How To Teach A New Rider The Ropes


Category: How To

The downside of this whole awesome motorcycle thing is that it can feel overwhelming for new riders. You can help make it more new rider-friendly by teaching a friend/family member/significant other the ins and outs. This is how you teach a new rider the ropes.

Photo by Chad Forbes

Convincing People They Want To Ride

I’ve got this easy. I live in Los Angeles, so I just pick someone up on one side of the city and take them to the other during rush hour (ie, any time of the day or week). Doing so takes 20 minutes or so and costs me probably a dollar in fuel (I also make sure they see my $8 fill up). If they’re intelligent, a light bulb goes off and they ask how they can do that too.

Lara on the Honda Grom
Lara on the Honda Grom

That’s exactly what I did with my girlfriend, Lara. No hard sell, I just took her to Marina Del Ray on July 4th to watch the fireworks, then rode her home through the apocalyptic holiday traffic. Despite one tiny altercation with a moronic car driver, we completed the journey back to Hollywood easily and without incident in about 25 minutes. Car driving friends would never even have attempted to make that happen. Since she needs to travel all over the city every day for work, questions about her own transportation situation soon followed.

If you live in one of those backwards states which still doesn’t allow lane splitting, you may have a harder time. What you need to do is show a non-rider the unique appeal motorcycles have to offer. If they like nature, take them dirt bike camping. If they like thrills, take them out on a sportbike. If they like adventure, take them on a weekend getaway. Bikes are awesome, so it’s really not hard to show someone how great they are, just throw them on the back, take them for a ride and they’ll get it.

2014 Honda Grom 125
2014 Honda Grom 125

Start Small

Pretty much anyone can learn to ride a tiny dirt bike, a scooter or a little road bike like the Honda Grom in under and hour. They just need a safe place that’s off the road to learn in and a bike that won’t scare them. Think low seat height, low power outputs and light weight. You can find used Honda XR100s or similar on Craigslist in functional condition for a couple hundred bucks. Pick one up as a learning tool and find a local field or just use your yard.

The Gear

Riding a motorcycle is dangerous and good safety gear mitigates that risk. But, you don’t want to put your Padwan learner off by suiting them up for battle on their first ride. If they’re riding a small bike in a safe environment (like your yard or field) a helmet, an armored jacket, riding gloves, a pair of jeans and a set of hiking boots will be enough. After all, they’re going to be going what, 15 mph on grass? The idea with this first ride is to show them how much fun it is and that it’s an achievable thing. Most importantly is not to scare them off.

Motorcycle gear

Photo by Philo Nordlund

Work up to more riding gear as they advance. That way, they understand its need and purpose and you’re not laying out thousands on someone who may give up after the first lesson.

Make that gear it’s own reward. If they go get their permit, you’ll buy them a helmet. If they complete the MSF course, they get their own jacket. Just make sure any stuff they’re borrowing is actually safe and fits them correctly. It also needs to be appropriate for each stage of their riding. While a new rider won’t need much for their first spin around a field, they should be fully protected during their first ride on a road.

Canvas people in your riding community for gear loans. We all like the idea of more people riding and most people have a ton of old stuff in their closets. If you’re teaching your girlfriend to ride, can other women riders in your community loan her a jacket or helmet for the day? Also look online for cheap deals on used gear. If you’re unsure your protégé will really go through all the steps to become a life-long rider, there should be no shame in picking up a used jacket for $50 to get them through their first few lessons.

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