So you think you want to ride a motorbike.
Well people are people and bikes are bikes. There are lots of different people and lots of different types of bikes.
So use this as a guide and a guide only. You will have to be able to do the exercises I mention. How you do them is up to you.
This is how I do them and I teach my students to ride this way.
This is what you should KNOW and Be ABLE to do, before you THINK about riding on the road.
Nothing or not much about riding is yet to be written in stone.
And god forbids what I say could be outdated or even gasp...wrong.
It’s just my arsehole... Um opinion.
I believe people learn to ride all arse about. They wrestle the bike around in some sort of awkward immanent catastrophe waiting to happen until they have an idea how things work. Or think how things work.
They ride like they were on a thrill ride at the theme park.
All because they never learnt to understand how a bike works in the first place.
So that is where we are going to start.
I really don’t know if they knew what they were creating when they designed the motorbike. But it was a true mark of genius.
It needs to lean to turn so it creates its own righting motion. And that righting motion helps in strait line stability that increases with speed.
All you have to do is keep you in balance. Amazing.
And as it leans it decreases its turning radius, so it turns harder. The more you lean, the more it turns.
A bike will even gear up a half tooth on the rear sprocket for you on lean a big lean angle to help with the G forces.
All by itself.
A bike has the Power to weight like nothing else with wheels. They are fast. Deceptively fast.
A motorcycle is a machine that gets so close to you in function it becomes animated.
It becomes an extension of you.
They are not a cheap form of transport unless you are the most boring toss on earth.
In a perfect world we would all learn with dirt bikes on a nice big open and soft grassy paddock.
For most of us that option is not available. And that’s really unfortunate. The road is not the place to learn to ride. And finding a great training range that someone will let you use is not so easy either. But you have to learn and to learn you have to train.
There’s not much you can do besides hound your local MP’s inbox.
Which bike is something only you can really answer?
And for a beginner the Written in stone “Ride it and find out” answer is not available to you.
It’s what you should do before you buy any bike. Not should. You must ride the bike and others like it before you buy your bike.
They depreciate way too fast to chop and change all the time. Once a year is about the mark lol.
But if you can’t ride or are not competent enough to assess a bike and cope with riding.
You have one of life’s great dilemma’s
And what shop or even private guy is going to let you anyway?
You really are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Best all round consensus would be something cheap, low and slow.
It’s your money so you can do what you want.
Buying a new bike.
It’s new, love new bikes.
The seat foam will mould to your bum. Nice.
It hasn’t got a scratch on it.
It has a warranty.
It costs more.$$$
It depreciates more. $$$
It has to be serviced by a licensed motorcycle repair shop (read any lmrs) to hold its warranty. $$$
Being new it attracts idiots and freak happenings of nature and it won’t be scratch free for long.
When you buy the bike new or second hand on finance through the bike shop. You are required to have it comprehensively insured for the term of the loan. $$$$
You will be salivating over something else in twelve months. $$$$
And the dealer who was your best friend when purchasing your bike, will offer you 40% less than you paid for it twelve months previously to trade it in after you spent every weekend polishing it.
Buying 2nd Hand
Is no picnic either. You don’t know how it has been treated. It might be shiny on top but ....
Who owns it? How much do they still owe on it?
Rego papers and a receipt from someone is no proof of ownership.
Two words. SERVICE HISTORY. You need it. I really want to see that first one, the @1000k service done on time or even early. Same for the next one at @6,000.
I also want to know if it has had its major service or when it’s due. You don’t want to pay top dollar for a bike that has a major service in a few thousand K’s. Majors go for $1400 up.
Some majors on exotics go easy in the two grand range. So be smart. Look, probe and ask lots of questions when buying a bike.
When you buy a bike as a newbie, I would also buy a set or front brake and clutch levers strait away for your bike.
Keep these under the seat and for forty bucks you will save yourself a royal pain in the butt for something so simple when you drop it fifty k’s from home.
Odds are you will drop it. So always at least have a helmet on. I know it sounds stupid but even just down the drive way. You will not keep your head up when you fall. Full stop, you won’t.
Get yourself a workshop manual.
Get to know your pride and joy inside and out. It will save you so much embarrassment and $$$.
A basic service is vital to the life of a bike. And something every rider should know how to do. Majors should be left to the professionals and those with the skills to do it safely.
Simple things like the fuses or even the battery can be a nightmare to find without a manual.
Your bike might have features you don’t even know about, if you don’t read the bloody manual.
The better your gear the more chance you have of avoiding injury. Like your bike your gear needs to fit like a glove lol.
While it works well it still hurts coming to a dead stop at sixty K’s and hour or more. So your best protection is awareness. Being where you need to be, to be seen. Not being in a bad place at the wrong time.
Don’t let the sales staff rush you on this one. Put the helmet, jacket or boots on. And wear them around the shop for at least ten minutes. More like twenty would be good. There’s nothing more uncomfortable or more ineffective than ill fitting gear.
When I buy new boots and helmet. I will wear them at home while watching telly and stuff as well. I try for at least two days. I wear them for an hour or so at a time. It beds them in and flex’s them up, which makes them much more comfortable and so nonexistent when I am riding.
I pay a lot for some of my gear. I like a light helmet. I like my head. $$$
A good jacket for mine is also vital. It really makes for comfort or not to the elements. $$$
With my boots I will buy as much comfort as I can. Probably leaning comfort over protection, price and wow factor. I like dry comfy feet. $
Which pants should you buy? Well there’s not much skin left on my ass for a graft from wearing jeans. Glad they have brought out Kevlar jeans now.
Ridiing pants are great. They work against the elements and have padding where your boney bits will hit the ground.
Mostly and bestly they will stop the burning. When you slide on tar you create a fair bit of friction. And it hurts. Friction burns are a killer. For that alone riding pants are great.
I just wear textile on the road. I live in a very warm climate and to go squid is so tempting. I have found a good textile product to be up to the job on more times than I would have liked. And it is so much more comfortable and cooler to ride in than leather.
Leather will provide you with the most protection. And you can get two piece suits for primarily road use.
In colder climates and winter nothing can beat well made leather set up though.
You will need gloves. Your hand will be one of the first things to hit the ground in a bad situation and they are up there in the breeze all day otherwise. $$
With buying wet weather gear, you can spend a lot or a little. Just remember nothing stays weather proof forever. You can get stuff you soak them in that seals them again. And it makes them very hot to wear. But it does seal them. I buy cheap stuff at places like A mart and wash them.
Oils, parts and spares
You’re on your own there sunshine.
Wheels and Tyres.
Well firstly we have two wheels. On these wheels are tyres. These things are the last point of contact with the ground.....before you.
They take everything you and the bike do and try to translate that into keeping you on the road. If they are getting mixed messages from you and the bike, then you can’t expect them to work very well either.
Tyre pressure for each individual bike will be in your manual. Read that manual.
Try not to skimp on tyres. You will need them. Look after them. Check your pressure often. Before every ride if possible when you’re new to riding.
They say when you get more experienced you can feel it, I say usually only when it’s becomes too late and dangerous.
So all in all check your pressure often experienced or not.
Don’t be foolish and think those shiny cracked old things will still work because they still have tread on them.
Another dumb thing to do is rushing out and buying the latest and greatest sports tyre for your CB250. Even your CBrr if you’re not a good rider.
They are designed for people who know how to ride. They like to be ridden on their sides and tip in very easily. For a novice this will relate to instability and in turn give them a lack of confidence and not really help you at all. I’m serious about this. Very few people take a tyre to near its limits smoothly sideways. They can stuff it in unbalanced and off throttle and put way too much demand on it. Or a fist full of throttle and give it no choice but to give up.
Once again it comes back to feel. You get use to how much your bike loads up and how much grip you think you have.
On a bike finding how much you really do have is not for the faint hearted or one who does not like pain.
Neither is the road the place to explore it.
So yes while the true sports tyres are great and have all that stickiness, they’re not for you yet.
U B a Nu B and will be wondering how to get rid of your fat chicken strips.
When you buy new tyres you should be told that they will be slippery for about 100k’s.
Some have this great old wives tale about release agents and the like being on the tyre and you have to scrub that off them. Cough cough.
As far as I know Michelin and Metzler were. I’m not sure if they still are or not.
No one else uses a release agent.
A new tyre cold is very slippery. Most tyres cold are. But the new and shiny ones are very slippery.
So when we buy new tyres we have to cure them with heat and scrub that shine off them.
So to get some heat into your tyres you need to accelerate and brake. That is the best way there is to get heat into your tyres.
And to scrub them I will just do some figure 8’s. Only after I have put them through the heat process.
Or simply take it easy into corners. Tipping a little more on each corner.
Still think the 8’s will do it best and in the safest way.
I do eventually mod all my bikes. I’m not condoning it. I come from a sport background so I like them that way.
As with all great ironies of life though:
There is nothing so sweet as riding a bog std bike after having to ride modded bikes all the time.
The law are really starting to come down on pipes and other mods we all do as soon as we buy a bike.
You will lose bucket loads of money in your lifetime on bikes. Modding your first one is not a good idea.
Keep the cash for your second, better newer bike.
There are many types and many styles. And they all have one thing in common. They need to be serviced regularly. Read that manual.
Check your oil every day or before your ride if you only ride a few times a week. Do it with the bike dead upright if it uses a sight glass. And with the bikes engine cold.
The service manual will tell you how often to change the filter and oil. What type of oil and oil filter number?
You don’t need to buy Honda filters for a Honda. This goes for any brand of bike. They are twice the price of a good aftermarket oil filter. So just get your part number and oil type and off to the cheapest place you can get them.
The air filter is one of the most overlooked things on a road bike. No one gives them any love. They may put in a free flowing fast one like a K&N when they buy the bike new. But that’s the last time they see it. When I am off to get my cheap filter and oil I take my air filter with me to clean out at the servo with the air pump.
As simple as that. Changing the oil and filters regularly. I have decreased the chances of having a breakdown by guzzillions.
I use the fuel that the manual states for the bike. If it says 95ron then all well and good 95 ron it is..
I won’t put 98ron in to make it go faster. TBH it doesn’t.
If your bike states 98 ron and you cheap out on 91. You’re fooling yourself. It’s going to cost you bucket loads.
You run a bike on the fuel that it is TUNED for.
If I am storing my bike for more than a month I will drain the fuel tank and use it in the mower or chainsaw.
There is nothing worse than to be dying for a ride after ages off the bike and it won’t start because you were slack and didn’t drain the tank.
Topping up with higher octane fuel is not good either.
Our tanks could be flushed a lot more often than we ever do them.
Dirt and grit will kill a bike motor.
Bikes come in so many variables now with their gearboxes. You can even buy an automatic.
Most normal gearboxes are one down from neutral for first then change up till you’re in top gear.
For neutral go down to first and just half click up till the green light illuminates on your dials.
If you come to stop and you are still in top gear, the bike is not going to be happy with you at all.
You are now using what is called a sequential gearbox and you have to go up and down every gear. And when they are standing still they don’t like to change gear. Yes even with the clutch in.
If you are stuck in a higher gear and it won’t change down, you need to rock the bike back and forth just a little with the clutch pulled in. And tap the gear lever down. Eventually it will go down. You will feel it. First gear will always clunk.
If you try to bash a gear lever to get into gear all you will do is break the lever, strip the spline on the selector shaft and be up for about $750 for that dummy spit.
Lighter little taps will work every time.
This is also why you don’t go back to first gear till you stop. You could have the clutch in and be coasting up to the light and say tap first at twenty. All it would take is a little dribble of rain and you to cross a painted bit of road and you’re on your bum. Totally embarrassed.
There is a fine art to coming to a stop. It works and looks great. And hey riding is all about style.
But that’s for later on when you have made friends and learnt all about your new best friend.
This is your Mr smooth. This is something you have to learn by feel. There is no exact science with it. There is a friction point in the first third of travel with the lever. You need to find this by feel and be able to hit it at will. It sounds hard but it’s not.
The clutch is one the devices to control the amount of torque to the rear wheel. But be careful. The clutch also has its finger strait on the righting motion of the motorcycle. If you are in a corner leaning, even with some speed on and you pull that clutch in... Well it will hurt, it will hurt a lot.
So we use the clutch to control the torque to the rear wheel when we are travelling in a straight line and slowly.
We use it to smooth out down changes.
We use it to coast up to the lights in second or third.
We smooth things out with it.
Say when you have to do your slow speed crawl. We use the friction point with the clutch to allow the tiniest amount of power to get to the rear wheel. Just allowing enough power to trickle us along at a nice walking pace.
And that allows us to spin up the crankshaft with blips of the throttle and create more righting motion from the bike and therefore more stability allowing us to be stable at a slower pace.
Then you can apply the rear brake. Allow more power to the rear wheel to use the power of the rear brakes righting motion. So now we are using the rear brake and the friction point of the clutch to control ground speed.
These three things combined and used properly will give you a very stable platform to work from at a very slow speed.
By doing this all you have to do is keep your eyes up and level and the bike will do its job fine. You’re just assisting it.
Understanding what each thing does and using it to help the bike do what you want it to do and go where you want it to go is vital.
This is what I mean by people learning to ride all arse about. The bike knows how to work quite well. You don’t at this stage. So what you have to learn is what the bike can do and what you can do to assist it.
One big happy marriage.
I hate cleaning chains. Yuck.
You need to learn to clean, adjust and lube your chain. Period. No one will do it for you.
If you wait between services you will be buying a lot of chains and sprockets. $$$
There are many good threads on it so I will leave it at read the manual and do as it says. It’s not hard. It is a little time consuming but it has to be done.
I clean my chain monthly and I ride it every day. I lube it when I get back from my ride once a week if it has not been raining. I do lube it whenever I ride in the rain.
And I always lube it when I wash the bike even if I don’t wash the chain at the time.
The chain slack they give in the manual is for when the bike is upright and under its own weight. That’s called Static sag. So when you are checking your adjustment, have it leaning against the wall on its bars under its own weight.
The longer the bikes suspension travels the more chain slack you need. Your mates WR450 will have a huge amount of chain slack. Where your CBR250RR will not have so much as it runs about half the suspension travel of the WR.
You must have the rear axle strait. There are markers either side of the swing arm where you adjust the chain. Be really careful with these and make sure you get it right.
Don’t over tighten a chain. When they are new they do stretch a bit. So for a few rides it will need tightening. If you over tighten a new chain it will be stuffed very fast. You just squeezed the life out of it.
It’s a pain to do for one or a breeze for two to do. Truly a job to do with a mate.
This I am sure will be the most contentious part of this guide.
The front brake.
This is the lever on the right hand side of your handle bar.
If you have never ridden a bike before, this is not your friend. And my advice is don’t go over 20kmp/h and don’t touch that just yet.
For a noob. You need to learn how to set yourself up to use this properly.
For an experienced. You need to use this properly.
The front brake is what will take off most, to all of the speed in braking. At the end of a fast long and hard brake the rear will have very little to no impact.
To use a front brake properly you need to use all four fingers. You need to slowly squeeze and continue squeezing till the bike comes to stop.
A bike does not have a power booster in its braking system like a car.
You need to keep that constant pressure up.
And you do that by squeezing the lever. It might only be the tiniest amount, but you keep squeezing.
You might grab a big bit too much front brake in the first panic moment. That’s ok, as long as you did not lock up the front. But you should still try to keep a slow gentle squeeze happening on that lever.
If you lock up the quicker you get off them means the quicker you can get back on them. The trick is not to make the same mistake twice. No quick jerky movements.
The downside of the front brake is that it really amplifies the gyroscopic effect of the front wheel. This makes it almost impossible for a beginner to use the front brake and turn at the same time.
It will stand the bike straight up and that will cause the bike to go in a straight line. Not good when you are on a bend.
Using the front on a corner is something only an experienced rider should try.
If you are a beginner and have to use the front brake in a corner or crash, it will be ugly. My money is on the crash lol.
Try to look where nothing is. Somewhere you can point the bike that will have the least impact and go into your well practised braking mode.
Being new to riding you will have to be more cautious and think further ahead of yourself than you normally would.
The rear brake.
Some never use it at all and could unbolt it from the bike.
Others are total gumbies on a bike without one.
As a braking device on a bike travelling over say fifteen kilometres an hour, it’s useless.
It locks up easy. It has no feel at all. And all the weight is over the front anyway. Why would you use it?
You have to get rid of the thought of the rear brake being a brake and think of it more as the tail on an aircraft.
It’s the stabiliser system for the motorcycle.
The rear brake controls the righting motion of the rear wheel.
Which is less than the front brakes affect. The brakes have a huge righting affect when used.
If you look at the size of the front brakes to the rear you will see why the fronts react so differently.
A rear brake will NOT make a bike stand up and go in a straight line like the front brake does. In fact the rear brake will keep a bike very set on the lean angle it’s on. This can come in handy in so many situations.
Big busy Roundabouts would be one of my main uses for setting a lean angle. That way I am free to really have a good look around me and not worry about the bike going off its intended line.
Now the negative here is that you are now asking the rear tyre to drive and steer the bike. So ultimately you are giving up grip. It’s the same with braking into a corner with the rear or dragging it through the corner against the throttle.
I’m guessing you have decided I am the total Gumbie without a rear brake. Guilty as charged.
You need to have a very close and personal relationship between the rear brake and the throttle to ride a bike the way I do.
Have you noticed that I always mention the rear brake and throttle?
They work together. Together they are something.
Alone they are just a throttle and rear brake and alone should be used as they are.
They have to work together to become the stability control. This is important!
You already should have made love to the clutch, so you’re on a first name basis by now.
These three controls are what you need to learn as a beginner.
Knowing how to play these three controls like a piano is the difference between dropping and nevee dropping a motorbike again.
They are the difference between a struggle and making the bike dance at very slow speeds.
You can make the bike defying gravity on the road in tight situations.
Even just parking not knowing these three controls well, can become a nightmare.
You can look like a real dufous or part of the machine.
My theories on riding a motorbike are all about riding the machine. Using it and all it has to offer.
Not interfering with it.
How many times have you heard the saying that very few people can ride a 1000cc sports bike to its true potential?
Obviously the bike can do its own potential.
The lighter you are with all the controls on a bike the easier it will be to use. The more feel you will have.
If you grip the handle bars tight it won’t turn very well. The bike will become very heavy and slow to turn. You won’t feel a thing with your hands, and it’s too late when you feel it with your body.
If you grab the front brake hard it will dive on its nose.
The rear brake will just lock up and go sideways.
Riding a bike is about being well ahead of yourself visually so your movements on the bike can be soft and easy.
And using your eyes to keep your balance and take you and the bike where you want to go. Your eyes are the start of every movement of the bike.
Lights blinkers, action.
Now you need to sit on the bike and be able to hit what you want strait away.
And the only way to do that is to sit on the bike and go for them. Blinkers, horn, mirrors fuel tap if it has one. You need to be able to use these things without having to look for them or think where they are. You need to be able to go straight to them without looking.
So when you have the time and you can’t go for a ride sit on your new toy and practice going for your auxilleries. Seeing how far back the objects in the mirrors really are. Being able to find and turn the fuel tap without looking. Murphy’s law it will happen on a freeway @ 100 and the motor is hot. It should be all over and back on the throttle in a few seconds.
If you’re lucky enough to be on a newer bike there is a good chance it will be EFI and won’t have a fuel cock/tap and you won’t ever have to do this. You will just run out of fuel completely and have to get off the road and push.
Mirrors on a bike are pretty useless. They’re made and bolted onto a bike so to look good and not intrude on the whole package. Form over function. As a function they are next to useless.
Learn to head check religiously. I cannot stress that enough. It has to become a habit not a reaction.
Have your mirrors set so you only have to move your head slightly to see your shoulder or elbow in the corner of your mirror giving you the widest view possible. Gradients in the road or corners will render mirrors useless so yes please ingrain the head check.
When you use the blinker try to keep your thumb on it if you can. Leaving one on can make you a moving target. People will pull out on you. Or under take you on the inside. All the things you would least want. If you leave your thumb the blinker when you use it you will have a better chance of remembering to turn it off when you take your thumb off it.
I don’t know how many bikes I have had to jump on and ride that the horn did not work on. I hate that. I love my horn. You need your horn for all the SMIDSY’s out there. Usually it’s just under that blinker.
A tacho on a bike on the road is nothing more than some flashy blingy bling. You need to learn to feel your bike and its mannerisms. You won’t or shouldn’t take the time to look at the tacho. You need to feel the bike in every way. Learn how the engine sounds in what gear for it to be doing 60 comfortably. Not lugging or even cruising. It’s a handy thing to know.
Dropping your eyes is a big baddy when learning to ride. It makes you feel unbalanced, and even if you say it doesn’t, you will become unbalanced easier by doing it.
You need your eyes up and level to be in balance.
The lights on most bikes are pretty basic and the switches for them are always within easy reach.
Normally they are on the left binnacle.
Be careful with your high beam of a night. Nothing is worse than being blinded by a car half way around a corner.
I do ride of a day with my high beam on. I will take any aid I can get to stop Mr SMIDSY being himself. It’s not legal and you might be fined. It’s my choice.
Just like your mirrors in corners and gradients, your lights become pretty bad in certain situations at night. Once again it is an experience thing when to know to go slow because of it. Night riding is fun but increases your chances of a fall a fair bit.
Things hide in the shadows of a dip your lights don’t fill. Critters love playing tag. And trucks throw crap everywhere. Cruise at night. Enjoy the breeze and double the safety margin.
Not doing a light check before every ride is just plain dumb. You should be warming up your bike to a safe riding temp anyway. So doing that and putting your helmet then gloves on will be time well spent waiting.
You need every bit of help you can get out there on the road.
Bikes bump and jiggle around a fair bit on the road and bulbs can easily be dislodged. It doesn’t matter who was in the right or wrong when you are hurt. You need every aid you can get till your life can depend on your riding skill.
As a beginner I would not get caught up in any of the flashy bits. All you need is the basic’s and maybe a neutral light. When your instructor is telling you what to do remember what gear he says to be in. It’s important. At the range the speedo and tacho become a bad distraction. Listen to what gear he tells you to be in. That’s how fast he wants you to go.
Get a basic bike and learn the basics.
Ignition and the keys.
Most modern biked have some sort of ignition security system on them. When you buy a new bike the salesman should explain it to you....and you should listen to him.
You get two keys. One is the Master, the primary key for the system.
In that key is a micro chip that talks to another chip in your bikes ECU (brain) if you lose that key your stuffed. It’s not like losing your car keys.
Motorcycle companies nor the dealers keep a record of the code to your security system. The master key code is vital.
So on that key is a code. You need that code. Or just go get a third key and lock the primary away somewhere very safe.
I would be very careful when buying a bike that did not have the primary key too. It can be costly in more ways than one. Rego papers are no proof of ownership.
Or buy a cheap low and slow bike that does not have this.
Turn the ignition off as soon as you don’t want the motor to be on. Simple.
Use the kill switch if you want to. I do. I also put it straight back to the on position when the motor has stopped. I am a self confessed clutz and dufous so anyway I can save me some embarrassment the better.
As a beginner you might need this. If for some strange reason the throttle gets stuck on full. HIT THAT KILL SWITH. If the bike falls on you. HIT THAT KILL SWITCH.
Ok try it a few times when we get to starting the bike.
Bikes bump and jiggle around a fair bit on the road and bulbs can easily be dislodged. It doesn’t matter who was in the right or wrong when you are hurt. You need every aid you can get till your life can depend on your riding skill.
First things First.
Ok ready to ride?
Bad luck you can’t lol yet.
First thing we are going to do is a pre ride check.
Tyres, chain and oil and lights.
Key? We have a key.
Open the tank and look how much gas is in there. We have fuel that’s good. Here’s your lighter back.
If it has a fuel tap now would be a good time to turn it on.
Close the fuel cap and put the key in the ignition. Turn the key to the on position and look at all the pretty lights.
Now make sure it’s in neutral. Is that pretty light illuminating in the dials?
Kill switch in the run position.
To start is going to depend on the bike. Kick or button. Clutch in or not. Bloody manufactures.
Being beginners we have basic bikes like a cb250 we just push the start button on the right binnacle.
Don’t twist the throttle. Just push the button.
If it does not start I would then use the choke. If it’s old or cheap and has one.
Starting a bike the most throttle you would use would be about an 1/8th. A blip.
Unless you have dropped or flooded the bike. Then you need to give it full throttle till it starts to splutter and come to life.
So Anyway it started.
While it’s there idling away and warming up we might do a light check. Don’t rev a cold engine.
If the bike lets me I won’t touch the throttle at all till I am on it and ready to ride away.
All but the rear brake light is dead simple. For the rear brake light, put your foot on the brake and stretch your hand behind the bike if you don’t have a wall or something for it to reflect off.
Ok if you have some poo now would be a good time to throw it!
Or we can just start putting out gear on. How’s that bike warming up? Nice.
Um, no no no no no. Why do noobs always do that? Gloves last. How are you going to do your helmet up?
Right glove last putting them on.
Left glove first taking them off.
Ok who tried their kill switch ??? Pfhht idiots.
So we now know where all our major controls are, and what they can do.
The first thing we are going to learn is the friction point in the clutch.
And we will do this by standing to the left of our bike. Grab hold of the bars and stand it up, and kick the side stand up.
Now I want you to pull the clutch in. All good? Good. Now raise your right foot and tap the gear lever down to first.
I do not want you to have touched the throttle at all yet. No big brrrrm brrrm’s when starting the poor little thing. And I do not want you to touch it now. This is all about the clutch,
Is that gum? Spit that out.
Now I want you to “slowly” let out that clutch lever and walk beside the bike.
If the bike is start’s to move too quickly for you I want you to pull the clutch in “slowly” till it is rolling at the same pace you like to walk.
When you want to stop just pull the clutch all the way in.
When you get to the stage where you are getting confident and familiar with your clutch.
I want you to start varying the speed. Get it to go as slow as you can. Then let it speed up slowly by slowly letting more clutch out. Very good you’re getting the hang of it.
Now while you’re perfecting your clutch feel I want you to start adding a little weight to either side of the bars. Once again nice and slow, nice and easily.
Feel how the bike wants to turn left when you add weight to the left bar. The same when you add weight to the right. It wants to lean and turn to the right.
That is how we turn a bike. We weight the side of the bar we want to go.
How we weight the bike will depend on the situation.
We have told the bike we need to go left by turning our head left and lightly pushing the left bar
The corner, our speed and the conditions will decide how we weight the bike to make it through that corner safely.
The one thing we do in all the situations is Look, focus and lead with the head. By this I mean get forward. Lean forward and in the direction you want to go.
If you lean backward the bike won’t turn.
Sitting in the middle of the bike is so so. It will turn but not sharply or with any feel.
Leaning forward is the best position to be in most of the time. The bike will steer faster and harder. And give you a lot more feel and so information as to what the front tyre is doing.
I want you to park the bike now and put it on its stand. When you go for you test they sometimes ask you to park the bike in neutral. It’s a bike shop thing.
Just ease the clutch in till the bike stops.
The hand that has the clutch also has the bar that always brings the bike back to you. If you feel the bike tilting out to the right a simple bit of weight on the left bar will have it back at your side again.
So when you have come to a stop weight the left bar with your left hand.
That will put the weight of the bike in on your hip and its wheels. All nice, light and easy.
Now I want you to lift your right foot and select neutral. You should be able to feel it with your foot and see when the neutral light comes on.
Like first gear. Neutral has a feel all of its own.
Now I want you to swing your right arm from the bar to the seat so you face the bike. Good.
Now put the side stand down. And the bike on it.
Now turn the bike off at the ignition.
All good and ready to ride.
For the first ride I want the same thing as when you were walking beside it.
#1. No throttle.
#2. No front brake.
#3 No more than one beginner running the line at once.
If the bike can’t get your fat ass off the line then duck paddle. No throttle.
Let your feet drag if that’s what you want. Having your feet up is not important. What I want is you sitting on the bike and finding that clutch friction point all over again. Feeling how it reacts with more weight on the bike,
Now I want you to become good friends with the rear brake.
Same as before. Find the friction point.
Duck paddle faster you fat bastard.
Now I want the clutch all the way out and you to coast along.
Now pull the clutch all the way in and apply the rear brake slowly and easily till you come to a stop..
When you stop I want you to apply pressure to the left bar. The bike will tilt to the left allowing you to land on your left foot and keep your right foot on the rear brake.
I will usually let noobs do this circus ride for as long as they want. As long as I see they are practicing and not just cruising around having fun.
From this step on I start to introduce the throttle and that’s where things get funny.
Now We Start To Ride.
Seeing as we were all so good at the friction point and the clutch, why don’t we stay with that?
So start the bikes up. Get your gear on and be sitting on them running but in neutral.
Now blip (a quick twist) the throttle. See how easily the engine spins up revs. When you have drive to the motor it does not spin up so fast. So it’s not going to accelerate that fast.
The clutch is the one controlling the amount of power to the rear wheel in this exercise. Not the throttle.
I want you to be able to rev the bike up. I want you to be able to keep blipping the throttle. Rev it all you like. But I want you moving along very slowly across the ground.
You do this by the amount of clutch you let out. The amount of torque you let go to the rear wheel through the clutch.
If you get it wrong and the bike accelerates quickly under you, pull the clutch strait in. Use the rear brake lightly to bring you to a stop.
Once again I will run you in a small oval pattern. This time using the throttle, clutch, and rear brake.
I make them stop once a lap and start again. I also make them go the other way around after 6 laps.
It’s usually about now that I realise how badly most people slouch. Slouching is a bad habit. On a motorbike it’s a chronic habit. For a noob it’s a big no no.
You need to use your stomach and back muscles. You need to keep as much weight off your arms as you can for feel. You need to counterbalance G forces, kinetic energy and the weight of the bike.
You need to do this to keep yourself in balance. You need to roll at the hips. Be loose in the neck. And always have soft arms and hands.
So sit up as much as you can at slow speeds. Keep your eyes up and level. You want to put an even light weight behind the bars and just d**** your fingers over the front. That’s how you hold the bars. A nice even weight BEHIND them. Let them move about a bit. Your arms become a part of the suspension. Same goes for your legs.
Do not grab the bars.
Do not pull on the bars.
Learn to stand up on the pegs without pulling yourself up with your arms and therefore bars. This will show you where your centre of balance is. Goes a long way to keeping you in balance.
If you can learn to keep yourself in balance and control, the bike will do amazing things for you.
Sometimes you have to fight or counteract opposing forces and sometimes you use them.
Now I think you’re ready for the front brake. Well you’re not but we have to get into second gear soon and start having some fun. So you have to ready or not.
It’s not easy to teach the front brake when they are only in first. And they need the front if they are going to change up to second.
So front brake it is.
I want you to do a nice take off. Drive off like you have just got the green light at an intersection.
We have the throttle and clutch partnership down pat now. We don’t stall anymore. So just drive off and let the clutch slowly all the way out.
If you are teaching someone always try to refer to gears not speed. If you mention speed the little squirrels drop their eyes and lose the plot.
Now you are riding. In 1st, the clutch is all the way out. The breeze in the face. Bugs in the teeth.
I want you to keep your eyes up.
Pull the clutch all the way in.
Now slowly with all four fingers gently ease the front brake lever in.
Do not roll your wrists to pull the lever in. You will roll on the throttle with the back of your hand and crash.
This is why I just got up you for using two fingers. I have no idea how strong your hands and fingers are. And if they are not strong you will roll your wrists trying to pull the front brake lever in with two fingers.
You put four fingers over the lever and squeeze in with your fingers. Your fingers have much more feel than your elbows. And that’s what you’re using when you roll your wrists braking.
The bike will naturally fall at the front a bit here. You have to counteract that with your hips to keep you level and in balance. Arch your hips to Lean back and try to use your tummy muscles and not your arms to lean back.
Using your arms to lean back will only transfer more weight to the forks and in turn they will dive more. You’re pushing yourself back. Not leaning back.
You will learn to do this naturally before you use the brake after a while. It’s called setting. You will be very tempted to drop your eyes at this point too. Don’t you dare drop those eyes.
This is where we get into helping the bike and not hindering it.
By using our weight to keep as much weight and energy spread evenly across the two wheels as possible. That’s why we use our stomach, back and hips to lean back and not the bars.
The better you are at countering, the longer the rear brake will be affective. Hence the shorter your stopping distance will be.
You will feel better balanced and more in control. The bike will behave better and you will be able to hold the bars lighter enabling you to FEEL what the front wheel is doing. And you need to FEEL what the front tyre is doing with your hands. If you use your body, elbows or head it will hurt. A lot. Again.
If you squeeze the crap out of the bars you will have no feeling in your hands. No feeling of what the front end and tyre is doing.
Everything on a bike is the big easy. Or should be on the road.
Don’t forget the weight on the left bar at the last moment to put the bike on your left foot.
So now we have the clutch, rear brake, throttle and front brake all working together in perfect catastrophe .......ah harmony.
Ok now what I want you to do is go from a standstill, do a perfect start and then change into second.
I then want you to pull the clutch right in and apply both brakes evenly and lightly.
As you come to a stop I want you to tap first gear as you put your left foot down. Then and only then will you go for first when stopping!
You will have to put your left foot down because you remembered to weight the left bar as you stopped. Just as you tapped first on the gear lever while you were putting your left foot to the ground.
All this enables you to keep your right foot on the rear brake, helping you hold the bike upright.
Holding that rear brake will make the bike feel lighter. It makes a solid perch against your foot on the ground. And it can’t move.
Well that was stuffed. You snapped the clutch. Forgot to decelerate and crunched the gear change. Then popped the clutch and almost crashed. It seems like you have no rhythm.
Well I am over you. But the bike still likes you so it can teach you.
I want the same thing again. A perfect start, nice and easy, nice and slow. Then slowly decelerate.
Put your toe under the gear change and apply a slight upward pressure while decelerating. When it’s ready, it will change up. Just like that. What I want you to do is feel it change.
Stop the pressure with your foot when it clicks up and very so lightly re-apply the throttle.
Pull the clutch right in and give me a perfect stop.
Did you remember to grab first when you came to a stop?
Where the bike changed gears for you is about the minimum rev’s at what you would change gears normally using the clutch.
I use a clutch to take off and that’s about it changing up gears.
I do use it on all gears changing down.
The better your throttle and gear changing foot get along the higher revs you can change gears without a clutch.
By not using the clutch you learn to feel when to change gears. Funny that. Confusing you yet? Making you learn to use it by not using it.
I have already taught you the clutch.
What i am teaching you now is the gear change. And the most important thing in a gear change is your right hand and left foot combination.
The clutch just smooths it all out. Mr Smoothy.
So now you are going to do a perfect start, a smooth gear change with the clutch, and finish with a perfect stop. Not forgetting first gear, the bars and your right foot still on the brake and foot peg.
Making a bike go where you want it too.
Quite simply your eyes.
They are the first thing to initiate a turn. Or they better be.
You need to improve your focus and peripheral vision. And it will. All these things come with time.
You will be so tempted to hold your head strait and rigid. Bad bad bad.
A corner should be no more than the correct speed, in the correct gear. You stay as wide as you can as long as you can. So you have an earlier and longer sight through the corner.
You then look for the straightest line through it from where you are.
Your first point on the inside is your apex and you need to hold that in your focus. Try to have captured something the size of a tennis ball.
As you approach that your eyes should lift to the 2nd point which was your line out.
As beginner you will look right through a corner. Your focus will be the whole road. Or space you want to be.
It’s why you find it harder to corner or track a straight line slowly.
Just by knowing is not enough. It’s a training thing and it will come in time. The more your focus on focusing the quicker it will come to you.
This and a few other facts are why tennis balls are one of my favourite training aids.
There bright yet small enough to need good concentration to see them. And about the same size you would want your focus points out on the road.
They don’t slip under your tyres. You won’t know you have hit one most of the time.
And you can use dead ones so they are cheap.
Now I enlarge the size of the oval so they can travel at a safe 30kmp/h easy second gear territory.
As always I make them do a perfect start, smooth as gear change then I have a ball for entry, apex and where I want them to look on the way out....Always tight up the inside.
Two or three laps going one way. A perfect stop, a perfect start and then two or three laps the other way.
This is where I start really nagging you about your head and eyes not being level and leading the way through turns. I will start picking on you for your stiffness. Roll those bloody hips.
If you don’t turn your body into the corner I will make you point your knee into the corner and then your body will naturally follow. You will look a dick having a knee out at thirty.
The slalom is a very easy and fun thing to do. Firstly we will be doing it in 2nd gear. And taking it easy.
When you get to the first cone I want to see that you are already turning for the next cone.
Use the cones as the last point of the turn. As you pass the cone you should be already starting the turn for the next one.
Ok that was shocking. You hit all the cones (or balls) and fought the throttle, and confused the bike the whole way through.
You started right, rolled off the throttle and things got worse from there.
So let’s not roll off the throttle. Let’s hold a nice constant throttle. We are going slow and in second.
We can’t use the clutch to control the power and hence speed because that will take away the righting motion and the bike feels heavy and unstable already.
So what we do is as we roll over from one side to the other initiating the turn the other way. When the bike feels its least stable. We are going to apply rear brake and rear stabiliser. This is where I wash off speed as well. Going from one side to the other the bike is travelling in a strait line. What makes the bike unstable is that the suspension compresses as the bike leans into the turn. As you come out of the lean it unloads that pressure. The springs do their job. This makes the bike feel very light and unstable. It’s not. It just feels that way. Using a little rear brake stops the springs going back to their uncompressed length. Making the bike FEEL a little more planted.
I do drag the rear brake very lightly right through the slalom. Increasing the pressure when I need to slow down a little or need increased righting motion.
In one soft move we ease on the rear brake as we roll over creating drag and slowing down while making the bike stiffer and more stable.
Making you more confident and hopefully able to hang on to the bars with less of a killer grip.
We need to get soft and loose on a bike, Soft and loose with good posture.
If you ever feel like you have to hold the bike up in a lean. Then you are doing it all wrong. The feeling you should have is of pushing it down.
If it feels like it wants to fall from under you in a lean the first thing I would look at is the eyes. Are they level when the rest of their body is leaning in?
Posture? Are they sitting up and not slumping in the seat of the bike.
Are they using enough throttle and rear brake.
The more righting motion you want the more throttle you apply.
The less speed you want the more rear brake you apply.
Dial up the throttle and then apply enough rear brake to control the ground speed.
Now that you know how to hit the cones.
Your throttle/rear brake combination is fantastic.
You look like a gumby still.
We are not taking this very quickly or doing tight turns. So we have ground clearance to spare.
I want you to use your hips. I want you to keep your upper body as upright and still as you can.
Just use the throttle brake combo you have perfected and push on the bar the way you want to go.
Just like you use your neck to keep your eyes level when your turning. You use your hips to keep your upper body strait or even in an outward/counter balancing position when needed.
But for now we are working on style and at a slow speed. Second gear ok.
When you get it right it should look like your upper body has become detached from your lower body. Like a big invisible hand has a hold of the head and is holding it above the bike as it goes along weaving through the slalom.
Almost two entities on the one bike.
Your legs are wrapped around the bike so they are tipping either side with the bike. But your upper body is perfectly still. The only way you can accomplish this is by using your hips.
The romance has begun.
So now we know our eyes initiate every turn. And a simple light application of pressure on the bar in that direction is going to complete it
We know our neck tilts in the opposite direction to the way the bike is leaning to always keep our eyes level with the roads surface.
We know if we move arch our hips back and lean back with our tummy muscles we can negate the kinetic forces that make our bike dive in braking.
So if we arch our hips forward when we accelerate does it negate the G forces? Yes it does. And that’s a good thing. If you try to hang on by the bars you will be unbalanced and so will the bike.
You will end up with head shake on a dirt or sports bike.
Always use your body as best you can to have soft hands and arms.
We also now know that if we bend sideways at the hips we can aid the bike to lean further at lower speeds.
Remember at the start how we learnt a bike needs to lean to turn. And the more it leans the tighter the bike turns.
Same with the throttle and rear brake combo. If you get that right. If you have enough of both on. Then the sensation should be pushing the bike down. Not holding it up or fearing it wants to fall when the bike is on a big lean.
Now nothing we have learnt is physically hard to do. No real effort at all.
We know that the bike has several self righting functions on it. So its weight has become almost irrelevant.
We now know to use the controls to right the bike when we get unbalanced and feel tippy. Instead of trying to stick a leg out.
Our slow speed work is down pat. Clutch, throttle and rear brake. We know what each does and when to use them.
We understand the theory and know how to put it into practice.
Yes boys and girls it’s time for your figure 8’s
The Dreaded Figure 8
The figure 8 is a culmination of everything you have learnt up till now all rolled into one exercise.
You should be able to nail these.
There are three points of focus in doing figure 8’s. The inside between the two circles. The furthest outside of one circle and the furthest of the other circle.
My eyes will lock on the centre. As I approach it my eyes will go to the outside. But as soon as I can turn my head enough to look back to the inside I do. Then as I approach it again my eyes go to the other outside.
That’s it. The only places my eyes go or need to go.
My throttle is consistent. I may have up to about 80% of the throttle on.
And I am controlling my ground speed by my rear brake.
I don’t even have to think about pushing the bars anymore. My eyes go and my body follows. Your eyes are the most powerful thing you have when you’re on a motorbike.
I have so much throttle on because I need a lot of righting motion. I am grinding this baby into the ground. I am pushing it down into the ground. I’m having a ball.
My hips are working fairly hard keeping my upper body still and erect so I am in perfect balance.
And that’s it. They are so simple.
Before you start go back and do the throttle rear brake combo. Get use to using a lot of throttle and a lot of rear brake.
Alter the pressure you apply to the rear brake. Feel the difference and control you have over the bike using it.
When you have that under control it’s all up to your eyes. Talk to yourself if you have to. “Inside, outside. Inside again as soon as I can”.
To do them well you need to do them as fast as you can. The more speed the more stability all round.
Choosing the gear to be in is up to the bike. A sports bike or big cruiser I will use first gear. The sports bike is geared very high so I will need to be in first. The cruiser is very heavy so I will need all the righting motion I can get out of it.
Mostly on the average bike I will be in second gear. It’s a lot smoother than first. Making it easier to control.
And you must relax. You have to have a very light grip on the bars. The tighter your grip the bigger the circle you will ride in. The bike won’t want to turn.
I use to sit and watch the police exhibition team practise.
They do clover leafs, not fig 8’s. Clover leafs you add another circle so there are three.
And they do it on those huge ST1100’s and 1200 BMW’s. Fully kitted out with police gear.
And they do it one handed. And they make it look so bloody easy.
One day I worked up the courage to walk down the hill from our practise range to theirs and asked one how they did it.
He laughed and said I can’t tell you that. But I will give you a hint. I am using between 80 and 100% throttle all the time.
It took me a sleepless night and about one hour on a bike to nail it.
They use the bike. He does have the throttle wide open. The bike wants to sit up badly. He was controlling that and the ground speed with his rear brake. And he uses his feet to tip the bike in.
It looks so effortless because it is so effortless. The most effort he would use is the pressure on the rear brake. All he has to do is give the bike light inputs to turn with his feet.
It really is that easy.
The only difference between him, me and you is he and I believe it. We know if we balance those things well, all we need is small inputs to make the bike do what we want it too.
As long as we use our hips and neck to keep us in a good position on the bike and well balanced, there is nothing you and your bike can’t achieve with the knowledge of how a bike works.
Now that you have mastered the figure 8.
Things like U turns are a breeze. Now we start doing U turns in as tight a radius as possible. The fewer lanes you use the less chance of being hit by SMIDSY.
The throttle rear brake stability is great for lane splitting.
Or anywhere you need that bike to track straight and true.
Riding up your ramp onto the back of the ute. I never push the bikes on.
The Great Emergency Brake
I always get a chuckle out of this one. I have had to teach it a few different ways. Seems we all can’t even decide on one way to stop a bike let alone anything else.
I have had to do thousands of these in a controlled environment being an instructor. At least Ten a day for a dozen years.
And I have had to go into an emergency braking mode close to fifty times working as a postie.
On my road bikes in forty years I cannot recall a time in the last twenty years.
One thing I know is that a controlled emergency brake is nothing at all like a real world situation.
All I can say is I hope you get it right when your grab them for the second time.
You have to do them over and over and over. They have to be ingrained. Or you won’t stand a chance getting them right when you need to. They have to be ingrained because while you are going into your emergency brake mode. You have to still be looking and hoping for a way to ride out.
In a real world real Emergency Braking situation you are more than likely only going to lessen the damage.
If you have the time and room to pull up under hard braking then it wasn’t really an emergency.
What I am going to tell you is not pretty but needs to be told.
Most of you will lock up first real world time. Usually there won’t be enough room to stop.
If impact is imminent then try to manoeuvre to the bonnet or the boot of the car. Just before you hit jump and try to leap the bonnet or boot. The sudden impact is what really hurts. If you can dive over and roll you stand a better chance. My luck there would be a truck behind that car.
If you lose it on a corner or have to pull up. Try to duck the bike inside the corner a bit ( a quick countersteer) then stand it up and go EB. This will give you the longest stretch of tar to try and stop on.
The half second you lose off brakes might gain you a second or more on the brakes.
What you will want to look at is the worst thing you want to hit.
Make yourself find a way out or soft place fall. You will go where your eyes are focused. So look and keep looking.
Braking sheez you could go on for hours and hours. If you know what your bike is capable of you stand a better chance of doing it.
You have to learn, and then put it into practice. And practice till you master it. Then you will only have to practice it now and then to keep it as a ready skill.
With all my talk of hitting things you would wonder why you need to learn to brake.
I must admit I am the first to say you are not gunna brake out of that mess.
Good braking is as vital as only other skill on a motorcycle.
And it will give you the opportunity to react and save your life.
It will make you a safer road rider and a quicker track jock.
Say we are in the left lane. A car is just ahead on our right in the right lane travelling in the same direction at approximately the same speed. About 90 in an 80.
And SMIDSY comes out from a street on the left. SMIDSY gets half way out blocking your lane and sees you. And stops.
Your first reaction should be to move to the right lane.
This time you can’t. That car is still there and braking as well.
This is a classic Emergency Braking situation.
The first thing I do is slide right up to the tank, arch my hips and tummy muscles for the kinetic energy (braking forces) and dig my knees into the tank.
Some say to slide back in the seat to put weight back.
I don’t subscribe to that at all. It’s so hard to stay back for one. If you have nuts now would be a good time to lose them. You also extend your reach to the bars. Causing you to straiten your arms. And that transfers weight strait down them and into the forks.
It also tilts your head down.
So crutch up to the tank and arch your hips back. Use that and your knees to keep the weight out of your arms as much as you can.
So now we are set and eyes up and brake. Both brakes. Just like you were taught. Slowly squeeze.
Now I pull the clutch in.
I have set myself.
Set the brakes.
Not much else to do but enjoy the view, so I think I will pull in the clutch. Then I have more feel of what the back wheel is doing. When you have engine braking and the rear brake braking the feel is less as there are two devices at work. Pulling the clutch takes all the engine braking out of the equation and lets me really feel the back brake.
By now I am tapping down a few gears so if god likes me and creates an opportunity. I am ready.
All the while the eyes are up, level and pleading for her or the guy on your right to move..... but alas.
At the last moment your choice is to take on her bonnet and have maybe ten more meters of braking room to stop.
Or get off the brakes and try to jump up the gutter on your left.
Possibly the guy on the right could stop short and leave enough room for you to pull a full countersteer manoeuvre. Break right full counter steer, brake and balance so you can break left strait away again. Just like back at the slalom course.
“Pfhht where would I ever slalom in real life. I would get a ticket” A penny for every time I have heard that wrongly said about the slalom and doing figure 8’s. Mostly by those who can’t do it.
The point I am trying to make here is don’t ever give up.
Don’t ever jump off. You know what I mean. Don’t give up.
Do not ever lay it down.
Keep braking and keep looking for a way out.
Do not look anywhere near what you don’t like the look of.
Keep that slow squeeze happening.
I can ride like Clyde and still not ready for the road?
Before you get off this range and onto the road you will have all these skills mastered.
That is how Qride and others are meant to work. Do they? Don’t they?
Personally I think you should have these skills mastered before you ride on the road. It will make the road part a breeze and much more enjoyable.
You truly will need all of the skills that you have learnt here and a whole lot more.
We haven’t even gotten out of second gear in any exercise. We have not even been in second long enough to need third.
What you have here is the very basics. How to ride a bike at speeds where it becomes difficult. Slowly and tightly.
If you are vertically challenged or not very strong you need to learn to ride a bike the way I have shown you here.
The large majority of accidents happen at slow speeds. And they suck the most. You don’t have a bruise let alone a good war story.
The bike will have around three grand worth of damage if it has fairings.
Riding on the road for most of the time is not about riding. It’s about positioning. Being in a good position to be seen and see.
Not being in a bad situation like in our EB. Not riding where we can be seen.
You are constantly scanning the horizon for SMIDSY
The road for conditions.
The car in front, beside and behind for eye contact or some recognition.
Once again our eyes are so important. They do all the stuff we need them to do to ride.
And they find the idiot before he finds us. They see the dirt or oil. They work pretty bloody hard when you’re on a bike.
Your riding has to be second nature. The bike, an extension of you.
It’s hot and you are wrapped in leather and Kevlar. The traffic stinks. I need a drink.
It’s wet and cold. Your wet gear leaks. You’re stuck in traffic. You’re tired, sore and want to be anywhere else.
Their costly. Uncomfortable, unreliable, impractical and down right dangerous.
You pay so much and put up with all that crap for a few good hours in the hills on the weekends.
You must be crazy.
No Sir. I’m a motorcyclist.