Aimed for women at the ‘thinking stage‘ of getting into riding, and anyone relatively new to being astride two wheels.
1. Stop procrastinating
Just get on a bike and start riding. Don’t keep putting it off because sometimes later can become never. Your age is irrelevant. Don’t listen to all the risk-averse naysayers telling you how dangerous motorbikes can be. Adopting a defensive riding style will eliminate a lot of risk and hazards. Life’s for living, why not live it loudly? I was the least natural rider to begin with, crikey – if I can do it – anyone can. If you’re still stuck in the ‘thinking about it’ stage of getting into motorcycling, take a taster session. In a controlled environment with an instructor that comes recommended. Sometimes a female instructor can make the prospect of the experience less daunting. It’s much easier than you’ll imagine. If you can ride a push-bike, you can ride a motorbike.
2. For relatively new riders
Believe in yourself. Take the opportunity to learn from and practice with someone whose experience and patience is far-reaching. Find yourself a riding partner that doesn’t mind acting as your mentor too. Shadowing is a great way to learn. Ride as often as you can and even though you may go through a steep learning curve – occasionally feeling out of your comfort zone – keep riding. Be patient with yourself content in the knowledge that sooner rather than later, you’ll become a competent rider. Avoid task loading yourself on the road, instead practice in empty car parks away from all the distractions you encounter in traffic to hone your slow-speed skills. As well, go on lots of ride outs and practice, practice, practice!
3. Don’t be intimidated by the macho image
Yes, motorcycling is still male-dominated but ignore the stereotype of the big burly guy on his whopping 1200cc machine. And needing enduro / motocross training as a pre-requisite skill to ride a motorcycle, is a myth. There are increasingly more women taking to two wheels on smaller, lighter bikes. Get out of your own stereotype too and know women can ride just as easily as men.
4. Join the world of adventure motorcycling
Find a local motorcycle club or find a few; make friends with other riders and there will be oodles of people eager to help and support you go from zero to lets go! Riding has opened up a whole world of excitement and life long friendship for me. Visit Horizons Unlimited’s website which is a premier source of information on motorcycle and overland adventure travel.
5. Buying the bike
Before buying a motorcycle, test ride as many as you can. Ask yourself what do you want your two wheels predominantly for. Although a personal choice, a smaller bike may be a good choice for commuting to and from work, ideal for negotiating through busy traffic. A touring bike capable of carrying significant luggage may appeal for longer distance road trips. Do you want to ride off road and therefore need good ground clearance? Is sitting upright astride the bike preferable, will you be carrying a pillion and do you require your trusty steed to give you sizeable mileage in between filling up – are other aspects to factor in. Spoked wheels can be easier to fix on the road than alloy ones is another consideration. Above all, choose a motorcycle that will meet your needs and capabilities.
6. Making it affordable
Don’t wait years to buy a motorcycle, lease one. Gear is easily rented too. Investing in good quality motorcycle clothing and a helmet is a must, whatever your budget. However, when you have the means why not buy a second hand bike? Having a used motorcycle will give you a lot more money for your trips. Academy of Adventures shares tips and hacks from everyday adventures.
7. Always wear protective gear
Never be tempted to omit wearing the full motorcycle gear and helmet for protection, no matter how glorious the weather or short the ride; you can wash sweat off at the end of the day, you can’t wash away ripped skin. Seek professional advice on the right headgear.
8. Ride the right bike for you
The right bike will scream at you once you’re on it. Start with something small and if you desire, progress slowly upwards. Don’t be railroaded into purchasing a big bike. If planning to motorcycle on your own, ride a bike that you can pick up fairly easily by yourself. It’s a misconception that you need to be tall to ride an average height motorbike although personal comfort on how you feel trumps all. However, you can lower the suspension, change the seat or even invest in a factory-lowered motorcycle if you wish. Some womens’ motorcycle boots will give you an extra inch in height.
9. Off roading course / advanced road riding course
If you’re about to set off on a two-wheeled trip on home soil or further afield, you may not always be on smooth tarmac or amongst drivers that have heard of the Highway Code. Getting yourself on an off road course will help you to further understand your motorcycle in terms of handling, momentum, cornering and weight shifting to name just a few. It will familiarise you to coping: with inclines, declines, on gravel, dirt, through water, at height, perhaps even sand. Simon Pavey’s Off Road Skills in South Wales is one of many reputable schools; their two day course was the best investment I made before setting off on a big trip and transformed my road riding to boot. Likewise, an advanced road riding course will increase your personal safety on roads amid those crazy road users.
10. Going the extra mile
If you ride for long periods, consider boosting your derriere’s long term comfort in the saddle. There are some superb saddles, add-on inflatable cushion seats and treated sheepskins available. If riding in cooler climates, consider investing in after market heated handlebar grips if your bike doesn’t already have them. Riding with waning dexterity in your fingers can be dangerous, especially when braking / changing gear. Perhaps take it a step further and treat yourself to heated clothing. I adore my Gerbing jacket and gloves; when riding in chilly temperatures, I can ride for hours on end being mindful to the world without worrying about my personal comfort. It’s biking bliss.
A version of the above post was published in Motorcycle Explorer Magazine.