AutoMatters & More: Safely learn — or relearn — basics of riding a motorcycle in less than an hour
For many years I have been a member of the Motor Press Guild. Our many and varied events have exposed me to a wide variety of driving-related experiences and knowledge that, realistically, I would not have been able to do on my own.
Recently the Motor Press Guild held a drive day. As in past years, this event included an opportunity to drive a wide variety of new vehicles that were brought in just for us, on large transport haulers. Sometimes these events have been held at race tracks — my favorite of those being Willow Springs. More recently our drive days have been held at Calamigos Ranch, in the scenic rolling hills above Malibu, California.
This location is particularly well known for what many of us refer to as sportscar roads: two-lane, hilly, lots of tight turns and with straights just long enough to “open it up” without too much likelihood of getting into trouble (unlike at a race track). Also, in the hills on the property, there are trails that are well suited to putting off-road vehicles through their paces. Together these roads give us great opportunities to review new vehicles.
However, this year we had a bonus activity that I had been particularly looking forward to. The Motorcycle Industry Council conducted their ‘Ride With Us’ “Moto Intros.”
“Moto Intro’s are for anyone who has not yet ridden a motorcycle or scooter, or hasn’t had the pleasure of swinging a leg over the seat for some time. Motorcycle Safety Foundation certified coaches will be on hand to guide new riders through basic motorcycle controls and their first ride experience.”
I fall squarely into the second part of the target audience. I am a senior citizen now, and had probably not ridden a motorcycle since I was a teenager. I never did drive a motorcycle on the street, even back then. Instead, for a few summers, I borrowed a trail bike and a “Tote Goat” that belonged to the proprietors of a fishing lodge that my dad took me to on summer vacations. The lodge, and the surrounding little lakes, were nestled among the tall trees in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Frankly, I think that I enjoyed riding those motorbikes more than I enjoyed fishing for trout. It was certainly more exiting, and I did not have to wake up before the sun rose to enjoy the best of what those experiences had to offer.
Fast forward to June, 2022. I had just driven from my home in San Diego to Calamigos Ranch. In a fairly small, flat, dirt clearing between the parking lot and the resort — where all of the cars and SUVs were waiting for us to drive and review, were a few motorcycles, along with members of the “Ride With Us” team. I must say, this did not look especially challenging. With all of the roadways and trails nearby, why was this training taking place on a flat dirt lot?
For those of you who have never ridden a motorcycle, think about what it is like to ride a bicycle. Maintaining your balance is critical to both, but motorcycles are much heavier than bicycles, and they have engines that propel them forward with very little input from the rider. If you do not operate the throttle properly, you could quickly find yourself accelerating towards trouble. So, you see, learning the fundamentals of riding a motorcycle on a rather small, flat lot is actually ideal. My experience was exciting enough, and it was safe.
After I geared up with the required safety equipment, my instructor covered the basics, right from how to get on to the motorcycle, operate the front brake, gently turn the throttle and — I cannot stress the importance of this enough — look ahead to where you want to go! Use your peripheral vision to keep track of where you are, because where you look is where you will go.
As the video at AutoMatters.net will show, by the end of my lesson I was confidently riding around the lot. Mission accomplished!
For much more information about learning to safely ride street bikes, dirt bikes, ATVs and more, visit the “Ride With Us” website at: ridewithus.com/starting-out/
To see the most photos and the latest text, and to explore a wide variety of content dating back to 2002, visit AutoMatters & More at AutoMatters.net. On the Home Page, search by title or topic, or click on the blue ‘years’ boxes.
Copyright © 2022 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #747
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