As motorcycle enthusiasts we want to see our sport thriving and growing. While younger generations, by and large, aren't as interested in motorcycles as they used to be there are still new riders, young and old alike, trying out the sport for the first time. It's important that seasoned riders steer them in the right direction by giving them some sound advice so they have an amazing, safe experience. Here's what we've come up with so far (feel free to add your own twin pennies in the comments below and earn WingRewards)
The Honda Gold Wing is a whole lot of machine. If you've never ridden a motorcycle before, might we suggest you try your hand at something smaller and less powerful. There is a common theme to our advice...safety, safety, safety. Choosing the right bike for you is no exception.
Can you learn how to ride using a Gold Wing? Absolutely. We know many riders whose first experience was on a Wing. However, to be on the safe side we humbly suggest new riders consider a motorcycle better suited for newbies. Look at bikes with a 600cc engine size or less. Once you feel comfortable on a smaller ride, and the following advice becomes a part of your routine, you can get your hands on a Gold Wing. It might even be fun to start your Wing experience with a GL1000 and work your way up through the subsequent models.
There are several great courses out there that will get you ride-ready. We recommend that you check GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Riders Association). They offer a comprehensive rider education program. Another option to consider is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) which has a myriad of courses to choose from, including a Basic eCourse and a RiderCourse which are both great for new riders.
Take the time to do your research and find the right course for you.
There are countless YouTube videos and blog articles out there confirming what we know to be true: As a rider you will more than likely experience a crash or tip-over at some point in your tenure. The chances of that happening are especially high as a new rider, when you lack the experience and technical know-how you will develop over time.
A t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops are a bad choice. You need the proper gear to protect you for those “just-in-case” moments. We recommend that new riders wear a helmet, motorcycle jacket that’s designed to protect them from a fall (as opposed to a standard casual jacket), motorcycle gloves, reinforced riding boots/shoes and riding jeans with Kevlar or some other riding pant with added protection.
Your tires are arguably the most important component of your motorcycle. They protect you from the road below as you fly across it at speed. Since you only have two tires, as opposed to four, there’s less grace when it comes to a blowout. With a car, a tire blowout can still be dangerous but usually results in nothing more than a minor inconvenience. However, on a motorcycle it can be life or death particularly for a new rider. So before you take your bike out, it’s imperative you check to make sure there are no slow leaks or foreign objects embedded in the tires. Also make sure they don’t have excessive wear. If they do, change them before riding no matter how badly you want to get out there on the road. Your future self will thank you.
As you are inspecting the overall condition of your motorcycle tires, don’t forget to also check tire pressure. Having the right pressure will optimize your bike’s handling and increase the life of your tires. Conversely, under inflated tires can make it more difficult to handle your bike, decrease fuel economy, lead to poor braking performance and uneven tire wear. Overinflated tires can wear out the center tread, reduce grip and make for a rougher ride. Making sure your tires are set at the right PSI is a critical part of your preparation and safety routine.
What is the right PSI for Gold Wings? There are differing opinions on this based on riders’ experience. We recommend you confer with your ownership manual and talk with your local dealer. Fellow riders will usually be more than happy to offer up their opinion on the subject as well.
This is especially important for your first motorcycle ride. We take for granted how easy it is to maneuver mirrors in our cars while on the go, even though we shouldn’t. It’s less so on motorcycles. And since we’re all about safety around here, we strongly suggest that riders make it a habit to check and adjust their mirrors as part of their pre-ride inspection. It only takes a few seconds and can make all the difference.
Not to name any names, but some riders have a habit of “rushing-to-ride”. They’re so anxious to get on the road that they forget to double check the most basic things like fuel level. Once they’re out in the countryside with little or no cell service they realize they’re riding on empty. Don’t be this kind of rider. Check your fuel before you set off. If you’re going anywhere other than around town, top it off just to be safe. You don’t want to be the guy who disrupts a perfectly pleasant group ride or has to call his son to drive out to who-knows-where and bring you gas. Again, not naming names.
Sound a bit overly-dramatic?
While all motorists aren’t literally trying to run you down, the sobering reality is that most of them aren’t really paying all that much attention to you either. If you crash while driving a car there is a certain amount of leeway due to its size, structure and safety elements such as airbags. On the other hand, there is much less room for error during a motorcycle crash, which is why wearing the appropriate gear is so important. An accident involving a sedan might lead to minor injuries and an inconvenient trip to the body shop. If it were a motorcycle instead, it could likely result in something more serious.
The fact of the matter is that riding a motorcycle carries with it greater inherent risk, particularly in cities where it’s more densely populated. Accepting and understanding this will make you better prepared and more aware of your surroundings.
What can we do to ensure our safety when only so much is under our control? First, it’s always a good idea to encourage your family and friends who don’t ride to pay closer attention to motorcycles. Educate them. If it’s valuable to them, they will be more likely to notice. Second, know where the highest risk spots are, namely intersections, and be on high alert in those situations. There are other scenarios where you will want to be hyper vigilant - parking lots, construction zones, vehicles on the side of the highway - but point being, just like we learned in driver’s ed, you want to be an active rider as opposed to a passive one.
What requirements does your state or territory have for motorcyclists? They all vary in small or big ways and it’s important to know what they are. It’s easy, as a novice, to get caught up in purchasing your first bike, buying accessories for it and getting set up with the right gear for you. By the way, you should get caught up in it a little bit because it’s fun! Once you’re done celebrating…we’ll wait…don’t forget to also familiarize yourself with the expectations placed on you by the local government as a new motorcyclist.
The most obvious is whether or not you are required to wear a helmet, but there are many other more obscure (and hilarious) laws referring to various things including how many mirrors are required. Are you from Tennessee? If so, it’s illegal to hunt any game except whales from your bike. Riding around in Alabama? I’m sorry to break the news to you, but they won’t let you ride blindfolded. Captain America would get pulled over in Virginia where riding while in costume is prohibited. Massachusetts has a highly unreasonable law which states that having a gorilla as a passenger is strictly forbidden! I could go on…
Okay just a few more…you really twisted my arm: If you’re riding down a Pennsylvania country road, you are required to stop every mile and send off a flare, light, or rocket signal. After that, you must then wait ten minutes for the road to clear of livestock. Sounds understandable. Riding through Minnetonka, Minnesota? You might get a ticket for having a bike with dirty tires. You can get penalized for running out of gas (Youngstown, Ohio), cursing while riding (Maryland) or jumping off a bike going 65mph (California), but 12 states in the USA allow motorcycles to run red lights*.
* The “Safe on Red” law was put in place to address specific states where their traffic light sensors work well for cars and trucks but motorcycles? Not so much. To fix this technical issue, motorcyclists can treat red lights like a stop sign as long as they give the right-of-way to vehicles traveling perpendicular to their course, they may proceed with caution.
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Ride Your Own Ride
Good article. Just wanted to add a couple things... Many times new riders want to ride with friends. But that can be dangerous too if you have to push yourself to keep up. Always Ride Your Own Ride which means ride at your speed and level of competence. Practice, practice, practice! Keep developing your skills no matter if you are a newbie or very competent rider. And, especially practice emergency braking and avoidance maneuvering because you do not want to be in an emergency situation where you have to do this and you have never practiced it and understand how your bike will respond.
I always encourage anyone that asks about riding or buying a motorcycle to attend a riding course. I've personally taken several myself and took one to get my motorcycle endorsement before purchasing my first motorcycle. It is certainly money well spent.
You can not practice to much as long as you are practicing correctly. Also, I recommend to students to stay away from group rides until they get some saddle time and if they do join in a group ride to get as close to the front as possible so that they can stay at a more steady speed and not constantly accelerating and braking as the group does the accordion affect down the road.
Rushing to ride...
Good article. Rushing to ride is also not just about fuel but also about properly checking your bike, tire pressures, fluids, controls, etc, and taking the time to properly gear up. It also means ensuring your mind is in the game as riding requires focus.
I took MSF beginner course twice and their intermediate course twice, each with a bigger bike. Can never have too much practice.