Zen And Motorcycle Riding

By Lauren Baumbauer

April 3, 2009 5 min read


Hop on and learn to ride like a pro

Lauren Baumbauer

Creators News Service

Little compares to the feel of the open road on a sunny day, the rushing wind and the power of a motorcycle gliding on a twisty road, with the rider and the bike working as one cohesive unit. Once the anxiety of early riding becomes a more peaceful and comfortable feeling, the rider enters a zone and there's no going back.

However, the excitement and freedom riding offers can tempt aspiring riders to try more experienced riding techniques before they're ready.

"A motorcycle is not like a car with two wheels," said Ken Glaser, director of special projects for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. "It's a different animal."

So how does a person get past the awkward first stages and into the saddle like a pro? While it's important to pick an appropriate bike, there are several steps needed to prepare a new rider for the road.

In order to begin riding, new riders need more than a license to drive a car. They must get a motorcycle permit to start, and their cycles must be registered and insured, just like a car. This includes taking a written test, followed by a scheduled road test for the license.

Another way to get a license is to take a motorcycle-riding course that can provide an endorsement to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles if the class is passed. A permit is needed to take the course and a bike is often provided.

For example, the Foundation's basic course is offered throughout the United States to more than 400,000 new riders each year. It varies state-by-state, but the format is the same, consisting of several hours in the classroom and practice riding a cycle.

Each state has its own laws and exams. Checking your state's Department of Motor Vehicles website can provide valuable information, including the rules of the road and what age a person is eligible to test for their permit or license.

Aside from getting the license, training is a good idea in order to become a great rider. According to Glaser, "Training is the cornerstone in the effort to be a motorcyclist."

Glaser suggested asking several questions to determine if someone is ready to ride, such as: "How good of a car driver are they? How good of a bicyclist? Are they responsible, alert? Do they notice things? Have good reaction time?"

The most crucial element of learning to ride is safety. Extra awareness of the motorcycle, road and other drivers is key to training. "Pretend you're invisible," Glaser said, since people driving cars don't always notice motorcyclists.

Safety also means being prepared for an accident, and this includes protective gear. Considering there were 4,778 people killed in 2006 on motorcycles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every precaution should be taken. Since motorcyclists are elusive to drivers, Glaser advised making yourself visible with reflective and colorful gear.

It's important to find good quality equipment that also fits and feels good. However, if you can't afford expensive gear, "something is always better than nothing, even if you have to go inexpensive," said Kim Randall, former manager of Dainese's D-Store in Costa Mesa, Calif. The Italian company also has shops in Europe and Asia.

Basic gear includes motorcycle jackets, pants, full body suits, gloves, boots and helmets. "If you're going to spend $1,000 on gear, spend half on the helmet, then on the jacket, boots, gloves and pants," Randall added. The helmet is the most important part and should fit snuggly -- even after it's broken in. It should also have a full face and be approved by the Department of Transportation. Browse multiple motorcycle clothing shops for the best fit and quality of gear.

Acquiring a license, insurance, registration, training and proper gear are great first steps to riding and feeling one with the motorcycle and the road. Just don't forget: Have fun and keep the rubber side down.

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