Starting any new hobby can be daunting. Especially one that involves two wheels and (possibly) danger! If you’re new to riding, this beginner’s guide to motorcycles is for you. Done properly, motorcycling is a very safe and rewarding hobby.
Where to Start
It’s important that you get started with riding the correct way. I'll give you a hint - it's not on a motorcycle. There’s nothing worse than hopping on your new wheels, brimming with excitement, and then riding it straight into a parked car (it happens – I’ve seen it). Before you even think about buying a motorcycle, you need to learn how to ride.
How do you learn how to ride without a bike? I’m glad you asked! It’s very simple – sign up for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) beginner’s course. The MSF is a non-profit organization dedicated to training motorcyclists. According to their website, they have graduated over 6 million students from their courses.
There are several classes to choose from. There is an introductory class that will introduce you to motorcycling without actually riding, there’s a basic learn to ride course, and then there are more advanced classes for higher levels of riders and bikes. All you have to do is go to their website and check them out. Once you’ve settled on which on to take, you can search your state for upcoming events and locations. These classes are held all over the Unites States, so it’s not hard to find one close by.
The best way to start is by taking the MSF’s Basic RiderCourse which will teach you the basics of motorcycle riding through 5 hours of classroom learning and 10 hours of actual riding instruction. You don’t need anything to start. Just show up and they’ll strap your noggin’ into a cozy helmet and set you on a bike. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is going to be a boring or stuffy environment. You’ll have a blast and the instructors are not only top-notch, but they are very friendly and inviting.
Not only will you get excellent training, but there’s a good chance that the instruction will pay off down the road. If you take some of the more advanced MSF courses, your state may waive your riding test. You’ll also likely get an insurance discount just for taking the first course.
Getting Your Motorcycle Permit
Once you’ve taken the MSF course (or a few), then head on down to your local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and get your motorcycle permit. This varies from state to state, but it will very likely be a simple written test. As long as you read through your state’s drivers manual and take your time on the test, you’ll be fine.
As a word of caution, do not proceed into motorcycling without taking this step! Even though you may have a valid driver’s license does not mean you can just start riding (in most states). Check your state’s motorcycle laws to be sure that you’ve got everything covered. There’s no need to go to jail or get your shiny, new motorcycle impounded because you didn’t take an hour to ensure you have a valid permit.
Buying Your First Motorcycle
This is perhaps the most fun step in all of this. It can also be pretty stressful. What should you look for? How big should your first bike be? Should you get a classic cruiser or a sleek sportbike? Luckily, with a little research, you’ll be able to answer these questions with ease.
If you want my advice (learned over several years of riding), you should probably start with a smaller bike. A 250cc motorcycle is perfect to learn on. You’ll be able to develop your riding skills into a solid foundation for a lifetime of riding. Many people make the mistake of starting on a big, unmanageable bike and get themselves into trouble. Even if they do survive their first year of riding, they will have likely developed bad riding habits that will take years to undo. So do yourself a favor, and get a small bike for the first year or so.
Now that we’ve settled what size of bike to buy, which ones are available? Buying a motorcycle is like buying a car, there are so many to choose from it can be hard to pick just one. There are a few that are great choices for beginners. Here is a couple that I recommend:
Kawasaki Ninja 250R
The Ninja 250 just happens to be my first bike, so I have a bit of a soft spot for it. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is almost the perfect motorcycle to start riding on. It’s small and light enough that you won’t be afraid of handling it, and it is very forgiving of beginner mistakes.
Kawasaki started manufacturing this motorcycle in 1988 and still makes it today, making it one of the most inexpensive bikes to ride. There are a lot of parts available to fix and/or upgrade it, and there is a ton of information available. This bike is a great introduction into motorcycle maintenance, if you’re interested in learning.
Honda Rebel 250
If you’re not into the sportbike scene, then check out the Rebel 250. It’s a small standard-style bike with enough get-up-and-go to take you anywhere you need to go in a small, lightweight package. Many people prefer a standard bike to a sportbike since it’s more comfortable and takes some of the pressure off your back and wrists. This is certainly the case with the Rebel 250.
Motorcycle Safety Gear
Before you hop on the bike, be sure to get the proper safety gear. At a minimum, you need a helmet, riding jacket, and riding gloves. There is a big difference in how motorcycle safety gear is made, so don’t just ride around town in your fancy leather jacket. You need to get good-quality gear that will stand up to a lot of abuse and (potentially) a crash.
I know it looks like it’s a long way off, but once you’ve taken an MSF course, got your permit, a bike and gear, you’ll be riding the highways like a pro. Motorcycling is an excellent hobby that will reward you with beautiful scenery and experiences for a long time to come. Happy riding!