How to ride a motorcycle

On the Road 2 min read

Motorcycle 101 starts with having the right gear. According to the Insurance Information Institute, motorcycle riding can be fun and rewarding, but it’s also more dangerous than driving a car, so you’ll want safety gear like a helmet, protective clothing, gloves, and boots. While you may be able to buy a motorcycle before you have your motorcycle license, your best bet is to sign up for a safety course.

Motorcycle riding tips

Once you’ve got your safety gear on and a bike lined up, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the motorcycle you’ll be riding. First, try sitting on the bike to get used to the position. Check all the controls and make sure you know what each one does. You don’t want to be figuring things out while the motorcycle is in motion.

Most motorcycles have a manual transmission, so you’ll be shifting gears yourself. This process will be familiar to you if you know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle, but a motorcycle displays the controls differently. On a motorcycle, you operate the clutch using a lever on the left handlebar, and you shift gears with your left foot.

Other important motorcycle basics include:

  • Brakes: The front brake is on the right handlebar, and the rear brake is on the right footrest. If you’re used to bicycling, don’t mix these up.
  • Throttle: Twisting the right-hand controls increases your speed and acceleration.
  • Starter: Most modern bikes have an electronic ignition in the form of a starter button.
  • Kick starter: Older bikes — and some modern ones — may also have a kick start, which allows you to start the engine mechanically. If you’re new to motorcycling, it’s easier to use the electronic start.

Motorcycle safety tips

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the most important aspects of motorcycle safety are:

  • To be properly licensed.
  • To be familiar with your bike.
  • To perform basic checks of the bike’s condition before each ride.
  • To wear adequate safety gear.
  • To follow traffic laws without taking unnecessary risks.
  • To ride sober.

How to start riding a motorcycle

Once you’re licensed, geared up, familiar with your bike, and have customized motorcycle insurance coverages for your protection, it’s finally time to hit the road.

Start the bike

Turn the key in the ignition, hold the clutch lever on the left handlebar, shift into neutral, and press the starter button.

Retract the kickstand

Driving with the kickstand down is dangerous, and many bikes have safety features that shut the bike off if you put it in gear with the stand down. Be sure to retract the kickstand before you get going.

Put the bike in gear

Hold the clutch, shift into first gear, and continue holding the clutch.

Turn the throttle

Just like learning to drive a car, giving the vehicle too much gas is easy until you’ve learned to be delicate. Turn the throttle gently to give a little gas, and gently ease off the clutch until the bike moves.

Switch gears

As you gain speed, you’ll need to switch to higher gears (vice versa as you slow down). Squeeze the clutch, use the foot control to shift to the next gear, and then smoothly release the clutch.

Keep your eyes on the road

It’s essential to know the location and function of all the motorcycle’s controls without looking. That way, you can keep your chin up and look farther down the road to evaluate traffic and anticipate obstacles or other problems.

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