Getting the Right Size Bike – I Probably Did it Wrong…

I was watching this video by Lemmy and the boys from Revzilla: YouTube Link. They talk about the frustration of new riders buying (or getting sold) on bikes bigger than really ought to have at their skill levels. The video got me thinking.

When the wife and I went to buy ourselves a bike in my mid-40’s, the most riding I had done was in my late teens / early 20’s, doing a little dirt bike riding including some motor cross and hare scrambles. I was small then, and often rode a KX-80 that was quite powerful and the occasional 125. They were monsters to my little self.

Roll forward to my 40’s, I’m not a small guy anymore. I’m only 5’8″, 200+ pounds, and I didn’t even have a motorcycle license, nor had I taken a class. We really were just browsing. I had indeed signed the wife and myself up for the HD basic MSF class, but it wasn’t for another couple months.

We’re looking at various bikes and all of a sudden we see this used 2016 Harley Heritage Softail. What… a… thing… of… beauty. We both knew, instantly, this was the bike we wanted. Classic Harley lines, black leather, studded setup. It even had the Stage 1 upgrade already on it with V&H Longshots. Windshield for the many miles we knew we would (and have) put on it. About a week later, I rode it home. No MC license, no prior test ride. I did have a helmet.

The ride home was about 20 miles. Highway miles. Also, on that day I-35 south from the dealership was down to a single lane for about 5 miles. You want to talk about scary! An 800+ pound bike, haven’t ridden in 25 years, and stop and go traffic. Crazy.

When I picked the bike up, it was a Saturday at the dealership. During the nice months, every Saturday at an HD dealer is like a parking-lot party. Bands, beer, old grizzled bikers hanging out, talking, shooting the breeze. The sales rep decided to park my new bike right in the very front of the store. (Where they like taking the pictures… that I wasn’t doing that day.) I had to ask the sales guy if he’d mind turning it around, and moving it over to the edge of the parking lot for me. I will say this: I never dropped it. I never stalled it. Kudos for me.

I parked the bike in the kitchen (which wasn’t easy getting across my backyard, didn’t even worry about dropping it into the pool!) and left it there for about two weeks. Installed a camera system and LED strips.

When we took our classes, they gave us little 500cc Harley Streets. Fun little bike. But not what I’d want to own. The wife ended up buying a Sportster 1200 and while it will definitely go, I hate riding it.

The point of this discussion was this: Was that bike out of my league? Most certainly. Did I grow into it? Definitely. Was it a good move? Definitely not. I should’ve spent a year on an 883 or 1200. Would I do it differently, looking back? Nope. Not a chance.

My skills feel natural to me. Other than a few slight missteps here and there, I’ve never been scared by the 1688cc bike. Is it heavy? You bet. But I needed that larger bike. We were going to be riding 2-up for quite some time and still do. I sometimes pull a 300+ pound camping trailer with it. (No Sportster is suited for that.) Sure, I commute to work mostly when the weather is worth it, but my commute is only about 15 minutes.

I can’t blame any sales guy here for pushing me into a bike larger than needed. I bought my bike, without a test ride, because of the look and wanting to join the Harley family. I knew that a Honda 250 or a Ninja 400 would never be the kind of bikes I’d want to ride. In fact, I’d gone looking for a touring bike, like an Ultra Glide, hell even a CVO, though those are expensive.

The only thing I would recommend is getting your license first so you can test ride it. It wouldn’t have scared me off, but most folks would know instantly if it was the bike for them or not.

I love my Heritage. I can hardly sleep every time I know I’m riding it the next day. #RideOn folks.

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