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I call this Advice to New Riders, because it's something that I share anytime I'm talking too a newbie excited about getting their first motorcycle. But I find it applies to almost everyone who rides, no matter you own level of experience. So I thought I'd share it here.
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Motorcycling can be a lifelong passion, but you have to be smart about it and remain ever vigilant.

The training mentioned below is mostly US-based, but there are similar courses around the world, and most of the books/videos will apply no matter which side of the road you happen to ride on.

My best advice for newer riders: understand that motorcycling is a skill, and focused training and proper practice can make you a better, smoother, safer rider.

Experienced riders understand the Fundamental Truth of riding: Motorcycles aren't inherently dangerous (despite what naysayers will repeat ad nauseam), but they are quite unforgiving of mistakes.

Every rider has to know their own skill level (regardless of the bike they're riding), but it's sometimes hard to know just where that skill level is. And even harder to learn how to raise that skill level without putting yourself and others at serious risk.

As a kid, you didn't just jump on a bicycle and head directly out into the busy street, did you? I imagine you were given a small starter bicycle, maybe with training wheels, and you rode around the driveway or backyard until you got better at balancing, steering, and stopping. Then the training wheels came off, and you graduated to bigger bicycles as your skills grew.

Motorcycling is much the same. Start small, build your skills and your confidence, then progress as your time, experience, and budget allows. Most of that has to be done on the bike, of course, but there are several good resources that you can use during the down time to help improve your understanding of motorcycle physics and best riding practices.

And when you are riding, your entire attention should be focused on the ride. No distractions, no stressing about work or family or relationships or life. And no riding impaired under any substance, legal, illegal, or otherwise. You have to focus 100% of your energy on the road. Remember, your #1 goal is to make it safely to your destination, no matter what the road throws at you.

It bears repeating that ATGATT should be your normal mode right from the beginning. This brings us to another Fundamental Truth about riding: Pavement hurts, but with the right gear, you can walk away relatively unscathed. Remember, it's much easier to repair/replace a broken motorcycle than a broken person...

But it's better not to crash, obviously, which is where skills training comes in.

Focused, professional training from a qualified instructor is always worth your time and effort. Having a skilled professional trainer watch you from outside and critique your style is invaluable in reaching that next skill level, and in building confidence.

Even after 4 decades and around 600,000 miles on two wheels, I still take regular training courses and track days, still read up on riding skills and accident avoidance, and still "practice" on every single ride. It's what keeps you safe out there.

The MSF offers their Basic Rider Course and Advanced Rider Course, which are well worth the small time and money commitments. Some riders might already be at that point, or beyond, so they'd be looking towards developing more advanced riding skills, as mentioned below.

Riders of any skill level can start with reading things like Twist of the Wrist I & II by Keith Code, Smooth Riding - the Pridmore Way by Reg Pridmore, and Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well, More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride, & Street Rider's Guide: Street Strategies for Motorcyclists by David Hough.

Many of the ideas and techniques explained above can be practiced locally. Just find a large empty parking lot if you're in the city, or a lonely side road if you're out in the country, and try to recreate what the books are telling you.

And if you're interested in doing much longer rides, you should read Don Arthur's excellent Fatigue and Motorcycle Touring, which I re-read before every extended multi-day ride.

Then continue with the Twist of the Wrist I & II videos (can also be found on YouTube).

And don't forget some helpful websites, such as The Pace, The Fine Art of Braking, and TrackDoD Novice Group Orientation.

That will set you up for a skills-based track day such as Ride Smart, where the point isn't to "win" or to "put a knee down" but rather to expand your riding skill set by practicing all the above ideas in a safe and controlled environment, with immediate feedback from qualified instructors.

You can also look at instructor-based training, such as Lee Parks Total Control program. And there are several other places that offer one-on-one training as well.

Skills-based track days and private training can be found all over the country, if only you search for such things.

That should keep you busy for a while.

And remember to enjoy the ride...
 

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safety on two wheels

Practice is the most important plus always be aware of your surroundings. To be blunt about my philosophy for riding but here it goes: WHEN OUT ON THE BIKE, ASSUME THAT NOBODY SEES YOU. IF THEY DO SEE YOU, THEY WANT TO KILL YOU!!! I ALWAYS WATCH CARS WHEELS WHEN I AM APPROACHING AN INTERSECTION WHERE SIDE CARS ARE STOPPED.

This is just my way of surviving. So far it has worked for 54 years of riding motorcycles.
 

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Practice matters, but it must be good practice, based on solid principles. That's where the books, videos, and instructor courses come in.

I always assume I'm invisible on the bike. I'm watching them, whether or not they see me.

But I never subscribed to the "they're trying to kill me" philosophy. If you're on a bike, and someone is actively trying to harm you, then you dämn well know it.

The truth is that you simply don't even register to them at all. You may as well not even exist to them.

And that's even more scary...
 
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Good stuff.

For performance riding skill building, it is hard to beat Keith Code's system + a bunch of TDs.

For sheer enjoyment of road riding, particularly with a small group of like-skilled riders, Nick Ienatsch's The Pace are the golden rules to ride by. Allow me to add The Pace 2.0, which further clarified some of the concepts in the original article.

As for Street Smart, there is no substitute for experience on public roads. I'll just add that attitude and keeping a cool head is vitally important. There is absolutely no point to argue or to get mad, or even to express your displeasure to others, with whom you share the road. Doing any of that is wasting precious attention that could be used for more productive tasks. Watch out of hazards, get passed them as quickly as you can, then forget about it, and start scanning for other hazards.
 

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The mention of Keith Code reminded of an experience I had last summer. I was returning to Idaho Falls from Raleigh N.C. and I'm in my seat waiting for the boarding to finish and I see this guy coming down the isle and I recognize him as Keith Code , well he ends up sitting next to me on the flight so I have to make sure first and not make a fool out of myself so I say "you look familiar do you have a racing school and he says I own the California Superbike School and I said that's what I thought your Keith Code right. So we start a conversation about BMW's and I tell him that I had worked as a track marshall and flagger at WSB for a couple of years at Salt Lake and one year we did tire control in the BMW factory pits when Corser and Xaus were members of the factory team, so we start discussing the S100RR's that he uses at the school, and some of World Champions that have come through his school since the 70's, he said he has over a million miles on S1000's and never had an a defect related engine failure which I thought was interesting. He kind of fits the California life style kind of persona, pretty laid back and not a very big guy but very interesting to talk to.
 
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Lots of good information here.

In addition to the numerous points given, I’d like to contribute to this thread.

I absolutely hate going out with riding gear that nags me. Perhaps a pair of riding socks that has a stitch seam that annoys me or Velcro from the armor pockets on my pants that rubs against my skin. They are all detractors that prevent me from the real task at hand, to enjoy the ride safely. If you feel marginalized from your equipment, it compromises your psyche. If your head in not in the game, you’re useless.

Going out for a ride with your hooligan friends for the day? Prepare for it with proper nutrition and hydration. Load up on the electrolytes the day before. Eating long lasting proteins before the ride keeps your mind sharp.

If you’re a spiritual person, saying a prayer before your ride can’t hurt. The best part of my ride is coming home, safe and sound.
 
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