Motorcycle Basics: Selecting a Bike for Your First Ride

So, you want to ride a motorcycle?

Motorcycle on road
Serdar S. Unal/Getty Images

There are many reasons to ride a motorcycle. It's an economical way to get around town or explore the open road, it allows you to show off your individuality, and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow bikers. Plus, it's just plain cool. If you're ready for the thrill of a motorcycle, there are a few things you need to know before you get started.

The Different Types of Motorcycles

It's easy to understand what a motorcycle is: an open vehicle with (most often) two wheels. Yet, there are many different styles of motorcycles. They range from the simple scooter that's great for an easy commute to loud and proud choppers and cruisers like those made by Harley-Davidson.

Some bikes, like Enduro, Motocross, and sports bikes, are more for racing or trail riding. Others are meant to let you enjoy the freedom of the open road. The important thing when choosing a motorcycle is to decide what type of riding you want to do. That will help you find a style and from there it's just a matter of finding the right bike for you and your budget.

Also, when shopping for a bike, you'll want to ensure the seat is at the right height for you. 

Essential Gear for Bikers

Driving a car is nothing like riding a bike and you need to have the right clothing before you hop on. Every biker has their own style and idea of what gear they want, but a few things are universal to all types of bikes. For instance, long pants and jackets are pretty standard because your legs are next to hot parts and the wind of the road can be chilly, even on the hottest day.

The helmet is the most important part, though some bikers choose not to wear one. Yet, if you're ever in a crash, this simple piece of gear can make a difference and possibly save your life. Helmets aren't for wimps and there are many cool styles to choose from. Some are even designed for specific styles of riding, like dirt racing and adventure touring.

Another big thing to consider is how to stay warm while you're riding. Even if you're a fair weather rider, there will be times when a little insulation or protection from the cold and rain will come in handy. You never know when a little shower will pop up, so it's best to be prepared.

Before Your First Ride

The bike and the gear are just two elements you need to consider before you hop on a motorcycle. You'll probably want to take a training course and experience your first ride in a controlled parking lot under supervision. This advice and experience will let you get a feel for a bike and learn the ins and outs of running one. 

You need to get a motorcycle license because your standard driver's license is not sufficient in most places.

As a beginner, it's important to take your time and really get to know your bike. This will help you avoid first-timer mistakes and you will feel comfortable on two wheels. Getting too cocky too fast can lead to serious accidents and there is a certain level of respect for safety that all riders must have.

Within your introduction to the bike, you'll need to get used to the controls. This includes accelerating and shifting gears, which is one of the trickiest parts of a motorcycle. Of course, you need to know how to stop and understand when to use the front or the rear brakes. 

Last and certainly not least, it's easy to run out of gas on a motorcycle. It seems like a strange warning, but it's true and countless riders can tell you stories about how you cannot trust the gauges. The smaller tanks and good fuel economy are tricky to get used to, so it's easy to think you have enough gas to get to the next station.

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