Buying a motorcycle does not automatically mean that you are ready to be a motorcyclist. Vital steps for novices (as well as people who haven’t ridden for a while)…
• Take a motorcycle training class. To get a motorcycle learner permit in most states, you typically have to pass a state written exam. You could then take a course offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation —which is among the best available and includes five hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of riding over two to three days. In many states, successful completion of this course means that you do not have to pass the on-motorcycle skills exam ordinarily required to obtain a motorcycle license.
• Arrange insurance. Not every auto insurance provider covers motorcycles, so you might not be able to simply add your bike to your existing auto policy.
• Practice in safe places. As much as possible, stay off highways and busy or twisty roads until you are comfortable on your motorcycle. Ride mainly in little-used parking lots and/or on quiet, straight roads until you can shift, brake and operate the turn signals without having to think about which control is operated by which hand or foot.
• Choose appropriate protective gear. Buy a helmet that features a “DOT” sticker. These meet the Department of Transportation standards. Some helmets also feature a label inside that says the helmet meets standards set by the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that conducts research into head protection.
Wear boots that cover your ankles and that don’t have laces (shoelaces can get caught in motorcycle gears). Also, wear a leather or Kevlar jacket…gloves designed specifically for motorcycling…and long pants, not shorts.
Make sure that all your riding gear fits properly. If a garment is so loose that it billows in the wind or padded or reinforced sections do not stay where they are supposed to, the gear could be distracting, uncomfortable and less protective than it is designed to be.
• Ride in small groups when possible. A group is less likely to be overlooked by other drivers. Fellow riders also can help you if you have a question or problem. One way to find people to ride with is to join a motorcycling club. On AmericanMotorcyclist.com, select the “Find a Club” tool from the “Clubs & Promotors” menu.