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How to Ride a Motorcycle

by Dave Dobson

Riding a motorcycle is a thrilling experience, but one that should be seriously considered. Motorcycles are fast, powerful vehicles, and riding them incorrectly can result in serious injury or death. Wannabe motorcyclists should think very carefully before they climb aboard. Serious research should be undertaken before anyone takes to the road. 

Because motorbike riders have to learn to ride alone, this is even more important. 

Before anybody gets on a motorcycle, they must make sure they are insured to drive it. It is the law and will not only protect the driver, but anyone they might involve in an accident. Read about the best motorcycle insurance companies at NimbleFins, where you can also compare quotes from dozens of providers.

Once that’s done, riders are ready to ride.

Inspecting your motorcycle before riding

Motorcycles are machines and they should be respected. They travel very quickly and they can cause real damage. An easy way to avoid this is to check the state of the motorcycle before it is ridden. Check the following:

  • tyres and wheels,
  • controls
  • lights and electrical
  • oil and fluid,
  • chassis and suspension,
  • kickstand.

If there is any sign of damage or major wear and tear on any of these elements, do not ride the bike. Take it instead to a mechanic to check over.

What should I wear when riding a motorcycle?

It is very important that the proper protective gear is worn when riding a motorcycle. This is a matter of life or death. A properly fitted helmet is essential. Here, we would recommend spending a little bit more to buy one of good quality and having it fitted properly by a professional. It is against the law to ride without wearing a helmet.

Riders should also buy leather motorcycle gloves, a motorcycle jacket, motorcycle boots, and motorcyclist pants. Note that we recommend buying specific gear for motorcycles. That’s because nothing will make a rider safer than official gear.

Understanding the motorcycle controls and symbols

In order to learn the motorcycle controls and symbols properly, riders should take compulsory basic training (CBT), which teaches them how to control and navigate a bike. A CBT will cover all controls and symbols, including;

  • clutch lever
  • indicators / signals
  • headlight high/low beam dip switch
  • headlight flasher
  • horn
  • choke.

How to mount a motorcycle

There is a specific way to mount a motorcycle in order to stay safe. First, riders should stand to the left of the bike – because that is almost always where the kickstand is, which means the bike leans to the left – then check behind them to make sure it is safe. If parked on a curb, riders should mount from the path, not the road. 

Apply the front brake before the bike is lifted off the kickstand and onto the wheels, or else the bike will roll forward. 

Riders will learn how to mount a bike safely as part of their CBT training.

How to operate the throttle and brakes of the motorcycle

Throttles should be operated with a relaxed grip and never used to hold onto the bike. Some people think the hand should be wrapped around the throttle, and others suggest two fingers will suffice. This is down to personal preference. 

How do motorcycles turn

Turning a motorcycle can be worrying the first few times it is tried. Riders turn the steering wheel on a slight tangent and lean to manoeuvre their vehicle. The smaller the turning circle and higher the speed, the more lean is needed. This becomes easier with practice and should be approached with caution at first.

The motorcycle clutch and shift gear

Just like when learning to drive a car, learning to change gear on a motorcycle can feel complicated at first. To shift gear, riders should disengage the clutch by squeezing the clutch lever completely with the left hand, select the appropriate gear on the gear shift lever (down to go lower and up to go higher), roll the throttle by twisting the right lift towards the rider, slowly release the clutch lever with the left hand whilst accelerating the motorcycle, then release the clutch fully. It sounds complicated, and the best way to learn how to do it is to practice somewhere safe.

How to start the motorcycle

  • Get on the motorcycle as instructed above.
  • Insert the key.
  • Locate and turn on the fuel petcock if needed.
  • Pull out the choke.
  • Turn the key to the on position.
  • Set the kill switch to run.
  • Make sure the bike is in neutral.
  • Squeeze in the clutch with the left hand.
  • Press the start button with the right thumb. Let the engine turn over before releasing the button.
  • Push in the choke as the engine warms up. This should take a few minutes.
  • The motorcycle is ready to go.

How to ride and steer

Learning to ride and steer a motorcycle comes with practice and patience. It’s a lot about balance, bravery, and technique. Compulsory basic training will help. Always remember to practice where it is safe to do so. 

How to stop the motorcycle 

The correct way to stop a motorcycle depends on the speed it is travelling at. Ease off the throttle, press down on the rear brake with the right foot, then squeeze the front brakes at the same time with two fingers. Avoid using only the back brake, as this can cause the bike to swerve. The front brake is most effective and responsible for about 75% of all stopping power, so it should not be left out, or else the bike is not being given the best chance of stopping. Squeezing in the clutch can assist with stopping, too. 

It’s typical for riders to switch into first gear before they stop, then plant their left foot when the bike stops moving. Don’t forget to engage the kickstand before hopping off.

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