Start a New Two-Wheeled Hobby in Travel Tuesdays*
I am a fair-weather motorcyclist, mostly. I have the gear to ride in pretty cold temperatures and can often manage a few cold-weather rides until ice and snow land. But, the Arctic Blast settling over the country this week sent my bike into early hibernation. Even as I was storing my bike in the shed, putting it on a battery tender and adding fuel stabilizer to the tank, I was thinking about next season.
Cold weather makes for good planning and learning time. I like to dream up next year?s epic motorcycle adventures and think about how to make myself a better and safer rider. If you?re not a motorcyclist yet, now is the time to prepare for your first season on two wheels.
Look for Training
I?ve met lots of people who learned how to ride motorcycles when they were kids. Their parents let them burn around empty lots and trails on dirt bikes. Some of them probably think they don?t need a ?Learn to Ride? class that covers the basics of how a bike works, but I think everyone always needs training.
Here?s two national organizations offering ?Learn to Ride? classes throughout the country. I?ve taken classes from both and while there are some differences, both will help make you a better rider right out of the gate.
Motorcycle Safety Foundation Home Page
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is the internationally recognized developer of the comprehensive, research-based?
Motorcyclist Training Courses | Total Control Training
We are the largest provider of advanced motorcycle training and the leader in basic motorcycle training in North?
If you don?t have a motorcycle license or endorsement, most ?Learn to Ride? classes combine instruction with the licensing test. That a twofer ? technique pointers from experts AND the license in one weekend!
Keep in mind, ?Learn to Ride? class is BASIC, BASIC, BASIC. It helps you stay upright but does not teach you much good riding technique. Start the season with ?Learn to Ride? c, then immediately sign up for more advanced training at the end of the season. The year I started, I learned from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) in May and took an intermediate class from Total Control in July. Besides my safety gear, that was the BEST investment in my safety and road confidence.
That?s me in my intermediate riding class with Total Control.
If you can pass the test without a class, good for you. Do that then enroll in an intermediate or advanced class and soak up some knowledge from experts. This year I was amazed at how much I learned from training on-road with Ken Condon of Riding in the Zone.
Riding in the Zone | Advanced Motorcycle Training Tours- Riding in the Zone, LLC
Riding in the Zone Street and Off-Road Increase your safety and confidence while enjoying the beautiful Berkshire Hills?
The motorcycle-riding bug bit me in the springtime. I signed up for a weekend ?Learn To Ride? class and barely passed the Sunday afternoon parking lot licensing test. I wish I had done a bit of preparation before the class.
Motorcycling comes with its own vocabulary. You will have a better experience of learning to ride if you do a bit of studying beforehand. Get familiar with the parts of the motorcycle, body positioning, the mechanics of motorcycle riding and you?ll get to class and be able to focus on the riding portion rather than the classroom portions.
Curl up in front of the fire and watch videos or read books.
Ken has TWO books for you to choose from. So, which one is right for you? Of course, most riders will benefit from BOTH?
Are you comfortable driving a manual transmission?
I throw this in because some people don?t know most motorcycles have a sequential manual transmission. There are a few expensive motorcycles out there with automatic transmissions, but the ?Learn to Ride? class likely requires using their small motorcycles that have a clutch. So, if you never learned to drive a stick, this winter is your time.
The off-season is a fun time dig into motorcycle shopping and get really nerdy about specs and colors and all of that. When I got my last motorcycle, I searched for the motorcycle I wanted in the winter. Then, when used bikes hit the market in the spring, I knew what I wanted. So, in April, I drove down to Pennsylvania, picked up my new bike and rode it home.
When you get your first bike, all your motorcycling friends will have plenty of advice about what to get. ?Don?t buy a small bike. Buy a bike you?ll grow into,? is one piece of advice that always comes up. The thought is that new rider quickly ?outgrows? their smaller bike and will want a bigger one just months after learning to ride. These good meaning people think this advice saves the new rider money.
I call ?BULLSHIT? on this piece of advice.
Riding Solo on My Rebel 500 through Zion National Park
Lemme offer an equivalent scenario. ?Hey, I hear your 16-year-old kid just got their license. Wow! Next thing you know, they will be ready for speeding, taking curves really fast, and racing around the neighborhood. Really, they are going to learn how to drive better so quickly that they?ll outgrow that sedan so fast. You should just let them have an expensive, 500hp sports car.?
You might think the above doesn?t apply to you. You?re an adult. You know how to drive a car already and those skills translate. Good for you. Be a grown-up and budget for the upgrade.
I heard this myself and then I bought a smaller bike ? a Honda Rebel 500ABS. I rode it 6000 miles across the country, through deserts, over mountains and even on the Tail of the Dragon. It did it all. I rode that thing 15,000 miles before upgrading.
Riding the Tail of the Dragon!
Gear, Gear, Gear
Many new riders don?t think beyond the price tag on the motorcycle. Unlike a car, there are a few things you need before you hit the road. Only three states have no helmet law ? Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire. A bunch have age restrictions, but most likely, you will need to buy a helmet. Budget for that.
I am not going to preach about gearing up. Personally, I wear All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT) ? helmet, armored pants, armored jacket, motorcycling boots (not moto-style boots), gloves, earplugs, and shatter-proof sunglasses. Plus, I have multiples of several of these for season, comfort or style. AND, I have underlayers for season and comfort including a heated jacket and gloves.
Good quality gear is expensive. It is also a buying obsession. Be prepared to buy gear.
I also have two strikes against me as a plus-sized woman. Women?s motogear is hard to find. Plus-sized women?s gear is a rare jewel. I have to buy most of my gear online and there are usually a few exchanges to get the right gear.
Winter Shopping and Holiday Gift Goals
So, if you are thinking about starting an awesome new two-wheeled hobby in 2020, start preparing now.
*On Tuesdays, I like to write about lessons in travel and adventure in Travel Tuesdays*