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10 Things New Motorcycle Riders Should Know

As a new motorcycle rider, there is a lot of information to take in, and it can be easy to overlook some of the basic things. Read on for a compiled list of 10 things new motorcycle riders should know before hitting the road.

  1. Use Both Brakes

It takes much practice to master the skill of intuitively knowing what break to use in different situations. As a beginner, it is important to use both brakes when coming to a stop no matter the conditions. As a rule of thumb, 70/30 pressure should be applied for a controlled, smooth stop. This means 70% of the pressure should be attributed to the front brake, while the remaining 30% is attributed to the back brake. Creating the habit of safely stopping with both brakes is important if you ever find yourself in an emergent situation, as many new riders brake too hard, too fast which can propel the rider over the handlebars.

2. Know Your Fuel Capacity

Depending on the style of bike you have, it may not have a fuel gauge. More experienced riders can estimate the MPG and set a trip odometer to know when you need to start looking for gas stations. However, new riders who are not familiar with their bikes need to remember to regularly check the fuel manually. It is easy to forget to check your fuel amount when there is no gauge, which can be especially inconvenient, and dangerous when you are out riding back roads in the middle of nowhere. Until you get comfortable with your fuel capacity, always check your tank before going on a ride to avoid getting yourself into a sticky situation.

3. Lane Positioning

Lane positioning is a completely foreign notion for riders who previously have driven cars. Lane positioning is all about foresight and risk assessment. If you are thinking, and looking ahead, it will become easy for you to subconsciously make the appropriate decisions regarding lane positioning. Some common examples: If a truck is coming at you, move into the outside lane to avoid wind turbulence; inside lanes should be taken on residential streets in case pedestrians are walking, and riders should stay in the outside lane when approaching a turn.

4. Wear the Right Gear

Good motorcycle gear is designed for crash protection, as well as your protection from the elements. Getting equipped with the appropriate gear is essential to first-time riders. Helmets are a must in Canada and should cover your entire face as almost half of the crashes with impact to helmets occur in the chin and face area. Remember that helmets have a lifespan and should never be bought used. Sturdy, non-slip boots are essential as your feet and legs are what support the bike. A proper jacket and pants will protect your skin if you are involved in an accident. Likewise, gloves will protect your hands in a crash, and from the frigid Canadian winds while out on the road. No skin should be showing, and everything should be secure on your body. Investing in quality gear is the first step to practicing motorcycle safety.

5. Know How to Safely Swerve

Swerving is a beneficial skill to have as a rider because it is quicker and takes less space than braking. Swerving is done in situations where stopping would be more dangerous to you as a rider, or if it would not give enough time to the motorist behind you to stop. When swerving you want two consecutive turns or counter steers. Keeping your upper body independent of your bike and staying upright while your bike leans will prevent the bike from tipping. The best way to learn is to practice. Swerving should only be done in emergent situations, so riders should have the skill in their toolbelt to react subconsciously in a quick, safe way.

6. Know the Forecast

Riding a motorcycle has more exposure to the outdoors than riding in a car, and it affects the performance of your vehicle greatly. Depending on the weather, you should ride your bike differently. Before going on a ride, check to see what the forecast is predicting in your area, and the areas you plan on driving in. Is there a heat warning, torrential downpour, freak snowstorm? Whatever the case may be, better to be safe than sorry. Always know the forecast.

7. Ride More Defensively Than You Drive

As a rider, you must change the mindset and expectations you have as a driver. To protect yourself on a motorcycle, you must ride defensively, assuming everyone does not see you and is out to hit you. You cannot control everyone on the road, but you can take extra precautions you might overlook when driving a car. As a motorcyclist, you are much less visible and much more vulnerable. While on a motorcycle, there should be no mindless driving. Riders need to be scanning and prepared to react to any situation thrown their way.

8. Do Not Forget About the Choke

A choke on a motorcycle is a valve designed to restrict airflow in the carburetor of an engine. It is turned on to improve the start ability of the engine in low-temperature conditions. For new riders, this is one more step to remember when riding your bike. The most important thing is not to panic if you forget to turn it off. Leaving it on over time will cause problems within the bike, but forgetting once or twice will only waste gas, and not cause any serious, permanent harm.

9. Look Where You Want to Go

Target fixation is a major problem in first time riders. You will go where you are looking, so the best practice is to look far into the distance , observe what is ahead, and you will keep going that way. When approaching a turn, look through the corner, and give yourself an appropriate amount of time to react. New riders tend to focus on the road directly in front of them, when it is much safer to gaze ahead, scanning for potential oncoming hazards.

10. Take a Motorcycle Safety Course

Taking a safety course gives you the oppurtunity to practice riding in a safe, controlled environment. Learning and practicing essential moves for emergent situations gives you the skills to perform safely and subconciously under pressure. No one hopes to get into a dangerous situation when riding but having the training to handle the problem will put your mind at ease, and help contribute to a fun, and relaxing ride.

CLG Injury Law has over 35 years’ experience representing Atlantic Canadians who have suffered injuries following a motor vehicle accident. For more articles and safety tips, go to or subscribe to our newsletter.

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