Beginner Motorcycle Tips
Are you new to the motorcycle world? Maybe you’ve ridden dirt bikes in the past or hopped on a motorcycle once or twice. If this is the case, then you probably can’t qualify yourself as an avid motorcyclist. Driving a bike is, naturally, a lot different than a vehicle. Beginners will need to learn a variety of new things in order to safely operate their motorcycle on public roads and highways. With bikes comes less protection, meaning you’ll need to also learn how to not only drive your bike, but drive defensively. Here are our tips for beginner motorcyclists to better prepare for those first rides.
Take A Training Course, Even If You Don’t Have To: Motorcycle safety courses aren’t required in every state, but they should be taken. These typically accompany the licensing exams you’ll have to take to obtain a motorcycle license. Even if your state doesn’t require these courses, taking them will help build the foundation of your riding knowledge. You’ll carry this information with you as you progress in your riding ability and experience.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) offers basic and expert courses. Since you’re just starting out, register for the basic. The class will run over the course of three days with 18 hours of instruction time. You’ll learn about different kinds of motorcycles, how to operate a motorcycle, the laws of your state, and more. Once you’ve finished this course, you can progress to the expert class to continue your rider education.
Get the Right Kind of Motorcycle Gear: You’ve probably seen people racing down the highway in a t-shirt and shorts. This is what you do NOT want to do! These types of loose, thin clothing won’t provide much protection if you wipe out and skid down the asphalt on bare skin. Be smart about your riding gear by investing in it. First and foremost, you need a motorcycle helmet. Not just any old helmet for a bicycle. Purchase a full-face style to keep your entire head safe. Other essentials include tough-soled boots, a riding jacket, and gloves. Boots will provide the support and protection during riding you need that tennis shoes can’t. A quality riding jacket will be made of thick protective material that will help ward road rash and projectiles. As you ride, your hands will sweat. If you’re trying to make a quick turn and your hand slips off the handlebar, it won’t be good news for you. Wear leather motorcycle gloves to maintain your grip on the handles no matter what.
Learn to Ride in Empty Spaces: Before venturing onto busy roads, start off slowly to work your way up to it. The best way to do this is by picking empty spaces to practice in. These include parking lots (before or after hours), neighborhoods during the day, and dead-end roads. With little to no traffic about, you’ll be able practice slow turns, fast stops, mastering small hills, changing gears, and more. This will also give you a safe area to make mistakes instead of in the middle of traffic. More than likely, you will make errors! The important thing to remember is that practice makes perfect and, by doing this, you’re keeping yourself and others safe from accidents.
Once you feel confident in completely empty spaces, progress to areas with light traffic and see how it goes. Feeling good with cars and semi-trucks around? Great! Feel like you need a little more time practicing? That’s fine, too. Be honest with yourself when gauging your skill level.
Don’t Rush Riding: This one goes together with number 3 in our tips. Rushing your riding ability won’t do you any good. In fact, becoming overzealous could result in personal injury. Hitting the gas too hard, stopping suddenly, and acting like you’ve been a motorcyclist for years is not the way to go. Showing off without the experience to back it up has led to countless injuries and even deaths over the years. Taking riding slowly will better benefit you and prevent unnecessary damage to you, your bike, and others. Drive to your ability, not the bike’s, and work your skill up to that.
Practice Defensive Driving: At first, it will probably feel strange to be so close to other vehicles. There is nothing to protect you in the event of a crash, which is a scary thought. You’ll need to become a very defensive driver so you’re always on alert. You’ll consistently check your mirrors, check around your bike, and keep watch of the traffic ahead. These are easy things to do in a car—so easy that you may have forgotten to do some of these a time or two and had to brake suddenly. The margin for error on motorcycles is extremely thin, so attentiveness is a must. Make sure you’re rested, undistracted, and ready to focus on the road.