Live To Ride, Ride to Live
Hurtling down the road on two wheels with a growling engine beneath you and the roar of the wind as your companion is the very definition of fun to motorcyclists. Those things combined with some warm sunshine keeping the wind at a comfortable temperature, a tank full of gas and a few hours (or better yet days) away from all your cares… I can’t think of anything better than that.
Throughout the approximately 25 years of riding, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy I’ve noticed several specific things have made it more enjoyable and memorable.
This write up is a collection of things I’ve done and some I plan to do. Feel free to try some or all of them as you live out the tale of your riding experience.
Change It Up
Variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to motorcycles it’s also true. Avoid labeling yourself as strictly a “sport” rider or “Harley Owner” for example. Just be a motorcyclist.
There are SO many different kinds of bikes out there and each class and style brings a different variety of joy to its owner. You’re missing out if you spend your whole riding career on just one style.
If you’re fortunate enough to financially manage to own several different classes of bikes at once all the better, but if not don’t hesitate to sell or trade in your wheels for something different every few years to keep things interesting.
If after you’ve tried owning a cruiser, sport bike, sport touring, adventure, standard, and dual sport you realize that you had the most fun on a cruiser and want to go back, that’s great! You’ve likely learned a ton about riding and broadened your understanding of the industry too, which is priceless.
Visit the Yearly Motorcycle Show
Each spring there’s a huge event in my city where all the different brands of motorcycle manufacturers get together under one roof to showcase the new models for the year. I’m certain just about every major center has them too, so find out where and when the nearest one to you happens.
It’s a terrific opportunity to take in what’s new and to see accessories demonstrated by experts in front of you. These events are great for snapping me out of the winter blues experienced by all bikers who live in an area that shuts down motorcycling while the snow piles up.
Do Your Own Maintenance
For the most part, doing your own basic maintenance is straightforward on motorcycles and it’ll help you be safer too. You’ll notice things about your ride before every trip because you’ll be more in tune with it mechanically speaking and will catch potential problems before they occur.
Learning to be a little handy will help expand your mind and grow your self-confidence too. That mental elasticity and sense of accomplishment will put a smile on your face. You don’t have to rebuild your transmission or get really in depth to do this, but as much as possible figure out and do what you can for yourself.
Share Motorcycling With Others
I’m the kind of person who gets a lot of joy from sharing my interests with others. That’s part of the reason I write for this website. I hope to pass on the love of riding to everyone I can. I’ve taught several people how to ride bikes, including my wife and children.
That can be a little scary at first, but creating a heritage or tradition of riding in your family is awesome! I learned to ride at age 12 from my Dad. It created an immediate and special bond between us that lives on to this day.
When I bought my first Harley Davidson years ago, I phoned my Dad as soon as I got it home and told him excitedly about my 2003 100th anniversary Softail Deuce. He lives a 3-hour drive away from me and so what happened next came as a surprise.
My Dad out for a rip on my old Softail Deuce
3 hours and ten minutes after that call, my Dad was at my house looking for a test drive! It was a memorable moment to see my mentor ride off on my new bike with a big grin on his face.
Take Lots of Badass Photos
Let’s face it, part of the attraction to bikes is the cool factor. Don’t fight it, embrace it!
My wife looking awesome on a Heritage Classic
I look back now at the many, many pics I snapped before, during and after a ride and fond memories from all of them come rushing into my mind. They bring me back to those moments of bliss out on the road. I can smell the exhaust and imagine the sun on my back like it’s happening all over again.
I’m putting lots of my recent badass photos in this article hoping to inspire all of you to fill your phone up with similar ones.
Motorcycles are sexy and so are the people who ride them… it’s true! Make sure you document it thoroughly to share with all your friends on social media and when you’re old and wrinkled someday you can look back and remember when.
Just think of how impressed your grandchildren will be?
Grow Some Sick Biker Facial Hair
Ok, this one is for the guys, clearly. Ladies, I guess for you the equivalent would be to braid your hair and tie it back with a leather braid holder.
Having fun as a motorcyclist can include adopting some of the cultural image associated with it. If you’ve never sported a goatee or soul patch, I think you owe it to yourself to get a little wild with it and make all your friends and family wonder about you.
Black leather jackets, gloves, and chaps can complete the look and offer good protection all at once.
If you’re really up for it, grow out a ZZ Top goatee down to your belt. Trust me, it’s FUN!
There’s something special about the sound 200 or 300 bikes starting up together creates in the air. The vibrations shake your insides and rattle your eardrums, but there’s no denying just how awesome that is to behold.
On my first group ride, I remember one rider on a sportbike saying afterward that he had to watch his tachometer to know when to shift because he couldn’t hear his engine at all, even when it was revving almost to the redline!
Group rides also teach you about how to ride in a staggered formation safely. It takes practice to get it down smooth, so it’s best to start with smaller groups of friends first before joining really huge groups.
Get Some Riding Buddies
I and a couple of friends out riding got caught in a snowstorm!
Some people prefer riding solo, but I don’t know too many of that mindset. Generally, motorcycling is twice as much fun in a group of like-minded individuals.
That’s when you’ll go places you didn’t know about and see things you’ve never seen. A group of experience is much better than just an individual’s to draw from. There’s also safety in numbers in case someone has mechanical issues or just runs out of gas.
Riding in a winter wonderland
If you look on FaceBook you’ll find a group called Best Beginner Motorcycles there. Please take the opportunity to join and participate on the page when you can. You can also make connections with other riders on that group and many others on social media.
Go Off-Road Riding
Dirt biking is a terrific venue to enhance your riding skills. If you can keep the bike under control in deep mud, crossing streams, riding over rocks and through sand, you’ll find on road riding much easier.
Getting dirty in the mud and spraying your friends with your back tire is piles of fun. You’ll also get to climb huge hills to enjoy the view from the top more often on a dirt bike.
Dual sport bikes are especially fun since you don’t have to trailer them to where you want to ride in the rough stuff. You’ll find these are much simpler bikes to work on yourself too. There are plenty of good reasons to leave asphalt behind in search of fun.
Join The Iron Butt Association
There’s an ASSociation (pardon the pun) you can join if you have it in you called the Iron Butt Association or IBA. To join this club you have to ride 1000 miles in 24 hrs. It’s quite a challenge, but if you register before the ride with IBA and succeed in completing the trip you’ll get a certificate from them and a certain degree of bragging rights among fellow motorcyclists.
I haven’t personally done one of these rides yet, but it’s on my list of must do things for this riding season.
Join A Riding Club
There are several large clubs and organizations like the Harley Owner’s Group (HOG), the BMW MOA or even just local ones in your community that you can join.
They’ll organize big rallies you can participate in, but they also can help get you discounts on lodging when traveling and for buying gear.
There’s a great feeling of comradery to be found in joining a club. Often it’s difficult to find people to ride with especially if you’re new to a city or town. The club membership is an easy solution to that problem.
Go Motorcycle Camping
I’m just getting into the motorcycle camping scene myself, but I’m really excited about doing it.
I love camping, to begin with, but doing it from a motorcycle forces you to pack REALLY light and use your head on how to simplify your choices for must-have gear.
It opens the door to travelling on a shoestring budget just about anywhere in the world. Adventure awaits you, because you can use the money normally needed for hotels instead for better camping gear and other gizmos to help make yourself more comfortable in a tent.
Test Drive or Buy a Sidecar Motorcycle
This sounds odd, but the most memorable and fun test drive I’ve ever taken was on a Ural Gear Up motorcycle last year. I’ve ridden plenty of different bikes that I loved, but by far the Ural produced the most laughing and smiles.
These bikes handle completely different than typical ones do and it’s like learning to ride all over again. Not to mention the Ural is 2 wheel drive and can go almost anywhere without getting stuck.
See this article I wrote about the bike and the test ride here: https://www.bestbeginnermotorcycles.com/ural-gear-review-russia-sidecar/
Ride in the Rain
Riding in the rain isn’t fun at the time, but the strange thing I’ve found is that doing things which produce short-term discomfort results in the fondest memories.
Riding in the rain is uncomfortable if you don’t have proper waterproof gear and you don’t remember to brake earlier and very carefully for the first 15 to 20 minutes after the rain starts.
It’s also kind of a right of passage for every biker though. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in bad weather and look back on it as you clean the road grime off your bike afterward with a real sense of accomplishment.
Ride With A Passenger
Taking along your spouse or partner on a beautiful summer ride can bring you closer together. Experiencing adventure out on the open road, even in a different country is the perfect glue for any relationship.
It’s hard to put into words the bond that forms out on the road while two-up on a bike. You get lots of time to talk and feel more alive riding your steel horse together. There’s even something sort of “cowboy” about it that is special. Car road trips are great too, but they can’t beat a bike.
If you get sick of hearing the other person talk on longer rides you can also just claim not to be able to hear them over the wind noise too!
Try An Automatic Transmission
There are more and more automatic bikes on the market today. There have always been plenty of scooters with CVTs in them, meaning you don’t have to shift gears, but Honda, in particular, has developed bikes with Dual Clutch Transmissions in them. You don’t have to shift gears on these bikes either. It’s very different than a manual transmission to ride and you may find yourself liking it better as I did when I test drove a new Africa Twin with the DCT.
Try An Electric Motorcycle
I’m convinced electric bikes are the future. Once you ride one you’ll be so impressed with the incredible torque an electric motor can provide in a motorcycle.
Electric bike motors provide instantaneous power, no gears to shift and whisper quiet too. Companies like Zero Motorcycles have made bikes that can go 200 miles on a charge now in the city, so it won’t be long before they really catch on.
Add to that the fact Harley Davidson is going to release their electric bike next year.
I guess the main message is to take advantage of the opportunity to try out the latest technology available on new motorcycles in general. It certainly makes me happy to try new things.
Ride In The Mountains
Riding in the mountains is a religious experience for motorcyclists.
On a bike, you don’t have a roof or windshield in your field of vision so you experience the full majesty of the monolithic mounds of stone surrounding you.
Last summer I rode on the Going To The Sun Road in northern Montana for the first time. It was breathtakingly beautiful and more than a little scary at times riding with no barrier between me and a 1000 foot cliff. I suppose that’s why it was so much fun too. A little danger to get the blood pumping always is.
Go On A LONG Trip At Least Once
Shorter trips that only last a day or two is a lot of fun and shouldn’t be discounted. They’re what I usually do, to be honest, but what about riding for a week or more every day?
That’s what the stuff of legendary stories are born of. Those epic journeys of crossing a country, continent or even better reaching from one extreme latitude to another are life-altering events.
I’m going on my first real adventure ride in June when I’ll be traveling by bike from Dawson City, Yukon all the way north to the frigid shoreline of the Arctic Ocean. Tuktoyaktuk is my destination. A hamlet of only 900 people that only just last year finally had a year-round road completed connecting their community by land to the south.
To say I’m excited is an understatement. Nervous? Absolutely, but mostly thrilled to have the opportunity to go and do what few people consider attempting. Here is the first piece I wrote about my preparation for the trip for our sister site WebBikeWorld.com: https://www.webbikeworld.com/adventure-ride-from-dawson-to-tuktoyaktuk/
Keep Yourself Safe
All the tips I’ve given so far are great, but probably the most important way to be happier while riding is to outfit yourself properly in full protective riding gear.
For many years I rode with the bare minimum protective equipment and got away with it. The downside to doing that is that I was always a victim of the elements.
When you wear a full face helmet, you don’t get rocks, bugs, cigarettes and whatever else hitting you in the face and you’ll enjoy the ride much more
Proper jackets, pants, gloves, and boots make a world of difference in rider comfort and safety too. It’s hard to be happy when you’re freezing cold and wet.
Make sure you keep yourself safe and you’ll ride for many, many years.