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Motorcycle Safety for Beginners - Know Your Motorcycle

Updated on August 17, 2009

If you're going to be a safe rider, you want to know your motorcycle very well. Riding a motorcycle is much different than driving a car or riding on a bicycle; it demands more from you. A motorcycle goes, turns, and stops smoothly according to the degree of skill and knowledge that you have.

You want to make sure you go over your motorcycle owner's manual because not all motorcycles are alike. There are different types of motorcycles that are all different, and your owner's manual will give you specifics to understanding and maintaining your bike.

It can take a long time before you are properly familiar with a motorcycle, so your want to think of your motorcycle as a personal item, as personal as your toothbrush.

When learning your motorcycle you want to get used to the bike, whether it is a street bike, sport bike, cruiser, touring bike, or a traditional motorcycle, you want to know the controls, gears, and brakes of the bike.

Controls

Over the years, the basic controls on motorcycles have changed greatly and have pretty much standardized. You want to get used to the bike by putting it on the centerstand and sitting on it. Become familiar with the controls and how to use them. Work the levers and pedals. If something isn't within easy reach of your fingers or toes, see if it can be adjusted to you (check the owner's manual).

Practice with the turn signals. Find the horn, and figure out how the dimmer switch works. Get familiar with the reserve fuel valve (if your motorcycle has one).

Shifting Gears

Starting off and changing gears requires a bit of coordination of the clutch, throttle, and the gearshift lever. If you don't do it right, the amount of control that you have over the motorcycle is lessened. To start off, pull in the clutch, shift into first gear, roll on the throttle a little, and ease out the clutch. You want to become familiar with the friction zone (where the clutch begins to take hold and move the bike), and you add a bit more throttle. You don't want to stall the engine, nor do you want to over-rev it. There's a nice in-between medium that you want to find. Shift while traveling in a straight line when practicing. You don't want to shift in a curve while practicing.

You want to get familiar with the sound of your engine so that you can tell when you should shift without looking at the gauges and instruments.

When you downshift to a lower gear, you should be able to squeeze the clutch, rev the engine a little to let it catch, and shift down all in one switch motion.

When you come to a stop in traffic, you want to leave the bike in first gear with the clutch disengaged in cause you want to accelerate in a hurry (you never know what may be coming up behind you).

Braking

You never want to forget that the front brake on your bike can supply as much as 70% more of your stopping power. The single most important thing that you can learn about braking your bike is to use the front brake every time you want to slow down.

Always apply both the front and rear brakes at the same time. If it's necessary, apply the brakes hard, but not so hard that you lock up either whee. A locked wheel, as well as causing the bike to skid, will result in inefficient braking.

The time to take your left foot off the peg and put it on the ground is just as the bike comes to a compete stop.

When you have the opportunity practice braking, as you can always get better at it.

Turning

When you are riding along a road, you lean a motorcycle into a turn. Learning how to lean is an essential part of riding a motorcycle. It is a normal function of a bike when you're changing its bath, and it's completely different than driving a car turning a steering wheel.

To get the bike to lean in a normal turn, you want to press the handlebar in the direction of the turn and maintain slight pressure on that handlebar to take you smoothly through the turn. Basically, press right to go right or press left to go left. Your instincts to keep the motorcycle on a smooth path while keeping it from falling over usually take care of this without you even realizing it.

  • Slow down before you turn; look as far ahead as possible through the turn.
  • Keep your feet on the pegs and grip the gas tank with your knees.
  • Lean with the motorcycle. Don't try to sit perpendicular to the road while the motorcycle is leaning over.
  • Keep an even throttle through the turn or even accelerate a little.

Check The Bike Before You Ride

You never know what could happen while on a ride, but if you spend that extra minute before you go, you will increase the chances that you won't run into any complication in the middle of a ride.

  • Check the tires.Tires are the most important part of your bike. If your engine quits, you'll roll to a stop, but if a tire quits, you're in trouble. Make the effort to check the surface of the tires, looking for cuts in the rubber or foreign objects in the tires. Check the tire pressure with a good gauge. If a tire is low every time you check it even if you have added proper amount of air, you may have a slow leak; fix it before it becomes a fast leak.
  • Check the controls. Cables are strong and rarely break, but you'll want to look for kinking or stiffness or anything unusual.
  • Check your lights.You'll want to check your brake light, headlights, and turn signals to make sure that everything works. Also check your horn and adjust your mirrors, if needed.
  • Check the oil and fuel and liquid coolant levels.
  • Check the chain. If the bike has chain-drive to the rear wheel, you'll want to make sure that the chain is properly tensioned and is in good shape. The chain do need an occasional cleaning and dose of lubrication.
  • Make sure the sidestand and centerstand fold up properly. If one of the retraction springs is weak, broken, or missing, replace it.
  • Check your brakes as you ride off just to make sure they haven't worn off.

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    • PA Injury Lawyers profile image

      PA Injury Lawyers 5 years ago from Scranton Pennsylvania

      Great tips!

      Very good points emphasizing the importance of checking the tires before riding. A lot of accidents could be prevented if people took a little more time to make those preparations.

    • profile image

      prasobh 7 years ago

      A good article for beginners

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