Common Mistakes New Riders Make and How to Avoid Them


Drag Motorcycle

It’s been several months since you started studying for your motorcycle license. When you see a motorcycle in the street, you become envious, you spend all of your nights comparing all of the models to find the one bike that will take you to the end of the world… The biker passion is in you!

Before you know it, that day is upon you. Your bike license in your wallet, you will finally be able to ride the streets at your leisure; but before you do, here are some common mistakes that new riders make and how you can avoid them.

Confusing A Motorcycle License With Experience

Getting your motorcycle license is a great accomplishment; however, too many times, new riders think that once you have the endorsement you are now an expert. Of course, this is not the case and nothing is better than experience. Give yourself time to learn how to handle the situations that the road puts in front of you.

The best approach is to stay alert and anticipate the situation before it happens.

When you have time, visualize various situations that you might encounter and plan what you would do in the event of such situations ahead of time. Practice maneuvers in a controlled setting such as an empty parking lot. It’s better to know what to do before you actually have to act.

Drag Motorcycle

Image from Drag Times

Choosing A Motorcycle That Is Too Large Or Too Powerful For Your Skill Set

Small bikes are lame, right? You need at least 1000 cc’s right… It’s easy to fall for that hype. The truth of the matter is that you should choose a motorcycle that is comfortable for you and more importantly, one that you can handle. Even a small motorcycle will be faster and more nimble than most cars on the road.

The nice thing about motorcycles is that they are always in demand, especially smaller cc models for new riders. You might want to consider getting a smaller bike at the beginning simply because they are easier to handle. When you outgrow the bike, you will get to upgrade to something new.

Check out this article from my friend Jim Pruner.

Going On Rides On Roads That Are Beyond Your Abilities

So you are a new rider and you want to go for a ride. It’s probably not a great idea to start out with the Tail of the Dragon. Putting yourself in this type of situation will put your safety at risk as well as the safety of the other riders around you. Give yourself time to understand how to ride, how to counter-steer, how to negotiate obstacles in the road ahead.

The thing is, if you try to ride complex or difficult roads at the beginning, it can shake your confidence and put you in a very stressful situation very fast. With some patience and practice, you will be able to reach the pinnacle of twists and turns… just start with the easier roads at first.

Going On Too Long A Ride

So you are so excited to ride your bike, you have decided that you are going to do an iron butt… Great idea; however, not as a new rider. The endurance that it takes to go on a long ride is intense. Factor in the fact that the longer you ride, the further away from home you are.

The challenge of going for a cross-country ride includes encountering different road conditions, weather and also riding at dawn, in the sun, at dusk and at night. This can be very challenging for a new rider. Give yourself time. Try riding at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. Practice putting on your rain gear or riding with clear lenses at night. That way, when the time comes that you want to embark on completing that iron butt, you will be ready to face the road.

Link to the Iron Butt Website

Neglecting Maintenance On Your Bike

You just bought your bike and all you want to do is ride… You ride to work, to the store, to the restaurant. You ride everywhere! It’s easy to forget that your motorcycle needs regular maintenance. It’s good practice to check your oil and tire pressure before you ride. When you get home from a ride, I find it good practice to wash the bugs off right away and to plug in a battery tender.

Depending on how much you ride and the air quality in your area, you might want to check your air filter once a month. Regular oil changes and spark plug replacements are important if you want to ensure that your bike is running properly. This can be done at the dealer or the local motorcycle mechanic, but for me, the pleasure is in working on my ride. Doing it yourself will make you understand your machine better and will get you involved in keeping your bike in good order.

Forgetting To Turn The Key Off When Stopping And Draining Your Battery

This happens to everyone. You get to your destination, hit the kill switch and forget to turn the key to off. When it’s time to leave, you realize that your battery is dead.

There are a few options in this situation:

  • You could get a boost from someone else
  • You could carry a small booster pack with you in the event that this happens
  • If your bike is small enough you could turn the kill switch on, get some friends to push you while holding the clutch and drop the clutch in 2nd gear and hope it starts…

I find that I have created a mental checklist when I stop. I make sure that the bike is in neutral, the kill switch is off, the key is off and out and that the kickstand is down. With some practice, you will get a system in place every time you stop and start your bike.

Buying The Wrong Gear, Or Just Too Much Gear

When you are a new rider, it’s easy to get caught up in all the gear available for motorcyclists. There is gear for touring, for sport bikes, for dual sports, dirt bikes etc… It all looks good and it all serves a purpose; however, it can empty your bank account in one shot, and you might end up with a whole lot of gear in a closet. The truth of the matter is that you never know what you are going to need until you have been riding for a while.

The important thing is to get the basics to start out and work your way from there. I would suggest a good helmet, sunglasses and clear lenses glasses, a good riding jacket, riding pants or chaps, boots and a good pair of gloves. You might also consider a rain suit as well. You don’t need the most expensive, it just needs to fit properly.

The dealer should be able to help you choose a helmet that will keep your head safe in the event of an accident. The rest of the gear will accumulate as you ride. There are great pieces of kit out there to assist you when it’s hot when it’s cold and so forth, there is no need to purchase everything at the beginning.Man and Six Children Sharing a Motorcycle

Image from The Casual Observer

Taking On A Passenger Too Soon

So you have a bike and you want to share this experience with everyone. Be cautious before taking on a passenger. You should be comfortable riding and applying defensive maneuvers as a solo rider before taking on a passenger.

Riding with a passenger is very different than riding alone.

  • A passenger may be nervous and jerk the bike in the opposite direction of a turn causing you to lose control of the motorcycle.
  • A passenger might not be holding on tightly and grab on to you forcefully if you are accelerating or braking. This could also cause you to jerk the handlebars and lose control.

The best thing for a passenger is for the rider to be experienced and to be able to handle the different weight distribution correctly. I find that once you are comfortable riding on your own, it is a good idea to go riding with a backpack. The extra weight will feel a bit like a second person on the bike but at the very least will follow your lead when you lean into a turn. Once you have mastered riding with a moderate to heavy pack, you will be in a position to try riding with a passenger.

Applying The Front Brake Before a Turn

Needless to say, this will most likely cause you to dump your bike; however, it seems to be instinctive. I find that if you make a conscious effort to always use your rear brake together with your front brake in normal circumstances, the automatic front brake reaction is lessened.

Practice makes perfect in this situation. Go out and practice turning in a parking lot. Practice in areas where this is little to no traffic. That way, when you are faced with a situation, you are more comfortable and muscle memory takes over. This is where a riding course comes in handy as you learn how to build good habits that stay with you season after season.

Thinking That Everyone Sees You

The last point in our list focuses on the fact that as a new rider, your senses are heightened and you notice every motorcycle on the road. It’s easy to think that everyone is in the same boat.

Unfortunately, this is not the case and the reality is that there are a lot of distracted drivers out there. When you are on the bike, you have to be alert at all times and aware of your surroundings. You also have to be aware of other drivers who do not always see motorcycles. Nothing gets your blood pumping like a ¾ ton truck cutting in front of you.

This is a fact of life if you are a biker.

The car driver on the phone or texting swerving from lane to lane, the driver at a Tee intersection who cuts in front of your bike, the driver who cuts in between you and your friends as you ride as a group on the highway. The only thing you can do is to anticipate the situations before they happen.

One of the best exercises you can do is to ask a friend to sit in a car in the parking lot and park in various places around the car and determine where the blind spots are. When you know where they are, use this information while on the road. Make a conscious choice to stay out of vehicle blind spots.

A little proactive behavior will go a long way.

This list is not exhaustive and is meant more as a guide to help you give some thought to errors that some people might make. It is fair to say that experience comes with the amount of time spent perfecting a skill.

The important thing is to get out and ride.

One should consider taking a course at a riding school. The skills learned during a course will make you a better rider. It does not matter if you are a beginner or a seasoned rider, we are all learning something new, just at a different level. Remember, even seasoned riders sometimes forget to put on their helmet before they put on their gloves…