Mistakes New Riders Make in the first 6 Months
Your newfound fascination with motorcycling has you chomping at the bit to get out and ride until your glutes can’t take it anymore. And then you want to go out and do it again. Nothing can come between you and the open road, or any road for that matter. You’re a beginner motorcyclist, and you’ll never grow tired of this two-wheeled passion. But heading out for a ride without really thinking about what you’re getting yourself into is asking for trouble, or worse, a trip to the hospital or a permanent dirt nap. There are a bevy of stupid mistakes new riders make in their first six months, and they’re not nearly as obscure as you might think. We’ve compiled a list of the most egregious and detrimental mistakes, and it’s not a terrible idea for you seasoned riders to review it too.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course is for Losers
One of the dumbest things you can do is think you’re “good enough” and you don’t need some lousy beginners course. Here’s where you’re wrong. What you’ll learn in one weekend will teach you the essentials of safe riding. They’ll teach you that your most important safety gear is between your ears. Use it, sign up, and show up.
I Want to Ride Everywhere!
Yes, we get that you’re excited. Hell, our pulses still race with the thought of getting out for a good ride. But you’re not ready for every riding condition or situation just yet (who is really?). Get your riding practice in ever-increasing levels of difficulty, but only when you’re ready. Don’t start out riding in the city in rush-hour traffic. Ride at your current skill level and then when you feel you’ve progressed in skill and awareness, edge forward. Unforced errors are stupid too.
Small Motorcycles are Lame
Don’t let your first bike be a Hayabusa, or even a big cruiser for that matter. You can get yourself a starter bike and still not lose your dignity. Plus, even though your passions run deep already, you may not decide to stay with motorcycling once you start riding more regularly. If you get a starter bike and want to move up after your skill level improves, then you can always sell and upgrade. It’s a lot like golf: Don’t start with the Big Bertha driver. Try the irons first and then go for the big guns when you’re convinced you won’t slice onto the next fairway.
I’m Too Excited to do a Safety Check
The MSF Basic Rider Course will show you how important this is before you ride. Even seasoned riders ignore it, but it’s detrimental if your tires are under-inflated or your brake lights don’t work. Also, check the gas tank and make sure you have enough so you don’t look like a loser trying to walk your bike to the next station. Two minutes could save your dignity and your life.
Everyone Can See Me
Yes, you’ve now reached all new levels of coolness, but that doesn’t mean people can see you when you ride. In fact, you should assume you are invisible to them. Assume that people will cut you off in traffic, pedestrians will walk into your path, and you’ll just plain be ignored whenever the opportunity presents itself. Also, make sure you wear the right gear (see next).
I Don’t Want to Spend More $$ on Gear
Your old man’s half helmet and your old jeans and leather jacket are enough, right? Wrong. The right gear can save your life and help prevent more serious injuries. Spend the money to do it right the first time. Of course, nothing out there will totally protect you, but a dedicated jacket, boots and gloves, armor, a back protector, and a full-face helmet—all with high visibility—will help get you past just your beginner riding days.
I Want to Bring Someone With Me
Yes, taking your girlfriend or your buddy along on the back of your new steed is tempting. You can show off. You can reveal how skilled you are. You can both end up as street pizza since you’re in no way ready to take on a passenger. The physics of riding changes, and chances are your friend doesn’t get how to be a good passenger either. Heck, they might even talk to you, which adds an unnecessary distraction this early in your riding experience. Also, don’t think about group riding since you’re still learning how to ride safely and pay attention to your surroundings.
Riding in Traffic is Just Like Driving a Car
If you think riding a motorcycle in traffic is as easy as driving a car, then get off now. Your level of awareness has to increase about tenfold in order to ride safely. You have to be far more aware of how traffic flows, road conditions, pedestrians, expansion joints, railroad crossings—and pretty much everything else. Not only do you need to see, you also need to assume you are not seen (read point #4 again).
I’ve got Great Reflexes
Keeping your finger on both the brake and clutch levers is beginner’s brilliance. That split second it takes to even think about it could mean the difference between life and death, injury and avoidance. It removes one entire step in the reaction process. Rather than having to move your fingers into position to activate either, they’re already there. It’s a good practice that reminds you never to be lazy when you ride.
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