situation. Much more so than a rookie mistake on a Honda CB with a more gentle power curve.

Despite the many things I like about this motorcycle (Styling, Digital Display, Pricing, Availability of Aftermarket Parts, etc), I think the low-end torque is a reason to be extremely cautious and probably a good reason to look elsewhere for my first bike in more than a decade.

Other Options

While I feel like I’m pretty set on a Honda CB, I’m not discounting luck. If something like a Suzuki SV650 were to came along at the right price, I would be willing to give it some consideration.

I’m sure there are plenty of other options out there that I haven’t considered and I’d love your input. What do you think I should keep an eye out for and why?

I love the color but it appears to only be available in Red in the United States


Hi There, My name is Walt White and as the name of this blog suggests, I am a Pennsylvania resident. In addition to having numerous hobbies that I discuss on my blog - I’m also the father of three little girls and a pitbull.

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