The Dennis Kirk Blog
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We all know that riding is a great way to get out by yourself and clear your mind. But it can also be a rewarding social activity as well. There’s a reason why there are so many group rides throughout the country. Being able to share a ride with someone else is special. But what do you do if no one close to you rides? You teach them!
Teaching someone to ride a motorcycle can be one of the most satisfying activities in the sport. On the flip side, it can also be one of the most frustrating. There is an art to good instruction. If approached in the wrong manner, your student could become disenfranchised with riding and left with a bad taste in their mouth for riding. But if approached in the right way, you will have a new riding partner to share your trips with.
Follow the tips below to help you become a solid motorcycle teacher.
Before you start, you need to find the right area. It’s important to teach your student in a stress free environment. A big empty parking lot or a flat open field is a perfect place for new riders to learn. The open space and lack of other traffic will reduce distractions and give them extra confidence.
Get your new rider used to wearing all of the proper gear. They should get used to what it feels like when you use the controls with gloves and boots on. How a motorcycle jacket and pants feels. And to get used to their vision with a helmet on.
Before the bike is ever started, have your student become familiar with it. Show them where each control is and how each is operated. Also be sure to show them where the kill switch is. Allow them to move the bike about between their legs to get the feel for its weight.
Be simple with descriptions. At this point, all they need is the basics. Anything more can complicate things. If, however, they are curious about how things work in more detail, feel free to teach them.
An important fact to emphasize about the controls is that the clutch always comes first. If they want to stop, they should grab the clutch, then the brake. If they want to go, they need to grab the clutch and then find the friction zone with the throttle. Before shifting, grab the clutch first. By explaining “always clutch first,” they will have it in their heads for when they need to act.
When they get comfortable with where all of the controls are. You can then get them used balancing on the bike. Either have them coast down a slight hill or have them push themselves around by their feet. While coasting, they can practice braking technique.
At this point, your rider should be ready to learn the friction zone. This can be the hardest thing to teach someone who has never ridden before. Explain how important smooth movements are. You don’t want them to dump the clutch and ride a wheelie away from you. Have them find the friction zone and allow it to tug them around the parking lot for a bit while they get used to the feeling.
Once your student is over the friction zone hurdle, you can move them into some slow riding around the open space. If they are unfamiliar, let them know how turning a motorcycle works and what to expect. Have them try to keep their eyes up as much as possible and not on their controls. This is also a great time to correct their riding position if it is needed.
After they have putted around for a good bit, check and see where their confidence level is. And most importantly, where their fun level is. You don’t want your new rider to be terrified and grimacing. You may need to take it slower, or even advance them if they are conquering every task handed to them.
If they are enjoying themselves, you can continue the learning process. Come back to the open space a few more times and have them do the same things to show that they really are learning what to do.
Once they have the basics down, it’s time to get ready for more. If you feel they need more training, or if they want more training, an MSF course is a great option. Here, they will reinforce your initial teachings and get them even more prepared for hitting the open road. Also, the MSF instructors are trained how to teach. As well-meaning as your intentions may be, you may miss the mark in some areas.
It would be ideal for all new riders to take an MSF course. But we all know that people can get the itch and want to go on their maiden voyage as soon as possible. Get them to pass their license or permit test and take them on their first ride. Try to choose a stretch of road that sees very little traffic and is fairly straight. Keep the speeds low and stop often. And make sure they are having fun.
The romanticized vision that some people have about riding a motorcycle is hitting the open road solo. But for most of us, sharing the ride with good company makes it so much better. And by teaching the people close to you how to ride, you can have that good company.