So, you’re interested in learning how to ride a motorcycle. Either traffic started annoying you, so you want something more mobile, or you’re just a motorbike enthusiast. One obstacle though, you have no idea how to ride a motorcycle.
Well, riding a motorcycle isn’t as hard as it looks, and learning how to ride one is nothing complicated. Since there are a lot of newbies out there with a profound interest in motorcycles, I thought I should make a guide on how to drive a motorcycle.
We will start with some basics. I’ll introduce you to the gear needed for riding a motorcycle, how to get a license etc. We will talk about the mechanics of riding modern bikes, and only then we will get to the actual driving. Here we go.
Necessary Motorcycle Gear
Like cars, you can’t even think about riding a motorcycle without making sure you have adequate safety gear. I believe most of you already know what gear I’m talking about. Most of you have seen some character on a show or a movie wearing motorcycle gear. Let’s go through each of the safety gear you need.
An absolute necessity while riding a bike is wearing a motorcycle helmet on your head. This saves lives no, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Even if you’re taking a quick ride, your helmet should be on. Not only that, I advise on always having a backup with you. If a partner is riding with you or you lose the main one, you’ll know what to do.
The thing with motorcycle helmets is that they can be quite uncomfortable. But only if the helmet doesn’t fit the rider. So, you need to make sure you find the right size. Don’t worry though most motorcycle shops can size you. Or, you can just try the helmet and see if it fits you right.
No biker plans on falling off his motorcycle, but it happens to everyone at least once. Seeing as how you’re beginners, it’s bound to happen to you. Don’t worry though, I’m not saying you’ll get in an accident. I’m talking about falling off the bike while you’re going really slow, and similar situations.
If you avoid taking head damage, falling off your bike will most likely only scrape you. That’s what the leather jacket is for. Even though the scrapes may sound like nothing serious, they can be painful. So, you want to avoid that.
Getting a motorcycle jacket is a must. First of all, it will save you from scrapes, so you can learn without being scared of falling off. But it will also save you from the wind and serious injuries. You’ll find a motorcycle jacket in a bike shop for sure but you can also go for some tight leather jackets. You want the jacket to be tight on your chest but you also want your arms to be free.
Another thing that you may be interested in is an Airbag Vest. Not many people know this but airbags are a thing for motorcycles too, not only cars. The vest will protect you from heavy damage to your ribs and body.
Boots & Gloves
Most beginners think that a helmet is just enough to ride a motorcycle. What they don’t know is that your boots are exposed to wear and tear. You may hurt your legs from the metal or the gear too. So, you can’t just wear any shoes or boots while on a bike. Get leather boots, something that will endure the damage from metals and that’s not slippy.
Gloves are important too. If you’re riding for quite some time, your hands are bound to get sweaty. When that happens, you’ll not be able to control the handle so well. Motorcycle gloves also protect you from insect bites.
You may also want to get leather pants. Most people don’t consider pants as safety gear but believe me it makes a difference. Jeans and other materials can be torn apart, leather will provide you some protection even if you fall.
Controlling A Motorcycle – Basics
We’ll get to the riding part, bear with me, this is something that you’ll definitely want to know. The thing is, before starting to drive, you want to get familiar with the controls. That’s what we’ll be covering here.
You’ll see that controlling a motorcycle is a lot like driving a car. There’s a clutch lever to engage and disengage. A throttle for accelerating( gas pedal in cars). Gear for shifting. Brake lever that controls the front wheel, and a rear brake that controls the back wheel.
The Clutch Lever
I think the best way to explain some of these is by comparing them to cars, seeing as how most people are familiar with driving a car. So, you’ll have to forgive me if I mention cars too often. Either way, I’ll explain where the clutch is located and what is it for.
The clutch engages and disengages the transmission. Both cars and motorcycles have this, in cars, it’s a pedal, in motorcycles it’s a lever. It’s used to disengage the transmission while you’re changing gears. Basically, it cuts off power to the front wheel.
So, the clutch lever is something you’ll regularly use while riding your motorcycle. It is located on the left handlebar. You’re holding the handlebar with your hand and you pull the lever with your fingers(in some models you pull it with your hand).
Before starting to drive, you want to get familiar with the clutch lever. Instinctively, you’ll want to pull the lever in one quick motion but that’s not how it’s done. You should pull the lever rather smoothly. Releasing the lever should be smooth action too. You’ll get a feel for it once you actually have a bike in front of you.
Same as with cars, you’ll want to shift gears as you gradually accelerate or decelerate. Most modern bikes have at least up to 5 gears, more powerful bikes have a 6th gear. However, shifting gears in motorcycles isn’t the same as cars.
The gear is located on the left side, close to where you place your left foot. You shift gears by moving the lever up or down. When the clutch lever is pulled, you can lift up or down the gear shifter. Motorcycle gears usually go this way: from down to up 1st gear, neutral(N), 2nd gear, 3rd gear, 4th gear, 5th gear.
Just like the clutch, the gear also takes some getting used to. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll get it right without thinking. There’s an indicator located on the board that tells you in which gear you’re in.
Now, the fun part, accelerating the bike. This is operated by the throttle on the right handlebar. The right handlebar is basically the throttle. You’ve seen the generic movie scene where the camera closes in on the throttle and the driver twisting the throttle.
So, that’s how you accelerate. By gripping the throttle and twisting your hand towards you(down) you speed up. Again, this takes some getting used to. You’ll want to be gentle and gradually accelerate. The throttle is sensitive, so you may speed up too much.
This is something you’ll want to learn as quickly as possible. Motorcycles have a brake lever for the front wheel and a foot brake for the rear brakes. The brake lever is on the right-hand side, the foot brake is also on the right side near the peg.
Braking is not that complicated, you just have to get used to it. All of this will be routine for you after you gain a bit of driving experience. Same as with the clutch lever, you want to be careful with the brake lever.
As a general rule, it’s better to use the rear brakes first, so you slow down with the rear wheel. When you’ve slowed down enough switch to the front brake. You can be a bit rougher with the rear brakes but don’t overdo it. You may think that the rear wheel can’t make you flip but you can still fall off. These are some basic skills that every motorcycle rider education class teaches.
I think a quick summary will help you grasp things better. The handlebar controls match the controls near the foot peg. On the left side, you have gear shifting, on the right side, you have braking and accelerating. There are foot controls only for shifting and braking. The gears from down to up 1st gear, Neutral, 2nd gear, 3rd gear, 4th, etc. If you’re having trouble finding a gear just go to neutral and shift up.
Riding A Motorcycle
Now that we’ve gotten the basic motorcycle operations out of the way, you’re one step closer to becoming motorcycle drivers. What was covered so far will significantly help you to learn easier? So, don’t proceed with this part if you are not familiar with the basic mechanics.
Mounting The Bike
First, you need to learn how to get on the bike. A lot of beginners have trouble with this part although it’s a basic action that every skilled driver is used to. Getting on the bike is something that you learn as a routine.
To mount the bike, place yourself on the left side. Slightly shift yourself, so you’re facing the left handlebar. Grip the handlebar and kick your right leg to the right side of the bike. As soon as you mounted the bike place your feet on the ground firmly.
Starting The Engine
This too is one of the easy steps. There are four things you need to take care of when starting your bike. The clutch, the kill switch, the ignition key, and the start button.
- Pull the clutch lever and turn the kill switch(red color, located on the right bar) to ON.
- Turn the key to ignition and put the bike in Neutral gear.
- Once the gauge lights up N, press the Starter Button/Ignition Button(near the kill switch, has a lighting bolt on it).
- Your bike is turned on, let the motor warm up.
If you have an older bike model, you may have a kickstart lever. This means you need to kickstart your engine by applying pressure to the lever. The lever is located on the right side near the right foot.
Tip: Before hitting the road for the first time, practice moving the bike with your feet. This is called powerwalking and is used to teach beginners.
Accelerating & Turning
Once you’ve started the engine you’re ready to go. Just make sure to put out the kickstand. Newer models can’t start without the kickstand being put out. Let’s see how to ride a bike.
- Start by shifting into first gear and slowly releasing the clutch. With this movement, your bike will start slowly shifting upwards. In some cases, you may need to add a bit of throttle so the engine doesn’t turn off.
- Then, you’ll want to twist the throttle so you speed up. Going slow on a bike without putting your legs on the ground is hard. So, accelerate just a bit so you can put up your feet on the pegs.
- Your motorcycle is moving well now. Twist the throttle to accelerate, and use the brakes to slow down or come to a stop
Turning is a bit complicated and it takes practice. I’ll explain briefly how to turn but I highly advise getting used to turning before hitting the road for real.
Motorcycles can turn at speeds higher than 10 mph. So, make sure you remember that. The controls are similar to a bicycle. You turn by pushing the handlebar on the same side on which you are turning. You should follow the turn with your head. Don’t go down with your body too much.
Don’t use your brakes while turning, you slow down before turning. Release the throttle and push down on the handlebar to turn on the side you want to. Follow the turn with your eyes. Once you’ve completed the turn release pressure from the handlebar.
Hitting The Road
Now, if you’ve mastered each step so far, you may be ready enough to ride by yourself. If you’ve gone through the driver education program, you’re definitely ready. But without your license, you still can’t drive on public roads.
I suspect that some of you are hoping you will be able to ride just because you read this. I’m highly against that. Either way, I can’t stop you. What I can do though is tell you how driving on public roads is very different than driving on an empty road.
The thing is, when you’re practicing on an empty road, you don’t get used to checking for Object In Mirror. You can also forget about traffic laws. So, when transitioning from practicing to real driving, you have to be patient. Follow every rule necessary, avoid heavy traffic, always have your motorcycle riding gear, follow your mirrors.
All motorcycle riders started by just testing out how a bike feels. I highly recommend getting used to the controls before riding your motorcycle. You don’t want to not able to shift gears or take too long shifting gears. So, practice pulling the levers, shifting gears, braking, and twisting the throttle. If you get used to these actions, learning to drive will be much easier. Also, learning to drive is far better on an empty road, avoid traffic.
Summary Of Important Things
I noticed that this post is getting quite large, I don’t want to confuse you. Let’s revisit some things, hopefully, this will save you some re-reading.
- Get familiar with every control. Practice the gear shifter, know your right and left foot position, get used to the clutch and shift lever. Get used to the throttle and the brakes.
- Practice driving techniques. Go out to an empty road, avoid public roads and heavy traffic. Practice Low Speed Maneuvering. Practice maintaining consistent power with the throttle.
- Enroll in a driver education program. There, pay attention to the class about traffic laws, that’s important. Get your motorcycle permit and start riding.
Motorcycles are heavy machines. States want to regulate the selling and operation of these machines because they affect people too much. So, most states require you to do some things in order to ride a motorcycle legally.
Motorcycle Training Courses
It depends on where you live but most likely, you’ll need to go through a learn-to-drive course before getting your license. States learned that proper rider education is crucial to avoiding motorcycle accidents. So, check if that’s necessary for your state, and if so, take the course.
Just like a car license, you need a motorcycle permit. If you’re from the US, you may have heard “motorcycle instruction permit” instead of “license”. Getting a motorcycle license can either be simple or complicated. Again, it depends on where you live. A valid motorcycle license means the state recognizes that you’re a skilled driver and you’re free to roam the roads.
This is also one of the things that depend on the state you live in. I’m willing to make a bet that your state requires you to register the vehicle you drive. So, check if you need to register the bike you own.
So, that was our guide on how to ride a motorcycle. I don’t think that you will be able to ride one just because of this guide. I highly recommend taking a driving course, even if it’s not necessary. This is where we’re ending this guide, one last thing though. Make sure that you are always practicing motorcycle safety, have your motorcycle in perfect condition, and drive responsibly.