I still remember my first motorcycle lesson, where I first fully opened the throttle when the instructor was not looking, accelerating as I never did before and feeling the wind on my chest and helmet. I’m sure it wasn’t that fast at all, but it was the most fun I ever had on the road up until then. From that moment on I was hooked!
How to get your motorcycle licence varies greatly between countries. For example, in Mexico, in most states, you just pay around 20 USD and voila… you’re ready to role! In most countries however, fortunately, it entails a bit more than that.
I was living in the Netherlands back then (2008). Getting your licence meant having to take lessons with an official instructor as preparation for doing three tests:
- A theory test, consisting of 50 multiple choice questions about how to act in certain traffic situations, position on the road and some questions about basic motorcycle maintenance.
- A practical ‘special manoeuvring’ test. These were tests like doing a figure 8, doing a u-turn without foot on the ground, emergency stopping at several speeds, etc.
- A practical test on the road, entailing you riding around for about an hour, being followed by a government licensed instructor judging your every move.
Now, I’m the first to admit that, whatever preparations you had, you only REALLY learn how to ride through experience. But still, just paying to get your licence without any lessons nor decent tests is just dangerous… for you and for the traffic around you. If you live in such a country I highly recommend taking some courses before you really go out there risking your live! For some inspiration take a look at this cop owning the motorcycle skill course 🙂.
OK, back to the topic at hand. So you got your motorcycle licence and you’re ready to get your first bike and some gear. What are things you, as a beginner, a newbie, a greenhorn, a prospect, need to pay attention to? Well… here are the most important tips based on my personal and friends’ experiences (and mistakes):
1. Choosing your first ride
So, if all is well, you already had some lessons on a motorcycle provided by the riding school. These are usually ‘standard’ motorcycles (my lessons were on a Honda CB600F) and likely not the dream motorcycle you always wanted.
For your first motorcycle most people will recommend to not get a super fast, powerful and heavy machine. I mostly agree with that advice. Furthermore, you might have an idea on the kind of motorcycle you want (chopper, adventure bike, sports bike, naked bike, etc.), but honestly you can’t really know what you really like until you’ve owned one for at least a couple of months. Even a one hour test ride isn’t enough for that.
That’s why I recommend to get a decent second hand motorcycle for not too much money. Not only because you don’t really know the style of the motorcycle you’re going to be happy with, but also because it’s likely that you drop it or have a (hopefully minor) crash with it during your first months of ‘building up experience’.
2. Choosing riding gear
For this one, my advice is actually the opposite of choosing a first motorcycle. Assuming that you know this is going to be one of your hobbies for life, don’t be cheap on gear like I was. I bought cheap pants, cheap boots, a cheap jacket and a cheap helmet and gloves. This tremendously limited my joy of riding. My helmet fogged up all the time and I was sweating when the sun came out, cold when it didn’t and got soaked to the bone when it rained. I ended up buying a new set of gear after less than a year. So… just buy good quality gear from a respected brand.. and you’ll enjoy your rides a lot more.
3. Resisting the temptation
When you start riding regularly you’ll grow more and more confident in your skills. But… there WILL come a time when you get over confident… when you take a turn too fast, only to go wide and end up on the other road half… being lucky that there’s no oncoming traffic. Take that as a warning!!! Don’t be over confident. Resist the temptation. Go slowly in expanding your limits. Your riding buddies don’t mind if you are slower than them. And even if they make fun of you, who cares! They’ll wait for you a few miles down the road.
4. Getting experience
Even if you had the best riding lessons in preparation of your licence test, don’t be foolish in thinking that you know everything there is to know. Of course you learn by doing – by riding a LOT – but there are many things about motorcycle riding that only very few do naturally. These are things like corner entry, corner exit, body position, slow manoeuvring techniques, emergency braking, etc.
I recommend to take a few courses when you’re just starting out. This will not only accelerate your learning curve but also boost your confidence and safety on the road. If you take those courses immediately after getting your licence, it will also prevent you from having to un-learn al the wrong riding habits you picked up over time. Viewing some YouTube videos on riding skills is a good start (take a look at the MotoJitsu channel), but you really need to do some courses and practice for yourself.
5. Use your brain capacity efficiently
This last recommendation might seem funny, coming from the developer of a motorcycle navigation app, but: Limit the amount of distractions while riding! I sometimes see riders with their entire handle bar and dashboard area packed full of gadgets. A GoPro pointing forward, another one pointing at their face, yet another camera mounted on their helmet, a navigation unit planted above the dash, a communication set blaring music and instructions in their ear, etc.
These things all distract and use brain capacity. And, if you’re a new rider, you need all your brain capacity for paying attention to the operation of your vehicle, the road ahead and traffic around you. You might even find that your ride becomes more ‘pure’ and enjoyable without all those gadgets. Once you get more experienced, and operating your motorcycle becomes second nature, you can start adding gadgets as you desire.
So there you have it. 5 of the best tips I can give you as a new motorcycle rider. I hope you’ll find them useful and I hope you follow most of them in one way or another. Whatever you do, whatever you choose and wherever you go… Be safe and enjoy the ride!