It’s a new year and you’re finally ready to enter the world of motorcycle riding. I’m always happy to see new riders joining the ranks, and I’m twice as happy when I see them making good decisions about their new found obsession. Make sure you get the right safety gear, get the right training, and get the right bike. It’s tempting to go out there and get a hot new sportbike straight away, but a little patience will ensure you’ll be able to enjoy riding for a long time.
Get the right gear. I’ve got some more info here, but you need a helmet, jacket, pants, boots and gloves. And make sure they’re motorcycle-specific! Do not skimp on gear; ask any experienced rider for some horror stories, and you’re going to hear some unpleasant things.
Get the right training. Check with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to see if there’s a course in your area and take it. If you pass the course, you can skip your state’s riding test when getting your motorcycle license.
Get the right bike. Just like any other sporting equipment, you need a forgiving motorcycle when you’re starting to learn. I’ll be updating the list soon, but not much has changed since we last published our list of best beginner sportbikes. Get one of these or something similar from the used market, become an awesome rider on it, then move up to your next ride. Part of the fun of motorcycles is that since they’re relatively inexpensive, it’s not that hard to buy/sell/trade and try different bikes.
It never fails. Every time I ride up to Newcomb’s Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway for breakfast, I see fellow motorcycle riders ordering booze with their morning meal. Today while I was sipping my coffee, a gray haired gentleman in full leathers walked up to the counter next to me and ordered a jack and coke.
Riding a motorcycle is inherently more dangerous than driving a car: it takes balance, coordination and skill. Adding alcohol to a ride is ALWAYS a bad idea. If you ride with a group and someone orders a drink at one of your stops, you’re better off riding home alone than putting yourself at risk with a buzzed rider in close proximity.
It’s spring time again and all kinds of motorcycles are coming out of hibernation. I rode the famed Angeles Crest Highway this morning, and it was busy with riders of all kinds eager to soak in the curves. The mile high motorhead hangout, Newcomb’s Ranch, was packed due to a special event.
When it’s this busy, I like to remind new riders of a few things to keep out of trouble:
Ride your ride; don’t let faster riders pressure you into riding beyond your comfort level.
If you pull up to the local hangout but it’s super crowded and you’re uncomfortable maneuvering your bike in such tight quarters, park somewhere else (a safe spot away from traffic) or just avoid the place altogether. Many bad things can happen if you get yourself wedged in with so many other bikes.
Just take it easy and remember you need to get home in one piece.
Credit to u/ShedDwarf on Reddit, he took his lumps and shared his lesson. He bought a bike and rode it for a while before getting all of the gear he needed. He’s OK, but ouch. Seriously… helmet, gloves, jacket, pants, boots — you need them all.
I feel bad for this girl because she got hurt, but she’s lucky it wasn’t worse. I don’t know these people so I don’t know their motivations, but I’d like to point out some troubling things about this.
It’s obvious she’s a new rider.
She was not ready for this ride in terms of her ability.
Her bike is a Yamaha R6, a race bike with some of the worst ergonomics for a beginner. It’s tall and you’re leaned very far forward.
She can barely get her toes on the ground when sitting on the bike.
She had plenty of road and the bike could have made that turn without breaking a sweat, but she panicked. I can only guess, but this is typically due to target fixation; i.e. she was staring at the guard rail instead of looking ahead through the turn and freaked out when she saw it getting closer.
Her Instagram account is full of photos of her wearing inadequate gear. Tennis shoes, tight jeans and an Icon armor vest are not going to do much in a crash. You need a leather jacket with elbow armor. Real riding pants with knee armor. Boots that will actually protect your feet and ankles.
This poor person was completely unprepared to try riding a motorcycle for the first time; the end results are painful and costly. Granted I don’t know anything past what’s here in the video, but there are some important things to point out for beginners:
As humans, our tendency is to freeze when things go wrong in this type of situation. She could have just let go of the throttle or pulled in the clutch lever, but froze instead due to a lack of experience. Keep in mind this is a Yamaha R3 with only a 321cc engine. Now imagine an R6 with a 600cc engine and how much worse it could have been. This is mostly why I never endorse getting a 600cc sportbike for a starter bike.
She obviously has no experience and was given poor or little instruction at all. Riding a motorcycle is hard for beginners, especially if they’ve never operated a vehicle with a manual transmission and clutch. Good training such as the MSF course can literally save someone’s life.
Don’t let someone ride your bike if they haven’t had any training. Even if they’re a friend, you may find yourself liable for their injuries or damages they’ve caused, or worse. Don’t do it.
I don’t know the true source of this video, but found it on Reddit here:
I just saw this today at Newcomb’s Ranch, which is about 26 miles up Angeles Crest Highway from the nearest gas station. It’s probably the result of some burnouts, but then the rider was dumb enough to ride it through the canyons. I’m at a loss for words.
The road I ride most often is Angeles Crest Highway in Los Angeles, and that typically means a stop at Newcomb’s Ranch to hang out, grab a bite and chat with fellow riders. What surprises me is the number of people drinking beer and other adult beverages at 9:00 AM, some of them having arrived on their motorcycles.
Riding a motorcycle requires balance, coordination and concentration well beyond what’s required to drive a car, so adding alcohol to that equation is a terrible idea. Not to mention on a twisty canyon road like Angeles Crest Highway, you need to be sharp so you don’t end up over a cliff or hitting another vehicle head-on.
Save the beers and bloody marys for when you’re not riding.
Hearing protection is one of the most overlooked safety precautions when it comes to motorcycle riding. It’s not uncommon to meet older bikers who have tinnitus or have suffered some sort of hearing loss due to the constant wind noise while riding. Ear plugs have two distinct benefits for beginner riders:
1. The noise reduction is very calming while learning. It wasn’t until my 2nd week of riding that I tried them out, and they made the learning process much less stressful. I didn’t realize how much the wind noise was bothering me.
2. It’s a good habit to start using them early, and they will save your hearing in the long run.
I prefer the long mushroom shaped plugs; they’re easier to remove from your ears. The brand I buy has a 33 decibel noise reduction rating, which I equate to riding inside of a newer car with the windows rolled up. You can still hear sirens, your own bike, other vehicles around you, etc.