Let’s take a ride.
As some of you may already know, I have taken up motorcycle hobbies such as minibikes, dirt bikes and street cruising. Why because fun that’s why. It’s also something I’ve always secretly wanted to do, but never had the money for nor the ambition, let alone a need. Until now. After working a stable 8-5 job for years, driving a boring electric car after working on cool/fun auto-mechanic stuff and giving up on the old Dodge Dart, I thought it was time for a change.
I’ve worked on a couple cruiser motorcycles and learned that it’s actually a less stressful way to enjoy automotive mechanics without taking up too much space in the backyard and riding something on the weekends without ruining a $5000 car or my daily driver. Doing the work is also a lot easier in some aspects than working on a car. But that last part’s just my opinion, well this whole article is really…
Look at it, no one cares, no one but YOU cares about this bike, so do whatever you want to it. It’s a piece of junk, so it can stay that way or you can spruce it up. All that matters is is that you want to ride!
I decided to make a short checklist for those interested in riding, see, when I began I already assumed I was going to like it, but there was a few things I was unprepared for and I thought I should share them so those who know me don’t have to go through much hassle when starting your adventure into the world of motorcycles.
Step one: (Cost:~$24)Get your permit, it’s only a written test and requires you to read ans study, it’s not expensive either, There’s no obligation that you must continue your motorcycle interests if you get it. The reason I add this in step one is because whether or not you decide that riding is for you, this is a requirement anyways, just for the street practice and taking the test should be one of the first things out of your way. That way when you pass the class, all you do is show up and print out your license. It makes things so much easier having this when you take the class, and getting experience is safer since you’ve already read up on it.
Step two: (Cost:~$100-$1000) Borrow, rent or buy a cheap easy to ride motorcycle. Also don’t forget Health insurance. In order to determine if you want to ride, can ride, or will be able to ride. Get a hold of any (preferably lightweight and cheap) motorcycle that is easy to handle, and use. No I don’t mean that sport monster your friend rides, I mean an actual small pathetic thing that you can drop in a parking lot without having to get in your knees and beg for forgiveness. I say practice before becuase knowing how to handle a motorcycle BEFORE taking the motorcycle safety course as the easier way and safer way to learn how to ride when you get your license without having to waste $250 on a course you could drop out faster than the bike you fell off of.
If you’re crazy just buy a cheap bike, or BORROW that beginner bike. You can even rent them off of craigslist for like $150 a weekend. Practice turning and shifting in a lot and see if you are confident enough to actually feel bored of practicing and you are tempted to start riding on the street as it is. Once you reach the point where you feel like you know where things are on the bike and you don’t feel as scared as you did when you first rode on it, you may consider this method of transportation or simply give up on it, that’s fine too. But at least you’ll know if you’re ready to take the course.
Step Three: Take the course (Cost:$260)So you want to take the course, what now? You’ll need comfy Boots/Hightops shoes, gloves (flexible mechanic gloves work in a pinch) and long sleeve shirt. Cover yourself up when you sign up for the course, helmets and motorcycles will be provided, bring a bandanna as you may have to borrow theirs during the course but you’ll look cooler when you’re prepared. You can take a 3 day or 2 day course, depends on what they offer in your area. Sign up and have fun.
Step Four: Practice. The hardest part I think, more than actually passing the course is going out into the real world of traffic and dealing with bad drivers. Pick a time of the day when there’s little traffic, little rush or speed and get the feel for your routes. I personally started on the streets then rode near the river where I was on my own. It can really let you learn a lot of things like what mods you need on your bike, improving riding habits and seeing if you actually can handle riding out in the real world.
Step Five: Don’t get cocky kid. There will come a point when you feel like you could just wake up, jump on the bike and ride away, but you forgot to check air pressure, gas, proper gear or even warming it up properly. The best way to have an accident is to acquire bad habits and we want good habits before every ride. Never rush to get out the door and onto the street, if you are low on time, you might as well take the car because forgetting one step of your routine could throw things off balance, upset the force and raises the chances of something happening to you or your ride.
One day I was late to a party, I had already planned to take the bike, but the front tire felt funny. I took my time, showed up an hour late with a properly inflated tire and fill up to a full tank of gas but arrived safe and sound to the party and that was that. It’s a very boring story because no accident occurred, that’s that kind of ride every one should have. (The interesting part of this story was intentionally left out. During that ride I realized my front brake caliper was seizing up and shortly after this ride, needed a rebuild. Don’t ignore dust seals! They exist for a reason. Anyways…)
Step Six: The Riding gear. If you can afford it, run out to Cycle Gear and buy all the gear you need. But most of us don’t live in Fantasy Land and if you’re broke like me, you may want to buy the following gear used. Jackets, shows, Winter pants, gloves, but NEVER helmets. Even if the rider said they’ve never dropped it, don’t bet your life on it. Always buy a new helmet every 5 years. But they are so expensive! I know, so for the first few months, buy a cheap cycle gear one. Once you get comfy enough, buy a nicer one that won’t whistle in the wind, the face-shield actually closes up right and maybe even comes with sun visor functions… ooh yeah. Now I say buy a cheaper one first not because I don’t care about your safety, but the Bilt brand $60 specials at cycle gears are DOT and ECE R22.05 approved just like the higher end models, the major difference is durability, style and features. it’s like buying a base model first before dropping and wasting your new fancy helmet. But again, when you can afford it, please buy a really nice fancy helmet, it make riding much more fun and comfier.
Optional. Step 7: The Biker wave. I saw this gesture near the Sacramento river when a whole club or like 20 bikers one after a another just lowered their hand and dropped two fingers, it was cool and funny since my friend was with me and he just honked back in his car since we were gonna meet at my place. Shortly after he asked me what that was all about. I had no idea, I thought they were just saying hi or it was a gang sign, but later my biker coworker told me it was a common wave. They don’t teach this in the class, but the biker wave involves your left hand. You can wave back the same way they did to you or just be nerdy and do whatever feels safe, you don’t HAVE to wave back, that’s just other folk saying hi. Nodding or head lift is acceptable too. It’s just a way to make riding more fun and the community friendly. If you wave first and they don’t wave back, maybe they’re just focusing on the road since gestures during traffic are not recommended, so you only see this on highway or straightaways when the opposite lanes clear.
There’s a ton of tips on websites, they all agree that you dress for the slide not the ride. Defensive driving, regular maintenance and I suggest reading up more blogs, posts and articles and the such. On this quickie guide we’ve only discussed what you need to know to get started. I hope you enjoy, I know I did, and hopefully we’ll see each other on the road and give a friendly biker nod / wave.
Random tips: Sometimes you may think that your bike is riding funny, but please make sure you filled it up with enough gas cause sometimes it requires a little more gravity push to get through to the carbs, especially on older bikes. I’ve had issue when the bike would start but as soon as I tried to rev it, the bike would die out, it turns out that leaving the Petcock / Fuel valve closed causes this problem as well. Check clogged filters, common on older bikes. Oil that chain, check those tires often. Listen to noises your bike makes. Read the maintenance manual. Warm up those old air cooled bikes plenty, and just get to know your bike man.