Tips for first-time motorcycle riders (part three)
Posted by Howard Trott on Saturday, July 1, 2017 Under: Motorcycle Riding Skills
When you put your feet down at a stop, you want to be sure that whatever shoes you're wearing will grip the road securely, not slip and slide and make you feel like you're going to drop the bike. That's another reason why we recommend motorcycle-specific boots, but any good non-slip shoe is better than a slippery-bottomed (but sick-looking) trainer. Before you get mad, keep in mind that not all shoes have equal grip on all surfaces. Some shoes might be perfect for a polished wood gym floor, but suck at slick asphalt. Shoe makers make different trainers to suit different athletic pursuits, so this isn't exactly a surprise.
Although we strongly suggest riding with a good pair of over-the-ankle motorcycle boots (they help prevent your ankle from being broken or twisted in accidents, which is nice), you might want to go out wearing something else on your feet. Unless your bike has a heel-toe shifter (a big floorboard-looking thing that you upshift by pushing the front down with your toes and downshift by pushing the back down with your heel), you're going to scuff up whatever shoes you wear. Many motorcycle-specific boots have shifter pads on them that take all the damage, so the rest of your boot stays nice and scuff-free.
This is also one of the many reasons it's a bad idea to wear flip-flops or other sandals while riding a bike. Safety issues aside, it's going to hurt your foot every single time you shift. Who wants that? If you're going to wear normal shoes, wear shoes you don't care about scuffing or you're going to have a sad when you're done with your first ride.
Since you're rolling on two wheels, you need to be especially careful about slow leaks, nails, screws, glass, or anything else that might be stuck in one of your tires. Do a thorough visual check to be sure your tires look like they're in good condition, with no cuts or nicks or foreign materials lodged in them. Even sharp rocks can cause serious tire damage.
Spin the wheels around so you can see the tire from all angles. It may seem like a small thing, but you're trusting your life to your rubber. A sudden tire blowout on a car is inconvenient. A sudden tire blowout on a bike can result in serious injury or death, especially if it's your first time out and you haven't gotten used to riding yet. Take a couple minutes to check, and there shouldn't be any reason you can't have an awesome time getting to know your bike.
You might not pay much attention to tire pressure on your car. Although you should check it on your car regularly, it matters a whole lot more when you're rolling on only two wheels instead of four. Proper tire pressure means you'll get the best handling performance out of your bike. Low tire pressure can make your bike incredibly difficult and dangerous to control.
Somewhere on your bike, you'll find a metal plaque with your bike's information, including the proper PSI ratings for your front and rear tires. Use a good tire gauge (ideally one with an analoge face, not one of those little metal ones you can find in any auto parts shop. Don't forget to put your valve stem caps back on before you head out.
If your bike is carbureted rather than fuel-injected, chances are excellent that you'll have a fuel petcock valve with three positions: ON, OFF, and RES. You'll already be familiar with this if you've taken any beginner rider courses, as well as most similar courses from other riding schools.
This valve controls the fuel flow from your petrol tank to your engine. If it's not turned on, your engine won't be getting any fuel. As you ride along and your fuel level gets close to empty, the bike will start to hiccup. It's important to know exactly where your fuel valve is and where all three positions are so you can reach down and switch it to RES, short for "Reserve," before the bike shudders to a halt. Ideally, you want to be able to do this without looking, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. When you do get down this low, you need to find a petrol station ASAP. Don't forget to turn the valve back to ON before you ride away from the pump.
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