Ultimate Motorcycle Parking Lot Practice Guide: Get Good.

ultimate parking lot practice guide

I love to practice my motorcycle skills, that’s why for me it doesn’t feel like a chore to get out there a few times a week during the season and work on improving my skills. I enjoy it almost as much as going for a ride with a few buddies or hitting up some twisties.

Because of this, I have quite a bit of experience practising in parking lots. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite drills that have helped me improve the most.

First off, you don’t need to schedule a whole day or even a full afternoon to practice. While this is good, it is not necessary. Try just adding 15-30 minutes at the start of your ride or on your way home each day.

It’s probably more beneficial to practice regularly in small 15-30 minutes installments, than a marathon 4 hours session once every 2 weeks.

I say this, because when I first started practising many years ago, I would do just that, I would pick 1 day every two weeks and practice for 4 hours or so. Sure this was great, but by the time hour 2 rolled around, I wasn’t really into it. It’s a lot easier to keep yourself 100% focused on a task for 30 minutes at a time, than for 4 hours.

I would also like to quickly mention a short disclaimer. I or newridertips.com are not responsible for any damages or injuries that may occur if you drop your motorcycle or crash while trying any of these drills. Make sure you wear proper gear and stay safe. If you are not confident you can safely complete a drill, then skip it.

What is ATGATT?
Make sure you always wear your gear.

Anyways, enough about that. Let’s go into the meat of it.

What should I work on first?

If you are a new rider, before you jump into most of these exercises, you need to get the basics down.

Without the fundamental basics like throttle control or knowing how to use the friction zone. You’ll struggle to complete most of these drills, completely defeating the goal of building confidence and improving your skills. You need a good base to build on.

Don’t worry, you can learn these basics fairly quickly. Most people can get these basics down in a few hours or less. As boring as this might sound, it actually can be pretty fun so give it a chance.

With that all outta the way, let’s get into the actual drills themselves.

Start at one end of your practice area. From a stop, pop your motorcycle into first gear and hold the clutch in. Apply pressure to the rear brake, and gently increase the throttle up to around 1500 rpms or so. Hold this constant.

Now, without letting off the brake or lowering or increasing the throttle, start to slowly let out the clutch, until you start to feel the motorcycle push against or fight the rear brake.

Pull the clutch fully in. Repeat this process for a good 5-10 minutes or so. Working on getting your hand to memorize where and when the friction zone begins. Take a break every couple of minutes to let the clutch cool down.

Avoid looking at your hands, keep your head and eyes up. Just like you would on the road.

Once you are pretty confident you know where the friction zone is, it’s time to get the bike actually moving. Following the same steps as before, you want to get the motorcycle fighting against the brake. But this time, you are not going to pull the clutch in. Instead you are going to gently let the clutch out a little more while also releasing a bit of the pressure off the brake.

ride a motorcycle more smoothly

Your goal here will be to go as slowly as you can from one side of your practice area to the other. Keep some pressure on the rear brake, you want it to slow you down slightly when you pull in the clutch. This is called dragging the rear brake, it helps improve stability when riding slowly.

Work at keeping the throttle constant, if you want more speed. Do not increase throttle, just let the clutch out a bit more to allow more of the power to transfer to the wheels.

If you want to slow down, don’t apply more brake or chop the throttle. Pull the clutch in further, but never let it let the clutch leave the friction zone.

When you get to the end. Stop, turn around and start again. Do this a few dozen times. Or until you are confident you have this down.

While it might seem boring, it can actually be pretty fun. If you have friends who ride, try doing a slow race once and while. First one to put a foot down or cross the finish line buys food or drinks the next time you stop.

Parking Lot Drills

Before you start you should walk the area and check for debris like broken glass, nails, gravel, sand, oil etc. Look for anything that can cause issues when performing the drills.

After you have checked that the parking lot is empty and is safe and clear of all debris or hazards, It’s time to pick a drill from the list below and get started.

For markers I use tennis balls cut in half. They are cheap and easy to transport to and from the parking lot. But spray painted hockey pucks or highway cones work just as well.

Weave

If you want to get better and smoother at lane changes, avoiding hazards or more comfortable with counter steering, this is the drill for you.

You start out by placing a marker every third parking line as shown in the graphic below.

Then starting at one end, you weave in and out of the markers. Left then right and so on, until you reach the end. Then you loop back around and repeat as many times as you feel is needed.

Make sure you treat this as if you are riding on the street, head and eyes up, don’t look at the markers when you swerve around them. You need to avoid getting into the habit of fixating on hazards or obstacles when riding. Use your peripheral vision to track the marker as you weave around it.

When you have this down, move the markers closer together to every other parking line. This increases the difficulty slightly. Forcing you to dip the motorcycle more.

Quick Swerve

This exercise is mainly aimed at helping you learn how to perform a last minute swerve. I do this drill almost every time I get out and practice.

Start off by setting up the markers as shown below.

Then starting far enough away, you need to get the motorcycle up to a reasonable speed. 15mph or 30kmh should be a good starting speed. It’s better to start off going slow the first couple times, then gradually increase your speed as you get better at it.

Then once your front tire passes the first set of markers, you quickly swerve to the right or left. Making sure not to swerve too far over or past the outer parking line.

If you don’t have markers, you can still do this exercise. Just use the markings of parking spots as a guideline.

U-turn.

This is a really important drill to practice. You’d be amazed at how many riders cannot comfortably do a u-turn. Don’t be that rider.

From a full stop, move forward slowly until you are comfortable that you have enough speed. Then dip the motorcycle and make a full u-turn to the left or the right. Learning to “dip” the motorcycle makes it so much easier to pull a tight u-turn.

Don’t be afraid to go “full lock” on the bars when you do a u-turn. It might feel strange or even like the motorcycle is going to tip over but it won’t, trust your motorcycle.

Resist the urge to put a foot down, and DO NOT touch the front brake. Giving it any front brake will instantly make the bike crash.

When you turn, work on snapping your head around, keeping your eyes looking where you want the bike to go during the turn.

Avoid the urge to watch the pavement in front of your front wheel, this will only make you run wide in a u-turn.

When you are through the turn, straighten up and come to a complete stop. Repeat this as many times as you see fit. Make sure to practice turning both directions.

When you get more comfortable, start to practice going from a full stop right into a u-turn. To do this, you start off by keeping your rear brake fully engaged. Turn your handle bars full lock the direction you want to go.

Then you get the revs up a little bit and let the clutch out just enough that you can feel the brake holding back the motorcycle.

Then when you are ready to go, let the clutch out a little more and release the brake a little. Make sure you keep the clutch in the friction zone.

Your head and eyes should be turned completely and looking behind you. You have to do this whole time during the turn. Only straighten your head when the bike is going straight.

I would recommend the first few times, you start off with the bars only ¾ turned, then when you are confident, try it full lock.

Your eventual goal should be to be able to constantly perform a smooth 18ft u-turn from a stop as well as while moving at a moderate speed. 18ft, is roughly the distance between two parking spaces.

A few tips, to keep in mind.

  • Do not chop the throttle. If you do, you will probably drop the bike.
  • Keep your hand away from the front brake. If you touch this at all, you will drop the bike.
  • Keep the clutch in the friction zone. This helps smooth out the power input from your throttle.
  • Fight the urge to put your foot down. Your bike will not tip.
  • Full lock the steering. To get a tight u-turn, you are going to have to turn the bars all the way.
  • Trust your motorcycle. If you listen to previous tips, your motorcycle will not tip. Trust it.

Figure 8

Like the name says, your goal is to do figure 8s. While a figure 8 isn’t normally something you will ever have to do on the streets, it’s really good for getting used to tight turns, getting a feel for leaning and transitioning from a tight turn. Making you a much more agile rider.

Start off by picking a center point for your figure 8s. You don’t need markers for this, just use the white parking lines.

Then at a reasonable speed, you simply start by making a u-turn. Except you hold the turn until you are at the center point of your figure 8. Then you quickly transition to the other direction. Repeating this 3 or 4 times. Then you come to a full stop and repeat.

Your goal like with u-turns is complete a figure 8 in-between two parking lines or around 18ft.

The same tips for u-turns apply for this exercise, ignore your front brake, ride the friction zone, be smooth on the throttle and trust your motorcycle.

Emergency stopping

The reason for this drill is pretty self-explanatory. You need to be able to stop quickly in an emergency. Practice this drill and you’ll be much better prepared when the time comes.

First start by setting your markers, while you can do this without makers, it’s a lot better with them.

Start a short distance away, get your motorcycle up to speed. Start off going around 10mph or 15kmh. Then gradually increase your speed as you improve. I would probably not go faster than 25mph or 40kmh.

When you get to the first set of markers, you perform your emergency stop. Trying to stop before the second set of markers.

Here are the proper steps needed to perform an emergency stop.

  • Make sure your handlebars are straight, if your bars are turned. It’s not going to be fun.
  • Pull in the clutch.
  • Roll off the throttle.
  • Begin to squeeze the front brake. Do not grab a fist full, gradually increase the pressure.
  • Apply pressure to the rear brake. Don’t mash it, like with the front brake.
  • Gradually increase the pressure. Avoid a skid.
  • Drop the gears down to first.
  • When stopped, put your left foot down.

Quick stop while in a turn

Emergencies don’t only happen in a straight line, they can pop up anywhere and at any time. So you need to be prepared. This drill will teach just that.

Start off by setting up some markers as shown below.

Then start further away enough that you can comfortably get your motorcycle up to speed. I would start around 10mph or 15kmh. Then you can increase another 5mph (10kmh) or so.

When you get to the first marker, start your turn. Once you get to the second marker, you begin to stop as quickly as possible.

You do this by first straightening out the motorcycle, then following the same steps as a normal straight emergency stop.

Try to stop before you reach the line where your third marker is.

  1. Make sure your handlebars are straight, if your bars are turned, it’s not going to be fun.
  2. Pull in the clutch.
  3. Roll off the throttle.
  4. Begin to squeeze the front brake. Do not grab a fist full, gradually increase the pressure.
  5. Apply pressure to the rear brake. Don’t mash it, like with the front brake, gradually increase the pressure. Avoid a skid.
  6. Drop the gears down to first.
  7. When stopped, put your left foot down.

Turning

Have you ever been out riding and you take a turn, only to realize you maybe didn’t pick the best entry point or your speed was a bit off? I have and it sucks.

This drill is great for practising turns and helping you learn how to pick a proper entry point for a turn.

Start by setting up some markers. Follow the image below.

Then get your motorcycle up to speed. A good speed should be around 15mph or 25kmh.

Follow the course around focusing on lowering your speed just before the turn, finding a comfortable entry point and maintaining a constant smooth throttle throughout.

Go around the course a few times. Then come to a stop, and repeat in the other direction.

Few points to work on:

  • Look through the turn. Practice keeping your eyes looking through and not fixating on the outside line. If you fixate on the outer line, chances are you will run wide. Not good.
  • Don’t chop the throttle. If you are running wide or feel you took the turn too hot, try leaning the motorcycle over more. Chances are, unless you are scraping the pegs, you still have more lean angle to go. If you do need to slow down then follow the previous drills tips for quick stopping in a turn.
  • When you get to part of the turn where the radius decreases, work on leaning the bike further into the turn. Watch this video below to learn more about decreasing radius turns.

Stop while turning

This is a bit different than the previous drill. This is more of a relaxed stop, with a more relaxed turning radius. Just because you practised quick stops, it doesn’t mean you should skip this one.

Start by setting up some markers as shown in the diagram below.

Just like with the “quick stop while in a turn” drill, you will begin by getting your motorcycle up to speed, roughly around 10 -15mph or 15 – 25kmh.

Then once you get to the first marker you begin to make a turn. Once you reach the second marker, you start to perform a relaxed and controlled stop.

The steps you should take are exactly the same as an emergency stop, just a bit more relaxed.

  • Make sure your handlebars are straight, if your bars are turned it’s not going to be fun.
  • Pull in the clutch.
  • Roll off the throttle.
  • Begin to squeeze the front brake. Do not grab a fist full, gradually increase the pressure.
  • Apply pressure to the rear brake. Don’t mash it, like with the front brake. Gradually increase the pressure. Avoid a skid.
  • Drop the gears down to first.
  • When stopped, put your left foot down.

Big 8s

This is designed to work on sharp turning and handling decreasing radius, both left and right. Great if you have dreams of hitting up the twisties some day.

Start by setting up some markers as indicated in the diagram below.

Then just like with the cornering exercise, you want to get your motorcycle up to a decent speed. Probably around 15mph or 25kmh. Then you just follow the course around the markers.

Work on slowing just before the turn as well as finding a correct entry point and speed.

Repeat this as many times as you see fit.

Sharp turn from a stop

This one can be pretty tricky for many riders, both new and old. It’s something you really should practice. If you master this, you will notice how much easier it is to make tight right hand turns at red lights, stop signs and in parking lots.

You don’t need to set up any markers for this one. Just use the parking lines as markers.

Start at a full stop. The steps are the same as u-turn from a stop. Start by engaging the rear brake. Turn your handle bars full lock to the left or right.

Your head and eyes should be turned and looking in the direction you want to go. Start to slowly roll on the throttle and increase the rpms, while gradually letting the clutch out until you are just in the friction zone. You should feel the bike trying to fight the rear brake.

Then slowly release some of the pressure on the rear brake, while letting the clutch out a little more. Your bike will start to lean and make the turn.

Avoid using the front brake at all, it will only cause you to crash. When starting out, start with the handlebars around ¾ turned. Then when you are comfortable, you can try it full lock.

Can you ride a motorcycle in a parking lot without a license?

First off I’m not a lawyer. So everything should be treated as just a guy giving his opinion based on his own personal life experiences. So if you want a proper, legally sound answer, you’re going to have to call a lawyer or ask a cop.

With that being said, I have never heard of any friends or friends of friends ever having trouble when practising without a license in a parking lot.

I have heard of a friend whose cousin was stopped by some cops when he was practising on a side street near his house. The guy got off lucky, the cops just told him to walk it home, but it could have just as easily gone the other way.

So I would avoid public roads when practising before you have your license.

So assuming you didn’t ride the motorcycle to the parking lot, I would say, you probably should be fine. Provided the owners of the parking lot are cool with you using it and don’t call the cops.

I would however suggest, that if you have any proof that you are trying to get your license (such as a written test you just passed, or some sort of written confirmation of an upcoming motorcycle exam), have it with you.

Just in case someone does call the cops or security, you will have some proof you aren’t just messing around and are actually just trying to practice before your upcoming test.

Most cops will probably be decent about it and either just leave you alone or ask you to take it elsewhere.

Should I ask permission from the parking lot owner?

The obvious and correct answer would be yes, you probably should. But this is easier said than done, tracking down the owners of some places would take some serious detective work. Which is frankly, IMHO is just not worth it.

Hence the reason why I don’t generally bother to ask the owners permission to use an empty parking lot for practising.

Luckily I’ve never really had any problems with cops or owners complaining. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not ripping wheelies or doing burnouts or damaging the property in any way.

I just show up, put my backpack down in a corner. Set up my markers and start to practice. Then when I’m done, I pack up my markers. Throw out any garbage and head on my way.

If you do this, you probably won’t have any problems. It’s all about being respectful and not ticking off people who might call the cops.

If you do run into a situation where the cops or security is called, be polite, apologize and move on. No need to get aggro or pissed off.

Just pack up and move on. There are plenty of other places to practice.

How to find the right parking lot to practice in?

Before you can even begin to practice. You need to find a suitable place to do it, in some cities this can be a huge headache.

But fear not, there are plenty of places just waiting for you, you just need to know where to look. To help you out, here are few places you should check out.

Huge hypermarkets or big box store parking lots. They tend to have massive parking lots and these parking lots are not always full or even busy most of the time. Even if there are people using the parking lot. There is a good chance, you can find an empty unused corner far away from the main entrance. Or tucked around the side near the shipping area.

School parking lots. On the weekend school parking lots are like a ghost town. If they are not chained or locked up, you might have just found a perfect place to practice.

Public park parking lots. Again, some parks will have ridiculously huge parking lots. Most of the time they are not even half full. Great place to look.

Top floors of multi level outdoor parking lots. Many riders don’t think about this, but the upper floors of large multi-level outdoor parking lots can provide a pretty sweet place to practice. Most motorists would rather fight over parking spots on the first two floors than walk up and down a few flights of stairs. So next time you are parking in one, drive up to the top floor and check it out. You might just have found a great place to practice. One important thing with these lots is the type of pavement, if it is that smooth shiny type. Skip it, the lack of traction is no good for practising on.

Large sport venue parking lots. Football stadiums, hockey arenas, olympic swimming centers etc. These places all have large parking lots, but unlike other parking lots, they only really fill up occasionally during large events. These are usually only on the weekends or some evenings. The rest of the time it’s just tumbleweeds. Check these places out. A tip, if you find a place, look up their website and see when they have events. You can then plan you practising around these events.

Abandoned plazas or other closed businesses. Not much reason for people to park at an abandoned plaza or closed strip mall. This makes it a perfect place to practice. Just make sure you do a good check for broken glass and other debris before you start.

Library parking lot. Just like with public schools, libraries are not open all the time. Find out when your local library is closed. Then during the off hours you might be able to use the parking lot.

While riding around and finding places isn’t that big of deal or all that difficult. You might be able to skip the hassle and still find a suitable place to practice. How do you do that? Well, you ask around. Ask you buddies who ride, friends, anyone who might know a place where you can practice. You never know who might tip you about a good spot. Don’t be shy.

You can even ask random bikers you might see at a local gas station, you’d be surprised how friendly and helpful fellow riders can be.

When is the best time to practice in a parking lot?

There is no single answer for this, it really depends on what kind of business or attraction is attached to the parking lot you are thinking about using.

If you are using a school or library parking lot, then chances are the weekends or evening should be pretty empty.

Whereas a large shopping center, it might be better to go early in the morning around 6-8am. Before most of the shops open for business.

I will say that when it comes to really large supermarkets. Apart from some busy weekends, you can usually find a corner far from the entrance that is empty. Regardless of the time or day of the week.

You really need to think about when it is least likely for people to want to use that parking lot. Then just go there during that time.

Final thoughts:

Regardless of how many years you have under your belt riding, you can still learn and improve your skills. Don’t skip practising, get out there and make yourself a better rider.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Until next time. Happy riding!

Jordan Baker

Hi, I’m Jordan. I’ve been riding motorcycles for a few years now(9+ years). Along the way I’ve learned a bunch, made mistakes and picked up a thing or two. I’ve also spent countless hours practicing and working on improving my skills, something I try to do a few times a week. That’s why I made this website. So I can share my love for riding and everything I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully you’ll stick around and check out a few articles.

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