- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 02 September 2014
When we're learning something for the very first time, there's always the possibility that we'll make a few rookie errors along the way. In fact, sometimes it's the mistakes we make that help us to learn, adapt and improve our skills.
If asked, the majority of advanced bikers will happily recall mistakes they made when first getting to grips with riding on two-wheels and, new-rider or not, we're all guilty of making mistakes every now and then – we're only human!
But, whereas some mistakes can be easily corrected, others can have pretty drastic consequences, particularly if you're a new rider who has still got some learning to do. If this sounds like you, knowing the common mistakes made by newbies will help you to take measures to ensure you aren't one of them. So, what are the most common mistakes? Let's take a look...
1: Taking on too much at the start
So, you've passed your test. Well done. But, it's true what they say: "You don't learn to ride; you learn to pass your test." The real learning starts when you are out on the road and on your own for the very first time. The real learning is when you learn how to identify and deal with bad road users, obstructions and dangers. Just like any other skill, learning to ride a bike properly will take time and patience.
But this doesn't mean throwing yourself in at the metaphorical deep-end and hoping for the best. Take it steady, gradually increasing the time you spend riding each day. Riding can be very tiring, both mentally and physically. Taking on too much could result in an incident that will knock your confidence, meaning you'll have to start from the beginning again.
2: Riding in a group before mastering solo
If you've got mates that have been riding for a while it's tempting to jump on your bike for a group ride as soon as you can. However, you need to make sure that you're confident riding solo before you start embarking on group adventures. Riding with friends can be extremely distracting; you'll constantly want to keep up with more experienced bikers which could be dangerous if you haven't developed sufficient skills, and other riders might not be sympathetic to your lack of experience which could mean you push yourself harder than you should at this early stage.
3: Buying a big/quick/new bike
So your mates all have super-quick machines? Good for them. But just because they do doesn't mean that you should too. Believe us when we say you'll become a better rider quicker by practising and developing your skills on a smaller, slower bike - plus it'll be cheaper to run and insure. Then, once you've had a couple of years of experience and feel confident in your riding, you can trade in your bike for a quicker one. It's as simple as that.
Similarly, it's a good idea to start off on a second-hand bike as opposed to buying yourself a brand new model. Start off on something older, and look forward to the day when you can buy yourself a sparkling new machine.
4: Only looking forward
Yes, you're right, it's extremely important to look in the direction you're travelling but you should also be watching everything around you as well – the man in the car to the left that looks like he's getting out; the pedestrians approaching the crossing; the car behind you driving a little too close. So, as well as looking ahead, you need a 360 degree perception of your surroundings.
5: Not dressing appropriately
Clothing acts as the barrier between your skin and the road surface when you (or someone around you) makes a mistake and you come off. You may see other riders just wearing jeans and a t-shirt and cruising around on summer days, but those thin layers of cotton offer little or no protection from the abrasive road. Even time-hardened riders should wear appropriate clothing but when first starting on your biking career you should pay particular attention to good leathers, gloves and boots and learn how to stay warm when the weather turns.
One rookie wardrobe error that pretty much every rider will do from time to time is to forget to buckle their helmet. Apart from being illegal this is also extremely dangerous, so if you notice it's not locked in place while riding (the strap often clatters about in the wind) pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and buckle up. Don't try to correct it while riding as thick leather gloves and small clasps make this an almost impossible - and rather risky - task!
6: Looking at the very thing you want to avoid
A little like the 360 degree perception mentioned previously, you should remember the mantra, 'if I look at it I'll hit it'.
This is something that you have to get used to as it's difficult to describe. But, the next time you are riding on a dual carriageway with cat's eyes, try crossing the lanes (where it's safe to do so, obviously) once while looking at a cat's eye, and once without.
The serious side to this is when you experience hazards in the road. If you look at the hazard (be it a dead squirrel, discarded takeaway carton, small child or even a corner that you've overcooked) you are far more likely to avoid it if you look at where you want to be rather than the hazard itself.