Motorcycle Riding Tips And Techniques For Beginners

Motorcycle riding is a fun and exciting method of personal transportation.

For many people, motorcycle riding becomes not just a hobby, but a passion, and they discover the world around them in a whole new way.

Learning to ride a motorcycle isn't difficult, and doesn't have to be intimidating, provided that a few simple tips and tricks are followed.

The Basics of Riding A Motorcycle

Before getting on the bike: 

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    Visually inspect the motorcycle and make sure that it is safe to ride.
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    Check fluid and gas levels, ensure signals and battery are operational, and examine the tread and air pressure on the tires.

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    A revision of crucial systems before starting the machine can prevent later accidents.
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    Wear the correct safety gear for maximum protection. Always wear a motorcycle helmet, even in states where they are not legally required.
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    Use gloves, boots, and protective clothing even in hot weather.
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    Even at low speeds, it is easy to get injured on a motorcycle, and protective gear is important.

While on the bike:

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    The rider's right hand controls both acceleration and the front wheel brake.

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    Twisting the grip toward the rider applies the throttle, while pulling the brake lever controls the front brake. 

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    Smoothness and consistency on these controls are key to the performance of the motorcycle and the safety of the rider.

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    The rider's right foot controls the rear wheel brake. 

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    Generally speaking, gently applying the rear brake first, and then easing into applying the front brake, is the best way to bring a motorcycle to a stop.

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    Technique often depends on the size and weight of the motorcycle.

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    Sport bikes can often be stopped with just the front brake, while heavy cruisers rely more on the rear brake.

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    The rider's left hand controls the clutch lever. 

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    Squeezing the clutch lever disengages the transmission and puts the motorcycle into neutral.

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    The rider's left foot controls gear shifting. The typical motorcycle shift pattern is called “one down, five up”: 

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    This means that first gear is achieved by pressing down with the foot, then neutral, second, third gears etc are reached by lifting up with the gear lever.  

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    Using the clutch lever to disengage, and then the left foot to change gears, then re-engaging the clutch takes some practice.

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    Steering a motorcycle is like steering a bicycle. 

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    To execute a right turn, the rider leans slightly toward the right and pushes the right handgrip away from them.

At the end of the ride: 

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    The bike should come to a complete stop and the rider should put both feet flat on the ground.

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    Park the motorcycle on firm, level ground. The kickstand will sink into soft or muddy earth. 

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    If the bike isn't parked on a level surface, face the bike uphill and keep it in gear.

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    The center stand, if the bike has one, should be engaged by pushing it to the ground, then standing on the tab while pulling the motorcycle back with the handlebars.

Riding A Motorcycle For The First Time

When riding a motorcycle for the first time, it's important to go slowly and stay relaxed.

Hard, sudden braking or acceleration can be dangerous, so getting some practice easing the controls is necessary.

As above, the beginner should wear all the correct protective equipment and visually inspect the bike before getting on it.

After sitting on the bike, but before starting it, the rider should locate all the controls, and feel the size, weight, and proportion of the bike.

The rider should be able to sit on the motorcycle with both feet flat on the ground.

All hand and foot levers should be within comfortable reach, and the mirrors should be adjusted to the rider's eyeline.

Before starting the bike, a new rider should also practice shifting gears by using the clutch with their left hand and changing gears with their foot, while watching the gauge.

The ability to “find” gears may take some practice.

After starting the motorcycle and letting it run for a minute to warm up the engine, it's a good idea to practice “power walking”, or moving the motorcycle forward by releasing the clutch and walking along with it.

This gives a new rider some practice with the clutch and helps them learn to balance the bike.

The rider should practice several rounds of going straight and slow for short distances and then braking, to get a feel for the throttle and the brakes, and then practicing shifting gears, before they begin a turn.

Keep in mind that turning is fairly simple for people with practice on a bicycle, but should not be executed too slowly for fear of “dropping” the bike.

See also: Best Motorcycle Helmets Reviewed

Common Motorcycle Rookie Mistakes

Here are a few of the mistakes that new motorcycle riders often make.

Avoiding these errors will increase safety and may preserve some dignity.

Turning mistakes: Looking at the turn.

The rider should always look through the turn toward their destination, and accelerate slightly out of the turn to maintain balance and return the bike upright.

Safety mistakes: Some new riders assume that they don't need to perform a safety check with every ride.

Checking lights, fluids, and tires before every ride makes sure the bike is safe and legal, and may save a long walk to a gas station.

Underestimating other drivers: motorcycles can be difficult to see on the road.

Motorcyclists should always drive defensively.

They must always allow plenty of distance between themselves and surrounding traffic, while keeping a finger on the brake lever just in case.

Too much too soon: riding with a passenger or with a group changes the behavior and dynamics of handling a motorcycle, and should only be undertaken after the driver has had a lot of practice riding alone.

There are a variety of reputable options for formal motorcycle riding instruction, which are a great resource for the complete novice.

Learning to ride a motorcycle can be dangerous, and shouldn't be done alone. 

But, with practice, motorcycle riding is a great skill, a fun hobby, and a social activity that millions of people enjoy.