Riding a motorcycle is one of the most amazing things in life. I love the wind, the open roads, the thrill of speed and not to forget the chemistry between man and machine. But it wasn’t always like that. While most people learn how to ride a motorcycle in their teens, I was a late bloomer. I started riding when I turned 25. One day, my friend lent me his Pulsar 135 (Thanks!), and my journey began.
I have been riding for months now. Clocked a few thousand kilometers. I still count myself as a beginner. However, there are things I wish I knew even before I kick-started a bike for the first time. So here are 7 things you should know if are learning to ride a motorcycle.
1. It only looks intimidating
Learning how to ride a motorcycle can be intimidating to some. Especially you have never rode a bicycle, balancing the machine beneath you can be very scary. But let me tell you, it only looks intimidating, it’s not!
Be confident and just enjoy the process of learning!
2. Master the Clutch
Mastering the clutch is a must. It’s very basic and you can’t learn to ride without controlling the clutch. But a lot of beginners find it difficult. They are unable to pick up the motorcycle or the engine stalls. Initially shifting gears feels difficult.
I learn it by trial and error. But why should you?
Next time you get your hand on a motorcycle, do this –
In neutral, start the engine.
Pull the clutch lever, shift to gear first gear.
Without giving any throttle, slowly start releasing the lever.
Find the sweet spot when the motorcycle comes in motion.
Voila! You did it! That sweet spot is your half-clutch! This half clutch will help you pick up, prevent stalling, ride in traffic, etc.
3. Use both breaks
You must have heard from many to only apply the rear brake. I have met riders who swear by God’s words to overemphasize that only rear brake should be used.
But then, why do we have a front brake?
If you are riding at anything above 40 kmph (this comes from personal experience) and have to apply breaks suddenly and as soon as possible, which will happen more time than you can think of, use both breaks. If you are applying only rear brake, and your bike doesn’t have an ABS, your rear wheel will lock (Read: jam, stop spinning) and you’ll lose balance and control.
However, if you apply both, the weight distribution of the motorcycle will be distributed evenly. This means you have to apply relatively lesser pressure on brake levers. This prevents the locking of the wheel and helps you maintain balance and control.
4. Upslope Horror
Many beginners tend to avoid upslope. In my case, I had no choice (basement parking).
Motorcycles tend to stall, go off balance, and are difficult to pick up if you, the rider don’t know what needs to be done. On top of it, you have to support the weight of the bike (or use a rear brake) to prevent the bike from going backward. And on roads with fast-moving traffics, this can be a pretty scary situation.
The only way to counter the horror of upslope is to face it. Spend an entire day if you have to learn to start a bike on a slope. By the end of the day, you would have mastered one of the essential riding skills.
5. Don’t ride like you drive
I have more years and kilometers on four wheels than I have on two. And I hate to admit, I am a very aggressive driver. Roads in Delhi NCR are some of the best roads in India. So I like to drive fast, blast music from car audio systems, and enjoy smooth, moving traffic (Hello there Bangalore and Mumbai!).
However, it is important to realize that I and you can’t do this while on two wheels. We are more exposed to the environment now. Any impact and you’re more likely to see walls of the hospital.
All The Gear All The Time.
Riding a motorcycle is thrilling. But there’s no thrill where there’s no danger. So it is important to invest in good protective gear. Good protective gear will protect you from impact and abrasion if you fall.
As a beginner, it may sound a bit too much to invest in gear. So rather than buying all the gear at once, it is advisable to start with one and then keep adding water. Always start with a helmet (a good helmet is a must!). Then go for a pair of gloves, and so and so forth. It is important that your gear should be in compliance with CE (Europe) or ISI (India).
And remember, anything can happen anytime, so ATGATT.
7. YouTube helps!
YouTube is filled with creators who have uploaded tons of tutorial videos. From emergency braking to counter steering, there are so many things to learn from YouTube videos.
What this means to you, you can learn a lot from their experience. Also, you get to know the dos and don’ts of road sense and motorcycle community.
8. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Practice whenever you get your hands on one. Try mocking situations and practice measures that you could take in those situations. Try practicing in a parking or an empty street for starters.
The more you practice, the better you get!
You won’t even realize your transition from the learning stage to conscious performance to subconscious performance. And once you’re done, it’s time for you to create your travel journals and the endless memories.