User Reviewed

How to Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners)

Three Parts:Getting the Right GearLearning to RideRiding Your Motorcycle

Learning to ride a motorcycle can be fun. The best way to learn how to properly ride is in a safe and controlled manner. Always practice safety first and be sure you have appropriate safety gear for the type of riding you will do. Beginners can enroll in motorcycle safety courses that give you the tools to be a proper rider.

Part 1
Getting the Right Gear

  1. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 1
    Get a helmet. Your motorcycle helmet may be the single most important piece of equipment you own. You need to find one that protects you properly. A proper helmet fits well, keeps your field of vision open, and provides comfortability. [1]
    • Buying the right helmet may not mean you have to get the most expensive helmet loaded with features. Since you’re a beginner, keep it simple.
    • Make sure your helmet is at least DOT or ECE standard. DOT (Department of Transportation) and ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) helmets meet the standard levels of protection. Though many helmets offer more safety features, such as Snell2010 rated helmets. Helmets are usually tested by being dropped onto different surfaces while instruments inside the helmet measure speed and g-forces.
    • DOT helmets offer the minimum required safety standards that helmets must meet for public roads. Snell helmets meet higher safety requirements set by the not-for-profit Snell Memorial Foundation. Snell helmets go through more rigorous safety tests performed at higher speeds and on tougher surfaces. [2]
    • To find the right size, go to a store that sells helmets and get a professional fitting. Or, you can wrap a soft measuring tape around your head about 0.5 inches (13 mm) above your eyebrows. Compare your head size to a specific brand’s measuring table as each brand differs.
    • Try the helmet on. The eye port should be just above your eyebrows. Stick your fingers between the helmet and your head. If your fingers fit inside easily, you probably need a smaller size.
    • Additionally, there are different helmets for different head shapes. Ask someone for help in finding the right shape.
    • Since you’re a beginner, look for full face, or modular helmets. These helmets offer the most comprehensive protection.
  2. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 2
    Get a jacket. A motorcycle specific jacket can be the difference between safety and severe injury or even death. More than just protecting you during a spill, jackets can keep you warm in colder weather conditions. Staying comfortable keeps you alert. Motorcycle jackets are typically made of leather and/or textile.[3]
    • If you get a leather jacket, make sure it’s motorcycle specific. Regular leather jackets aren’t built to protect you.
    • Look for a jacket that has impact absorbing body armor which meets a CE rating. CE stands for Certified European. In the U.S., you aren’t required to wear CE rated gear, but it is advisable. [4]
    • You want a motorcycle jacket to fit snugly, but leave you free motion in your arms. Also, consider what weather you’ll mostly be riding in. Warmer weather jackets have more zippers and vents for airflow.
  3. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 3
    Get other gear for more protection. A helmet and jacket will do a good job of protecting you, but aren’t the only pieces of gear that are safe and useful. Proper boots, which support your ankles, are non-slip, and have a metal sole or toe are great for support. These types of boots won’t bend easily if you crash. Gloves will protect your hands and keep your fingers warm, allowing for maximum dexterity.
    • Look for gloves with a retention strap around the wrist. This strap will help the gloves to stay on in a crash. Kevlar gloves will keep your fingers mobile while being strong and absorbing.
    • A good test for boots is to grab the toe and heel and twist. If your boot twists easily, this is an indication of what might happen to your foot in a crash, and the boot is not strong enough.
    • Pants that are made from the same materials as your jacket are also a great idea. Jeans don’t provide the same level of protection that specifically designed motorcycle pants will. Jeans aren’t built to protect you and will shred in an accident.

Part 2
Learning to Ride

  1. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 4
    Take a motorcycle safety course. Depending on your location, you may not be required to take a safety course to get your license. Yet, a course will give you the best tools to learn both proper riding technique and safety.
    • New riders with little or no experience can take a basic rider course. Check your local government's department of motor vehicles and transportation to see if courses are available in your area. Basic rider courses offered by your local government may not always be available in your area. However, there are usually non-government run courses available. [5]
    • A training course may provide you with a motorcycle to use if you don’t have one. The course will also teach you the basics of operation and safety.
    • Many courses consist of both a classroom and riding portion, ending with you taking a test to receive your license.
  2. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 5
    Learn the controls. Familiarize yourself with the basic controls before riding. When you’re actually riding you will have to think quickly, if you’re not familiar with the operations it could be dangerous.
    • The hand clutch lever is typically located on the left handlebar and is used to disengage the power from the rear wheel when shifting gears.
    • The gear shifter is typically located by your left foot and is used to shift one gear up or down while you’re pulling the clutch lever.
    • The throttle is on the right handlebar and used to accelerate. The handbrake, which applies the brakes to the front wheel, is the lever on the right handlebar.
    • The lever on the right side of the bike near your foot works the rear brake.
    • As a rule, the left side of your motorcycle controls gears, while the right side controls acceleration and braking.
  3. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 6
    Get on the bike. To properly get on your bike, face the motorcycle from the left side. Grab the left handlebar, and swing your right leg over the seat. Plant your feet firmly on the ground.
    • The best way to get to know how a bike operates is to sit on it and go over the functions of the controls before starting it up.
    • Get a feel for how you fit on the motorcycle. Grip the handlebars, clutch lever and brake lever. Make sure you can reach these controls comfortably. Your arms should have a slight bend in the elbow when gripping the handlebars. Switches should be within easy reach of your fingers.
    • Make sure you can easily plant your feet on the ground. Get a feel for the weight of the bike underneath you. Additionally, you should be able to operate the rear shifter without lifting or sliding foot off the peg. [6]
  4. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 7
    Practice getting a feel for the clutch. The clutch is used to change gears. When you pull the clutch in, you’re releasing the engine from the transmission. This action puts your bike in neutral, allowing you to shift gears.[7]
    • Think of your clutch as a dimmer switch when using it. Unlike an “On-Off” switch, you want to gradually and smoothly pull and release the clutch to prevent your bike from stalling.
    • When starting, pull in the clutch lever and put the bike into 1st gear by pushing down on the gear shifter with your left foot. You may have to push down several times. You'll know you're in 1st when you don’t feel any more resistance or indication the gears are moving.
    • Most motorcycles operate in a “1 down, 5 up” shifting pattern. The pattern is typically 1st gear, neutral, 2nd gear, 3rd gear, and so on. When shifting gears you will see the appropriate number light up on your gauge.
    • When you’re driving, you should shift gears by first pulling on your clutch with your left hand to disengage the rear wheel. As you pull the clutch, reduce the throttle. Reducing the throttle will prevent your bike from jerking as you re-engage the rear wheel. Continue by shifting gears with your left foot. Feather the throttle with your right hand to keep the transmission smooth. Finally, release the clutch, engaging the rear tire.
  5. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 8
    Start your engine. Pull the clutch lever in and locate your kill switch. This is usually a red switch located on the right handlebar. Flip it down into the “on” position. Most modern bikes don’t require you to kick start your engine, but if you have an older bike you may have to. The kick start lever, if you have one, can be found behind the foot peg on the right side of your bike. [8]
    • Turn your key to the “ignition” position and check to make sure the lights and gauges are on and operating.
    • Put your bike into neutral. The easiest way to do this is to downshift to 1st gear then shift up once. Look for the “N” on your gauge to light up.
    • With your right thumb, push the “Start” button. This is usually located under the kill switch. Start buttons are often identified by a circular arrow with a lightening bolt in the middle.
    • Once the engine has turned over, let your bike warm up for about 45 seconds so the engine will work properly.
    • When your feet are flat on the ground, pull the clutch lever back in. Then roll back onto your heels and repeat until you have a good feel for the clutch.
  6. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 9
    Try "power walking" the bike. Start with your feet in front of you and on the ground. Slowly let the clutch out until the bike starts to pull itself forward.
    • Using only the clutch, walk the bike forward, keeping it steady with your feet.
    • Repeat this until you can keep the bike upright when you pull your feet off the ground. You want to get a good sense of balance on your bike.

Part 3
Riding Your Motorcycle

  1. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 10
    Begin driving your motorcycle. Once the engine has started and warmed up, you can begin to ride. This is done by shifting down into 1st gear and letting the clutch lever out while simultaneously pulling back on the throttle.[9]
    • Make sure your kickstand isn’t out.
    • Slowly let out the clutch lever until the bike starts to roll forward.
    • You may have to pull back on the throttle slightly to prevent your bike from stalling while releasing the clutch.
    • Once you are moving, accelerate slightly and pull you feet up onto the pegs.
    • Try straight line riding. As you let the clutch out and slowly roll the throttle back to pick up a little speed, continue riding in a straight line. When you are ready to stop, pull in the clutch lever, and slowly apply the front and rear brakes simultaneously. Use your left foot to steady the bike at a stop. When you are stopped, put your right foot on the ground.
  2. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 11
    Practice shifting gears. Once you’re able to start riding in a straight line, get a feel for shifting. Get a feel for the "friction zone". The friction zone is the area of resistance created as the clutch becomes engaged. This area allows for the transfer of power from the engine to the rear wheel. Motorcycle transmissions are sequential, meaning that you have to shift one gear in a consecutive order, whether shifting up or down. It will take some practice to be able to feel and hear when it's time to shift. The engine will start revving at higher rpms when it's time to shift.[10]
    • With your bike on, shift all the way down into 1st gear. You’ll know you’re in 1st gear when the shift pedal doesn’t click down anymore. You should hear a bit of a clicking noise when in 1st.
    • Very slowly let your clutch out until the bike starts moving forward. When you want to start moving faster, pull back on the throttle slightly as you let out the clutch.
    • To get to 2nd gear, pull the clutch back, ease off the gas, and pull up firmly on your shifter to move through neutral. Check to make sure your neutral light is not on. Let the clutch out and engage the throttle again. Repeat this process to shift through higher gears.
    • After 2nd gear, you don’t have to pull up with your left toe quite as hard since you’re not going through neutral.
    • To downshift, release the throttle, squeezing the brake lever slightly. Pull your clutch in and press down on your shifter. Then let out your clutch.
    • Once you get a hang of downshifting, you can come to a stop while in second gear. Then, once at a stop, shift down again into 1st.
  3. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 12
    Practice turning. Much like a bicycle, a motorcycle is turned, once you're at about 10 mph or higher, by countersteering. Push down on the handgrip on the side of the bike you want to turn. Look up and through your turn.
    • As you enter your turn, remember to slow down. Don’t apply the brakes during your turn. Release the throttle and break if you have to before you start your turn.
    • Keep your head up and look through the turn. Press the handlebar in the direction you want to go. Slowly roll on the throttle as you glide through the turn to keep momentum.
    • As you slow down, turn your head to look to the end of the turn. Your bike will follow your eyes. Find a point at the end of your turn to aim for and keep your eyes on it. Never look at the ground or down into your turn. Though you may feel weird and want to watch your turn, this is dangerous and can cause you to not complete your turn properly.
    • Press on the side you want to turn. If you are making a left turn, push away from yourself on the right side of the handlebar. This will cause the bike to lean to the left. Lean with it and slowly roll on the throttle to slightly increase your speed. As you come out of the turn, keep the throttle steady or add a bit more gas while you lean back up. Let the bike right itself, don’t jerk the handlebars.
  4. Image titled Ride a Motorcycle (Beginners) Step 13
    Practice slowing down and stopping. Finally, now that you’ve practiced starting, shifting, and turning your bike, you need to know how to slow down and come to a stop. Remember that the lever on the right handlebar operates your front brake, while the brake by your right foot operates the brake for the back wheel. As a general rule, you want to begin braking with your front brake and employ your rear brake after to help you slow and stop. [11]
    • When coming to a full stop, it’s best to begin with your front brake and apply the rear brake after you’ve slowed down some.
    • As you slow down, make sure you downshift. You don’t always need to go all the way into 1st gear. You can downshift into 2nd gear and stop before shifting down to 1st.
    • Pull in the clutch when braking and gearing down.
    • Apply pressure to both your front and rear brake as you slow down and begin braking. Make sure you aren’t pulling back on the throttle. This is made easy by the fact that the front brake handle is situated so that you have to roll your hand forward to reach it.
    • Gradually increase pressure on your brakes, don’t engage the brakes completely, this can cause your bike to stop abruptly and jolt.
    • Once you are at a stop, keep the front brake engaged, and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Start with your left foot, then your right.


  • Find a friend that already knows how to ride. He or she will be able to coach you on what to do.
  • Always wear all of your safety gear. Helmet, gloves, eye protection, over-the-ankle shoes. Remember: "All the gear, all the time".
  • Familiarize yourself with your motorcycle. Make sure you know where all the controls are and that you can reach each comfortably and without looking down. This is very important. You can't take your eyes off the road every time you shift gears.
  • Find a motorcycle safety course in your area. They are offered for free in some states of the USA, and perhaps in other countries too, and for a fee in others. You will learn the proper and safe way to enjoy motorcycling and you can get insurance discounts after completing the course.
  • Find a wide open space to practice in. School parking lots work well when everybody is gone.


  • Never operate a motorcycle without proper safety gear.
  • Never operate a motorcycle under the influence of any substances.
  • Most bikers encounter a crash sooner or later. Riding a motorcycle is dangerous and can cause serious injury. Always employ proper technique.

Things You'll Need

  • Motorcycle helmet
  • Gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Sturdy shoes that cover your ankles
  • A motorcycle (preferably a small one)

Article Info

Categories: Motorcycles