How to Ride a Motorcycle for The First Time

by Chris Gilliland

Learning how to ride a motorcycle is a challenging endeavor that can open a new world of adventure, even if you're just riding to work. While knowing how to ride a bicycle and drive a car can be beneficial, riding a motorcycle safely depends on your ability to learn and apply a new set of skills quite different from those needed by any other form of vehicle. Start slowly and practice away from traffic until you are comfortable with your machine before heading out onto the open road.

Approach the motorcycle from its left side. Grasp the handlebars with both hands and pull in the front brake lever, located on the right handlebar, to engage the front brake. Swing your right leg over the motorcycle until you are straddling the rider's seat. Lift the motorcycle up into a vertical position. Raise the kickstand with your left heel and release the front brake lever.

Familiarize yourself with the motorcycle's control layout. The starter button and kill switch is housed within the switch assembly on the right handlebar, accompanied by the front brake lever and throttle twist-grip. The left handlebar switch assembly contains the horn, turn signal and headlight dimmer switches as well as the clutch lever. A pedal near the right foot peg controls the rear brake, while the lever near the left foot peg is used to shift gears. The motorcycle's ignition switch is usually found in front of the handlebars, but may also be placed near the front fork.

Turn the motorcycle on, using the ignition key. A green light should illuminate on the motorcycle's speedometer, indicating that the motorcycle is in neutral. Reach under the left side of the fuel tank and turn the fuel valve lever to the "On" position. Pull in the clutch lever. Set the kill switch to the "Run" or "On" position. Pull in the front brake lever and push the starter button until the engine starts. Slowly release the front brake and clutch levers.

Pull in the clutch lever. Push the shift lever downward with your left foot until it clicks into first gear. Release the clutch lever slowly until the motorcycle starts to roll forward. Twist the throttle grip backward slightly with your right hand to provide gas and continue to release the clutch lever slowly. Roll the throttle grip back further, once the clutch lever releases completely to increase forward speed.

Pull the clutch lever in and roll the throttle grip forward to close the throttle. Push the shift lever upward with a firm press of the tip of your left foot to shift into second gear. Release the clutch lever and roll the throttle grip back to open the throttle. Repeat to shift into a higher gear as your speed increases.

Pull in the front brake lever, using your right index and middle fingers, to reduce your speed. Alternatively, push down on the rear brake pedal with your right foot to activate the rear brake. Use a light, progressive motion to engage either brake, opposed to a sudden pull or push that could lock the brake and cause an accident. The front brake can and should be used for most situations. Use both front and rear brakes for additional stopping power or during emergencies.

Pull the clutch lever in and roll the throttle grip forward to close the throttle. Push down on the shift lever with your left foot to shift down into a lower gear. Roll the throttle grip back quickly to rev the engine slightly, and then release the clutch lever. The slight increase in engine speed prevents the motorcycle from jerking or lurching while shifting into a lower gear. Repeat to shift into a higher gear as your speed increases.

Initiate a turn by looking at the starting point of the turn. Roll the throttle grip forward and slow down, using the front brake. Shift into a lower gear as needed. Push the handlebar closest to the direction of the turn forward to lean the motorcycle into the turn. Look at the end of the turn. Roll the throttle grip back slowly as you pass the tightest point, or apex, of the turn. Push the handlebar facing away from the turn to lift the motorcycle back into an upright position. Accelerate away from the turn.

Roll the throttle grip forward and slow the motorcycle to a stop, using both brakes. Pull in the clutch lever and shift down into first gear. Tap the shift lever upward light with the tip of your left foot to shift into neutral, indicated by a green light on the speedometer. Release the clutch lever. Deploy the kickstand with your left heel, and then lower the motorcycle onto it. Set the kill switch to "Off" or "Stop," and then turn the ignition switch off and remove the key. Hold the front brake lever in place and dismount the motorcycle from its left side.

Tip

  • check Relax. Learning to ride your motorcycle can often be stressful and cause your body to tighten, affecting your ability to operate the motorcycle. Staying calm and relaxed will allow you to operate the controls smoothly, keeping you in control of the motorcycle. Look through, and not directly at, where you are going. Your eyesight determines where the motorcycle is going, especially during a turn. Contact your local Motorcycle Safety Foundation School for hands-on instruction from a certified instruction.

Warning

  • close Motorcycle riding is a dangerous activity. For safety reasons while riding, wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet at all times. As a motorcycle rider, you will crash eventually. Crashes happen at low-speeds, usually in a parking lot. Injuries from these crashes often result from wearing improper attire, such as shorts and T-shirts without a protective jacket. Do not brake or shift during a turn. Both motions can upset your motorcycle and cause a crash. Wear motorcycle boots, long pants or leathers and protect your body while riding a motorcycle.

References

About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images