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Motorcycle Training Part 1: Tips for the New Rider

June 18, 2012 | By More

by Linda Carruth

If you are thinking about throwing a leg over your own motorcycle, there are a few things you may wish to consider first.

First, gender. Yes, you read that right, gender. Men and women are so different when it comes to motorcycles and riding. Men just go out and do, without much thinking, and this is probably conducive to their more immediate success. Women on the other hand, think things to death, which ends up being contributive to their slowness to get on with it. Except for the ones that just don’t think. Then you have the blind leading the blind, one person who is ill-trained teaching another. What is often the same for each sex, is this phenomenon of crippling fear, sometimes referred to as the motorcycle jitters. Some mishap occurs, and the poor bike is sentenced to quiet garage time of an interminable length because it’s potential rider has paralyzed him- or herself with fear; fear of this big, mangled, heavy metal beast that has a penchant for lying on its side, like it’s too tired to stand up. No pun intended (too tired, two tired). The chastisement comes in different forms for each gender. For men, it is "boys will be boys…" and for the ladies, it’s "women have no business riding…", and each serves as castigation for the respective gender, mainly from those who know nothing about riding motorcycles in the first place. Whether you’re a man or a woman, everyone will tell you how dangerous motorcycles are, as if that’s going to make you change your mind about wanting to ride. None of this is brought to the fore here to make matters worse, rather it is to reveal phenomena that is so common, yet so unexpected.

Second, once you get beyond the criticism for your choice, it’s on to some considerations that will get you on that bike. Whether or not you have already ridden some, or have already taken the plunge and purchased a motorcycle, you need to take a safety course. Most Basic Rider Courses use curriculum that is sanctioned by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). You can Google "Motorcycle Safety Foundation" for listings for each state, but these listings do not include private locations that use the same material. Each state handles things a bit differently and some have both state run and private facilities. Here you’ll find a link to a comprehensive collection of facilities, listed by state. Having all of these links in one place may save you some time searching.

Basic rider courses are not responsible for teaching you how to ride. These courses are intended to teach motorcycle safety; however, the instruction does start at the very beginning, which includes becoming familiar with the controls, walking the bike, getting your feet up on the pegs and stopping. In addition, you will learn basic maneuvers, lane positioning for visibility, evasive measures like swerving, and safe quick stops. In some states, passing the on-cycle test at the end of the course will allow you to waive taking the test at your Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Third, some familiarity with the different types of bikes and their purposes will be helpful in determining what kind bike you will want to eventually purchase. If you take the rider course, they’ll cover that in the classroom portion. Basically, you have to ask yourself what type of riding you will be doing. Do you want something for sport or off road? Do you want a motorcycle for your commute to work or school? Do you want to take short day rides? Or do you want to go on longer trips? These answers will help you determine the type of bike that is best for you.

Another thing your class instructors will touch on is your maturity level and your driving record. They make no bones about the fact that riding isn’t for everyone. You will be operating a motor vehicle that affords you no protection from all that fast moving heavy metal around you on the highway, and if you have a somewhat accident prone driving record, maybe some more thought is warranted before throwing that leg over.

Fourth, you must consider your own size and stature and match that to the bike you buy. It’s best if you can put your feet down flat on both sides of the bike, and your reach to hand and foot controls should be comfortable. You must be able to make a full lock turn in each direction, so be wary of handlebars that have your arms completely stretched out. Hint: your elbows should be bent. If the fit of the bike you want is close, ask your dealer’s service department about making modifications for you. Handlebar risers or different handlebars altogether may help an arm reach problem. New foot pegs or having the bike lowered can help with leg reach problems, whether for controls or just safely planting your feet at stops. Let common sense rule.

Motorcycling can be a lot of fun but there are many things to consider. Do your homework and proceed with care, and soon you’ll be out in the wind enjoying your own motorcycle, safely.

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Category: Motorcycle Savvy

About the Author ()

Linda Carruth is a freelance illustrator and designer who enjoys riding her motorcycle. Her professional work can be seen at, but her motorcycle, humorous, and motivational designs are available at,, and at

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