Starting out as a brand new rider can be both exciting and frightening at times. Some may be intimidated to ask the basic questions that anyone riding should know. In this post I outline 24 very basic things that anybody who buys their first first motorcycle should keep in mind but may be afraid to ask. Some of these may be common sense but that doesn't make it any less important to point out. Let's get rolling!
1. You should check your motorcycle's engine oil level and quality regularly. If the oil looks dirty or smells burnt, it needs to be changed and you should not ride any longer.
2. Inspect your motorcycle's tires frequently for wear and tear, and keep them inflated to the proper pressure. If the tread is wearing down or the sidewalls are cracking, it's time to replace them. Riding on worn tires is extremely dangerous. Even if you have the slightest feeling they should be changed out – don’t overthink it and do it.
3. If your ride is chain driven – you should clean and lubricate your motorcycle's chain every few rides to prevent premature wear or damage.
4. Regularly check all of your motorcycle's fluid levels (brake, clutch, coolant, etc.) and top them off as needed.
5. Have a certified mechanic give your motorcycle an inspection and service at least once a year. Take care of any major issues that need to be addressed immediately – any failure can be life threatening.
6. Charge and maintain your motorcycle's battery to avoid starting problems or unexpected breakdowns.
7. Regularly clean and protect your motorcycle's finish (paint, chrome, plastic) from the elements to keep it looking its best. Be sure to research the cleaner you decide to use or spot test on a small area that isn’t as visible before cleaning your entire ride.
8. Store your motorcycle indoors when possible or under a cover when not in use to prevent weather damage or dust and grime buildup.
9. Inspect all of your motorcycle's fasteners (bolts, nuts, screws) regularly and tighten them as needed to prevent parts from coming loose while riding. The engine mounts, handlebar clamp, and axle nuts are just a few common spots that should be routinely examined.
10. Avoid riding in wet or icy conditions whenever possible. Check the weather and be sure you know the riding conditions and prepare appropriately.
11. Take a motorcycle safety course to learn how to ride safely and defensively. Read reviews online and post to forums for suggestions on the best courses near you.
12. Follow all local traffic laws and exercise caution when riding near other vehicles on the road. If you’re going to race – do it in a legal track setting with the proper setup, training and guidance.
13. Use extra care when passing other vehicles – you’re small in size and they might not see you. If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.
14. This shouldn’t need to be said but - never ride under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There is skill to riding and this, for obvious reasons, significantly increases your risk of being involved in an accident.
15. Wear proper safety gear when riding, including a properly certified helmet, eye protection, and sturdy clothing. As the old saying goes – dress for the slide, not the ride.
16. Take some time to get a feel for the ride before attempting to take a passenger and never ride with more passengers than your motorcycle is designed to carry.
17. You can make yourself more visible to other motorists by wearing bright colors or reflective gear when riding. Especially helpfully during a night ride but also recommended in the day.
18. Don't be afraid to use your motorcycle's horn to make yourself known to other drivers on the roadways. Don’t hesitate – a simple honk can save your life.
19. Plan your route before setting out on a long trip and plan to take breaks often. It’s important to rest and stretch your legs while riding as fatigue can strike suddenly. You don’t want to be at highway speed when a cramp kicks in.
20. Always carry a cell phone and pack emergency supplies including water, food and a first-aid kit. Breakdowns are never expected and you may also be able to help a fellow rider in need.
21. Watch for obstacles such as potholes, tar snakes or debris in the roadway to avoid a slide situation.
22. In addition to light indicators which may be small and hard to notice during the day - use hand signals when turning or stopping to let other drivers know your intentions and avoid potential accidents.
23. Don’t tailgate. We all know you can get up to speed faster than them but you’re just putting yourself in harms way in a situation where you can’t win. Always give yourself plenty of space when following another vehicle so that you have time to brake if necessary.
24. Be cautious when riding near parked cars, as occupants may open their doors into your path without looking first.
Be safe out there folks! As always thanks for reading. Your friend, Fred