Today on one of the moto groups in which I interact a new rider asked about how to become a good rider. Having spent many years, and much effort researching these things I had a few words to share. It seemed like this would be worthy for this audience as well.
Make It Small
Get a small bike (like a 125), and stay off the freeways. New riders generally don’t have the wherewithal to handle problems on the freeway, and if something happens it is nearly always catastrophic. The myth that you need power to get out of a bad situation is bollocks. Almost always that power got the person into the bad situation.
Americans have a very difficult time with this concept, but most others countries don’t. People all over the world start on small bikes, and it is a proven method to becoming a good rider. It is also much less expensive to do it this way. Getting a small bike is key to becoming a good rider.
The bigger bikes will significantly impede your learning both in time and quality. Your first bike shouldn’t be your last bike, and getting a big one makes that a higher probability due to either giving it up, or being taken out. Yes these are statically very high probabilities.
That’s a Big Bike Virgina
A 650 is a very big bike. It’s heavy, has a lot of power which you wont know how to handle, and that will distract you from learning and developing other very important riding skills—ones that are vital to your survival. Of everything written in these various comments here this is probably the most important one. Start off on a small light weight bike (under 300 lbs, and if you can get a ~200lb bike that’s even better).
Develop your ability to see wide. Target fixation is one of the biggest issues for new riders. This technique helps to ameliorate this problem. It also develops the peripheral vision which can detect threats that are dangerous to your well being.
The Importance of Gear
Wear good gear when you ride. White/bright helmets make you more visible. Black looks cool as fuck, but it makes you harder to see, so wear something that doesn’t blend you into the background. This goes for your bike too. Sure black bikes look cool, but they are harder to see.
Twist of the Wrist
I’ve already referenced Keith Code above. You don’t need to be a track rider, or racer to benefit from his training. He often teaches techniques that will develop you into a better street rider. One of his best books is called Twist of the Wrist. From this he made a movie. It’s up on YouTube, and it has a lot of goofy humor in it too.
David L. Hough’s book Proficient Motorcycling is great, and it’s already linked above. You can probably pick up a used copy at Green Apple Books.
CMSP—The Art of the Parking Lot
As wonderful as the CMSP program is it basically has gotten you to the level where you can train in a parking lot. There is a lot more to learn about riding, and the classroom portion doesn’t have the time to really prepare you for all of the things that can happen out on the street. Developing your situational awareness is key.
Helmet fitment is very important. No matter how good a helmet is, if it doesn’t fit properly it cannot do its job. This is an older video, but he’s great at illustrating how to select a properly fitting helmet.
With regards to helmets. Get one not made out of plastic. Plastic helmets concentrate the force, where as fiberglass/composite helmets disperse the energy. This gives you a much higher chance of survival should something happen.
Gear Improves Survival
Frequently new riders will spend all their money on the bike, and not have much left for riding gear. It is a much better strategy to get a smaller less expensive bike, and use more of your money to get proper gear. Ambulance medics will tell you that the people that survive collisions, and crashes are the ones wearing full leather gear. Yes I know this because I’ve interviewed them.
Bringing it Home
While this may look like a huge comment it really is just a tiny look into what you’ll need to become a good rider on the street. You have the potential, and with good decisions it is much easier to achieve. Motorcycles are a wonderful way of life that will bring you much joy, as long as you respect how dangerous it is out on the road. Everything I’ve written here has the potential to save your life. It is solid information collected and pruned over many years.
One more thing
Motorcycle people are a goofy lot. There’s a very humorous anime called Bakuon!! about four girls just entering high school, and their mentor starting a motorcycle club. It’s totally hilarious, and makes fun of the very goofy things we as riders do. I highly recommend it, both for entertainment, but also as an education platform.
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