When you will chose which starter steel horse is the best for you, then you have to learn how to ride that thing safety. Get out with the knees in the breeze in order to decompress and celebrate the end of the work week, but before you head out on the highway with your (first) bike, there are few things that you need to know.
There are more ways to hone and develop your skills than there are reasons to ride, and this says something. To know when to act counter-intuitively, some day will save your life, and well-trained reflexes are sometimes quicker than luck.
To keep your bike shiny-side up, and to keep your eyes on the horizon, there are few sound advice that will help you to learn how to ride.
If you don’t ride both physically and mentally protected, all of the techniques in the world won’t save you and help you. As a first thing, you need to be something more than an alert – we are talking about Spidey-sense levels of awareness. Sensitivity to cyclist and pedestrians who can cut you off just like a car, tar-snakes and some other pavement irregularities that can upset your balance mid-corner, and intersections is surely crucial. Most of the motorcyclist gets in touch with their maker at a crossroads, so be careful when you approach them, and take every advantage of the line positioning to raise your chances of seeing what is coming on the road and to allow others to see that you are coming. You must always know your escape route. First look for it, so you will be ready when you see a driver who is cutting you off or if you see an obstacle. The same rule is when stopped. Leave enough room in front of you in order to get out of dodge when some object in your mirror become larger that it appears.
Unluckily, the odds are that every rider will meet a spill of some sort. Luckily, there is an ever-improving catalogue of gear that will keep you protected when your time comes. A T-shirt or jeans won’t cut it here buddy. We are talking of reinforced jackets and pants, full face helmet, dedicated riding gloves and a pair of actual motorcycle boots. If you think that it is too hot to wear these things, then use the street as a slip and slide to find out what melting feels like. Your only protection when things go wrong is your gear, and it won’t help you if you keep it in your closet at home.
In the last decade, the number of rider fatalities has doubled. The NHTSA – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during a Pilot Study of the causes of motorcycle crashes discovered that in 23 investigated accidents, 11 (almost half) of the riders had less than one year experience with the bike that they were riding, and 7 of them were completely new riders. The most important discover was that only a twelve of the downed riders had some form of rider training. Unlike your previous trials and tribulations behind the wheel like making abrupt directional changes, jumping from gas to brake and jerky gear shifts, riding requires smoothness. Although on-road experience clarify your actions, understanding the basic physics could save your life before that first twist of the wrist.
Like the most things in life, the best place to gain some essential knowledge is in the pages of a book. One of the best books for this is “Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide” from David L. Hough (20$). It is a collection of techniques and intelligence gained from over forty years on bikes. This book covers topics starting from the underlying dynamics of the bike turn-in and ending with why dogs always try to chase you down. Hough in 2009 was called up in the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame, and there he received many other safety awards as recognition for the lives that were saved from his writing.
Now is time to put the theory into practice. If you have signed up for some certified motorcycle training course, that is the best way to spend a weekend and to gain some riding essentials. Most courses can be tackled over a weekend and they offer a great outlet to put your new knowledge to the test and while collection priceless pointers, all within the confines of a parking lot bare of stupid texting and eating in the 4-wheeled vehicles. But your bike is maybe faster and larger than the classroom cruisers, and you have to know how it will respond to the input.
Most of the motorcycles have a power to weight proportion that rivals any super car on the road. If you put that power to the road in a controlled and fluid manner, it will save you and your bike from unnecessary embarrassment and road rash in the worst scenario. While wet clutches are in fact more forgiving that their cable controlled counterparts, they both are built to handle some abuse. So, find an empty parking lot and make an experiment, lightly rolling on and off the throttle just to find the perfect spot on the left lever, establishing your southpaw’s kung fu grip. The main aim here is to always leave the lights in a linear fashion, and to leave the faltering to the cabbies.
Upshifts on the road can be easy and quick and fired off with a precision of a sniper from the start and slowing it down is a completely different story. Some bikes can spoil you with a slipper clutch or some similar technology in order to keep the back wheel during ill-timed downshifts from locking up, but they are not required if you can blipshift with the best from them. Just like in the car, pull in the clutch and then twist the throttle to rev match while you downshift. You will barely notice if you have done it right. But practice this in a safe surrounding before you go on the road.
The same story is with the braking. If you dive on the binders too hard and too fast, you run the risk of locking things up. With 70 percent of the stopping power coming from the front tire, it takes little to overwhelm its contact patch. In a case of emergency, you want to handle initial pressure to the brakes quickly and increase your pool while the forks bottom out. The transfer of your weight will happen naturally, but stay centered so the rear end doesn’t wash out. It sounds more complicated, but in fact isn’t. The threshold braking can save your life, so before you really need it, try it out a few times to get the feel.
When negotiating tight spaces at low speed, to keep the power under control, ride your rear brake and learn how doing so can automatically center the balance of the bike. With this under your belt, you will be balancing the monster at a dead stop in just a second. This will keeps thing easygoing in commuter traffic and also dirt roads and uphill starts will be much easier.
The corner is the spot where things get tricky and very funny. If you come in too quickly, any corrections can make things really messy. If you do it too slow, you will watch your stability wash right out from under you. The key to right cornering is to make a combination of the elements that you have already learned it. Get on the both brakes and gear down in the straight approaching into the turn to achieve a comfortable speed. Then get off the brakes, balance the throttle and push on the other side of the handlebar (left side for left turns and ride side for right turns). Your body should follow the natural lean inducted from the bars, so don’t fight it. When you hit the apex and see the corner exit, roll on the throttle in order to add some speed and the bike will bring itself back. Next time, do that faster. After this practice, park your bike and check the wear marks on the tires. When you lose the chicken strips, start with booking some track days. And don’t forget to wave back.