How Do I Teach Myself to Learn to Ride a Motorcycle?
Learning to ride a motorcycle by oneself may be a little intimidating. However, it is natural to feel a little anxious the first time. Once you get the hang of things, learning to ride a motorcycle can be a fun process.
Now, let’s get started.
Before you set astride a motorcycle, you need to make sure you have the proper safety gear since there is a higher chance of you falling from the motorcycle and hurting yourself when you are learning. It is important that you minimize the risk of injury to yourself by wearing helmets, gloves, and sturdy boots that cover your ankles.
If you do not know what type of riding you will be doing once you get your motorcycle license, you should buy some basic safety gear like abrasion and wind-resistant textile or other armored gear that can provide you protection from harsh elements and the chances of injury.
Motorcycle for Beginners
For people who are inexperienced at riding a motorcycle, smaller, lighter models of motorcycles with lower cc are more forgiving and suitable for you. At this point, the make and model of your bike do not matter much. However, the weight and power ratio of the motorcycle will determine how light and easy it is to handle. Hence, motorcycles within the range of 250 and 650 cc are good options for learners.
Once you get the hang of things, you can then move on to bigger and more powerful bikes.
The Right Feel
It is also important to see how the motorcycle feels when you sit on it. When you swing your legs over the saddle, can you comfortably put your feet down comfortably? Do you have any problem balancing the motorcycle? Can you get on and off the motorcycle easily? Is the position you are sitting in comfortable?
Typically, street and dirt bikes provide you with an upright and comfortable position, while sport bikes will require you to lean forward. You should also try to move it forward and backward and wheel it around a little. Make sure that it is easy to handle both on and off the saddle.
Learning the basics of riding on a motorcycle is all about balance. Once you have perfected the skill of riding a lighter and easy bike, you can move on to heavier ones.
Learning to Brake
Before you jump astride your motorcycle and go roaring, you need to learn how to brake. The pedal on the right side of the motorcycle is the rear brake and the level on your left handlebar is the front brake. To slow down or come to a stop, you need to learn to gently tap on the rear brake and pull on the front brake with steady pressure. Never stomp or grab the brake suddenly as it can cause your wheels to get locked and throw you off balance and off the motorcycle.
Keep practicing how to brake when your motorcycle is standing still. Gently roll forward and tap the rear brake to practice. Repeat the same with the front brake and try to feel exactly where the brakes engage but not grab your wheel discs abruptly.
Clutch and Throttle
Once you have mastered the art of braking, you now can start your motorcycle and learn to control it when it is actually moving. Most beginners get quite nervous when it is time for them to shift gears, but learning how to shift is not that difficult. Motorcycles have five gears: the first gear is down, then you shift up for the neutral, second, third, fourth, and fifth gears.
In order to engage the gears, you will need to pull the clutch lever in. To move your bike, do exactly as you do in a car: pull the clutch lever in fully, shift to the first gear, and then gently roll the throttle as you slowly release the clutch.
Once the motorcycle starts to move, gently loosen your hold on the clutch and let the throttle roll out a bit. Once the bike reaches a higher RPM, pull the clutch lever in fully, stop rolling the throttle, and engage the second gear. To slow down your bike, shift down until you are in the first gear and once you have stopped, shift to neutral.
Making a Turn
Mastering the controls is the most important lesson when teaching yourself how to ride a motorcycle. Riding a bike in a straight line is one thing, but turning corners and U-turns are a whole another. To ensure you don’t lose your balance when turning corners, do not just use your handlebars to turn. As you go around, the bike will lean a little and you will need to learn to lean with it.
Don’t fight the flow of the bike but learn to go with it. Always keep your throttle steady and keep an eye on where you are going. If you keep focusing on the front tires, you may lose your balance or your bike will stall. Looking through the corner can keep you steady and steer the bike in the direction you want it to go.
Getting Learner’s Permit and License and Insurance
Before you can start riding your bicycle on a public road, you need to get your learner’s permit. Depending on your age and your location, you will be able to apply for a motorcycle license or endorsement. These are all required by law to ride a motorcycle on a public road so make sure you have these before you can start practicing.
Practice, Practice, Practice
When learning to drive a motorcycle or any other vehicle for that matter, it is not enough to learn the theory — you need to put some effort into it too and practice as much as you can.
The best way to practice is to look for empty parking lots, grounds, and roads and drive slowly so that you can get used to your motorcycle. Ride quietly and slowly and learn how to navigate traffic before you can hit the road. Some riders will take out their motorcycles late at night between 2 am and 5 am since this is the time when the roads and parking lots are mostly empty.
The more you practice, the more you will develop the feel for your bike and will gain confidence in all sorts of road conditions. Getting yourself into risky or embarrassing situations on highways and interstates can erode your road confidence so it is best to take it slow and hone your skills.
Reviewing Training Material
You should cultivate a mindset of continuous training and should never stop reading and watching learning material. You can find many excellent books that deal with the intricacies of riding a bike. In addition, you can also use free resources like the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) Basic RiderCourse, as well as online videos and films that can teach you how to ride better.
You can find a lot of information regarding how to ride a bicycle the right way online.
Taking Motorcycle Training Classes
Even if you have learned how to ride a motorcycle by yourself, you should consider taking an MSF course. This can help you further expand your motorcycle knowledge and instill good practices and riding habits in you.
MSF courses are excellent resources that even some experienced riders take occasionally. You can also benefit from MSF courses that teach you advanced riding techniques. Not only will you have the necessary knowledge and skills to ride a motorcycle, but you will also be riding in a safe and controlled environment. This will help you learn safe driving techniques and develop the right frame of mind for riding a motorcycle on the road.
In addition, a motorcycle course is also recommended if you plan to ride in more complex and difficult surroundings, which require more technical riding than what you are capable of.
How Long Does it Take to Learn to Ride a Motorcycle?
The answer to this question varies from person to person. Everyone has a different pace of learning. Some people may learn to ride a motorcycle in a day while others may take several months. How long it takes to learn depends on the rider themselves, their skills, frequency of practice, level of interest, and personal approach towards motorcycle riding.
It is important not to rush it and expect yourself to become a pro at riding a bicycle in a couple of weeks. Motorcycle riding requires excellent balance, intricate controls, and riding techniques that take a lot of time to master. It requires learning different things like:
- Basic controls and balance
- Safety handling and steering both on and off the bike and at various speeds
- Clutch control and push steering
- The right way to throttle and accelerate
- Front and rear braking
- Turning, swerving, and emergency stop
- Situational awareness
- Regular care, maintenance, and inspection of the motorcycle
An MSF course can help you learn the right way and can also accelerate your learning greatly. Remember that just because you have gotten a motorcycle license does not mean that you are now a pro at riding a motorcycle. Even when you pass the test, you will still find real-life riding experience that will test your skills, including traffic, weather conditions, and rocky roads. In fact, even motorcycle riders who have over 30 or 40 years of experience biking will tell you that they are still learning.
Hence, it is important that you always stay alert when riding a bike and ride defensively. With lots of knowledge and practice, you will gradually develop in skill and confidence.
Does Learning to Ride a Motorcycle Yourself Means You Are At a Higher Risk of Accidents?
No, self-teaching how to ride a motorcycle does not mean you are more likely to get into accidents. According to stats, riders who have taken motorcycle training courses have a lower risk of getting into accidents. However, the stats do not show much difference when you compare it with riders who have taught themselves how to ride a bike.
According to the US Department of Transportation stats, out of the surveyed motorcycle crashes:
- 6% taught themselves how to ride a motorcycle
- 6% were taught by family and friends
- 8% had taken an experienced rider course
- 24% had not passed any motorcycle training
- 50% had taken state-recognized entry-level motorcycle riding courses
As the stats show, just being self-taught does not mean you are at a higher risk of motorcycle crashes.
Should You Teach Yourself How to Ride a Motorcycle?
Learning how to ride a motorcycle on your own may not be necessarily hard, but it is also not easier than taking a motorcycle riding and safety course.
Keep in mind, however, that just because someone has taken a test or passed courses does not mean they will become a good motorcycle rider. In the same way, just because someone has taught themselves to ride a motorcycle does not mean they will turn out to be bad riders.
There are plenty of excellent riders that have learned everything all by themselves. In fact, there are many people who cannot drive a car or ride a bicycle but can ride a motorcycle. However, the drawback of learning how to ride on your own is that you may not be able to differentiate between good and bad riding forms and practices. This can be very dangerous and hard to unlearn if they have been embedded over time. In addition, you won’t be able to ask questions and get feedback from your mentor in real-time.
Even though it may be easier to understand the theory of riding a bike if you know how to drive a car, there are several differences in riding a motorcycle, including how you have to bring your whole body into play when doing the latter. A rider who has not taken any courses may not be aware of them or overlook them, which can compromise their ability to ride a motorcycle safely.
In short, you can definitely learn to ride a motorcycle on your own and well at that. However, to be on the safe side, we recommend that you also get an experienced teacher or take a motorcycle riding course that can help ingrain the right motorcycle habits into you.
About THE AUTHOR
Russ currently owns a Yamaha FZ6N and KTM RC 390. When it comes to vintage bikes, his favorite motorcycle is the feisty BMW R32. He also holds a particular interest in the LAMS segment and triple cylinders. Himself a riding enthusiast, Russ has had experience with racetracks from around the world including Willow Springs Raceway in California and the Imola Circuit in Italy.Read More About Russ Crowley