Today I Ride (How I Got My Motorcycle License and How You Can Too)

This post is several days overdue.  Not because I’m a procrastinator.  I am that. I mean, I waited until I reached my forties before riding and buying my first motorcycle. This post is overdue because I have been riding my 2017 Harley Iron 883 for better part of the last three days!  I’d be out there riding right now, but the sky has opened up with a deluge of rain.  Not a good combo with a rider that only has three days of riding experience. I’ll be honest and say that riding a bike 235 lbs heavier than the Suzuki TU250X I learned to ride on was intimidating and challenging.  Hell, the difference in weight is pretty close to the weight of the Suzuki. I haven’t even mentioned the difference in engine power, which is a little over 3.5X larger!

There is so much to learn and do as a motorcyclist.  I can feel my brain expanding as my cells grow. No, really.  reserch has shown that riding a motorcycle is good for your brain. Check it out here.  Yeah science, bitch! All that wonderful inprovment in cognitive ability could be offset by one rookie mistake.  I’ve already put a good sized scratch in the header pipe heat shield scraping a curb on a turn. I hadn’t even put ten miles on the bike yet! Learning to wield 560 lbs around while in motion at street speeds ain’t easy, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun!

This time two weeks ago, I was still only wondering what riding would be like. This time last week I was sitting in the DMV hoping to pass to get my “M” endorsement. So how did I get to this point?

First, keep dreaming of throwing a leg over the bike of your dreams and squeezing the throttle. It’ll keep you motivated, especially when you get discouraged. Learning to ride a motorcycle is like going back to being 16 years old and learning to drive a car, but 100x more difficult. Before you even touch a motorcycle, do as much research as possible. Look at bike types.  Which bike appeals to you and determine why.  Looks shouldn’t be the only factor. Do you need a low bike because you have a short inseam?  You’ll need to reach the ground when stopping. Are you tall? If so, you may need a custom Harley like Shaquille O’neal’s.

Also look at costs. You’re going to need to to include safety gear into that cost.  Having purchased cycling helmets my whole life, I was astounded that low end motorcycle helmet prices started at upper end cycling helmet prices. Some really good motorcycle helmets cost $700.  It’s not just a helmet you’ll need.  It may look like cosplay to some, but that leather jacket, chaps, and boots are for safety.  Leather not your thing?  There are plenty of textile safety jackets and other non-cosplay-looking gear out there that costs just as much or more. I’ve been a motorcyclist for exactly one week and I spent nearly $1000 on safety gear before I got on my bike for the first time. I’m planning on spending more. Sure, that’s a lot of money, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping your skin and protecting your noggin when going down in a crash. Maybe it’s because I’m at that age when my youthful invincibility is wearing off or maybe I’m getting smarter because of all the years of cycling I’ve done has the same effect on my brain that motorcycling does.  Whatever the reason, safety while riding a motorcycle was just as important as fun and aesthetics.  It should be at the forefront of every motorcyclist’s mind, new and seasoned

Still keeping your dream bike in mind for motivation, find out if motorcycling is truly for you.  The very best way to do this inexpensively is to take a a Motorcycle Safety Foundation certified Basic RiderCourse.  Not only, for just a few hundred dollars, will you learn the foundations of safely riding a motorcycle in a classroom setting, you’ll also spend 10 hours of riding time on a closed course. Motorcycles are provided so you can get the skills you need on a smaller bike.  Helmets are also provided, but I would suggest getting your own so you have one that fits you well. The classroom works for some, but that’s not how I learn. I’m much better at learning by doing, so I learned more in on the bike during the class.  I’m also convinced I got more out of 10 hours of riding than I could have making a multitude of errors riding alone. Though, I’ve made my share while riding over the last three days.  The best part is, in some states, successfully completing a BRC provides a waiver so you don’t have to take the skills assessment at the DMV.  Saving you time and money.  This is the case in Wisconsin where I’m from.

After you’ve learned how to ride, passed your written tests, and passed your skills test you think you’re ready to safely ride.  Not even close.  There is so much more to learn. Emergency maneuvers and counter-steering to name a few. What I’m doing is reading a book titled Proficient Motorcycling by David L. Hough.  I may review this book at some point. This book has been helpful so far.  I’ll read a section or chapter and then get on the bike and apply what I’ve read.  So far so good.  The older version can be picked up for a couple of bucks and the update version is only about $15 or so.

Finally, you are going to get a shit-ton of advice from every seasoned rider, young and old.  It’s true in life and now also motorcycling: there is more than one way to skin a cat.  However, listen to and process the advice of these seasoned riders. Absorb it with all it’s useful glory.  You’ll find though that advice from one seasoned rider may contradict the advice of another.  In the end, do safely what works for you.

Wait, what is this?  The sun is peaking out and the roads have dried?  I’m off to ride.  Give me a wave when you see me on the road.