How to learn to ride a motorcycle

I know a woman whose attempt to learn to ride a motorcycle lasted ten feet. She decided she’d have her boyfriend, a very experienced motorcyclist, teach her. She lurched ten feet across the parking lot, he screamed at her, they started arguing about his teaching technique and she gave up then and there. Never did learn to ride.

Sometimes it’s better to learn from a professional than even the most well intentioned friend or relative.

Fortunately, there’s a program set up to teach you all you need to know to get started riding a motorcycle in just one weekend.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers training courses all across the United States. The Basic RiderCourse is designed to take you from zero to motorcyclist in a couple of days. You come in with nothing but your learner’s permit and leave knowing the basics of how to ride a motorcycle. The MSF provides the training bikes, so your cost is minimal. In many cases, completing the course will qualify you for a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license without having to take a riding test at your state department of motor vehicles. Plus, completing the MSF course may earn you a discount on insurance. Clearly, this is a good investment of a weekend.

Lifelong learning is an especially good idea for motorcyclists. Here, Eric Trow of Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training gives a student one-on-one instruction.

I’m also a big believer in continuing education. Years of experience don’t automatically lead to improved skills. If you practice bad habits, they’ll just become more ingrained. So even experienced riders need refresher courses now and then.

Fortunately, there are several options. The MSF offers a wide variety of courses beyond the BRC, including classes on safety skills, one focused on riding scooters, and even courses for riding a three-wheeler or a dirtbike.

In addition to the MSF, there are racetrack-based schools for high-performance riding and street-oriented safety schools such as the Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training, one of my personal favorites (read one of my articles about Stayin’ Safe here).

There are also plenty of great books about riding skills, such as the Proficient Motorcycling series by David Hough and the cerebral and interesting “The Upper Half of the Motorcycle” by Berndt Spiegel, a German psychologist who has studied human-machine interfaces. A good source for all kinds of books about motorcycling is Whitehorse Press, which will be happy to send you one of their free catalogs.

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