Guide for New Motorcycle Riders

So you passed your tests and you're officially the proud holder of a motorcycle license or endorsement. Congratulations! Now what? We've put together a list of some of the basics you need to know to get a bike and get geared up to safely and legally hit the road.

Buying a Motorcycle

Two factors to keep in mind when choosing your first bike include:

  • Weight: A lighter-weight will be more forgiving as you learn to balance, steer and break.
  • Height: New riders should choose a bike that allows them to put both feet flat on the ground at a stop.

If you are completely new to the motorcycle buying process, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) recommends choosing a bike based on the type of riding you plan on doing. Below is a breakdown of the different types of bikes and what they're used for.

  • Standard:Ideal for everything from commuting to cruising, these bikes are fairly simply designed, offering better control and less expensive fixes if you tip it over.
  • Cruiser: A common Harley-Davidson design, these bikes offer a relaxing, comfortable experience for long rides.
  • Sport bike: Designed to go fast, a sport bike is lightweight, but the high horsepower can make it more challenging for a new rider to control.
  • Dual sport: Designed for riding on- or off-road, these lightweight bikes are versatile and designed to get dirty.
  • Tourer/Touring: Perfect for long rides, this design is comfortable and offers convenient storage options, but also tends to be heavier because of those added features.
  • Scooter: Ideal for city use, scooters are usually more affordable and less complicated (no shifting of gears) for new riders.

Registering a Motorcycle

One you've got your vehicle title or Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin, you need to register your motorcycle in the state you live in.

Each state has its own registration process and fees and requirements. Some will allow the dealers to handle your new bike's registration and send the information straight to the DMV. Others may need you to come in and register your new motorcycle yourself.

For detailed, we've put together a state-by-state guide to motorcycle registration to help you out—simply choose your state and learn what you'll have to do!

Motorcycle Insurance

Finding the Right Coverage

Just like driving a car, you'll need motorcycle insurance to hit the road legally. There are a variety of insurance coverage types for motorcyclists, including:

  • Comprehensive physical damage.
  • Collision coverage.
  • Bodily injury liability.
  • Theft insurance.

We completely breakdown the different types of insurance coverage you can get for you and your motorcycle on our Motorcycle Insurance 101 page.

State-Specific Requirements

Insurance requirements vary from one state to another. Some states require no-fault insurance, while others ask that you maintain a certain level of collision/comprehensive coverage.

Choose your state and find specific details when you visit our Motorcycle Insurance Minimum Requirements section.

Choosing a Motorcycle Helmet

A motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment a new rider can buy. Head injuries are the most common cause of death in motorcycle accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

When choosing a motorcycle helmet, new riders should select one that is compliant with regulations set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. To find out if the helmet you're considering is DOT-compliant, you can enter the brand, type, and model on, a website created by the Motorcycle Industry Council's Helmet Task Force. This non-profit industry trade organization was created to raise public awareness around helmet safety.

Bottom line: don't skimp on the helmet—it could save your life.

Additional Motorcycle Safety Gear

From your feet to your head, your body is completely vulnerable when you're on the open road. We recommend new riders invest in the following:

  • Jacket: A good riding jacket can range from basic leather to a high-quality piece including protective body armor.
  • Boots: Riding boots are designed to protect your feet and ankles in a way ordinary sneakers or cowboy boots cannot. These can also include traction to help keep your feet safely on the riding pegs.
  • Gloves: Some riders might forget hand protection. Riding gloves offer protection against flying objects, temperatures, and the road itself if you go down.
  • Sunglasses: Riding sunglasses sold at a good bike shop are designed to hug your head and are crafted with shatter-proof materials—ideal for protecting your precious eyes in the event of an accident.

Now that you're geared up and legal, get ready to view the road from the seat of your new bike! For more details on how to ride safely, check out our Tips for a Safe Ride.

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