RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
As a beginner motorcyclist, I had my fair share of hard knocks. And learned some valuable lessons. Some of which I wished someone would have told be about in advance. So I will give you 6 lessons learned as beginner motorcyclist.
Learning the hard way is fun too. I am grateful for every struggle and ‘whoopsie’. But maybe, you will learn quicker as a beginner motorcyclist, if you do hear about those lessons in advance.
Now some might be an open door. Others are lessons or tips you hear often in the motorcycling world, but with which I don’t fully agree. I will give you my side of the story on those lessons, just to give you a complete perspective.
No, helmets are not optional. No, a second-hand helmet is not a great idea. And no, that cheap ass helmet will not protect you the same way a high quality one does.
And for f*cks sake, Sharon.. no. Your Nike sneakers do not qualify as proper motorcycling shoes.
In four years, I’ve crashed four times. Crashing during pit biking does not count. Half of it was my own fault. Three times on the road, luckily at low speeds. Once at 30 km/h and twice at around 60 km/h. And once at the circuit at higher speeds, coming down the start finish straight. I wore my gear. All of it, all the time. And still got pretty bruised sometimes.
One time, when I filtered through traffic, a car hit my handlebar from the left with its mirror. I ended up as a ping pong ball between cars. Damaged about 5 of them, and eventually somehow ended up doing a somersault over the handlebars and landed on my face. I only went about 30 km/h, but still my visor was broken in two and my helmet had some deep scratches.
Image riding around with a half decent motorcycle helmet. Even at low speeds, that can cause serious damage. The scratches won’t be left in your helmet, but in your face. Not something I would look forward to.
And in case you think those Nike sneakers really are proper riding gear.. my sister went down with her scooter at 50 km/h. Absolutely nothing was left of her regular sneakers. Imagine going down at 80 or 100 km/h. It won’t just be your Nikes that the paramedics have to scrape off the Tarmac..
This all sounds terrible. Don’t think about it too much. But just wear your gear, all the time. You definitely won’t regret it.
I thought my bright yellow Suzuki would be visible enough. But I thought wrong. I’ve had drivers look right at me before almost driving into me. And then act surprised, when I slammed my horn like a mad woman and revved the fucks out of my engine.
We all make mistakes, but it is almost a shame how many motorists do not notice motorcyclists. So be seen as a beginner motorcyclist. That means; ride in their mirrors (not literally), and stand out.
You don’t have to wear neon yellow. But some colour won’t hurt. There are plenty of awesome coloured motorbikes out there. And helmets. Complete motorcycle suits, even. Pop some colour, ride in sight and make sure you are seen.
This adds to our last statement. To ride where cars are not, means you avoid the center of your lane. Ride a bit to the left or right, depending on the situation. Make sure you are able to look ahead. And put a safe amount of distance between you and the car in front of you.
Find those open spaces and use them wisely.
This might not be the lesson that pops into your head directly. But as a beginner motorcyclist, it is very helpful to not just ride your bike, but also get your hands dirty working on it.
I am by no means a mechanic. I have no technical or mechanical talent, at all. But even when I just started to ride, I did do some maintenance myself. Under supervision of one of my best friends, who must have thought “what the heck did I get myself into” all the time.
He thought me the first basics, like how to change your own oil, chain and sprockets, brake pads etcetera. This does not only save you thousands of euros over a lifetime of riding, but it also helps you to understand the machine you are riding.
You will notice it sooner when there is something wrong with your precious motorcycle, if you understand the basics of how that machine runs.
Trust your gut on this. Especially once you are riding some serious milage as a beginner motorcyclist. You know your bike at some point.
After two years of riding, I heard some strange sounds and felt some weird trembling in my bike. It almost felt like my rear wheel was going from left to right a bit. I told my best friends about it. They all told me “Nahh, it’s probably in your head”.
Since I just had a hunch, I then got the bike checked at a motorcycle garage. Turned out, the bearing of my rear wheel was completely done. Trust your gut, ladies and gents. If you think something is wrong, it might as well be true.
This lesson is the one I hate the most. Because there is some truth to it, but it’s also a statement that’s not ‘complete’, if you ask me. I’ll get to that later.
But first; choose a motorcycle that fits your skill level. What does that mean? That means that certain bikes will allow you to learn faster while riding than others. Some got a steep learning curve, others a flat one.
Think of lightweight, smaller naked bikes. The Honda Hornet, the Yamaha MT-07, the Kawasaki Z650 and the Ducati Monster 600. They are all very friendly to ride. They are easy to steer around a corner, they are easy to stop and not that big. So even if you are a smaller rider, you will be able to handle them well. So they got a flat learning curve.
Then picture riding overpowered sport bikes, heavyweight cruisers or huge all road motorcycles. These are the motorcycles that – in general – got a steep learning curve when you are a beginner motorcyclist. They are a bit more difficult to handle, to stop and chuck into a corner.
Does that mean you have to choose a motorcycle with a flat learning curve as your very first motorcycle? Most will say yes. I say no.
Will it be easier to choose a lightweight, not so overpowered motorcycle as a beginner motorcyclist? Yes. Will it enhance the experience of your first ridden kilometers? Probably. And it might even be a bit safer, since you can focus on riding instead of having your hands full just to be able to control your motorcycle.
But some of us are not made for ‘the easy road’. Do you always find yourself doing it the hard way? The way that provides all sort of ‘speed bumps’, struggles and huge mountains along that way? Then we can shake hands. And that’s why you should ride that bigger or heavier bike. And go against all odds.
But take one piece of advice from me, as someone who did the same;
That doesn’t mean you have to ride your not so average beginner bike as a granny. But don’t push it. Motorcycles that have a steeper learning curve often got more power, torque and/or weight than the ones with a flat learning curve. Respect that. And use it wisely.
Don’t be that maniac who thinks he or she can use all that power, torque and/or weight to his or her advantage. Because you can’t. Use a bit of it, and slowly build up that amount.
There is definitely no shame in starting smal and working your way up. And for most beginner motorcyclists, it is definitely the way to go. But don’t feel obliged to do so.
You’ve probably heard your instructor say this already, as a beginner motorcyclist. “It is not about speed”. As annoying as it is, it is true.
Especially when you are new to riding motorcycles, speed only makes situations more difficult to handle. Because you have to react quicker. Make your decisions quicker. And carry them out at a faster speed. Which all just complicates things.
As a beginner motorcyclist, I ended up in plenty of situations in which I wished I went a bit slower. Just to be able to handle things better. Most of the time, it all went ‘well’, saying it didn’t result in me crashing or taking someone else down. But it was far from pretty.
Do you really have a need for speed? I can relate to that, very well. But don’t seek to fulfill that need on the streets. Just book a track day. You can go as fast as you want, without worrying about speeding tickets, loosing your license or cars T-boning you.
As a beginner motorcyclist, you will encounter plenty of difficult situations, experiences and lessons. Take these 6 lessons learned from me as a beginner motorcyclist. And do with it whatever you want. You can ignore them and learn them all by yourself. Or take whatever advice you can use and apply it to yourself as a beginner motorcyclist.