How to Ride a Motorcycle

Three Parts:Safety And Test PreparationLearning How Your Bike WorksPutting It All Into Practice

Do you want to feel the wind in your hair as you cruise down a lonely highway? Or are you just in the midst of a mid-life crisis? If you have found the right bike and obtained the proper permits this guide can help you get started on your journey as a motorcycle rider.

Part 1
Safety And Test Preparation

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    Learn the proper safety measures for riding. Riding can be very dangerous. Knowing the basic skills of safe riding is essential to keeping you and those around you alive. Some basic safety precautions include:
    • Wearing the proper safety gear.
    • Maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles.
    • Keeping within the posted speed limits and following the flow of traffic.
    • Regularly checking your motorcycle for possible safety issues. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a checklist for this purpose called T-CLOCS. T-CLOCS stands for: T - Tires, wheels. C - Controls (levers and pedal, cables, hoses, throttle). L - Lights (battery, headlamp, brake lamp, turn signals, mirrors, etc.). O - Oil (fluid levels and leaks). C - Chassis (frame, suspension, chain or belt, fasteners). S - Stands (center stand and side stand)

      [1]Download a pdf copy of the checklist here.
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    Read your motorcycle’s manual. Familiarize yourself with your motorcycle’s components and how it will perform on streets and highways. Typical motorcycle components and controls include:
    • Right side handlebar accelerator control
    • Right side handlebar brake control
    • Left side handlebar clutch
    • Foot-pedal gear shifter
    • Speed and fuel gauges
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    Read the DMV motorcycle driver’s manual. For United States residents, this can be obtained at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or through its official website. Familiarize yourself with all the laws, requirements, and motorcycle rider’s rights specific to the state or jurisdiction you reside. This may include the following:
    • Special insurance conditions for motorcyclists.
    • Rules pertaining to passengers.
    • Speed limits and restrictions.
    • Whether or not your state allows motorcycles to use express lanes.
    • Restrictions for noise, including requirements for certain mufflers and baffles.
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    Take the test. Most countries and jurisdictions require that you obtain a motorcycle permit. Once you have done all the required reading you should be ready to attempt the written test. If successful, you will receive a temporary motorcycle license or learner's permit. You are now ready to learn how to ride. [2]

Part 2
Learning How Your Bike Works

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    Find an experienced rider. Before you get too excited and turn your bike on, make sure that you have someone knowledgeable present. Hiring a professional or attending training class can be helpful at this point.
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    Get on your bike. The first time throwing a leg over your bike may feel awkward. Try following these steps:
    • Balance yourself by leaning carefully against the tank and placing both hands on the hand grips.
    • If starting from the left side, place all of your weight onto your left leg. Never mount from the opposite side of the kickstand. If your bike has a center stand, mount from whichever side is most comfortable.
    • Lift your right leg high up and over the bike. Lifting your leg high will ensure your leg does not get caught before reaching the other side of the bike. Never mount from behind. [3]
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    Get comfortable with your bike. Now that you have mounted your bike, take the time to familiarize yourself with the weight and feel of it. Make any needed mirror adjustments and get acquainted with your individual bike’s foot pegs, turn signals, horn, and lights.
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    Learn the controls. Whether you decide on a professional or an experienced friend, they should be able to walk you through these basic skills: how to start, accelerate, decelerate, shift, brake, stop, park, and start again. Successfully learning these skills requires that you know how the controls of your bike function.
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    Know your Throttles and Brakes: Your right hand controls both the throttle (acceleration) and front brake. Your right foot controls the rear brake.
    • Twisting the right hand grip towards your body will apply throttle (gas/acceleration). Be gentle with the throttle. An excessive rev can be dangerous and lead to an unintentional wheelie.
    • Pulling the right hand lever will apply the front brakes. Like the throttle, gentleness is key. The two-fingered technique will work for most bikes while some will require the use of your entire hand.
    • The rear brake is mostly useful for situations with reduced traction or when operating at a low speed. Bikes that carry more weight over the rear wheel, such as cruisers, may find breaking with the rear more effective. [4]
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    Know your Clutch: The lever on the left hand grip is the clutch. Like the right hand lever, the two-fingered technique will work for some bikes while others will need the entire hand.
    • The clutch controls the connection between the engine and transmission. Squeezing the clutch lever disengages the clutch and disconnects the engine from the transmission. Releasing will engage the clutch and connect them. When disengaging the clutch you effectively place the bike in neutral regardless of whether it is in gear or not. Engaging the clutch will place the bike into whichever gear is currently selected.
    • Just as you would with the brake and throttle the clutch lever should be squeezed and released as smoothly as possible.[5]
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    Know your Shifting Lever: Shifting gears on a motorcycle is done by moving the Shifting Lever up or down with the left foot.
    • Most motorcycles will follow the “1 down, 5 up” shift pattern: 6th gear (if applicable), 5th gear, 4th gear, 3rd gear, 2nd gear, NEUTRAL, 1st gear.
    • It will take time to get used to so practice finding neutral with your left foot. Look for the green "N" to show on the gauges as you move the Lever up or down.
    • You must shift gears in this order: Disengage clutch (using left hand). Shift gears (using left foot). Engage clutch.
    • Gradually applying the throttle while engaging the clutch will make shifting gears smoother.[6]
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    Start your engine: Modern bikes no longer need a "kick start" to get the engine running and now start electrically. Follow these steps to turn your motorcycle on.
    • First, flip the kill switch to the "on" position (your kill switch will likely be a red rocker switch near the right hand grip).
    • Next, turn your key to the "ignition" position. At this point most bikes will perform a self-check.
    • Make sure that the bike is in neutral. The green "N" should be lit on your gauges.
    • Disengage the clutch. Some bikes will require this to start the engine.
    • Push the start button (this will likely be marked with a logo of a circular arrow surrounding a lightning bolt and be located to the bottom of the kill switch). If everything is in working order, your engine should begin to run. Some bikes may need a gentle application of throttle to get the engine going.
    • Be patient as the engine warms up. Once the engine turns over, it may take 45 seconds to several minutes until your bike is ready to go. Unlike a car, ensuring the engine of your bike is properly warmed up is a crucial step for safe riding. [7]
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    Do not forget to retract your kickstand with your foot. Forgetting to do so can be dangerous. Centerstands require a forward rocking motion to retract. Once your kickstand or centerstand is up you’ll find yourself on your toes and ready to ride.

Part 3
Putting It All Into Practice

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    Find a safe, isolated area to practice in. Just as before, make sure to have an experienced rider nearby to supervise you.
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    Start slowly, practicing the basics of accelerating and braking while in first gear. Remember, to do this you must:
    • Squeeze the clutch lever to disengage the clutch.
    • Move the shifter down to first gear using your foot.
    • Release the clutch slowly.
    • Twist the throttle to keep the engine from stalling.
    • You will feel your bike begin to move forward. Put both feet up onto the foot pegs once you have gained momentum. Congratulations! You are now riding a motorcycle! Before you ride off into the sunset you may want to test the brakes first.
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    Maneuver your bike using a method known as countersteering.
    • While moving at a speed roughly above 10 mph (16 km/h), push the hand grip on the side you wish to turn towards. If you wish to turn right, lean slightly to the right while pushing the right handgrip away from your body.
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    Practice shifting between gears. Once you have built confidence at lower speeds, you may wish to practice shifting into the higher gears. As with everything else, the idea is to be as smooth as possible, whether it is your clutch, throttle or brake. Achieving this fluidity will take practice and muscle memory.
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    Work your way gradually towards streets and highways. Recall all of the laws and proper practices for safe riding you learned in order to receive your permit. [8]


  • "Where you look is where you go." If you look down to the ground, a common problem with learners, then you WILL dump the bike. If there's an obstruction in your path, do not lock your sights onto it. You are more likely to hit it. Look where you want to go. It's important to glance all around, to be aware of what's in every direction, but it's a dangerous habit to lock sights in a direction you don't want to go.


  • Remember that motorcycle riders are generally at higher risk for injury or death to the exposed nature of the vehicle. Prepare yourself with as much information on safety as possible.
  • Riding instruction should only be done under supervision of an experienced adult.

Article Info

Categories: Motorcycles | Motorized Scooters