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What I Wish I Knew When I Started Riding Motorcycles

New riders have an idea of what motorcycling will be like. They are usually very wrong.

Just about everyone who gets into motorcycling for sport or transport learns a few basic things early on. But lucky you, I’ve got the inside line. I wish I’d known a few things before I got into biking regularly, you can learn it here for free.

Dress Warmer (Or Colder) Than You Think You Need To

Motorbikes don’t have climate control. You’re often stuck sweating like an asthmatic horse or freezing like a meat popsicle. I’ve learned the hard way to dress warmer, or, colder than I think you need to. If outside is a blast furnace, (Texas in summer) dress as cool as you can. This is where mesh and vented gear comes in handy. One of my favorite moves is wearing a mesh polo shirt under a vented mesh moto jacket. The wind goes through both layers at speed and cools you. And wearing a polo shirt is acceptable adult attire in most parts of the world.

The same principle goes for cold weather. I assure you, there is no cold like freezing your butt off on a bike. It’s piercing.

Wear thicker gloves or use glove liners. Wear those stupid-looking moto pants to keep warm. Even if your friends ask why you’re wearing baseball catcher’s gear and if you’re starting for the Yankees today. Yes, this has actually happened to me.

I have a pair of Fieldsheer black moto pants that look pretty ridiculous, but they are mighty warm. I even wear them sometimes.

At Low Speeds, The Front Brake Is Not Your Friend

Everyone has done this at least once, some of us are dumb enough to have done it several times: Pull into a parking space, or make a slow speed turn, grab a bit too much front brake, and over goes the bike.

At low speeds, use the rear brake as your main brake. This isn’t taught well or much at the MSF course. The front brake should be your main brake at anything above walking speeds. In a parking lot, Mr. Rear Brake comes up huge.

Got Plastic Fairings? Get Frame Sliders

You will drop your bike. I don’t care how good you are, or how long you’ve been riding. No one is immune to dropping their machine, even if it’s as dumb a mistake as leaning over before lowing the side-stand. Like a lot of common mistakes, everyone has done it, but no one likes to talk about it.

If your machine is a heavily-cladded sport bike, a minor drop can quickly turn into a major repair bill as those bits of body plastic are worth more than you might think. Frame sliders, little protrusions stunt or track riders use to protect their bikes, can be hugely helpful here even if you’re not planning on starting your own sideshow.

My green Triumph Sprint ST has frame sliders that helped with a couple small drops as I was learning to ride it. My previous bike was a Honda Shadow 750, which is a much smaller and shorter bike. My blue Sprint ST does not have frame sliders. Of course, I dropped it in the parking lot while trying to move it while the ignition barrel was broken. I wound up with dinged up fairings and a broken side case. Sad panda.

Spend the $150 or so for frame sliders and install them on your bike, even if you don’t hit the track. It will help protect your bike when you hit a small patch of gravel or have a brain fart in the garage.

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