Motorcycles are a great way to get around. They're fast, they're fun, and they're relatively easy to ride. But before you hop on a motorcycle and take off, there are a few things you should know. In this article, I talk about some tips that will help you get to riding a motorcycle in no time.
1. Knowing The Controls
Learning how to ride a motorcycle is similar to that of learning how to drive a car or say, ride a bike. There are certain steps and things you need to know. One of the most important things you absolutely need to get a good understanding of is motorcycle controls. If you’ve never driven a clutch car, or have had experience with motorcycles before, this part of the learning process can be a little confusing and intimidating—as most motorcycles use a clutch and throttle system. I suggest you watch YouTube videos about this topic, read up on it and study what each control does, before you get to riding. A huge part of staying safe on a motorcycle is by having control. If you don’t know what each control does, you’re going to be in big trouble.
2. Get Motorcycle Gear
If you’re a new rider, it’s best to get some gear before you start riding. This will help you protect yourself and also will end up saving you money in the long run. Also, if you take the MSF, it’ll be more convenient for you and less gross (you don’t want to use the provided gear the MSF courses let you use, they’ve been worn, sweat in and used by hundreds of people).
There’s a lot of types of gear to choose from. There’s also different sizes, styles and more. You should definitely do some research before you make your purchases, as motorcycle gear can get pricey quick. Check out our guides, where we discuss each gear component and give you our favorite recommendations!
When you’re a beginner, buying everything you need will be really expensive; that is just the reality of the sport. However, there are certain pieces of gear that you can wait out for or even get second hand. It’s important to do your research on everything you need and really apply that to the type of lifestyle you have and your riding style.
3. First Ride
If you already have a dirt bike or motorcycle at home, and wish to self teach instead of taking the MSF, here are some tips that’ll help you get started.
When you mount a motorcycle, it’s best to put your weight on your left leg, as you swing over your right leg. You then want to center the bike under your body by aligning the handlebars into a neutral, straight-facing position. Then the next step is to lean the bike slightly, and keeping it upright with your right leg, kick up the kickstand with your left leg—this is much like if you were to do this action on a regular bicycle. Hopefully, you’ve chosen a bike that fits your height and body frame, so you don’t put strain on yourself.
Turning On A Motorcycle
The next step is to turn on the motorcycle. To initiate this, you should follow the ‘FINE-C’ method.
F - Fuel (Make sure your fuel reserve is in the on position)
I - Turn your ignition on
N - Make sure your bike is in neutral
E - Make sure your engine kill switch is properly on
C - If you’re in a cold climate or need to warm up the engine, turn on your choke.
One of the basic steps in riding a motorcycle is learning clutch control. There are different levels within the range of motion that a clutch engages in. When riding at slow speeds, you will need to have a firm grasp of this concept. You should practice this while in first gear, finding your bike’s friction zone and using both your throttle, clutch and brakes to maneuver your bike in turns and at slow speeds. Your left hand is in control of the clutch. One should never let go of the clutch fast, you should always release it slowly. If not, you will stall your bike.
Throttle & Brakes
Knowing the relationship between the throttle, brakes and clutch is crucial for your motorcycle skills. Your right hand is responsible for the brakes and throttle. You should throttle with very little movement—unless you want to go flying. As far as your brakes go, you should not squeeze your brakes in fast at all (this is the opposite of the clutch). However, you can release your brakes as fast as you want. Pulling in your brakes too fast will cause uneven weight distribution between your front and rear wheel, and will make you lose balance and crash.
Shifting gears on a motorcycle is relatively easy once you get the hang of it. To shift gears, you will first squeeze in the clutch, then use your left foot to press down on the shifter. To upshift, you will press the shifter down with your toe and then release it. To downshift, you will press the shifter down with your heel and then release it. The clutch is used to help with shifting gears and to also prevent the engine from stalling. To use the clutch, you will pull the lever on the left side of the handlebar with your left hand. To engage the clutch, you will pull the lever towards you. To disengage the clutch, you will release the lever very slowly. The throttle is used to control the speed of the motorcycle. To go faster, you will twist the throttle towards you. To slow down, you will twist the throttle away from you.
On most motorcycles there five gears you cant shift into. A good phrase to remember is "one down, five up." On your motorcycle, this pertains to the placement of gears. The first gear is below neutral and two-five are on top. You will shift down into first, and kick up to go into the higher gears. To get into neutral (between first and second gear), there is a bit of a nuance you will have to figure out, but for the most part, it should sound like a half-click instead of the full clicks you will hear when shifting into the numbered gears.
Riding A Motorcycle
Once you have all of these concepts down, you should apply them to your riding harmoniously. When you’re first starting out it's best to ride around in an empty parking lot, or early in the morning when there’s no traffic. The real and best way to practice riding, is to actually do it. But, it’s best to do this slowly until you can fully integrate with real time traffic and higher speeds. One good tip to help with balance is by riding an actual bicycle.
4. Take MSF Course
There are many benefits to taking an MSF course—which I speak more about here. But I’ll just give a quick rundown. For many riders over 18, in most states, taking the MSF can seriously expedite the process of getting your motorcycle license. For me, it only took two days and a few hundred bucks. In most cases, once you pass the MSF course, you simply take your certificate to your DMV or DPS and pay the small fee, and you should be on your way.
The MSF usually transfers over to other states, follows mostly the same curriculum nationwide and really is just so simple and quick. While not necessary to get your license in some states, it is in my opinion the easiest way to get your license without having to take the DMV ride test. Let’s face it, any way to get in and out of the DMV as quickly as possible is worth it.
If you decide to go with this route, make sure you bring your own helmet, jacket (if needed) and gloves. Jeans are okay for the purposes of the course. But mainly, it’s best to just wear your own gear for hygienic reasons.
5. Getting A Motorcycle License
Once you complete an MSF course or do the proper engagements to get your permit, you can then be on your way to get a motorcycle license. While this process is different for each state, most do require getting a certificate from an authorized learner’s course. Usually, you need to pay a small fee at the DMV and provide the appropriate documentation (proof of residency, identification, etc.) Check out our ultimate guide to getting a motorcycle license to find your state’s requirements.
Finally, be aware of your surroundings and know the dangers. Motorcycles are small and can be hard to see, so make sure you're always watching for other drivers. Pay attention to the road, and be careful when making turns or changing lanes. With a little practice and some common sense, riding a motorcycle can be extremely fun and rewarding.
Everyone has a different journey to riding a motorcycle, the steps above are simply what I did, and what I think may help someone out there. In the end, you will have a unique experience that leads you to getting out on the open road. I went from having zero experience of riding motorcycles at all throughout my upbringing, to coming to have a decent understanding and appreciation of the craft. Once you figure out the type of motorcycle you want to ride, get your gear and license, you’ll be set to take that first ride. As long as you stay safe and have fun, there is no right or wrong way to learn how to ride. For more tips check out this video down below!
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