Just beginning your life as a motorcyclist? We've put together some tips for ensuring your early weeks and months on two wheels are both fun and safe.
It's important to stay relaxed and calm when riding. Getting on your bike when you're angry, or riding in fear can lead to poor decisions on the road. If you get cut off, get stuck behind a slow vehicle, or are annoyed about something else in your life, try to stay calm. Take deep breaths or have a break. Decisions made while angry are seldom wise ones.
By pressing your knees against the petrol tank you're reducing weight on the handle bars, which in turn means you have to put less steering input to maneuver the bike.
Extra tip: imagine the tank contains next month's rent money, and you need to stop it from flying away.
Add these to the sides of your tank in order to help you achieve the above tip.
For very low speed manoeuvres, try dragging your rear brake for increased stability. This tip helps control your motorcycle in tight areas - such as parking lots. Find an empty car park and practice some tight figure eights while dragging your rear brake.
While the motorcycle is often regarded as an especially dangerous way to get from A to B, if you drive within your limits and make good choices on the road, you won't experience any unwanted events. As a beginner, you would be well advised to choose a bike that suits your limited experience level - such as a Honda Rebel 300, or a Bonneville T120 Triumph.
This is arguably the most important skill to master. Good throttle control determines how smooth your ride is, how well your suspension works, and how well your motorcycle will take corners. The book A Twist of the Wrist by Keith Code covers throttle control in great detail.
As all motorcyclists know, the procedure for changing lanes is: indicate, check mirrors and blind spot, then manoeuvre. However, an additional safety tip is to accelerate slightly as you change lanes, because you don’t know how fast the vehicle(s) behind you are going. This gives you a little more leeway.
The beginner motorcyclist can sometimes become enamoured with speed - but it's important to know when to slow down. If you're unsure what the upcoming road looks like, reduce your speed and stay safe.
Leaning into corners lowers your centre of gravity, helps your machine stand more upright and gains you more traction. The lower centre of gravity also helps your suspension do its job. Unless you're travelling very fast, leaning into corners is prudent in most situations. Unlike a car, you are an integral part of a motorcycle, and how you sit can make a big difference to the quality of your ride.
How to do it: keep your eyes on the route you plan to take through the corner - don't look at anything else, as you tend to move in the direction you're looking. Once you can see the route ahead, shift your weight from the outside footpeg to the inside one. Dip your shoulder and lean your upper body to the inside corner. Shift your weight back when you’re back on a straight section of road.
This is simply using the throttle to achieve the ideal rev range when you change gears. As simple as it sounds, it can be tricky to master, but will pay dividends: it will help ensure your bike is less unsettled as you take corners, and will help ensure you're in the right gear when you want to turn.