This week marks the 2nd anniversary of my getting a motorcycle license.
It’s funny how time passes when you look back. Some days, it seems like only yesterday that I was on the learning course at the MSF, practicing this strange new counter-steering deal. Other days, it seems like a lifetime ago that I nervously got onto the highway for the first time, feeling like I was going warp speed at 55mph.
I’ve learned a number of things over those two years …
THERE ARE NO MASTERS, ONLY MORE ADVANCED STUDENTS.
I have learned that you can never really stop learning when it comes to riding. The best riders I know are not only willing to teach you what they know, but willing to admit they still have plenty of training and learning to do on their own.
Whether it’s re-learning basic skills after getting the bike out of Winter storage, or practicing emergency breaking when a safe opportunity presents itself, there’s always more room to learn and grow.
LEARN TO FIX YOUR STUFF, BUT KNOW WHEN TO GET HELP WHEN YOU CAN’T.
There’s a wide range of motorcycle riding skills, but an even wider variation in motorcycle mechanical skills. Just about any rider can, and should, learn how to do routine maintenance on their ride. Start with T-CLOCK, then move on to changing your own oil and checking your other fluids routinely. Doing basic maintenance work yourself not only saves you money, it’s a great way to get to know your bike and help watch for mechanical problems before they get serious.
Of course, you don’t have to be a mechanical genius to help your ride. Take the time to look for online sites and web forums dedicated to your class or model of motorcycle. They will make for a great starting point for questions and are often a good resource for finding hard to find parts.
RIDE YOUR OWN RIDE.
If you haven’t read The Pace by Nick Lenatsch, please do. It’s an excellent article about approaching a ride on your own terms. Many excellent riders I have learned from have explained a similar lesson as “don’t worry about others, just ride your own ride”.
Sometimes it is tempting to push yourself to keep up with hot dog riders you encounter, sometimes it is tempting to ignore the signs of exhaustion to get a few more miles in on a ride, but in nearly all cases, it’s best to ride in a way that is both safe and comfortable.
LET OTHERS RIDE THEIRS.
This is one of the lessons I sometimes still struggle with. Motorcycles and riders come in an amazing number of variations. Riding styles, types of bike, amount of gear, and when and where they like to ride. Like much of human nature, it is sometimes easy to fall into the trap of stereotyping other riders. Cruiser riders as “pirate-costume wearing fair weather riders”. Sportsbike riders as “squidly anti-gear speed demons with a death wish” and adventure bike owners as “latte-sipping rich boys with off-road bikes that never see anything other than highway”.
The truth is that these differences are what make the motorcycle community so lively and interesting. You can learn a lot when you take the time to chat with other riders you come across, especially when they ride a different ride than you. That cruiser rider may have been riding for 40 years and willing to tell you tales of some of the best hidden twisty roads you’d never find otherwise.
That old dirtbike rider can likely give you tips on how to best handle a rain-slicked road causing your rear to step out. That sportbike rider may know everything there is to know about how to keep the fiddly carbs on your bike running at top performance. There’s a story to be heard, and a lesson learned, from every rider at some point.
… BUT THERE’S ALWAYS MORE TO COME.
Two years passes before you know it, but I am hoping it is just a brief start to a much longer riding career. Looking back at all I’ve learned, I look forward to all that I will learn. It is a two-wheeled adventure, and I am going to love every minute of it, including the bits that involve some swearing and possibly a few tears (like syncing carbs).