For as long as I can remember I would dream about riding a motorcycle. I would especially get excited whenever I saw a female rider because it was so uncommon to see one. I used to tell myself, “when I grow up, I’m going to ride a motorcycle!”
When I decided to start on my motorcycle journey I was met with my fair share of criticism, doubt and judgement. Most tried to discourage me from riding out of fear for my safety (understandable). Other scoffed at me and told me I couldn’t do it and I would fail. I would be lying if I said those who actively (and aggressively) voiced their unsolicited negative opinions didn’t affect me. They did.
However, I would not let their judgement or doubt scare or deter me from pursuing what I knew would make me happy. And I’m so glad because I have never been happier.
Within the first year learning how to ride and getting my bike, I put thousands of miles on it, have been on countless adventures, and have met an amazing and supportive community of riders I never knew existed.
Though I’m a life-long student and a forever-learner, here are my tips on how to get started and learn how to ride a motorcycle.
Tip #1: Talk to people who actually ride
My big mistake #1: talking to people who have never ridden before. They will only share their fears and horrific stories they saw on the news. Or even worse, they will start to spam you with crazy YouTube motorcycle crashes and do everything then can to scare you into not getting a motorcycle.
This is understandable because these folks are reacting out of fear. Don’t get me wrong, riding a motorcycle is extremely dangerous. You will hear this time and time again: it’s not a matter of if you go down, but when you go down.
However! For every motorcycle crash/accident you hear about, there are hundreds and thousands of others who have not had those experiences and who have had only positive, amazing experiences on their bike.
The AAA representative that helped me insure my motorcycle had been a rider for 40 years and he never crashed or got in an accident. Not. Once.
I have met many riders who have never been in an accident. Ever. Many have had close calls (even for me, I’ve had two close calls so far); however, there are so many factors that come into play about how/why accidents happen and how severe they are.
To get a more realistic idea of what it is like to be a rider, learn from the horse’s mouth: talk to other riders because non-riders (though they are well intentioned) really don’t know what they’re talking about.
Tip #2: Sign up for a CHP California Motorcyclist Training class
If you live in California you can sign up for the California Motorcyclist Training which is hosted by the CHP. For a couple hundred bucks you can sign up for a 2-day course that includes classroom time and time on the bike. They will provide you with a bike to learn to ride on and a helmet you can borrow. All you would have to bring are:
- Shoes that cover your ankle
- Long sleeved shirt
You are paired with expert instructors who walk you step-by-step (or should I say wheel you step-by-step, har har har okay sorry) on how to learn the basics of riding: clutch, throttle, front brake, rear brake, cornering, quick stop, u-turns, and more.
They take you through common scenarios and teach you maneuvers that all riders would need to know to be safe on the street. Their course is usually set up in a parking lot enclosed by cones.
The CMT class is a great way to get used to a bike, particularly if you have had absolutely zero experience with bikes or have never used clutch before. Classes are offered multiple times a year; all you have to do is sign up online.
Note: if you are really serious about learning how to ride, I recommend purchasing your own helmet before hand because lord knows how many sweaty heads have been in the helmets they loan you.
If you are unsure yet if you want to jump in 100% and drop $300+ on a good helmet, then I recommend buying some type of face mask to wear under your helmet to protect your face from the dried-up perspiration of former helmet-wearers. You can buy one for like $20 on Amazon or from Cycle Gear.
Tip #3: Watch YouTube videos/tutorials
I used to watch hours and hours of YouTube videos and tutorials learning and reviewing techniques to master certain maneuvers. There are so many great YouTube channels with great tips and tricks. One of my favorites is from Dan Dan the Fireman (yes, he actually is a fireman) from Arizona. The more information and perspectives you can learn will help you become a more skilled rider.
Tip #4: Put miles on the bike
Practice. Practice. Practice There is no replacement for putting time and miles on the bike. The equation is simple. The more you practice on the bike, the faster you will learn. When I first bought my bike, I would practice in a parking lot for one hour everyday before work, and then return to that same parking lot after work to practice for another hour. Every weekend, I would take the bike out at 6 AM when the streets were quiet and less crowded so I could practice riding with stop signs, street lights, riding up and down hills, etc. The more you ride, the better and more skilled you will become.
Tip #5: Go at your pace
It’s important to be assertive, defensive, alert, and to know your limits. Go at your own pace and do not feel pressured (by other riders or cars) to go faster or to do dangerous maneuvers that you aren’t prepared for.
If necessary, pull over to let others pass you on the road. You are 100% in control of how you ride and what you do and don’t do.
I’m mostly a solo rider because I like to go at my own pace and comfort level. Riding in groups (which I’ve also done before) is a great experience; however, it has to be with the right group. Make sure the group knows your experience level and that they are open to going at your pace to not leave you behind. Pressure to go faster to keep up with a group can have disastrous, and deadly, outcomes.
One of my favorite group rides was with a group of Harley guys who had been riding for 30+ years. At the time, I had only been riding for six months. They knew I was a novice so they put me in the middle of the pack to protect me.
The leader rode slow enough for my little 250cc to keep up (their bikes were all over 1000cc) and the riders behind me stayed close to keep me safe. This was one of the most positive and empowering experiences I ever had. This was all because I was riding with the right group who met me where I was and did not pressure me to do maneuvers above my skill level.
Becoming a rider was probably one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I feel this is what I was born to do and the freedom and joy I get from riding is unparalleled to anything I have ever done in my life.
I hope that if you are thinking about learning how to ride this guide has helped provide some insight on one way to go about it. Good luck!