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If you’re new to motorcycle riding, or you’re a seasoned motorcycle rider but want to increase your riding skills, you’ve come to the right place!
I’ve been riding motorcycles for a while now and have been able to learn a thing or two during the process. Some of the things I’ve learned myself I wish someone would have told me beforehand; life would have been much easier.
My experience will make your motorcycle riding much easier! Because of my background, I’ve been able to compile a list of essential points every new motorcycle rider should know (or any motorcycle rider for that matter!).
Use both brakes
It is essential to brake when riding a motorcycle. If you don’t know how to do it properly, that could be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Applying only the front brakes will help you stop faster than applying the back brakes. You run the risk of hitting the handlebars if you only apply the front brakes.
It will make your stop smoother and faster if you use both brakes simultaneously. Each motorcycle’s brake pressure will be different so practice your riding technique before you go out on a ride.
Keep All Fluids Inspected Regularly
It’s important you make it a point to regularly check your motorcycle fluids. These fluids include engine oil, crankcase oil, and brake fluid.
Every time I visit the gas station, I check all fluids. Some may think this is too much, but too many times I have thought I had enough fluid and got myself in a crunch because I didn’t check and top them off.
Make sure you check your crankcase and engine oil at the running temperature to ensure an accurate reading. When the bike is cool, make sure to check the master cylinder’s brake fluid levels.
Regularly change your oil
Okay, so this might be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at how many people are aware of this basic concept of maintenance but don’t actually execute it.
You should change your oil at least every 3,000-5,000mi or every six month, depending on when it is first. Don’t assume that your oil is good after a year because you didn’t ride your bike much, engine oil does get old and doesn’t work as well over time. If you’re unsure what type of oil your motorcycle needs, see my helpful guide by clicking here.
You can ride with a passenger
Even if you don’t think you’ll ever ride your motorcycle with a passenger, it’s important you learn how to do it anyway. A passenger riding with you is an entirely different experience than riding solo.
Because of possible emergencies, I urge you to learn how to ride along with a passenger. If you’re ever stuck in a bind and are forced to take an additional rider with you on your bike, you’ll be a little bit more prepared. You never want to risk the chance of injuring someone else because you didn’t know how to ride with their extra weight in the back.
Use hand signals
If you’re wanting to become a motorcycle rider, it’s a must to learn hand signals. These are used for communicating with drivers around you about what you’re intending to do while riding.
You generally aren’t required to use hand signals, but it’s good to know in case other motorcycle riders are trying to communicate with you, but also they’re nice to use in case your blinkers and lights go out.
Check out this chart by ktsro.org to learn more about the basic hand signals motorcyclists use.
Know Your State’s Laws
This may seem obvious, but knowing the laws governing motorcycles in your state could mean the difference between being law-abiding and getting a $500 fine.
Also, be mindful of each state’s laws if you plan on doing a long road trip on your motorcycle; the second you cross over a state line you’re in a whole different realm of laws.
For example, if you live in Texas, people 20 years old or older don’t need to wear a helmet. You may not be comfortable wearing one depending on your age. Louisiana has a law that requires all riders to have a helmet regardless of their age.
Always Wear a Helmet
You should always wear a helmet regardless of whether your state requires it. I have a list of recommended gear that includes the helmet I recommend. There are times that it’s extremely tempting to not wear a helmet, especially when you know you’re just riding down the road for a quick spin. It is true that an accident can happen in a matter of seconds and that a short trip down the road takes a lot more time.
Iihs.org stated this “because serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists, helmet use is important. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.”
Choose the Right Shoes
You could be seriously injured if you wear the wrong footwear while riding your motorcycle. Your feet will be next to tires spinning at thousands per minute. Not to mention the hot exhaust pipes that are just inches away.
A good pair of riding boots is a must for a beginner rider. (See my recommendation in my list here for gear). You don’t need to break the bank to get some, just make sure you get some that are made of thick material that will cover above your ankles. This will help prevent any foot injury.
Wear long pants
Too many times I’ve seen men and women riding motorcycles with shorts on. Sometimes women even wear skirts (which I’m still trying to figure out how that even works). You must wear long pants if you plan to ride on a motorcycle.
Although leather pants are safest and most protective, I don’t recommend them. You should at least wear a pair of thick denim jeans.
Long pants are the same reason I mentioned for wearing ankle-covering footwear while riding. Your feet and legs will be affected by extremely hot pipes and fast-spinning tires. It is important to protect your legs as best you can.
You can safely do a hard brake
It’s fun to ride a motorcycle, but there are also dangers. You could be the safest rider out there, but that doesn’t mean you’re invincible because you have other crazy drivers around you that hold a threat.
Consider the possibility that you will need to brake your motorcycle at some point in your lifetime. Although it is unlikely that you will ever have to do this, there are good chances you will.
Before you need to use a hard brake to save your life, practice it. It could really be a matter if life or death.
How To Safely Swerve
As I mentioned before, you aren’t invincible as a motorcycle rider no matter how safe you are. There will be times when something unexpected appears in your path and you have .5 seconds to decide how you’re going to get around it safely.
There is an art in it. “swerving,” it’s definitely a good idea to get used to how your motorcycle handles it in a controlled environment. That way you’ll be ready in case you need to use the skill.
Check out the Forecast
Though it is not detrimental if you are caught in the rain or snow, life is just much better when you’re riding on safer road conditions.
You should always prepare for your ride before you leave the house. take a quick look at the weather for the day to make sure you are not caught in any weather you’re not comfortable with
Check the weather forecast for the next few days before you go on a long motorcycle ride. If you have to continue riding, make sure you’re prepared with the proper gear to keep you comfortable during inclement weather.
Take it as a given that no one can see you
While you’re out riding on the roads, Assume that you are invisible to other drivers and follow their lead. Because the fact is, a lot of driver’s don’t see you and don’t think to look for a motorcyclists while they’re changing lanes.
Avoid riding in people’s blind spots, stay a close distance away from the vehicle you’re riding behind, and always keep checking your mirrors at what the car behind you is doing.
Never be content with the middle path
If you’re riding on the freeway, a good rule of thumb to remember is to never stay riding in any of the middle lanes. Always remain in the far right lane, or the far left.
Granted, you’ll need to use the middle lane sometimes to get around to where you need to go. You have two lanes with drivers who are unaware of your presence, so if you stay in the middle of the lane you increase your chance of getting hit. You are only at risk if you ride in the left or right lane.
Loaded trucks are dangerous!
I’ve lived in several places that are considered country and with that came a lot of truck drivers who thought they didn’t need to strap down their stuff in the truck of their bed. Too many times I’ve had miscellaneous items thrown at me from the back of a truck that wasn’t secured while riding behind them.
Never ride behind a truck hauling a load. Even though they may appear to have everything strapped in and secured, high-speed driving can cause damage and shake everything in the truck’s back.
Semi-trailing cars are also included in this category. Stay safe and don’t trust people who are hauling small or large merchandise.
Have a Plan In Case You’re Stranded
No matter if you own a new or old motorcycle, It is normal to assume that the product will eventually break down. This will happen at an inconvenient place and time.
While it is unlikely that you will ever have to experience such an event, having a backup plan can make a huge difference if you find yourself in something similar.
Make a list of who you’ll call in case you need help. Are you able to park your trailer? Do you know anyone who might have one? Do you have towing coverage? Are you willing to pay for towing?
Talk to colleagues if you intend to use the trailer of another colleague with their assistance.
Be sure to keep important paperwork with you
Your motorcycle registration, driver’s license, and motorcycle insurance cards are items you always need to have with you every time you go for a ride on your motorcycle.
The one time you don’t have your important paperwork with you is the day you’ll get pulled over. Consider some ways of storing your registration and other paperwork on your motorcycle so you won’t be left with nothing to give to the police officer. Click here to read my article on creative ways to store registration.
Learn How to Do a Push Start
If you are on the road, a dead motorcycle battery can be a nuisance. Did you know that even a dead battery can still be used to start your motorcycle?
The battery is used only to start the motorcycle. The motorbike runs on the stator. It’s a good idea to learn how to start your motorcycle by doing a rolling start in case you find yourself in a dead battery situation.
You can push start with two people or solo if there’s a hill nearby. If you need to, you can learn how to do both.
A hard start involves getting the motorcycle moving quickly. Then, release the clutch in the first gear. The compression from the cylinders will ignite gas and turn the bike on. I’ve done it loads of times and it works! You can read my article to learn more about how to push-start a motorcycle.
Routinely check the tire pressure
Tires are an important component of your motorcycle and should not be neglected. They are what protects you from the road you’re riding on. If you take good care of your tires, they’ll take good care of you.
If you ride a lot, keep a tire gauge handy. On the side of your tires, you will find the recommended PSI for your particular tires. You should note the differences in PSI between cold weather and hot.
Routinely inspect the chain tension
Your motorcycle’s chain health is important because without it, you don’t have any power coming from your back wheel.
You can check the tension of your chain with tools that are made just for this purpose. Generally, a chain’s tension should be between 30 – 40 mm of slack, but check your owner’s manual to see what specific slack your motorcycle chain should have.
It is possible to damage a chain if it is too tight. A loose chain could cause it break. While you’re at it, make sure the chain is lubricated to prevent further problems. If you’re curious about what happens when a motorcycle chain breaks, check out an article I wrote by clicking here.
Make Sure You Use the Right Fuel
You should not use gasoline with ethanol if your motorcycle has a carburetor. This is because ethanol can be corrosive to your fuel system and is basically a water absorber.
You don’t need to worry too much about this if you have a fuel injection system as ethanol gas doesn’t cause much problems with them. This guide will help you choose the right fuel for your motorcycle.
Find out the distance between gas stations
If you plan on taking a long trip on your motorcycle, it is wise to know the distance between gas stations as you go, especially if you’re riding anywhere in the west. You do not want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with no gas, especially if you’re alone.
GasBuddy is an app that will allow you to find out where the nearest gas station is and how far they are from your location. The app will also let you know which gas stations have the lowest prices and what amenities they offer.
Make sure you are familiar with your motorcycle components
You may be able to identify the location of your brakes, throttle, blinker, and throttle. But do you know where your main fuse is, your cylinder head, airbox and wiring harness?
Knowing more than just the location of your motorcycle’s basic parts can be very beneficial. Learn about the functions of other parts of your bike. This will enable you to understand the mechanics of your motorcycle and make you a better driver.
Properly store your motorcycle
Too often I’ve seen motorcycles outside, exposed to the elements, without any cover or protection. Motorcycles can be used as transportation, but they need to be stored differently.
It’s not good for a motorcycle to be left out in the open for long periods of time. You will need to find a safe place to keep it from being damaged or lost.
In Winter, Run Your Motorcycle
Many of you live in areas that get really cold in winter. You might need to take a break from riding your bike.
It is fine to ride your motorcycle occasionally, but leaving it unprepared could cause serious damage.
If you’re able, You can run your motorcycle for just a few seconds once or twice a week during winter. Let your motorcycle get some rest so it can clean off all the winter dust. For more information on starting your motorcycle in winter, click here
Examine Your Insurance Policy
First, ensure you have motorcycle insurance. Second, ensure you have read the entire policy and are aware of its contents.
Insurance policies do a great job at explaining what they do help with, but you’ll have to read between the lines to understand what won’t be taken care of by them.
This was a difficult one for me to solve. Most motorcycle insurance only provides liability insurance (which is required by most states), meaning they’ll only take care of the third party involved who was injured during an accident you caused. Your motorcycle and your injuries are not covered by liability insurance.
When signing up for insurance, make sure you also get comprehensive as well as personal injury protection (PIP) if it’s an option so you know you’re covered in every way in the case of an accident.
Hydroplanes are more likely to be used
Hydroplaning happens when more water is being sprayed than tires can absorb. It causes water to pressure at the front of the tire, which eventually causes the tire to lose its traction. This can happen while it’s raining or snowing.
Because motorcycles are lighter than cars, they are more vulnerable to hydroplaning. Hydroplaning (link is to my article), can cause you to lose traction or control of your motorcycle.
If you’re caught in a storm, lower your speed and drive in the driest lane to prevent this from happening.
Wave to Your fellow Riders
This isn’t law, but it’s an unwritten rule among other motorcycle riders that you wave at them when you’re passing each other. It’s more of a sense of etiquette in the motorcycle world.
This is a gesture I love. It is unbiased and nonjudgmental; it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a janitor, or unemployed. What matters is that you each have a love for motorcycle riding and because of that, you’re at the same level.
Everyone Loses Their Motorbike
My father-inlaw used to say something that I believe to be true. There are two kinds of motorcyclists. There are two types of motorcyclists: those who have been in an accident and those who are likely to be in one.
It is important to do all you can to prevent this from happening. Even if you do everything you can to prevent it, you’ll still have to tip your motorcycle at times. And it’s okay.
Do not drop your motorcycle. Instead, grab it immediately and wipe off any liquids. Although you may have done some cosmetic damage to your motorcycle, there is usually no damage to the internal parts of your bike when it is dropped at low speeds. Brush yourself off as well as your pride if this happens, because you’re in a majority.
You should have the basics tools for maintenance
It is important to have some basic tools in your arsenal if you are going to buy a motorcycle. (Click here for my recommendations for tools for maintaining your bike). I can assure you that having the right tools will save your money over the long-term.
Some people out there may not want to get their hands dirty and use tools on their motorcycle, or perhaps they’re afraid to. Motorcycles have the good news that they are safe. These are very easy to useIt’s much easier than driving a car.
If you have a little knowledge about how each system works and where each component is, you’ll be way less intimidated and more willing to work on it yourself.
Know How You’re Going To Tow
A motorcycle owner must have a way to tow it. As mentioned previously, it’s nice to have a neighbor or friend who has a trailer that you can use any time you need to tow your motorcycle. If you need to use the trailer multiple times, it may become a bit tedious for your friend.
Have a plan of how you’re going to tow your motorcycle without using someone else’s equipment. You can use a tow truck or a motorcycle carrier to accomplish this. The nice thing about these two methods is you don’t necessarily need to have a truck to tow. You can actually use your car to tow your motorcycle (see my article for how to do this).
Helmets come with an expiration date
You might not know it, but motorcycle helmets do have an expiration. Even if your helmet has not been damaged, it is recommended to replace your helmet every five year. You definitely need to replace your helmet if you’ve had some sort of accident, no matter how minimal it was.
The helmet’s resins and glues can cause damage to the liner. Hair oil and sweat from a person’s head will also add to the degradation. Over time, the padding inside also doesn’t work as well and won’t provide as much protection as it would when it was brand new.
How tall must you be to ride a bike? You don’t need to be tall to ride a motorcycle. However, you should be able use your toes as well as the balls of both your feet at once. Any less than this, such as being tippy-toes, or only using one foot at once, can be dangerous and increase your chances of tipping your motorcycle. You can click here for more details.
What materials are used to build motorcycles? Most motorcycle frames of the past were made from tubular steel. However, some frames of today are made of carbon fiber or aluminum. Aluminum is the main component of most motorcycle engines.