The first few hundred miles any new rider puts down are laced with trepidation and anticipation as they discover another world of experiences and adventure. As with any pastime, there's a learning curve, so the staff of Clutch and Chrome have brought together the most common mistakes made by our newest members of the biker brotherhood.
There really are no other activities that compares with riding. Nothing captures that feeling of being in complete control of a two-wheeled monster as you race down a highway or back way with nothing between the rider, the road or the wind, any mistakes can be embarrassing at best and for the most part easily avoidable.
1. Giving into peer pressure
We know it's a simplistic approach to advise new bikers to simply do the right thing, or at the very least what seems comfortable for them. Whether its as important as helmets and protective gear, or as trivial as what kind of clothes to wear, new bikers can quickly lose the freedom and individuality riding is supposed to be all about. Riding is an uniquely individual pastime; and oddly enough, more enjoyable in large groups. It's also a hobby that grows confidence the more its enjoyed, giving riders the opportunity to find their own road eventually.
2. Riding beyond their limits
This new biker blunder is usually rooted in riding too fast to safely control their motorcycle. The thrill of speed can quickly outpace learning skill sets needed in unexpected situations or emergencies. Whether done by choice or encouraged through peer pressure, this mistake can be avoided with a constant gut-check and honest assessment of current skill levels. Consistently doing both of these can help the new biker around long enough to become a seasoned one.
3. Not reading the road
No one has ever said riding is easy and there's certainly so much more to it than simply knowing how to operate a motorcycle. No other vehicle is more affected by its surrounding environment than our two-wheeled friend.
Between man-made debris and natures roadside traps, a rider can quickly get themselves into a lot of trouble in the blink of an eye. Gravel makes the bike lose much needed traction on corners and steel plates (commonly used in road repair) can feel like riding on ice.
Although each situation has its own specific handling answer, the general rules are;
Steady, controlled throttle control while the bike is negotiating the problem surface.
A firm but relaxed grip of the handlebars.
4. Not following maintenance schedules
In some ways motorcycles can be more robust than a car, but for the most part things wear out quicker requiring more attention and consequently have a shorter maintenance cycle. And yes you can ignore the pun. For instance, tires and brakes need to be changed more frequently on a motorcycle than on a car. Since there are only two of each compared to the four found on a car care and consideration should be given ensuring they're serviced sooner than later. Also it's easy to miss important oil changes needed more for the time the oil has been in the bike rather than the miles you've traveled.
5. Running out of gas
Maybe it's the newfound exhilaration of riding or simply not having the gas gauge in plain view. Either way being stuck on the side of the road with a dead motorcycle seems to be a embarrassing story shared among the newer riders. It's understood motorcycles get great mileage, but an average tank only holds four to six gallons of gasoline. For some reason it seems that last quarter of a tank mysteriously goes much quicker, leaving the unaware biker riding on fumes. Some experienced bikers refer to the gas gauge as an 'idiot gauge', "Because you'd have to be an idiot to rely on it!" The perfect solution is to never let your tank fall below the quarter tank mark.
This is similar to running out of gas, but for the body rather the motorcycle.
We're the first to admit that riding a motorcycle at legal speeds isn't as exhausting as say, riding a bicycle. Come to think of it, this could be why your average biker doesn't look like Lance Armstrong. Sure, there are other reasons, but we digress. Riding may not be as physically demanding as an active sport but between being in the sun for the duration of the ride, sweating under protective gear and the wind whipping past, a rider can get dehydrated before they know it. This can cause fatigue, headaches and the general lack of focus, none of which are good for riding a motorcycle. What's worse than the bikers who don't realize they're losing liquids are the ones that avoid drinking too much as not to interrupt the ride with bathroom stops. Firstly, the liquids replacing those lost by the body and are quickly absorbed. Depending on what's being drunk, being correctly hydrated shouldn't mean more pee pee breaks. Secondly, breaks are good, helping you refocus as well chat with the rest of your group.
Most experts agree that drinking one bottle of water for every two hours of riding time is a healthy ratio, drinking more if thirsty or while travelling through hotter climates.
7. Riding into exhaustion
Getting a motorcycle is an exciting time usually with months of anticipation leading up to a sleepless night before you pick it up the next day. It's understandable that the new rider wants to squeeze in as many miles in a day as is humanly possible. Unfortunately this enthusiasm will lead to both physical as well as mental fatigue, opening up the rider to mistakes which could be deadly. Also this optimistic approach to how far can be ridden in a day can leave a new biker miles from, feeling tired and not only a little nervous, but also dreading the ride back.
You can still enjoy your new toy and ride in moderation. Be conservative will the miles ridden and instead spend extra time washing down the bike when you home. Okay, there's more schoolboy admiration going on instead of washing, but you'll still have the opportunity to know your bike better and certainly more intimately.
8. Misjudging corners
Probably the number one reason for a majority of early riding accidents. This category would include riding wide, going into the curve too quickly or at too high of a gear. Out of all the motorcycle fatality statistics, single vehicle accidents are growing the quickest. For those that can't quite understand 'stat-speak' single vehicle terminology infers there were no other vehicles involved, meaning the rider drove off the road or hit an immobile object.
This is caused by not only a lack of riding experience, but also the following common mistake.
9. Not taking a motorcycle safety course
Whether from youthful ignorance or older over confidence, too many riders are taking to the road without professional instructions. Getting beyond fragile ego's and misplaced confidence from experience gained on quieter roads, smaller engines and sharper reaction times, a recognized motorcycle safety course should be an absolute given. Even bikers who consider themselves seasoned riders will acknowledge they either learned something new or polished some rusty skills. With prices ranging from free to a few hundred dollars, it's an inexpensive way to gain life-saving tips. The price is further lessened when potential insurance savings are realized.
10. Finding new things to do on a motorcycle
Frustrated boredom can quickly replace overwhelming enthusiasm after riding the same routes, stopping at familiar bars and hearing the same old biker stories. Every new rider has faced the seemingly endless world without limits closing in on them. Soon other real-life issues or maybe newer interests take over leaving the motorcycle unused and feeling abandoned. Riding can be a demanding mistress and although she gives much, she will expect some effort in return. Only bikers who look for excuses to ride, places to go, and far-fetched reasons to jump in the saddle can keep the passion. Although they may feel as though they've just arrived on the scene, new riders have already come so far it would be a shame to lose what they've gained from simple boredom.
So there you have it, the ten most common mistakes made by the newest members of our always growing riding family. Will a new rider make all the mistakes? Absolutely not. Some riders will burn up the roads without any self-made mishaps. Even if you're not a new rider yourself, reading and making a mental note of the information in this article can help if you ever have the chance to ride with one and help them avoid any of the mistakes.