Advice for New Motorcycle Riders: First Things First
We know you want to hop on that bike immediately, but you have some prerequisites first.
Whether it’s been a multi-year process of action or consideration, or a spur-of-the-moment decision to experience the freedom of the open road, getting through the lawful process and finally buying a motorcycle is fondly remembered by most riders. For most of us, it’s a moment we’ve been eagerly anticipating and working to achieve.
Regardless of the comparisons, the feeling is always the same: an anxious excitement. You're ready to jump on your bike and keep riding until the tires fall off. Am I right? Well, hold up there, Sparky. I've got some advice for you.
Now, while that’s a joke, you’d be surprised at the issues you might come across when you buy a motorcycle. This is especially true if it’s a used bike, which seems to be the most common route that new motorcycle riders gravitate towards. I firmly believe you're better off if you buy a used motorcycle anyway. You should also be mindful of research, like the best motorcycles for beginners, or how to buy a motorcycle in general. But, just as many seasoned owners will wonder where the best place to sell a motorcycle is, you, as new rider, are probably wondering where to buy one.
If you originally searched for motorcycles for sale online, you probably assumed the seller was knowledgeable and provided a critical overview of the motorcycle's condition. However, this isn't always the case, so there are still some steps that you, as a first-time buyer, need to take. While there’s nothing wrong with a used bike – it’s sure to have a personality and exciting history behind it – you have to be very aware and careful of your selection. Most riders, especially new ones, might think once the bike is in their garage and their payment is squared away, that they’re in the clear. However, I would urge you to think again.
When it comes to owning a motorcycle, you have to be constantly aware of the mechanics of your bike and willing to get your hands a little dirty to ensure your safety as well as the safety of others. Through some simple assurances and closer inspection, you might uncover a problem with the bike that you had not previously seen, or prevent a problem from occurring down the road.
As part of my advice for new motorcycle riders, here are some of the first things to do when you buy a motorcycle, whether it’s used or new:
1) Replace all your fluids – brake fluid, oil, and coolant.
This isn’t just a necessary step to do before rides; it’s a good habit to have in general, especially if you’re not that familiar with the upkeep of motorcycles. Get into a habit of checking the levels of your bike's fludis, as it will prevent a variety of problems from happening. Your bike is a well-oiled machine, so you really need to treat it as such. If you’re not familiar with how to do these things, Google is an excellent resource. YouTube also has a variety of videos, including the one below, that will provide you with step-by-step instructions for maintaining your bike.
However, if you really don’t trust yourself, have a friend who's well-versed in everything "motorcycles" show you the ropes. You've got to pay attention, though, as this bike is your responsibility and that means learning all of the upkeep that comes along with it.
You know how essential oil is to a car? The same applies here. Also, don't forget to check your bike's coolant, as this particular fluid will prevent your bike from over-heating. If your motorcycle starts overheating and you don't catch it on time, be prepared to spend a hefty amount of money in order to fix the problem. Bottom line: if you have no intentions of laying your new beauty to rest any time soon, take the extra time required to make sure you’ve got something as simple as enough coolant in the bike.
2) Brake pads and tires.
The brake fluid isn’t the only consideration to be made in terms of brake functionality. If your brake pads look worn down to about one-eighth inch or less, it’s time to replace them. When it comes to buying a used motorcycle, the previous owner was likely more interested in getting the bike off their hands the fastest way possible, not the safest. It's unfortunate, but you have to be the one responsible for making sure everything is in the shape.
Checking your tires is easy, so skipping out on this step will evoke some serious judgment on our part. Do you have a penny somewhere in your pocket or your house? That’s all you need. Take that penny and place it in the groove of the tread on one of your tires. If part of Lincoln’s head (or hair) is covered by the tire, then you’re good to go. However, don’t just assume that if one tire is okay, the other is fine, too. Take the extra minute to check both so you can give yourself a little peace of mind.
3) Thoroughly check the bike chain.
Checking your bike chain is probably one of the most critical things on this list, so make sure you’re reading carefully. Your bike chain is obviously going to depend on the make and model of your bike, so a simple Google search will provide you with the answers you need. After you check your chain, it’s important to keep in mind that it's good practice to recheck it every 500 miles you drive. A chain that's too loose is just as bad as a chain that's too tight, and you want to be sure that it’s properly lubricated and cleaned to prevent further problems.
You’ll need to find the middle point between the rear sprockets and the front. When you want to make your adjustment, you’ll loosen your axle nut just a couple of turns. Adjust your chain to exactly what it needs to be for safe riding. Most bikes will have bolts you can use to increase or decrease the chain slack, so keep that in mind when investigating your chain.
When it comes to cleaning, you’ll probably want to clean your chain every few months, but clean more frequently during the winter months. Use either engine oil, WD-40, or another degreaser on a rag to clean the chain (water won't cut it). It’s also nice to have a soft-bristled toothbrush to assist you with cleaning, as it will really get into the areas that are hard to clean. After it’s clean, you’ll want to lube up the chain with either the lubricant of your choice or more engine oil.
4) Checking your suspension.
Your suspension is an important thing to consider, especially if you’ve purchased a bike that can handle two riders. And if you're in the market for a pre-owned bike, there’s a chance the previous owner made some tweaks that you'll need to address once the bike is in your possession. For example, if your suspension isn’t adjusted to accommodate your riding style, it’s going to really impact how the ride feels. Now, not all bikes are going to have adjustable suspension; in this case, you'll have to make adjustments to your riding style. On the other hand, if you’re a new rider, you might not even know the difference. And sometimes, the factory setting is actually the best way to ride, so it’s going to depend on your preferences.
Adjusting the sag suspension to something you’re more comfortable with will help make you feel more confident, too. Now, this task is not something you have to do before the first ride, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. However, it’s something to consider a little bit down the road if you feel like the adjustment can have a positive impact on your riding.
Now, some of these things are simple and some are more complicated. However, a motorcycle is a machine that requires frequent attention in order to operate efficiently and to your liking. And most of these things, with the exception of the suspension, can have a huge impact on the duration of life on your bike.
Making sure your motorcycle is in tip-top shape for riding can be a little time-consuming, but in the end, it’s going to be worth it. If you want to be able to experience full freedom and liberation while you're riding, it’s best to be in a position where you don’t constantly have to worry about your bike. So, take a minute to check out this list before you slide on your helmet and gear, and hit the road. Trust us, you'll be thankful for the advice!
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