Everyone makes mistakes. Motorcycle riders make some deadly mistakes. As a beginner or re-entry rider, here is my list of the top mistakes you must avoid making. Some are safety-related, some are gear, and some are money, all of them are real. As an experienced rider, avoiding these mistakes will enhance your riding experience and improve your survival odds.
Mistake #1: SKIPPED THE MSF BASIC RIDER COURSE — If you must make every mistake in the book, please do not make this one. The MSF Basic Rider Course will reward you with the essentials you must have before you ever get out in the traffic on your motorcycle.
Mistake #2: DON’T BUY A SPORTSTER —If you are a new rider or a re-entry rider, we all make this mistake. Your first motorcycle should be a “starter” motorcycle. Get a used Japanese cruiser, 250 to 500 cc. It is lightweight, easy to handle, and cheap. Find out if riding a motorcycle is really what you want to do. If not sell it. If you are still jazzed after 3,000 miles, now you are experienced enough to make an informed Harley purchase.
Mistake #3: LOST FOCUS — You are not in a car. You cannot afford to go ten miles daydreaming about your sweetie, your job, or anything else but the task at hand. Stay focused on riding. I cannot say enough about this. It can be a life and death mistake!
Mistake #4: WEAR THE PROPER RIDER GEAR — I know it’s hot. I know it’s just six blocks to the store. Never get on your motorcycle without the proper gear. The asphalt doesn’t care if you have been riding five minutes or five hours, it’s still awful damn hard and unforgiving. (Check out my matrix.)
Mistake #5: ALWAYS CHECK YOUR BIKE BEFORE YOU RIDE — Check your tire pressure. Make a visual check. Do you have gas? Are your bungee tie downs secured? Stuff happens, things change, and it is too tempting to just hop on and fire it up. Two minutes spent checking can save you hours with a tow truck or an ambulance ride.
Mistake #6: RAN OUT OF GAS — Check the gas gauge? Sure, but the experience will have you checking the gauge and the mileage. You know how many miles you have in your tank and there always isn’t a gas station around every bend. Running out of gas is not only embarrassing and time-consuming but, on a motorcycle, it can be downright dangerous.
Mistake #7: OUTRIDING YOUR SKILL LEVEL — New riders aren’t even sure what their skill level is let alone when they are outriding it. Statistically, outriding your skill level is a leading cause of solo motorcycle crashes. If you don’t know your skill level, find out and don’t find out the hard way by outriding it.
Mistake #8: UNDERSTAND “GO WHERE YOU LOOK” — Is this a phenomenon or a law of physics? I don’t know and I don’t care. I just know that it is 100% absolutely the truth, your motorcycle will go where you are looking. Look ahead at the apex of a curve and you will track right there. Look at that tree on the side of the road and oh well, “Hello” tree.
Mistake #9: IGNORED THE BUFFER ZONE — They can’t hit you if you’re not there! Stay away from cars. Don’t be ridiculous about it, but even in heavy traffic, you can always maintain some buffer zone around you. Anticipate the soccer mom in the SUV, on a cell phone, changing lanes right into you. You know she is going to do it so keep your buffer zone and stay alive.
Mistake #10: DIDN’T UNDERSTAND COUNTER STEERING — Want to go left? Push the left bar. Go right? Push the right bar. Hey, it’s not a bicycle so don’t try to ride it like a bicycle. Practice, practice, and practice are the three things you must do to master this technique.