How to Get Back Into Riding Motorcycles Again - Part 1
By Walter F. Kern
Part 1: Getting ready for the road
Many riders are coming back into motorcycling after a long absence, some as long as 30 years or more. These are riders who reached a point in their lives where family obligations or their economic situation forced them to sell their motorcycle. As the years passed, their situations changed and the love of riding came back with a vengeance. However, motorcycles have changed, training methods have changed, and motorcycle safety has become a priority.
Are you one of these returning motorcycle riders? Here's what you need to know to do it right the second time around.
If you haven't been keeping up with the progress in motorcycling since you gave up the sport years ago, you may be in for a surprise. There are a wide variety of both domestic and foreign bikes available that are cool to look at and much more fun to ride. Models run the gamut from scooters to cruisers, to standards, to sportbikes, to dual sports, to touring bikes, and even to trikes.
Motorcycle trikes are relatively new to the sport even though they existed more than 40 years ago. New trikes are extremely stable and possess riding characteristics unheard of until recently. Some returning riders choose trikes to deal with various infirmities.
You'll also find a change in motorcycle riding apparel and helmets. Various synthetic materials are now being used as well as leather for jackets. Helmet use is now controlled by law in some areas. Check local regulations.
Learning how to ride a motorcycle is now much more organized with numerous classes available.
With the popularity of the Internet, there are now thousands of motorcycle resources available that allow you to stay current with what's going on in motorcycling. For example, many people become regulars on one or more motorcycle forums. These forums can attract thousands of visitors daily. If you have any question about motorcycling, you can post it on the forum and get immediate responses from all over the world by numerous experts.
I can not emphasize this enough: You must take a formal motorcycle training course from a school that uses the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) methods. You may think you already know how to ride a motorcycle but attending one of these courses will give you the latest skills required to be a safe rider. These courses are usually given over a weekend with both classroom instruction and field exercises. Motorcycles are provided. The classes teach you how to ride the machine, but more importantly, they teach you street survival skills.
If you feel you are already an experienced motorcycle rider, you may want to enroll in an MSF experienced rider course. These courses are conducted with you riding your own motorcycle.
I don't recommend going down to your local motorcycle dealer and buying a new motorcycle. Perhaps you've known someone who decided to get back into motorcycling and the first thing they did was buy a big heavyweight machine. Now, it's possible that some people who have natural athletic abilities may be able to pull this off. The vast majority, however, will not be able to do it. They will end up damaging the bike numerous times and most likely injuring themselves in the bargain.
You want to start off with a simple, cheap, standard motorcycle and be prepared to see it fall over a few times while you get used to riding again. You should be able to find something for $1000 or less. Just be sure that the bike runs well, has good tires and brakes, and is insured.
At some point, if you haven't maintained the motorcycle endorsement on your driver's license, you'll have to take a motorcycle road test offered by the Dept of Motor Vehicles for your state or other governmental authority. A possible side benefit of taking the MSF beginner's course is an automatic endorsement without having to take the normal motorcycle vehicle tests. Check your local regulations.
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