Whether you’ve taken your CBT and bought a 125cc bike or completed your full licence and are ready to purchase the motorcycle of your dreams you’re inevitably going to make a few mistakes once you get on the road. Mistakes are an important part of the learning process and are completely normal, but as motorcycle riders we’re unfortunately at an increased level of risk so we should do everything we can to try and avoid these happening in the first place.
There’s an old saying, ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ and this is something that definitely rings true in the motorcycle world. The best approach (in my opinion) is to stay alert and anticipate theses situations before they happen. So today I thought I’d run you through five common mistakes that new riders make and my tips on how to avoid them.
Overestimating Your Skill Level
So you’ve just completed your training and purchased your first motorcycle (woohoo!) Passing your test is a huge accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself, but remember you’re still a new rider and have very little experience on the road. Although you’ll probably be buzzing to go out and get as many miles under your belt as possible in the first few weeks, try to take it easy and give yourself time to learn how to handle the situations that the road puts in front of you first.
I live in a busy city, so when I got my first motorcycle I decided to wake up early (and I mean early) so I could head out and practice riding on relatively empty roads. This did heaps for my confidence and after a couple of weeks I felt comfortable enough to start going out later and later to ride once the traffic had built up and there were loads of pedestrians around.
Another thing to remember is to keep practicing those basic skills, even after you’ve passed your test. After taking my CBT I bought myself a set of cones (just like the ones they use during the training) so I could keep practicing U-turns, figures of eight, slaloms and hazard avoidance. Don’t forget things like slow speed manoeuvring, cornering and braking too. (The best place to do this is in an empty car park; please don’t do this on public roads!)
MotoJitsu has a fantastic YouTube channel which is dedicated to helping make you a better rider and I highly recommend that you check out some of his content such as this video on the top 10 skills you should master as a beginner:
Buying A Bike That’s Too Powerful
Now this one tends to go hand in hand with overestimating your skill level. I know there’s a bit of a stigma about smaller bikes being ‘lame’ but as a new rider you need to choose a bike that’s comfortable for you and most importantly, one that you can handle. Think about it like this, would you go out and buy a Lamborghini the day after you got your driving licence? Of course not! That would be insane.
Most new drivers wouldn’t be able to go out and buy a supercar simply because they couldn’t afford to, but with motorcycles you can easily get your hands on a 1000cc bike for a few grand second-hand. Try to remember as well that even small bikes are faster and more nimble than most cars on the road, so there’s really no need for you to jump in and buy a big motorcycle straight after passing your test.
There are also loads of benefits to owning a smaller bike; they’re easier to ride, the fuel consumption is better, they’re cheaper to buy and insure… the list goes on! Once you’ve gained some experience on the road and have outgrown your bike you can trade it in and upgrade to something larger (which also gives you something to work towards and look forward to in the future). Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility!
Not Wearing The Right Gear
If you’re thinking of learning how to ride a motorcycle then you should be prepared to spend a few quid on protective riding gear. Those that follow me know I’m an advocate of ATGATT (all the gear all the time) which means you wouldn’t catch me dead riding around with shorts and flip-flops on (even on the hottest day of the year!)
Although the only a legal requirement in the UK is to wear an ECE approved helmet whilst riding, I strongly encourage you to practice ATGATT every time you head out on your bike. This includes wearing a helmet as well as a protective jacket, boots, gloves and trousers.
Many new riders either don’t understand why they need to wear these things or don’t want to spend the money on them. However wearing proper protective gear massively decreases the likelihood of you being seriously injured in the event of a crash, so I can’t stress enough how important this is.
The good news is there’s plenty of highly rated protective gear on the market that doesn’t necessarily cost the earth. I’d recommend checking out the following blog posts which I’ve created to help you find the perfect kit:
Shopping for Women’s Motorcycle Gear:
Helmet Buying Guide:
How Much Does Motorcycle Gear Really Cost? :
Forgetting About Bike Maintenance
Okay I might be a little bit guilty of this one myself but I bought a brand new motorcycle straight from the dealership and didn’t really have a clue about what I needed to do to take care of it. Motorcycles need regular care so it’s a wise idea to get into a maintenance routine as neglecting this can later lead to mechanical issues that result in you forking out a small fortune for repairs within the first few months of getting your new bike.
Changing the oil, coolant, checking the battery and tire pressure and cleaning the chain are all jobs that can be done easily at home with a little know how. However you should still make sure to take your bike in to be serviced by professionals at the recommend intervals (the bike manufacturer should state this in the manual) to prevent any potential issues from developing later on.
Doing your own bike maintenance also gives you the chance to develop your mechanical skills so why not set aside some time to learn how the different parts of your motorcycle work and how to keep them in shape. I’m still learning how to do this myself but I’ve found there are loads of helpful videos, blogs and books out there that are super accessible. If you’re interested in something more hands on you can even book a place on a course that’s dedicated to bike maintenance. So what are you waiting for?
Thinking That Everyone Can See You
As a new rider you’re probably hyper-aware of other motorcyclists on the road and it’s easy to assume that everyone else must be able to see you, but I’m here to tell you that they won’t.
When you’re on a motorcycle you constantly have to be alert and aware of your surroundings. Whether it’s a driver on their phone, a cyclist about to merge into your lane or a pedestrian crossing the road in front of you there’s a good chance that this person hasn’t seen you and won’t until it’s too late, so the only thing you can do is to try and anticipate these situations before they happen.
During your training (whether you’ve done the CBT or full licence) the instructor might have taken you through an exercise that showed you exactly where your blind spots are (if they didn’t it’s easy enough to recreate this with the help of a friend). But it’s crucial to remember this when you’re on the road and equally you should be making a conscious decision to always avoid other vehicles blind spots.
A couple of other tips, if you’re worried about not being seen I’d recommend buying a hi-vis vest (or other hi-vis gear) to wear whilst you’re riding and get yourself a brightly coloured helmet. When at junctions and roundabouts, make eye contact with other drivers to ensure that they’ve spotted you. This one isn’t necessarily fool proof as some drivers will literally just look straight through you but it’s a good place to start. Finally, if your bike is on the quiet side perhaps look in to swapping the exhaust for something a bit louder (this will also increase your badass points). I have an obnoxiously loud exhaust on my little bike so people can hear me coming a mile off and that really helps to make me feel safer.
So there we have it folks! Five common mistakes that new riders make and a few tips on how to avoid them.
As always any questions comments or suggestions I would love to hear so please drop a comment down below.
Remember, stay safe and happy riding!