What’s going on my friends?
First things first, let’s address Fear or Motorcycles. Until you come to terms with what a motorcycle is and isn’t, and remain afraid, you’ll never get one. You will find every excuse not to go through with it. And most people will support you in backing out. It’s very easy to do. No one will ever ask you to favor two wheels over four.
Is a motorcycle more dangerous than a car? Yes.
Is a motorcycle a completely different experience than a car? Yes.
Will you ever find out, if it’s for you, if you never try? No.
Is the Risk-to-Reward ratio worth it for you?
I can’t tell you that, you decide for yourself. What I can tell you is, I wanted to try it out before I was too old to be physically able to handle a motorcycle. I don’t like living with: “I wonder what if” on my mind.
From the feeling I’ve gotten, people tell you horror stories about motorcycle accidents, in the same manner a health insurance company will tell you horror stories of spontaneous deadly illness, to sell you insurance.
I believe people do it, to discourage you from doing something they themselves were scared to do. One thing for certain, anyone who doesn’t have the experience, doesn’t get to give an opinion – because they don’t know!
One thing I’ve learned recently is: Theory does not equal Experience. No matter how many books or stories or studies you know. You simply don’t know until YOU do it.
My push towards a motorcycle came from developing an overuse injury while cycling. Also, I have a general aversion to cars for some reason. A motorcycle seemed like path in between the two. Motor powered, but not a high maintenance home on wheels.
Steps I took to get my license and motorcycle:
- Getting your motorcycle permit
To begin riding(legally) you require a valid drivers license, in the state you plan to learn to ride. Once you have that, you’ll need to study a little bit. The permit requires a multiple choice test, mine was 25 questions, and fairly easy. Google the multiple choice practice tests and click though them a few times until you score 100% each time. Next, go to the DMV, and get your motorcycle permit. This is the easiest step, and took a total time investment of around 90 minutes.
2. Learning to ride a motorcycle
After you get your permit, it will be time to make the first financial investment. Your first expense will be the MSF class, which is $250 to $260 for 3 days of instruction. Motorcycles and helmets are provided. I recommend buying your helmet and jacket at this stage too, if you’re confident about committing to motorcycles.
If you are still unsure, that’s perfectly fine, the $250 for the class is all you need, and will be your maximum loss. You can really minimize your downside this way, take the class, decide if you enjoy it or not. Then, you can always say, you went there, did the course, and didn’t enjoy it.
If you do get your own gear before the class(I did), do not get a used helmet, buy a new one, as the foam inside is very sensitive and wears out with time, making the helm less safe. Invest in a new one. Used jackets/boots/gauntlets are perfectly fine.
The instructors for the class know, that everyone is a new rider. They will do their best to make you feel comfortable, and help you learn. Even if you’ve never been on a motorcycle before. I recommend doing this class no matter what, just for the experience. Kind of like sky diving, do it once, just to say you have.
3. Go to the DMV, and get your Motorcycle License
Once you complete the class(don’t worry, most people do fine), you will receive a Waiver. You can present this waiver to the DMV, and they will issue you your motorcycle license or test you. This depends on the state, look up your state’s regulations. Know that, after the MSF class, the DMV test is easy-peasy.
4. Buying a Motorcycle
Now that you are fully licensed, there are no more restrictions on how/where/when you ride. Time to get yourself a bike!
Budget: Everyone will have a different budget, my only advice here is to spend 70% or so on the motorcycle and the remaining 30% on quality riding gear, education, and maintenance. Buy the bike for cash, as financing will only put you in debt, and even low rates increase with a missed payment.
70% on the bike, because this is just the start, and there’s more to come.
30% on everything else, as repairs, gear, and education costs add up.
Buy some gear, don’t ever be seen riding a $12000 Hayabusa in a t-shirt and flip-flops. That makes you a SQUID. Squirrely Kid (S.uper Q.uick U.ntil I D.ie). You are only putting other people at risk, when a rock or bug hits you at 70mph and you lose control.
Buying a used motorcycle: If you are not a mechanic, or don’t have a motorcycle savvy friend, use this Very Helpful Tool here. Look to make sure everything is symmetrical, there’s no rust, and look for a clean title and low miles.
Choose a motorcycle style that best fits your needs.
At the end of the day, the bike will pick you. You’ll know which bike you really want, and will only be pretending to look at the other ones.
Once you get your bike, there are a few things I recommend you immediately buy as well.
- Tire pressure gauge: Check your pressure before and after each ride. This would have saved me some initial money, by alerting me to decreasing pressure in my rear tire(picked up a nail). I carry this one in my jacket pocket.
- Air pump for tires: The kind you can use with an electrical outlet or a cigarette lighter outlet. A bicycle pump will not work for a motorcycle. Too slow. Way too slow.
- Outdoor Bike cover: If you do not have a garage, protection from sun and rain is a must have. It’s preferable to have a garage, and keep your bike indoors. If not, get a cover.
- Dealership manual for your motorcycle: so you will know all the specs and parts for future repairs, and learn how your machine works. Don’t get into information overload, read the sections that interest you at the time specifically. Don’t read it cover to cover.
5. Learning on your own
You’re all set! Enjoy it and take it slow. Ride during low traffic hours. Give yourself time. Give yourself privacy, so that you can make easy mistakes in private, such as stalling the bike in a low gear, or having to dab during a turn(briefly put your foot down).
Riding is a SPP skill, and should be practiced often, for short durations. 5x a week for 10 mins is better than 1x a week for an hour.
Get used to the feel of your bike and ask other riders questions. Ask your local motorcycle shop mechanics questions. Learn from the experience. YouTube is your friend.
Note: Riding a bicycle does not help you learn to ride a motorcycle, from my experience. A bicycle sits so high up, and weights next to nothing. Most motorcycles sit much lower, and weight a ton, mine is 600lbs.
Another difference is speed. I’ve gotten my bicycle up to 35mph, but for a motorcycle, that’s a crawl. First time you go around 50mph you will get an adrenaline rush. First time you get into heavy traffic you will feel nervous at best, panicked and terrified at worst. It’s definitely a minefield of hazards out there, and you have to be a soldier to face all the threats decisively.
If you have to go 30mph in a 45mph to maneuver your motorcycle through a curve – do it! If you are comfortable going 40mph, but not 50, stick to areas with a 40-45mph speed limit, and ride 40. If people want to go around, they will. They may honk at you. So what. You’re learning.
This morning I was riding a back road, going 5 over the speed limit, and people were passing me constantly. And that’s fine. Ride like a granny and granny will pass away(before you). Ride smooth and cool, and build your skill-set and confidence.
Until Next Time, and
All the Best.