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Got my first bike EVER today and my first ride!

This topic has 56 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 8 years, 11 months ago by AvatarBen.
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    So I have been getting a ton of practice in these last couple of days, riding 2 times a day most days for 2+ hours. One good thing about a military base is there are certain times when there is minimal traffic around but it is still like a small city with stop signs and stop lights, residential places, etc. I am now fairly confident and familiar with the friction zone on my bike. Haven’t killed it at a stop sign or stop light since that first ride. I have even took it to a couple hilly areas on base and practiced starting from a stop on a hill, over and over and over. I was even able to find an incline much like the one Capt. Crash demonstrated in during one of his videos (one of those loading zone looking areas that trucks back up into). Now that was a pretty steep incline. I made sure and practiced that over and over as well. If I killed the bike I would practice it 5 times more until I could do five in a row without killing it…then I did 5 more haha. I’ve basically just been riding all over base, the speed limit on base is 30 but I took it to 50 (made sure it was safe first) so I could get a feel of how the bike accelerates and the feeling of speed..so far i love it :) I spent some more time on the big black top doing turns and trying to practice leaning. I have chalk but I keep forgetting to bring it to mark my tires. I can confidently get up and go from a stop sign and shift up smoothly as I accelerate.

    I’m at that point now where I’m kind of bored just riding around on base…I really want to get a taste of the freeway (NO PUN INTENDED!)…what I mean is I want to ride on the freeway and see what it’s like. The bird has to leave his nest and fly sometime, right? lol. There is a place about 10 mins down the freeway called National Harbor that me and my buddy want to ride down to (he has been riding for a little over a year now). It’s down by the water and it’s a little harbor town, has a lot of restaurants, a big fancy schmancy hotel and a lot of nightlife. I figure it would be a good first freeway ride. I know I would be a little nervous before the ride, but it would be during a low traffic time and it’s a straight shot down the freeway. The way I’m thinking of it is, I now feel comfortable enough riding with other cars around me on base, I can operate the bike confidently, and I feel like I’m ready for the next step/challenge. I realize I sound like I’m just trying to convince myself lol but what do you guys think?

    Also, some other question.

    When approaching a stop light/sign, do you brake first and then down shift when you are going slow enough? Or is it ok to pull in the clutch, press the shift peg down, then use the brakes and smoothly release the clutch as you slow down and use the brakes/engine brake…then rinse and repeat as you shift down through the gears. Hopefully you guys know what I mean…

    Is it bad/bad for the bike if you come to a stop and you arent in first, but shift down to first while you are stopped? There have been a few times where I kind of forgot which gear I was in or wasn’t able to downshift all the way and then came to a stop light/sign and I would be in 2nd, so before I accelerated again I would put the bike back in first while stopped.


    Just re read the section of this site that lists some good habits beginners should form. I am actually pretty proud of myself because I have been doing all of them with the exception of maybe keeping my heels in.

    So lets see…

    “loose on top tight on bottom”

    This is one I actually check myself on all the time. When riding I have been reminding myself to stay loose and, I’ll do a little chicken wing flap with my arms to make sure. I also make sure to grip the tank firmly with my legs…perhaps this has been keeping my heels in all along I just haven’t noticed it.

    “take turns outside inside outside” along with “look through turns”

    The first thing that pops into my head when I even think about turning on a motorcycle is to come from outside, take it on the inside and roll on the throttle as I am leaned over and accelerate though..then of course I TURN MY HEAD and look through the turn to where I want to go. I can definitely see how target fixation is very dangerous

    “keep visor closed”

    hmm..forgot about that one as well. I do like to ride up until about 20 mph then put my visor down but I see why it is good to have it down at all times when moving…even at 10 mph I bet a bug or small piece of debris would really hurt…and if it got your eye that would be just horrible

    “escape plans”
    I always try and remind myself to check my mirrors as frequently as possible and keep my SA up at all times.

    I just put a post it up of things that I can work on/remember…this way I will see it and remind myself before I ride. :)


    Riding on a freeway for the first time is daunting, but I think you’ll find that it’s not that scary once you actually do it. I would suggest that you just go as far as one or two exits to begin with and then ride the scenic route home. Next week, go a little further; maybe both ways. Statistically, freeways are actually safer than regular roads I believe.

    It sounds like you’re taking this learning process seriously and that’s a good thing.

    You have to walk before you can jog and jog before you can run. It’ll be a few years before you become proficient. Oh yes, you’ll be able to control the bike reasonably well long before that, but right now, you don’t know what you don’t know and after a few years, you won’t even be completely sure what you’ve learned that is making you a better rider, but you’ll know you are a better rider by the fact that you begin to have a lot less of those those “ohmigosh I’m gonna die moments”.

    Get yourself a copy of “Proficient Motorcycling” by David Hough and that will go a long way to help put an old head on young shoulders. I’ll warn you though, it’s kinda scary in parts and you’ll be riding a lot more cautiously for a while after reading it.

    Re. the stop sign, it depends how quickly you slow for the stop sign.

    If you’re slowing down slowly, you can slow the bike using the brakes, changing down gears in the normal way as you go (see note below). Alternatively, if you need to slow quickly, it’s okay to brake/pull in the clutch lever and click, click, click your way down to first gear without releasing the clutch until you stop, at which point you either keep the clutch held in or put the bike in neutral and let the clutch out (probably the former for a stop sign). Or, you can use a combination of the two techniqes; the second technique being used towards the end of the slowing down.

    No, it’s not a problem to put the bike into first when it’s stopped because you lost the place, but it’s good practice to be in first gear when you stop so that you’re ready to go again. You may find sometimes, that the bike doesn’t want to change gears when it’s stopped if you stopped with the bike in a different gear (or a false neutral). In such cases, if you gently let out the clutch to the beginning of the friction zone while applying pressure to the gear shifter, it will usually help it to shift out of or into the next gear (be very gentle with the clutch though!).

    Note: The point of changing down gears (in the normal way) as you slow is (a) so that you don’t stall the engine as the bike slows down, and (b) so that you can be in the correct gear to accelerate away if circumstances suddenly change (e.g. the traffic light changes from red to green while you’re slowing).


    lol…that was great. I bet those moments suck. :( …but then you’re happy to be alive hahaha

    And yeah I am not taking this whole motorcycle thing lightly…I plan on living lol. After watching youtube videos, reading stories,hearing stories,and watching stories unfold haha like seeing some of my buddies lay down there bikes, and even see my own mom crash on a bike (she was a passenger on a harley, it was a really tight 10mph turn on a back road…there was gravel and the bike slid out and they slid and got trapped under a barrier where a car preceded to almost run them both over. She had no injuries luckily, the pilot however sustained a nice deep gash in his left shin and some road rash. The bike was done-skie. I was a little spooked by motorcycles after all that, but I still wanted one…I mean how could I not, they are damn sexy haha. Now that I finally buckled and got one I want to learn to do it right and as safely as possible…but still have fun ya know :) I realize yeah riding is inherintley dangerous, but so are a lot of other things, like skydiving (an addiction of mine…and it’s actually a lot safer than riding a motorcycle!)…it’s all about being smrt (simpsons anybody? lol)

    Rab, thanks for your thoughts and answering my questions.


    Well I just got back from my first freeway ride and it was great! I had a huge smile on my face the whole time :) (while maintaining my s.a. of course)!

    It was about 10 minutes of freeway and 10 minutes of city driving. We started out around 7:30pm and traffic was low. Our destination was a rocky shore down by the water. We got there and it was a great view with the sun setting over the city. Chilled for a couple minutes, took in the view, and joked about popping my freeway cherry (haha). Then we rode back.

    Merging on the freeway I was a little nervous, but once I got used to it I relaxed a little bit. First thing I noticed was being pushed around by the wind and other cars a little bit. Other than that I got in my usual rhythm of checking my mirrors and my surrounding regualrly…and watching for pot holes. Reminded myself to stay loose on top, tight on bottom and keep the ankles in. I would say I only got up to about 65mph going there.

    Riding back I got up to about 85mph at one point :) My little Ninja 250 was screamin down the freeway haha. I felt out that tuck position and that was pretty cool! I did get a little spooked exiting off of the freeway to base. This exit even makes me nervous when driving my truck. I think I would just confuse you guys trying to explain it so I made a illustration of it…check out my paint skills lol.


    So as you can imagine cars merging almost never compltely obey the yield sign, and this is one exit where that can get dangerous. Approaching that exit is also a blind corner, so you really don’t see cars that are coming on the freeway until the last second. Often times in my truck a few cars will pop out of nowhere, not yielding of course, and I will have to kind of floor it to over take them and get in my exit lane and then brake hard before that twisty off ramp surrounded by woods and gravel…and is bumpy as shit (as pictured haha). In these situations I find myself braking hard before that twisty off ramp.

    Luckily there were no cars this time to spook me even more but I still had to slow down fairly quick and that twisty off ramp spooked me. I ended up coming in a little too hot at like 50mph, had a little “oh shit” moment then I pulled in the clutch, click, click, click, etc etc all the way down from 6th to like 2nd and kept on the brakes as smooth as possible as I went around the twisty exit. I held the clutch in the whole time around the exit. All of this made me forget about my entry point into the turn, I came in too much to the inside so I was all over the place as I was trying to slow down and get back in the middle of the lane and keep up with the turn….I just realized that I was braking during a turn…a big no-no.

    Ok so that last part of the ride was a bit bumpy (literally lol) but overall the rest of the ride went very smoothly and I had a great time…I think were going to go out again tomorrow. :)

    Thanks for reading…any comments and advice are greatly encouraged/appreciated :)


    I remember my first time on the freeway being a similar experience to yours, and a major psychological milestone.

    Yes, you really have to watch those freeway off-ramps as many of them have a real tight bend, often sloping and with gravel at the sides.

    I think your whole problem was due to, as you say, coming into the bend too hot (a very common mistake amongst new riders; and “fast guys”). Pay attention to the speed limit signs on the exit ramps as they often give you a clue as to how tight the off-ramp bend may be.

    It’s never a good idea to take a bend with the clutch pulled-in. The best thing to do if you find you’ve gone into a bend too hot (which you can almost always prevent), is to lean more. So long as you don’t have a cruiser, the bike will lean a heck of a lot more than you’re usually willing to lean it. You lean the bike by counter-steering.

    Another strategy to scrub-off some speed in a bend, is to sit the bike upright very briefly and apply both brakes, then ease-off the brakes and go back into the lean. You need to have mastered counter-steering and also have enough space to do this one. If not, you’ll run straight off the road. Try to brake OR lean as there’s often not enough traction to do both at the same time. When you take your MSF BRC, you’ll do lots of braking and swerving exercises, which should help some.

    Make no mistake, going into bends too hot is one of the major killers of motorcyclists, so you’ve been warned.

    Always do your braking BEFORE the bend, not in the bend.

    Also, as you’re aware, it’s important to take a good line through the bend so as to straighten out the bend as much as possible and to let you see what’s ahead. The slower you go into the bend, the more time you’ll have to think about what line you should be taking based on the shape of the bend.

    Anyway, you lived to tell the tale, now hopefully, a little wiser.

    Oh! One last strategy… Avoid that freeway junction !

    I’ve got a real bad one on my way home from work. Seven very busy lanes of traffic with cars merging off in the same few hundred feet of shared lanes that others are merging on in (criss-cross fashion). It’s the most convenient one for me to get off the freeway, but I just refuse to use it when it’s raining as it’s too busy and dangerous (I came off the bike there once before in the rain).


    Yes, it was a big psychological milestone for me as well. Now I’m not going to want to ride around on base because I’ll just be bored haha.

    Counter-steering…I’ve heard that term thrown out a lot on Cpt. Crash’s videos but I’m still unsure what it is or how you even do it or how I can practice it. And as for leaning, yeah I should have done that as well. I’m still having issues trusting the bike lol. I need to get out in that parking lot and just focus on leaning. Even though riding there on the freeway there was a point with a pretty good turn and it kind of caught me off guard and I ended up leaning a good bit and it felt pretty cool…idk it just spooks me a little. I’m taking the MSF course next month around this time. Do they teach leaning and counter-steering as well?

    And yeah I usually try to avoid that junction. From now on this one will be one I refuse to use while riding a motorcycle.

    Thanks for all of the advice!


    I gotta tell you your posts make for a scary read sometimes! It seems like you are bent on learning to run before you can walk.

    Counter-steering is the Only way you can make a motorcycle go around corners once you traveling with any appreciable speed. I won’t even attempt describing it in great detail because I’m sure it’s been done before, other than to say; when you want to go right you lean into the right bar and when you want to go left you lean into the left bar. This is the opposite of what seems logical to ‘steering’ around slow turns, but it works because it makes the motorcycle lean and it’s the lean that makes it turn corners. If you try and steer around a corner with any speed, it will make the bike stand up and go in a straight line! Yes, this will be covered in the MSF.

    Please stay off the highway, I’m pretty sure your license doesn’t cover it and the cops are going to spot you a mile away just by the way you are not turning.

    This may sound like a dumb question, but have you ever ridden on the back of a motorcycle with a skilled rider at the helm? …that might be a very valuable experience for you at this point as it would teach you about leaning to turn.


    Yes, I agree with TrailsRider.

    Given where you are in the learning process, you should probably stay within the base until you complete your MSF BRC. Meantime, now’s a good chance to read up on some theory.

    One step at a time…


    Training instructors will shoot me down for this post because they are going by the book …a very OLD book! Yes there was a time when a clutch and front brake required so much force to apply an entire fist was required, but those days are long gone, unless you are still riding a vintage BSA or similar. Hydraulic actuated clutches and modern disk brakes made the full fisted practice totally obsolete and I challenge any to prove me wrong when I say one finger on each control lever or at the most two is by far the best practice. Even beginners recognize you need at least three fingers and a thumb to maintain a firm grasp on the grips. Training course instructors insist you use all of your fingers to apply the front brake and the clutch and that is just SO wrong. I’ve seen you tube videos of beginners going over the bars and getting kicked out of class simply because they hauled on too much front brake and I hold the instructor totally responsible for such a failure.

    Anybody riding at a skilled level in motorcycle competition does not use a full fist of front brake or clutch, so why it is considered a best practice for beginners???:| Try riding a Trial with a full fist of lever and your arms will be so pumped and fatigued you won’t survive one loop, except maybe the loop over the handlebars. You can do nose wheelies with one finger on the brake, lock the front wheel going down steep hill or smoke a front tire braking from high speed on a street bike, so why would anyone teach you to use a fist full of front brake???

    This is not even me but every picture I have of someone riding advanced Trials clearly shows the same thing, one finger on each lever. (my levers are moved in further on the bars than his)

    I ride with one finger on the controls nearly all the time other than going up extreme steep hills or splattering a rock face and the reaction time is a fraction of what it takes to open a full grip from the bars. If your fingers are too weak to pull in your clutch or front brake, exercise your hands more and move the levers in on the bars to give you more leverage where you can.

    This first part is important: You will likely need to go through the motions of using their full fist method to pass your training course, but I still maintain it is totally wrong, just don’t argue with the teacher on my account. Personally know 4 motorcycle training instructors to date that I can out ride, so if they disagree; come on out and ride against me in an observed trial competition or challenge me to a slow race :) If anyone can whoop me using a full fist to clutch and brake, I’ll take back everything I said and clean their entire motorcycle with my tooth brush :|

    …engine braking is very important and even more so with a heavy bike, learn it well.

    Elsewhere you inquired about servicing; I spend nearly as much time cleaning and servicing my motorcycles as I do riding them.


    What about my posts makes for scary stories and why does it seem that I am bent on learning to run before I can walk? To me that would be like if I had just learned the bare minimums in a parking lot and then decided to go on a freeway… I have just simply been documenting my practice sessions in this thread and trying to critique myself…nothing super scary has really happened(knock on wood) and I have practiced a bunch. First in a small parking lot doing laps in first gear, then on a big black top practicing with my clutch, slow speed maneuvering, turning/cornering and shifting for about a week, then around a couple of large parking lots with stop signs and small intersections for about 2 days. After I felt confident enough I took it out on the road just to get gas and ride back (5 min ride to the gas station with a few stop signs/lights). That built my confidence enough so the next day I rode it around base even more which gave me a lot of practice at stop signs/lights, intersections, shifting and keeping my situational awareness up. I also did a bunch of practice starting on some steep hills. After doing a lot of that for about 3 days I felt confident enough for a short freeway ride. My buddy led the ride and everything went pretty smoothly except the last part which was a minor scare for me. That’s how experience is gained though. I feel I have been taking this pretty slow, but if you feel otherwise I would sincerely be interested in why you feel that way.

    And as for leaning. I was incorrect in saying that I “should have done that” of course I leaned around that turn, if I hadn’t I would have run off the road. What I was really thinking when I wrote that was maybe I should have leaned more to make up for coming in too fast but instead I pulled the clutch and used the brakes (which I now realize is a big no-no). Now that I have that experience I am confident that I will do the correct thing next time.

    Anyway…I must have some sense of counter steering because it’s not like I haven’t turned my bike while at speed. Thinking about it confuses me, but today when I was riding I was thinking about it then at a turn did it and it just felt automatic.

    Before I left to go ride (it was a city ride, on my way back to work) I watched this video about 3 times.


    It confused me at first but when I did it on the road it made sense. It’s a hard concept to actually understand and grasp because it’s counter intuitive. However, I am reading that it is automatic for mostly everybody who has been on anything with just 2 wheels. I’ll accept it for what it is, even though it may not make any sense at first thought.

    Here’s another good video I found.


    And a wiki article explaining the physics


    To turn right you would need to push the right bar to the left (or pull the left bar right). Then all of these forces happen and cause you and the bike to lean to the right, so you then achieve your right turn…in a simple explanation.

    That first you tube video makes a good point about how counter-steering initiates a turn and leaning sustains it.

    But perhaps you guys are right about staying off the highway until I am fully licensed. It’s probably best…I’ll make a promise to myself to stick to base and riding to and from work in the noon time. It is a short 10 min city ride with stop signs/lights and makes for good practice. Plus traffic is low around those times. I take a shuttle in the morning because traffic is bad in the mornings.


    Don’t get me wrong definitely not trying to criticize, in fact I applaud your ambition and enthusiasm, don’t loose it!

    The bits that sent out alerts to me; you’ve already been on the freeway but still haven’t nailed down engine braking or counter-steering. “Riding back I got up to about 85mph at one point” …that equates to 135 kph which is roughly a 300$ speeding fine on the fastest highway in Ontario. “…ended up coming in a little too hot…” etc. that part was scary just reading it, but from reading your latest post I can see that you are catching on very fast.

    You need to recognize that I learned on dirt and by the time I first entered a highway I had 6 years riding experience under my belt (and numerous crashes) then it was another 6 years before I owned a bike capable of pulling 140 kph. Not to suggest you need to do the same, but now maybe you can see why I said you’re running pretty fast there.

    Keep up the good work, I truly envy your newness.


    I know, I know, that’s why I didn’t want to come off as an a-hole in my last post.

    Born in dirt, gotcha. ;)

    I thank you for the constructive criticism though. You are right, I should stay off the highway until after the BRC at which point I plan to be proficient enough to be safer on the highway. This is good…it will give me another goal to work towards. In the mean time I will keep my riding on base and those short city rides back to work after lunch, when traffic is low. That should give me good practice at a lot of things. Just put up a post-it with big bold letters, “STAY OFF HIGHWAY UNTIL AFTER BRC!” lol. I live my life through post-its now haha.


    By the way, Microsoft Outlook reminders can run your life better than Post-It notes.

    Little reminders pop-up all day on my computer, telling me what I need to to do next (sad or what!?)



    Been a while since I’ve been on here but I thought I would add my thoughts to this thread.
    It’s only been 3 years since I started so I can remember what it was like. I did my BRC before hitting the road but the BRC is no magical course. I thought it was very basic and left thinking “is that it?” and as many instructors say as their parting words, “You are now qualified to ride in a parking lot”. The great thing about the course is you have experienced eyes looking at your form and can give you instant feedback. Things you would never know you are doing wrong otherwise and it helps to start out doing things correctly rather than learn bad habits which you would try to unlearn later.

    jsan, I think you set alarm bells ringing when you talked about going round the corner with the clutch in. That basically means you were completely out of control. Happily nothing bad happened but, in case you didn’t realize it already, you messed up big time. Combine that with going in too fast to a blind intersection and it all sounds very scary. I can’t emphasize enough the need to slow down before a corner and be gently on the throttle throughout it. It took me the longest time to learn this simple lesson (despite reading it many times) as I was always concerned about how I looked. Eventually after one scare too many I stopped worrying about my speed and tried to get the correct form. I then had my aha moment. Being gently on the throttle the bike will go round the corner as if on rails. It all feels safe and secure and you are completely in control. It will probably also feel slow because you are so in control but trust me, your speed will build as your ability to read corners grows. Your “oh shit” moments will hopefully reduce to very few and riding becomes very much more rewarding.

    I also strongly recommend you grab a copy of David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling book. That is a great introduction to all the dangers out there you face that at this point you are unaware of. The best $20 you will ever spend on motorcycling training.

    Good luck with everything and keep us posted on your progress

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