Motorcycle Training

By Chelle Cordero

February 2, 2012 5 min read

They are fun to ride, and it's a great feeling to have the wind rushing by you. Motorcycles are also much less expensive to run than a car and certainly easier to find parking spaces with. Regular motorcyclists also know how vulnerable they are to other vehicles, road hazards and foul weather. Riding a motorcycle takes skill to maneuver through traffic, heightened awareness of everything around you and a mental attitude that helps you cope with the mindsets of drivers sitting in big, metal, enclosed cages called cars and trucks.

Choosing the right bike for your personal needs and capabilities is an important first step. Kawasaki's media relations department says that new riders have a variety of entry-level machines to choose from. Touring bikes were designed for long rides with low-slung seats and handlebars that the rider can lean into to reduce wind resistance.

According to Kawasaki, "people often have an idea of what they want. They see the bikes that their friends are riding, they do research and they understand their own lifestyle." Motorcycling has evolved into a sport and a recreational activity. "Choppers and cruisers are basically the same category, it really depends on who you ask. Mopeds and scooters are generally low maintenance and good around-town vehicles." A great entry-level bike is lightweight and easy to maneuver.

Each bike handles differently, and it is important to be familiar with how your bike brakes, swerves, corners and handles road obstacles. Know the controls you have at hand, or foot and how to operate them safely and without hesitation. While stopping under normal circumstances may seem easy, it is also crucial to know how to handle your bike if you have to stop suddenly. Even knowing how to mount and dismount your bike, as well as keeping it upright when slowing or stopped, will make a big difference to both your pleasure and your safety. Beginners need to be sure the bike isn't too big or heavy for them to handle it without assistance.

Basic motorcycle rider courses given throughout the country will include essentials such as identifying important controls, throttle/clutch coordination, shifting gears smoothly, turning, maintaining speed, making safe lane changes and learning how to avoid collisions with other vehicles. Taking qualified courses will not only make you more prepared to ride the open road, but it will also familiarize you with your local laws and may, depending on the state, entitle you to an insurance discount. The skills learned in an authorized course will go much further than a simple run around the block with a friend.

Several states offer motorcycle rider courses as part of their Department of Motor Vehicles programs. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers a listing of available classes. You can also call 800-446-9227 for more information. The goal of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation is "to make motorcycling safer and more enjoyable by ensuring access to lifelong quality education and training for current and prospective riders and by advocating a safer riding environment."

Before setting out on a ride, be aware of your route and make sure you are prepared for forecast weather conditions. The proper safety gear is vital. Although helmets are not legally required in every state, a Department of Transportation-approved helmet can help save your life if you collide with another vehicle or take the bike down. Some helmets also provide eye and ear protection; if yours doesn't, you should consider this additional gear. The wind can damage your hearing and wind speed or items that may blow into your eyes can permanently damage your sight. Your apparel is more than a fashion statement; jackets, gloves, long pants and boots protect your body from abrasions, gravel that's kicked up and even wind burn. Off-road riders should also consider neck support and elbow, knee, shin and chest guards.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation provides training to help you enjoy the open road and live to talk about it. The basic pointers the foundation puts out are: "Get trained and licensed; Wear protective gear -- all the gear, all the time -- including a helmet manufactured to the standards set by the DOT; Ride unimpaired by alcohol or other drugs; Ride within your own skill limits; and be a lifelong learner by taking refresher rider courses."

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