As someone who was not long ago a brand new rider, these tips come from personal experience that is still fresh in my memory.
1) Find a motorcycle that YOU are comfortable riding
There is a lot of varying opinion about what kind of motorcycle us best for beginners. Some people insist cruisers make a great started bike because of there linear power delivery and low ride height. Others believe a small sportbike is the way to go because they’re light and very forgiving in low speed turns. Regardless of what anyone else tells you that you SHOULD ride, explorer all of your options. Go to some dealers and sit on as many bikes as you can until you find something that feels comfortable.
2) Start with the right gear and actually use it
I have seen a lot of guys get their first bike and then when it comes to the gear, they start piecing together random articles of clothing they think will do the job. Having the right gear not only can and will save your skin (literally) in any kind of accident, even ones at low speed, but it will also give you a huge boost in confidence when riding.
Be very careful with your helmet choice as well. Make sure it is at the very least DOT certified. Some of you may prefer a Snell certified helmet as well. Snell has more stringent standards for testing, however some complain that they are too rigid.
Whatever your choice, make sure it fits you as perfect as possible. My personal favorite manufacturer is HJC because they fit well, are reasonably priced, and provide great protection. You might be interested to browse some their helmets here.
3) Take baby steps
Are you trying to get ready for a professional race or going on taking a cross country road trip 6 months after you start riding? Well, slow your roll. Riding a motorcycle takes a LOT of practice, especially if your riding a big, top-heavy cruiser or a wicked fast supersport bike. Take. Your. Time. There are many riders that crash in their first month by riding above their skill level, getting a bike that is too powerful for them to handle, or by not having the proper training.
You have your whole life to learn to ride, there is no need to rush. Find an empty parking lot nearby to hone your low-speed skills and slowly add longer trips on larger roads little by little. Sometimes it might seem like you’re never going to become a capable rider, but you will. It just takes time and lots of low-risk practice.
4) Take a motorcycle safety course BEFORE you get a bike
Motorcycle safety courses are a great way to learn the fundamentals of riding a motorcycle. Plus, bikes are usually provided by the class, so you don’t have to worry about banging up your own bike and you get to ride at least one bike before making a purchase. These courses are generally pretty cheap, I think mine was $200 and it’s well worth every penny.
5) Know your bike
The only bike you need to know everything about is your own. Spend some time studying it to understand it’s capabilities. What’s the dry and wet weight? What’s the wheelbase length? How powerful are the front and rear brakes? Knowing your bike will help you understand what it can and can’t do in various situations.
6) Learn to pick up your bike… properly
As a beginner, it’s not a question of if you will drop your bike, it’s a question of when. When I got my first bike, it was only 5 minutes after the seller had dropped it off that I dropped the damn thing trying to back it into my garage. It took me a good while to figure out how to get it back upright. When you find yourself alone somewhere with your bike on it’s side, you will be thanking the sweet lord you know you can get it back upright. For this reason, you may also want to find a bike that’s fairly light to start with.
7) Have a contingency plan in every situation
Never take your bike into a situation without an exit strategy. You need to be able to account for variable change in your initial plan. Maybe a car pulls out in front of you. Maybe there’s debris in the road. Maybe maybe maybe. Make sure you are able to safely change your plan at a moment’s notice.
8) Assume everyone is trying to kill you
As you get your bearings and start heading out on real roads with traffic, be aware of the fact that there are a lot of dumb drivers out there, distracted drivers, and just plain bad drivers. The majority of people on the road are good, focused drivers. But you never know which is which. I like to think of it like the agents in The Matrix… they are everywhere and they are nowhere!
9) Find a buddy to ride with if you can
Riding with someone else will not only make you a better rider, but it’s also reassuring to know that someone else is with you if you do something stupid. They will also be able to give you tips on the fly for situations and help keep cars from riding up your ass if they are willing to follow you.
10) If buying from a private seller, have it checked by a mechanic
As a new rider there are few things more terrifying than having something malfunction mid-ride. While you’re trying to focus on learning, the last thing you need is a wrench thrown in your gears. I remember on one of my first rides, my bike stalled going around a slow corner causing me to nearly drop it. You don’t want that to happen. So make sure your bike is road ready and not going to suddenly drop bombs on you.
11) Never, ever, ever cross the double yellow line
A recent study showed that one of the most common mistakes of new and experienced riders was crossing into the oncoming traffic lane while making a turn. At best this is a sloppy start. At worst it’s a fatal mistake. Practice as much as possible at making slow, tight turns to stay on your side of the road.