There are two different approaches to take when getting into motorcycles for the first time.
One is to buy the coolest, fastest bike you can. Have your buddy show you a couple things. Write your test. Then throw on a tank top and some flip flops and cruise the strip on all your badass glory.
The other way is to respect your limited knowledge of how to operate a motorcycle safely on the streets. If you head into it with this frame of mind you become teachable. Teachable people learn things much better than those that feel they know it all. Funny that.
In this article we want to help those that want to learn. So we are offering the top seven new motorcycle rider tips.
1. Check Your Regions Requirements
Every state or province in North America may have a different process to obtain a motorcycle license. For example, Alaska requires parental consent if you are under 18. Colorado requires that you hold a regular driver’s license before obtaining your motorcycle endorsement. New York state does not have this requirement. So Every state is a little different and it’s important you familiarize yourself with your state or province’s requirements.
In the USA you can go to your state’s DMV website to find this information. Make sure you follow the process closely so things go smoothly.
2. Take A Motorcycle Safety Course
I wouldn’t even call this a tip. I’d call it a must. A motorcycle safety course has many benefits. The most important is you learn the safe, proper operation of a motorcycle in a controlled environment with professional instruction. In the course you will be tasked with showing proficiency in some basic elements of motorcycle riding. You will be instructed on invaluable lessons such as counter steering, looking into your turns, handling corners safely, emergency braking and more. These are not things you want to learn on the road while dealing with traffic. The course gives you a weekend to focus on these skills. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can pick them up when you have the time and space to learn. Your instructor is there to guide you and help you avoid the bad habits they see all the time. It’s a fun process and you will finish the weekend really impressed by how much you learned and how far you came.
The other benefits are that you will likely (depending on your region) be able to complete your government’s requirement of a road test at the conclusion of the course. The safety course usually sets aside the last half of the last day for riders to complete the test. If you pass you get your license (some states and provinces have a graduated process). If you don’t take the safety course, most states require you show up at the DMV and do the road test through them. This is more stressful. During the motorcycle safety course you become familiar with the instructors and the road couse itself. You will be more confident and likely have a better outcome.
The other benefit is you will qualify for a lower insurance rate. Some providers won’t even insure you unless you have a motorcycle safety course certification.
All these benefits make enrolling more than worth it. It’s fun and it can save your life.
3. Choose The Right Bike
Ok so you passed your road test and you are now the holder of a motorcycle license. Congratulations! It’s time to start looking for your ride. New or used is up to you and your financial situation. Each has their benefits. What is important here is that you get a bike that will allow you to learn. This topic could take a whole article to cover. Head over to our Best Beginner Motorcycle article where we cover this in full.
There are plenty of options for beginner friendly motorcycles on the market today.
Our recommendation is to keep the horsepower to a max of 65 and under. You don’t have to go into the 250cc territory but it is a great place to start. We do not recommend large displacement, higher horsepower and torque motorcycles at this point.
The point here is to learn all aspects of riding a motorcycle. This includes cornering, breaking, and accelerating. Anyone can ride a bike in a straight line. To ride a motorcycle well you need practice. Practice builds confidence. Confidence builds proficiency. These are the building blocks to becoming a very good rider as opposed to an average one. With a proper bike you can learn to use the whole bike. This is important. What’s the point of having a bike that you are only capable of riding to 1/10th of the bike’s potential? There’s an old saying that goes “it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow”. This is very true. Once you can ride the bike to the bikes fullest potential, then you are ready for something more. This is why 250, 300 and 400cc bikes are great. It shortens the learning curve. The better you become at riding, the more fun it is.
4. Gear Up
This is where a lot of new riders skimp. Don’t. Remember falling off your bicycle as a kid and picking bits of gravel out of your scrapped up palms and knees? You were probably going like 5mph. Now imagine that at 45mph. You don’t want that. Listen, you want to give yourself the best chance to get up off the asphalt and shower in complete comfort that night. Hopefully it never comes to that.
I’m not against laws that put the choice to wear a helmet in the riders hands. I believe in personal freedom. It will always be my choice to wear gear though. It’s a mentality thing. By gearing up before a ride you are putting your head in the right perspective. You are respecting the game. Being humble is a good place to be. I have to believe that if you are heading out for a ride with only a tank top and no helmet, then in your mind you must feel it’s a guarantee that you ain’t going down today. That’s not the mentality I want heading into a ride. A mentality of Invincibility can lead to cockiness in my opinion. Dress for the slide as they say. I always appreciate watching Moto GP riders crash, slide and get up and walk away. That’s the goal. Of course we are not on a controlled track. All the more reason to wear proper gear. Check out our article on Best Beginner Motorcycle Gear. It will give you tips and inspiration that you, as a new rider can use. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get good protection.
5. Be A Student
As good as the motorcycle safety course is, your learning shouldn’t end there. There is just way more to it than can be covered over a weekend course. It’s a start but look at it as a start to your learning.
There are a few things you can do to better prepare yourself for hitting the road. One of them is reading in your spare time. Books like Proficient Motorcycling offer a wealth of practical information that’s useful to riders of all abilities. Tips
like always riding to 75% of your current abilities. Having that 25% wiggle room in case you need it can be a life saver. Studying more can also teach you about traction and how your bike uses it up. Bike geometry and how it affects your machines performance. All of this is valuable information to help you understand how your bike is operating as you are out on the roads. We can learn why acceleration is necessary on exiting a corner to gain traction. This particular book has valuable tips like asking “what next” when you are riding down the road so we are always thinking of what’s ahead of us so we can anticipate events quickly.
Another thing I like to do is watch motorcycle crash videos on YouTube. I know it sounds taboo to do such a thing but you can really learn a lot. Watch where people mess up. Ask yourself what you would have done differently. A Lot of times I see riders cruise through their right of way without taking steps to protect themselves. Yes it was their right to go but that car obviously didn’t care. What could the rider have done? Maybe slowing 7 or 8mph would have helped in avoiding contact. There are a lot of riders that were right yet still ended up in hospital or worse. It’s never about being right. It’s always better to be extra cautious and safe. There are many skills we can learn to do this. By being a student you learn what they are. They will become second nature to you if you incorporate them early. Being a student keeps you humble. Being humble keeps us alive.
6. Take It Slow
Your first time hitting the streets by yourself is a bit of a surreal experience. The feeling of vulnerability is very intense at first. These Things take a little time getting used to. I remember pulling up to my first intersection, putting my foot down while I waited for the light to change and thinking how odd it is that I am literally standing in the intersection! No cage around me. Give yourself time to comprehend the new way of moving through space and time. For some, there is an adjustment period. Try starting out on residential streets first. The pace is slow and it gives you a good opportunity to get used anticipating events at a slower speed.
Move to double lane roads to get used to lane positioning and riding with traffic alongside you.
The point here is, it’s okay to take baby steps if you need to. Remember, confidence is key. Give yourself time to build it up.
7. Do It Solo
If you have friends or family members that ride, the temptation is to call them up and head out together right away. A word of caution. Two things can potentially happen here. One is the friend or group pushes the pace making you feel pressure to keep up and ride out of your comfort zone. Or two, they let you lead but you don’t want to cramp their style so again, you ride out of your comfort zone. Riding with partners is a very enjoyable aspect of riding. Just give yourself a few outings on your own so you are not dealing with the added pressure. Riding in groups is a bit of a skill of its own. It is not that hard but you need added awareness of what other riders are doing. No need to put yourself there at first. Give yourself a few hours on your own. Establish some basics, then join the others. Some may not agree with this but I’ve seen a few new riders lose control because they were trying to keep up with the pack.
Motorcycle riding is a fantastic journey that has added deep meaning to many people’s lives. At first there is a lot going on and a lot to learn. To do it right there are some dues to pay up front. If you are willing, and take your time to learn, you can become a very good, very safe rider. Some things in the beginning take a bit of time and patience to learn. In time they will become second nature and you will be better off for it. Sure, you can say, to hell with all this and hop on your bike and let rip. But you are trying to not be a statistic here. Taking these steps greatly improves your odds out there on the roads. According to the Hurt report, you are two and and a half times more likely to be involved in a crash if you do not have a license. The most basic thing! So as you can see, being responsible gets you ahead of the game big time.
With these tips you can be confident you are doing what it takes to get a good start. Welcome to your new Affliction!