Having ridden motorcycles off and on since 1969 I was watching some being given here and there but not all in one place. Many of the tips and hints that are gathered here are timeless but when I started out there were no safety classes. There were no internet articles that I could search for things on when I first started riding. The magazines were few and far between and most guys weren’t into women riding their own. Aerostitch wouldn’t make clothes for women then and if we cut their clothing down we were told we would lose any guarantee. So these 30 tips for new motorcycle riders are all things I had to learn on my own. By myself.
The author’s 1982 GL 500I Honda Silverwing that’s a great ride
Don’t forget to put the kickstand down at the gas pump. Ever.
Your bike tends to go where you look. So if you are looking at that tree? There you go. Looking at the pretty fence or barn? Yes, that is where you will go. Look at how big that pothole is? It may be a rough ride.
If there is something in the road, don’t fixate on it, look elsewhere or you may hit it. Pieces of board, dead animals, chunks of tires, crib mattresses, shoes, (dirty diapers can be slick) and that piece of a chair are all things to avoid and not to ride into. When the motorcyclist ahead of you points out a hazard you want to avoid it not ride right over it.
Look through a curve not at the guardrail or the pretty scenery at the side of the road.
Don’t assume a turn signal means that they plan on turning. Cars or other motorcycle riders may not realize their turn signal is blinking. They may be trying to give a warning long in advance of their turn. People drive differently. It all can be a hazard to watch out for.
If you realize a block down the road that your turn signal is still blinking? Get an automatic shutoff of find a better way to remember to shut it off.
Learn what the different biker hand signals mean.
Lean how to countersteer when going around curves. Turning a bit to the left helps tilt the motorcycle to the right and vice versa.
Roads are slick when wet.
Paint is a worse kind of slick, kind of like riding on oily glass. Be careful of trying to stop or slow when going across or along lines of paint that has gotten wet in rain.
Practice clutch control in low gear. This helps not just when starting up from a stop but also when riding during rallies and in groups.
Ride like you won’t be seen because many people won’t see you. Watch for people on phones, chatting or any other distraction. Be careful of cars getting ready to pull out. Also watch for pedestrians getting ready to cross a street, animals thinking about crossing the road and bicycle riders.
People attending to to a motorcycle accident victim.
If you are heavy? White leather can make you look like a marshmallow. Sigh.
You own the lane you are riding in. don’t make it easy for people to cut you off by staying only to the far right side. There is also more of a chance for debris to be along the side of the road.
Practice riding in all kinds of weather. Learning to ride in rain or with a load when one has to succeed at it can be tough. Stopping can take a lot longer distance when one is hydroplaning along. Yes you can hydroplane on a motorcycle also.
Pack your packs with the heavy weight items down low. When heavy weight is up high it can cause steering problems. This is a real problem if you have gotten in the habit of stopping without straightening your wheels out. You might want to consider taking less also. In Louisiana my bike made a huge hole in the parking lot when I forgot to put down the kickstand puck I used under my kickstand.
There’s a saying, “Drive for the slide, not for the ride.” There is a huge debate about riding with ATGATT, which stands for “All the Gear, All the Time.” Some ATGATT and some don’t. Motorcyclists are all about choice and all are passionate about their decisions. What you wear and don’t wear is a personal decision. I personally won’t ride without gloves but others feel less or more is enough.
Oil floats up when it first starts to rain, be careful but especially careful of riding in the middle of a lane. In the first few minutes of a rain storm it will be the most slick. If you are stopping at (or planning to stop at an intersection) be aware of puddles of oil. You not only don’t want to stop on the oil puddles but oil puddles will make the bottom of your boots slick as well
Stay in the mirror of the person in front of you. If you can’t see them in the mirror, they also can’t see you. Watch out for blind spots. This is true for cars, trucks, semis and vans, not just for big trucks or semis.
Bugs hurt. They hurt a lot and come out especially at dusk. Fish flies are slick to ride on and taste terrible. Bees and wasps are a problem due to the ability they have to sting. They can get trapped under jackets and in sleeves. When trapped they sting.
Practice dragging a bit on your back brake for better balance and control when riding slow.
The best way to learn is to ride. And then ride some more.
Braking with a packed bike (even if it is from a quick run to the grocery store) is different. The stopping time is longer and if the items aren’t loaded well can contribute to a loss of control.
Don’t ride next to or behind a semi. Tires can pop and strew debris across the road. Things can come loose. Dirt may blow off into your eyes or into your face.
If the light is yellow when you are coming up on it? Consider not stopping. Your decision always needs to depend upon conditions but cars may not see you sitting at that stop light. Some say to aim your bike between cars if you are sitting between them.
Never use a motorcycle tire worn enough to be very dangerous. Tires may be worn on the bottom in the middle and look great from the sides. This person was lucky terrible things didn’t happen from a blowout.
Just because you just bought the bike and the tires look new doesn’t mean they are in great condition for riding. Look carefully for signs of dry rot or weathering. It’s not just about the tread.
When you fall off or get in a wreck? Get back on. When I got hit in 2008 on an interstate, I went back when I could and got that bike and got on it. I couldn’t get up right away but when I could it was the first thing I did, arrange transportation to get it, load it and get on it. I’ve never, personally, regretted it.
Always wear a belt. Keep an emergency kit in your luggage at all times. You may need both in an emergency. Belts can act as tourniquets and can hold on large pads to slow bleeding. An emergency kit like this one Motorcycle Operator First Aid Kit by Rescue Essentials means you have clean supplies available and don’t have to use a dirty shirt. Keep the emergency kit handy and not buried. A waterproof emergency kit works best.
Use good eye protection. Some swear by motorcycle goggles, some have trouble with them fogging up. Some use foam padded glasses. Others use regular tight fitting glasses. Whatever you use, make sure you can see clearly and that they cut the wind to your eyes. Dry eyes hurt.
These 30 tips for new motorcycle riders would have helped me a lot to know back 40 years ago when I first started riding a motorcycle.
Photo’s by Marty Raaymakers except tire pic which is by Lady Fred;used with permission