I can still feel my shaking hands when I recall learning how to ride a motorcycle. I was feeling nervous on a 50cc bike…
The nervous was gone suddenly and come with exciting gradually as I started to drive it on the road. What an adventure! Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul!
Some people are great at learning skills. I have to admit that I’m not one of those people as I did a lot of homework to learn how to ride a motorcycle as a beginner.
If you are reading this post, chances are you want to dive into the world of riding a motorcycle as I did in the past. Riding is fun and it’s not as difficult as people think as long as you do your homework!
Let’s go ahead.
Before You Get Started
Keep in mind that riding is a very dangerous activity.
- To get your balance first. The best way to achieve this is by riding a bicycle.
- To take a motorcycle safety course if possible as it gives you the best instruction to learn proper riding techniques and safety. A basic rider course is good enough for you and they may provide you with a motorcycle to use if you don’t have one.
- To go over some mind-training (basics of motorcycle operation and safety) in your head first, like you’re reading at this post.
If you don’t want to pay for those training courses yet or no course available in your area.
- Just get some help from a motorcyclist friend or a coach, ask them a favor as being a supervisor during your practice.
- And you have to borrow a motorcycle (rent one or buy one)
- Not underestimate the risks of riding.
- Locate an empty parking lot before getting started to practice on a motorcycle.
- Never ever get on public roads unless you had taken care of any licensing and insurance.
Step 1 – Prepare Your Motorcycle Safety Gear
For avoiding any motorcycle accident (even you’re practicing at an empty place), make sure you’re protected by wearing as much safety gear as possible.
Meanwhile, you should pay attention to shop the right gear that fits you well, below are 5 essential gears before you get on a motorcycle:
Your motorcycle helmet is going to be the most important equipment to prevent your head from injury when motorcycle goes down.
It has to:
- Meet established safety standards, like DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) or ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) standard).
- Maintaining enough field of vision.
- Fit well & you feel comfortable.
To find the right size:
- We do recommend getting a professional fitting at a store that specializes in motorcycle equipment as different helmets fit different head shapes.
- Alternatively, you can buy one online, please do consult the sizing table as each brand differs in their sizing.
To test the right fit:
- Try on the helmet, make sure it puts your eye-port just above your eyebrows with a very tight fit of your finger between your head and the helmet.
- If your helmet is the right size but uncomfortable in the fit, please do consider a different one like full-face or modular helmets.
The regular leather jacket isn’t built to protect you, please make sure it’s motorcycle-specific as it plays the same role as the helmet to protect your torso & internal organs in an accident.
It has to:
- Meet established safety standards, like DOT or ECE standard.
- Be made of specialized man-made fabrics like Cordura or Kevlar
- Fit well which is snug through the torso with free motion in your arms.
Don’t forget your leg is side by side to the engine. Pants could provide protection to your hips and legs.
A better pant should be made of the same materials as your jacket as it’s also designed to take on the destructive forces of an accident.
Proper motorcycle boots provide protection to your feet and ankles, it ensures you greater safety and comfort while riding.
- Choose one which could cover your ankles and have non-slip soles with an integrated metal toe.
- Test: Use the grab the toe and heel and twist test to see how your boot could perform in a crash.
- Feel: the less easily it twists, the more protection it provides you.
Gloves provide protection to your hands. The purpose of it is to reduce injury from being hit by insects and flying debris, as well as keep your fingers warm.
- Get ones that allow for maximum dexterity.
- Look for ones with a retention strap around the wrist. This strap is designed to keep the gloves on your hands in a crash.
- Kevlar gloves will keep your fingers mobile while being strong and absorbing.
Once you’re dressed like Ironman (just kidding), you’re ready to get on the bike!
Step 2 – Inspect Your Motorcycle
Make sure to give your motorcycle a thorough inspection before practice hitting the road. Such as the T-CLOCS Inspection Checklist by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
- T: Tires and wheels
- C: Controls, including levers, pedal, cables, hoses, and throttle
- L: Lights, including battery, headlights, turn signals, mirrors, etc.
- O: Oil fluid levels
- C: Chassis, including the frame, suspension, chain, etc.
- S: Stands, including the center, stand and/or kickstand
Step 3 – Get On The Motorcycle
Once you’ve dressed in the right-fit safety gear and finished the motorcycle inspection.
You’re good to go now!
Let’s start to properly get on your motorcycle:
- → Stand on the left side of the bike
- → Grab its left handlebar with your left hand
- → Bent your knee
- → Swing your right leg over the seat
- → Reach over to grab the right handle with your right hand
- → Put your feet firmly on the ground
- → Shift your weight onto your right leg
- → Kick the left side kickstand off the ground
Get A Feel On The Bike:
- → Sit down to get a feel for how you fit on it
- → Grip the handlebars, clutch lever, and brake lever (To Make sure you can reach these controls comfortably)
- → Your arms should have a slight bend in the elbow when gripping the handlebars (Switches should be within easy reach of your fingers)
- → Make sure you can easily plant your feet on the ground
- → Get a feel for the weight of the bike underneath you
- → Note: remember to adjust the motorcycle mirrors as you’ll rely on them quite a bit while riding, besides note the footpeg position
Step 4 – Get Familiar With The Motorcycle Controls
Well done! You’re on the motorcycle now, this is the best way to get to know how a bike operates and go over the functions of the controls.
Don’t be afraid as it’s not starting up yet, nothing would happen to you. Please pay attention to learn the below controls as your safety will be really replied on them!
Let’s learn from left to the right side of the motorcycle, we’ve split them into 2 parts.
KEEP IN MIND: As a rule, the left side of your motorcycle controls gears, while the right side controls acceleration and braking.
Part 1: Left-hand side: Clutch & Shift
The clutch is the lever just ahead of the left handlebar. Its function like a clutch pedal in a manual transmission car to disengage the power from the rear wheel when shifting gears.
When you gradually pull the clutch lever toward the handlebar, it means you’re slowly releasing the engine from the transmission. This action puts your bike in neutral status, thus allowing you to shift gears.
- Disengaged the engine: Fully squeeze the clutch lever to cut off power to the rear wheel even if the shifter is in a gear.
- Engaged the engine: Slowly let go of the clutch lever, you’re engaging the engine and transmission to power the rear wheel to move forward.
- → Fastly pull the clutch tightly towards the handlebar
- → Last the clutch still for a few seconds to allow you doing the shifting by the left foot (we’ll talk about shift later)
- → Once this shifting completed
- → Fastly release the clutch
- → Gradually and smoothly pull and release the clutch with your left whole hand.
- → Similar to driving a manual car, when shifting between lower gears, you should release the clutch slowly.
The shift is in front of the left side footpeg and is used to shift one gear up or down while you’re pulling the clutch lever.
The shift is executed by moving a lever up or down with the left foot, a typical shift pattern works like 1st gear, neutral, 2nd gear, 3rd gear, and so on. When shifting gears you’re able to see the appropriate number light up on your gauge.
- Press down firmly for downshift (1 down)
- Press up firmly for upshift (5 up)
Make it a habit of using the clutch every time you shift. First quickly pulling the clutch tightly towards your handlebar, then using your left foot to shift down or up to find your motorcycle’s neutral. Do takes some time getting used to and practicing by clicking the shifter back and forth, meanwhile to look for a green “N” to light upon the gauges.
As these controls are on the same left side, using your left-hand big thumb to play them:
- Turn signal switch is for you to indicate turning or changing lanes. Press to the left for left turn signal on, right for right turn signal on and press it inwards will cancel it.
- Light beam switch: up for high beam light, down for low beam light.
- Horn button: bi bi bi.
Part 2: Right-hand side: Throttle & Brakes
The motorcycle throttle is located on the right handlebar – under the grip, it acts just like the gas pedal in a car to control the engine speed.
NOTE: A little twist will make the bike goes a long way, as a motorcycle beginner, you should always twist the throttle slowly to get familiar with the power because improper speed up can lead to a crash as the front wheel will leave the pavement.
Now let’s have a play with the throttle:
- Roll-on the throttle: gradually and smoothly twisting the grip toward you, the engine speed will rise and the bike speed will go up.
- Roll-off the throttle: gradually and smoothly releasing it back to position, the engine speed will fall and the bike speed will slow down.
Therefore you know where the motorcycle throttle is and how to control it. Let’s move on as your right hand also controls one more crucial function: braking – the front brakes.
Motorcycles have separate front and rear brakes.
Front Wheel Brake (right-hand lever)
The front brake lever is located in front of the throttle, it is used to activate the front brake to stop the motorcycle front wheel moving forward.
NOTE: Much like on a bicycle, do not suddenly and tightly grab the front brake lever, if you grab it too hard, the front brakes can lock up and causing the bike to skid and even crash.
Smoothness is crucial here, a correct way to use the front brake lever is to squeeze it slowly and gradually increase the force.
Rear Wheel Brake (right foot)
The rear brake lever is near the right foot position, right in front of the right side footpeg. Use your right foot to press on the lever to use the rear brake to stop the motorcycle rear wheel moving forward.
Here comes a question: which brake should you use the best?
Safety experts indicate that in most circumstances, the most effective way to stop a motorcycle is to apply the rear brake first to slow a little bit of the speed, then to use the front brake.
- Starter button is used to start the motorcycle and usually located under the kill switch.
- Kill switch is used to shut off the engine and is the red switch located on the right hand side of the handlebar.
- Note: Instead of using the key to turn off the bike, make it a good habit of using the kill switch. This is a faster and more effective way to kill the power especially when you’re in an emergency situation.
Step 5 – Start To Ride The Motorcycle
It is time for you to start the bike and apply the above theory into practice. Let’s actually learn how to ride a motorcycle now, one step at a time to build muscle memory to picture them all together.
Please make sure you are now familiar with the motorcycle controls and know how they operate. If not, just go over them again for several times, or watch below video for better understanding.
Follow the following steps to start riding your motorcycle:
1. Make sure the motorcycle kickstand is in the UP status. As most modern motorcycles automatically shut off if it is still down when you put the bike into gear.
2. Make sure the kill switch is in ON status. As your bike won’t start unless it’s in the “On” position, if it’s in off status, simply flip it down now.
3. Turn the key to the “Ignition” position, which is typical to the ON position toward the right. You should see the dash lights up now.
4. Look for the green “N” lights up in the dash to set the bike in neutral. By doing so, the easiest way to do this is to use the left hand to pull the clutch lever, use left foot downshift to 1st gear then shift slightly up. Repeat this process several times until you figure it out.
5. Press the “Start” button with your right thumb. Press the starter button for a few seconds, release it as soon as you hear the engine sound. That means the bike is started now.
6. Warm up your motorcycle for at least 45 seconds. This is to make sure the engine will work properly and provide smooth & consistent power as you begin your ride.
7. Now using only the clutch to walk the bike forward. This practice is to help you get familiar with the clutch operation. While “power walking” the bike, you should pay attention to keep the bike steady with your feet.
You may stall the bike during this practice and it’s very common as a beginner. No need to panic, just restart the bike and keep practicing.
OK, let’s do it now:
- First, pull the clutch lever in.
- Then, use left foot to shift down to the first gear.
- Next, slowly release the clutch lever.
- Keep the clutch still in position when the bike starts to pull itself forward.
- Well done you’re walking the motorcycle now!
Repeat this until you can keep the bike upright when you pull your feet off the ground. You want to get a good sense of balance on your bike.
8. Next using both of the clutch & throttle to drive. In the practice of step 7, while you’re releasing the clutch, the bike could be stalling. This time, you could twist the throttle slightly to prevent it.
Now your bike should start moving smoothly then you can release the clutch completely and twist slightly again the throttle to keep going.
Once the bike exceeds the walking speed, you should put your feet on the footpegs. At the same time keep still roll on the throttle and try the straight-line riding.
Step 6 – Stop The Motorcycle
While you’re moving faster and the end of the road is coming, it’s time to stop the bike especially if you haven’t practiced turning the motorcycle yet.
Follow the following steps to stop your motorcycle:
- First, slow down the bike by rolling off the throttle.
- Then, pull the clutch lever to disengage the engine, keep hold it.
- Next, press gradually the rear brake lever and squeeze the front brake lever simultaneously.
- Your bike should almost stop now, use your left foot touches the ground first in case you still need to use rear brake if needed. When you are stopped, put your right foot on the ground.
- Take a break now if needed.
That’s it, now you’re able to not only ride on the bike but also stop it whenever you like.
Step 7 – Practice Steering The Motorcycle
Like we’ve mentioned above, you won’t be able to ride in a straight line, you’ll need to know how to steer your motorcycle. Actually turning is easier to do than to describe, just trust your instincts when you’re on a bike.
It’s much like a bicycle turning, to complete your turn properly, press the handlebar in the direction you want to go toward the left or right side of the bike, keep your head up and look through the turn.
For example, if you want to turn right:
- Before you start your turn to right, slow down first by releasing the throttle and applying the brakes if needed.
- As you enter your turn, lean slightly to the right while pushing the right handgrip toward you. Don’t apply the brakes during your turn in case of crash…
- Turn your head to look to the end of the turn, keep your eyes on it and your bike will follow your eyes.
- Meanwhile, slowly roll on the throttle as you come out of the turn to keep momentum, add a bit more gas while you lean back up.
- Let the bike right itself, don’t jerk the handlebars.
Step 8 – Practice Shifting The Motorcycle Gears
You’re about to graduate after this section, let’s move on!
During the above practice of riding, steering and turning the motorcycle, we’re all play in the first gear of the motorcycle as 1st gear is usually used for starting the bike and slow-speed maneuvering.
At the time you twist the throttle for faster speed, I bet you must have heard the loud noise coming from the engine and feel it start revving at higher rpms. It typically means that you need to upshift gears now for high speed purpose.
It will take some practice to be able to feel and hear when it’s time to shift. Let’s practice unshifting gears now, make sure you’re able to start riding in a straight line:
- First, roll off the throttle.
- Then, pull the clutch lever in.
- Next, use your left foot to firmly press the shifter lever up. You should feel that the gear is clicked in.
- Now slowly release the clutch and roll on the throttle simultaneously to finish the upshift.
- Repeat this process to shift through higher gears.
To downshift, the steps are similar.
- Release the throttle
- Squeezing the brake lever slightly.
- Pull your clutch in.
- Press down on your shifter.
- Let out your clutch.
After you get a feeling of shifting, you can simply decide when to shift by yourselves but do not downshift to first gear unless you’re coming to a complete stop.
Meanwhile, try to get a feel for the “friction zone”. The friction zone is the area of resistance created as the clutch becomes engaged. This area allows for the transfer of power from the engine to the rear wheel.
Eventually, now that you’ve practiced starting, stopping, turning and shifting your bike. It is going to be one of your most incredible experiences, isn’t it?
Although the first few days of learning to ride a motorcycle could possibly be the most dangerous time in your life.
- Remember to start slowly as learning how to ride a motorcycle with skill takes time and practice.
- Remember to follow the proper steps as it’ll make your riding more graceful and effortless.
Keep practicing and enjoy this learning process, it’s amazing and you’re good to get your motorcycle license pretty soon.
See you on the road!