10 things no one tells you about learning to ride motorcycles

These are the things that no one ever told me when I was learning to ride my motorcycle, I just had to learn them for myself. But you don't have to!

  1. The "motorcycle wave." Right when you're getting comfortable riding your new bike around the streets and you're challenging yourself by going on busier roads, a fellow motorcyclist is going to throw a curve ball right your way in the form of a friendly gesture. It's called the motorcycle wave. And you're expected to wave back! So, along with keeping track of which lever is the break and which is the clutch, keeping track of which gear you're in, making sure your turn signals are on and off when they should be, etc... now you have to take your hand off the grip and wave to a stranger?!?! Which hand - left or right? What do you do, stick your palm up in the air and wave like a beauty pageant contestant, or do you reach a closed fist straight forward like you're punching the air? My advice: don't even worry about it. So what if some fellow motorcyclist gets a little butt hurt because she/he didn't get a wave back. What's important is that you keep your mind on controlling your machine and not crashing.
  2. Road kill. Road kill is just gross, but it's extra gross when you're on a motorcycle. It's not more dangerous or anything (don't run it over! a bone can puncture a tire, it happens more often than you might think) it's just really gross that's all.
  3. Air up your tires. You're going to need to air up motorcycle tires much more frequently than a car's tires. It's because they're smaller and hold much less air, so a little bit of air loss will make a big difference in their pressure. And, unlike a cars tires, it's also much more dangerous to run on low tire pressure. It really affects the handling of the bike. I check mine at least twice a month.
  4. Don't tailgate the car in front of you. When you're closely following the vehicle in front of you, you can't see potential dangers laying in the road: potholes, bumps, debris, rocks, roadkill (see #2). And, despite popular opinion, you're far more likely to rear-end the vehicle in front of you than a car is to rear-end you from behind, especially when you're just learning to ride.
  5. Don't ride around on rural, country roads. Why not? They're scenic, pleasurable, and an escape from the crowded cities. Why would you want to avoid them? Answer: dogs. Mean country dogs that are not on a leash! Their owners keep 'em mean and unleashed for a reason: to guard the property. But it's a dangerous and irresponsible practice. The dogs jump out into the street and get right in front of the speeding car/bike/whatever. My friend's dad died after wrecking his motorcycle from trying to dodge a country dog. I met a guy who broke his back in a similar wreck but on a bicycle. I've personally came across three of these mean country dogs but thankfully I was in my pickup truck. And even then I wasn't safe!
  6. Keep an eye on your turn signals. Car drivers are used to the turn signal (or blinker, or winker) returning to the off position after making the turn, but it doesn't work like that on motorcycles. It's extremely easy to accidently leave them on after making the turn. This is very dangerous however, because it invites a vehicle to pull out in front of you thinking you're turning before you get to their position. In the worst case, you'll T-Bone them and it's your fault. If you think that it would be difficult to not see that they're on, you'd be wrong. Glare from the sun and/or my full face helmit easily blinds me from my turn signal indicator light on the speedo gauge, and my small, aftermarket winker lights can surprisingly go unnoticed for miles. Also, it's just embarrassing.
  7. You're going to scuff your left shoe on every pair you own. It will happen right above your left big toe. What causes it? The shift lever! 
  8. You don't want a cheap helmet. A $100 helmet may protect your noggin just as well as a $500 one, but you'll soon learn the meaning of the phrase, "you get what you pay for." They are heavy, hot, uncomfortable, fog up easily, hard to get on and off, loud, and don't fit well. What this all adds up to: you won't wear it. What good is a helmet if you don't wear it?
  9. Wear ear plugs. If you're riding for long periods of time at high speeds, you'll really wish you had ear plugs in. It's not the sound of the exhaust, it's the wind. And it's loud! In fact, many old bikers report getting tinnitus - a serious audiological and neurological condition described as a high-pitched ringing sound that only you can hear. You don't want tinnitus!
  10. The air is a lot colder when flying through it. It's like a wind-chill thing. The 2 degree change between shade and full sun will feel like a 20 degree change. Interestingly, when the ambient temp is above 100 degrees Fareheit, the air actually feels hotter on a motorcycle! Like you're in a blast furnace.