Once my mind was made up about selling the Buell Ulysses XB12XT I had to start making a short list of what I wanted to replace her. As I briefly touch on in a previous most, the main reason for moving on from the Buell is down to economics. I need to start saving (more) cents and having only a motorcycle licence its always going to be another two wheeled machine. Even before I really got started there was a clear contender for the title, but that does not mean that some research was not warranted.
I am not loyal to any particular brand, I have owned Kawasaki's, Suzuki's and Buell in the past and even when owning them I have test-ridden, even rented motorcycles, from across the field. I love them all. Every motorcycle has something going for it and I would never write one off because of the badge. When it comes to ownership though I am relatively dull, I am looking for a workhorse and not a race horse. Not to say that you can not have both, but I also have a spine with a couple of fractures in it, so 'sit up and beg' is my position of choice, especially for those long days in the saddle.
I like it, I want it, I need it. Some may baulk at the appearance of a top case or mounting pannier frames but not I. I revel in the the practicality of it all like a pig in muck. Now I have never been overly interested in aluminium metal cases that you can weld back together after a tough adventure from the office to home. Plastic does the job for me just fine. Three boxes preferred, though trying to keep the pannier profiles down is desired to make filtering easier through towns or traffic jams. Top cases I tend to keep small too. Their main job for me is to secure a helmet or two, or putting in those tent poles too long to go anywhere else, but I almost always try to avoid putting weight in the top case while on the road. Remember for me its not just being able to load up with the camping gear either, also got to be able to bring home the weeks shopping.
As said, my physical limitations have to be taken into account. I am short with a bad back, so lets rule out the taller adventure bikes straight away. Not that they were of serious consideration with their respective price tags. While on the other end of the scale I tend to keep away from low cruisers mainly due to the condition of the roads around where I live. We don't have speed bumps, we have sunken sections of road thanks to a mixture of poor construction and boggy land around where I live. Of course I can just go at walking pace along these stretches, but while I am the practical sort I do admit to having a pulse and not being completely dead and passionless. I wear ATGATT and that deals with 95% of Irish weather, even with the limited weather protection of the Buell I need only add an extra layer of clothing to keep me comfortable. And heated grips...they are worth their weight in gold (some OEMs try to charge as much too).
Like I have said, it need not be fast, but I certainly do not want it to hark back to my 125cc, 12hp, cruiser days. For all their fun it needed only take a strong wind to either give you an arcade like speed boost or stop you dead in your tracks. I rarely take power claims at face value as they often do not tell you where that is measured (crank or wheel?), likewise the same can be said of seat heights (some are measured with a 'test rider' on board). Once a shortlist is whittled down the main decider as to whether the performance is what I want is down to a test ride. Generally the default setup on most motorcycles should be all you need. Don't believe me? Just ask Rossi if he wished he had an option of a test ride on that Ducati. As for fuel mileage, which is a major consideration for me, I am relying on Fuelly to help give estimates on that front.
In the end this is what it comes down to for me. I will be selling my current motorcycle and will consider a small loan to make-up any difference. Second hand or new is another aspect to this. I am leaning towards buying new at the moment as I really have no idea how long it will be before I could change again, especially if circumstances do not change much. That said, maybe I could buy a second hand without the need of a loan and then the loan is one less thing to worry about if things get worse? My last two motorcycles were bought new, the Kawasaki never gave me a seconds trouble, did not even need oil between services. While the first 18 months of the Buell required bit and pieces of warranty work. Buying a dud second hand bike would leave me up 'that' creak without a paddle. Predictability and stability might win this argument for me.
Measure Twice, Buy Once
At the Motorcycle Live 2012 show and the recent Irish Motorcycle Show 2013 I got to see all the major contenders under one roof. Got to sit on them, talk to the dealers and even the odd owner. It's also handy to see what they look like after a few hundred people have had their leg over. You can see where luggage has been scuffed, paint scratched and chipped, try fitting your jacket or helmet into luggage and looking for what little things might bother you as an owner. Finding online owner forums and lurking there is also a good way to go. I also love the website Motorcycle Ergonomics, it gives some decent indicators at how you will get on physically with your potential or even dream motorcycles.
I think I have covered all the bases above, certainly the most relevant ones for my user case. Above all buy something that makes you smile, not everyone is going to agree but wouldn't it be boring if everyone did?