Five Things to Remember When Riding a New Bike for the First Time

Feb 11, 2014 View Comments by

Five Things to Remember When Riding a Bike for the First TimeWhether it’s a dirty, 20 year old dual sport you found on Craigslist or a shiny new cruiser on the showroom floor, taking a bike that’s new to you out for the first time can be an intimidating experience. Sure, you know how to ride, but each bike has its own quirks and peculiarities that make riding it just a little bit different from any other. The following are five ways to make this first dance a little less awkward, and perhaps prevent you from looking foolish, or worse.

1.     Look the bike over and locate all pertinent controls. Some bikes have the ignition switch right below the gauges, some have it on the side under the seat, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the position of the turn signals, kill switch, starter button, horn, lights, and the petcock (if the bike has one). Also, look for any signs the bike isn’t road worthy (especially the tires, chain, and brakes).

2.     Get a feel for the motorcycle and its controls. Before you take it for a spin, sit on the bike and work the controls. Squeeze the clutch lever, test the brakes, and make certain you can find neutral. Pick the bike up off the side stand and practice balancing it.

3.     Explore the friction zone. Just like you did when you took the MSF Basic Rider Course (You did take it, didn’t you?), fire up the engine, slip it into first, and spend a minute or so rocking the bike forward and back with the clutch. Getting a good handle on where the clutch starts to engage is one of the most important elements in riding smoothly (and safely).

4.     Make a few laps of the parking lot. Riding around at low speed has a number of advantages, you can get a good sense for how heavy the motorcycle feels, how easy it is to maneuver, and practice braking, all without much risk.

5.     Head out on the road. Once you’re confident on the bike it’s time to go for a real test ride. Be sure to take it easy and focus on riding smoothly. Shift up and down through the gears, test how quickly the bike responds to steering inputs, and try to avoid heavy traffic. Increase your pace only as riding the motorcycle becomes more natural.

Bonus tip: On modern bikes with various ABS and traction control settings, take a few minutes to acclimate yourself to the various modes, and verify which one the bike is in and what it does. It’s not a bad idea to start off riding a new bike with the traction control in the most conservative setting.


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