the clutch friction zone

the clutch friction zone
Ramey ‘Coach’ Stroud
Your First Ride
Ramey ‘Coach’ Stroud
Motorcycle Training
Motorcycles- Your First Ride
© Copyright, 2016, Ramey R. Stroud, All rights reserved.
ISBN 978-0-692-79442-5
Printed in the United States of America
The book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any
manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author
except for brief quotations in a book review. For approval to use or
reproduce any portion of this book, please contact:
Ramey ‘Coach’ Stroud
Cascade Endurance Center. LLC
Postal Box 56
Lyons, Oregon 97358, USA
Comments, Corrections and Suggestions
This book is not perfect. It can be better and will need revision from timeto-time. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.
IMPORTANT PLEASE READ: Disclaimer of Liability and Terms of Use
When we participate in hazardous sports such as motorcycle racing or
even noncompetitive road rallies, we are required to sign a liability release
as a condition of participation. We must swear that we understand and
accept all risks and that we are solely responsibility for our own actions.
The same sort of legal issues arise with a book like this. But how can we
ask readers to sign a liability release before they read this book? The
answer is we can’t. Instead, writers and publishers begin informational
books like this with a Disclaimer of Liability.
Try Things At Your Own Risk. We are not telling you, the reader, to
believe in, to act on or to do anything you read about in this book. Rather,
we have created this book to start you thinking about your road
ahead.This book does NOT describe all knowledge or the skills needed to
ride a motorcycle safely. It is merely an introduction to future learning.
Ramey ‘Coach’ Stroud,, the Cascade Endurance Center
LLC, the Ramey R. Stroud Living Trust and/or any other person, business
or entity associated with or mentioned in this book are NOT
recommending that you try or do anything described herein on your own.
This book is ONLY information for you to consider. If you try any of the
techniques or activities presented in this book, YOU DO SO AT YOUR
OWN RISK! All activities described in this book should be attempted only
under the supervision of a qualified instructor on a safe training range. If
you have any questions or concerns about the content of this book, it is
solely up to you, the reader, to resolve your concerns before doing
anything that may lead to any loss, including but not limited to personal
injury, property loss and/or death.
We Can’t Tell You What Is Best For You. The differences among
motorcycles, the various riding conditions throughout the country and the
unique situation of each rider make it impossible to fairly address all on- or
off-pavement riding issues in written form. Instead, this book is only an
introduction to basic riding skills and principles to make your learning with
a qualified instructor easier. Thank you.
Dirt Bike Training for Street Riders?
There is a common belief among motorcycle riders that those who first
learn to ride on a dirt bike make better street riders later on. Maybe that is
true, maybe not? Whether you decide to start out on a dirt bike or a street
model this book is still for you. Why? Because the basic principles and
techniques are the same, street or dirt. The physics are the same, street
or dirt. The controls are the same. So not to worry when you see knobby
tires in the pages ahead if the street is your dream. Remember, most of
the world’s roads are not paved. Adventure riding and travel is sometimes
a little dusty.
Our gratitude to the following people and organizations for helping with or
supporting the creation of this book.
The Riders:
Sarah Kate Fedyschyn
Graham Harris
Heather Harelson Nutick
Hannah Schneider
Ashton Walbridge
Casey Walbridge
Support Crew:
Sheila Malone: Video, Photography and Post-Production
Camera Support: Dan Muir
Camera Support: Todd Powell
Catering: Tiffany Walbridge
Logistics: Anja Christopher
Our Sincere Appreciation to:
The BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Foundation, Inc.
PSS Off-Road, Gregory Hilchey, Puyallup, Washington
X-Rock, LLC, Rick Roberts, Stayton Oregon
Albany M/X, Bob Leach, Albany Oregon
Special Thanks to Cycle Gear, Good Stuff for Motorbikes.
Dedicated To The Memory Of Don Braasch
Don Braash (right) and Ramey ‘Coach’ Stroud.
Don was President of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America
Foundation, Inc. Helping young riders receive high quality
training was Don’s way of sharing his passion for motorcycles.
Disclaimer of Liability
Dirt Bike Training for Street Riders?
Chapter 1
The Controls
Section 1
Hand Controls
Section 2
Foot Controls
Chapter 2
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Protective Gear
Accidents Happen
Protect Your Head and Eyes
Protect Your Body
Chapter 3
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Getting Started
Moving The Bike
Pre-Ride Checks
Getting On
Starting The Engine
Chapter 4
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Riding Straight
Your Seated Riding Position
Starting From A Stop
Going Faster
Chapter 5
Section 1
Section 2
Speed and Braking
Making It Stop
Chapter 6
Section 1
Section 2
Shifting Gears
Power To Move
Gear Selection
Chapter 7
Section 1
Section 2
Chapter 8
Slow Turns
Fast Turns
After The Ride
Stopping and Getting Off
Post-Ride Checks
How Did It Go?
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Chapter 9
The Controls
Our goal is to make riding a motorcycle as easy as
walking. It will take time and effort to succeed.
Section 1 - Hand Controls
There are some things you should know BEFORE you take your first ride.
We start with some of the basics, the stuff you need to know right away to
keep you safe. Let’s begin with a walk around a motorcycle to see where
the different controls are and then some talk about what they do. A
motorcycle has a handlebar to make turns, a throttle to make it go, brakes
to make it stop and a clutch to shift gears and control power.
The throttle is the round grip under your right hand. It controls the gas flow
to the engine to raise or lower engine speed (revolutions per minute or
simply, RPMs). In front of the throttle is a hand lever that controls the
brake on the front wheel. In front of the left hand grip is the clutch lever
that controls the flow of engine power going to the rear wheel. The clutch
is used for starting from a stop and shifting gears in the transmission.
Gears are shifted up and down with your left foot. Your right foot controls
the rear brake. If all this sounds confusing, don’t worry. In the pages ahead
you will learn how each of the controls works and when to use them.
I LLUSTRATION 1.1 Common Motorcycle Controls
Controls Locations
Like a bicycle, you steer your motorcycle with a handlebar. The rider turns
the handlebars in the direction of travel to turn the bike, to maintain
balance and to control the amount of lean.
Be Careful: At about 10 miles-per-hour and faster the handlebars must
momentarily be steered opposite the way you want to go. In other words
higher speed turns require something called counter-steering. Sound
confusing? It is! For your first ride keep it slow and easy so you can use
basic direct steering. (More on counter-steering in Chapter 7.)
NOTE for pdf readers: When you see a movie like this in the pages
ahead, please click the words: START MOVIE to view it automatically on
the YouTube Channel. This, of course, requires that you
be connected to the internet.
M OVIE 1.1 Static Steering
Your Right Hand
The Throttle
The rubber grip on the right side of the handlebar rotates to control engine
power just like the gas pedal in a car. This means you will be rotating your
right wrist to control engine power. Rolling the top of the throttle grip back
toward you will increase power just like stepping down on a gas pedal in a
car. This is sometimes called “rolling on the gas.”
Rolling the top of the throttle grip away from you (forward towards the front
of the motorcycle) decreases power. This is often called “rolling off the
gas.” On most bikes, the throttle is spring-loaded, so if your right hand
comes off the grip, the gas will automatically roll-off and reduce engine
power. Normally you wouldn’t let go of the throttle grip to slow down, but
just let it rotate forward away from you while you continue to steer.
I LLUSTRATION 1.2 Usually, throttles have about half
a turn between idle and full-on (maximum gas).
Be Careful: Some are only a 1/4 turn to full throttle.
Common Throttle Roll Range
Once the bike is stopped, you can let go of the throttle and the engine will
keep running at idle speed. You don’t have to hold the throttle to keep the
engine running.
Be Careful: On some older bikes, the throttle cable may be dry or frayed.
You might roll-on the gas and it will stick wide open. Before you start the
engine, test the throttle to see if it snaps-back automatically. Just roll-on
the gas and then let it go. It should roll back automatically.
Something else to watch for is when turning the handlebar causes a
surprise change in throttle position. If you are holding on too tight, your
hand position may roll the throttle on or off without you trying to do so.
Movie 1.2 shows a student rider getting on and starting the motorcycle in
neutral. He rolls-on the gas a little to increase the engine speed (RPMs)
then practices turning the handlebar left and right while keeping the RPM’s
steady. The skill is to be able to turn your bike without changing throttle
position unless you want to.
M OVIE 1.2 Steering and Throttle Control
Be Careful: Turning the handlebar changes the angle of your
hands on the grips. This might cause an unintended change in
throttle position as you are turning.
The Front Brake
There are two brake controls on a motorcycle. Your RIGHT hand operates
the front wheel brake. Your RIGHT foot operates the rear brake.
When you are first learning to
ride, it is a good idea to “cover
I MAGE 1.1
your levers.” This means putting
four fingers over the hand levers
Cover the Levers
with the thumb around the grip. In
an emergency your reaction is to
hold on tight and squeeze both
levers in. The right brake lever
slows the bike, the left clutch
lever stops power to the rear
wheel even if you forget to roll-off
the gas.
Later, as you gain experience
I MAGE 1.2
and confidence, only two or three
fingers go over the levers.
Your long-term goal is to have
soft hands, meaning not hangingon too tight. In other words,
having only enough contact
pressure on the grips to steer
and maintain sensitive control.
The front brake on a modern motorcycle is hydraulic. A pump on the
handlebar called the master cylinder creates fluid pressure when you pull
back the right hand lever. This pressure travels down through a hose to
one or two calipers mounted on the fork tubes. Inside a caliper are brake
pads that squeeze a round metal disk called a rotor that is mounted on the
front wheel. The harder you squeeze the brake lever, the greater the
braking force to stop the front wheel. Older motorcycles may have a cableoperated front brake. The front brake lever works the same but, the pull
may be harder.
M OVIE 1.3 How the Front Brake Works
Be Careful: Pulling too hard on the front brake lever can cause a
Right Side Switches
Manufacturers aren’t required to use identical switches, so the switches on
motorcycles can be in different locations, have different shapes or be
different colors. On any bike you ride, it’s important to be able to operate
the switches without having to look down. Your eyes need to be up to look
where you are going.
The Starter Button. For motorcycles with electric starters, the starter
button is usually on the right. If there is an electric starter, there will also
be an ignition key or switch somewhere else on the bike.
I MAGE 1.3 Right Side Throttle and Switches
Engine Stop Button. Engine stop buttons or switches are usually RED in
color and located where you can turn off the engine without taking your
hand off of the handlebar.
That way you can stop
I MAGE 1.4 Start, Stop, Turn, Cancel and Grip Heat
the engine in an
emergency and still
maintain control. After
using the stop switch,
turn off the key or a dead
battery may result. On
dirt bikes, the engine
stop button (also called
the kill switch) can be
BLACK and on the left
Other Switches. On some bikes, especially the big dual-sport models,
there can be additional switches on the right side for handgrip heaters,
turn signals, etc. There is no rule between manufacturers, so switches can
be anywhere, any shape and any color. Every bike is different.
R EVIEW 1.1 Interactive Review
Take another look at Image 1.4 on the last page.
Can you guess which of the buttons or switches
stops the engine?
A. The orange one with the arrow.
B. The top grey one with the circle.
C. The red one with the lever.
D. The bottom grey one with the “X.”
E. The middle grey one with the three
Check Answer
Your Left Hand
The Clutch
The clutch is a powerful tool to control the bike and you really need to
understand how to use it before your first ride. The lever on the left side of
the handlebar is the clutch. It controls the transfer of power from the
engine to the rear wheel. When the clutch lever is squeezed IN to the
handlebar, the power is off. When the lever is OUT, the power is on,
meaning the real wheel turns under power.
If you roll the throttle on (towards you) so the engine is running at high
power AND at the same time have the left clutch lever squeezed IN to the
handlebar, the rear wheel will not turn. This is normal clutch control, but
can be a dangerous situation.
I MAGE 1.5 Clutch OUT= power ON; IN= power OFF.
If you are in-gear and the gas is rolled ON and then let the clutch out too
fast, the bike may accelerate forward into a wheelie (the front wheel lifts
up off the ground) or you do a burnout (rear wheel spins).
I MAGE 1.6 Accidental Wheelie
Be Careful: If the throttle is rolled on (high engine power) and you
release the clutch too fast you may pop a wheelie! The front wheel
may come up off the ground and even flip over backwards!
The Gear Shift Lever Is In Front Of The Left Foot Peg.
Either way, you may quickly end up on the ground or hit something. It
takes time to learn to balance proper throttle position and clutch release to
start a motorcycle moving forward. We will talk more about this in Chapter
4 on starting from a stop and shifting gears.
Left Side Switches and Other Levers.
It’s a good idea to check out how it feels to move the handlebar, the
throttle and levers before you start the engine and take off. It’s also a good
idea to understand what the switches do. If it is not obvious, look at the
owners manual if you have it or ask somebody. It’s worth knowing.
Most street legal motorcycles have switches for the headlight, turn signals
and horn on the left side of the handlebar. You might also see a choke
lever for starting a cold engine, and on dirt bikes a black engine kill button.
I MAGE 1.7 Left Side - Clutch Lever and Switches
Section 2 - Foot Controls
Riding a motorcycle is Similar to driving a car.
You use both hands and feet to do it.
Gear Shift Lever
Shifting gears on most motorcycles is done with the toe of the left boot.
Because shifting and clutch control are so closely related, they are
discussed together in Chapter 6. For now, see that the shift lever is in
front of the LEFT foot peg. You tap down with the toe of your left boot on
top of the gear lever to shift into the lower gears. You dip your toe under
the gear shift lever and lift up to shift into the higher gears.
M OVIE 1.4 Left Foot Gear Shift Lever
Rear Brake Lever
On most modern motorcycle the rider steps down with the toe of the right
foot to apply the rear brake. Illustration 1.3 shows a typical rear brake
system. This one is a hydraulic disk brake similar to the front brake
discussed earlier. The major difference is the rear brake has a foot pedal
instead of a hand lever. How to use the brakes is discussed in Chapter 4.
The rear brake is controlled by foot pressure. The braking limit to watch
out for is a skid. If you are going too fast and apply the brake too hard the
tire will lose grip (traction) and then slide or skid.
Be Careful: The harder you step down, the more rear brake is applied.
I LLUSTRATION 1.3 Typical Hydraulic Rear Brake
Different Kinds of Rear Brake Pedals
Protective Gear
Accidents Happen.
Get the Gear.
Wear the Gear.
Section 1 Accidents Happen
Our goal is to make riding a motorcycle as easy as
walking. It will take time and effort to succeed.
1. Motorcycling is Dangerous.
2. First Ride Injuries.
3. Ride Smart.
Motorcycling is Dangerous
Be aware that motorcycling is can be very dangerous. Mile-for-mile, a
person in the USA is about 30 times more likely to be killed riding a
motorcycle than if driving a car. If you intend to survive motorcycling, it is
important that you become very skillful at controlling your bike and very
clever about controlling your situation. If you aren’t willing to accept the
increased dangers or you aren’t willing to spend the time and effort to
become a skilled and knowledgeable rider, it might be smart to find
another passion. Motorcycling is not for everybody.
I MAGE 2.1 Be Prepared For The Unexpected.
Is something is too dangerous for you?
Some riders think of a playground teeter-totter to answer this question.
They mentally put the danger on one end and their skills on the other as in
Illustration 2.1. If the teeter-totter tips down towards danger, they stop. It’s
way too risky! If the teeter-totter tips down towards ability-- they go for it.
But what happens when the danger of your riding and your ability are
That depends on something called your "risk tolerance." How much of a
chance are YOU willing to take? The problem with the teeter-totter idea is
that it assumes you know what is dangerous. Being a new rider, you may
not recognize something is risky until it’s too late. You may not realize
what can happen until it does happen.
I LLUSTRATION 2.1 The Risk Teeter-Totter
Common Reasons for First-Ride Injuries
To help you be more aware of the dangers, let’s look at some of the
mistakes that sometimes cause first-time riders to crash. Remember this
list is not complete; these are only a few examples.
NO Helmet. Putting on a helmet is a simple way to reduce risk. Just make
sure it fits and is properly buckled. For more see Section 2.
Losing Control. There are so many things to think about at once. How
much gas do I give it to start? How does the clutch work? Where is the
brake pedal or the brake lever? Why does the steering feels so different
from a bicycle? Later in this book, we talk about each one of these
questions. For now, imagine all these questions hitting you at once.
Confusion is dangerous.
Hitting Something. A neighborhood street? A backyard? Out behind the
barn? If your first ride goes as planned maybe there is enough room to
ride, but what if it doesn’t? Avoid traffic and complicated streets. For your
first ride, it would be helpful to have plenty of open space, say 150’ x 200’
of flat open ground that is free of trees, ruts, vehicles, etc.
Showing Off. If you don’t know, don’t go. Trying to fake it will get you hurt.
On a motorcycle, things happen fast. Too fast to try to figure them out as
you go. Be smart, ask for help getting started. Find a coach.
Ride Smart
As we talk about motorcycle controls and riding in the pages ahead,
please remember some basic principles of riding smart:
Look Around. Use what you see to manage your speed and position.
Be Visible. Let the people around you know you are there and what you
plan to do.
Be Flexible. Change happens so be ready to adjust your position or
Keep Your Distance. Stopping distances vary with speed and it takes
time to learn to brake quickly. You will get faster, but for now leave extra
space around you.
Have An Escape Plan. When riding, keep looking for alternative
directions and routes if something unplanned happens like a barking dog
or a hidden hazard.
Keep Your Focus. Motorcycling requires your full mental attention. Drugs
or alcohol degrade judgment and set you up for a crash. If you’re taking
medications— even with a prescription—it might be better to avoid the
ride. If you’ve had beer or alcoholic drinks, stay off the bike for several
hours. It’s not cool to crash.
Find A Coach
Another cause of crashes is letting a friend “teach” you how to ride. Just
because a friend has learned a few things about motorcycling does not
mean that he or she knows what’s important or knows how to teach. For
some examples of good intentions gone bad, go On-line to YouTube and
search for “first time motorcycle ride crash.” You’ll find clip after clip of
friends trying to help friends and the resulting crashes. The lesson to be
learned from this is to get serious about learning to ride. Find somebody
who knows how to teach. Have a great first ride without getting hurt.
Most states have motorcycle safety programs that typically provide
training bikes and qualified instructors. So all you need is your riding gear
and a willingness to learn. Tuition is usually quite reasonable and in some
states is free. Successful completion of a state-sponsored training course
may lead to a drivers license endorsement to allow you to ride legally on
public roads. For link’s to rider training in your state, go to Wheels-InMotion.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a national organization funded by the
major motorcycle manufacturers to develop and administer rider training.
Their on-bike Basic RiderCourse is offered by many state motorcycle
safety programs, They also have online classes like the MSF Basic
eCourse. The MSF off-road training classes for new riders are for ages 6
and up. Check out the MSF Dirt Bike School.
Follow the Rules
You can do a good job of riding but still screw-up by not following the
rules. Having a neighbor complain or a police officer stop you or a parent
or spouse getting mad is not the way to have a fun motorcycle ride. For
more information on OFF Highway Vehicles areas, go to the National OffHighway Vehicle Conservation Council. For ON Highway motorcycle
information, go here to a state-by-state listing of the laws and rules for
motorcycle and motorcycle driver’s licensing.
ATGATT stands for “All the Gear, All the Time.” It mean wear full protective
gear every time you get on a bike. Many self-taught riders have
experienced pain and injuries that could have been easily avoided by
wearing protective gear. Head injury because of not wearing or strapping a
helmet. Road rash, the
red strawberry-looking
I MAGE 2.2 ATGATT - All The Gear All The Time
wounds caused by
sliding along on the
ground. Twisted ankles
because the rider was
not wearing over-theankles shoes or boots.
Deep hand abrasions
because the rider didn’t
wear gloves.
The next two sections
describe and explain
protective gear for your
body. It’s worth your
time to take a look.
Falls happen!
Section 2 -
Protect Your Head and Eyes
Helmets Are Cool
1. Wear a helmet every time you ride a motorcycle.
2. If it’s not strapped, it may fly off.
3. A face shield or goggles is a good idea too.
I MAGE 2.3 Look for the DOT label on the helmet.
Protecting Your Brain
Sometimes a hit to the head is overlooked because an injury is not
obvious or immediate. For 24 hours or more after a fall, a rider may
experience increased cranial pressure (ICP). Fluid fills the Scull and stops
critical blood from reaching the brain. The best defense against ICP and
traumatic brain injury (TBI) is to not crash. But even the best riders fall
sometimes. If it's your turn, hopefully you will be wearing a good quality
full-face helmet.
M OVIE 2.1 Tips About Helmet Fit
Be Careful: Will you be thinking about a loose helmet
flopping around instead of steering, clutch, throttle and
Sizing. Your helmet must fit properly to give you protection. If it is too
snug, it will soon be distracting. If too loose, it can wiggle around, block
your vision and cause a crash if it occurs at speed or in a difficult turn.
Your helmet should be just snug enough that you can pivot your head leftright and the helmet stays with you. A new helmet will gradually loosen-up,
so it should feel a bit snug when you first start wearing it.
Helmet Standards.
When you choose a
I MAGE 2.4 A Loose Fit Might Block Your Vision.
helmet, make sure it has
a DOT sticker like in
Image 2.3. The United
States Department of
Transportation (DOT)
tests helmets for impact
protection, range of vision
and straps. Make a DOT
helmet a budget priority.
Putting It On. The easiest way to put a helmet on is to take a chinstrap in
each hand and spread the shell left and right as you slide it down on your
head. Once the helmet is in place, the right strap goes through the two Drings on the left, and then loops back through one. The end of the strap
will whip around in the wind, so either tuck it in under the chinstrap or snap
the end in place. There are also clip and buckle systems to attach
helmets. Check the instructions for proper use.
How Most Helmet
Straps Work
Push the end of the
strap through both
Next, run the strap
back though the lower,
longer D-ring.
Pull it tight and tuck-in
the tail of the strap or
snap it so it doesn’t
flop around in the wind
and distract you.
Helmet Care. Once you have a helmet, take care of it! Don't throw it in
the back of the car or down in the dirt. When not in use, clean it and store
it in a helmet bag. Replace older helmets. They have a limited lifespan. If
the helmet takes a hit, it may be damaged internally even if the outer shell
looks fine. The internal crush layer does not rebound to full protection
once compressed. The helmet must be replaced to assure full protection
the next time. One good hit and it's done. Replace it.
Eyes. Protecting your eyes not only prevents injury it also allows you to
see where you are going. The three main eye hazards on a motorcycle
are: wind blast, foreign objects and dust. Face shields and goggles protect
from the first two hazards but only goggles have a dust seal.
I MAGE 2.5 Protect Your Eyes
If you wear glasses, make sure they fit the contour of your face to
minimize watering (excessive tears) and that they have shatterproof
lenses. Try them on inside your helmet. There are goggles available that
have frames to hold prescription lenses inside. These have a regular dust
seal. Contact lenses tend to dry out if there is any wind and are
uncomfortable in dusty conditions.
I MAGE 2.6 Glasses Should Have Shatterproof
Section 3 - Protect Your Body
Wear At Least The Minimum Rider Protection:
1. Helmet
2. Eye protection
3. Gloves
4. Long sleeve shirt or jacket
5. Long pants (not shorts)
6. Over the ankle shoes or boots
There is other equipment to protect you as well. Read about some of it
I MAGE 2.7 Hand Protection
Upper Body Protection
Gloves. Protect your hands for a number of reasons: abrasion, weather
and falls. Abrasion means to wear or grind away, like hands sliding across
pavement. Lightweight gloves usually put a stop to blisters but provide
little crash protection. Try to wear gloves that give you good sensation,
range of movement and protection.
Body Armor. A T-shirt is not going to help you much in a fall. When learning
to ride, it is better to wear at least a long-sleeve shirt or a jacket. Even better
would be some protection over the chest, spine and shoulders. Typical body
armor comes in three different styles: (1) under-armor that is worn under
normal riding clothes and (2) garment armor that is placed in pockets sewn
into pants and jackets, and (3) over-armor: protective pads that are worn over
your clothes. One example is a “roost protector” originally developed to protect
a racer’s chest from rocks, dirt and other debris thrown up by spinning wheels.
Over time, shoulder and back pads were added to some models. They are
usually worn on the outside of a jersey. It is put on over the shoulders and
hangs in front and back of the chest with side straps to keep it from moving
I MAGE 2.8 Typical Body Armor For Dirt Riding.
Street riders usually wear jackets and pants with inside pockets for body
armor like Image 2.9 but some prefer “under armor” like Image 2.10.
I MAGE 2.9 Riding Clothes With Pockets For Armor.
I MAGE 2.10 Separate Upper Body Under Armor.
Lower Body Protection
Legs. Shorts are definitely not a good idea on motorcycles. Falls often
involve rolling, tumbling or sliding and can cause abrasions and impact
injuries. Some riding pants have body armor built into the design. Also
separate under-shorts with lightweight body armor are available.
I MAGE 2.11 Lower Body Under Armor
Over the ankle boots
I MAGE 2.13 Normal Over-the-Ankle Shoes or Boots
Are Okay Too.
or shoes give support
and protection. Not a
loose style boot like a
Wellington but rather
a lace-up or straptype boot of some
kind. The soles
should thick and stiff
enough to distribute
I MAGE 2.12 Street Riding Boots With Hinged Ankle.
your body weight on
the foot pegs.
Whatever boot you
use make sure you
wear medium to thick
socks taller than the
Getting Started
How To Push A
Pre-Ride Checks.
Getting On and
Starting The
Section 1 - Moving the Bike
Sometimes It’s Necessary To Push By Hand.
1. Usually it is best to push a bike from the left (side-stand) side of the
2. Face forward with both hands on the handlebar.
3. With the front brake on, push the bike up off the side stand to it’s
balance point.
4. Raise the side stand with your right foot.
5. To go forward stay close to the bike and lean it toward you just a little.
Don’t forget to release the front brake.
6. To go backward, some riders move their right hand from the handlebar
to the seat so they don’t have to twist around to see.
Be Careful: If you back-up with your right hand on the seat, you lose
brake control. In this case put the side stand down. Then if the bike goes
back too fast lower it to the side stand and let it drag. Just don’t trip on it.
M OVIE 3.1 Pushing Forward and Backing-Up.
I MAGE 3.1 Pushing By Hand.
Lean the bike toward you a little as you push. If it starts to fall lean it
into your hip for support and use the front brake to keep it from
Walk Around the Bike Exercise
Pushing a motorcycle by hand is as much about balance as it is about
strength. To feel and learn the left and right balance point on your
motorcycle, take a walk around the bike like this:
1. First, get someone to help you just in case. Have him or her stay 180
degrees opposite of you on the other side of the bike as you move.
2. The bike should be parked on level ground, engine off and in first gear.
3. Stand on the left side facing forward and with two hands on the
4. Raise the bike up off the side stand to the vertical balance point.
5. Now slowly walk all the way around the bike hand-over-hand holding
on lightly to different places on the motorcycle.
6. Go around the bike slowly and remember to breath; this is NOT a
strength contest; it is a balance exercise.
7. Get used to being connected to the bike in a different way.
8. Get used to seeing and touching the bike from different angles.
Notice the motorcycle seems to have no weight as long as it is balanced.
It is supporting itself on it’s tires. Remember how that balance feels.
Section 2 - Pre-Ride Checks
Some Things To Think About Before Your First Ride
1. Is my motorcycle ready to go?
2. Is the area I’m going to ride in safe?
3. What have I missed?
Take a Minute To Check-Out Your Bike.
A pre-ride check doesn't take long. Before you take off do a quick walk
around the bike. When you do a pre-ride check, what are you looking for?
It's different for every bike but there are some general guidelines you can
follow. One starting point is to check with MOM. That’s the Motorcycle
Owner's Manual that came with the bike. Fluid levels, air pressures, chain
tension, cable adjustments and other suggested checks are usually listed.
If during your inspection you find something that needs to be adjusted,
changed or repaired, don't forget to finish your inspection. Most
professional race teams WILL NOT stop in the middle of an inspection.
They completed the entire survey making notes as they go. Then they go
back to solve the problems or do the repairs.
If you do find something wrong and it can't be fixed right away, you have to
decide if the bike can still be ridden safely.
Having some kind of checklist is important because it lowers the chances
of you missing something. It also gives you a sense of confidence: My
bike is ready to go!
Here is a sample inspection checklist based on a clockwise walk around
the motorcycle. The inspection areas are numbered to make it easier for
you to follow the checklist.
D IAGRAM 3.1 Sample Pre and Post-Ride Inspection
(Example Only-- Locations vary with different brands & models.)
* Everywhere:
* Frame cracks / breaks
Loose parts: nuts, bolts, etc.
Leaks and hoses
Front brake lever smooth & firm
Rear brake pedal
Foot peg
Engine leaks, wires, etc.
Side covers
Walk-Around Positions:
1. Fuel
Petcock ON or OFF
Vent and filter clear
Oil Levels
Transmission (if separate)
Final Drive (if separate)
Caps tight
Foot peg
Gearshift lever (adjusted & tight)
Side-stand (tight & spring OK)
Front forks (triple trees)
Handlebars (adjusted & tight)
Clutch lever (free play & action)
Key on- check panel & lights
4. Rear tire
Pressure at ___________psi?
Rear rim
Spokes tight
Axel tight
Chain (driveshaft)
5. Tail light and turn signals
(if installed)
Tail pack and/or luggage
(if installed)
2. Front tire
Pressure at ____________psi
Front rim condition
Spokes tight
Axel tight
Front Brake
Rotors & caliper
Fluid color & level
Front suspension
Leaks and adjustments
Pinch bolts tight
Control hoses and cables
Headlight and turn signals
(if installed)
6. Seat
Side panels
Air filter
Rear brake
Rotors & caliper
Fluid color & level
7. Tool Kit (on-bike or waist pack)
Tire Repair Kit
Tube (spare or repair or both)
Spares (Adapt to your bike/
Spark Plug
Chain Parts
3. Throttle
Free and snaps back
Check-out Where You Plan To Ride.
It’s amazing how many YouTube videos show first rides on a busy street
or in a backyard next to the garage with trees everywhere or some other
place loaded with danger. What can these people be thinking? Much of
the time, the false feeling of security is based on the first-time rider having
already driven a car and/or ridden a bicycle. Why should a motorcycle be
any different or any harder? It’s not difficult once you learn how— but the
first time you get on a motorcycle there is a lot going on all at once. Open
space gives you time to think and react. Distance gives you time to steer,
control and correct. Find a
large open area for your
I MAGE 3.2 Will Your First Ride Be In Traffic...
first ride. Ideally there is a
motorcycle training area
near you, but if not maybe
you can get permission to
use a farm field, empty
school yard, or church or
other parking area. Next,
think about is other traffic.
Or In a Safe Open Place With More Room?
Are others going to be in
your first ride area while
you are there? You can bet
they will do the unexpected
just as you are pulling away
or trying your first turn. Find
a large open, no-traffic area
for your first ride. Ideally you might get permission to use a track or rider
training area when it’s not being used for a class. Or you might find an
unused parking lot someplace. Your practice area should be at least 150’ x
200’ of clean pavement or level dirt or grass.
Finally, how about the clock? Is the area you choose for your first ride
empty now and crowded later? Can you finish before the crowd arrives?
What Have I Missed?
Your helmet and other riding gear is ready. Your motorcycle has been
checked and it’s ready too. You picked a safe spot. You are ready to go.
Now what?
Before you throw a leg over the seat, ask yourself one last question: What
have I missed? Sometimes we are so excited about riding that we forget
things. Sometimes your friends are in a hurry and push you to get going—
Don’t let anyone or anything rush you too fast for comfort. Riding is
supposed to be fun, remember? You control what is happening even if
someone is helping you. So just before you start the engine, take a deep
breath and smile. While you’re smiling let the voice inside your helmet ask:
what have I missed? If the answer is “nothing,” then it’s time to ride. When
your coach says, “okay, start your engine,” you’ll know you are ready to
Tire Air?
Section 3 - Getting On
It’s More About Balance Than Strength
1. Stand on your left foot.
2. Kick your right foot almost three feet up into the air.
3. Then, while it’s up there— turn and pivot 90 degrees.
Who would do this?
Someone getting on a motorcycle.
Mounting On Hard Ground
It’s easier to get on a motorcycle when it’s parked on pavement or hard
ground because the side-stand will hold the motorcycle up as you get on.
Remember, the ground must be hard enough to keep the side stand foot
from sinking in. Also, the side stand must be strong enough to support the
weight of both you and your motorcycle as you sit down.
1. Park the bike on the side stand and in first gear.
2. Stand on the left side of the motorcycle facing forward.
3. Left hand on the left grip with the clutch lever OUT (released).
4. Right hand on the right grip with the front brake lever squeezed-IN.
5. Turn the handlebar all the way to the right before getting on.
6. Standing near the bike, swing your right leg up and over the seat.
7. Lower your right boot to the right foot peg and apply the rear brake.
8. Lean right as you push down with your left boot to lift the bike up.
9. As it rises drop your right boot to the ground and take the weight.
10. Use your left boot to kick the side stand back and up.
11. Find neutral, start the bike and ride away. (See Chapter 4.)
Mounting On Soft Ground
On a soft surface, the side stand might sink in, causing the bike tip over as
you get on. It is safer to hold the bike up and get on at the same time.
1. Shift the bike into first gear.
2. Stand on the left side of the motorcycle facing forward.
3. Left hand on the left grip with the clutch lever OUT (released).
4. Right hand on the right grip with front brake lever squeezed-IN.
5. Raise the bike up off the side stand if parked.
6. Raise the side stand with your right boot.
7. Turn the handlebar all the way to the right.
8. This is the hard part. Think of the two wheels of the bike and your left
boot as a tripod. When all three points are in balance, swing your right
leg up and over the seat. Don’t forget to keep the front brake ON.
9. Take the weight of the motorcycle with your right boot on the ground.
10. Find neutral, start the bike and ride away. (See Chapter 4.)
M OVIE 3.2 Soft Surface Mounting
When the ground is soft or you are
49 on a slope you have to hold the
bike up as you get on. It’s not as hard as it sounds once you learn a
Section 4 Starting The Engine
It’s Not Hard To Get It Going.
1. Complete your pre-ride check. (See Section 2)
2. Get on the motorcycle.
3. Shift into neutral.*
4. Choke or fuel enrichment lever on if the engine is cold.
5. Clutch lever out.*
6. Little or no throttle according to MOM (motorcycle owners manual).
7. Press the starter button to start the engine.
*Note: Starting in gear
is sometimes
necessary. Use the
I MAGE 3.3 Starter Button. See the little circle with
the lightning bolt below the red engine stop switch?
same steps as above
but pull the clutch
lever IN while starting
the engine.
Be Careful: Starting
in gear is NOT
recommended for
cold starts or as a
routine practice.
Sometimes clutch
plates stick or drag
until the engine oil
circulates so the bike
creeps forward when
you hit the starter.
Riding Straight
Body Position
Friction zone
Section 1 Your Seated Riding Position
Staying In Control
1. Sitting on a motorcycle is different from a bicycle.
2. Static Training.
3. Lower Body Connection.
Some Basic Ideas About Sitting. There are three important
principles that apply to your riding position:
Stay Flexible. No part of your body should be locked as you ride. An
example of being locked is when a rider is too far back on the seat. If your
arms are straight to the handlebar it means your elbows are locked. Then
you can’t bend your arms to steer.
Gravity is Your Friend. The basic seated riding position begins by being
gravity-neutral. If you were to tie a weight to a string and let it hang down,
the string is the path of gravity. If you are sitting still on a motorcycle with
your back and the string parallel, you are balanced (gravity-neutral). From
this starting point, you lean forward as you roll on the gas. If you don’t lean
forward and hold on, the bike might speed away under you or it will feel
like you are falling off the back.
When you and your motorcycle are going forward, you have momentum
(inertia). If you roll off the gas, the bike still coasts ahead. This is important
to think about when braking. When you apply the brakes, the bike slows
down under you but your body keeps going. It feels like you are being
thrown forward. So on a motorcycle, when you roll off the gas or apply the
brakes you must hold on and lean back.
Independent Hands. Sometimes you have to hang on tight with hands
and arms, but most of the time your main connection with your motorcycle
is from the waist-down. This will take some explaining. Many riders—
especially guys— use too much upper body strength to ride. They forget
that legs, knees and feet have some gripping power too. It’s like riding a
horse by gripping the saddle under you. This allows your hands to be soft
for precision control and steering.
Static Practice. A great way to practice your seated riding position is to
put the motorcycle on the center stand if it has one, or a box if it doesn’t.
If that’s not possible, have a friend or two hold the bike up while you
Can you feel your legs against the seat? Feel your knees against the gas
tank. Find the pegs, rear brake and shift lever without looking down.
During static training, you can work on learning the controls without having
to worry about where you are going or traffic. It’s a safe way to check-out
all the things you will be doing when the engine is on and you are moving.
Some other things to work on during static practice are:
1. Keeping your head and eyes up. Don’t look down at the ground in front
of the front tire. Look up and ahead!
2. Sitting tall with a flat back.Try folding forward into acceleration and
leaning back for braking.
3. Knees against the seat and/or gas tank. Can you take your hands off of
the handlebar and touch your left foot-peg? How about the right?
4. Feet on the foot pegs. Can you operate the shift and brake levers
smoothly. Can you locate the levers without looking down?
5. Elbows up and arms bent. No joints locked. Can you turn the
handlebars full-lock left and right smoothly?
6. Can you roll-on the gas and operate the clutch at the same time?
7. Can you roll-off the gas and apply the front brake at the same time?
I MAGE 4.1 Static Training With A Helper
Section 2 Starting From A Stop
Making The Bike Move With Throttle and Clutch.
Here is the visualization, the mental picture how it works:
When starting from a stop, you create power with your right hand on the
gas and then slowly feed that power to the rear wheel with your left hand
on the clutch lever.
Right and Left Hand Speed Control
Let’s begin by looking at the flow of power from the engine to the rear
wheel. Inside the engine are one or more cylinders that look like round
soup cans moving up and down inside tunnels of steel. The cans are
called pistons and the tunnels are cylinders. As a piston moves up in the
cylinder, air and gas are mixed and compressed. When the piston nears
the top of it’s stroke, a spark plug sets off a small gas-air explosion forcing
the piston back down. Check out Illustration 4.1.
A rod connects the piston to a crankshaft that converts the up-down piston
energy into circular energy. In other words, the crankshaft changes engine
power into a kind of rolling energy called torque. Torque is the low speed
pulling power that gets you started from a stop. Torque is your friend
because it makes you go.
To make the torque needed to pull away from a stop, you first start the
engine in neutral, then pull the clutch in, step down on the shift lever, roll
on the gas and slowly let the clutch out. WOW! All that to just make it go?
Yes, and more.
It sounds complicated but it’s not so bad once you understand what is
happening. So let’s break it down step-by-step. We already covered
starting the engine in Chapter 3. We will cover shifting gears in Chapter 6.
For now let’s focus on your left hand on the clutch lever.
Power to the clutch. As you roll on the throttle with your right hand more
gas and air is fed into the engine and it speeds up causing the crankshaft
to spin faster. Illustration 4.2 shows that the engine crankshaft is
connected to a clutch by a primary drive system. There are two primary
gears: one on the engine and one on the outer clutch housing. Like the
pistons in the cylinders, the primary drive is inside the engine and usually
cannot be seen. Here we will use an old-time race bike (Image 4.2) as an
example because the clutch system is open to our view. (Note: on some
engines, power goes to the clutch through a chain or a belt.)
The Crankshaft Converts Power from
Vertical to Circular
Piston goes up &
down to make
Vertical Power.
Crankshaft converts
vertical power into
Rotational Power.
I MAGE 4.2 Classic Norton Racer
I LLUSTRATION 4.2 Engine power is sent to the
clutch with a chain, belt or gears.
Illustration 4.2 continues on next page…
Illustration 4.2 continued…
I LLUSTRATION 4.2 Engine power is sent to the
clutch with a chain, belt or gears.
The Clutch. The clutch is like the valve on a water faucet. You open it to
let some water flow or close it to turn the water off. In the same way the
clutch controls how much engine power goes to the rear wheel. Your left
hand controls the flow of power from the engine to the rear wheel.
To understand what happens when you squeeze the clutch in or let it out
you need to know how a clutch works. Motorcycle clutches usually have
three main parts: (1) an outer hub connected to the engine, (2) an inner
hub connected to the transmission and (3) a group of clutch plates inbetween. It looks something like Illustration 4.3 on the next page.
The blue outer clutch housing spins with the engine. The red inner
carrier is connected to the rear wheel through the transmission. It spins
independently inside of the outer basket. The outer basket and the inner
carrier are connected by two kinds of clutch plates. In Illustration 4.3, the
(Blue) steel plates spin with the engine and the (Red) friction plates spin
with the transmission. Both kinds of plates are in alternating layers that are
locked together by springs when the handlebar clutch lever is all the way
OUT (fully released). When the clutch plates are locked, all engine power
flows through the clutch to the transmission and on to the rear wheel.
Pulling the clutch lever in towards the handlebar releases some spring
tension holding the plates together and they begin to slip. This is where
the famous motorcycle term “the friction zone” comes from. If you learned
to drive a stick shift car, it was called “slipping the clutch.”
I LLUSTRATION 4.3 Typical Clutch Parts
Some clutch plates are
part of the Transmission
Some clutch plates
are part of the engine
ALL clutch plates overlap each other.
They lock, slip or release based on
the handlebar clutch lever position.
How much the red and blue plates slip is controlled by how far you pull the
clutch lever in to the handlebar. The clutch lever is a VERY sensitive
control. Even a quarter of an inch (5-7mm) of travel has a big effect. In
other words the lever under your left finger(s) is not just an ON/OFF
switch. It’s more like a dimmer switch for a light in your house. You can
precisely select how much power you want to go to the rear wheel. When
the clutch lever is pulled all the way in, the plates rotate freely and zero
power is transferred from the engine to the transmission.
M OVIE 4.1 The Clutch Is Like A Dimmer-Switch.
The clutch lever is the key to using the friction zone.
Your First Clutch Release. Leaning a new skill happens in three stages.
The first is to create a mental picture of what you want to do. You just did
that with reading and study. Now, you know all about the clutch friction
zone and why it works. In this next stage you add touch and feel to your
mental picture by doing some static exercises.
Step 1. How must throttle? Sitting on your bike with the engine off, think
about and feel the throttle grip as you roll it towards you and away. Keep
your hands soft on the handlebars. Be in control, but not with a whiteknuckle grip. Remember to breathe. Roll the throttle ON just a little above
idle and hold the grip in that position. You just set your engine speed
(RPMs) at enough power to pull away from a stop. When it is time for
engine-on practice (the third stage of learning), your instructor will help
you find the correct RPM for the motorcycle you will be riding.
Step 2. The clutch friction zone. As you hold the throttle steady, learn to
slowly release engine power with your left hand. Notice how the clutch
lever feels when it is all the way OUT. Feel all four fingers of your left hand
on the clutch lever. Feel your thumb curled around the back of the
handlebar grip. Slowly squeeze the clutch lever all the way IN. Carefully
release some finger pressure to let the clutch lever move slowly OUT.
“Slowly,” means about one quarter of an inch (5-7mm) at a time. As you
feel the clutch lever move away from the handlebar, visualize the engine
starting to “lug.” This means the RPMs go down without a throttle
movement and the sound of the engine changes. This happens just before
the rear wheel starts to roll forward and is called the, “Clutch release point.
Step 3. Clutch-in to stop. As the motorcycle starts to move forward, do
NOT add more throttle. Instead, slowly squeeze the clutch lever back IN to
cut power and come to a full stop. Apply rear brake if needed. Remember,
your first goal will be to go forward only a few inches and then stop.
During engine-on practice, if your engine stalls when you are trying to take
off it usually means the clutch lever was released too fast. Try it again—
same RPMs but with a much slower clutch lever movement. This is
commonly called, “Slipping the clutch.”
Be Careful: A common new-rider mistake is to roll on too much gas and
then pop the clutch (fast, full release). This can cause the front wheel to
rise into a wheelie. It is far safer to use a long, sloooow clutch release.
M OVIE 4.2 Friction Zone Start From A Stop.
Walking the Bike Exercise
Your goal for this exercise is to learn to use your LEFT HAND on the
clutch lever to make smooth starts from a stop:
1. Wear full protective gear.
2. In a safe location get on the bike and start the engine.
3. Check for a clear path of travel ahead.
4. Clutch-IN and left toe down to shift into first gear.
5. Do NOT roll-on the gas to raise the RPMs. Practice at engine idle.
6. With eyes up and both feet on the ground, slowly let the clutch OUT
until the bike just starts to move.
7. Straddle-walk forward— don’t raise boots up to the pegs.
8. After ONE STEP lowly squeeze the clutch IN and come to a full stop.
9. Do it again and again. Repeat steps 6-7-8, 6-7-8, 6-7-8, 6-7-8, etc.
When you feel the motorcycle just start to move you have just entered the
Friction Zone. Because the RPM’s are low (at idle) in this exercise you
must have VERY precise clutch control to prevent stalling the engine.
Section 3 Going Faster
Rolling On the Throttle (Giving it Gas)
When you speed up, a number of things will happen:
1. The bike will feel like it is leaving without you. You may even feel
like you are sliding backwards on the seat.
2. The wind will push you back and the vibration and noise levels
will increase.
3. You will have less time to think and react to problems.
Your first ride should be slow and easy. Focus is on starting, stoping,
steering and slow-speed skills.There is plenty of time later to go faster.
The Forces of Acceleration
Be Careful: This section gives you a “heads-up” about what might happen
if you go too fast, too soon. Your first ride should be slow, fun and safe. So
don’t rush it, your throttle and clutch skills will develop. Be patient.
Sir Isaac Newton. When you step on the gas pedal in a car, you are
pushed back into the seat as the car speeds ahead. Sir Isaac Newton
would have said this is an example of my First Law: bodies at rest tend to
stay at rest unless acted upon by some external force. As the car moves
forward, you stay still (body at rest) until the back of the seat (the external
force) pushes you forward too. On a motorcycle, there is usually no seatback to push you forward so the bike tends to leave you behind.
The Wild Throttle Problem. As a motorcycle accelerates, the average
rider hangs on to the handlebar to avoid sliding backwards on the seat.
Hanging on for dear life can cause your arms to get long and your elbows
to become locked. This creates a serious problem. As the bike accelerates
ahead your right hand tries to hold on. Because the throttle grip is not
solid, it rolls back as you are thrown back. Backwards? Yes, this means
even more gas and even more acceleration. You hold on even harder but
you now have no arm length left to roll the gas forward and off. You are
now out-of-control. But there is more— long, locked arms may also mean
you lose the ability to pull in the clutch and stop power; you may also lose
the ability to reach the front brake lever and stop the bike; and, you may
lose the ability to steer. Remember all those YouTube crash videos? Look
at their arms. See how how many are thrown back and lose control
because of the Wild Throttle problem. In training riders are taught to keep
their hands soft for precise control and to not slide backward, by doing two
things. First, they visualize their primary connection with the bike as being
from the waist-down. They practice holding on to the motorcycle on with
boots, knees and legs. Second, riders are taught to “fold” into
acceleration. Folding is the forward lean you do when getting up and out
of a chair. Try it. Stand up from a chair without folding forward first. You
can’t do it unless you move your feet back under you or you first fold
forward at the waist. Every time you get out of a chair, you are training to
accelerate on your motorcycle. Fold forward and use legs, not arms.
The Wheelie Over Backwards. Newton also described another effect of
rolling on the gas: his Third Law says that for every action there is an
equal and opposite reaction. When you let out the clutch and roll on the
gas, power (torque) is transmitted to the rear wheel. As the top of the rear
wheel rotates forward and down (Newton's action), the entire motorcycle
reacts. It tends to rotate up and back around the rear axel (the opposite
reaction). This causes the front wheel of the motorcycle to get lighter. In
other words when you smoothly roll on the throttle (low acceleration rate),
the front of the motorcycle lifts a little and front fork tubes extend but the
front tire stays on the ground. If you use too much throttle at once (high
acceleration rate), the front wheel might come up off the ground into a
wheelie. Turning the handlebar while doing a wheelie will not turn the bike
because the front tire has nothing to push against. A wheelie is a 100%
traction loss for the front tire. This is one example of how the throttle
affects traction.
Air Resistance. Parasitic Drag. When you put your hand out of the
window of a moving car the wind pushes it back. The faster you go, the
stronger the push.This is the same kind of air pressure you feel on a
moving motorcycle. It's called parasitic drag. The faster you go— the
harder the push against your helmet and body. To keep from being pushed
back, many riders just hold onto the handlebar tighter. Now, you know
there is a better way. Squeeze in with your legs, knees and boots and then
fold into the wind stream. Again, it is the same forward fold as if you were
getting up out of a chair.
Think Ahead. One last thought about the forces of acceleration— think
ahead. What will happen when you roll on the gas should not be a
surprise. You will always feel like you are being pushed back as the bike
moves forward. Given enough speed, you will always feel a blast of the
wind on your chest and helmet. It will always be true that the faster you
go, the shorter the time to see problems ahead and to react.
The Right Speed.
Making It Stop.
Using Both Brakes.
Section 1 Speed and Braking
The Forces Of Breaking
1. Why does it feel like you are flying forward over the
handlebar when you brake?
2. How hard can you brake before a skid occurs?
Over The Handlebars
Sir Isaac Newton helps us understand what happens when the brakes are
applied on a motorcycle. His First Law of Inertia says an object in motion
stays in motion at a constant speed in a straight line unless acted upon by
an external, unbalanced force. Now let’s say that in bike talk.
A moving motorcycle and rider are masses in motion. The brakes are an
external, unbalanced force. The bike slows down but you keep going
forward because the brakes are on the motorcycle's mass, not yours. You
feel as if you are leaving the bike. The faster you go, the greater the
feeling of being thrown over the handlebar when you brake.
It's not just how fast you are going that creates the energy to throw you
forward but also how hard you brake. You can be doing 30 miles per hour
and gently apply the brakes and feel very little forward force. The problem
is that gentle braking may not stop you in time to avoid a road hazard or
So you must be able to counteract the forward energy of hard braking with
your body position. Your body has to become part of the motorcycle and
slow down too. Not just with hand and arm strength alone, but also with
strong lower body contact. Racers can slow their motorcycle down from
speeds well over 100 miles per hour with little problem because they have
learned proper body position. The problem is that, when you are first
learning it’s easy to go faster than you are ready for. So take it easy at
first. Be cautious.
Lean FORWARD when you roll ON the gas.
Lean BACK as you roll OFF the gas or apply the brakes.
How hard can you brake before a skid occurs?
A motorcycle braking system can skid (lockup a wheel) at almost any
speed if you apply either front or rear brake too hard. So a skid is not just
about speed it is also about a rider’s braking skills. Of course skids also
happen because of poor tire grip on slippery surfaces like wet pavement.
If you are going faster, you have more of Sir Isaac’s momentum to deal
with. The faster you go, the more distance it takes to stop. If you try to stop
sooner by braking harder, you can run out of traction and skid.
Remember: HOW FAST you are going controls HOW LONG it takes to
stop. This last point— how long will it take to stop at a given speed—
brings up the issue of rider skill. How well can you apply both front and
rear brakes at the same time? Too much of either might cause a skid too.
Think about your BRAKING SKILLS when deciding how fast to drive.
If you are on dry pavement you have more tire grip than on dirt or grass.
So for a given speed you will probably skid sooner off-pavement than on.
Think about WHERE you are riding and how much tire grip you have.
If you are turning and braking at the same time, you might skid too. The
reason is that some of the braking traction is being used for turning. Try to
slow down BEFORE starting your turn.
These are just a few of the things to think about for braking. You can learn
a lot more about stopping skills in a basic rider course. There you will
receive classroom instruction and assisted hands-on training.
Be Careful: A skidding tire has less stopping power than a rolling tire.
M OVIE 5.1 Braking Practice.
Section 2 - Making It Stop
A Quick Review Movie
M OVIE 5.2 The Brake Controls
IN and DOWN: All the braking controls are on the right side of the
motorcycle and all the shifting controls are on the left. So an easy
way to think about stopping is IN AND DOWN. The brake and clutch
levers come IN and the rear brake and shift levers go DOWN.
Braking Straight Ahead
When you want to slow down or stop, roll OFF the gas.
1. Keep your head up and eyes looking forward while braking to keep
your balance and to see your path of travel.
2. Apply your rear brake FIRST and then add front brake carefully as
needed.* Don’t forget to lean back.
3. As you come to a stop keep the engine running by pulling the clutch
lever in.
4. For a full stop, you will usually put your left foot down first so you can
continue to apply the rear brake.
* IMPORTANT NOTE: On pavement the front brake provides about 70%
of your stopping power and the rear brake about 30%. When going
straight both brakes are applied at the same time and usually with about
the same force. On dirt there is less tire grip (traction) available. Apply the
rear brake first and then carefully add front brake as needed.
Down Shifting. Sometime at higher speeds riders will downshift to allow
engine compression to help slow the bike. Roll off the gas, squeeze in the
clutch, step down with your left toe and then slowly let the clutch out.
Be Careful: If you downshift too soon the rear wheel may lockup (skid) as
you let the clutch out. More about shifting in Chapter 6 ahead.
Braking in Curves or Turns
Be Careful: It is better and safer to brake while traveling straight ahead.
Braking while turning requires dividing available tire grip between tasks.
Not 100% for turning, not 100% for braking, but some lesser fraction for
each. If you must brake in a turn, here are some things to think about:
1. Roll OFF the gas smoothly as needed.
2. Keep your head and eyes up to see your path of travel.
3. Apply both brakes smoothly* and don’t forget to lean back.
4. Squeeze in the clutch and down shift if you need to. Be very careful
with your clutch release.
5. Try to square your handlebar before you stop. That means turning the
motorcycle back to straight ahead if there is room and time.
6. If you are going to make a full stop, keep the engine running by pulling
the clutch lever in.
7. Try to put your left foot down first so you can continue to apply the rear
* Be Careful: Your REAR brake is your main brake in slow speed turns. If
the front brake is applied while the handlebar is turned it may cause a
fall called “Tucking the Front End.”
I MAGE 5.1 Try Not to Brake and Turn at the Same Time.
If you must slow down in a turn and rolling-off the gas is not enough, apply
your rear brake first and then carefully apply front brake as needed. Keep
your eyes UP and watch where you are going. A better, safer approach is
to slow down BEFORE you start the turn.
Shifting Gears
One-part Gas,
One-part Clutch,
One-part Shift Lever.
Section 1 - Power To Move
It’s Important To Visualize
1. Left hand controls power to the rear wheel.
2. Left foot changes gears to match road speed.
3. Shift UP to go faster; shift DOWN to go slower.
Engine Power to the Rear Wheel
Diagram 6.1 shows how power from the engine (blue) goes through the
clutch to the transmission input shaft (red). This shaft has gears on it that
mesh with opposing gears on a second shaft called the output or
countershaft (yellow). Each transmission speed has a gear on each shaft
with different numbers of teeth (changes diameter). Each time you shift,
you change the gear ratio (mechanical advantage). This means that for a
given engine speed, each gear will give you a different ground speed.
Lower gears for slower ground speeds; higher gears for faster ground
speeds. In other words, to go faster shift up through the gears. To go
slower or to stop, shift down.
D IAGRAM 6.1 A Typical Transmission (Gearbox).
Final Drive
Primary Drive
Sequential shifting. Motorcycle shift patterns are commonly called 1down and 4-up for a five-speed transmission, or 1-down and 5-up for a
six-speed transmission. Each gear must be taken in order. You cannot go
from first to sixth gear without shifting to each in-between gear first.
Also, the shift to each gear up or down is made from the same standby
position. The shift lever is spring-loaded to return to this standby position
after each shift. After starting the engine in neutral, a normal shifting
process would be to pull the clutch lever in, put your left toe on top of the
shift lever and then tap down to first gear. Then release the shift lever and
let it return automatically to the standby position as shown in Diagram 6.3.
You are now ready to pull away from a stop.
D IAGRAM 6.2 Common Motorcycle Shift Pattern
UP Shift
Shift Lever
DOWN Shift
There is one exception to sequential shifting. Neutral is usually located
between first and second gears. You can shift from first to second or from
second to first without stopping in neutral. Neutral is about half the
distance of the other shifts. In other words if you want to shift to neutral it
is about “half a click” between first and second gears. Usually it is easier
to find neutral by going down from second, rather than up from first.
D IAGRAM 6.3 Shift Lever Automatic Return
Final drive. Power is transmitted from the Transmission (gearbox) to the
rear wheel in one of three ways: chain-drive, belt-drive or shaft-drive. The
chain is the most common final drive for motorcycles. A countershaft
sprocket is fitted on the transmission output shaft. A larger sprocket is
mounted on the rear wheel and a chain connects the two. Some bikes
have a synthetic final drive belt instead of a chain. Belts travel around two
round drums like sprockets and require less maintenance. It is said that
belts are smoother with less vibration.
I MAGE 6.1 Chain Final Drive System.
A driveshaft is a final drive system like a car. The transmission and rear
wheel are connected by a round metal shaft with a U-joint at each end.
The driveshaft assembly is usually enclosed under a cover so you may not
notice it.
I MAGE 6.2 Drive Shaft Final Drive System
Section 2 - Gear Selection
The Balancing Act
1. The shift lever changes gears in the transmission.
2. You must change gears to match your road speed.
3. Shift UP to go faster; shift DOWN to go slower.
A motorcycle transmission is a fine piece of machinery made with
precision. Smooth shifting does not take much strength. Yet you often see
riders stomping down on the gearshift lever as if they are trying to break it
off. This is because it is hard to feel the shift lever when wearing thick
shoes or boots. Riders often do the stomp to make sure they have their
bike in gear. This is hard on the shifting hardware and shows a lack of
connection with the motorcycle. In static practice (Image 6.3), you learn to
place your boot on the foot peg without looking down. You also learn
exactly where the shift lever is and how to move it up and down while
looking straight ahead.
When you are on the bike and the engine is running, take the time to feel
the first shift with your whole body. When you step down into first from
neutral, you can feel the energy lightly surge through the entire motorcycle
and the rear wheel might twitch forward slightly. When up-shifting feel the
engine speed up as you pull in the clutch and lug down as you let it out.
Feel the bike push forward as you roll on the gas after each up-shift. Feel
your body sliding forward as you let the clutch out after a downshift while
braking. These sensations are the key to smooth shifting. Feeling is the
connection between you and your motorcycle.
I MAGE 6.3 Static Shifting Practice - Engine Off
UP Shifting. After starting the engine in neutral, a normal shifting process
would be to pull the clutch lever in, put your left toe on top of the shift lever
and then tap down to first gear. Then release the shift lever and let it return
automatically to the standby position. You are now ready to pull away from
a stop. Roll the throttle toward you so the engine speeds up a little and
slowly release the clutch. After the clutch is all the way out, then roll-on the
gas to speed up.
When it is time to up-shift, keep your eyes up, roll off the gas, pull in the
clutch and raise the shift lever UP with your toe past neutral to second.
Let the shift lever go back to the standby position. Slowly release the
clutch as you roll on the gas to maintain speed. The shift up to third is the
same as the shift to second, except you don’t have to go past neutral.
Then up to fourth and so on through all the gears if you want to go that
fast. Each higher gear means more ground speed.
DOWN Shifting. Like up-shifting, there is an order of events that must be
followed for downshifts: gas off, clutch in, tap down, clutch out and gas on.
Downshift one gear at a time in sequence. With practice. “gas off and
clutch-in” before the shift and “clutch-out and gas on” after the shift will
occur almost at the same time to allow constant ground speed and smooth
shifts. In other words, throttle and clutch movements will overlap.
M OVIE 6.1 Static Gear Shift Practice - Engine On
Be Careful: The motorcycle must be safe and stable for engine on
static training. The rear wheel must spin free. Wear all safety gear.
It’s hard to say exactly when to shift into the next gear— up or down.
There are many shift point variables like engine design, gearing, rider skill
level, where you are riding (flat, hills sand, etc.), how you are riding, etc. In
general the smoothest shifts are when the two gear shafts (see Diagram
6.1) in the transmission have the same RPM’s as you shift. To get the
same shaft speeds, you match road speed with engine speed. When UP
shifting, speedup until it’s time to shift then don’t rush it, let the RPM’s
come down a little before you raise your toe. When down shifting, don’t
shift too soon. Let the bike slow first and then have a smooth clutch
release. It takes time and practice to figure it out.
M OVIE 6.2 Shifting on a Dirt Bike Close-Up.
Stopping. When it’s time to come to a stop, down shift through the gears
as you smoothly apply the brakes. Try not to look down. Keep your eyes
up to your intended stopping point. Just before you come to a stop, pull
the clutch lever in and hold it there to keep from stalling the engine. Do not
shift to neutral and coast to a stop. Don’t forget to put your foot down as
you stop. Don’t laugh, it happens.
I MAGE 6.4 Stopping Between The Cones Exercise
Steering and Friction Zone
Body Position In Turns
Fast Turns Are Different
Section 1 - Slow Turns
Slow and Fast Turns Are Different.
1. Slow turns are about gravity.
2. Faster turns are about centrifugal force.
3. There are TWO ways to steer a motorcycle—
Counter-Balance for SLOW turns.
Counter-Steering for FAST turns.
Why Motorcycles and Riders lean in turns
Tight Turns. You are on two wheels and want to make a turn without
leaning over. Can you do it? Sure, if you are in a giant parking lot. The
reason motorcycle riders lean in turns is to reduce turn radius. The more
you lean the tighter the turn. Leaning allows sharper turns.
Lean Angle. There is a second reason why motorcycles lean inside in fast
turns. Centrifugal force (CF) is generated in all turns. That’s the feeling of
being pulled to the outside when the car you are in makes a sharp or fast
turn. However, you don’t notice that outside pull when the car is turning
slowly. Under around ten miles per hour or so, CF is so weak you don’t
feel it. So in slow turns like parking lots, riders only have to deal with
gravity. They do this by moving their body-position to counter the pull of
gravity. We’ll come back to this in a minute. As turn speed increases so
does CF. Eventually, CF can become even stronger than gravity. To
counter this outside pull motorcycle riders carefully lean inside to find that
balance point where gravity pulling down is equal to CF pulling up. Don’t
worry if this is confusing, we come back to it in Section 2.
Lower Body Connection. When going straight, riders feel both inner legs
and knees equally against the motorcycle. In turns that feeling is not as
equal because riders move to one side of the bike. For slow turns the rider
moves to the outside; for fast turns to the inside. For seated turns, the butt
scoots to one side of the seat; for standing turns to one foot peg. In all
turns, the boots, legs and knees must be in the right place.
Slow Counterbalance Turns
When we talk about turns, it is sometimes confusing to say left or right and
clockwise or counterclockwise. Instead, use the terms inside and outside.
Inside means towards the center of the turn. The outside of a turn is the
side away from the center. Making a slow turn on a motorcycle is about
balance more than strength. You don’t hold the bike up. You keep it from
falling over by using a counterweighting technique called
“counterbalance.” Your body weight and position offsets the pull of gravity.
I LLUSTRATION 7.1 Slow Speed Counterbalance Turns
How To Do Slow Speed Turns. Slow turns are fun once you get the hang
of them.To help you remember the different things to do in a slow turn,
think of it as having three parts: Approach, Entry and Exit.
APPROACH Slow down before the turn.
Eyes UP, look where you are going.
Have steady power, use the friction zone.
Use direct steering to start the turn—
Rise UP an inch or so and let the bike tip DOWN under you.
Sit back down with your butt on the outside edge of the seat.
Eyes UP, look to your exit point.
Speed up out of the turn with clutch or add some throttle.
Direct steer out of the turn—
Rise UP an inch or so as the bike rotates UP under you.
When the bike is vertical, sit back down.
You will be back in the center of the seat.
Eyes. Start all turns with your eyes then keep your head up and look
where you want to go. This helps your balance and coordination too. Is it a
common mistake to look down and focus on what is immediately in front of
the tire. Try to be aware of that, but look where you are going.
I MAGE 7.1 Start Turns With Your Eyes
Steady Power and Friction Zone. Slow turns are easier with steady
power. Try not to keep rolling the gas on and off. With your right hand, roll
the throttle towards you a little to make the power needed to drive through
the turn. At the same time, control your forward speed with the fingers of
your left hand. If you power through a slow turn with the clutch all the way
out you may be going too fast even in first gear. When riders roll on the
throttle to keep going and then roll off to slow down the motorcycle is
super hard to control. Instead bring your engine RPMs up to create pulling
power and then slip the clutch to control your forward speed.
I LLUSTRATION 7.2 Clutch Lever Friction Zone
I MAGE 7.2 Even Racers Use the Friction Zone.
This racer creates smooth, fast power through the turn by using the
friction zone (slipping the clutch) with one finger of his left hand.
Direct Steering. At slow speeds, point your front tire where you want to
go with the handlebar. This is why slow speed steering is sometimes
called “point and shoot steering.” Control your path of travel and keep
looking up and through the turn.
I LLUSTRATION 7.3 Direct Steering
Hit the Target
Cheating. At slow speeds, the rear wheel does not exactly follow the track
of the front wheel. The rear tire cheats a little to the inside. You can just
miss an obstacle with the front tire and hit it with the back.
Be Careful: At slow speeds, steer to give both wheels a clear path.
Rise Up and Sit Down. As you turn the handlebar to make the slow turn,
the motorcycle will start to lean over to the inside. As it does rise up an
inch or so and let the bike tip down under you. Use legs not hands to go
up. If you stay tall and gravity-neutral when you come back down you will
automatically be sitting on the outside edge of the seat. Simply going
straight up and then down puts you into a great counter balance position.
I MAGE 7.3 Seated Counter Balance Position
Sit straight up and let the motorcycle lean down and away from you.
M OVIE 7.1 Slow Turns - From the Coach’s View
Casey (blue bike) is doing a good job in this slow turn exercise. He
is trying to keep his eyes up to look ahead to the next cone. He is
also doing a good job of getting his butt to the outside of each turn.
Notice his steering is not smooth, see the corrections he has to
make next to the cones? He flips his handlebar back and forth to
keep the bike from falling in.
If he would bring his power up a little with the throttle and then use
the friction zone of the clutch, the constant power would fix the
problem and carry him smoothly around the turns.
M OVIE 7.2 Slow Turns - From the Rider’s View
Listen to her great friction zone start. Just enough power to pull
away with a smooth clutch release. Good eyes looking up and
ahead to the next cone.
But she too is also coasting through the turns. She has to wobble
the handlebar back and forth like Casey to balance the bike.
If she would add a little power with her right hand (gas) and then
control her ground speed with her left hand (clutch), her turns would
be more fun and much smoother. The clutch friction zone (slipping
the clutch) really helps in slow speed turns.
Section 2 - Fast Turns
Words of Caution
1. On your first ride, you should NOT be doing fast turns.
That comes later.
2. If you do go too fast, direct steering will NOT work.
3. Above 10 miles per hour or so, you must use a
counter-steering technique.
Introduction. There are three basic parts to a high-speed turn: turn entry,
steady state and turn exit. The entry phase only lasts a second or so and
requires you to upset the balance of the motorcycle. Yes, to start a highspeed turn you must put the bike into an unbalanced state. Once the bike
is leaned over you make a few adjustments to stabilize the motorcycle and
then do the rest of the turn like you were on a rail. The first part doesn't
sound like fun or make sense, but it works. The second part feels rock
solid and requires little effort. In the third part, turn exit, the partnership
between physics and motorcycle design lifts the bike back up to the
vertical for you. You just manage the process and ride on. We'll examine
all three parts below. Along the way we will ask a couple of related
questions: Why and how is a high-speed turn different from a slow-speed
turn? What is lean angle and why is it important in high-speed turns? We
begin with some physics and theory.
The Physics of High Speed Turns. For turns faster than about 10 miles
per hour something called centripetal force (CF) increases to a level
where it must be managed or the bike will run wide in the turn or fall over.
Because of this increase in CF, point and shoot direct steering no longer
works. Instead you must do something called counter-steering to start the
turn. Unlike slow speed counterbalance turns, at high speed you lean IN to
the turn with your motorcycle. To understand why requires that you know
more about CF.
T h e " C " Wo r d s . A l m o s t e v e r y o n e s a y s " c e n t r i f u g a l
force" (pronounced, cen-trif-u-Gul ) pushes or pulls the motorcycle
to the outside of a turn. Everyone, that is, who is not a physicists or
a physics teacher. Those who have taken the time to do the
reading and the research have learned that there is NO such thing
as centrifugal force. Physicists call centrifugal force a virtual or
phantom force because it doesn't really exist, like an urban legend.
Yes, we did use the word in the last section on slow turns to keep
from introducing too much information at once. Now let’s correct
our vocabulary.
The true force that riders have to deal with in turns is called
"centripetal force." This one is pronounced, cen-TRIP-i-Tal.
Newton's "objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by
some external force" means if you were to accelerate in outer
space and then turn off the engine, you would keep going forever
until you fired reverse thrusters, hit something or a gravity field
hauled you in.
On earth, we slow to a stop because of the friction in bearings and
chain, wind resistance, tires against pavement or dirt, gravity, etc.
While moving, we ALWAYS go straight UNLESS some kind of force
makes us turn.
The force that allows a motorcycle to turn is the friction between the
tires and the riding surface. Any energy or friction that redirects you
from a straight line is centripetal force.
Centripetal Force: What is it and how is it generated?
Sir Isaac Newton again helps us to understand what happens to a
motorcycle in a turn. Remember we talked about his First Law of Inertia in
Chapter 5? Objects in motion stay in motion at a constant speed in a
straight line unless acted upon by an external, unbalanced force. In
motorcycle talk a moving motorcycle and rider are masses in motion.
When you turn the handlebar you create an external, unbalanced force.
The bike turns but you keep going straight ahead. You hang on because
you feel like you are leaving the bike. Your upper and lower body
connections creates the force to keep you on the bike. It’s like Image 7.4
where a weight is tied to a rope that is twirled overhead. The rope provides
the centripetal force to keep the weight turning.
I MAGE 7.4 Centripetal Force at Work.
If you let go of the rope, the weight flies off on a straight line (the red
arrow) in Diagram 7.1. When a motorcycle is in a turn, your upper and
lower body muscles are the attachment rope that keeps you from flying off
the bike. That feeling of being pulled to the outside of the turn is you going
straight while the bike is turning out from under you.
D IAGRAM 7.1 Here the red rope creates the turning
force. On a motorcycle, it is your tires that create the
turning force.
No Traction--No Turn. Steering is a friction force that pull us in towards
the center of the turn. For example, say you are driving a car straight
ahead on a frozen lake. What happens if you turn the steering wheel? You
keep going straight even though the tires are pointed off to one side.
There is not enough traction on the ice to provide the required centripetal
friction force to cause a turn. On dry land, we turn. So why is it then that
we feel a pull to the outside of a turn if centripetal force pulls us to the
inside? The tires that create the turning force are part of the vehicle. The
pull you feel to the outside of the turn is your body trying to keep going
straight. From your point of view, the vehicle is turning out from under you
and you sense the separation.
Physicists call the car a reference frame and the feeling of the separation
reactive centrifugal force. When you hang on to a motorcycle in a turn,
your muscles create the centripetal force for your body to make the turn
with your bike. The tires are the centripetal force for the bike; your muscles
the centripetal force for your body. If this sounds confusing, you are
normal. It confuses everybody. The reason this section is here is to give
you a heads-up about a common problem first-time riders have in fast
turns. Some, like in the videos, end up crashing because they don’t know
about CF and how it changes the way you steer a motorcycle.
I MAGE 7.5 Motorcycle Crash Causes Death of Rider.
This motorcycle ran wide in a right hand curve. The truck was
coming the other way. The rider died on impact with the front
bumper and grill. The driver of the truck survived and the fire
that followed melted the radiators of both vehicles.
Counter-Steering. In the section on slow turns you learned to point the
front tire in the direction you want to go. Remember? It's called direct
steering or sometimes point and shoot steering. If you try that at speeds
over 10 miles per hour or so, the handlebar will fight back!
The bars will be hard to turn, the motorcycle will not lean in and you will
run wide in the corner. On the street that can mean running off the road or
crossing into oncoming traffic. You MUST know how to counter-steering to
ride a motorcycle faster than about 10 mph or so.
To counter-steer means you must Push Right to Go Right or Push Left
to Go Left at the beginning of the turn, to get the bike to lean in.
Let’s say that again: to make a motorcycle lean IN to a fast turn, you must
steer in the opposite direction of the intended turn until the motorcycle
leans over. Once the proper lean angle is established the rider stops
counter-steering and continues on through the turn to the exit point.
It doesn't make sense but it works. Pushing the right handgrip for a split
second steers the bike left and leans the bike IN to a right hand turn.
Pushing the left grip steers the bike right and leans the bike in to a left
hand turn. New riders don't do this unless they have been coached. It's
counterintuitive. In the beginning, you have to do it on faith. Eventually it
becomes automatic and it works so well and is so easy riders don't even
think about it.
Learning to counter-steer is one of the many reasons why you should take
a basic rider course for street bikes or a Dirt Bike School for off-road.
Be Careful: Your first ride should be slow and easy. If you want to do a
slow turn but you can’t lean your bike over or if the handlebar resists, you
are probably going too fast for direct steering. Slow down. There is plenty
to work on in first gear your first time out.
Be Careful: This deserves repeating— on your first ride keep it slow!
After The Ride
Engine Off and Park
Making it even better
next time
What did I miss?
Section 1 Stopping and Getting Off
When It Is Time To Park There Are Still Things To Do.
1. Be sure the ignition key is turned off.
2. Getting off the bike.
3. Park Smart—
Don’t come back to a bike lying on its side.
Stopping the Engine
There are three ways to turn off the engine:
Kill Switch/Button. The engine stop switch is usually RED and located
where you can use it without taking your hand off of the handlebar. That
way you can get to the kill button in an emergency and still maintain
control. Get in the habit of using it so it becomes automatic. If you use the
stop engine button, don't forget to turn off the key or a dead battery may
Key Off. Turn the ignition key to the off position.
Clutch out in gear at an idle to stall the engine. Lugging the engine to
stall a motorcycle is not a good idea. It can stretch the chain unevenly and
is hard on the transmission. But it is a tool to be used if your kill button
fails and you don't want to let go of the handlebar for some reason to turn
off the key. It should be done ONLY WHEN STOPPED:
1. Hold the front brake on firmly.
2. Pick a higher gear (3+).
3. Throttle at idle.
4. Release the clutch slowly.
5. The engine will lug and die.
6. If there is an ignition key, turn it off.
Getting Off the Bike on a Hard Surface
It’s easier to dismount on pavement or hard ground because the sidestand will help hold the bike up as you get off. Remember the ground must
be hard enough to keep the side-stand foot from sinking in. Also, the sidestand must be strong enough to support the weight of both you and your
motorcycle. Unfortunately some are not.
This is one common way for a rider to get off of a parked motorcycle:
1. Turn the engine off and leave the bike in-gear.
2. Left hand on the left grip with the clutch lever OUT.
3. Right hand on the right grip with front brake lever IN (ON).
4. Turn the handlebar full lock to the right.*
5. With the right boot on the ground, extend the side stand with your left
6. Lean the bike over onto the side-stand. Test for stability.
7. With your left boot on the ground to take your weight, swing your right
leg over the seat and stand-up.
* Some riders do not turn the handlebars all the way to the right before
putting their side stand down. This is a matter of side-stand length and
personal preference.
Getting Off the Bike on Soft Ground
On a soft surface, the side stand might sink in, causing the bike tip over as
you get off. You have to hold the bike up and get off at the same time. It’s
not as tough as it sound.
This is one common way to get off of a motorcycle on SOFT ground:
1. Turn the engine off and leave the bike in-gear.
2. Left hand on the left grip with the clutch lever OUT.
3. Right hand on the right grip with front brake lever IN (ON).
4. With the right boot on the ground, extend the side stand with your left
5. Turn the handlebar full lock to the right.
6. This is the hard part. Think of the two wheels of the motorcycle and
your left boot as a tripod. When all three points are in balance, swing
your right leg over the seat and step off.
Don’t forget to keep the front brake ON.
Most of the time riders get off on the left because that is where the sidestand is. Just for variety, try getting on and off from the right.
Section 2 - Post-Ride Checks
Find And Fix Problems Before Your Next Ride.
1. Make sure the motorcycle is ready for next time.
2. Make notes while the ride is fresh in your mind.
3. What did I miss?
After The Ride. Just like a pilot getting ready for takeoff, it’s a good idea
to look over your bike before you take off. But what if during the pre-ride
check you find a BIG problem and can't ride? That is why experienced
riders also do post-ride checks before putting their motorcycle away. That
way, if repairs are needed or parts have to be ordered, there is plenty of
time before your next ride. Even if the post-ride check is OK, stuff happens
in storage or transport, so pre-ride checks are needed too.
Park Safely. Remember there is usually NO Parking Brake on a
motorcycle. If you are going to park on a slope consider leaving the bike in
gear. Also, on slopes, point the front wheel uphill to keep the side stand
from folding back if the bike rolls downhill a little.
Fuel Valve. Modern motorcycles
I MAGE 8.1 The Petcock, a Manual Fuel Valve.
have an automatic fuel shutoff
valve. Some bikes don’t, so you
must turn off the gas when you
park. The fuel shutoff valve is
called a “petcock” and will be
described in the owner’s
manual. This is usually the same
valve that controls your reserve
gas supply if you are running low
on fuel. Check it out.
Section 3 - How Did It Go ?
Experience Is A Great Teacher
1. What went well?
2. What didn’t work or could be better?
3. What do I need to do before my next ride?
This section is for you to work with on your own. Racers in competition
make a ton of notes about their practice sessions and races. Things like
suspension adjustments, tire pressures, etc. They also keep track of what
worked and what didn’t. The three ring binders of the old days are now
iPads and smartphones. This idea of keeping track of stuff is important
because there is too much going on to remember all the details. After your
ride take a minute to record your thoughts. Check out your bike and make
sure it’s ready for next time. Who knows, you may end up writing a blog.
These are reminders of what you should be thinking about after you park
the bike:
Lessons Learned?
What went well During the Ride?
Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice.
What didn’t work or could be better next time?
My To-Do List:
What do I need to do before my next ride?
Thanks For Reading...
There are many stories about first-ride experiences. For some it is the
beginning of an incredible journey. A love of riding that lasted a lifetime.
For a few, their first ride was their last. Why the difference?
There are many reasons. A few crashed their first time out. They didn’t
plan well and their bad experience burned away all desire. For others,
especially girls, a friend took them for a ride and decided to show off.
Instead of joy and curiosity, she came back with fear and never got back
on. Some just received bad coaching or were never given the chance to
feel the true passion that motorcycles can create.
You are going for it and you are doing it right! Reading this book was a
good start. Hopefully it gave you some things to think about. Now go find a
good teacher. Plan on a few lessons before you start to “get it!”
If you take your time your world will change. The amazing feelings of
freedom, partnership and self-control that are just ahead will last in your
heart and mind forever.
Good Luck and Safe Riding,
M OVIE 9.1 So Many Adventures Ahead
M OVIE 9.2 Just Give It Some Time and Effort...
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