As far as I’m concerned, the greatest thing you can do during your time on this planet is ride a motorcycle. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you’re on the road. And it matters not a bit what I’m riding or where I’m going. If it has two wheels, I’m a happy man.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for many, many years now, and it’s still one of my favorite things to do with my time. I currently own five bikes — each designed for a different type of riding. My wife doesn’t get it, but I’ve got the bug — real bad and I enjoy riding off-road as well as on the highway, so naturally I need a separate bike for that.
While putting in my time in this industry, I’ve been blessed to be able to ride with — and learn from — some of the most accomplished riders in the business. On the off-road side of things, I have ridden with people like Scot Harden, Guy Cooper, Mike Lafferty, Russell Bobbitt, Mark Hyde, Jack Penton, Rod Bush, and many others. I’ve received plenty of training from these guys and learned something different from each one of them.
But when it came to road riding, I didn’t have the same pool of talent from which to draw good advice. Back then, I pretty much had to learn things on my own —To make matters worse, I started riding road bikes long before I ever threw my leg over a dirt bike. You could say that I started out “bass ackwards” when it came to my riding career, and you would be right. Most people learn on the dirt first (after all, dirt is softer than asphalt). Either way, I had to figure things out on my own, so I finally signed up for a road racing course, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
You don’t have to be a wannabe racer to take one of these courses. You can take a class that will teach you the fundamentals of safe riding. If you’re new to motorcycling, I would highly recommend you take some kind of course. What’s great about the racing classes out there is they don’t just teach you how to ride, they teach you how to react when things don’t go well. They teach you the limits of the bike you’re riding. You’ll revisit most everything you learn at some point in your riding days, and what you recall can make the difference between a close call and time in a hospital bed.
Simple things, like learning to brake before entering a turn, using proper braking techniques and proper body positioning. You can also learn more complex techniques. For instance, if your bike starts a front end wobble, you need to crack the gas and get your weight back to relieve the pressure off the front wheel. (That’s a lot different than your first reaction, which might be to slam on the front brake and transfer all the weight forward — very bad!)
Working at J&P, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to sit in the parking lot, watching folks pull in on their bikes. What’s apparent to me is that some of these people need some — um — help. I’ve seen riders drag their feet for 50 yards before putting them up on the pegs. I’ve seen riders putting their feet down in a turn, almost falling over when stopping, and nearly hitting each other in a gigantic parking lot. It makes me afraid for them and the things that can happen out on the open road.
But all of these issues can be resolved with a little bit of training and knowledge. Remember, just because you went out and bought a bike doesn’t make you a biker. Taking the time to learn how to handle your machine does. If you’re new to riding, or you just lack confidence, sign up for a course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers a quick search page so you can find a course near you. Visit http://nm.msf-usa.org/msf/ridercourses.aspx?pagename=RiderCourse%20Info. The experience will do you good, and it might even save your life!