There’s nothing quite like taking your two-wheeled pride and joy out for a spin on a beautiful summer’s day. But even after years of taking trips on a motorbike, many riders are always striving to make their experience even better, by seeking out ways to improve their riding skills.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been riding, there’s always room for improvement. And by brushing up on some of the essential skills, you can make your next trip on the roads far more enjoyable. So, here’s 8 ways to give your skills a boost…
1 – Use reference points to keep a good following distance
It’s never stress-free when you’re riding in traffic, and it doesn’t help with the vehicle in front of you is moving particularly slowly. However, don’t ever be tempted to ride too close to the vehicle in front of you, because this will drastically reduce your reaction time should something happen. Make use of reference points to keep a good distance away.
2 – Remember to cover your brakes at junctions
Junctions can be dangerous no matter what vehicle you’re driving, but unfortunately you’re always more vulnerable on a motorbike. It’s often the case that other road users simply ‘didn’t see’ a motorcycle until it was too late, and an accident had already happened.
You can’t always trust that other motorists will obey the rules of the road, so covering your brakes at a junction is recommended. By covering your brakes, you’ll reduce your reaction time, which could make all the difference when it comes to avoiding a vehicle that suddenly turns left for example.
3 – Be lighter for longer on the brakes
Speaking of your bike’s brakes – Jumping on them suddenly when you want to stop can really impact your traction in a negative way. It’s never advisable to do this, so instead try to be as smooth and soft as you can possibly be when using your brakes. And when you release them, be just as smooth.
By going easier on the brakes, you’ll soon find your riding to be smoother and more enjoyable as a result. It will feel as though you have far more control, and can actually handle your two-wheeler with a little more ease.
4 – Don’t get fixated on a target
You’ve probably been in the situation where you notice something in the road, a bit of debris, a large rock, or tree branch. Then before you know it, you’ve become fixated on it and ran straight over it on your motorbike.
It sounds simple, but always remember that your motorbike will go where you look. So when you get fixated on a piece of debris in the road, chances are you’re going to hit it. Instead, keep focusing on where you want to go, as opposed to looking at the edges of the road. Don’t fix your stare, look around the obstacle and your bike will follow.
5 – Watch your cornering speed
It’s all too easy to go into a corner way too hot. When this happens you usually have to suddenly make a series of rapid-fire adjustments just to stay upright and on your line. But this obviously shouldn’t be the case.
Whenever you’re approaching a corner, remember to always adjust your speed, and make sure to get your ride under control and in the right lane position before you lean to enter the turn. If you enter the turn in control and at a comfortable speed, you’ll be in a better position to accelerate out of a curve.
6 – Get the right gear
Improving your bike skills is also about what you’re wearing when you’re riding too. It really pays to wear the right gear for you. For example, you should aim to dress appropriately for the temperature that you’re going to encounter. When riding for long distances, the heat you encounter during the day can soon give way to much colder temperatures in the evening. So make sure you’re prepared for this.
Getting caught in a heavy rain shower will be a nightmare without a jacket that’s water resistant. And if you carry on riding in wet jeans, you can even risk hypothermia when the temperature drops. All of which will of course have serious side-effects on your riding. Having the right gear isn’t just a safety issue, it’s to ensure your own comfort out on the roads too.
7 – Make sure your ride fits you
This one is straightforward. In order to ride at your best, you need a motorbike that really fits you. Even after you’ve settled on a particular model, you can still make some slight adjustments to it. For example, most motorbikes allow you adjust the handlebars by loosening the clamp at the center, and twisting them forward and aft.
Even minor tweaks can suddenly transform how you feel when riding your motorbike. Keep in mind that some models have adjustable hand controls, which allow you to tweak them until you get the right tension and grip you’re comfortable with. Seats can be altered to fit your height, footpegs can be moved etc. All to make you feel more comfortable and secure.
8 – Perfect your skills with practice
Of course boosting your riding skills really comes with practice and expanding your own knowledge. Thankfully there’s an abundance of web sites, books and articles about motorcycle safety, low speed practice, riding basics, and anything else you need to know.
It’s important you don’t feel bad if you need to brush up on the basics every now and then, or getting some advanced training in. As more training is only ever going to be a good thing for you.
Things like track days can be great for building up your skills, even if you never intend on racing your motorbike, they can make you a better street rider too. Track days let you practice in a controlled environment without worrying about oncoming traffic. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to look at specialist motorbike insurance cover when attending track days.
You can also attend safety demonstrations and riding clinics, anything that gives you feedback on your riding. Remember it’s not about being the perfect motorbike rider, it’s about improving gradually so that you enjoy taking trips on your two-wheeler even more.