Out of all the articles thrown around during the Clutch and Chrome bull sessions, few subjects carried the concern of readers reaction than generally outlining what new riders do wrong in the first few miles and initial dozen months on the very first motorcycle.
Would we be considered harsh or judgmental?
Not only was our article '10 Things new riders do completely wrong' popular among forum boards, but is featured on motorcycle blogs and in newsletters of motorcycle action groups. We considered all of these inclusions the highest form of a compliment.
A sure sign of approval were the additional suggestions and idea’s which came out of the various discussions and in the form of emails sent by readers with some biker wisdom they thought should've been included in the original article.
Because we bow to the much smarter Clutch and Chrome readers, here are more mistakes made by the newest members of our motorcycle family during their baby-steps of biking.
1. Is that a motorcycle in the garage or are you just glad to see your girlfriend?
For many riders the move to two wheels comes while in a relationship. Whether it’s the married other half of many years or a new and still exciting relationship, bringing them in on a motorcycle buying decision is best done early and certainly long before those new two wheels are parked in the driveway.
Girlfriends, wives or partners who love to ride made Clutch and Chrome’s 'Ten of things that deserve a round of applause' in the riding world. No accessory or modification looks better on a motorcycle than that special person also sitting in the saddle. Getting them in that saddle is much easier and certainly more fun if they were included in the life-changing decision of buying the bike to begin with.
Discussing the subject of buying a motorcycle is a complex and potentially difficult conversation requiring much more space than we have here, so check out our article 'Honey, I want to buy a motorcycle' featuring facts, figures and different approaches to take with a less than enthusiastic other half.
2. Buying the wrong motorcycle
Everyone who currently rides has been there. Either the financial timing is right or the safety class has finally been completed and its time to buy that first motorcycle!
But the truth of the matter, there really is no perfect time to buy a motorcycle. Experience and tastes change. Manufacturers come out with new models and what a person wants from riding can change the longer they sit in a saddle.
The very first motorcycle purchase requires some basic homework, research and more importantly, long hard looks in the mirror. Appreciating and honestly evaluating skill levels will help buy the correct motorcycle with the appropriate engine power for a rider's needs. Too many new riders buy too much motorcycle for their developing skills, leading to the fastest growing category of fatalities among bikers today, single vehicle fatalities.
Honest dealerships, riding friends and forum boards are great resources to help determine which bike is best suited for different types of riding at various levels of experience.
Aside from having too much power in inexperienced-gloved hands, the guaranteed odds of dropping the first motorcycle in the initial years of riding should be enough to stop the most enthusiastic of new riders from spending too much money on a mean machine that has occupied daydreams for hours on end.
Besides, there will be many times over the years of riding when every biker has to be brutally honest with themselves and their abilities. It should start with buying the most sensible first motorcycle to cut the riding teeth on.
3. Riding two up too soon
As mentioned earlier, the best thing found on any motorcycle, whether it’s a cruiser or sportsbike, is that beautiful thing also sitting in the saddle.
Riding a motorcycle brings a passion and feelings so amazingly intense, it’s natural to want to share it with that special person in your life.
Unfortunately, by riding with a passenger too soon not only is a rider putting someone special in danger, but risking their life as well. Regardless of the size or type of motorcycle, they all handle differently with an extra person in the saddle. Any additional weight affects not only how quickly the bike will pull away and stop, but handling in general. Add to the mix the additional weight is a live, moving person potentially shifting around in the seat at the most inconvenient time and it’s an opportunity for disaster.
There are different standards of when it’s the right time to bring on a passenger, generally speaking experts agree the earliest should be either six months or one thousand miles under a riding belt. Allowing more in either category is preferred, and a rider’s comfort level with both the motorcycle as well as their own skills should affect any kind of barometer or decision.
4. Highway illiteracy
Not reading the road was an important topic in the original article, '10 Things new riders do completely wrong', with newer riders missing tell-tales signs to avoid hazards in the road ahead. Both man-made hazards such as road works or Mother Nature’s gift of gravel on the side of the highway can quickly cause problems if not anticipated properly.
A poster at a popular forum for Honda Shadow owners, Hondashadow.net, pointed out that reading the traffic is as essential as countering any road hazards, and also ranks high among the most common mistakes among newer riders.
Military pilots call it situational awareness, knowing what’s happening around their aircraft at any given time. Fortunately for bikers, we have one less plane (excuse the pun) to worry about (above and below) and travel at much slower speeds, making it much easier to track the surrounding activity.
Pilots achieve situational awareness by keeping their heads on a swivel, in constant motion, visually scanning around the aircraft. In a bikers world this would include using mirrors, watching the area ahead and to the sides, constantly assessing not only traffic but also determining possible escape routes.
If this advice sounds over the top, bear in mind approximately three-quarters of the crashes studied involved a motorcycle colliding with another vehicle. In two-thirds of these crashes, the other vehicle violated the motorcyclist’s right-of-way according to a University of Southern California in-depth research study of 900 motorcycle crashes, with analysis of an additional 3,600 crashes.
Assessing surrounding traffic to anticipate the flow and intentions of the closest vehicles minimizes surprises. If possible, make eye contact with drivers in surrounding traffic.
With traffic moving together at similar speeds, it can be difficult to judge movement of surrounding vehicles, so use lane markings as a guide, watching for tires breaking the line.
While we’re on the topic of riding in traffic;
5. A lane is a lane. Not.
With other vehicles seemingly always trying to take a bikers lane, it would be easy to forget a motorcycle is legally entitled to use the entire width while riding in one. New riders may hear more experienced bikers talk about lane position and which is the best to occupy in different traffic situations. As with many facets of riding, opinions vary on lane positions, so we’ll start with the common ground.
Due to the size of a motorcycle compared to a standard width lane, it can be divided into three sections; left, middle and right. Each section has its own advantages as well as limitations.
For general riding in the United States, the left section is the best place to be. It gives the rider a good view of the road and oncoming traffic. The left section also places the motorcycle directly behind the driver of the vehicle ahead giving better visibility. This section of the lane also keeps the motorcycle away from the area of oil and other slippery materials deposited on the road by other vehicles. Finally, this lane position offers the best escape routes with paved road either side of the rider.
The second best lane position is the right section, which still gives the rider a view of the road and oncoming traffic. However, being seen by the car ahead as well as oncoming traffic is greatly reduced. Where this lane position is advantageous over the other two is on busy roads used by trucks and tractor-trailers. Two lane roads with this type of heavy traffic urges oncoming drivers to make risky passing maneuvers, and larger trucks can create incredible turbulence. Both of these can unnerve the most skilled of riders.
Finally, the middle section is considered the least ideal road position. Essentially a motorcycle is riding on everything that’s dripped and leaked from every vehicle that’s gone before it. The only advantage this position gives is being squarely in the rear view mirror of the vehicle directly ahead.
6. Dressing for the ride and not the look
Whether riding cruisers or sportbikes, too many new riders dress for an image rather for a purpose. As much as the world of sportbikes lean towards wearing armor and cruisers wear gloves and jeans, both leave large apparel gaps in the world of safety.
Aside from the safety issue, a common mistake of either underestimating wind chill or changing weather conditions, leaves newer riders underdressed on colder trips. Just as dehydration was included in the previous article, the other extreme of riding uncomfortably cold is a dangerous mistake to make.
At best, the cold can distract a rider, but it also affects reaction times, muscle movement and strength. Since riding relies on the coordination of mechanical skills for the most basic of motorcycle operations, hindering the body is a dangerous road to ride down.
Looking to more experienced riders when preparing for a ride of any distance, checking out not only the local weather but also the forecast of your destination and taking an extra layer ‘just in case’ will help new riders avoid shivering screw-ups.
7. One for the road
Unfortunately, making the mistake of drinking and riding isn’t limited to the latest additions to the world of riding. According to a Department of Transportation report, in 2005 27 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle operators had BAC levels of .08 g/dL. An additional 7 percent had lower alcohol levels (BAC .01 to .07 g/dL).
There are few other areas of mistakes that require keeping a rider’s ego in check than riding after drinking. Regardless of how unaffected a rider may feel from alcohol, any amount in the bloodstream delays reaction time, coordination skills and judgment, all of which are needed to safely control a motorcycle.
As mentioned in the original article '10 Things new riders do completely wrong', not every person newly arrived in the world of motorcycles will commit all or possibly even any of the mistakes discussed.
But riding is a skill, test of coordination and an ongoing collection of knowledge. All of these need to be learned over the months and even years of riding.
A well-used and time tested adage not only applies to new riders, but helps put both articles in some kind of perspective.
'When a rider first sits in the saddle, they're given two bags; one is full of luck and the other is a bag for skills and sits nearly empty. A good biker will make sure one fills up before the other empties'.