If you’re attracted to the two-wheeled form of transport, this is for you. As with most new pursuits, there’s a lot to get your head around when you start riding a motorcycle – licencing, safety equipment, and the machine you want to ride is just the beginning. You’ll also need to get to grips with details like insurance, basic maintenance of your motorbike and improving your skill. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at each element to create for you a beginner’s guide to motorcycling that you can refer back to as your skills grow.
To begin with…
So you’ve decided you want to ride a motorbike. It could be to cut your commute time or just to enjoy the freedom of the road on weekends. The kind of riding you want to do will determine the type of motorbike you’ll buy. That and the level of licence you’re able to achieve.
If you’ve never ridden a motorbike before or don’t hold a licence, chances are you’ll need to start with your CBT – Compulsory Basic Training. If you’re a little older and have held a car licence since before 1st of February, 2001, you can ride a moped that’s no more powerful than 125cc. If you want to ride something with a bit more grunt, you’ll need to get your CBT certification and then the level of licence appropriate for your age and the power of the bike you’re dreaming of.
The motorcycle licencing path is a winding one, which branch you take depends on your personal circumstances. You can find out which is right for you in our student resources section. The good news is that you don’t need to go and buy your first set of wheels until you’ve got your licence – all motorcycle training schools should be able to supply the right powered bike for your training.
So you’ve got your motorcycle licence
Congratulations on joining more than 1 million other motorcyclists on UK roads! Now’s the time to buy the right wheels and make sure you have the best kit you can afford – safety should be your top priority.
When going for your first bike, it’s important to make sure that it fits. There’s no need to buy new, but do shop around and don’t purchase anything before sitting on it first. If you’re not comfortable on a motorcycle and able to have both feet flat to the floor when seated, it’s not the right motorbike for you.
Just as important as your wheels are your safety equipment. Prioritise helmet, gloves, boots and jacket. Legs and feet have the highest injury rates for non-fatal motorcycle accidents. This is followed by your head and neck. Our natural instinct to put our hands out to break any fall means these delicate parts of our body need proper protection too. Don’t skimp on your gear, don’t by a 2nd-hand helmet, and don’t ride without protection. These are the three golden rules when it comes to motorcycling kit.
Motorcycle insurance & maintenance
Just as with a car, if you’re riding on the road, you’ll need to be insured. Lower powered bikes cost less to insure and inexperienced riders may have a higher excess. Shop around for a deal that works for you. It’s good to be aware that some insurers give better rates to riders who have advanced rider certifications, so keep this in mind as you gain experience.
As well as insurance, it’s good to have an idea about the general maintenance of your motorcycle. If you’ve bought a second-hand bike, ask for the user manual. If the seller doesn’t have one, make sure you get it online or from the manufacturer. This will let you know what tyre pressure should be maintained, as well as where and how to check oil, brakes, coolant, and spark plugs. Other checks include ensuring your chain is lubricated and the correct tension, anti-freeze is at the right level and your lights are working properly. If you’re worried about how to do any of these things, check your maintenance book. Clips on YouTube should be able to teach you a little more too.
Keep learning to be a better motorcyclist
With each ride, you’ll learn a little more but as with any skill, to really improve you need to keep training. Just like your professional development, taking a brief course each year is a great way to improve your skill. Some courses such as Biker Down or Bike Safe are free or of minimal cost and focus on safety and first aid, other advanced courses cost a little more but help you improve skills, show you how to lower your fuel consumption, and increase enjoyment on the road. If you have the time and want to include some different types of riding, think about track days or tours that take you somewhere new. This way you can have a fun motorcycling break that gives you insight and skill that can be used in your everyday riding.