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Beginner Motorcycle Tips

(ARA) - As summer heats up, a growing number of people will enjoy the freedom of the open road from behind a pair of motorcycle handlebars. If you’ve been considering a two-wheeled adventure of your own but thought it was too difficult or intimidating, think again.

Just as U.S. motorcycle sales have risen for 11 straight years, the population of riders has grown more diverse and mainstream. Long perceived as the domain of biker gangs and others on the fringes of society, today’s community of riders includes people from virtually every walk of life.

“We’re seeing all different types of people getting into motorcycling today, including women, professionals, empty-nesters and others,” says Eddie James, road riding director for the American Motorcyclist Association. “It’s really all about individuality and freedom. A big part of the thrill is not knowing what you’ll find around the next corner.”

James says just about anyone can enjoy two-wheeling, with the right approach and preparation. “Most new riders grow into it gradually, starting with short day trips and then taking longer tours over time,” he says. “All you really need is a comfortable bike, good balance and a sense of adventure.”

Finding the right bike at the right price is another key part of a rider’s initiation to the hobby. “Buying a motorcycle is an emotional process, but riders can’t afford to overlook the financing part of the deal, and the Internet can be a huge help,” says Brian Reed of Capital One Auto Finance, which provides consumer motorcycle loans on the Web. Approximately one-third of all new motorcycle purchases in 2003 were made with a loan.

For those itching to explore the world of motorcycling, experts offer the following tips for getting started the smart way:

* Take a Training Course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse provides the motorcycle, helmet and 15 hours of classroom and on-bike instruction. Courses for beginning and experienced riders are offered at 1,000 different sites in all 50 states.

* Decide What Type of Riding You Like Most. Motorcycling comes in a wide variety of forms, ranging from dirt bike riding to long-distance touring to sport riding. How you plan to ride will determine what type of bike you select.

* Set a Budget. The price you pay for your motorcycle will depend on several factors. For example, a nice reliable touring bike that’s a few years old can be found in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. A new, top-of-the-line model with all the extras can run upwards of $20,000.

* Find a Bike that Fits You. Focus on identifying a bike that feels comfortable to you. Start by researching different makes, models and styles on the Internet. Then visit a few dealerships in your area and throw your leg over a few different models to see how they feel. Remember, even the coolest-looking bike in the world will end up collecting dust in your garage if you’re not comfortable riding it. Bring your motorcycle license and riding gear to the dealership so you can take a test drive.

* Get a Loan Before Visiting a Showroom. New riders are often revved up when it’s time to buy their bike, but few think about the best way to finance their purchase. Take the time to explore all of your financing options, including online lenders. By logging on to www.capitaloneautofinance.com, you can apply for a motorcycle loan quickly, securely and at no charge. You’ll receive a reply within 15 minutes during normal business hours, and if approved, you can receive a no-obligation Blank Check as soon as the next day, which you can use just like a personal check to buy your bike. This approach gives you the negotiating power of a cash buyer. And unlike some introductory interest rates, Capital One’s interest rate will stay the same for the life of the loan.

* Dress for the Occasion. Find gear that will protect and feel comfortable. Riders have traditionally worn leather for protection and rain gear for inclement weather. But new textile garments offer more versatility, with their light weight, abrasion resistance and breathability. Helmets are not required by law in every state, but the AMA strongly recommends them for all riders. Don’t forget the gloves and boots.

“With motorcycling, how you get to your destination is just as important as where you’re going,” says James. “On a bike, you experience the landscape in a much more exhilarating way than you do in a car, but you can still be safe and comfortable.”


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