Reviewing past relevant experiences can help determine which type of motorcycle would be a good beginner motorcycle.
As we explained in our article on factoring in a rider’s maturity level in order to make a wise beginner motorcycle choice, riding a motorcycle incurs a certain degree of additional or elevated risks for the fact that a human being’s body is moving at high rates of speed while essentially sitting on top of a moving vehicle. And, certainly, a rider’s mental facilities have a lot to do with if the rider is going to be put into situations of even more elevated risk (e.g., travelling at unlawful speeds, driving in a manner that is reckless, or not driving defensively when in the midst of other traffic) however there are other far more motor skill-related aspects to safely operating a motorcycle that we’ll focus on in this section.
The infographic below explains just some of the key new/different aspects of riding a motorcycle with respect to driving an automobile. What the graphic shows you is there are balancing issues, different location and operation of brakes and accelerator, and even things that the rider maybe has never experienced such as operating a manual transmission.
So in general the beginner motorcycle rider has a lot to figure out in order to successfully master the ability to ride/drive a motorcycle. No smart beginner rider will ignore these many different factors as they simply will have to put them into practice when they get on the road … you don’t want to be driving down the road and thinking – “now how do I stop this thing again?!”. So the infographic below gives you a breakdown of the key differences between operating a motorcycle and driving a car. Refer to this graphic to start to appreciate some specific skills you are going to need to figure out while riding that beginner motorcycle.
With all these key and significant differences, when it comes right down to it, you have to have a minimum level of motor skills to be able to handle this … to keep the motorcycle balanced as it rides down the road, takes turns, stops, accelerates, avoids accidents, etc., etc. And many of the rider’s abilities to successfully handle these more coordination aspects of motorcycle riding have to do with their motor skill development through relevant/similar experiences and/or they are simply an inherently coordinated individual.
So, let’s look into this a little more by talking about how these basic yet crucial physical skills can either be developed through relevant experiences and/or simply be something the rider inherited by winning that portion of the genetic lottery we each played when we were born.
What are some good past relevant experiences that will provide valuable information regarding your beginner motorcycle?
And so, the below infographic shows you some types of relevant past experiences you can think back to in order to get a feel for how good you are going to handle this beginner motorcycling phase. All of the authors of this article came to motorcycle riding at different times and from different experiences. Some became beginner motorcycle riders at a young age (say on minibikes) and others when they were much older. One factor that the authors agree that did have an impact was relevant past experiences.
What we mean by relevant past experiences are some things that would be obvious such as riding scooters, minibikes, dirt bikes but others that might not be so obvious indicators such as operating ATVs, motorized water vehicles, snowmobiles, and other recreational motorized vehicles. The common factors in such relevant experiences are that they involved some form, or the rider having to balance the vehicle and speed and manage the mechanics of the vehicle (engine, brakes, etc.). These experiences generally equate well to the experience of motorcycle riding and if a beginner motorcycle rider has a lot of these, they can be a good indicator of how well the rider is going to take to the new hobby of riding motorcycles. Each of those activities requires the rider/operator to multitask and employ physical coordination and mental concentration.
If you have successfully participated in those types of activities this is a good sign that you have some of the same skills and motor skills necessary to operate a motorcycle safely. I particularly came from the minibike/dirt bike development track and transitioned, for the most part, very easy to street bikes (there ARE some differences and some things that did throw me off a bit and I’ll try to cover those in the future article and link it from here). Other authors participated in a variety of activities that they believe helped them have a leg up on beginner riders who did not have such experiences.
If you are among those beginner riders that have a lot of those relevant experiences, you’ve done well in those situations and generally feel you are a coordinated individual when it comes to balancing a vehicle and manipulating the acceleration/turning/stopping powers of that vehicle, then this is a great sign and as we proceed through the advice of this article, the cautions we provide other less experienced or less capable riders, are less applicable to you and you’ll have more latitude as to which motorcycle you choose as a beginner.
However, on the other end of that spectrum is one of our authors who had the humility and grace to offer this article an important perspective. He had a unique perspective in that he did participate in many of those activities and humbly admitted that in the few relevant experiences he had, there was a bit of a history of mishaps along the way. That rider wanted to pass along the advice in case you are also someone who comes from a history of close calls or mishaps in relevant experiences. To be blunt, some folks are simply less coordinated and/or outright more accident-prone than others and if that label applies at least in part to you, we highly recommend you take the most responsible and deliberately planned path to become a beginning motorcyclist.
First, you NEED TO TAKE a motorcycle safety course and really take advantage of the opportunities that experience will provide you for getting used to being up on two wheels and having to manage your way through the cone courses and other obstacles the instructor will put you through. Those experiences will definitely help you when you get out on the real road and have to implement some of those skills you gained in the motorcycle safety course. Also, for such riders, you need to choose a motorcycle that is on the safer end of the scale in terms of weight (e.g., gravitate to a motorcycle on the lighter end of the spectrum) and choose a motorcycle that has a more standard configuration (e.g., standard style motorcycles are characterized by upright seating positions, moderate seat height, and modest engine sizes).
Also, and highly consider requiring that the beginner motorcycle that you choose have some non-typical safety options likeAnti-lock Brakes (ABS) and even consider (an albeit rare option on motorcycles) an option that would allow you to have fewer distractions and that is a motorcycle with an automatic transmission. The number of automobile models being even offered (in the US market) with manual transmissions is down to about 10% now and a recent study accomplished by Cadillac found that only about 66% of Americans actually know how to drive a manual transmission car(for more on this – check out our guide to automatic motorcycles for beginner motorcycle riders). Yes, these are rare but a few manufacturers (e.g., Honda) have offered more and more models with this option (they refer to it as DCT (dual-clutch transmission)).
Is it important to look for a beginner motorcycle with advanced technologies (e.g., ABS)?
Advanced technologies (e.g., ABS, automatic transmissions) can be what you need as a beginner rider to help you gain the necessary experience and the motor skills that you will need and if/when you are ready to move on to another motorcycle, you will at least put yourself in the best safety position for those early years of your motorcycle riding lifestyle. Lastly, it is possible that your history of “incidents” and an honest appraisal of your confidence in safely operating a motorcycle may lead you to the conclusion that you simply may not be cut out for motorcycle riding as your proclivity for accidents is just something that is too high of a risk to take on. If this is the case, keep in mind there are alternatives albeit with some compromises that you’ll definitely want to consider before you give up entirely.
Those alternatives are vehicles like the newer 2-in-the-front vehicles out there or slingshots vehicles and the like. Yes, the average purchase price of those vehicles is going to be higher than the average price/cost of an average motorcycle but you’re going to get near-motorcycle-experiences (e.g., the “wind in your hair,” some degree of leaning into the turns, a vehicle that is sporty and fun to drive, etc.) and those types of motorcycle alternative vehicles really have some strong and enthusiastic clubs and associations if you look forward to that aspect of motorcycle riding.
This article was designed to focus on one particular factor involved in choosing the best beginner motorcycle. For a complete guide covering all the decision points in finding a great beginner motorcycle, visit our Ultimate Guide to the Best Motorcycle for Beginners click on the image below.