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Riding 101: What Beginners Need to Know Before Riding

Know Your Bike

You really have to know your bike before you can ride it. Know if it’s designed for off-roading, or only streets. Know if it’s heavy or light. Know if the windshield will protect you in the cold and rain. Know how far it can go with a full tank. Know what kind of gasoline it takes. Know where everything is so you don’t have to rumble around it when you’re moving on the road. You’ll learn even more about your bike once you actually ride it, but take it like a test and study and learn all about it before you go out there. It’s good to be knowledge and be prepared.

According to the DMV’s official website, a good motorcycle rider will need to be familiar with the following features functions:

  • Clutch lever:
    • Engages power to the rear wheel when released.
    • Disengages power to the rear when when pressed.
    • Typically found on the left side of the handlebar.
  • Gearshift lever:
    • Needed to shift up or down one gear at a time.
    • Usually a pedal on the left side in front of the foot rest.
  • Choke:
    • May be needed to start the motorcycle if it hasn't been started for a prolonged period of time.
    • Usually found near the left handlebar grip.
  • High/low beams:
    • Used to shift settings on your headlights.
  • Turn signals:
    • Right and left signals are usually found near the left handlebar grip.
  • Front brake lever:
    • Usually located on the right side of the handlebar.
  • Rear brake:
    • Usually a foot pedal on the right side.
  • Throttle:
    • Similar to the accelerator on a car, and most commonly controlled by using the right handlebar grip.
  • Ignition switch:
    • Often located in the center of the bike below the speedometer.
  • Kill switch:
    • Usually located near the right handlebar grip.
    • May be useful in emergency situations.
  • Kick start:
    • A foot pedal used to start the bike, typically located on the right side. Not all motorcycles feature a kick starter.
  • Horn:
    • Located near one of the handlebar grips, usually on the left side.


Know How to Ride

The first time I rode on a motorcycle, my cousin Charlie took me around the block, and I was petrified. I had no idea that every time he turned – and the ride was so short we only made 3 turns – that the bike leaned into the turn! Know how to ride a bike. If you can, ride on the back of one with an experienced rider first, so you can feel just how it is to have the rubber of the tires pushing off the concrete, and the cold open road wind pushing back the skin on your face.

Make sure you know how to set the position of your bike, so your seat is comfortable, you can reach the pedals, and see out of the mirrors. Then, make sure you know how to start and accelerate the bike. You’re going to want to accelerate the throttle, usually the right handle, while squeezing the clutch lever, usually the left handle, then using your foot on the gear lever, shift up. Release the clutch slowly, and calm down the throttle, then release the gear lever. Not all motorcycles have clutches, so you might not need to use the clutch and gear lever to change gears. Typically, if you need to every 15 or so MPH, you will switch gears. To decelerate, do the same things as accelerating, but more the gear down instead of up. Learn how to properly brake, using the front and back brakes – on the handlebar and pedal. Make sure to decrease speed around any obstacles or turns, like you would a car. When turning, be sure to lean the bike slightly, and when coming out of it roll on the throttle to increase speed and gain balance.

Know Your State Safety Laws

Before you ride, you will need a motorcycle license or permit, motorcycle insurance, and to have your bike registered. You will also need to know if your state permits riding without a motorcycle helmet.

Know Your Route

Make sure you know where you’re going! Check the traffic patterns, weather, and any road obstacles, such as potholes, along the way. Know the time of your expected ride, and let someone close to you know if you’re a beginner, so they can check in and make sure you’re safe. With the RoadCaptain.Com app, you can get route time estimates, obstacle alerts, and weather alerts. I wish that this technology had been around when I first started riding, but I am very grateful to have it now. It can benefit new riders by eliminating some of the elements of surprise.

Know the Closest Repair Shops

In case something happens to your bike, it is important to know where you can buy replacement parts and get repairs. The RoadCaptain.Com apps lets you know where the closest repair and gear shops are, so you can make sure that you’re going to be able to stop at one if you need to. Keep in mind that not just experienced riders with worn-down bikes are susceptible to needing repairs. Regular maintenance is a very important part of riding, and is the best way to keep yourself and your bike riding longer!

Know Who to Ask for Advice

When I first started riding, I knew next to nothing about, but I had an cousin Charlie who was just the coolest – leather jacket wearing, tattoo-covered, straight up bad a** - who rode motorcycles. And I wanted to be just like him at the time. So, I would call him up, shadow him at his cool bike shop, admire his beautiful chopper with the coffin tank, and ask him everything about what he was doing, and what I was supposed to do. He was very patient with me, and loved teaching me more about motorcycles – he even taught me how to ride them and helped me pick out my very first bike.

Always ask other experienced riders for their input and advice when you need it. The biking community is huge, and a big part of that is sharing the love of riding with others. Check out the News Feed in the RoadCaptain.Com App to see what other riders in your area are doing, and engage with them! Then, you can join groups on the app or in real life, and be part of a community of bikers that can pass down their knowledge right to you!

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