Motorcycles are powered one of three ways: chain-driven, belt-driven, or shaft-driven. Shaft- and belt-driven bikes require less frequent maintenance than chain-driven ones. Most cruisers are belt-driven, while most sport bikes are chain-driven. BMW isn't the only company that makes shaft-driven bikes, but they're the most common bikes on which you'll find the system.



Why does this matter? When you're riding a bike, that chain or belt or shaft is what keeps your bike moving. There isn't a lot to examine on a shaft-driven bike (if it's broken, you'll know it), but you should check your chain or belt before you head out. If that chain or belt is in bad condition, or is improperly adjusted, it can break. At the least, that means you're walking home. At the most, it can cause you to have an accident. 

To inspect a chain, turn the rear wheel and watch the chain move. Does it move freely? Do any of the links looked cracked or worn? Is it really, really dirty? Does it seem really loose or really tight? A chain in good condition should move freely and should not be super loose or super tight. (Proper chain adjustment is its own topic) Chains get dirty as you ride, but it shouldn't be so dirty that the grime is preventing smooth movement. If a chain gets too dirty, it can get stiff and not move smoothly like it should. That's why proper bike maintenance of chain driven bikes includes cleaning and waxing your chain regularly. If that chain has broken or missing links, don't ride it until you replace the chain. It's not safe. 

To inspect a belt, turn the rear wheel and watch the belt move. Does it move smoothly? Does it have any weird cracks or tears, or does it look like it's been chewed at the edges, or along any of the teeth? If it has any cracks, tears, or jagged edges like it's been chewed, it's due for replacement. You probably shouldn't ride it until it's replaced.

Finally, check for any oil or other fluids leaking anywhere on the bike. Look at the front forks as well, because they have fluid inside. If the seals on the forks need to be replaced, you may see some fluid seeping out. If anything is leaking, get your bike checked out by someone who knows what they're doing.

Some bikes have fuel gauges. Others don't. It's not a new bike vs. old bike thing, either; it's often just a style decision by the manufacturer, regardless of the age or type of your bike. If you know your bike's estimated MPG and its fuel capacity, you can set a trip odometer on the bike to tell you when you need to start looking for a petrol station. If you're out riding some fun, twisty back roads in the middle of nowhere, this makes a huge difference. If you're only going to be riding in the city, this doesn't matter as much. 



It might look good, but chrome gets hot in the sun. Keep that in mind, if you're riding anything with chrome grips, since your hands will be on those the entire time you're riding. We recommend wearing armoured gloves when you're riding, anyway. They'll keep your hands from getting hot (especially if you get summer gloves, which are perforated to provide good airflow), and they'll protect you exponentially better than bare skin in a crash. Considering you need your hands to do pretty much everything, you definitely want to protect them. What's the first thing most people do when they fall? 

You never want to think about going down. Sad fact is, even if it's just a minor tip-over, most riders will go down at some point in their riding career. (We know a lot of riders, and only one of them has ridden for years and never been down. Seriously.) You're more likely to go down when you're just starting out, since you don't know how to handle the bike yet. 

There's a huge amount of armoured gear to choose from to protect yourself if and when you do fall. Jeans will shred if you have a nasty fall, and you'll get some terrible (and painful) road rash. Some companies offer Kevlar-reinforced jeans, which are slightly better, but armoured pants are better still because they'll protect your knees and hips. (Trust us, it's no fun to not be able to walk for any period of time because you were stupid.) If you're into motorcycle racing, you already know some of this stuff can look pretty cool, too. Both leather and textile protective gear is available in a wide variety of sizes and styles to suit your personal look. 

It's a hot day. You can't wait to go for a ride. Even though it's hot, wear a couple of layers (or pack some layers in a backpack or in your bike's luggage, if it has it). If you're riding a long distance, or if you're going to be out for a long period of time, chances are good the temperature will change. You'll feel it more than anyone else when you're out on two wheels, even if you're riding a fully faired bike with a big windscreen. On average, going highway speeds makes you feel like the temperature is 10 degrees less than your local weather forecast says it is. Keep that in mind. 

Also, most motorcycle gear manufacturers make full mesh jackets for riding in the hottest weather. These have armour in them to protect you if you fall, but allow massive airflow to keep you cool. Staying covered when it's hot helps keep you from dehydrating or getting sunburned, too. What do you have to lose? 

round any weird puddles you see on the road if you can, but sometimes stuff just coats the surface of the road and makes it slippery and there's no way to avoid it.