There is no denying, as a new rider, you are going to make a whole bunch of mistakes maybe even wreck or drop your motorcycle. While this might be a bit embarrassing remember this; Rossi, Agostini, Hailwood they all have one thing in common with you.
At one point, just like you, they were new to riding a motorcycle, dealing with many of the same problems and making the same mistakes you do. Heck, they probably even dropped a bike or two while learning.
In this article we’ll go over some of these common mistakes and how to correct them. Hopefully this will help prevent you from making some of them, or at the very least you’ll know what to do should you make one of these mistakes.
So in no particular order. Here are 25 common mistakes beginner motorcycle riders make:
1. Stalling. This is all too common for new riders, but don’t worry if you suffer from this problem. There is an easy fix, practice. You need to do some practice drills aimed at working on your clutch control. I wrote a whole article titled “Ultimate Motorcycle Parking Lot Practice Guide”. In there I outline a couple of drills aimed at working on and mastering your clutch control. Check it out.
2. Leaving indicators on. I’m still guilty of this from time to time. So it’s not just new riders that do this, but it is more common with new riders. While this doesn’t really seem like a big deal, it can cause other motorists not to know what you are going to do. This might lead to them crashing into you, if for instance, you were indicating left and then quickly change lanes or shift lane positions to the right.
3. Skipping pre-ride check. It’s important that you always give you a bike a quick check before you head out. Unlike a car, you don’t have a cage around you to keep you safe. So if something fails, it can become a pretty serious problem. Don’t let this happen, give your bike a proper check each time you hop on. Check the brakes, oil level, brake lights, indicators, tires, chain, suspension and the steering. I know this sounds like a lot, but once you get used to it. It should only take around 2-3 minutes. A good time to do this is when the bike is warming up.
4. Not wearing gear. I know, to each their own and what not, but this is one of the most idiotic things any rider can do, new or old. Especially since as a new rider you are more likely to make a mistake resulting in a crash. Wearing gear is often the difference between walking away with a wrecked bike and cool story or not walking away and ending up with both a wrecked bike and a wrecked body. Follow the ATGATT rule!
5. Dropping the bike. There is a reason many experienced riders will say get a used motorcycle for your first motorcycle. It’s just a fact, new riders are much more likely to drop a bike. While this can be for many different reasons, it’s usually due to a lack of slow speed maneuvering skills. If you don’t want this to happen, get out and practice your slow speed riding skills. Find a safe spot, and get to it.
6. Counter steering. This is a fundamental skill you must get comfortable with. Many new riders struggle with this. It’s pretty simple and straightforward. Think of it like this, when you want to turn (unlike with a car), you push or press the handlebars on the side you wish to turn towards. So if you want to go to the right, you press or push on the right grip. To go left, you press or push on the left grip. Get used to it. If you don’t, you’re not going to have much success as a motorcycle rider.
7. Riding too fast. When you are a new rider, it can be easy to get carried away and caught up in the moment. Next thing you know you’re flying down a city street 30 or 40 clicks over the limit. It’s easy to do, especially on a machine that can go 0-60 in under 4 seconds. Even the fastest of sports cars struggle to match those numbers. Slow it down, when you are new, your skills are not at the point that you can safely handle those speeds. Last thing you want to do is zip by a bored cop and get a big ass ticket, or worse your license suspended. Slow it down a bit.
8. Ride on roads above their skill level. This can be a huge problem for new riders, they overestimate their skills or think the twisites are nothing to worry about. But there are a ton of reasons why these roads are not suitable for new riders; debris, blind turns with a decreasing radius, other motorists stopped in corners, running wide, poor entry points or lane positions and animals to name a few. These will make short work of even the most experienced riders, yet alone a new rider with a few hours of parking lot training. So know your limits, don’t rush it. You’ll get there in time.
9. Forgetting to stay hydrated. It can be easy to get caught up in an activity and totally forget about basic things like drinking water. Even experienced riders do this, you get caught up in the moment and 3 hours fly by. During these 3 hours you’ve probably been sweating quite a bit, you need to replenish those lost fluids. When your body starts to get dehydrated, you are no longer as sharp and focused as you should be. This leads to an increased chance of making a mistake that will result in a crash. So keep your body well hydrated. Also skip the coffee, sodas and energy drinks. Good ol’ H2O is your best best.
10. Overestimating how long they can ride for in a day. Most experienced riders know exactly how many hours they can ride comfortably and safely in a day. 3 hours, 5 hours or even 16 hours for some hardcore riders. Regardless of the number, they know it and stick to it. Why? Main reasons are simply, comfort and safety. It’s hard to enjoy a ride if your back feels busted and your muscles are aching. Yet alone keep your mind tuned in and focused for 10 plus hours of riding. So until you know your limits, start off with shorter rides. Then when you know you can handle that, go for a slightly longer ride.
11. Not leaving enough stopping distance. When you are a new rider you won’t be able to perform maneuvers as well or react as fast as you might think. You are going to need more time and distance to be safe. So as a new rider, do yourself a favor and give yourself more time to react and distance perform your maneuver. It might just save your butt.
12. Running wide or too fast on corners. Corners can be tricky, there is a lot to learn. Lean angle, entry point and speed are all important when taking a turn. Mess these up and you can run wide, causing you to possibly hit an on-coming motorist or even go off the road. When you are new, slow down and practice taking corners at a slower speed. Don’t worry about being “slow”. You’ll get faster as your skills improve. If you do get yourself into a point where you feel like you are going to run wide or you went in too hot, don’t panic. You will most likely be fine. If you’re not scraping pegs, you probably still have more lean angle left, so lean it over more and keep looking through the turn and towards your exit point. Do not chop the throttle or get on the brakes, doing that will lead to a crash or cause the bike to straighten up and run even wider.
13. Riding aggressively. Riding in traffic can be straining on the nerves. Idiots cutting you off, tailgaters riding your ass or even just getting stuck being a slow moving vehicle. It can all build and get on your nerves. Next thing you know you’re smashing mirrors and flipping everyone off. Don’t do this, calm down and enjoy the ride. If you start to notice you are getting a little annoyed, pull over and take a break for a few minutes.
14. Target fixation. You might have heard people say, you go where you look. That pretty much sums up target fixation. New riders have a habit of looking everywhere except where they should when taking a turn or avoiding an obstacle. Look where you want to go, not what you are trying to avoid hitting. That means, if you fixate or look at a target like a guard rail during a turn, guess what? You are going to hit it. While you might think, sure no problem, just look through the turn. It’s not something that comes natural to most riders, so you need to practice it.
15. Not using the rear brake. Many new riders think that because the front brake does around 70% of the stopping, then they don’t need to use the rear brake. Nope, wrong. You should always use the rear brake when stopping or moving slowly. Not only does it shorten your overall stopping distance, but it’s also crucial to maintaining balance and stability during slow maneuvers. So get in the habit of using your rear brake.
16. Not downshifting when coming to a stop. Don’t just pull your clutch in and come to a stop. Then pop it into first gear. That is not the way to do it. You always want your motorcycle to be in the correct gear for the speed you are travelling at. This is so important that I actually wrote a whole article about it “Do you need to downshift when coming to a stop?” to learn about it in detail check it out.
17. Parking motorcycle nose in. Doing this will quickly mark you as a new rider. Don’t park your bike nose in. The main reason is safety when you are pulling out, think about it. What is better, trying to duck walk your motorcycle backwards into traffic or pulling out under its own power? Not to mention the problems you will have if you park nose first on a hill. Good luck with that.
18. Forgetting to put the kickstand up. I don’t laugh at new riders or people making mistakes, but this always makes me chuckle. I don’t know why, but watching a buddy struggle for a minute or two trying to get the bike started. Checking, fuel, spark etc. only to realize that the kickstand was down. So unless you want to entertain your friends, make sure you check this if your bike won’t start.
19. Running out of fuel. Many motorcycles don’t have fuel gauges. For seasoned riders that’s fine, we all know the drill. Open the cap, slosh it around and see how much fuel you have. If the fuel is below half way, better to stop at the next gas station. New riders are not used to this, especially if they are used to driving in a car with all kinds of gauges and warning lights. This makes them run out of fuel. So get used to checking your fuel often. You’d be surprised how fast a tank will go if you are riding around all day.
20. Not keeping the brake lever covered. You don’t need to have all five fingers on throttle or bars to maintain control. Take two fingers and keep that brake covered, not only will it give a slightly faster reaction time. It will also help you not to grab a whole fist full of brake in an emergency. This also goes for the clutch as well, you don’t need to use all four fingers, two is enough. So get used to doing this.
21. Riding 2-up. It can be tempting to show off your new ride to a buddy or partner. This is not wise, a motorcycle will handle completely differently when you add another passenger to the bike. Stopping distance is increased, handling is changed. Get your basic skill level up first, then try to practice with a heavy backpack on. When you are used to how the weight shifting affects your riding, then you can think about taking a passenger on.
22. Get a motorcycle that is too big or powerful. Some jerks might say; “300cc motorcycles are for a sissy, a real man gets a 1000cc super sport”. Don’t fall for that crap. Pick a motorcycle that is right for your skill, body type and riding style. For a new rider, there is no way a 1000cc track focused super sport is a good first bike to learn on. As a new rider, you should really stick to a smaller, less powerful, more forgiving motorcycle. One that isn’t going to send you flying off the road if you accidentally twist the throttle while going over a bump. Besides, even a smaller 300cc bike will outrun most cars in the city. You don’t need a 1000cc beast to have fun. Similarly, you should also make sure you can comfortably handle the motorcycle’s weight. You don’t want a bike you are afraid of, especially when you are new and trying to build confidence. Nothing wrecks this more than if you are teetering on your tiptoes every time you come to a stop, one fart away from tipping and dropping the bike.
23. Leaving the key in the motorcycle. I did this a few times as a new rider. You pull over for a break, hit the kill switch. You take off your gloves, your helmet etc. start to enjoy some of that cool fresh non-helmet air. Completely forgetting to turn the key off. 15 -20 minutes you come back and realize what an idiot you were. This is not a big deal for a short amount of time, but can you imagine if that was overnight or for a couple of hours. You’d be forced to look for a boost or try to bump start the bike.
24. Front brake when performing slow maneuvers. If you are performing a slow maneuver, get your fingers and hands off that front brake. New riders have a way of panicking and grabbing for that front brake. Fight the urge to do this, especially when moving at slow speeds or with the handlebars turned. The quick shift in weight caused by this is enough to make you drop the motorcycle. Stick to the rear brake and this won’t be an issue.
25. Trying to keep up with the pack. Whether this is on a windy road or lane splitting through traffic, as a new rider it’s natural to want to keep up with your buddies and prove you are a good rider. Don’t do this. Ride your own ride at your own pace. If you are only comfortable taking a turn at 20mph while everyone else is hitting it at 50mph, that’s fine. It’s what your skill level and comfort allows. Don’t let peer pressure cause you do something stupid and crash. If you notice your buddies disappearing into the distance, don’t sweat it. Just enjoy the ride. You’ll catch up at the next rest stop or red light.
And a bonus to the 25 above:
26. Forgetting the disk lock. This is pretty embarrassing, you hop on your bike, start it up, pop it into gear and off you go. Only to dump the bike less than a foot later due to the front disc lock being left on. It sucks and ends up costing you money to repair your motorbike. Not fun.
If you make any of these mistakes don’t worry. We were all there at some point. Just learn from your mistakes and practice. You’ll get past it and be a seasoned rider in no time.
Until next time, all the best and happy riding!