5 Common Reality Checks for New Motorcycle Riders
by Liz Jansen
Congratulations! You’ve passed the course and joined the class of new motorcycle riders. You’ve set a stretch goal, challenged yourself, doubted yourself—and succeeded. You’ve experienced the freedom, independence and adventure that comes with riding a motorcycle. You’re pumped with adrenaline and confidence, envisioning yourself riding down the road, hair blowing in the wind, just like in the movies.
- Motorcycle. Your motorcycle is different than the one you had in the course. It handles differently, the controls feel different, it’s bigger, it has more power, and it’s harder to move around when stopped.Take your bike to a quiet parking lot and get to know it. Make the trip during off-traffic hours or have someone shuttle it there for you. If possible, have someone—preferably an experienced rider—with you. Plan to do it when your energy level is high; not when you’re fatigued after a long day of work. Practice the same skills you learned during the course— i.e. braking, shifting, slow speed turns, swerves, quick stops.
- Firsts. You’ll soon encounter situations you weren’t specifically taught to handle in the course. No longer is there an instructor to guide and coach you.Certified basic rider courses such as those prepared by the Canada Safety Council (CSC) or Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) teach you the basic skills you need to operate the motorcycle safely and enjoyably. They can’t possibly address every situation you might meet. Before panicking when stopping on a hill or riding in the rain for the first time, remind yourself that you have the skills do it.Think about how you’re going to apply your learnings in specific situations. Admittedly, there’s not always a lot of thinking time, which is all the more reason to practice the basics and develop that muscle memory before challenging your skills.
- Riding friends. You may not know others to ride with. Rest assured, they’re out there looking for you too. They only way to meet them is to get out—whether it’s stopping at places where you see riders congregate, like coffee shops, participating in an online forum, or joining a riding group.It may seem intimidating at first but you’ll soon be chatting like long-lost friends. Be persistent. It’s like dating. You may have to search around before you find riders that are a fit for you—but guaranteed they’re out there.
- Traffic. You’re no longer in the controlled environment of a course parking lot. Other drivers are unpredictable. They don’t see you, they’re distracted, they crowd you, cut you off, make rude gestures, honk their horn, make lane changes without signaling, and make sudden stops.Get your confidence and skill level up by going back to that parking lot and riding your own bike. Be realistic about your skill level and don’t put yourself in situations you’re not prepared for.You’ve probably heard that the best approach is to ride like you’re invisible. While it means making the assumption that other drivers do not see you, it does not mean riding passively. Develop the skills to ride with confidence so you’re able to respond quickly and maneuver out of harm’s way.
- Bonding with your motorcycle. You don’t have that feeling of being one with your bike that you’ve heard other riders talk about. Have patience. It may take years and will happen when you least expect it. You can’t make it so. It takes time to develop and requires technical skills. You’re not going to feel “at one” when you’re still learning to manage the bike’s power—and discover your own.One day you’ll be riding down the road, find yourself in the middle of Montana and realize “So this is what they were talking about!”
While passing the course is a big accomplishment, it’s only the first step on a whole new adventure. Managing your expectations, developing your skills, and being realistic will build a power base that will prepare you for many years of safe and enjoyable riding. And that Road can lead you anywhere!