Riding a motorcycle is liberating and romantic at the same time, making it awfully addictive & fully worth the risk. There's nothing quite like the freedom of hitting the open road on a bike.
If you're reading this, you're probably thinking of riding a motorcycle. Congrats and welcome to our world! At the start, riding a motorcycle may sound intimidating, but with the right approach, it is one of the most fun activities you can do.
This beginner's guide takes you through the most important steps to start riding a motorcycle.
Buying a bikeWhich bike to buy first is completely your personal choice, depending on the style you prefer and your budget. Though keep in mind these two important points:
This is only your first bike, and you are probably going to drop it.
Given these, we suggest that you start with something cheap & easy to ride. A more 'flashy' bike can always wait a season or two. As a new rider, you are much, more prone to wrecks. Statistics show that around 50% motorcycle crashes happen in a rider's first 180 days. So get something that you won't feel totally heartbroken about if you ding it up.
Understandably, most new riders want a cool bike, but cool bikes are expensive. So let's wait on that until you're a more experienced rider and can do more cool things too. The good news is that there are plenty of options that fit the description of "cheap & easy to ride". You can buy a good used bike for less than $1000, and some new bikes that are great for beginners can be bought for $3000 - $5000.
|The Kawasaki Ninja 300 is my personal pick for a beginner's streetbike|
We usually suggest to start with a bike with a smaller engine - something in the 300cc class. A less powerful engine will allow you to be able to focus on your riding more. Standard bikes or small dual sports are best to start with. Standard bikes are basically just street bikes and there are a ton of options from most all manufacturers. Dual sports are very versatile and agile so they're easy to maneuver, and not to mention that riding in the dirt is a great way to learn braking and handling. Popular beginner bikes are Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Yamaha R3.
Sticking to something basic will save you money and in six months or a year you can always upgrade to the bike you wanted. Though, these days there are a ton of 300 class bikes with cool features, that you may find that you won't outgrow it for a long time!
For more resources, we have a couple of helpful guides:
- The Best New Bikes For Beginners
- How Much Does a Motorcycle Cost?
The safety gearChoosing the right safety gear is more important than choosing a bike, though not as exciting. You must have seen MotoGP riders stand up with disappointment after a wreck. What makes them being able to stand again? Yep, it's their full head-to-toe safety gear. We know it looks cool to go cruising in just a t-shirt and sunglasses, but forget trying to look cool and let your bike do that for you.
At the minimum, we suggest you buy the following:
- A helmet: Either a full face or a modular helmet would be okay for street riding. Make sure it is DOT or Snell certified.
- Motorcycle gloves: Your hands are always the first to take a hit.
- Riding jacket: Should have some sort of reflective material so you are easily spotted at night.
- Riding pants: Motorcycle pants these days come in styles that look like normal & stylish jeans, so you shouldn't have a problem wearing one even when you are going to meet friends.
- Sturdy boots: Though motorcycle boots are not a requirement, your boots should be very sturdy, cover the ankles, and don't slip on the footpegs.
A helmet and gloves are the most important pieces of gear as your head and hands will suffer the worst damage in a crash. It's important to buy specifically motorcycle jackets and pants as they come with extra protection and abrasion resistant material (unless you want to loose your skin on the pavement!).
Safety gear should not be treated like your first motorcycle. You should always purchase new quality gear. Remember, you don't have airbags, seat belts or a protective cage around you. Even a low-speed crash can do a lot of damage if you don't wear adequate safety gear.
Need some help understanding and choosing from the many different styles available?
- Motorcycle Gloves for Beginners
- Motorcycle Jackets for Beginners
- Motorcycle Helmets for Beginners
Buy insuranceDon't forget this little detail! Especially since you're more likely to crash in the beginning, remember? Motorcycle insurance provides you with additional coverage if you need medical assistance from an accident. Motorcycle insurance usually comes at a cheaper rate but depending your age or driving record, or the bike you have, it may actually be more than your car insurance so make sure to check!
Insurance companies offer different rates based on your age, medical conditions, the type of bike you choose. For instance, a sportbike will carry a higher rate than a cruiser. You can call an insurance agent or use comparison sites to find a better price. You don't need to spend hours before the computer screen. Just do a few searches and locate one that offers the type of coverage you need at a good price.
Remember, any damage to your first $1000 bike is insignificant, but any damage to your body... well, you'll want to fix it.
Check out this list for motorcycle insurance agencies.
Get your licenseMany people will tell you to just buy a bike in cash form and not to bother about getting a license. They are one of the reasons why law enforcement doesn't like motorcyclists! Some other people will suggest that you don't need a full license - only a continually renewed learner's permit will do the trick. Hate to break it to you, but getting a learner's permit is just as tough as getting a full license. So be responsible and get a full motorcycle license.
At the time you get your license, take a motorcycle safety course to learn the basic riding skills and safety tips. Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is a national, non-profit sponsored by the major motorcycle manufacturers, including Honda, Yamaha, BMW, and Kawasaki. It offers all sorts of courses from basics training to advanced fine-skills courses. There are locations all throughout the U.S. so you will most likely find one in your area.
Tips for Riding Safely on the Streets
Find a riding groupRiding a motorcycle with a group gives you memories that you can treasure forever. It's important for new riders to experience this social aspect of riding, especially if you're kind of the lone duck in your group of current friends when it comes to your passion for motorcycles. In a group environment, knowledge can be exchanged, skills learned, connections cemented and even lifelong friendships can be forged.
Sites like Facebook or Meetup.com or various model specific forums online are great places to start locating a riding group. Riders are some of the coolest people (duh, you're one of them!) so there's no need to be nervous about joining a group. Being in a group with other like-minded people who share your hobby will help you improve faster and also make your experience that much more fun.