Motorcycle Rider Basics


Ouch Mistakes This is the running summary of the top beginning rider mistakes.

Mistake #1: SKIPPED THE MSF BASIC RIDER COURSE --- If you must make every mistake in the book please do not make this one. The MSF Basic Rider Course will reward you with the essentials you must have before you ever get out in the traffic on your motorcycle.

Mistake #2: DON’T BUY A SPORTSTER ---If you are a new rider or a re-entry rider, we all make this mistake. Your first motorcycle should be a "starter" motorcycle. Get a used Japanese cruiser, 250 to 500 cc. It is light weight, easy to handle and cheap. Find out if riding a motorcycle is really what you want to do. If not sell it. If you are still jazzed after 3,000 miles, now you are experienced enough to make an informed Harley purchase.

Mistake #3: LOST FOCUS --- You are not in a car. You cannot afford to go ten miles daydreaming about your sweetie, your job or anything else but the task at hand. Stay focused on riding. I cannot say enough about this. It can be a life and death mistake!

Mistake #4: WEAR THE PROPER RIDER GEAR --- I know it’s hot. I know it’s just six blocks to the store. Never get on your motorcycle without the proper gear. The asphalt doesn’t care if you have been riding five minutes or five hours, it’s still awful damn hard and unforgiving (check out my matrix).

Mistake #5: ALWAYS CHECK YOUR BIKE BEFORE YOU RIDE --- Check your tire pressure. Make a visual check. Do you have gas? Are your bungee tie downs secured? Stuff happens, things change and it is too tempting to just hop on and fire it up. Two minutes spent checking can save you hours with a tow truck or an ambulance ride.

Mistake #6: RAN OUT OF GAS --- Check the gas gauge? Sure, but experience will have you checking the gauge and the mileage. You know how many miles you have in your tank and there always isn’t a gas station around every bend. Running out of gas is not only embarrassing and time consuming but on a motorcycle, it can be downright dangerous.

Mistake #7: OUTRIDING YOUR SKILL LEVEL --- New riders aren’t even sure what their skill level actually is let alone when they are out riding it. Statistically, out riding your skill level is a leading cause of solo motorcycle crashes. If you don’t know your skill level, find out and don’t find out the hard way by out riding it.

Mistake #8: UNDERSTAND "GO WHERE YOU LOOK" --- Is this a phenomenon or a law of physics? I don’t know and I don’t care. I just know that it is 100% absolutely the truth, your motorcycle will go where you are looking. Look ahead at the apex of a curve and you will track right there. Look at that tree on the side of the road and oh well, "Hello" tree.

Mistake #9: IGNORED THE BUFFER ZONE --- They can’t hit you if your not there! Stay away from cars. Don’t be ridiculous about it, but even in heavy traffic, you can always maintain some buffer zone around you.  Anticipate the soccer mom in the SUV, on a cell phone, changing lanes right into you. You know she is going to do it so keep your buffer zone and stay alive.

Mistake #10: DIDN’T UNDERSTAND COUNTER STEERING --- Want to go left? Push the left bar. Go right? Push the right bar. Hey, it’s not a bicycle so don’t try to ride it like a bicycle. Practice, practice and practice are the three things you must do to master this technique.

(And now, here's a blatant advertisement intended to get you to buy my book. Hey, there is no free lunch.)


Six years and 75,000 miles ago I bought a Harley and re-entered the world of motorcycles at the age of 55, and I have been having a blast ever since! I also have made every beginner mistake in the book. Wait a minute, what book? There is no beginner mistake book. Well, there is now and I wish I would have had it six years go.

MCRB Cover-Promo I wrote this book so you can cash in on my experiences and save yourself time, money and hassle. Crammed with beginner mistakes, tips, how-to’s and resources, it has what every new or re-entry rider needs to know about riding and gear. It’s got all of the stuff they didn’t tell you about selecting a starter bike, minimizing risk, riding safety, using the ‘friction zone’, going where you look, buying the right gear the first time and many more basic rider topics. It is easy to read, well organized and laced with a little off-beat humor to make it fun.

The single best thing I did when I started riding was to go through the MSF Basic Rider course. The next best thing I could have done would have been buying this book. Reading this book can minimize your learning curve and enable you to start really enjoying your motorcycle today.

Get your copy on AMAZON today.

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  1. Another good article on this site. I just returned to riding and haven’t made it to the MSF course yet but reviewed what I remembered and am glad to say I’m not guilty of any of 3-10. I did do #2 and bought an ’06 XL1200L for my return but my previous was a Honda 750F SuperSport. Looking back that was a big starter bike, I just didn’t use the powerband for the first few weels 🙂
    The first bike question is a tuff one. Canyon carving sport bike, highway bike, on/off road scrambler? And how big? If you must start small, see if you can find someone with a smaller bike that they’ll let you use to practice, take the MSF and get your license. But for what you buy I recommend no smaller than a 500cc unless you don’t want anything more than a commuter bike. At least with 500-750cc you’ll be happy with it for a while. I rode my 750 for 10 years, occasionally yearned for 1000 but always enjoyed my ride!

  2. First off, it is a bike. Anything on 2 wheels behaves exactly the same. The same exact biomechanics apply. When you ride a bike when you were kid going 20 mph, taking turns, you countersteered, whether you knew it or not. And I also don’t believe in the get a cheap light bike for your first. My first bike is a harley softail slim. Even a small girl can handle a big harley. I have seen it, so a heavy bike matters not. If you get some training and some practice, it doesn’t matter how heavy the bike is…I simply refuse to get a cheap bike…

  3. Oh Dear Jim Morrison…
    Anything on 2 wheels behaves exactly the same. NO IT DOES NOT. yes counter steering is a factor on all bikes dependent on speed. the dynamics of a bikes behaviors have various factors. Rake Trail, Weight, Weight distribution, aerodynamics etc… also anyone who buys an expensive bike that they have the maximum chance of throwing down the road when they are inexperienced is a ….well isnt that bright. why would you? also are yiou sure your going to like riding? yes any person can ride a harley. I am 220 pounds and ride a wideglide and my wife is 120 punds and rides a fat bob… so agree but we both have 30 plus years experience. glad you refuse to get a cheap bike so do I now I have the experience and money to buy one…. Good initial article great tips for starters…

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