Fascinated by bikes, but not sure how to get started? Learning how to ride a motorcycle is much easier than most people think. Motorcycles aren’t these big, complex machines requiring an expert level of skill to get started: essentially, they’re just bicycles with engines, and anyone can learn to ride.
In fact, if you know how to ride a bicycle, you’ve already got an advantage when learning how to ride a motorcycle: you know how to balance on two wheels, and balance is key to riding motorcycles. Next up, you’ll need to learn how to control the gears and speed, how to turn and brake, and how to learn to ride safely. And if you haven’t ridden a bicycle, don’t worry: mastering the balance does not take long.
In this article, we’ll go over six easy steps on how to ride a motorcycle, cover motorcycle safety basics, and help you navigate motorcycle security.
Let’s dig right in.
How to Ride a Motorcycle For Beginners: Take These 6 Easy Steps
If you’re a complete beginner, learning how to ride a motorcycle may feel a little intimidating at first. You’re not alone: most new riders feel a little anxious about their first attempts, and it’s perfectly natural to feel a little jittery when you first swing a leg over that saddle. However, don’t let fear take over. Learning to ride can be a fun process, and once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll start to truly enjoy motorcycling in no time. In fact, we predict you’ll get hopelessly hooked and may swear off cars altogether… but that’s another topic for another time.
For now, here is how to get started.
Step 1: Gear Up
First things first: motorcycling comes with a certain amount of risk, and it’s up to you to minimize that risk as much as possible. To do that, you’ll need proper motorcycle gear to stay protected in case of a crash.
Even if it’s your very first lesson, wear a helmet, gloves, sturdy boots that cover your ankles, and motorcycle pants and jacket. If you’re not sure what type of riding you’ll be doing the most once you get your licence – on road, off road, adventure, street, enduro – stick with some basics like Kevlar or Dyneema – reinforced motorcycle jeans and jackets, abrasion-resistant textiles, or armoured motorcycle gear.
Step 2: Choose Your Motorcycle
Which bike should you aim for if you’re just learning to ride? Make and model doesn’t matter much at this point, but what you should be paying attention to is weight and power ratio. As a beginner learning how to ride a motorcycle for the first time, you want something that is light and easy to handle. As you progress, you can then move up to bigger, heavier, more powerful motorcycles, but for now, just pick something low, light, and in the range of 250-650 cc.
There is no such thing as a motorcycle for beginners – any bike can be your first bike – but if you can, try simply sitting on a motorcycle that you like, see how it feels, and compare it with a few other machines. When you swing a leg over that saddle, see if you can comfortably put both feet down. Does the bike feel balanced? Can you easily get on, get off, and put it on a side stand? Do you like the position you’re sitting in? Typically, street, dirt, and adventure bikes will have the most comfortable, upright sitting position, whereas sports bikes will require you to lean forward. In addition to sitting on a motorcycle you like to see if you feel comfortable, also try moving it back and forth, put it on the stand and the center stand, and wheel it around a little: you should be able to easily handle the bike both in and off the saddle.
This way, the basics to riding a motorcycle will come much more naturally – and faster. Remember, it’s not about muscle, it’s about balance, and learning the basics will be much easier on a lighter motorcycle. When you’re a more skilled and confident rider, you can always start looking for more powerful and larger machines.
Step 3: Learn to Brake
Now that you’re sitting aboard your motorcycle, it’s time to get it moving. But before you can move, you need to know how to brake. The pedal on your right side is the rear brake, and the lever on your right handlebar is your front brake. To slow down or stop altogether, use both brakes evenly and always make sure you’re stepping on the rear brake and pulling in the front brake lever gently and gradually: never grab or stomp on your brakes, because the wheels may lock up sending you off balance.
Gently tap the rear brake pedal and pull in the front brake lever slowly to master braking in a controlled, smooth movement rather than jerking the bike to a halt. Practise your braking while the bike is standing still: roll forward a little, then tap the rear brake to get a feel for it. Repeat this with your front brake and try to find that sweet spot where the brakes engage but to not grab the wheel discs too suddenly.
Step 4: Clutch and Throttle
Now that you feel confident about braking, it’s time to start your bike and learn the controls. Shifting gears is what terrifies most new riders the most, but the reality is, learning how to shift is much easier than you think. Motorcycles usually have five gears; the first gear is down, then you shift up for neutral, second, third, fourth, and fifth.
To engage the gears, you’ll need to pull the clutch lever in. To start moving, pull the clutch lever in, engage the first gear, then gently roll the throttle releasing the clutch at the same time (just like with a car!). Once the bike starts moving, gently let the clutch out while adding a little bit of throttle. Once you reach higher RPM’s, pull the clutch lever in fully, lay off the throttle, and engage second gear. To slow down, shift down until you’re in first gear, then pull in neutral once you’re stopped. Rinse and repeat until it becomes second nature!
Step 5: Turning
When you’re learning how to ride a motorcycle, mastering the controls is the biggest lesson. Once you get a feel for it, however, you can start learning the rest of the basics, and one of the most important things to figure out is turning. Riding a bike in a straight line is one thing, but what about corners, U-turns, and pirouettes in a parking lot?
To keep the bike steady and stable in corners, do not rely on turning your handlebars only. As you round a corner, the bike will lean into it a little, and you need to lean with it. Don’t fight your bike, but rather go with the movement. Remember to keep your throttle steady and always look through to where you’re going: if you keep staring at your front tire, chances are, you’ll stall or crash. Looking through the corner helps you stay balanced and steer the bike in the direction you want to go.
Step 6: Practice, Practice, Practice
Now that you’ve completed an MSF course and gotten your license, it’s time to hit the road. As a new rider, you need to get as much practice as you can, but take it slowly: first, ride quiet, two-lane roads and practice navigating traffic safely before you hit highways and interstates. The more you ride, the more you will get to know your bike, controls will become muscle memory, and you will feel more and more confident on all kinds of roads and traffic conditions. Remember to build slowly, however: getting yourself into stressful situations in busy traffic or high-speed freeways can scare you off motorcycling, so take it slow, hone your skills, and enjoy the ride as much as you can.
How Long Does It Take to Learn How to Ride a Motorcycle?
There isn’t a single, definitive answer to this question, as everyone learns differently and at their own pace. Some people can learn to ride a motorcycle in a single day, others may take several days or even weeks. If you feel you may take longer or need extra lessons, that’s perfectly fine. It’s important not to rush the learning process and take your time: you need to learn safely, and you also need to have fun in the process. After all, you’re learning to master a motorcycle for the fun factor!
Remember that getting your motorcycle license doesn’t mean you’re now an expert rider. Even when you pass the test, there is still lots to learn: as you go along, you will face different road, traffic, and weather conditions, so always stay alert, ride defensively, and be on your guard. Skill and confidence will gradually come with time and mileage.
Where to Learn How to Ride a Motorcycle?
It may be tempting to ask your friend or a family member to teach you to ride, but the thing is, while their intentions are good and they may be experienced riders, they aren’t skilled motorcycle riding instructors. If you want to learn how to ride a motorcycle correctly and safely, it’s always best to take an MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) course and train with a qualified instructor. That way, you will learn the basics in a safe, controlled environment, get plenty of professional tips and advice, and take your motorcycle license test successfully.
Friends and family can help you get started and tell you how controls and brakes work or how to choose your first motorcycle, but it’s always best to trust the professionals when you’re just starting out. Alternatively, you can take classes provided by motorcycle manufacturers: for example, Harley-Davidson offers beginner classes for new riders, and if you already know you’ll be buying a Harley, this could be a great way to learn. If you’re into three wheels to get started, Can Am offers excellent rider courses at reasonable prices.
How to Ride a Motorcycle Safely?
Motorcycling carries an inherent risk, and that’s why it’s crucial to learn to ride a motorcycle safely. Always wear protective gear when riding and take an MSF course to learn in a safe, controlled way. Once you get your license and start riding on your own, make sure to put in a lot of practice, and never try to ride above your skill level or keep up with faster riders. Speed and skills will come with time and practice; for now, just put as much saddle time in as you can, avoid riding in the dark or in extreme weather, and hone your skills until you feel more confident on the bike.
If, after getting your license, you feel you could benefit from some extra riding lessons, go ahead and book them – there is no such thing as too much learning.
When you’re out on the road for the first time, remember to ride like you’re invisible and keep your distance from other vehicles. Distracted car drivers are the biggest dangers for motorcycle riders, so be sure to ride defensively and stay alert. In traffic, the same applies: keep your distance and always have your eyes peeled, especially at busy intersections. If you’re planning a longer ride or a weekend adventure, keep your daily distances short to avoid fatigue, stop often, and take breaks every 100 miles.
How to Ride a Motorcycle in the Rain?
As they say, there is no wrong weather for motorcycling, just the wrong gear. If you know you‘ll be riding in the rain, gear up accordingly: wearing waterproof outer layers will help keep you dry and toasty, and you‘ll feel much better when you’re not freezing cold struggling to get your hands over the controls. Gear aside, one of the most important things when you’re learning how to ride a motorcycle in the rain is slowing down. Wet road surfaces may cause your tires to slip or skid, so ride at least 20% slower than you normally would and increase your braking distance by 30%. Taking these precautions will help you stay in control of the bike, no matter how much torrential rain you’re experiencing.
Take Care of Your Motorcycle Security
Now that you’ve learned to ride a motorcycle and bought your first bike, there’s one more thing to consider: motorcycle security. Much like you need protective gear to ride safely, you need motorcycle security to make sure your bike is protected against theft. One of the best ways to keep your bike safe is installing a motorcycle GPS tracker that will alert you in case your bike is being moved, and in case of theft, you’ll be able to track the location of your motorcycle. This increases your chances of recovering the bike in case it’s stolen, and it can prevent theft altogether as these trackers are incredibly sensitive and you’ll get an instant alert to your phone if your motorcycle is being moved.
So there you have it: use these simple steps and tips to learn how to ride a motorcycle, practice as often as you can, and don’t forget to have fun in the process. Motorcycling is all about freedom and enjoying the ride, and we wish you many happy miles on two wheels!
If you’d like to see some hands-on tips on how to ride a motorcycle for the first time, check out this video: