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.
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:
Supermoto can seem weird to the uninitiated. A dirt bike with street tires? It’s not until after you’ve ridden a supermoto bike that you understand. They’re incredibly light bikes that you can flick with ease, making them amazingly fun in tight turns and the genesis of photos with riders purposely fishtailing into corners. If you’ve never ridden one but want to learn how, you do what I did — go to Socal Supermoto at the Adams Kart Track in Riverside, California and have Brian Murray show you what it’s all about. Continue reading “Supermoto School: Where Racers Learn”
Both the California DMV and California Highway Patrol have removed any language pertaining to motorcycle lane splitting from their websites and printed materials, in what appears to be an effort to distance themselves from any perception of endorsing the practice. California is the only state that allows (or rather, doesn’t disallow) lane splitting or lane sharing by motorcycles. For the record, I still split lanes on occasion but do so rather conservatively. You can read the article I wrote about it a few years ago here:
Oh man, track days are so awesome. Sportbikes are made for the track, so there’s no better place to experience one than in its native environment. There’s also an incredible side benefit to improving your skills; professional photographers are present at most track days. Looking at photos of yourself in action is an underrated tool for improvement. I’ve poured over countless photos of myself at various track days through the years, comparing my body positioning to those of professional racers and highly skilled riders to see what I could do better. I’m still trying to get things right, but having photos of myself at the track went a long way in improving my skills.
If you’re a newer rider looking to get into track days, you can check out the Track Day Starter Guide to see what it’s all about. (Hint: It’s not that hard to get started.)
That said, I am not a fan of street photographers that hang out at busy mountain roads to take photos of motorcycle riders or people in their cars. I respect their entrepreneurial effort, but have seen so many people crash trying to show off for the cameras or make u-turns in ill-advised locations to get themselves onto camera repeated times. It’s my opinion that a photographer’s presence can make an already dangerous road even worse. If you want to see what I’m talking about, just search for “mulholland motorcycle crash” on youtube and grab a drink… it’s gonna take a while to get through them all.
Which foot should you put down at a stop, your right or left? Or both? The second hint in my Hot To Not Look Like a Moto Noob series is… use your left foot. It’s not as important on a completely level surface where you can safely use both feet, but anytime the road is tilted slightly uphill or downhill, putting your left foot on the ground allows you to keep your right foot on the rear brake, freeing your right hand to do whatever it pleases. This is especially key when stopped pointing uphill, because you can keep the bike from rolling backwards with the rear brake while you use your right hand to work the throttle to start moving forward. It’s a lot easier than trying to work both the front brake and throttle with your right hand on uphill starts.
Do you lock your arms like a couple of two-by-fours when you’re riding? This is one of the tell-tale signs of a moto noob and a habit that needs to be broken to get to the next level. The first hint in my How To Not Look Like a Moto Noob series is… keep your arms bent. To keep things brief, having your arms bent will benefit many aspects of your riding including steering, braking, bump absorption and good body positioning in the corners. It will also help you stay a little more relaxed. Keep your arms bent and maybe I won’t be so quick to yell “Noob!” when I see you riding (assuming you’re not riding in a t-shirt and shorts).
Every motorcycle racer or sport rider who does track days wants to go faster. Enter Keith Code and his California Superbike School, one of the best ways to learn the skills required for that extra speed we all want. I returned to Superbike School for level 2 last weekend to build on what I learned in level 1 back in late 2008. It was also a great opportunity to finally ride the BMW S1000RR, the incredible new sportbike that’s now the standard issue student ride at California Superbike School.
Wow, has it really been that long since I posted? Yikes. In any case I wanted to write about my experience with Keith Code’s California Superbike School, which I attended last weekend as a level 1 student. I’ve been riding now for 4 1/2 years and prior to the class had done nine track days (I think). Keith has an impressive list of motorcycle racers that he and his staff have coached, so when some members of my riding club signed up I figured it was a good time to go.