If you’ve decided to start riding a motorcycle, it can be a life-changing experience. It’s not just about owning a motorcycle; it’s about embracing a whole new lifestyle and becoming a part of a community that shares your passion. However, riding a motorcycle also requires you to develop new habits and master new skills that you may not have thought of before. As a new rider, the first thousand miles can be the most challenging time of your life. But don’t worry – I’m here to help! In this article, I’ll share some practical motorcycle tips for new riders that cover everything from choosing the right bike to selecting the right gear and clothing to make your riding experience more enjoyable.
Educate yourself and get some practice
If you want to ride a motorcycle on public roads, you need a motorcycle license or endorsement and proper motorcycle insurance. It’s important to invest enough time and money to obtain these credentials. One effective way to gain fundamental riding skills is by taking a beginner motorcycle course or enrolling in a motorcycle school.
To ride safely, it’s crucial to acquire knowledge and experience. One recommended way to do this is by enrolling in a motorcycle riding course that can help improve your skills. Before hitting the open road, it’s a good idea to practice basic maneuvers like U-turns and eight-shapes in parking lots, parks, or residential areas.
When you’re ready to hit the road, try to choose times and roads with less traffic. Heavy traffic can be stressful, especially when you’re still gaining confidence. Avoiding areas with heavy traffic for your first rides can help you become a more skilled and confident rider, which ultimately contributes to your safety on the highway.
Know the laws
Different states have different requirements for motorcyclists. Many states require you to wear a DOT-certified helmet while riding a motorcycle, including New York. Some states have rules that say only riders aged 17 and under must wear a helmet, while others require no helmet at all, such as Illinois.
States may also have different rules about whether mirrors are required on your bike. You can’t go wrong if your low beam, high beam, and turn signals are all working, and if you have both a right and a left mirror on your bike. (Note: Some states only require you to have one mirror.)
Quick check before every ride
Before heading on each motorcycle ride, it’s important to conduct a quick check to ensure that your bike is in good working order. Since you’ll be riding on just two wheels, it’s crucial to make sure that they’re both functioning correctly. This involves inspecting your tires for signs of wear and tear and ensuring that they’re set to the appropriate pressure. Additionally, check your chain, belt, shaft, and brakes for any damage or issues. Verify that your lights, horn, and turn signals are all working correctly. Finally, before you set off, adjust your mirrors to ensure that you have a clear view of your surroundings. By performing these checks, you can help ensure a safer and more enjoyable motorcycle ride.
As a new rider, you need to be certain your bike is a good fit for you. Don’t ride a bike you’re unsure you can handle; if it feels too heavy, it probably is. When seated, your feet should be able to rest flat on the ground, and handlebars and controls should be within comfortable reach.
In addition to sitting on a motorcycle you like to see if you feel comfortable, also try moving it back and forth. Put it on the stand and the center stand, and wheel it around a little. You should be able to easily handle the bike both in and off the saddle.
As a beginner learning how to ride a motorcycle for the first time, you want something light and easy to handle. As you progress, you can then move up to bigger, heavier, more powerful motorcycles. For now, just pick something low, light, and in the range of 250-650 cc.
There are so many options you might have a tough time choosing only one, so the first thing you need to know is what type of riding you plan to do. Streetbikes include cruisers, sportbikes, touring bikes, dual-sport, and adventure bikes. Off-road-specific motorcycles include both enduro and dirt bikes. Typically, street, dirt, and adventure bikes will have the most comfortable, upright sitting position. Sports bikes will require you to lean forward so they may not be convenient for first rides. Choose a bike that suits your limited experience level – such as a Honda Rebel 300, or a Kawasaki Ninja 400.
Some beginner motorcycle advise here:
Loose on top, Tight on bottom
Maintaining the correct body position when riding a motorcycle is crucial for stability and control. One effective technique is to keep your lower body tight and your upper body lose. This involves gripping the tank with your thighs and pressing your ankles into the bike to ensure a stable connection. By doing so, you can maintain a secure attachment to the motorcycle, even when encountering large bumps or riding at high speeds. Remember to practice this technique regularly to improve your riding skills and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on your motorcycle.
While being strong and stable on the lower half of your body is ideal, on the top half you want to be as loose as possible. The test is if you can’t wiggle your elbows like a chicken while riding then you aren’t loose enough.
If you are tight on the bottom and loose on top you will feel a difference in the twisties.
And a little trick to help you balance on a motorcycle:
As a new rider, the most important tip is to prioritize your safety while riding a motorcycle. It is vital to remember that you cannot control other drivers’ behavior and their lack of attention could put you in danger. Due to motorcycles being less visible on the road, it is crucial to take extra precautions to ensure your safety. You must be mindful of distracted drivers, and try to lessen your risks of accidents to continue enjoying your motorcycle rides in the future.
Adjust your mirrors before you start moving
It will make your life harder if you have to adjust your mirror while driving. That’s why you want to check their positioning before you start riding. It’s simple. Just get on the bike in the riding position and check that the mirrors are where you need them to be able to see as much as you can around you.
Low speed control
When riding through congested traffic, it is essential to navigating through the narrow gaps at a slow pace. This requires a precise balancing of the throttle and clutch, with the addition of slight rear brake pressure to ensure bike stability. However, the most crucial factor is to keep your focus on where you intend to go, rather than on obstacles to avoid. By maintaining this approach and relying on your body’s sense of balance, you can effectively maneuver your bike through tight spaces. To improve your low-speed riding skills, consider practicing in an empty car park, performing maneuvers such as U-turns, figure-of-eights, and coming to a complete stop without putting your feet down.
Practice to brake slow
You can use the rear pedal on the right side of the bike to apply the rear brake, while the lever on the right handlebar operates the front brake. To slow down or come to a stop, apply both brakes evenly and smoothly, making sure to use the rear brake pedal and gradually pull the front brake lever. Avoid sudden or forceful braking that can cause the wheels to lock up and throw you off balance.
When braking on a motorcycle, it’s important to use both brakes evenly and avoid grabbing or stomping on them, as this can cause the wheels to lock up and throw you off balance. In dry conditions, a ratio of 75% front brake to 25% rear brake is recommended. The first split-second of braking is crucial, as grabbing the front brake too hard can cause the suspension to bottom out and the front wheel to lock. ABS brakes can help, but applying the front brake gently at first to control suspension dive allows for a controlled, quick stop.
Keep Your Brake Covered
In certain riding situations, your reaction time needs to be doubled. For example, busy sections of a town or fast twisting back roads. At these times, get used to covering the brake with a finger or two. This posed position allows for quicker reactions, it could be a lifesaver!
When turning on a motorcycle:
- Lean with the bike as it naturally leans into the turn, instead of relying solely on the handlebars to steer.
- Maintain a steady throttle throughout the turn and avoid fighting the bike’s natural movement.
- Look through the turn to where you want to go, instead of focusing on the front wheel. This helps with balance and steering.
To take a turn more quickly and safely:
- Follow a general rule of entering the turn on the outside, traversing through the inside, and exiting on the outside. This helps you see farther into the turn and reduce your lean angle.
- Avoid braking or accelerating through the turn, which can cause loss of traction and potential accidents.
To turn the motorcycle using countersteering:
- To turn a moving motorcycle in a given direction, turn the handlebar in the opposite direction of the turn. This is called countersteering.
- To put countersteering into practice, push forward on the handlebar on the side corresponding to the direction you want to turn or turn the handlebar in the opposite direction of your turn.
- Using your body weight is also important when turning to increase the angle and speed of the motorcycle. However, mastering basic riding techniques before using advanced body movements is crucial.
To ensure your safety while riding a motorcycle, it’s important to take several precautions. Firstly, make sure to have adequate insurance coverage for both your body and face, as well as for your motorcycle. In addition to this, it’s highly recommended to invest in full gear for your motorcycle, including engine crash guards, frame sliders, and bendable levers. These items can help prevent your motorcycle from crashing, potentially saving your life in the process.
Avoid riding in bad weather
Wet and dark roads increase the risk of accidents on a motorcycle. In addition, pouring rain reduces visibility and causes water to pool and stream on the road, which can affect tire traction. The most dangerous time to ride is when the rain starts, as it can lift oils from the road surface, increasing the risk of skidding.
To handle windy conditions while riding a motorcycle, it is advisable to avoid sudden movements and maintain a light touch on the throttle and steering. Anticipate gusts by shifting your path sideways to give you more space to maneuver.
Pay attention to road conditions
The road conditions that are most important for motorcycle riders are wet and dry surfaces, as well as autumn leaves, gravel, loose chippings, potholes, and diesel spills. Road conditions can change frequently, so it’s important to stay alert and not become complacent. Practice riding in wet and slippery conditions to improve your skills and be gentle with the throttle and brakes. Avoid braking in corners and watch out for wet manhole covers.
As I already mentioned, even if you have a brightly colored motorcycle, cars may not see you on the road. In situations where you are passing slow-moving cars, it’s common for drivers to become frustrated and attempt sudden maneuvers, such as a U-turn, without being aware of your presence. To avoid accidents, use your horn in a friendly manner to signal your presence and always be aware of your surroundings.
Put on a helmet
It is highly recommended to wear a helmet every time you ride, regardless of the duration of the trip, as those who ride without helmets during accidents are more prone to experiencing fatal injuries and long-term brain damage. Helmets not only provide protection but also reduce noise from the wind and surroundings, which can help decrease fatigue.
Half or brain-cap helmets offer less protection than full helmets or those with flip-up visors, so it’s better to opt for a more comprehensive helmet. It’s crucial to properly fasten and secure the helmet as wearing an unlocked helmet during an accident can be as dangerous as not wearing one at all.
Being aware of your surroundings and potential hazards is crucial for motorcycle safety. Scanning your environment and quickly taking in information from your instruments, speedometer, mirrors, and blind spots can help you identify and react to changing road conditions more quickly, reducing the risk of accidents. It’s important to maintain situational awareness without becoming distracted from the road ahead for too long.
Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting out, wearing the right gear is crucial for your safety on a motorcycle. To start, invest in high-quality gear such as a reliable motorcycle helmet, sturdy riding gloves, a durable jacket made specifically for motorcycle riding, ankle-covering boots, and pants designed for motorcycle riding. If you’re unsure about the type of riding you’ll be doing most often, it’s best to stick to basic gear made with Kevlar or Dyneema reinforcement, abrasion-resistant textiles, or armored motorcycle gear. Never underestimate the importance of protective gear, as it can mean the difference between life and death in the event of an accident.
When riding a new motorcycle with new tires, it’s important to properly warm up and break in the tires. New tires are often smooth and cold, which can lead to less traction on the road. To create ridges in the rubber for better grip, it’s necessary to ride around and allow the asphalt to act as sandpaper. Properly breaking in your tires can help ensure a safer and smoother ride.
How long the tires last depends on several factors but they have a finite life span, so pay extra attention to the condition of your tires. Slow leaks, nails, screws, or any objects stuck in your tires can be extremely dangerous. It’s important to visually inspect your tires to ensure that they are in good condition with no signs of cuts, nicks, or foreign objects lodged in them. Even small rocks or debris on the road can lead to severe tire damage, which can compromise your safety.
Proper clothing is important. Do not ever believe that regular clothes will do you good in windy or even sunny weather. Invest in a quality jacket and pants (Rev’It Jeans Davis is my favorite or Dainese New Drake Pants look great as well) to get the best out of your motorcycle ride. Most motorcycle gear manufacturers make full mesh jackets (for example, see Sedici jacket) for riding in the hottest weather. These have armor in them to protect you if you fall but allow massive airflow to keep you cool. Staying covered when it’s hot helps keep you from dehydrating or getting sunburned, too. However, if you’re not into motorcycles just yet and all this full set of specific clothing seem a bit of a luxury, you can always get separate protectors, such as knee pads, elbow protectors, chest protector, or back protector for your spine.
Dress in layers
When you’re riding a motorcycle for a long time or covering a long distance, you’ll likely encounter temperature changes. Unlike other vehicles, you’ll feel the temperature fluctuations more strongly, even if your motorcycle is equipped with a windscreen. Riding at highway speeds can make you feel like the temperature is lower by 10 degrees compared to what the weather forecast predicted.
Footwear with good traction
It’s important to have shoes that provide a good grip on the road when you stop your motorcycle, to prevent slipping and dropping the bike. While motorcycle-specific boots are ideal, any non-slip shoe is better than a sneaker with a slippery sole.
As you’re all set up, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Riding a motorcycle can be a life-changing adventure and once you feel it’s your thing, you’re never gonna get tired of it.
Finally, here are three most common mistakes motorcycle beginners make:
Bruce was born in Atlanta. He started riding motorcycles when he was 10 and has been passionate about them since. Bruce says he feels absolute freedom when he’s on two wheels. He prefers riding his bike slowly and smoothly along a country road and hardly ever enjoys wildly speedy rides. With a strong Ducati Multistrada 1200 in the current stable, Bruce enjoys his super powerful, comfortable and easy rides. Ducati Diavel is the beast he’s currently dreaming about…