08 Jan How to get started – Learn to Ride a Motorcycle
Motorcycling is a whole new world. Whether you want to do it for social reasons or for transport, it requires some basic steps before going out on the public road. In South Africa you are able to ride a motorcycle legally with only a learner’s licence for two years. The category and age that you list when writing your learners, will determine the cc that you are allowed to ride. A 17 year old is allowed to ride a 1000cc already. Let’s think about this for a moment…
From the age of 17, you are legally allowed to ride a 1000cc motorcycle on the road after only completing a written or touch screen exam. No practical exam is required to test your competence. This is what I find unacceptable.
The minimum requirement should at least be a practical competency test that ensures you are able to adhere to a certain speed, stop and pull off without changing direction. Turn and indicate and more importantly that you are able to turn within your lane and that you can adjust your speeds for cornering. Emergency braking and swerving tests are crucial for any motorcyclist to understand, but even more relevant to a beginner rider who is just starting out.
My solution for this is that if you are a new motorcyclist enthusiast, please take the time to attend a beginner rider training course. Ensure that you train with a reputable academy and/or person. It is worth the money spent. In fact you can’t put a price on something like this. A good beginner training course will teach you the following points in one day that in most cases can take learners two to three months minimum to learn. The aim of a beginner course must be to equip you with the basics in order for you to minimise the risks of riding a motorcycle so that you can enjoy the lifestyle side of it. The absolute basics include;
1. How to pull off and stop safely
The main aim of this exercise must be to teach a rider the necessary clutch control. A rider must also be able to balance a motorcycle while releasing the clutch slowly and in accordance with the right amount of petrol necessary to pull off. It’s important to pull off in a straight line, well balanced with your feet on the pegs as quickly as possible. The mistake beginner riders tend to make here is to look down. Always look up and ahead to assist you with the speed perception of what you are doing. If you look down, you can’t see a car or pedestrian posing a possible threat
2. How to change gears
A motorcycle’s gears sit on the left hand side by the feet area. It’s designed for you to select 1st gear right at the bottom, followed by neutral, 2nd gear, 3rd and 4th and higher. The amount of gears can vary between four and six gears dependant on the cc and type of motorcycle. The aim is to start in 1st gear from a still standing position and change up gears as your speed increases. The key thing to remember about a motorcycle is that you can do a lot in 2nd gear. You can even pull off, take corners etc. It’s the most forgiving gear and unlike a car the clutch is designed for you to use it a bit more alongside the throttle to allow for a smoother ride
3. How to turn
Turning is important, and normally the thing that catches riders (new and experienced) out at times. As a beginner rider you need to learn the correct way to enter a corner, the speed to carry and how to stay in your lane while entering and exciting a corner. For a beginner some of the challenges can be turning and maintaining a constant throttle. The mistake some riders make is to look down instead of up and ahead. In other words around the corner toward the point you want to reach. If you look at the curb for too long, chances are you will ride over it. Learn to turn the motorcycle by using the handlebar, into the direction you want to go. Always take note of obstacles, but never fixate on them otherwise you will ride towards it
4. How to do an emergency swerve or brake exercise
Every rider and driver I know must learn this exercise. You will most definitely find yourself in a position where you may need to swerve or stop quickly. It’s Important to practice this so that you understand how long it takes to stop a motorcycle when traveling at different speeds. It’s crucial to know that you cannot pull the front brake hard while turning or when riding on an unstable service. Understanding when to use the back brake and when to use the front brake or both can save your life. In some cases swerving is better than braking, especially when you have traffic behind you. But for this you need to understand how to get a motorcycle to turn quickly as well.
These basic points are some key steps you need to take and practice as a new rider to help you minimise the risks for yourself. One thing is definite, you will use each and every step here from day one of your riding and you will continue to use/apply what you learn on a daily basis.
If you choose not to get training, then you may take longer to learn the correct skill or you may unfortunately learn the hard way. This is unnecessary. The important thing to remember here is that motorcycling has its risks, but you can minimise it if you are responsible in wearing the correct gear and learning the skill required. We can never know enough when it comes to the art of motorcycling!
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