Later this month, hundreds of riders are expected to flock to California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains for the GEICO Adventure Rally Series. The three-day race, which starts September 24, will see motorcycle aficionados from across the country weave their way through the Sierra’s rugged peaks, both on-road and off.
Novice riders, fear not—the rally has alternate routes for those still hitting their stride. But, as with all riding, experts say it’s important to have a firm grasp of the basics. “Riding is both easy and difficult,” says Corey Eastman from Bonnier Motorcycle Group, which is helping organize the adventure rally. “For a new rider, [it’s important to] look at the basics.”
With that in mind, here are six essential pointers for newbies to remember.
Know your bike
There are eight main types of motorcycles out there, from supercharged sport bikes to stately touring machines. Do your homework and get the one that’s right for you.
Find your center
When they’re going fast, motorcycles balance themselves. But at slow speeds, bikes have a nasty —and embarrassing—tendency to tip over. The key to keeping them upright? Develop your muscle memory with good, old-fashioned practice.
Master the clutch
Most bikes come with standard transmissions, and working the clutch can be tricky. As with balance, you’ll only get better with practice; but if you find it challenging, consider a dual-clutch transmission bike, like those by Honda, says Eastman. “These are basically automatic transmissions that allow you to shift gears via hand-mounted buttons.”
Refine your body position
Don’t just plop yourself onto your bike; always be mindful of how and where you’re sitting. Plant yourself toward the front of the seat, relax your arms, hold your knees against the gas tank, and make sure you have a good grip on the handlebars.
“Many new riders get into trouble because they try to multitask like they do in a car,” says Eastman. So stow the iPod, switch off your cell phone and keep your eyes squarely on the road.
Practice, practice, practice
Take introductory riding lessons, but don’t stop there. Riding schools, local clubs and national associations offer more advanced classes in everything from racing to navigation. “Take all that you can,” says Eastman. “They are fun, allow you to try several different types of motorcycles and really build good skills quickly.”
Are you ready for group riding? Do you know the proper etiquette? Check out our 10 Tips For Group Motorcycle Riding.