Newbie Motorcycle riders FAQ's and Answers Thread

Discussion in 'Motorcycles & Boats' started by rsvmille676, May 4, 2006.

  1. rsvmille676

    rsvmille676 Formula Junior

    Nov 24, 2004
    Full Name:
    Scott Major
    In light of the many threads we have all seen in this forum for new riders or people interested in learning how to ride a motorcycle. I thought it might be a good idea post a single thread with info, reviews, opinions, and answers to FAQs about riding. There are many knowledgeable folks on this forum (myself included) who have all helped out the newbie rider. This thread can be the place where questions are asked and advise giving without having to repost similar answers to similar questions.

    Lets get started.

    The Basics:

    First sign up for your local Safety Course. They will help you get into good habits while riding as well as help you decide if riding is right for you.

    Mind set: Riding is serious business. YOU WILL CRASH! Hopefully if you follow the steps outlined in the safety course, ride responsibly and most importantly pay attention while on the road, you can have years of fun on a bike.

    I want to learn how to ride: Ok, you should ask yourself what kind of riding am I looking to do. Cruise? Tear up a twisty mountain road? A ride where the pavement is spotty at best? This question will help you uncover exactly what type of motorcycle you should be looking at. i.e. a Sport bike, Cruiser or Dual Sport Motard.

    Choosing a bike: Based on your answer above you will need to find a bike that is right for you. Many people on this forum lean towards the sport bike arena (this is a Ferrari forum after all.) I think most of the experienced riders on here will all say that YOU DO NOT NEED A 600cc, 750cc OR 1000cc 4cyl MOTORCYCLE. I spent 4 years selling motorcycles. Time after time, weekend after weekend I would have 19-20 year old kids come in and tell me that they needed a 750cc machine at the very least. Why? I would ask. "Because my (insert mislead relative here. Uncle, brother, dad, 2nd cousin twice removed etc.) said that I need something to grow into or that’s what I need because of my size." Grow into I disagree with. Grow with and learn on is a better statement. If you have heard words similar to these in the past then please carefully read what comes next. The 600cc 4cyl machines of today DRASTICALLY out perform the 600, 750, 800, 900 and 1000cc Machines of just 3-5-8-10 years ago. (A 400lb, 110 HP machine should be enough to garner the utmost respect of all riders and skill levels.)

    Recommendations for beginner sport bike riders: Suzuki SV650(s), GS 500E, Ducati Monster 620, or Kawasaki Ninja EX500. There may be a few other borderline machines available but the bikes listed here will give you plenty of time to hone your skills, grow with and provide at least 3-4 seasons of good riding experience for not a lot of money. (I am an experienced rider / road racer and I love riding SV650's they are that much fun!)

    Recommendations for beginner cruiser bike riders: Suzuki Savage 650, Yamaha Vstar 650, Kawasaki Vulcan 500 or Honda Shadow VLX 600. All have plenty of power, a decent look, and again will provide multiple season of riding enjoyment with minimal investment.

    Recommendations for beginner motards: Suzuki DRZ 250 or 400, Kawasaki KLR 250. Plenty of off and on road enjoyment and they won't break the bank.

    Ok, so you've chosen your bike. Congratulations! Now we need to keep you protected for when the "inevitable" catches up with you. Remember: DRESS FOR THE ACCIDENT NOT THE RIDE!

    Helmets: You need to ask yourself is there anything in your body more important than your brain? NO! You should always wear a helmet even if your state is like NH where we don't have a helmet law. There are plenty of manufacturers out there to choose from. Be sure the helmet is SNELL / DOT approved. While DOT is ok, the SNELL rating is what you should really look for. I've seen some helmets that are DOT but not SNELL. All SNELL helmets are DOT though. I believe we are up to SNELL 2005 right now and your helmet should be new, with no visible damage to the outside. (I've seen a few new in-box helmets come into a shop with damage.) If the inner black (or blue) foam is showing any area's of white, the helmet is either a trophy or it's junk. Do not wear it. This is an area where you shouldn't cheap out either. It is my recommendation to pick up a reputable helmet. Arai, Shoei, Suomy, on the higher end with AGV, Bell and HJC on the mid to lower end.

    Even if you are on a Cruiser I still highly recommend a full face helmet. The brain buckets, and half shell helmets are useless if you take a face plant into the back of a Buick.

    Jacket: Your skin is next on the list to keep protected. I've seen some serious road rash on people over the years. Personally, I have crashed no less than 10 times at incredibly high speed while on track. While I have damaged parts of my body and broken bones I have NEVER had road rash. Getting a good jacket is crucial. There are plenty of good Textile and Leather jackets available today. Again, depending on what type of riding you do will depend on what type to get. Most manufacturers have jackets for crusing, sport bike riding and dual sport activities. If possible, look for something with body armor built into the jacket. Shoulder protection, forearm pads and a foam spine protector should be your minimal requirements when considering a jacket. You should also look for something that has double stitching and Kevlar stitching as well. Vanson, Alpinestar, Technic, Joe Rocket, Spyke, Sidi, Hein Gehrick, Dianese and Moto GP are just a few manufacturers to consider when buying a jacket of any type. Prices will vary depending on size, style and manufacturer.

    Pants: Similar to the jacket you should look for body armor in the thighs or knee's. If you decide to get specialty pants look for a pair that will zip into your jacket. There are some great 2 piece textile and leather suits available. If your not into the whole leather or textile look you can purchase specialty riding jeans. They are a thicker denim and have Kevlar stitching. While not the most popular fashion statement they work well and in conjunction with other gear will keep you more protected than shorts. Again Vanson, Alpinestar, Technic, Joe Rocket, Spyke, Sidi, Hein Gehrick, Dianese and Moto GP are just a few manufacturers to consider.

    Gloves: Keeping your hands protected is almost as important as protecting your head. It is my recommendation to buy a glove that has a full gauntlet. (ya know the gloves that go over the jacket and cover your wrist completely) This next point has been argued back and forth. I recommend a glove with carbon fiber knuckle protection. Some can argue that they cause more damage than protection (I can agree with that if you saw my right had 3 years ago after a nasty highside.) Still, for street riding I feel they are helpful more often than not.

    Boots: Simply put anything other than sneakers. Seriously though, depending on what type of riding you are doing you should look for a boot that covers your shin at least 6 inches above your ankle. Find a pair that has ankle support and protection. Alpinestar, Sidi, Oxtar all have great boots for all types of riding. What ever you get, they should be comfortable while on the bike. For you sport bike riders please note: Racing boots are not the best things to walk long distances is.

    Well, look at that. You have a bike, picked your gear and have completed the safety course. Your ready to ride.

    Some friendly advise:

    Never ride faster than what you are comfortable with. Ride your own pace.

    Look through the corners. Don't stay fixated on any one target too long. If you look at it, you will hit it.

    If you feel like you are running out of pavement:

    1. You are going to fast, SLOW DOWN (once you make it through the corner).
    2. keep pushing on the bars, most likely the bike will make the turn you just don't know that yet.
    3. TRUST YOUR TIRES! They are perhaps the greatest engineering feat to hit the roadways since the motorcycle itself.

    Track Days: Once you get comfy on your new bike and you want to see what it can really do. I highly recommend signing up for a track day. You will learn so much about you and your bike's limits.

    There is a lot more to technique than this. It comes with experience. I'm sure I missed some stuff here but it’s a good start. Please post away with questions. Some of you experienced guys, please add to what I've said and hopefully we can all help newbie riders get the foundation they need.
  2. To remove this ad click here.

  3. johntvette

    johntvette Formula Junior

    Mar 27, 2006
    Hurst, Texas
    Full Name:
    Thanks for starting this.


    .... Racing involves speed, concentration and commitment; the results of a mistake are usually catastrophic because there's little room for error riding at 100 percent. Performance street riding is less intense and further from the absolute limit, but because circumstances are less controlled, mistakes and over aggressiveness can be equally catastrophic. Plenty of roadracers have sworn off street riding. "Too dangerous, too many variables and too easy to get carried away with too much speed," track specialists claim. Adrenaline-addled racers find themselves treating the street like the track, and not surprisingly, they get burned by the police, the laws of physics and the cold, harsh realities of an environment not groomed for ten-tenths riding.

    .... But as many of us know, a swift ride down a favorite road may be the finest way to spend a few free hours with a bike we love. And these few hours are best enjoyed riding at The Pace.

    .... A year after I joined Motorcyclist staff in 1984, Mitch Boehm was hired. Six months later, The Pace came into being, and we perfected it during the next few months of road testing and weekend fun rides. Now The Pace is part of my life - and a part of the Sunday morning riding group I frequent. The Pace is a street riding technique that not only keeps street riders alive, but thoroughly entertained as well.


    .... The Pace focuses on bike control and de-emphasizes outright speed. Full-throttle acceleration and last minute braking aren't part of the program, effectively eliminating the two most common single-bike accident scenarios in sport riding. Cornering momentum is the name of the game, stressing strong, forceful inputs at the handlebar to place the bike correctly at the entrance of the turn and get it flicked in with little wasted time and distance. Since the throttle wasn't slammed open at the exit of the last corner, the next corner doesn't require much, if any, braking. It isn't uncommon to ride with our group and not see a brake light flash all morning.

    .... If the brakes are required, the front lever gets squeezed smoothly, quickly and with a good deal of force to set entrance speed in minimum time. Running in on the brakes is tantamount to running off the road, a confession that you're pushing too hard and not getting your entrance speed set early enough because you stayed on the gas too long. Running The Pace decreases your reliance on the throttle and brakes, the two easiest controls to abuse, and hones your ability to judge cornering speed, which is the most thrilling aspect of performance street riding.


    .... Crossing the centerline at any time except during a passing maneuver is intolerable, another sign that you're pushing too hard to keep up. Even when you have a clean line of sight through a left-hand kink, stay to the right of the centerline. Staying on the right side of the centerline is much more challenging than simply straightening every slight corner, and when the whole group is committed to this intelligent practice, the temptation to cheat is eliminated through peer pressure and logic. Though street riding shouldn't be described in racing terms, you can think of your lane as the race track. Leaving your lane is tantamount to a crash.

    .... Exact bike control has you using every inch of your lane if the circumstances permit it. In corners with a clear line of sight and no oncoming traffic, enter at the far outside of the corner, turn the bike relatively late in the corner to get a late apex at the far inside of your lane and accelerate out, just brushing the far outside of your lane as your bike stands up. Steer your bike forcefully but smoothly to minimize the transition time. Don't hammer it down because the chassis will bobble slightly as it settles, possibly carrying you off line. Since you haven't charged in on the brakes, you can get the throttle on early, before the apex, which balances and settles your bike for the drive out.

    .... More often than not, circumstances do not permit the full use of your lane from yellow line to white line and back again. Blind corners, oncoming traffic and gravel on the road are a few criteria that dictate a more conservative approach, so leave yourself a three or four foot margin for error, especially at the left side of the lane where errant oncoming traffic could prove fatal. Simply narrow your entrance on a blind right-harder and move your apex into your lane three feet on blind left turns in order to stay free of unseen oncoming traffic hogging the centerline. Because you're running at The Pace and not flat out, your controlled entrances offer additional time to deal with unexpected gravel or other debris in your lane; the outside wheel track is usually the cleanest through a dirty corner since a car weights its outside tires most, scrubbing more dirt off the pavement in the process, so aim for that line.


    .... The street is not a racing environment, and it takes humility, self assurance and self control to keep it that way. The leader sets the pace and monitors his mirrors for signs of raggedness in the ranks that follow, such as tucking in on straights, crossing over the yellow line and hanging off the motorcycle in the corners, If the leader pulls away, he simply slows his straight way speed slightly but continues to enjoy the corners, thus closing the ranks but missing none of the fun. The small group of three or four riders I ride with is so harmonious that the pace is identical no matter who's leading. The lead shifts occasionally with a quick hand sign, but there's never a pass for the lead with an ego on the sleeve. Make no mistake, the riding is spirited and quick in the corners. Anyone with a right arm can hammer down the straights; it's proficiency in the corners that makes The Pace come alive.

    .... Following distances are relatively lengthy, with the straightaways taken at more moderate speeds, providing the perfect opportunity to adjust the gaps. Keeping a good distance serves several purposes, besides being safer. Rock chips are minimized, and the police or highway patrol won't suspect a race is in progress. The Pace's style of not hanging off in corners also reduces the appearance of pushing too hard and adds a degree of maturity and sensibility in the eyes of the public and the law. There's a definite challenge to cornering quickly while sitting sedately on your bike.

    .... New rider indoctrination takes some time because The Pace develops very high cornering speeds and newcomers want to hammer the throttle on the exits to make up for what they lose at the entrances. Our group slows drastically when a new rider joins the ranks because our technique of moderate straightaway speed and no brakes can suck the unaware into a corner too fast, creating the most common single bike accident. With a new rider learning The Pace behind you, tap your brake lightly well before the turn to alert him and make sure he understands there's no pressure to stay with the group.

    .... There's plenty of ongoing communication during The Pace. A foot off the peg indicates debris in the road, and all slowing or turning intentions are signaled in advance with the left hand and arm. Turn signals are used for direction changes and passing, with a wave of the left hand to thank the cars that move right and make it easy for motorcyclists to get past. Since you don't have a death grip on the handlebar, your left hand is also free to wave to oncoming riders, a fading courtesy that we'd like to see return. If you're getting the idea The Pace is a relaxing, noncompetitive way to ride with a group, you are right.


    .... I'd rather spend a Sunday in the mountains riding at The Pace than a Sunday at the racetrack, it's that enjoyable. Countersteering is the name of the game; smooth, forceful steering input at the handlebar relayed to the tires' contact patches through a rigid sport bike frame. Riding at The Pace is certainly what bike manufacturers had in mind when sport bikes evolved to the street.

    .... But the machine isn't the most important aspect of running The Pace because you can do it on anything capable of getting through a corner. Attitude is The Pace's most important aspect: realizing the friend ahead of you isn't a competitor, respecting his right to lead the group occasionally and giving him credit for his riding skills. You must have the maturity to limit your straightaway speeds to allow the group to stay in touch and the sense to realize that racetrack tactics such as late braking and full throttle runs to redline will alienate the public and police and possibly introduce you to the unforgiving laws of gravity. When the group arrives at the destination after running The Pace, no one feels outgunned or is left with the feeling he must prove himself on the return run. If you've got some thing to prove, get on a racetrack.

    .... The racetrack measures your speed with a stop watch and direct competition, welcoming your aggression and gritty resolve to be the best. Performance street riding's only yardstick is the amount of enjoyment gained, not lap times, finishing position or competitors beaten. The differences are huge but not always remembered by riders who haven't discovered The Pace's cornering pureness and group involvement. Hammer on the racetrack. Pace yourself on the street.

    © Copyright MOTORCYCLIST Magazine
    November 1991 issue
  4. ParhamK

    ParhamK Formula Junior

    Nov 14, 2005
    Sweden, Uppsala
    Full Name:
    Parham K.
    Very good read!
    Especially since I just bought my first bike today.
    thanks alot!
  5. Doody

    Doody F1 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2001
    MA USA
    Full Name:
    Mr. Doody
    someone on a bike forum i frequent had a .sig as follows: "When in doubt, lean more. 95% of the time it will solve the problem, and the other 5% of the time it'll end the suspense.".

    it's flippant, but like all humor, there's more than a kernel of truth to it.

    most of the hairy situations i get myself into (not that often, thankfully) respond well to this advice.


  6. Ducman491

    Ducman491 Formula 3

    Apr 9, 2004
    Mentor OH
    Full Name:
    I think that was Monte who runs Sportbike Track Time. It is really amazing how much further you can lean than you think.
  7. To remove this ad click here.

  8. Grey_Gull

    Grey_Gull Formula Junior

    Jul 24, 2004
    always ride defensively - no matter how good of a rider you think you are always use your head and know your surroundings, riding a bike should be much more focused than driving a car, think to yourself anything and everything can hurt me or cause me to hurt myself on the road (a squirrel running across the street, a plastic grocery bag, crack in the pavement, etc.), but don't become paranoid...relax and enjoy yourself as well...

    try to never leave a stoplight first - always use other vehicles as a shield just in case some moron runs a red light...

    elbows in, not out - tucking your elbows in closer to your body affords more leverage and time to steer clear of hazards and danger...

    experience, experience, experience - I cannot tell you home many times I have seen newbies think they are ready for the next step and jump straight to a snarling Repli-race 600 or a liter bike before they are ready. Experience is not a set time ("6 months on my SV650 and I'll be ready for a Gixxer or a 'Busa") experience is about seat time, ride as much as you can in all types of weather, road conditions, places as possible...when you feel you have mastered your bike, then move on. By that time you SHOULD be intelligent enough to make a calculated and wise decision...

    read, ask, listen, repeat - you don't have to eat, sleep, and breathe bikes to become a good rider...books (A Twist of the Wrist vol. 1 and vol. 2 by Keith Code are great books), magazines, the internet, sales people, other "old hand" enthusiasts are great resources and supplements to your own riding experience...
  9. Miura Jota

    Miura Jota F1 Rookie

    May 26, 2004
    Toluca , Mexico
    Full Name:
    this is the greatest advice which has helped me thru all these years


    never expect a car driver to notice you ...even if they would still they don't realize how fast you're travelling

    car drivers tend to think bikes move in a similar pace as a car.

    "Life is more enjoyable riding a 2 wheeler"
  10. donv

    donv Two Time F1 World Champ
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Jan 5, 2002
    Portland, Oregon
    Full Name:
    Excellent thread! This should be made a sticky.
  11. Dave328

    Dave328 Formula 3

    Nov 24, 2002
    New Orleans
    Full Name:
    While great advice, I'd go one step further.
    I have had a few instances where people , for whatever reason, purposely cut you off,crowd you, etc. It's like they have some kind of personal thing against riders. :(

  12. To remove this ad click here.

  13. Choptop

    Choptop F1 Rookie

    Aug 15, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    Full Name:
    Alan Galbraith
    Nicely done.

    Get the propper gear, both in bike hardware and protective gear. Get the propper training (MSF course, tutoring from more experienced riders, trackdays that offer instruction, read books like Twist of the Wrist). Get experience, ride carefully, ride defensively.

    You ARE taking your life in your hands. The consquences of screwing up are severe. If you are more worried about looking cool (mistakenly not wearing the right gear), or having a bike that that will impress others (one that is out of your ability to ride) you shouldnt ride a motorcycle.

    One thing I hear over and over... what do you do when its too hot to wear your gear? I dont ride. Sometimes its too hot to ride. Pretty simple. I dont waterski in Dec. becuase its too cold, I dont ride in the middle of the day in Aug. either.

    Bikes are very fun, bikes have a performance/$ ratio that cant be touched, but they are to be taken seriously.
  14. GT Fan

    GT Fan Formula Junior

    Jun 25, 2005
    There is controversy whether meeting the Snell standard makes a motorcycle helmet better or not. Some believe the padding stiffness required to meet the Snell standard can actually result in increased head injury compared to other helmet standards. Very long, detailed Motorcyclist article here:

    On another note, one VERY important concept for new riders to understand is "countersteering." All motorcycle riders do it, but if you don't consciously think about it while riding, you may do the wrong thing reflexively in an emergency situation.

    In short, motorcycles turn by tilting, and the tilt is induced by moving the handlebars a tiny amount in the OPPOSITE direction from the way you want to turn. That is, when you want to turn left, you move the handlebars very slightly to the right, then the motorcycle leans to the left, then you return the handlebars to center.

    This is all intuitive, and most riders do it without even noticing. But if you don't actively train your brain to realize that is indeed how it works, you may turn the handlebars the wrong direction in an emergency situation.
  15. Cajun

    Cajun Formula 3

    Mar 20, 2004
    Da BY-U
    Full Name:

    I have been considering my first bike for some time now.This is all very helpful. Keep it coming...
  16. rsvmille676

    rsvmille676 Formula Junior

    Nov 24, 2004
    Full Name:
    Scott Major
    Yes Countersteering is the only way to turn a bike. You can use limited body steering or positioning to turn a bike but the force that gets the bike to turn in and go the required direction of travel is countersteering.

    Keith code has a bike at his school called the NO B.S. bike or No body steering bike. Ultimately it is a bike with the throttle and clutch controls mounted to a set of stationary bars on the tank. The bike does not turn without input on the movable clip-ons on the triple clamp.

    For new riders: Push left to go left and push right to go right.
  17. Grey_Gull

    Grey_Gull Formula Junior

    Jul 24, 2004
  18. rsvmille676

    rsvmille676 Formula Junior

    Nov 24, 2004
    Full Name:
    Scott Major
  19. starboy444

    starboy444 F1 Veteran

    Oct 7, 2006
    Toronto, Canada
    Full Name:




    I'm sure everyone and other riders will agree.
  20. FerrariF50lover

    FerrariF50lover Formula 3

    Aug 12, 2005
    Full Name:
    I think this thread should be made a sticky. It was a great read.
  21. ParhamK

    ParhamK Formula Junior

    Nov 14, 2005
    Sweden, Uppsala
    Full Name:
    Parham K.

    I crashed my first kawasaki 600 10 days after I bought it. Thank god I was wearing my Bandit helmet, my head must have bounced on the asphalt at least 5 times now when I look at the helmet.
  22. Choptop

    Choptop F1 Rookie

    Aug 15, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    Full Name:
    Alan Galbraith
    here is another couple of tips once you have your motorcycle:

    Wash it.

    it sounds stupid, but wash it. It does a couple of things. It keeps your new bike nice and pretty :D, and one can see fluid leaks much easier on a clean bike, then on one covered in road grime. Catch small problems before they become large problems. It also puts your hands on the bike. While you are washing it, check to make sure things are tightly bolted on. This REALLY applies if you have a twin, they vibrate, things fall off. This REALLY applies if you have a Harley or Buell. Trust me on this one. Give everything a little wiggle to make sure its nice and tight. Check your chain tnesion while yer at it. Keep the chain or belt adjusted. Little things go a LONG way.

    A similar tip to the above:
    Give your bike a pre-flight before riding off. Check your tire air pressure. If its off by even a few pounds it can make a LARGE difference in how your bike handles. Check your chain/belt tension. Check your axle and brake nuts to make sure they have not backed off. Check you throttle for return action (a few quick twists and let go to make sure it snaps closed). Pump your brakes a couple of times. check under the bike for fluids dripping, and check times to make sure they are free of fluids or stains. Grab your footpegs and handle bars and give them a tug, make sure they are tight.

    What I've described above takes about 1-2 minutes and can save you a breakdown along side the road or a nasty crash. Pre-flighting your bike is just as important as pre-flighting your plane. You should never take off without either.

    Again, catch little problems before they become large problems.
  23. cantdecide

    cantdecide Karting

    Jun 28, 2004
    Louisville KY
    Full Name:
    Matt Hnderson
    I agree that countersteering is the BIGGEST influence on turning the bike, but not the only way. I have been experimenting recently with the effects of body position, peg weighting, knee on the tank, etc... and i believe all of these play a pretty large factor, but CS is the biggest by far. Also, TRUST YOUR BIKE!! 99.9% of the time the bike can handle a corner you think you came into way too hot. The important thing is to relax, dont panic, and keep your eyes on the corner exit. BTW, the pace is a must read for all riders as far as I am concerned. Just my $.02

  24. 6.0 se

    6.0 se F1 Rookie
    Lifetime Rossa

    Mar 26, 2004
    Atlanta,ga. area
    Full Name:
    We will stick the requested.
  25. rsvmille676

    rsvmille676 Formula Junior

    Nov 24, 2004
    Full Name:
    Scott Major
    Thanks A.J. !

    Guys lets please keep this thread as it was intended, with more great info (like what has already been posted) and invite any and all riders to participate, ask questions and enjoy motorcycling.


  26. starboy444

    starboy444 F1 Veteran

    Oct 7, 2006
    Toronto, Canada
    Full Name:



  27. rsvmille676

    rsvmille676 Formula Junior

    Nov 24, 2004
    Full Name:
    Scott Major

    Also, I hghly recommend against using grease pen's to "highlight" the tread pattern. Grease pens melt on hot days and if it rains after a hot day, the grease and oil are transfered directly to your contact patch on the road = slippery and falling down.
  28. ECTurboGSX

    ECTurboGSX Formula 3

    Dec 26, 2004
    Bay Area, CA
    Full Name:
    When I ride, I always assume the worst from the drivers around me. If a car comes up to a red light and is turning right, I assume that they will turn out in front of me and adjust accordingly. I don't hang out in blind spots on the highway because that person will come over into you. If you stay focused and have a mindset like this, you can avoid accidents.

Share This Page