Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Havin' a Blast?

My girlfriend Anna, who is learning to ride a motorcycle, has been researching possible choices for her first motorcycle. This summer, before she even took her Motorcycle Safety Foundation basic rider course, she had her sights set on a Hyosung GV250 Aquila after she saw a woman riding one during a charity ride. With its full fenders and saddlebags, it looks like a mini-Fat Boy. But the price range of $2,500 to $3,000 for a used late-model Hyosung was daunting.

Then, when she took the MSF course last month, she turned her attention to the Honda Rebel 250, which she rode for the course. Weighing in at just over 300 pounds, the Rebel 250s are light, low to the ground and easy to handle. But late-model examples of this bike are also in the $2,500 range, although older models can be found for $1,500 or less.

Anna can't see paying $2,500 for a 250-cc bike when you can buy good, used 500 to 750-cc bike for the same money, and, truth be told, neither can I. Also, some people have said she would outgrow a 250-cc very quickly. On a recent ride, Anna met an older woman named Donna, who, as a new rider, started with a Hyosung GV250 Aquila, only to return it to the dealer two weeks later to exchange it toward a Yamaha V-Star 650.

Sometimes, inspiration comes where or when you least expect it. I was doing a plumbing job at a Dunkin' Donuts in North Providence, R.I. a couple weeks ago when I met Matthew Correia, an operations manager, who rode a 2002 Buell Blast to work. He parked it behind the building, near my van, so I couldn't help but notice the bike and strike up a conversation. The more I looked at the Buell, the more I thought it would be a great first bike for Anna, especially since they are light (about 360 pounds) and low to the ground. They feature a single-cylinder, 492-cc engine.

Buell, which is a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, introduced the Blast in 2000, and ceased production in 2009. It was targeted toward new riders. It turns out that used Buell Blasts, on average, are cheaper than Honda Rebel 250s. A search on our local Craigslist found several Buell Blasts for around $1,500, in good condition. Parts are relatively inexpensive, according to Matthew Correia, and the bike is easy to work on since everything appears to be easily accesible.

Anna and I looked at pictures of Buell blasts online, but the bike didn't look familiar at all to her. "I've never seen one on the road," she said. And the only one I've seen was the one I mentioned above. Then, on a charity ride last weekend, we both spotted a yellow Blast, and the owner, a somewhat stocky dude, was kind enough to let Anna sit on it (I also learned that the Blasts come in two seat heights, but even with the taller seat, Anna was able to keep both feet firmly on the ground). But, Anna saw a woman on a Suzuki Boulevard S40, and was attracted to that bike also (the 650 cc, single-cylinder bike was formerly known as the Suzuki Savage, another popular beginner's bike), so time will tell what will be Anna's first motorcycle.


  1. All are good bikes. Of course I'm a little biased towards the Buell because it's American made and I know Erik Buell but she'd do good with any of them.

  2. My first bike was an 82 Kawasaki 750. It was definitely a good learner's bike, but I loved my Suzuki Boulevard M50. I'd still have it if we hadn't of traded it in on a bigger Harley for my husband. I have a Harley Sportster now. She should test drive a couple out and see how they feel. Being female and knowing what I know now, I'd lean towards a Suzuki Boulevard for my first bike.