Motorcycles are fuel-efficient, cool, and fun to ride. However, riding a motorcycle is riskier than driving a car. According to the United States Department of Transportation (NHTSA), there has been an average of 4,200 motorcyclist fatalities per year for the past seven years or so.
The causes range from riding under the influence of alcohol to not wearing a helmet and interactions with other motorists.
Again, a motorcycle rider is about 30 times more likely to die in a crash as compared to a motorist. Some things may be out of your control, but there are things that a rider can do to reduce this likelihood. As a new rider, there is probably a lot that you do not know about bikes and the road.
As you learn how to ride a motorbike, safety should be your primary concern. Throughout this guide, you will learn how to handle a motorbike while riding. The guide also includes the tips you need to observe as a new rider for a safer riding experience.
Before riding, wear the right motorcycle gear and inspect the bike for any problem or malfunction. On the road, watch out for changing road conditions, vehicles and always have a safe escape path in mind. New riders should apply the 70/30 braking as well as counter-steering techniques for safe cornering.
How Long Does it Take to Get Comfortable Riding a Motorcycle?
For most adults, learning how to ride a motorcycle takes less than a week—with some learning in just a few hours. This includes learning the basics of riding a motorcycle and moving it on two wheels. Motorcycle controls are fairly standardized across the various makes and models.
As such, learning how to ride one model will make you proficient in almost any bike model you will ever come across. For some riders, learning low-speed maneuvers and learning how to make U-turns, and negotiate tighter corners may take time.
While this is the case, some motorcycles are harder to ride than others. Dirt bikes, for instance, are easier to learn and control, as compared to the larger sports bikes. Once you have learned the basics, it will take anywhere from a few weeks to five months to get accustomed to riding—depending on how regularly you actually ride.
Tips for Riding a Motorcycle for the First Time
As mentioned earlier in this guide, riding a motorcycle carries a higher risk than driving a car. This is particularly the case for learners and inexperienced motorcycle riders. As such, you will need to do much more, than just learn how to ride, for you to enjoy safe rides.
So, what are the tips for riding a motorcycle as a beginner?
1.Wear the Right Motorcycle Gear
Whether you are an experienced rider or just a beginner safety should always come first. Wearing the right gear reduces the chances of your getting injured in the event of an accident involving your motorcycle.
In this regard, you should always wear all the necessary gear whenever you are riding a motorbike, including:
According to the NHTSA, about 2,089 motorists lost their lives in motorcycle accidents in 2016 simply because they were not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. For enhanced protection against head injuries, riders should always wear a DOT-certified helmet whenever they are riding.
Some motorcycle helmets are designed to offer full-face coverage. Other models only offer ¾ or ½-face coverage. Of the three helmet types, the full-face helmets have been proven to offer the best level of protection. This is mainly because it covers the entire face and head, protecting them from impact should you get involved in an accident.
Regardless of the type, the helmet you choose needs to fit just snuggly and comfortable to wear for extended periods.
Gloves are not just meant to protect a rider from the cold, they will also protect your hands from flying pebbles or even larger bugs that can be painful when you are riding. The best motorcycle gloves are also designed to offer better grip for safer and precise operation of the various controls.
Motorbike gloves come in different material options, ranging from leather to textile. Choose a material that is both water-resistant and water-resistant. Although leather offers enhanced protection against abrasion and is comfortable to wear, it does not resist water penetration.
Just like the helmet, you should choose gloves that fit snuggly. Your preferred gloves should also allow for free movement of the fingers.
The best motorcycle jackets are designed to protect you against weather elements as well as injuries during an accident. Your choice of the right motorbike jacket should be influenced by fit and function, rather than design.
The right jacket will also depend on the type of environment you will be riding in more frequently. For instance, a leather jacket or motorcycle suit is the ideal choice for the racetrack. Textile motorcycle jackets, on the other hand, are better suited for casual off-road riding.
For improved protection against abrasion, you should consider buying a jacket that is made of thicker materials. You also need to get a jacket that is designed to offer enhanced visibility on the road.
Some riders prefer buying a complete motorcycle suit. However, you can also buy the various items separately. In such a case, you should get a pair of motorcycle pants that offers protection to the lower body and is also comfortable to wear.
If you will be riding in hit weather most of the time, get pants that feature built-in cooling features. For enhanced protection and comfort, the best motorcycle pants feature padding at the thigh, hip, and knee areas. If you do not need the level of protection leather had to offer, you will find Kevlar and denim combinations to be lighter alternatives.
If you need additional protection against weather elements, go for the textile motorcycle pants that are
The right motorcycle boots should offer the perfect blend of comfort and protection. Most motorcycle boots come in either textile or leather material options. While textile motorcycle boots are known to be weather-proof, they are not suited for use in rainy or snowing conditions.
If you will be riding in the snow or light snow, you should consider investing in a good pair of leather boots. Get a pair that features additional protection around the ankle to protect your feet against abrasion if you happen to get into an accident.
Additionally, the right motorcycle boots should have a closing system that conceals any laces. For instance, a hook-and-loop strip is good at keeping everything tucked away. Finally, you should get a pair that has oil-resistant soles for improved traction when you stop at the intersections.
Eye protection accessories for motorcycle riders come in various forms, ranging from tinted visors on the helmet to riding glasses that resemble sunglasses. Unless you are wearing a helmet that offers full-faced coverage, you will also need the appropriate eye protection gear.
Riding glasses or goggles that are specifically designed for motorcycle riders should be shatter-resistant. The leading models also feature different tinting options. Such tinting options have been proven to improve visibility significantly, especially when you are riding in bright or low-light conditions.
2.Inspect Your Motorcycle Before Riding
Once you are ready to ride, take some time to check whether the bike is roadworthy. Just do a quick walk around the motorcycle to check such things as tire pressure, lights, and fuel level. As a beginner, you should only ride a motorcycle that is in proper working condition.
Defensive riding encompasses several defensive habits that will help you remain safe while riding a motorcycle. In this regard, you need to imagine that every other road user is out to get you. To begin with, you should develop a habit of conducting consistent shoulder checks when starting and when coming to a stop.
Secondly, you should always try to stay out of blind spots as riders are not that visible to drives. In addition to keeping enough distance between you and vehicles, you should continually adjust your position within the lane. This should be done to leave an escape path in case of anything.
Another defensive ridding habit would be to constantly scan the road surface for debris, and be ready to take evasive action when the need arises.
4.Learn To Shift Gears At The Right Time
Just as is the case with manual cars, you need to constantly change gears on your motorcycle to match speed and road conditions. When accelerating in a low gear, your motorcycle will reach peak torque—when the engine is delivering max thrust—quickly.
For improved performance, it is advisable to shift upwards at the peak torque. This is usually between 75 and 90 percent of the total revolutions per minute (RPM). However, you do not have to keep looking at the dash for when to shift gears, the bike sound will tell you when you need to shift up or down.
As a rule of thumb, shift to a higher gear, if the engine sounds high or tons lower gear when the engine produces a low pitch. For the low-capacity motorcycles, however, you should only use the first gear until you reach a speed of 10mph, and the second gear up to 20mph.
Unless you are riding a dirt bike, it is advisable to stick to the 70/30 braking strategy. This essentially means that you need to apply about 70 percent of the braking pressure on the front brakes and only 30 percent to the rear brakes.
For beginners, this has been proven to facilitate smooth and progressive stops. The front brake is often the most powerful. However, it is not advisable to apply either front or rear brakes alone to stop a moving motorcycle.
Counter-Steering vs. Push Steering
Two main techniques may be used to steer a motorcycle. The right strategy to apply mainly depends on the speed you are currently riding at. Below 12 miles per hour, you need to push the handlebar towards the direction you want to turn—referred to as push-steering.
Counter steering refers to a technique that requires you to push on the handlebar in the direction you want to go. For instance, you push on the left handle for the bike to turn to the left. If you would rather turn to the right, just push on the right handlebar. In essence, counter-steering destabilizes the vehicle momentarily.
This, in turn, allows you to lean the bike—by twisting your upper body—in the direction you would like to turn. As you begin to lean, the front tire should be pointed in the opposite direction of the turn. As you lean the tire then corrects itself and points in the direction you want to go. This will end up controlling the rest of the maneuver, especially at high speeds.
Braking and Turning
As a new rider, it is advisable to brake before turning and keep each action separated. Braking before you enter a turn will compress the front suspension. Ensure that the force pushing down on the front tire is complete before attempting to use the traction for cornering.
It is advisable to use both front and rear brakes in a straight line as you approach the turn to get the maximum braking potential. Once you have, you need to counter-steer the handlebars and lean into the corner, as described above. You may need to roll the throttle a bit to help balance the suspension.
Note: If you enter into a turn at high speeds, you will need to learn more to maintain your initial path around the corner.
Your cornering speed and leaning are symbiotic—they need each other to maintain balance around a corner. As you approach the exit of the corner, you should start to roll on the throttle slowly and increase your speed to the exit of the corner and into the next straightaway.
4.Learn To Watch For Dangers
As a new rider, you need to look where you are going. Avoid distractions—just keep your head up looking out towards the horizon. You can turn your head slightly when you need to turn. As you ride, you need to constantly scan the horizon in the direction you heading for obstacles.
You need to see obstacles from a distance and make the necessary adjustments to avoid them. In a turn, look through the turn and for the exit to the next straightaway.
5.Be Mindful of Surface Conditions
While riding, you should always be on the lookout for changing surface conditions. For instance, you should avoid the painted road lines when riding in the rain as they are known to become slippery. If riding on a road with potholes, try to avoid the patchwork especially when you are cornering on them.
How to Ride in Proximity to Other Vehicles
Even when you are riding in remote areas, you are bound to encounter traffic—including other motorcycles, trucks, and smaller vehicles. It is not safe to ride next to a car or truck, especially when you are at the driver’s blind spot.
Just to be safe, avoid riding directly next to another vehicle. Remain at the rear or move to its front, just in case the driver needs to swerve to avoid something on the road. You also need to leave at least a 2-second stopping distance between you and vehicles in front of you.
This way, you will have the reaction time you need to avoid a collision in the event that the vehicle brakes suddenly. Do not allow speed up assuming that the vehicle behind you will allow you more riding space.
6.Always Have an Escape Path
As you ride, something may cross your path without notice. If that happens, you need somewhere to go immediately to avoid colliding with it. This is often referred to as the rider’s escape path. You should continually think of where you can go if something like that happens, can you go to the right or left?
Always keep your options open as you ride and be ready to change course if need be. In this regard, you should watch out for guard rails—they can be dangerous if you are pinched between them and a vehicle.
As a rule of thumb, always in the safest lane possible. Remember that the safest lane will depend on different things and changes as you go. As a new rider, staying close to the off-ramp may be a good idea. The best lane is the one that offers you great visibility and an easy escape path should anything happen.
7.Stay Safe at Intersections
Based on statistics, most motorcycle accidents occur at intersections. To avoid such an eventuality, you need to be very cautious when entering and exiting intersections. As you approach an intersection on your motorcycle, you need to slow down slightly—even when you have the right away.
Be prepared to change directions through an escape path, or stop altogether. It is safer to always assume that drivers are not seeing you and be ready to react in case of anything.
If you are a learner or an inexperienced rider, be sure to ride according to your skill level. In addition to maintaining lower speeds, you need to be cautious at all times. For instance, you should avoid riding next to vehicles, have an escape path, and leave a safe stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front.
Keep your eyes on the road at all times, scanning the horizon for obstacles you need to avoid. It is also advisable to watch out for changing road conditions in relation to the current weather conditions. For your safety, you need to wear all the required gear at all times when you are riding.