If you’ve been riding bicycles, I mean really riding bicycles, as in cycling, racing, or maybe you used it for work to deliver things; you know how to handle weight and speed.
Motorcycling is in a lot of ways a different world, but there’s a lot that stays the same. You already know what to look out for on the road; the slippery things, the unseen, the sneak attacks and belligerents. Now you just have to add in two things: mass and power.
Any motorcycle, scooters included, are absolutely massive compared to a bicycle. Most road bikes weigh around 25 lbs. – the lightest freeway-capable motorcycles weigh at least 350. The torque is enough to destroy a driveway with a twist of the throttle. It is no longer sporting equipment, an attachment to your body; you are attached to it, straddling an engine on two wheels.
To ease the transition, try following these steps:
- Start riding your bicycle with tons of weight. Put on cargo racks and do some bike-packing. You’ve probably already done this, if you have just do it more. Load it up with rocks – seriously. Watch how it handles the corners. You might notice you have to push the handlebars the opposite way you’re turning a bit. That is called countersteering, it’s a trick of physics where the front wheel has to… turn aside to allow the weight to fall forward in the direction of the turn a little? At least that’s how it seems to me. Google it for a better explanation.
- Get a moped or a light scooter, or borrow one. Get used to riding it, and push the limits a bit. Learn how to handle gravel and rough roads. The countersteer needed will be light, but pay attention to the difference between countersteering and just leaning, and where the bike feels like it wants to go when you do each.
- Either load up that light scooter with stuff – groceries or whatever – or move up to a larger scooter. Don’t go higher than 150cc, though. Take it on some highways at 35+ if it can handle it, get used to negotiating traffic. Depending on the laws where you live you may need to take the motorcycle endorsement course before you can ride a larger (50cc+) bike, and if so, take the course.
- Take the motorcycle endorsement course. Yes, you can teach yourself to ride, but you’re much better off getting all the priceless advice that comes from the wisdom of expert-level riders. Most of the most useful information will come from their asides, their lessons learned. If you’ve only ridden scooters with automatic transmissions up to this point, you’ll learn how to shift gears. It’s great to practice on one of their beat-up bikes.
- Get a small motorcycle. Do not get a supersport. Do not even consider anything over 500cc. It doesn’t matter if you can “handle it” or not, you need to build up your skills before moving on.
- Ride that bike a lot, very often, in as many conditions and roads as you feel comfortable on. Push the envelope carefully and keep building up your skills. Have a few close calls, even. Keep riding and learning until you’re completely fluid.
- Either stop there and enjoy the high fuel economy of your 250cc Ninja, or whatever you ended up with, or keep moving up to larger bikes gradually. Go on plenty of test rides on bikes at stores or borrow your friend’s.
And that’s about as much as I can tell you, as I’m on that last step 7 right now. For all I know it could be the last one, but, I’ve only been riding a few months (albeit thousands of miles in those months). Just like it was on your bicycles, motorcycling is a skill set you never stop learning and adding to.
As in all cases, rubber side down.