Every new rider has some idea of what motorcycling is like. They are usually totally and completely wrong. A lot of life is finding the few things that make the big difference, and doubling down on those things. If you want to ride a lot and enjoy it for sport or transport, below are a few things to keep the experience from being a flaming dumpster fire of a time.
1. Dress Warmer or Colder Than You Think You Need To
Motorbikes don’t have climate control. You can’t turn on the heat or A/C. You’re often stuck sweating like an asthmatic overweight horse, or freezing like a meat popsicle. I’ve learned the hard way to dress warmer or colder than you think you need to. Meaning that if outside is like being in a blast furnace, dress as cool as possible. This is where mesh and vented gear comes in handy. After a bit on the bike, you’ll be thanking the Flying Spaghetti Monster that you chose to wear this gear. Besides, having vented trousers feels pretty awesome.
The same goes for cold weather. There is no cold like freezing your butt off on a bike. None.
Wear the thicker gloves, or use glove liners. Wear those stupid looking moto pants that keep you warm. Even if your friends ask why you’re wearing catcher’s gear and if you’re starting for the Yankees today. Yes this has actually happened. I have a pair of Fieldsheer black moto pants that look pretty ridiculous, but they are mighty warm. I even wear them sometimes.
2. At Low Speeds The Front Brake Is Not Your Best Friend.
Everyone has done this at least once. Some of us are dumb enough to have done it several times. Pulling into a parking space, or making a slow speed turn….they grab a bit too much front brake, and over goes the bike.
At low speeds, use the rear brake as your main brake. This isn’t taught well or much at the MSF course. The front brake should be your main brake at anything above walking speeds. In a parking lot Mr Rear Brake is your friend.
3. All Bikes with Farings Should Have Frame Sliders
You will drop it on occasion. I don’t care how good you are, or how long you’ve been riding. No one is immune to dropping the bike either at low speed or forgetting to put the side stand down. Everyone has done it. It’s like a lot of things in life…everyone has done it, but no one likes to talk about it.
My BRG Sprint had frame sliders that helped with a couple small drops as I was learning to ride it, coming off a much smaller cruiser. My current blue one does not, and I dropped it in the parking lot while trying to move it while the ignition barrel was broken. I wound up with dinged up fairings and a broken side case. Sad panda.
Spend the $150 or so to have frame sliders installed on your bike, even if you don’t hit the track. It will help protect your bike when you hit a small patch of gravel, or have a brain fart in the garage.
4. Buy Good Tires, & Replace Them Properly
The amount of tire a bike has on the ground is about the amount of 2 credit cards. That’s it. It still amazes me that bikes stick as well as they do with that little contact patch. Way too many people run their tires way down before replacing them, or run the wrong kind of tires entirely. That’s fine for your Metallic Dune Toyota Camry. It’s bad news for your new Yamaha R1.
I currently run a Michelin Pilot Road 4 rear, which is a great all-weather tire. I tend to be progressive on the throttle and commute a lot, so this fits my needs really well. Up front, I currently run a Michelin Pilot Power 3, which is a sportbike tire. Why the difference? I need a lot of feedback and grip from the front tire, more so than the rear. You can lose the rear a bit and be ok. If you lose the front, you’re in Big Trouble in Little China.
5. It’s Addictive & There Is No Substitute
Anyone who rides a lot gets this. There;s something about bikes that isn’t quantifiable. There;s an entire group of folks that hold science up as a sort of religion, and only believe in things you can stuff in a test tube. Motorcycles give them fits, I’m sure of it. There’s no substitute I’ve found yet for a nice ride in good weather on a fast motorbike.
6. It Will Take Several Bikes Before You Find Your Thing
Your first bike should be a training bike. Guaranteed you will learn a ton of things about what you want or don;t want in a bike. Want to do longer trips? Want a fuel-sipping commuter bike to head to the office? Want a bike for dragging knees on the weekends? They make them all. Will you know at the outset what you want or really need? I’d wager that most don’t. They think it’s like a car. Really what’s the difference between a Camry and an Accord? In a car, the difference are not as important. On motorbikes they are.
Make your second bike the one you really want, or something that fills a hole. Want to do some dirt, to compliment your commuter bike? Grab a used KX250 and go to town. Want a great all-around bike that does it all well? A used VFR, Sprint, or FZ1 are all good options. A recent ad campaign had the slogan “Find your own road.” Do the same thing with a bike or bikes that suit you.
7. Wear Earplugs
Earplugs are cheap and protect your hearing. They help fatigue on long rides too. That’s all I have to say about that.
8. Buy Good Gear BEFORE You Need It
The time to buy any kind of insurance is before you need it. The same goes for good gear. You can buy cheap gear near anywhere. Good gear that fits, is comfortable, and will last more than 1 mistake is a bit rarer. Good gear gets worn. My favorite jacket I own is my Triumph logoed leather moto jacket. I look good in it, and the ladies tend to agree. It gets worn a lot. I’ve had a get-off in it, and the jacket still is in great shape.
Good gear is usually versatile, with comfort in great range of situations. Yes it’s an expense. It’s more of an investment really. An investment into something that gives many so much life. What’s the ROI on a life enjoyed and well lived?
Anything you think should be added to the article? Comment below!