Something is unique about riding a motorcycle. Part of it brings us back to childhood, riding a bicycle as fast as possible and feeling the wind in our hair. Another part revels in the pure power that is suddenly under our control. Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle for the first time isn’t like riding a bike. How can you prepare for your first time?
Take Care of Your Bike
The first thing you need to do is make sure your motorcycle is in good condition and safe to ride. If you take care of your bike, it will take care of you, so give the thing a bit of TLC before you hop in the saddle. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a handy little checklist and a snazzy acronym — T-CLOCS — to help you assess your motorcycle’s state before you start driving.
T-CLOCS stands for:
- C: Controls
- L: Lights and electronics
- O: Oil and other fluids
- C: Chassis
- S: Stands
This acronym gives you a basic outline of all the systems you should check before you head out.
Get Ready for School
If you’ve never driven a motorcycle before, you might want to head back to school. In fact, many states require you to take a motorcycle safety course before you can receive a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. Even if your area doesn’t have the mandate, all new drivers can benefit from taking a safety course before they start riding.
Safety courses can also qualify you for discounts on your motorcycle insurance policy, which can save you a pretty penny in the long run.
Don’t show up in shorts and a t-shirt. Follow this checklist of everything you’ll need for your first class.
Dress for the Slide
Have you ever heard the phrase “dress for the slide, not for the ride”? Keep it in mind. You don’t want to wear something that shows a lot of skin, especially as a new rider, unless you’re not a fan of said skin. Until you learn the idiosyncrasies of your particular bike, you might end up laying it down a few times. Would you rather do that wearing jeans or shorts?
Protect yourself by wearing riding gear, including a jacket, jeans, boots, gloves and, of course, a helmet to protect your head. Remember that you’ll experience stronger winds, too, so you might want to put on some layers.
Accelerate Through Turns
This mistake is one that many new motorcycle drivers make. You start to head into a curve and feel your bike lean into it, so you hit the brakes to slow down. Don’t. This scenario will, at best, leave you in the dirt on the side of the road. At worst, it could cause an accident.
When you slow down, your motorcycle starts to straighten up, compromising your ability to turn and steer. You don’t need to make those extreme racing turns where your knee is mere millimeters from the pavement, but make sure you’re accelerating into your turns and letting the bike do the work.
Ride Like You’re Invisible
This lesson is often the hardest to learn when you’re making the transition from driving a car to riding a motorcycle. To other drivers, once you’re on that bike, you’re basically invisible. You fit perfectly into everyone’s blind spot. Even when they know about motorcycles, drivers often don’t bother double-checking around them when they’re accelerating or changing lanes.
If you act like you’re invisible and treat everyone else on the road like they can’t see you, you’ll be able to avoid accidents better.
Be Safe and Have Fun On Your Bike
Riding a motorcycle is as much instinct as it is practice, similar to driving a car. The best thing you can do, once you’ve completed your driver’s safety course, is to get out on the road and get a feel for your bike. Learn what it takes to make it shift, lean correctly into a turn and avoid other drivers who might not be able to see you coming.
Remember to stay safe out there and, most importantly, have fun. There is nothing on this planet that is quite like the thrill of riding a powerful motorcycle. You have to experience it for yourself. Once you do, you’ll be forever hooked.
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