So you want to get a motorcycle? Who could blame you? It’s the ultimate catalyst for empowerment, independence and confidence. You can be a grandmother, an executive or a college student. It doesn’t matter. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you women who ride bikes are freakin’ awesome. There is no better feeling than spending some time on your motorcycle and hitting the open road. The rejuvenation and excitement it provides will help you to keep your head held high through the stressful rat race that is every day life.
Although riding a motorcycle is rewarding, many people will try to talk to you out of it. Yes it can be dangerous but how so is entirely up to you. As long as you’re smart about your new hobby and you respect the machine between your legs, you’ll never regret the decision to own two-wheels. With that said, here are some things to keep in mind when you start motorcycling:
1. Take the MSF class. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation works in conjunction with the highway patrol to conduct the Basic RiderCourse that promotes an introduction to basic skills and street strategies that will help you through panic situations on the street. This course has been tested and proven to be much more effective than being self-taught. Qualifying for a discount on insurance and waving the DMV riding test are also perks to taking this course.
2. Don’t listen to what other people say you should get. Everyone has an opinion about what the best bike is for a beginner. But honestly, only you know what you’re comfortable with. Listen to yourself. Shop around. Sit on different bikes and do your research. You’re the one that has to swing a leg over the saddle, so buy the bike that will enable you to grow.
3. Buy Used. Just like a baby deer struggles to find its footing at birth, so will you struggle during your first days or even months as a motorcyclist. Whenever you start something new, there is an inevitable learning curve. You will drop your bike and it will probably happen more than once. Don’t be too hard on yourself because everyone goes through it. Purchase a bike you can easily fix and won’t be too much of a burden on your wallet.
4. Practice makes perfect. Just because you took the MSF class and now have your license doesn’t mean you know how to ride. Even people who have been riding for decades still need to train regularly to keep their skills on par. The more time you spend in supplemental classes and in parking lots honing the new skills you’re acquired, the less likely you’ll be to develop bad habits and the more likely you’ll be able to survive.
5. Choose your riding buddies carefully. I’m a firm believer that the people you ride with during your first couple of years on a bike will ultimately shape the rider you’ll be in the long run. Find people who will teach you about safety, encourage you to wear your gear and are willing to hang back with you on a group ride so you don’t feel pressure to keep pace with the leader. It’s these types of riders who will help you mature quickly and remind you to stay within your limits.
6. Stay Calm. A rider with a cool head on their shoulders thinks clearly and allows the bike to do what it was designed to do. If you lock up your upper body, the stiffness will translate into the handlebars, preventing the motorcycle from reacting to your input the way it should. Relax your elbows, loosen your grip, breathe and enjoy. Once you do this, everything else will fall into place naturally with time.
Written by Rachael Westfall. Rachael is a regular contributor to womenridersnow.com and she is also Associate Editor for Super Streetbike Magazine. She has been riding for twelve years, is a certified motorcycle mechanic and former MSF RiderCoach. (Oh and Rachael is also the bad ass on her bike in that picture. )