Congratulations, you’ve passed your MSF course, or maybe you borrowed your buddy’s CBR 1000RR. Took the DMV road test without any formal training and got super lucky. Hey, a win is a win. My guy. I’m not here to judge. But now what? Buy a sports bike and hit the track strip. Refinance your home and get a $30,000 BMW.
Hmm. Those are both fun options, but I think there are a few things you might want to get outta the way. First, your first year of riding will have many lessons to be learned. You’ll shed many tears after your first parking lot tip over, but it will be nothing compared to the waterworks. Your closest friends and family will expel from their tear ducts when you tell them that you are now a motorcyclist.
That’s okay. You didn’t need them anyway. They’ll never understand what it’s like to have a little two-wheel devil permanently living on your shoulder. But luckily I do. And I’m here for you. I’m going to give you some insight into what you can expect in your first year of riding motorcycles.
The MSF teaches you how to use a motorcycle, but they don’t really teach you how to ride it on the road. So ease into it a little bit. Start by taking trips around your neighborhood and then when you’re comfortable go out onto busier surface roads. Be cognizant of the time of day in traffic conditions.
If you’re just beginning to ride on the street, maybe avoid going downtown during rush hour or riding at a specific interchange where cars never look where they’re going and they’re always cutting each other. Each city has certain problem areas where accidents always happen. Try to avoid these when you’re first starting out.
You want to ease into dealing with more troublesome traffic situations. Sooner or later, those types of situations will be unavoidable, but hopefully, by the time you encounter them with your skills, instincts, and rider reflexes, you’ll be up to park. Just know your limits when you’re first starting to ride and ease into it.
Your skills will progress more quickly than you think, so there’s no need to rush and get yourself into trouble by riding beyond your skill. That expands all the way into your second and third year of riding too. I see a lot of riders overriding their skills and then getting themselves into trouble.
In your first year of riding, you should also expect to make some friends, as alluded to in the intro, your non-riding friends and family do not care about motorcycles. You’ll need to either make new friends who do ride or become even better friends with acquaintances who you thought had nothing in common, and so you got a motorcycle.
Having friends to ride with can help keep you excited about motorcycling. It’s probably unwise to commit to a big group ride as a young rider, but riding with a buddy or two is always fun. Making friends with other writers is also useful for shop talk. Again, your non-writing friends do not care, so don’t waste your time trying to explain your mods.
If you have other friends who ride, that allows you to try and experience different types of motorcycles without having a sales rep from a dealership call you twice a day for two months because you were silly enough to ride a motorcycle on a demo day.
Pretty much every motorcyclist does basic maintenance and mods themselves, and sooner or later you’ll have to do so as well. Be proactive and get a head start by purchasing the service manual for a motorcycle and start acquiring different tools you’ll need to get some basic maintenance jobs done. No matter what style of riding you do, you should anticipate changing your own oil and oil filter.
This is pretty easy on every bike, and if you have any uncertainty, I’m sure there’s detailed information online for each specific model. The service manual states that it takes three quarts of oil after the filter change, but you only want to use 2.7 s. You don’t risk overfilling that sort of thing.
You know how to clean and lube your chain and check all your fluids as well. If you bought a new or practically brand-new beginner bike, you should probably be able to get away with just cleaning the chain and changing the oil before you outgrow the bike and pass it on to somebody. If you have an older motorcycle, it might require a little more TLC to keep it healthy and on the road.
Or if you plan on keeping your motorcycle for a while, you may wanna customize it and make it your own. There are some common modifications that every rider with basic tools and common sense can do themselves. The first mod for many is installing a tail tidy kit that cleans up the big dumb plastic piece under the rear fender and tucks the license plate up nicely underneath with all the necessary lighting and turn.
Another early modification, is a slip-on exhaust. A slip-on exhaust can be done in like half an hour and usually requires a removal of a few mounting bolts or clamps. Before you get started on your installation, make sure you have a spring puller tool.
Installing a slip-on only becomes a hassle when you try to pull the spring in place With a needle nose a lot of people working on and maintaining their bike is just as fun as riding it. Even if you don’t go that far, anticipate that you’ll get your hands a little dirty after owning your motorcycle.
As you spend more time in the saddle, you want to go outside of your comfort zone. I know I said to take your time and ease into riding on the street, but sooner or later, once you’re feeling confident in your abilities, you’ll wanna start facing some of your fears. Some people are initially very afraid of riding on the highway or with a passenger, or hell, maybe they’re even afraid of going to a bike night.
Maybe some people aren’t so excited about having a bunch of drunk 50-year-old men inspect their bikes. Maybe that’s a thing for some people, but like many other aspects of life, you stop growing. When you stop pushing yourself to try new things. Maybe try taking your motorcycle to a track day or borrowing a buddy’s dual sport and doing some light off-roading.
Motorcycling is a vast, vast hobby and extends beyond commuting. Just 15 minutes to your desk job on casual Fridays. There are a lot of different experiences to be had, and you don’t wanna miss out on them by being afraid or overly cautious. That brings us to the next point on our list. Within your first year of riding, you should anticipate taking a long motorcycle ride.
Spend some time on the open road and see something new. Since the early days, motorcycling has been about freedom and adventure for a lot of us. Things are easy and convenient in our modern.
We have everything we need within 10 kms of where we live. So it’s sometimes hard to find a reason to go out of our immediate vicinity, but you don’t need a reason. Just get on the bike and go see something different. Experience some different twisty roads. See some new towns. Eat some gross truck. Stop, barbecue, get sick, and regret ever leaving your house in the first place.
No, no, no, I’m just kidding. There’s a whole big world out there, and I don’t think you fully live the motorcycle lifestyle if you haven’t hit the road with a couple of buddies and take a longer motorcycle. Even if it’s just a couple hundred-mile day trip, not only is it exciting to experience different roads in places, but it’ll also test your motorcycle fortitude.
Can you do 300 km in a day on an R3? Only one way to find out. In your first year of riding, you should expect to make plenty of mistakes. That is the reality of learning. Anything new mistakes will be made. Try to avoid making big mistakes like crashing your bike or running down an elderly lady who’s crossing the street, but anticipate there will be plenty of small mistakes that will be made.
Little things like dropping your bike in a parking lot, locking the rear wheel up in an emergency stop, misjudging your entry speed for a turn, or stripping a bolt during routine maintenance. All of these things happen to every single rider. Don’t let it get you down or discourage you. Just try to learn from your mistakes and be better.
Trust me guys. I made lots of mistakes when I started out riding, and even nowadays, I still make mistakes. But if you think it through, and do your research, those mistakes will become less and less frequent. That is why you wanna start slow with riding an easier way into it because you’re gonna make mistakes no matter what, but the longer you’ve been riding, the better you’ll get at mitigating the risk of a crash when certain things happen.
Like in the instance of misjudging entry speed, if you’re brand new on a bike, you might panic grab a fist full of brake, mid-turn, and cause the front wheel to tuck and the bike to low. Whereas if you’ve been gradually gaining experience on similar events happens, you’ll have instincts in place to upright the bike before breaking hard.
So expect you’ll make some mistakes and make sure that you are putting time in to learn the fundamentals that can save your butt if it comes down to it. And lastly, as your motorcycling, the rookie year begins to come to a close, you should probably begin shopping around for other bikes. After a year or so of riding a beginner bike, you’re probably starting to feel the itch for something a little different..
This is usually exaggerated if your friend has a bigger bike that they’ve let you ride. I wouldn’t say go ahead and start scheduling test rides for an R1, but the mature person who has worked hard on developing their skills for the last year, some sort of middle-way bike would be enough to reignite their excitement without risking too much of their safety.
Or maybe you don’t even want a bigger bike, but a bike more specialized one, like a dual sport or an adventure bike. After you’re riding, you should have a pretty good idea of what style of riding you’re attracted to and what type of riding you’re interested in doing. Use this information to start shopping around for bikes that can help you achieve that.