Browsing the internet over the weekend had made me realize that I no longer look forward to riding during long weekends or official holidays. Just the thought of being with the thousands of other motorists on their exodus out of the Metro, and eventually going back to the Metro makes me sick. Could you imagine being stuck in traffic 300 kilometers south of Manila? Or worse, having to fall in line just to use the men's restroom? No thank you. I'd rather ride my motorcycle during a non-holiday when there are fewer vehicles on the road and fewer people at the gas stations trying to pee.
But as I look back, these are the same instances of the year that I've used to be excited about, especially during my younger days of riding motorcycles. It also made me realize that there are a lot of things that I used to do when I was a newbie motorcycle rider that I often see now with other riders on the road.
Below is a collection of tell-tale signs that YOU are a newbie motorcycle rider:
- Going full speed on straights but chickening out on curves
Yes! Sometimes the truth hurts. I also used to be this way, getting all fired up at the first sign of a straight road, especially the wide ones where there's very little vehicle volume.
Curves, on the other hand, cause these same riders to chicken out. When they do attack, they take a bizarre line through the curve, making poor braking and cornering decisions, and possibly causing a mishap.
Clearly, riders like these are just showing off. These long stretches require nothing more than twisting the throttle. Curves on the other hand require a bit more skill.
Perhaps it's because of fear or a lack of skills that are acquired through years of motorcycle riding. There's no replacement for the wisdom gained from seat time and learning from these early mistakes. It’s ok to go slow on corners, so long as you tackle them the right way. But don’t be a show off and rocket through every single straight road. Read our guide here on how to properly take them on, and steadily improve your skills.
- Having the “no one is faster than me” mindset
While there are new motorcycle riders who understand and accept the fact that they are not yet as “skilled” as the other more experienced riders, there are many, many noob riders who think that no one is faster than them or their ride. I often see a lot of my fellow motorcycle riders convert a normal traffic stoplight into a drag strip, keen to race everyone that pulls up beside them.
Overtake one of these guys in twisty roads like Marilaque and they will take it as a challenge. Sometimes, these noobs will even practice their “racing form” (from watching Rossi) and tail closely. These poor decisions, like racing every other rider, often lead to accidents or bruised egos.
There will always be someone faster than you on the road. No one is born a riding prodigy or expert. Most important of all, not everyone wants to race. Maintain discipline on the road and if you want to race, take it to the racetrack.
- Having the “I'm invincible” mindset
An awful lot of newbie riders think that they are invincible, exhibiting the first two signs mentioned above or sometimes much more. You can see these guys snake through fast-moving traffic like there's no tomorrow, or cut off another vehicle or fellow motorcyclist on the road. Aggressive maneuvers like these have no place on the road and are disrespectful and reckless. They may earn the approval of other reckless riders but will only earn the ire of law-abiding motorists.
Practice courtesy when on the road. It’s also important to be aware of the fact that motorcycle riders are actually the most vulnerable road users. There is very little protection in the event of an accident. All it takes is a loose surface, oil on the road, or even a bump to lose traction and either highside or lowside.
- Believing that helmets are just for compliance
Yes, I also had this mindset during my early days of riding. In fact, at the time, I would rather buy the cheapest helmet I could get my hands on than spend for decent head protection. Complying with the Motorcycle Helmet Act felt like just another obligation rather than ensuring my own safety.
Newbies also tend to think that there's no need to wear a helmet when riding just few blocks or to the nearby store. What possible incident could happen in such a short distance? Quite a lot of motorcycle accidents happen when riders let their guard down. It's during these short trips where we should exercise the most caution and ensure we're properly protected. And don't scrimp on helmets, they can save your life. Read about what to look for here.
- Respect given depends on the pricetag, power, displacement or speed of the bike
Let's face it. Some newbie riders believe that the respect they should afford a rider is highly dependent on the displacement, power, or performance of the motorcycle they ride, especially if it's superior to theirs. Therefore, slower motorcycles or those with lower displacements than what they ride don't deserve their respect. Respect can be measured in a lot of ways.
Measuring a biker up by their ride is foolish and presumptuous. Lots of riders choose a particular bike for one reason or another, not simply because they can’t afford bigger or better bikes.
In the same vein, respect should be given equally to all riders, regardless of experience, skill, or bike. Just because a rider doesn't carve corners, it doesn't mean they're any less skilled or less deserving of respect.
Whether they're on a small or big bike, offer them the same space on the road, the same distance when overtaking, and the same courtesy when parking or on foot. You wouldn’t want to be snubbed by another rider just because he thought your bike was small and slow.
- Knowing little about your own bike
Riding and maintaining a bike involves a lot of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) repairs and maintenance. Hence, it’s important to get to know your bike and some of its components. Take the time to know some of the elements of your engine, like the spark plug, whether its carbureted or fuel injected, or belt or chain driven.
Knowing this is not only interesting but can also help you figure out how to address problems when they crop up. Plus, knowledge of your own bike, similar models, and the various terminology makes for a great conversation starter and can help you meet new friends while on the road.
- Believing everyone’s advice on riding
When talking about riding, you’ll hear advice like, “I change my motorcycle engine oil every 1,000 kilometers and you should too;” “You must not use engine brake because brake pads are cheaper compared to clutch lining;” or “use only the front brake when braking since MotoGP racers do it that way;” and many more.
There’s a lot of myths and conflicting advice out there. And while these other riders mean well, oftentimes, it’s not the best advice for all.
Different bikes have different oil change intervals. There are situations when it’s best to use engine brake and situations when it isn’t. The rear brake is fitted on a bike for a reason, and just because MotoGP racers use it sparingly, doesn’t mean you should too.
Here's a tip: read the owner's manual for motorcycle maintenance and search for expert advice online. With regards to the other stuff about riding in general, you'd be surprised how wrong some of the advice you hear can be. We have two articles just to tackle some of these common myths. Take it all in with a grain of salt, and verify it with experts or on the internet before applying it yourself.
- Installing a part just because another rider did
Not every part will make your bike better. Some of them can even cause more problems than solutions. It’s important to understand what these parts do, whether they’re simply aesthetics, improve ergonomics or give real performance gains.
Many noobs fit parts just because they saw another rider fit them on his bike. Slider on a grab bar? How about a “racing” lever guard? Red headlights – seriously?
Don’t just copy what others do. Take some time to study these parts and find out if they’re right for you. Most important of all, find out if they’re even legal. Some improvements (like red headlights) are illegal and may lead to confiscation at the next checkpoint.
- Not bringing enough money for a ride
Riding with your buddies is fun. However, it’s not a charity. You are also responsible for yourself and that includes having enough dough to cover your expenses during the ride. I myself have been guilty of this during my younger riding days because I miscalculated the duration of our ride and underestimated the expenses.
If you're not sure how much your entire ride will cost, ask a more experienced riding buddy for tips so that you'll have an idea of gear and how much money to bring. Maybe even bring a little bit more extra than you expect to spend. You’ll never know when you might encounter a flat, need to buy parts, or worse, have to commute home because your bike broke down.
- Coming unprepared
This is a continuation of number 9. Each ride can be different and some require more preparation than others. As a newbie rider, it’s easy to forget items or just jump onto every single ride invitation.
Find out where you’re going and what gear you’ll need. Bring the essential tools for your bike. Don’t rely on your riding buddies to bring everything. That way, you don’t pack too much or too little for what could be a 2-day or so ride. Whatever it is, saddle time will teach you how to prepare for future rides.
There you have it. These are only some of my observations and not all newbie riders are necessarily like this. Don’t worry about making these abovementioned mistakes, whether you’ve been riding for a month, two years or even ten years. Some experienced riders still practice these newbie habits. Hopefully, we can all learn to get past these misconceptions.