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The ride of your life

Last December, when the snow was starting to fly and most people were pulling out their skis, Nick Mackovski was visiting motorcycle dealers shopping for his dream bike.

While the winter is a bad time to go riding, it is a great time to shop for bikes because dealers are trying to make space for new stock at a time when sales are slow.

Mackovski, a 32-year-old computer consultant in Markham, Ont., settled on a Harley Davidson V-Rod, a stylish cruiser with a Porsche-designed engine and the first new model Harley Davidson has produced in 50 years.

Mackovski was attracted by the V-Rod's sleek styling. "I liked the way the frame flowed. It looked different. It was very attractive to me," he says.

After adding some chrome accessories and tinkering with the bike's look -- by adding braided steel fluid lines instead of rubber ones, for example -- Mackovski plunked down $36,000 for the ride of his life, and the first bike he's had since he was 17.

While most people buy cars for practical purposes, such as toting their family around, people buy a motorbike for the sheer joy of riding, in the same way some people buy sports cars. Because it can be a major financial consideration, it's important to look through the range of styles and prices available to find the one that suits you best.

Bikes for all interests and price ranges
Motorcycling has grown to a $1 billion industry in Canada, according to the Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council (MMIC), a not-for-profit trade association that promotes biking.

This past year, Canadians bought 72,049 new motorbikes, spending a total of $931,230, almost double what was spent in 1999. Currently, there are more than 360,000 motorbikes registered for on-road use in Canada.

When it comes to bikes, consumers face a wide selection of manufacturers and styles. There are three main categories of bikes and most manufacturers make models in each category.

Touring bikes
These are the motor homes of bikes, designed for long distance traveling. They have big engines -- usually 1,200 cc or better -- and lots of bells and whistles such as radios, saddlebags, cruise control, wrap-around windjammers and even anti-lock braking systems.

They are also one of the more expensive classes of motorcycles -- they start at $20,000 and can surpass $35,000, depending on the options you add. But if you want comfort, you'll find it here. Examples of touring bikes include the Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide, the Honda Gold Wing and the BMW K1200LT.

Cruisers
Cruisers are the bad boys of bikes, but they've come a long way since Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper made them popular in Easy Rider. They come in a broad range of engine sizes and can accommodate long- or short-haul trips. The price range also varies broadly, from $10,000 to $30,000.

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