Empowerment: Rides of Passage

Empowerment: New Riders Beware!
Freedom and Independence Do Not a Safe Rider Make

Freedom, empowerment and confidence are the first words that spill from new riders as they describe the feelings of riding a motorcycle. We’ve all been there. We’re ecstatic and it feels like we can do anything. And we can – if we have the skills. Conversely, irrational fear can distort our confidence. In all cases, caution is required.

Although the focus here is on new riders, these hazards and the strategies to deal with them, are not in their realm exclusively.

Inappropriate first bike. Too big, too powerful, too high, too uncomfortable

Why it happens:

  • An emotional, impulse decision
  • Improper advice from an experienced rider or salesperson
  • Lack of knowledge about what features to look for.

Proactive Strategies

  • Start with a bike that is suitable for your skill level. Ride it for a year, develop your skills and confidence so you are ready to move to something larger.
  • Take the basic rider course (CSC, MSF) before purchasing. You’ll have a much better idea of your skills and preferences in riding styles.
  • Listen to your intuition. Experienced riders often lose sight of the fact that for a new rider, even a 250cc bike can seem gargantuan and unwieldy.

Group Rides – In this case, a group is any more than two or three other riders. Special caution is urged for large charity rides, rallies and events which attract large numbers of motorcycles in motion.

Why it happens:

  • Leaders who don’t manage groups safely
  • Skill level of other group members
  • Pressure to ride beyond your skill level

Proactive Strategies

  • Ride with one or two other riders for your first season. It gives you company and there is not so much to keep track of.
  • Ask about a group’s safety procedures before riding with them.
  • Ride at the back of the group so you’re not holding back more experienced riders.
  • Ride at your own skill level. If a group is pressuring you to exceed that, look for a new group.

Riding too fast – i.e. beyond your skill level or what’s reasonable in the situation.

Why it happens:

  • Overconfidence
  • Questionable judgement

Proactive Strategies

  • Practice in parking lots. They’re great for developing quick stop skills, figure eights and slow speed maneuvers.
  • Slow down. Much power is harnessed in a motorcycle. All of it controlled by the rider.
  • Choose your roads wisely. Pick the least busy times and streets to get adept riding at speed. The fewer distractions you have, the better.

Riding too slow. Riding below the posted limit or unnecessarily slowing down for corners.

Why it happens:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of skills

Proactive Strategies:

  • Practice. It may sound repetitive, but it’s imperative to have the skills to ride safely. And practice develops confidence.
  • Stretch yourself. If you’ve got the skills, increase your confidence with small, gradually larger successes.
  • Choose your roads wisely. Pick the least busy times and streets to get comfortable riding at speed. The fewer distractions you have, the better.

Rites of Passage. Riders are drawn to certain roads because of their technical requirements – i.e. Tail of the Dragon.

Why it’s hazardous:

  • Requires skills a new rider doesn’t have
  • Attracts many riders pushing their skill level
  • Other traffic, especially oncoming

Proactive Strategies

  • Ride at least a season before attempting these attractions
  • Avoid going at peak season
  • Make sure you are in good physical condition, alert, well-rested

Being able to ride a motorcycle is a gift and learning to ride is a tremendous accomplishment. Tempering that initial euphoria (or fear) with physical reality creates more mindful and skillful riders and long term enjoyment – for yourself and everyone around you.

There’s no substitute for expert instruction, continuous learning and saddle time to develop safe riding habits and muscle memory. Adept handling is a challenge for any rider, so the more you prepare, the better your chances of a safe outcome.

If you don’t have the motorcycle, skills or confidence to ride with traffic, you’re putting yourself and those around you in peril.

It’s true; empowerment is all about choice. That means an informed, wise decision and solid technical skills. You’ll be amazed at how it enhances your ride!




Author, writer, and student Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery.