10 Ways To Improve Your Riding Skills

Expert Advice -


10 Ways To Improve Your Riding Skills

10 Ways To Improve Your Riding Honda CTX700

6. Ride your ride
Riding with friends can be a great experience and, myself included, the camaraderie and the fellowship is one of the greatest reasons to ride. But riding on the street is no place for competitiveness. If you ride with friends who are much more experienced than you, or who are much faster than you, avoid the impulse to ride over your head in order to keep up. Ride your ride, always. If you’re out with the friends, make sure to set up a rendezvous spot before you head out to ride and let them know that they can ride as fast as they want and you’ll catch up with them at the coffee spot. It’s your ride too. I promise, you’ll ride better and way safer if you don’t add the pressure of keeping up. Even if it seems like they’re leaving you in the dust, you’ll wind up catching up quicker than you’d think.

10 Ways To Improve Your Riding Honda CTX700

7. Avoid target fixation
How many times have you noticed a rock in the roadway, or a piece of tire rubber, and then realized that you’ve run right over it, even though you didn’t mean to? That’s target fixation at work. Motorcycles go where you look. It’s true. Look at that rock in the road, and you’re going to hit it. To avoid target fixation, look where you want to go. Don’t look at the edge of the road when you come around that curve, look through the curve. Your bike will almost magically follow your gaze. And when you notice that rock in the road, don’t fix your stare on the obstacle — look at your escape route. Look around the rock, and your bike will follow. Try experimenting with cones or paper cups in a parking lot. Soon, you’ll be able to notice the obstacle, look around it, and your bike will follow.

10 Ways To Improve Your Riding Honda CTX700

8. Make your bike fit your body
The science is called “ergonomics,” and the motorcycle application is pretty darn straightforward: If your bike fits you, you’ll ride better. Start by adjusting your handlebars — most stock bars can be adjusted by loosening the clamp at the center, and twisting them forward and aft. A change of just a few inches can transform your relationship to your bike. Some bikes have adjustable hand controls, too. Fiddle with those until you find the right tension and grip for your hands. Footpegs can be adjusted and moved; seats can be changed to gain ride height or lower the reach to the ground; nearly every place that your body meets the bike can be adjusted or altered to make you more comfortable and secure.  Short, tall, fat and skinny, make the bike work for you.

10 Ways To Improve Your Riding Honda CTX700

9. Wear the right gear
We talk about ATGATT frequently here – All The Gear, All The Time. But it’s not just ATGATT that counts — it has to be the right gear, too. Dress for the temperature that you’re going to encounter. If you’re taking a long ride, remember that the heat of the day will give way to the cool of the evening, so you’ve got to be ready. Those perforated summer gloves will do little to keep your hands warm when the mercury drops into the 50s or 40s, as it can on summer nights in the desert. Getting caught in a rain storm is no fun if your leather jacket isn’t water resistant. You risk hypothermia if you ride in wet jeans at low temperatures. Proper rain gear isn’t just for comfort; it’s for safety, too.

10 Ways To Improve Your Riding Honda CTX700

10. It’s all about safety and practice, and practice, and practice
There are plenty of web sites, books and articles about motorcycle safety. Reading about safety and visualizing safe riding technique can make your actual rides safer. Who knows? You might just learn something new.

Low speed practice will yield some serious improvement in any riding situation. Don’t be afraid or feel bad if you need to teach yourself the remedials. I take every opportunity to get more motorcycle rider training. I love to go to track days, safety demonstrations and riding clinics — any place where I can get feedback on my riding, and observe skilled riders doing their thing. Even if you’re never going to race your motorcycle (I know that I won’t), spending time on a track can make you a better street rider. You get a chance to ride in a controlled environment without worrying about oncoming traffic, intersections or poor pavement. Many track days have instructors available to give advice and help you to improve your riding. Also, it’s great fun.

Every ride is an opportunity to improve your riding. Work on your following distance. Brake lighter, longer. Avoid target fixation. Adjust your corner entry speed. Practice, practice, practice. You’ll never be perfect, but you can always improve and have more fun, because really, that’s what it’s all about.


  • augustdaysong

    5 is great, just hate when kids in their parents’ Challenger or fart canned Civic think I’m trying to race them and it defeats the entire purpose

    • Brandon Mussman

      Just feed them a little extra BRAP and increase that distance, by the time they catch up you’ll be stopped at the next light.

      • eddi

        Or just the opposite depending on traffic. Hit the brakes and let the Wookie win. It’s not worth the struggle.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    11. Trackdays

    • Adan Ova

      That’s actually right there, on 10.

      • MichaelEhrgott

        Ah you’re right! I missed that bit.

  • skeelo221

    Re: #2…I’ve never seen anyone highside from losing the front.

    • Mark D

      Right, that’s a lowside. A highside is when you lose rear traction from overly-aggressive throttle application, freak out, let off the throttle, then the rear wheel catches suddenly when you are out of alignment, and you bike throws your body from the inside of the turn, over the bike, to the outside.

      You’d think a person writing for, you know, a motorcycle blog would know that.

      • Brandon Mussman

        I love bagging on the new ride apart as much as the next guy, they are definitely going downhill. That being said, there is no mention of the front brake in #2, just brakes, and i have seen a highside result from clamping down too hard on the rear, losing traction and then hooking back up like you mentioned Mark.


        • Mark D

          Fair point, but you really shouldn’t be using your rear brake at all while turning, right?

          • Brandon Mussman

            For the most part. I’m far from the most knowledgeable but i’m pretty sure you use both brakes in trail braking, but then again im not completely certain on the nuances of that skill either. im pretty sure you should be braking up till the apex (both brakes), while starting to tip in, then gently release at apex and get on the gas.

            • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

              To answer both comments. Yes you can use the rear brake while turning. Particularly at low speeds it is very useful. It can also be used to help tighten up your line depending on your speed, lean angle, and type of turn. Here is a good video discussing trail braking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1rlQ0NmbWs Trail braking really just means that you do the bulk of your braking before the turn and smoothly release the brakes as you lean. This is primarily done with the front brake. This technique keeps a load on the front end which helps reduce rake and trail making the bike turn faster. There is a lot of good info out there on this. Look for a possible feature on some of these techniques.

          • Davidabl2

            Do a systematic search on “trail breaking’ re doing it at speed . At very low speeds i.e. less than 10 mph any braking during turning should be
            done with/controlled with the rear brake not the front. watching some “gymnkana” riding vids will confirm this.

            • John P. Muller

              Just don’t trail brake in the rain. Bad things can happen.

  • Tupack Shackur

    Does anyone have a good guide as to how to rotate your handlebars for a lower position? I haven’t been able to find anything that doesn’t discourage doing that.

    • eddi

      Rotating the handlebar 180 to a dropped position? I go with discouraging that, sorry. Buy some bars that are flatter than your current set and install them. That might cost money, but it will look better and be safer. If not that extreme then just moving them forward or back an inch or so should lower them a little.

      • Tupack Shackur

        No, I mean rotating it the way they describe in the article.

        • eddi

          The first thing you will need is the repair manual for your model. The torque setting for the handlebar bolts is vital.

  • Justin McClintock

    Learn to use all of your tools to your advantage. Proper braking. Proper cornering. Proper CLUTCH use.

  • dreygata

    #10. Convinced my friend to go out with me to practice emergency stops in a parking lot. Never have I had so much fun coming to a stop, though having the rear wheel come off the ground contributed heavily to that :)

  • daveinva

    My personal favorite “trade secret” that I evangelize: Train yourself to stop looking at cars, and start looking at car’s *wheels*.

    Cars entering traffic or turning in front of you all rely on those little rotating disk thingies in order to move. Looking at the car (or worse, the driver) tells you nothing of their intentions, but wheels never lie.

    Related: every car in front of you is about to merge into your lane without a signal. Even if that’s not true, you’ll never go wrong believing it to be so!

    • Koczk

      This is TERRIBLE advice. Seriously, wtf?

      Every single driving and riding instructor on earth will tell you that a driver’s eyes signal their intentions above all else. A car’s tires turn about 2 degrees when it changes lanes. That minuscule shift is not easy to see, and it is definitely not a good way to quickly assess direction and then react. You should look at the whole car and constantly be scanning the traffic in front of you, instead of disregarding the many different ways you can assess the situation. This way you can see indicators if they are used, but also the driver inside the car and the whole vehicle.

      Consider car that’s waiting to turn left in front of you across an intersection. Most of the time their wheels will be straight until the moment they begin their turn, at which point it’s in your path. If you are looking at the driver, you can determine if they can see you or not, have noticed you, and where they are looking otherwise, which signals their planned direction.

      • daveinva

        “Every single driving and riding instructor on earth will tell you that a driver’s eyes signal their intentions above all else.”

        You should listen more. For the instructors I’ve listened to and learned from– David Hough, James Davis, two different MSF coaches over the years– all make the obvious point: drivers do not always go where they are looking. There is NOTHING reliable about looking at a driver’s eyes, if you can even see them.

        Oh, and SMIDSY is a real thing, too. “But I was watching his eyes… as he ran right into me!”

        BTW, you’re not looking for wheels that are turning– you’re looking for wheels that are *spinning*. If the wheels aren’t spinning, the car isn’t moving.

        That all said, if I wrote the above again, I would have dumbed down my advice even further, and wrote that you OF COURSE consider all visual information. But the *most reliable* visual information is at the wheels– not the car, not the “diving hood,” and never the “driver’s eyes.”

      • Nate Terrill

        Honestly, I look at the wheels when it comes to cross traffic. I have had several close encounters with drivers sitting at stop signs while I was coming down the street with the right of way. A couple of those times, they were looking right at me. So, I relaxed alittle thinking that because they were looking at me, they had seen me. I was pants shittingly wrong on that a couple of times. I can’t trust that the person who is “looking” is actually “seeing”. Their mind my be in a totally different place.

        Looking at the front wheel of the car has not let me down, yet. Many times, I can tell they are inpatient by watching as they let the car slowly creep forward, waiting for the chance to gun it. I am not looking at the angle of the wheel. I am looking for motion.

  • Hugo

    Love that helmet!!!

  • Nate Terrill

    I am a fan of Number 5. Now, I have an excuse for what I do at stop lights!

  • Squabbles

    You left out buy a little dirt bike and eat dirt, buy a bigger dirt bike and eat dirt, repeat till you seldom eat dirt on a large displacement dirt bike. No thanks necessary.