Posted by Sharon Wells on Saturday, January 9, 2021 Under: Motorbike Riding Skills
How long has it been since you sat on the back of your bike? Did you take a little hiatus? Or, are you a new rider fresh out of road safety class? In any case, riding a motorcycle is a skill that needs to be practiced. We all know that excited, anxious feeling when you hop on your bike after some time away. Therefore, practicing isn’t just for new riders; it’s also for seasoned veterans who have stepped away or are looking to get out of some bad habits. Therefore, what do you do to improve your skills and tighten up your foundation? What steps do you take when you’ve forgotten how to achieve smoothness in shifting gears?
That is precisely the reason we have made this guide. Newcomers and veterans will both be able to find some helpful tips to improve those fundamental riding skills. This guide will walk you through five ways to improve your foundational motorcycle riding skills—braking, steering, shifting gears, cornering and riding with a passenger.
Braking is one of the most important safety components on your motorcycle, but it is not as easy to handle as car brakes. With motorcycles, you need to pay special attention to both braking power and distance as well as balance. Therefore, while it might seem easy, braking requires significant practice for newbies, and it is a skill that seasoned riders should keep fresh as well.
For new riders, the best way to practice is to find a vacant parking lot that is large enough to creep along at low speeds. Essentially, when first trying to get comfortable with braking and how it affects balance, you should start by driving around 15 mph in a straight line. Gradually squeeze the brake lever until you feel the tire locking up or feel the rear tire lift off the ground. You are trying to learn about braking pressure and how it feels. Unfortunately, in these low-speed tests, you may spill the bike, which is why wearing protective gear is always necessary. Once you feel comfortable and confident at 15 mph, increase your speed by five mph. Continuing doing so until you can confidently brake at any speed on the roadway.
Veteran riders can get rusty, and most of that rust develops after hibernating for the winter. As far as braking, old school riders can do the same type of practice as the newcomers, but it likely won’t take them as long.
For veterans, steering becomes second nature. They are still performing the same task needed to take corners or make U-turns, but they no longer have to think about these actions actively, it’s muscle memory. However, for novice riders, steering, especially counter-steering is unnatural. See, motorcycles, unlike cars, rely on the operator’s balance and lean to find direction. Therefore, turning or steering is a precise action, and it can require significant practice.
For new riders, you will want to return to that all too familiar parking lot, and begin riding in a circle. However, instead of just leaning to one side, switch from side-to-side, creating a winding path. You likely notice that when going slower, the amount of handlebar steering needed increases, whereas when you are going faster, the amount of lean increases. Practice your imaginary path at several speeds until you know how to handle corners like a pro.
Veterans, once again, can practice the same drills as newbies, but they can also practice when out riding around. Change things up when you approach familiar corners. Try adjusting your line with your bars only. Whatever you do, just don’t let your skills get rusty.
Shifting gears is something of an artform for motorcyclists. While it might seem simple enough to a veteran, a new rider might take a while trying to get used to shifting in and out of gear, especially doing so smoothly. Therefore, it is necessary to practice skills to improve smooth transitions.
For new riders, you can try a clutchless upshift to improve smoothness and making switching gears easier. This skill should only be performed when accelerating. Apply upwards pressure to the shift lever by placing your left foot under it. However, instead of pulling in the clutch, hold the upwards force of your foot and close the throttle, but not too much. If you do everything right, you should slip into gear and then apply some more gas. While not a complex set of movements, it does take practice to become smooth and effortless.
For veterans, you can try the rev-matched downshift. This process takes five steps.
- Place two fingers on the front lever while braking for a corner.
- Pull the cutch in quickly.
- Blip the throttle.
- Pick a lower gear.
- Pop the clutch.
If done right, the downshift is faster through the corner, and you won’t break tire traction. However, this skill does take a fair bit of practice to master, even for veterans.
Cornering, especially blind corners, are one of the most rewarding and dangerous things a biker can do. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of tips to help you figure it out. Essentially, you need to remember your steering and get out there and practice. The main things to remember are your safety protocols. Don’t take corners too fast. Don’t lean too far. Stay in your lane. That goes for newbies and veterans alike.
Bring a Friend
Bringing a friend on a motorcycle ride around town or a weekend getaway is fun. However, it takes a fair bit of confidence and skill to maneuver a bike with an unknown variable on back. Friends and passengers are great, but they can shift their weight and lean unexpectedly, meaning that you need to be able to counterbalance their decisions. Therefore, for new riders, it is essential that you have confidence in your foundational skills before offering a lift. For veterans, it is necessary to ensure that your bike is in prime condition.
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