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How to Ride a Motorcycle for Beginners

Posted On: 01/06/2021

Motorcycles have been a relatively popular alternative for drivers over the years. There has been a significant increase in motorcycle sales and registration; many people are focusing on safety and training to make the most out of their two-wheeled vehicle. There are many reasons a driver would consider buying a motorcycle, including:

  • Experiencing freedom on the open road
  • Facilitating a confident look or reputation
  • Creating an easier commute
  • Consuming less fuel
  • Maintaining roads and infrastructure
  • Saving money on car payments

While riding a motorcycle can offer many rewards, it’s important to remember that they are also dangerous, especially for first-time riders. However, there are ways to reduce the risks of riding a motorcycle. By implementing fundamental skills, obtaining the right gear, and becoming constantly aware of the surrounding riding area, you can master the motorcycle in a relatively short amount of time.

Essential Gear

To stay as safe as possible on a motorcycle, you should first invest in crucial gear. Not only will this gear keep you from getting hurt, but it is also necessary that you have this gear before you are licensed. This gear includes:

  • Helmet: Make sure to get a helmet designed for riding motorcycles. The helmet must be able to protect your head from injuries if you get into an accident on your bike, so it must fit well. To find the right size, you can get a professional fitting at a motorcycle equipment store.
  • Jacket: A motorcycle jacket should protect your torso and include some body armor. It should be snug with an ample range of motion in the arms. Most jackets are made with specific weather conditions in mind, so make sure you are getting the right jacket for the correct season.
  • Boots: Motorcycle boots cover the ankles and have non-slip soles. The less the boot twists when wearing them, the more protection it provides.
  • Gloves: Motorcycle gloves can help keep your hands warm and protect them from the elements. You’ll want gloves that let you move your fingers and have an adjustable strap around the wrist to keep them on.
  • Pants: Look for motorcycle pants made of the same material as your jacket. Pants like these are designed to take on more destructive forces of an accident.
  • Loading ramps: Loading and unloading a motorcycle can be just as tricky as riding it. Bikes can be heavy, with an average weight of 400 pounds. A motorcycle ramp can help you load and unload the motorcycle with ease and are used for dirt bikes, scooters, and standard bikes.
  • Motorcycle carrier: If you are transporting your bike to and from riding destinations, it’s essential to invest in a carrier so the bike won’t get broken or damaged during the drive. These carriers can fit onto the back of your truck or SUV and straps the motorcycle in to make it secure.

Getting On

The first thing you’ll want to learn is how to properly mount your bike. Since a motorcycle weighs a large amount, a bike can be easy to drop or kick over when mounting. In the worst-case scenario, the bike could fall on top of you when you are trying to mount or dismount, making this skill essential to a rider’s safety. There are a few things to consider before mounting your bike, like:

  • Making sure you are in a space that allows for mounting and dismounting
  • Ensuring you raised the kickstand
  • Leaning the bike towards you at all times
  • Having access to the front brake

By implementing these steps, you can gain more control over the bike in case it starts to tip. After getting to a place that is safe for mounting, follow the steps below:

  • Approach the bike from the kickstand side (the left side) and apply the front brake continuously
  • Use the handlebars as support, turning them as needed for better stability
  • Lean your body over the front of the bike and kick your right leg over and past the seat
  • Lean back into the seat and place your right foot either on the ground or on the footpeg
  • Raise the bike into an upright position and lift the kickstand

You can also use the pegs to mount your bike instead of the ground. If you wish to mount the bike by peg, repeat the steps above, substituting the pegs for the ground. If you have luggage on the back of your bike, you can place your leg on the seat and slide it to the other side instead of swinging it around the rear of the bike. Most importantly, you should be aware of your surroundings before you start riding.

Controls

Before starting the engine, it is vital to have an understanding of what every button and lever does on the motorcycle. It may be a good idea to perform safety inspections and maintenance on the bike so you can get a feel for how everything works together. You can utilize a motorcycle lift to raise the bike so you can easily see it. Be sure to check for leaks, flat tires, low oil, and test your lights and horns.

Many motorcycle riders don’t have to look down to engage their turn signal, clutch, or throttle, and instead, keep their eyes on the road. By knowing and memorizing where the controls are on the bike, you could avoid accidents in the future.

Right-Hand Controls

Your right-hand controls the throttle and the front brake. The throttle accelerates or decelerates the motorcycle. Rotating your wrist towards you increases the amount of gas fed to the engine while turning the wrist away from you feeds less gas to the engine.

Controlling the throttle is significant, as it can affect acceleration, deceleration, traction, and stability. To get a smooth ride out of the bike, you should try to rotate the throttle as gently as possible. Don’t apply too much throttle too fast, or you could accelerate far quicker than you were expecting.

Middle Controls

The middle controls contain the ignition and the gauges, including your speedometer, tachometer, and fuel gauge. More modern bikes might provide a digital display in the same area. While these controls don’t need your attention the entire time you’re riding the bike, you should keep an eye on them periodically to ensure you are not speeding or overworking your bike.

Left-Hand Controls

Your left hand will have more control within its reach. These controls include the clutch, the turn signals, high beams, and the horn. While you might be familiar with most of these controls, people who drive automatic cars may not fully understand the clutch. The clutch allows the rider to change gears on a motorcycle. When you pull the clutch in, you are releasing the engine from the transmission and putting the bike in neutral.

Right-Foot Controls

Your right foot controls the rear brake. While the front brake is designed to stop you as soon as possible, the rear brake can help you manage your speed and direction. You can use one brake or the other, or both at the same time. When you are riding on the street, it’s recommended you use both brakes to help stabilize the bike. When you are carrying a passenger, the rear brake can be more effective at stopping the bike because of the extra weight at the rear wheel.

Left-Foot Controls

Your left foot controls the shifter and the kickstand. The shifter is a two-way lever that is used at the same time as the clutch. You must push down to access first gear and lift your foot to access the rest. It’s important to get a feel for the different gears, as riding in the wrong gear can damage your transmission.

Additionally, riders must be aware of the kickstand, as it will automatically kill the engine if it is down. Before riding, make sure the kickstand is in the upright position.

Basic Motorcycle Handling

Riders need a basic idea of what to do once they are riding. Motorcycle riders make far more judgment calls than car drivers, which is why bikers develop better driving skills and habits and are more alert at driving than others on the road. While driving a motorcycle may seem overwhelming, you can master these skills with practice and patience.

Balancing

Before you start riding, you can practice balancing on the bike when it’s standing still. Stand up on the pegs and feel where the bike is leaning. Before the bike falls, place your foot on the ground to keep it upright. This exercise will help you get a feel for the bike without putting yourself at risk.

To balance while riding, you want to use your leg muscles instead of your arm muscles, since your arms will get tired faster than your legs. Your arms can assist in balancing, but it’s important not to rely on them. Additionally, the faster your bike goes, the better it will balance.

Shifting Gears

It’s important to note that you want to gradually pull and release the clutch every time you shift gears, or else you can stall the bike. When you shift gears, pull in the clutch and reduce the throttle at the same time. Then, shift gears with your left foot and rotate the throttle to smooth out the transmission. Then release the clutch. To reach your desired speed, keep shifting gears as you would in a car. To come to a stop, release the throttle, pull in the clutch, and downshift.

Turning and Leaning

Handlebars aren’t the only way to change direction; you’ll also need to turn and lean into the bike. Similar to bicycles, motorcycles can be coaxed into a direction by leaning and using your body weight. For instance, when you approach a corner, you should ease off the throttle and gently push your chest towards the opposite side of the handlebars you want to turn to. The more you lean, the sharper the motorcycle's turn becomes, so you should gradually lean instead of throwing your body weight to the side. As you come out of the corner, gently lean back towards the middle to center the weight. This will help straighten out the motorcycle and allow you to drive in a straight line.

Safety at Faster Speeds

Riding at higher speeds may seem intimidating, especially with an increase in traffic. However, riding at highway speeds is typically deemed much safer than riding on neighborhood roads, since traffic is going in the same direction and at the same speed. You also won’t have to worry about dodging cross traffic.

Generally, entering and exiting a highway on a motorcycle requires the same actions as driving a car on the highway. Make sure to check your mirrors, perform a quick head check, and use your turn signals to ensure you can merge safely. Many motorcycle riders stay in the left lane of the highway so they don’t have to worry about merging with other cars.

When you are traveling at fast speeds, keep an eye on your mirrors to maintain a safe distance between your bike and the car behind you. Distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents, and getting rear-ended on a motorcycle can lead to debilitating injuries. To stay safe, you should aim to keep to the left or the right of a lane, as the middle can carry debris or oil deposits.

Riding a motorcycle for the first time can seem scary and overwhelming. However, by implementing the tips above, you can soon learn to master the motorcycle and become an expert rider.