Does this sound familiar? You rode bikes throughout your late teens and 20s, passing your test and getting your full bike licence (back in the days when this was a fairly simple process). Then somewhere along the line marriage, kids, family life and responsibility took centre stage and before you realised it was happening, your biking days seem to be nothing but a distant memory. But every now and again – especially on a fine spring morning when you’re stuck in traffic on the way into work – you get a hankering for 2 wheels again.
Have you ever wondered how easy it would be to take that step back into bike ownership after a long break? What about insurance costs? What sort of bike should you choose? Should you do some rider training to ease yourself back onto a bike? And how will you explain all of this to the other half?
In this article I hope to answer most of these questions…
I’ve recently recently returned to biking after a break of more than 10 years. Although I’d ridden some of the Jack Lilley demonstrator machines since joining the company last year, I hadn’t had a bike of my own since selling my Honda NX650 Dominator many years ago.
RETURNING TO MOTORCYCLING AFTER A LONG BREAK
It was no surprise that within a few days of starting work at Jack Lilley I was bitten by the bike bug again and knew I’d soon be looking to buy a bike of my own. My first hurdle came when I realised that, because I’d previously thought I’d given up biking for good, I had no bike gear left – my leathers, gloves, boots, helmet had all long gone either on eBay or to the local charity shop. So before I could think about finding a bike, I decided to start buying some riding gear. I did this gradually over several months, buying a helmet and gloves first, followed by leather jacket, armoured jeans, boots and so on. This gradual accumulation of riding gear also helped keep me focused on the eventual bike purchase whilst I saved up some money.
After several months of gradual saving, I was ready to start looking seriously for a bike. Here’s where I discovered something that really took me by surprise: I’d assumed that, having had no motorcycle insurance for years, cost of insurance would be prohibitively high for anything much over 250cc. So as I’d been mentally weighing up the sort of bikes I’d be interested in looking for, my list had been fairly small – restricted as it was to sub-250cc bikes. Seeing a DR400 for sale locally, I ran through a dummy quote on ‘Go Compare’ and was amazed to find I could get fully-comp insurance for less than £100 – despite having 0 ‘no claims’ and having had a couple of recent ‘my fault’ minor prangs in the car. This discovery suddenly broadened the potential choice of suitable bikes. In retrospect, I should’ve checked this far earlier – but I’d just assumed insurance would be expensive on anything other than the smallest of bikes.
The next decision was should I buy privately or from a dealer? After a fruitless couple of weeks searching on Auto Trader and Ebay (all the best bikes seemed to be either in the Outer Hebrides or Cornwall) I also dropped in to some local dealers to let them know my budget and the type of bike I was looking for. I decided I’d prefer to buy from a local dealer if possible – even if it meant paying a little more – for the peace of mind and ease of sorting out any potential problems post-purchase. That said, there are plenty of good bikes for sale privately if you’ve got the time to spend travelling round to look at them. I’d been looking for a trail bike up to 650cc (similar to my last bike) but in the end a Triumph TT600 at Jack Lilley’s caught my eye and a deal was struck. It’s worth mentioning that this wasn’t the sort of bike I’d been looking for originally but it just happened to really jump out at me – proving that motorcycles are often an emotive purchase! I was drawn to it because of its relative rarity – I like bikes that are slightly unusual and prefer to avoid anything too mainstream. Working at a Triumph dealership I obviously have some loyalty towards the brand, so I was particularly happy to find a Triumph which fell within my budget.
I’d opted to save up for the bike over a period of months but there are of course other options. If you’re particularly interested in buying new rather than second hand, there are some very affordable PCP (Personal Contract Plan) deals around. For example, Triumph have just announced a 6.9% APR PCP deal for the popular Street Triple ABS with monthly payments as low as £85.00.
Before finalising a deal on the chosen bike, I had to cross the insurance hurdle. Again, a quick test quote on GoCompare told me I could insure the bike on a ‘no frills’ policy for just over £100. A bargain, but I decided to play safer and called Carole Nash for a quote – they have an excellent reputation for insuring bikes (apparently 1 in 4 bikes on UK roads are insured through them) and I know they offer a more personal service than many of the cheaper insurers . The final quote, which included breakdown recovery, legal expenses cover and various other benefits, came in at under £200 – which was considerably less than I’d expected to spend when I first set out on my quest to find a suitable bike.
Having spent many hours in the saddle of various demonstrator bikes in recent months I felt comfortable enough jumping on my own machine and riding off. But if you haven’t ridden for several years, I’d definitely recommend taking a short ‘refresher’ course – which is surprisingly inexpensive but well worth doing.
I asked Paul Burt of West London Motorcycle Training (WLMT) for his thoughts. “We do offer refresher courses – and especially at this time of year when ex-bikers who have been freed from family or other commitments, as their kids grow up or work relaxes, rekindle the desire to ride.” says Paul, adding “It normally only takes an hour to three for them to get that sense of freedom and joy back. All they need is that little nudge and encouragement. It’s not lack of confidence that causes them to seek a refresher course out; but common sense and a desire to make sure they are safe and feel the exhilaration that only a motorcycle can give them.” Prices for refresher courses at WLMT are a very reasonable £50 for the first hour and then £20 per half hour after that. This is not only value for money for you but also for your family and loved ones.
Avoiding rush hour traffic, I’ve been riding the bike for an hour or so most evenings to familiarise myself with the way it rides and handles. One thing I’ve noticed is how much longer the ‘rush hour’ traffic seems to last now. Casting my mind back 10-15 years, I would often go for a ride in the evening around 8pm and the roads would be relatively clear at that time. Nowadays the roads seem to be as busy at that time as they used to be at the tail end of the rush hour back then. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re returning to bikes after a lengthy break – the first thing you’ll notice is how much the traffic has increased. That gripe aside, it’s been a highly rewarding experience and it feels great to be back on 2 wheels again after all these years.
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