The process of learning to ride a motorcycle is much more difficult than learning to drive a car. There’s a lot of hand to eye co-ordination and you have to do a lot things with your hands and feet simultaneously. So here are things to keep uppermost in your head when you’re mastering the art…
It’s not just transport, it’s a lifestyle choice and a hell of a lot of fun. There is nothing like nailing a corner, leaning into it, then rolling the throttle on and getting on the gas on the way out. But it’s also easier to get wrong than on a car, and the consequences are more severe. So do not let your mind wander and start thinking about what you’re having for tea or whether that TV programme you like is on tonight or not. This is especially true when you’re approaching a corner, because that is going to require a lot of attention and skill.
No one’s suggesting you should try to fall off but it may happen when you’re taking your first steps. Whether you do or not, remind yourself how much it hurts, even at relatively low speeds. Bikes are inherently unstable and it’s down to your skill and judgement to stop it falling over. Getting professional help from a motorcycle training school like the courses provided by Metropolis Motorcycles is likely to make this less likely to happen.
Practise riding at low speed as much as you can. This is when inexperienced riders make silly mistakes. If you need to slow down quickly, though, especially while turning, don’t just grab the front brake; keep the engine at constant revs and control the bike using the back brake.
The lack of crumple zones and airbags does make riding a motorcycle inherently more dangerous than driving a car, so safety is paramount. Don’t get so obsessed that it spoils your fun, but do start by wearing proper protective clothing. You don’t have to invest in a full set of leathers, but something with protective armour and more abrasion resistance than denim is a good idea.
Always wear a decent helmet, gloves and boots. And check the bike over regularly. Make sure there’s enough oil and coolant; an engine seizure is no fun when you’re riding. Tyre condition is crucial on a bike, when there’s only a small contact patch keeping you in touch with the road. So give them a once over before you go for a ride. Brakes are always handy when you want to slow down, so give them a quick test as you’re setting off.
Always ride defensively. Leave plenty of room from the vehicle in front and never ride too close or in their blind spot. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t see yourself in their mirror, they can’t see you, assuming they even look in their mirrors. This means treating every junction, roundabout, blind crest or bend on as a potential death trap with hired killers waiting to ambush you.
Above all, enjoy the experience. Riding a motorcycle is a passport to freedom, just give it a miss if you have an inner ear infection that’s affecting your balance.
Next: read our guide on Motorbike Insurance