Tips for Bikers: Ride Your Motorcycle Like a Pro
Riding a motorcycle can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to learn good habits so you can do it safely. It may sound like a great idea to just jump on a bike and go cruising, but if you don’t know what you’re doing and haven’t properly prepared, you could be putting yourself at risk. If you want to have a safe and enjoyable ride, consider these motorcycle riding tips:
1. Train and Practice
Before ever purchasing a bike, new riders should always get training, suggests Kevin Bean’re, a professional motorcyclist who has traveled more than 650,000 miles in the last decade. “Without the training to learn the proper way, it is easy to ‘practice’ bad habits,” he says.
When you’re just starting out, taking classes is one of the best things a new rider can do, says Bean’re, as they usually offer hands-on lessons that instruct on the proper way to ride. For example, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has riding courses all over the country that teach riding basics and advanced techniques.
Once you have finished training, Bean’re suggests spending time practicing and doing figure-eights in parking lots or open fields to get a feel for your particular bike and how it handles. As an additional motorcycle safety tip for those starting out, Vicki Sanfelipo, executive director of Road Guardians and a motorcycle safety columnist, suggests finding a mentor to answer your questions, help you practice and explain techniques he/she has learned from experience.
2. Prepare Your Bike
To have the safest trip possible, there are some preparations you may want to make before ever getting on the bike. First, says Bean’re, check the motorcycle from top to bottom before every ride. This includes examining lights, signals, brakes, the belt, the chain and tire air pressure and tread, according to Consumer Reports. In addition, Sanfelipo notes that it is essential to get oil changes and check your transmission and brake fluid regularly per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
3. Wear the Right Gear
When you decide you are ready to hit the road, make sure you wear the right gear. Bean’re says you should always have the appropriate safety attire on, no matter how long the ride. The following gear can keep you safer on the road:
- Helmet: While helmet laws vary state-to-state, Consumer Reports suggests riders should wear a full-face helmet that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
- Clothing: To help protect your skin from the elements, Sanfelipo recommends wearing long pants, a leather or protective jacket, a pair of boots that cover the ankles, and full-fingered gloves with padding on the palms. Consumer Reports also says to pick attire in bright colors so you are more visible to other drivers.
- Eye Gear: According to the MSF, the windshield on your bike is typically not enough protection for your eyes. Riders should have a shielded helmet, shatterproof glasses or goggles.
4. Turn Carefully
When you are practicing riding your bike, says Bean’re, it’s important to figure out how far you can lean on the bike without it scraping or tipping. According to the MSF, when you turn you have to lean into the curve. Sanfelipo says riders should slow down slightly before starting a curve and then accelerate throughout the turn for more stability.
In addition, Bean’re notes that it is important to look where you are going as you turn instead of straight ahead. “If you look straight, you can’t compare yourself to the road,“ he says. “That’s how you lose your lane and swing wide. If you focus on where you want to be, that’s where you will end up.”
5. Drive Defensively
Sharing the road is important, but car drivers are not always specifically looking out for bikers. Because of this, Sanfelipo says, it’s important to be a very defensive driver and assume car and truck drivers don’t see you.
“One must always be ready for the unexpected,” adds Bean’re. “Even when people look twice, they sometimes miss motorcycles, so always think like others don’t know you are there.”
6. Be a Smart Rider
“Know that the most important safety feature of a motorcycle is the rider,” says Bean’re. “All the equipment in the world doesn’t matter if the rider is careless.” One way to prepare for a safer ride is consult online resources and apps that can help alert riders of potentially dangerous areas, like the Rider Risk Map.
If you want to further limit unnecessary danger, adds Bean’re, you should avoid:
- Riding at night on dark, unfamiliar roads
- Riding an unfamiliar bike without practicing off the road
- Using headphones that take away your sense of hearing
Motorcycles can be safe and fun, but only if they are respected, says Bean’re. If you are educated, well-prepared and make smart decisions, he says, it’s much easier to just relax and enjoy a safe ride.