Ok, you just left the dealer with your brand new Kawasaki 250 Ninja. You have your motorcycle license, so you’re an expert, right? Unfortunately, some new motorcycle riders feel exactly that way and end up selling their bike from a bad experience. Others fail to think about a few simple things that would have prevented the minor slip, or calling the dealership about their motorcycle that won’t run when they forgot to turn the gas to reserve (some have even forgotten to turn the gas to on!). As a new bike owner you are excited, and you should be! You are entering the world of motorcycling and want to go hang with your friends, but remember, a bike is not a car. There are a few things you should think about as a new motorcycle rider, that way when you have been riding for years, you will do them without even thinking about it. I believe they call that “doing it subconsciously”.
- Put on your gear. You don’t drive without your seatbelt you shouldn’t ride without the proper gear. The protection a helmet provides is obvious to most, but some don’t realize that those bugs hurt when they hit your head. If you are really against helmets, at least protect your eyes; see that dead bug on your windshield? Imagine that windshield was one of your eyes; now at least protect your eyes. Gloves will protect your hands, boots your feet and leather your body. I know this is all pretty basic, so why do so many people go out riding in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops?
- Practice. Practice taking off into first gear, every bike is different and the bike you learned on at the safety course may take off much differently than your new bike. Don’t be afraid to get the bike towed home to practice if the dealership is on a busy street, I’m sure the tow is less than your insurance deductible. Practice shifting and stopping as well, getting use to those brakes and the feel of the shifter is much easier in familiar, quiet surroundings, not an expressway.
- Read the Owner’s Manual. Hah, I’m sure you are laughing at this one. I would have put this as the first suggestion, but you may have never read the whole article if I did. The owner’s manual will be helpful with those little things like when to switch the gas tank to reserve, or what kind of maintenance your bike needs to keep it running in great condition. I know some of you are still laughing at this, but I’ve known plenty of riders that were so excited when the salesman went over the bike with them that they didn’t hear a word the salesman said; they got to the first stop sign to take a left and forgot where the turn signal was!
- Always take notice of your surroundings and the weather. As a new motorcycle rider, responding to a change in road conditions and weather conditions doesn’t come as naturally as it does when driving a car. The road might look clean, but that pavement could be slick, a lot easier to handle on four wheels than two. Gravel and oil may make you change your car driving habits, but they should make you change your bike driving habits. If it starts to rain, did you know that the within the first 30 minutes that street is being cleaned by the rainwater and road conditions will change, so be prepared to adjust to changing weather conditions.
- Know your limits. Remember when you were a kid, and your best friend dared you to. …………And you did, and then…………………happened? Well, don’t do it on a motorcycle. Respect yourself and your motorcycle by respecting your limits. Your skill level will improve with time and you will be hanging with the big boys, but also remember, fatigue can be a big factor too. Putting miles and miles on your motorcycle on a sunny afternoon is great, but knowing your own limits can save not only you, but also those around you.
Ok, the lecture is over, go out there and have fun! Be smart, be safe and be prepared for years of enjoyment on your new motorcycle!
Care to share your first riding adventure? We’d love to hear about it.