There’s nothing like hopping on the back of a motorcycle as you hit the open road, but new riders are bound to make some mistakes along the way. Any experienced rider will tell you that traveling on two wheels instead of four takes some getting used to. Avoid these common riding mistakes at all costs to keep your bike – and your head – out of harm’s way.
Treating the Bike Like a Toy
According to 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists were nearly 29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle miles traveled. Why? Because many riders treat the road like a playground.
Wheelies, burnouts, and other stunts are a recipe for disaster unless you have the skills to back it up. You also shouldn’t increase your speed limit just because you’re on the back of a spiffy new bike. Motorcycles are inherently faster than most cars, so the temptation will always be there, but you’re not Batman, so remember to respect the rules of the road at all times.
Avoid weaving in between traffic or cutting through tight spaces when you’re just starting out. Treat your bike like a car until you get more confident behind the wheel.
Not Wearing the Proper Safety Gear
We’ve all seen those photos of macho guys riding on the back of their motorcycles wearing nothing more than a pair of jeans, a ripped shirt, and a bandana. Owning a motorcycle may sound romantic, but it’s best to leave your fantasies at the door.
Start with a full-face riding helmet. Lots of riders make the mistake of wearing skid lids that sit on top of the head, but riding a motorcycle isn’t the same as riding a bike. The full-face shield will protect the most vulnerable parts of your body. It’ll also keep bugs out of your mouth when you’re traveling at 60 MPH. You just wouldn’t be the same without that mug of yours, so cover it up when you’re on the road.
Some riders argue that the overall weight of the helmet can be a hazard. It’s true that an overly dense helmet can cause neck problems, so we suggest going with a lightweight helmet that covers your neck and face.
You’ll also need a riding jacket, gloves, and pants. The protective covering will shield your skin, joints, and muscles from all the wear and tear that comes with driving at fast speeds. All that flying gravel and other debris will do a number on your body in no time, leading to the dreaded “road rash.”
Some riders complain that all this gear can be suffocating when riding in warmer temperatures, but that’s probably because they’re using the wrong gear. The wind should naturally cool you down when you’re moving. Look for vented jackets and gloves that keep the air flowing.
Lack of Driving Skills
They’ll sell anyone a motorcycle these days. Just because you own a bike doesn’t mean you should be driving it. Your local motorcycle safety course should tell you everything you need to know to get started, but these classes range in terms of curriculum. Don’t be afraid to seek out additional assistance if you need extra help. Make sure you feel comfortable driving in a variety of settings before hitting the road alone. Bring along a buddy that can help you navigate traffic when you’re just starting out. Take your turns slow, avoid busy intersections, steep hills, and other potential problem areas.
Practice makes perfect. Over time, your body will develop muscle memory, so coming to a stop will feel like second nature. You’ll be an experienced pro before you know it.
No Backup Plan
Things can always go wrong when you’re a beginner. Whether you’re riding to work, taking a long road trip, or just cruising around for fun, it’s best to plan for the worst.
For example, what are you going to do if you get in an accident? We suggest bringing along a few emergency essentials, including a first aid kit for treating surface wounds and nausea, maps of the area, and a GPS for getting to your destination safely.
You might also need to call for help. Use a Bluetooth communication system to talk hands-free when riding. You don’t have to reach for your phone or fuss with the interface for fast, reliable contact with the outside world. Look for wireless Bluetooth motorcycle speakers that fit onto your bike. You can also use a motorcycle Bluetooth headset to send and receive calls without taking your eyes off the road. The system should also be waterproof for more peace of mind behind the wheel.
Poor Motorcycle Maintenance
With faster speeds and more exposure to the elements, motorcycles need more than their fair share of maintenance. The problem is that many riders lack the skills and expertise they need to work on their bikes themselves. Even simple tasks like changing the oil, changing the coolant, and lubricating the chain can prove difficult to the untrained eye.
Brush up on your knowledge to make sure you stay on top of these chores. Learn how to spot common warning signs that the bike needs repairs, such as low tire tread. Visiting your local mechanic may be expensive, but it’s much cheaper and safer than getting in a wreck.
It’s not easy being the coolest kid in school. Owning a motorcycle comes with a lot of responsibility. From driving tactics to safety gear, riding can feel like more of a sport than transportation. There are so many ways to ride, but you should never sacrifice your health and safety as a result. Keep these riding tips in mind to make the most of your time on the open road.