Motorcycling Tips For The Beginner
A beginner's tips on getting a motorcycle. It describes where to find information for safety courses and gives some advice on what the beginning rider should know.
So you've had that recurring vision, haven't you? The one where you're cruising down a highway on a two-wheeled dream-machine, hand steady on the throttle, wind rushing past, and the pavement speeding under your feet only a few inches away. Such is the glory of motorcycle riding - the point where transportation merges with exhilaration. Just think - this could be you.
But how? You've never ridden a motorcycle, don't know anything about them, and have no idea where to get started. You're not even sure if you could learn how -- maybe you're not the motorcycle type.
Okay, first thing you need to know: don't be intimidated. Riding a motorcycle is just like any other skill. You learn how to do it, and with practice, you can get so good at it that you then take your skill for granted. The stereotype of a "biker" is hardly applicable to most people who actually ride motorcycles. All kinds of people - male and female - enjoy motorcycling. You don't have to be a certain "type" of person to do this.
So now that's out of the way. The next thing you need to do is actually learn. A motorcycle is a fairly simple machine. It has a manual transmission that you work with your left foot, while your left hand works the clutch. (In case you're wondering if they make motorcycles with automatic transmissions, the answer is yes - but they're called mopeds.) Your right hand operates the throttle and the front brake (preferably not at the same time!), and your right foot operates the rear brake. Easy, right? It just takes some practice to coordinate working all that stuff.
If you have a friend that owns a motorcycle, then hopefully they can let you practice on theirs. If not, don't worry. Places all around the country offer motorcycle training courses. These courses usually provide you with a motorcycle at the training site, and an instructor leads you through everything you need to know to be a competent rider. An excellent place to start looking for these courses is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's webpage. Besides having listings of where training courses are offered, they have information on safety, equipment, and many other things. Even if you do have a friend that lets you practice on their bike, it might be beneficial to sign up for a training course. Many states waive a driving test if you successfully pass an approved safety course. Insurance companies also may offer discounts to riders having completed the course.
So now you know where to go to learn. And after you learn, all you need to do is keep riding to get better. So of course, you need a motorcycle. The first thing you need to ask yourself is what style of bike do you want to get? Motorcycles basically fall into two categories these days: cruisers and crotch-rockets.
Cruisers are usually more comfortable, having the rider positioned upright. Their style can best be described as classic. They are generally better on the longer trips, can accommodate passengers better, and have more room for luggage racks, saddlebags, and such things. Crotch-rockets, on the other hand, are about one thing - speed. It could be said that their style is speed. The rider leans forward much farther, the handlebars are closer together, and the footpegs are placed high up, increasing ground clearance but reducing legroom. One more thing to note about crotch-rockets is that insurance companies usually charge a lot more to insure them. But if you're looking for something fast, well, you won't find many things faster that you yourself can actually own.
When buying a motorcycle, it's important to keep common sense in mind. Don't buy something too big for you. A motorcycle engine is measured in cubic centimeters (cc). The smallest bikes are usually at least 250cc (the minimum engine size required to be able to drive on a freeway is usually 125cc.) The largest ones can go up to 1500cc. As with most things in life, somewhere in the middle is usually the best. A motorcycle with 600-800cc will usually satisfy most people's needs. Anything larger is too much power to handle for beginning motorcyclists, and anything smaller will probably leave you unsatisfied after you become an experienced rider.
After you have your bike, make sure to give appropriate consideration to your riding gear. Many states have helmet laws. Even if your state doesn't, a helmet is still really good to have. Besides the fact that it could save your life, it makes high-speed travel a lot more comfortable. Think about the last time you drove down a highway in the summertime, and how many bugs hit your windshield. Now think of what a bug would feel like if it splats against your face while you're going fifty or sixty miles an hour. Ouch.
A good jacket is also an important item to have. Many motorcyclists wear leather not just because it looks good, but it's practical. In the unthinkable event of a crash, leather will protect your skin very well. And it's also really good at blocking wind. If you're travelling at 55 mph on a 70 degree day, the wind chill factor is around 30 degrees. So without a jacket, that nice comfortable day suddenly becomes very cold.
The final thing to remember about motorcycling is that although it may not be that hard to get started, that doesn't mean you should take it casually. Almost anyone can learn to ride; unfortunately, not everyone learns to ride well. Everyone has seen people in cars be bad drivers. On a motorcycle, though, you can't afford to be a bad driver. Pay attention out there. Listen to what the instructors tell you at the safety course - it really does work. If you don't take a course, at least pick up a some stuff on safe riding tactics.
So there you go. All you need to do is get up the motivation to get started. If you're ready for it, a there's a highway out there just waiting for you. Have fun.