Motorcycles

 

Rider's Guide - Making A Plan

 

What is your plan for learning how to ride?  Do you even have a plan?  Here are a few suggestions for beginners on how to proceed:

 

Safety

I don't know about you but when I hear the word 'safety' I think 'boring'.  That's not always a fair association though - look at MotoGP racers.  They put a tremendous focus on safety and they look like they're having the time of their lives.  They wear state of the art safety gear, ride on tracks modified to minimize/prevent rider injury, have medical staff standing by at all times, and of course they have a tremendous amount of riding skill.  You couldn't get much safer if you tried and yet there is nothing boring about what they do.

 

For street riders, safety means a number of things.  Of course it means the gear you choose to wear. Safety should be a factor in what motorcycle you choose to ride and where you ride it.  And what about the people you choose to ride with?  I can tell you from experience that we are all influenced by our fellow riders and that your comrades can make all the difference in setting the tone for your riding. Even more fundamental than all these other items, I believe our attitude has the biggest influence on our safety.

 

You'll need every factor that you can control to be in your favor when you ride, so make the decision right from the start to be a safe rider:  Have the right attitude.  Wear appropriate safety gear whenever you ride.  Choose a motorcycle that matches your riding skill.  Ride alone or with riders who will set a good pace and watch out for you. Choose carefully where you'll ride. Manhattan would be a poor choice as would a gnarly, gravel-strewn goat trail of a backroad. Doing all these things won't make your riding any less fun really, just a lot more likely you'll be enjoying motorcycling for a long time.

 

Theory

The next step is understanding some fundamentals about the physics of riding.  You don't need to know all the formulas involved but your skill will progress more quickly if you have an idea what's going on and why.  My rider's guide covers these topics and there are a number of books on the subject too.  Some of the better magazine will run articles on riding theory from time-to-time.  Keep reading here and check out all my recommendations in the Media section when you're done.

 

Instruction - The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is a great course for new riders.  They will give you the theory and a chance to practice it. Their focus on the fundamentals is just what you need.  The motorcycles they provide are small and light, making them very easy to manage.  I took their basic course when I first started riding and then took their Advanced Rider Course several years later.  I highly recommend both.  Learning from friends is another possiblity but you'll be much better off getting professional training.

 

Practice - Choose the right places to practice riding early on.  A large empty parking lot is ideal.  Empty backroads work well too.  Avoid congested areas and busy freeways.  Twisty roads can be a good place if there isn't much traffic and you ride well within your limits. I don't recommend following experienced riders when you are first learning to ride unless they join in specifically to help teach you.  It's just too easy to follow their pace and ride over your head.  Keep practicing until you've got all the fundamentals down.  You won't be able to focus on oncoming traffic, gravel strewn across the apex of that next turn, and looking out for deer on the side of the road when you have to consciously focus on how to shift gears.  The basics of riding should come naturally by the time you venture out into the real world.

 

 Custom Ducati 750SS

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