What, then, can you do to influence your premium? First, understand what determines your rate.
Age: There's not much you can do about it, but age has a massive impact on rates. Simply put, younger riders are more likely to crash. There is some discussion among insurance companies about the recent upward swing in fatal accidents involving older riders without a lot of experience--will they see higher rates soon or not?--but the general trend is that we get safer as we get older. (Trevitt forms the exception to prove the rule.)
Experience: If you just got your license, expect to pay more than a grizzled veteran. Statistically, you're most likely to have an accident when you're just starting out--at least that's the view of insurance companies. Combine inexperience with youth and you've got high risk. You may not agree, but this is how the statisticians view it.
Driving record: According to Gray, "One or two tickets usually isn't a big deal. But get three or more and the rates will go up." Again, it's statistics. "We find that riders who have a lot of tickets end up doing other things that add to the average loss cost." Getting caught driving without a motorcycle endorsement is one thing, but driving on a revoked or suspended license is fiscal suicide. Get caught driving drunk, and it's actually worse. (Worse than suicide?)
These are worse than tickets, according to those we interviewed. (Backed up by a bit of side-by-side comparison shopping; see sidebar.)
Motorcycle type and size: As suggested above, the risk factors associated with your motorcycle will vary by carrier. Some can look at the data close enough to discern a CBR1000RR from an R1, while others lump all 1000cc sportbikes into one category. Some carriers will bump high-involvement bikes from their expected categories to one with a higher risk factor (and a greater cost).
Your job is to be a smart consumer. First of all, shop around. Of all the insurance people we talked to, it was surprising to hear this as the main suggestion from every one. Different companies have different rates--it's that simple. Search for the best one given your history and the bike you own. Be careful about matching benefits closely, as coverage can vary.
Consider taking a training course. As it stands, most companies offer modest discounts for taking an MSF course. The benefit is generally more pronounced for new riders than for graybeards. Check with your agent regarding track days or schools; most insurers want something with MSF in the title before offering up a discount.
Consider a higher comprehensive and collision deductible. Shop the different deductibles carefully. You may come out ahead with a higher deductible. So much depends on how often you expect to crash. (Oh, if we only knew...) If you've paid cash for the bike or have some way to appease your lender, you may be able to go "bare" on comprehensive and collision. Just remember that any repairs will have to come out of your own pocket.
Keep your record clean. That's so obvious we hesitate to admit it, but did you know that keeping your credit scores high will also help? This factor varies by state and insurer, but we're told people who are habitually late in making payments are statistically more likely to have insurance claims.
Finally, consider multivehicle coverage. Many insurers will work hard to get all your business, and the more of it there is--home insurance, fire, theft, life, you name it--the harder they'll work to get everything on one plate. "We can be very competitive when we have all your business," our local State Farm agent said, point blank. But as with everything, look at the big picture; don't give up better homeowner's coverage just to save a few bucks on the bike.
Insurance is clearly a one-sided deal. Companies know you need them and spend significant resources determining how safe you're likely to be--and will charge you accordingly. Your mission is to grow smarter as you grow older and more experienced, and stay out of the gravel. Consider those statisticians who think you're going to crash and prove them wrong.