10 Things New Motorcyclists Should Remember
You just bought your first motorcycle - or you are thinking about it - congrats! Motorcycling is one of the most invigorating and fun things you can do! But before you jump in head first... Check out these 10 things new motorcyclists should remember...
1. Crawl. Walk. Run.
Yes, the stretched Hyabusa your neighbor just bought is really cool, and it might be the reason you decided to get into motorcycling yourself. That does not mean you should just go out and buy one as your first bike. You didn't pop out of the womb able to run a 50 yard sprint, so don't go out and buy the most powerful, the heaviest, or the fastest bike right off the bat. Crawl. Walk. Run. Start slow and work you way up to that Electra Glide or 1190 Adventure. You will be able to hone your skills on smaller and more manageable machines before you work your way up to the big toys.
2. Use your head
Majority of motorcycle fatalities are results of head injuries sustained while in a motorcycle accident. Your head is the most important part of your body to protect. You can break arms and legs and come out of it ok, but a break in the cranium could leave you permanently disabled or even dead. It is your best line of defense in case of a motorcycle wreck.
So, you want to buy a decent helmet? Well, this is a discussion for another blog post, but the simple answer is: buy the best full face helmet you can afford. This will give you the best odds when the time comes. Your helmet should be DOT approved, but also look for stickers from the Snell Memorial Foundation.
Don't want to drop several hundred dollars on a quality helmet? Then don't ride a motorcycle. The way I see it - If you have the money to buy a motorcycle (at any level), you have the money to invest in a proper motorcycle helmet that could potentially save your life in the event of a wreck.
I will say it again. WEAR A PROPER HELMET. But don't forget your other gear too. All The Gear All The Time. Boots, jacket, pants, gloves and eye protection are also important. In a car you have seat belts, air bags, and crumple zones. On a motorcycle you have your riding gear. Don't skimp on the important stuff.
4. Take a rider training class
Having your friend teach you to ride a motorcycle is great, and I am glad they are wanting to share this awesome sport with you. However, this can leave you developing bad habits and not fully grasping the operation of your motorcycle. Sign up and take a rider training course. There are courses out there for every skill level and every type of rider. Want to learn to ride a dirt bike? Sign up for a class. Want to learn to ride a sport bike? Sign up for a class. Want to learn the basics of street riding? Yep, there is a class for that too. A quick google search will help you find rider training in your area. After you have been riding for several thousand miles, go back and take a class again. Having professionals fine tune your skills is the best way to keep bad habits at bay and instill muscle memory control of your stead.
5. Avoid riding in high risk scenarios
Your first 5,000 miles on a motorcycle are going to be a little nerve racking. It is best to avoid riding in high risk scenarios. Night time, rain, heavy traffic, and technical terrain can intimidate a new rider. Keep in mind the time of day you will be riding, the weather conditions you will encounter, and the route you will be taking. I also suggest sticking to shorter distance days in the beginning.
6. Check your Motorcycle Owners Manual
Every motorcycle comes with a Motorcycle Owners Manual. There is great and valuable information hidden in this little book. Recommended tire pressures, service intervals, load capacities, and the type of oil to use are just a few things listed in this book. Read through the entire manual before operating your motorcycle, and check back periodically to answer questions about your machine.
Feeling feisty? You can also purchase your Motorcycle Service Manual if you want a more in depth look at how to perform any possible maintenance procedure.
Keep them on your night stand for a bit of nightly reading. Along with your favorite motorcycle magazine!
7. Pre-ride inspections will keep you (mostly) trouble free
I know... You are eager to hop on your new bike and hit the road! But you aren't truly ready until you have given your motorcycle a pre-ride inspection. And it is a little more involved than making sure the bike starts...
If you find yourself in an MSF course, you will likely learn about T-CLOCS. This stands for Tires and wheels, Controls, Lights and electrics, Oil and other fluids, Chassis, Stands. This is a good place to start when learning to inspect your motorcycle. I have attached a checklist for your convenience.
It is important to go through this check list before every ride. Yes, it takes a few minutes to complete, but it is well worth it. Preventative maintenance is much less expensive than fixing something when it breaks and leaves you stranded. It saves a lot of heartache too, and leaves you will more time to ride your bike.
8. Adopt some moto-friends and avoid riding alone
When you are a new motorcyclist, you should try to avoid riding alone in case something happens out on the road. Riding with a few experienced motorcyclists can help you get used to the road. It can also help you gain confidence and skills you need. Most dealerships sponsor monthly rides for people of all skill levels. There are also lots of motorcycle groups (im not talking hardcore MC's here) that welcome new riders in the area.
Stick to small groups of 2 or 3 riders, and avoid large groups until you are very comfortable on the bike. This leads me into my next point.
9. Ride your own ride
Don't get out on the road with other riders who intimidate you or make you try to ride above your skill limits. Remember "Crawl. Walk. Run."? Just because the rider in front of you is dragging their knees through the corners does not mean you have to go for it too. Take your time and don't push yourself. They will wait for you at the next turn. At least they should... And if they try to mock you for being slow? Find new riding friends.
10. Practice makes permanent
Practice, practice, and practice some more. It doesn't matter if you have been riding for 2 years or 40, there is always something you can learn or practice to become a better rider. Get out in a parking lot and practice your evasive maneuvers. Take classes according to your skill level. and most importantly... Have fun!