What to do when buying your first motorbike

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This week Justus Visagie gives advice on the perfect car for Africa, learning to ride a motorcycle and choosing an entry-level car for a student.

Godfrey: There’s a lot of hype about the new Suzuki Jimny. Would you recommend it?

It’s the most exciting drive to arrive in Mzanzi this year, but the answer depends on how many passengers and things you will transport. Although it’s a hardcore 4x4, it has a small cabin. When all four seats are in use, you can barely fit three shopping bags in the luggage area. But if it’s just you and your plus-one, the rear seatbacks flip forward to make enough room for one large and three medium-size suitcases. That aside, the Jimny is the perfect car for this continent. It’s stylish, tough, light on fuel and unstoppable on almost any terrain, including deep mud, sand and snow. So, it will easily cope with the worst of our premier-league roads.

Melanie: We have saved enough for a large deposit on a new entry-level car for our daughter, who goes to university next year. What do you recommend?

You are in luck, Melanie: small, affordable new models have been arriving in droves. You don’t say what your criteria are but, for students, safety, reliability and low running costs are vital. Some of the newcomers worthy of a mention are the Ford Figo, Peugeot 208 and Renault Sandero that have received facelifts, and the entirely new Honda Amaze and Suzuki Swift. Each of them has at least one standout feature. For the 208 it’s safety and refinement; the Figo is big on performance and interior space; the Sandero is the most fuel-efficient and comprehensively equipped; and the Swift is the most robust, and fun to drive. The Honda Amaze doesn’t impress as much, but it offers a sedan’s boot, which has a security advantage over the hatchbacks above.

Kgomotso: I want to learn to ride a motorcycle. Where do I start and what do I buy?

If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, start with a bicycle. Join friends or colleagues on mountain-bike rides in the countryside. This will keep you away from dangerous traffic, and the varying surfaces will make your brain and body riding smart. Once you have the hang of that, don’t buy your dream motorcycle just yet. First write the exam for a learner’s licence. You can legally ride solo with a learner’s licence, without a licensed rider behind, in front or next to you! Now acquire a small, cheap and reliable bike, such as the SYM XS125 or Honda Ace 125, because, if it happens to tip over, it will be easy to put upright and scratches won’t cost the earth to repair.

Go for riding lessons with a reputable instructor, who will provide you with a safe riding environment. Most instructors will also coach you for your licence test. At this stage, you could be ready for the kind of bike that got you interested in riding in the first place. If you still struggle with shifting gears, consider Honda’s brilliant NC750XD or DCT Africa Twin. These bikes have automatic gearboxes (with manual override) that make riding easy. Just make sure the seats aren’t too high for you.

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