Every single rider starts out as a novice, uncertain and gangly, unbalanced, and unsure. Yet deciding to get a bike and become a novice rider doesn’t have to be a scary unknown thing. It can be the beginning of the best adventure you will ever take. And it doesn’t matter when you decide to become a novice. Whether you throw your leg over your first bike at 15 or 50, here are five tips that might make your first rides a little bit easier.
Novice Rider Tips
Take a Motorcycle Safety Course
Whether it’s put on by a state entity or a private institution, motorcycle safety courses are a great way to introduce yourselves to motorcycles and the rules of the road. They often are over a weekend and have many different motorcycles to ride. Even if they don’t have the motorcycle you are looking to get, this can be a great way to get a feel for the different types of bikes (adventure, cruiser, etc). These courses will introduce you to evasive driving, cornering, and other techniques riders use. As a bonus, most states will take certification from a Motorcycle Safety Course in lieu of taking the riding test for your motorcycle license. Just be sure your class is accredited, and that the certification will be accepted by the state.
West Virginia Department of Transportation offers two-rider courses; The Basic Rider Course (BRC) and Experienced Rider Course (ERC). Follow this link to learn more.
Get the bike you need, not the bike you want
Most people’s dream bikes when they get into riding have huge engines, glittering paint, and thundering pipes. However, the power of those bikes come with a big price both figuratively and literally for the novice rider. Not only are the larger bikes more expensive, but the power can be dangerous for a rider unfamiliar with ideas like clutch and throttle control. Add in trying to ride on busy streets and highways full of cars and semis, and you’re brewing a recipe for disaster.
We’ve all heard a story of someone who refuses to get on a bike because they tried to take their friend’s 1000cc sportbike out and almost crashed. Big power can mean fun, but it also means a big chance for mistakes. Not to mention, a big hit when it comes to fixing it. There are plenty of great lower cc bikes under $10,000 that has more than enough speed to keep a new rider happy.
Save your dream bike for later down the road when you have more experience under your boots. Instead, buy the bike you need now to help you learn how to ride. Your body and checking account will thank you later.
All the Gear, All the Time
It’s tempting to ride around without helmets or in sneakers and shorts in the summer heat. And there are plenty of riders who do and are fine. Yet, most experienced riders know that it only takes that one time. So, to protect yourself as a novice rider, it’s All the Gear All the Time: helmet, protective jacket, and good sturdy shoes.
Beware the cheap gear! It’s probably cheap for a reason. But you also don’t have to break the bank. Take some time and research gear that provides good protection but without buying the most expensive gear out there. You will find things you like and things you don’t, and you don’t want to spend a lot on gear you didn’t need.
Remember the saying: Dress for the slide, not the ride. Gear may be sweaty, but its better than losing skin.
Practice the basics until they become second nature
Find an empty parking lot near you to practice in. Practice balancing at slow speed, using your clutch, slow speed cornering and maneuvers and anything else you can think of to get you used to your bike. It may seem silly, but the more you practice your basics in a safe environment and commit them to muscle memory, the easier riding out on the road will become. You don’t want to have to think about an evasive maneuver when you need it, you just want to happen. And you get that with time spent going over the basics.
Get involved with the community
Find a bike club near you, like the Southern Cruisers Riding Club, for instance, wink, wink!
Searching online or talking to your local dealership would also be a great way to find scheduled rides and rider events. A lot of dealerships even have weekly rides that start from the parking lot.
The bike community is one of family and supporting and helping new riders. It may feel intimidating because people know more than you, but they all started as novice riders once too. They can be a great source of information on mechanics, riding style, gear and just how to grow as a bike rider. Getting connected to your riding family can provide not only a lot of emotional support but can help you overcome a lot of the newbie issues by learning from their experience.
There is a lot of learning and growing when you are a novice rider, and it can seem overwhelming. But by taking these tips, and having patience, you too will gain experience and balance. Things that seem daunting now will soon become second nature. To anyone who is a novice rider or thinking about joining the ranks, Congratulation! You are taking a step down the best road adventure there is. And you’re doing it on two wheels. Welcome to the family!