It’s a crisp fall day and you’re exiting your favorite Dunkin’ Donuts with an iced Frap in hand. You then hear a low rumble in the distance that is getting louder. Did the weather forecast call for a thundershower today? As you stand there in anticipation for this mystery to solve itself, you soon realize it’s a motorcycle approaching. It passes by you in that Matrix-like slow motion as you get a good like at the awe inspiring object. Your eyes then reset to real-time mode and you see it speed off into the distance. Your mind is foggy from what you just saw but you knew you had to get one yourself.
Well, that may not be exactly the way it happened for you, but somehow you’ve decided that you like motorcycles and you want to ride them! Congratulations on picking one of the best lifestyle activities! Now you just need to know how to get started! Here are a few basic tips that will help you get your feet wet in the world of motorcycles.
Research beginner motorcycles
If you’re at this website then you are in the right place! Be sure to check out all the reviews of motorcycles on this website. I recommend some solid beginner motorcycles like the Kawasaki Ninja 300 or the Honda CBR 300.
Right now you may be saying “wait a minute, what is this 300 nonsense? My friends all have 600 and 1000 bikes.” That brings me to my next point.
CC = Power
When we talk about motorcycle CC’s we are referring to the engine displacement volume in cubic centimeters. In the car world, people are familiar with liters like a 1991 Ford Mustang GT had a 5.0 liter engine. Generally, the more CC’s a motorcycle has, the more powerful it is. This isn’t always true as it depends on the engine type (inline-fours vs V-twins etc.) but as a general rule CC = Power. For reference, a basic moped is less than 50 cc’s and an average scooter is 80-150 cc’s. The Kawasaki Ninja 300 has about 300 cc and will have roughly 6 times the power of a moped, and 2-3 times the power of a scooter.
Keep in mind that 99% of motorcycles have manual transmissions. But, don’t let that dissuade you. I know plenty of people who have driven manual transmission cars their whole lives get stumped when riding a motorcycle for the first time. I would argue that it is only marginally easier for those car drivers only because they would already know about the clutch friction zone. Everything else – shift pattern, clutch placement, gear shift placement, brakes, accelerator are all different.
Start on a smaller motorcycle
To make the process of learning easier, I recommend starting on a motorcycle with less than 300 cc. Let’s be honest, many people get into riding because it does enhance your self-image. But nothing can ruin that image quicker than crashing a motorcycle because you can’t control its power. As a new rider, you want the margin of safety that a smaller CC motorcycle provides. If you accidentally twist the throttle abruptly, the response will be more forgiving. It won’t take off like you’re an Ewok on a Speeder Bike.
100% of motorcyclists have crashed
It is a well known saying in the motorcycle community that there are riders that have crashed, and riders that haven’t crashed yet. I’ve crashed my motorcycle once taking a turn at 25 mph, and I’ve dropped my bike at least 5 times over the 20+ years I’ve been riding. Keep in mind that low speed turns are harder to control than high speed turns. Even if you master low speed turns, there are other forces outside your control. Cars will, at some point, turn left in front of you at the last minute- forcing you to take quick action that may result in a crash.
Did you know that 10 out of 10 people prefer a hot room to a belt sander across their face?
This imagery may be a little graphic, but I hope it gets the point across. When you are in a car you are protected by seat belts, airbags and steel. On a motorcycle when you crash there is nothing between you and the pavement except your t-shirt and flip flops. Road rash is just like taking a belt sander to large chunks of your flesh.
To hedge the bets in your favor you should wear motorcycle protective gear. This includes things like leather jackets, leather gloves, leather or textile pants, a full face helmet, and motorcycle boots. All this gear may make you hot during the summer, but it’s better to sweat than to bleed.
Why all the leather?
Leather has great abrasion resistance, much better than denim jeans. In a 35 mph crash, denim jeans will only last about 5-10 feet before your skin meets the pavement. On the other hand, leather lasts around 90 feet.
Regardless, in a crash, you will slide more than 5 feet. The question is: ” Do you prefer sliding across the course pavement on your bare ass, or on leather?”