If you’ve never been on a motorcycle road trip, or much less driven one before, you have nothing to sweat. Motorcycle learning courses are designed to help beginners ride with confidence and proficiency. Trainers help you get acquainted with the motor, gears and skills before you even hop on a bike. Riding classes can also serve as a refresher for people who haven’t ridden in a long time.
With a combination of classroom instructions and practical riding, learning how to drive a motorbike is an exciting venture. Peterson’s Harley-Davidson® has put together this brief guide to give you insight on what to expect during a motorcycle course and the numerous abilities you can gain.
Benefits of Taking a Motorcycle Safety Course
Depending on your age and state of residency, you may need to pass a DMV-approved class before obtaining a motorcycle license. However, completing a motorcycle safety course can often take the place of a DMV skills test. It can also help you receive discounted motorcycle insurance. Make sure to inquire about your local DMV’s regulations. You will want to check your state’s endorsement laws for motorcycles to see what the licensing process requires, as well. Some may include a knowledge test along with a driven exam.
If you decide to take a motorcycle safety course, organizations and companies across the U.S. offer sessions. When you opt for a personalized safety class, you receive full attention from an instructor. Certified coaches provide expert guidance to new drivers, and are available to answer questions and aid you with any concerns. They also provide feedback and advice from a professional standpoint.
Motorcycle classes are open to all ages that meet standard driving stipulations. For example, you must be 16 years or older with the proper eligibility of on-road training hours from your state.
According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, about one in five motorcycle owners is female. Data in their research also suggests females have the potential to make up 25% of motorcycle owners. Among all age groups, women make up 19% of motorcycle drivers, and in 2018, research showed even more ownership among younger generations. Among Generation X, 22% of motorcyclists are women, and Gen Y accounts for 26% of their owners being female.
In 2018, the Motorcycle Industry Council also determined that 8% of households owned at least one motorcycle, which is the highest recording relevant to past decades. Compared to 2016, the percentage difference to 2018 experienced an increase of about 1.5 million homes.
What to Wear During Motorcycle Training
It’s imperative to wear the proper safety gear, even when taking a learning course. Protective riding gear comes down to safety and comfort. Everything from your helmet down to your boots is necessary to protect you from skids, falls and accidents.
If you invest in motorcycle-specific gear, it will be longer and roomier to accommodate base layers. For the course, however, you can come prepared with general apparel — a helmet, eyewear, shirt, jacket, gloves, pants and shoes. The class may provide a helmet and gloves for each student. Once you begin riding solo, you will need to invest in a complete set of gear.
If you do not have the correct protection, you cannot participate in motorcycle training. No exceptions.
While some organizations provide helmets for students, you can also bring your own if it’s a U.S. government-approved helmet that meets DOT standards. Your helmet should fit snug to your head and not feel loose. It’s also smart to buy one that’s bright and visible to other drivers.
You can choose full-face or three-quarters coverage for the best head and eye protection. Another option is a skullcap, but it does not provide as much cover as full-face solutions. Not only do helmets guard your head and brain during skids and accidents, but they also shield you against elements such as the wind, bugs, sun and road debris.
During your motorbike training course, helmets are critical.
If your helmet provides full-face protection, you do not require further eye protection. Eyewear helps keep dirt, wind and debris to a minimum while enhancing your vision.
If your helmet doesn’t provide full coverage, like with a skullcap, you will need to wear goggles, a face shield or glasses. Prescription glasses are acceptable, but they should have some level of UV protection. Make sure any type of eyewear has shatter-resistant material. Never wear sunglasses at night.
3. Shirt and Jacket
During your motorcycle learning class, wear a long-sleeved shirt that reaches your wrists. Cotton shirts do little to safeguard your skin, and they also offer less wind resistance and warmth. In this case, you have two options — you can wear thicker and more resistant materials or put on a jacket.
Most bike riders wear a jacket because it’s appropriate for different weather conditions and provides an extra layer of protection. Pick one that is abrasion-resistant and has a material that upholds moisture-wicking properties. Smooth-surfaced jackets are ideal when you fall to help you slide on impact, instead of getting caught on the pavement. For example, Kevlar and leather are smart choices for materials.
Your final layer should be longer in the back for added comfort so it won’t bulge up. Look for one with closures at the wrists and neck for better defense from the elements. Also, make sure it has the right amount of ventilation.
Aside from the right top layer and material, you will also want to consider its color. Bright colors and reflectors can help you stand out, especially at night.
4. Full-Fingered Gloves
You may not place gloves at the top of your safety list, but they are essential pieces of gear on and off the course. You can invest in both summer and winter gloves to give you the right comfort and protection during different temperatures.
For example, if you’re riding in extreme heat, you can choose perforated gloves to help with aeration and keep your hands dry. Winter versions will have additional padding and material to keep your extremities warm. Both types should have grips on the fingers and palms to help you hold onto your bike’s handles.
Gloves are essential to protect your hands in the case of a fall. They should have closed backs and no holes. Mechanical, batting or other gloves are not acceptable to wear while training.
Like shirts, many pants do not deliver an adequate amount of protection when riding a motorcycle. Some people choose to wear a base layer underneath their top pair of pants for added protection and comfort.
Jeans, leather pants, heavy cargo pants or chaps are acceptable options. They must be full-length down to your ankles with no holes. Some riding-specific pants even have knee and hip pads for extensive fortification. Apparel like spandex or cotton is not acceptable.
Without the proper pair of shoes, your feet can suffer injuries from the hot exhaust system, as well as the shifting gears. Over-the-ankle boots with little to no heel are the only accepted footwear when training and on the road — think athletic shoes, hiking boots, riding-specific footwear and other options. As long as they have reinforced ankle protection, excellent traction, skid resistance and sturdy rubber soles, you are in good shape.
Motorcycle riding shoes protect your feet, toes and ankles from hot exhaust systems and accidents. Canvas materials and other fabric shoes are not acceptable.
Knowing what to wear during motorbike training involves the understanding of different materials and regulations. It’s much more than wearing a shirt and shoes. Identify what material works best for your environment and which will deliver the most protection.
Aside from the six main pieces of clothing, you may want to consider inclement weather attire. Keep compact rain gear on hand, as well as glove and boot covers if necessary. Rain apparel should be roomier to fit over several layers of protective equipment. Make sure it has tight closures at the neck, wrists and ankles.
There is also cold vs. hot weather wear. If you undergo training during colder weather, you will want to wear several layers of insulating clothing. Thermal apparel, insulated boots and thick socks are many riders’ go-to.
For summer, invest in moisture-wicking, perforated and wind-resistant materials. You will still need to wear full-body protection, but there are ways you can stay cool.
What You Can Expect to Learn Throughout the Course
Motorcycle learning courses often take place over several days, with the total time ranging between 15 and 20 hours. You can expect to spend the majority of your time learning hands-on material with a bike, but you will also undergo classroom education.
Learning in the Classroom
The initial session starts in a classroom setting, so bring paper and a pencil to take notes. You will receive a motorcycle handbook that will cover machine components and functions, proper driving techniques and general know-how.
Beginners will start by understanding how to operate a motorcycle as a responsible rider, along with safety and basic controls. The course is similar to your driver’s license studies. You will learn about different road signs and motorcycle-specific gearshifts. You will even recognize pre-riding inspection steps, the mounting vs. dismounting process and good vs. bad posture.
In the classroom, your instructor will present several audio-visual training aids to teach you specific scenarios. You will also have the chance to form small group discussions to learn as a team.
Learning on the Bike
After the classroom setting, you will make your way to the practice range. It’s a good idea to bring water, sports drinks and snacks to stay hydrated and energized during the outdoor portion. It’s especially vital during the summer, when temperatures can reach extreme levels.
As an off-road, controlled environment, the motorcycle driving course is often in an open parking lot with no obstructions. The second part of the course helps you learn how to handle and maneuver a motorbike through different scenarios.
On your first day, you will learn about the various coaching signals. Trainers communicate with the students through a variety of hand signs, which will help you throughout the course. Then, your teacher will assign each student to an individual motorcycle that is size-appropriate. If your bike is too heavy or small, speak with your instructor to find one that matches your height-to-weight ratio.
When ready, you will mount the bike and start by getting a feel for your motorcycle’s weight. Learning about clutch/throttle coordination is also an essential first step. It’s called the friction zone, which gives you exceptional control and aids you in coordinating the throttle and brakes. Mastering the clutch/throttle lesson gives you the groundwork to learn other riding steps.
Everything in the training course starts easy. For example, your trainer will tell you to walk beside your bike, then walk while sitting on top. They will then give you the go-ahead to shift on your own. Once you feel comfortable on your motorcycle, you begin learning how to start and stop with control and precision. You also start to understand braking, turning and how to shift the gears smoothly.
Your trainer will use cones to set up different courses and real-life scenarios so you can perform different exercises. Each begins with an explanation and a demonstration from your trainers. Several driving skills and maneuvers include:
- Changing lanes
- Controlling skids
- Low and high-speed maneuvering
- Maintaining speed
- Navigating obstacles and hazards
- Progressive braking
- Stopping distances
- Straight-line riding
On top of learning how to operate your bike, you start to acquire turning techniques like handgrip pressure and handlebar movements. More advanced skills you will begin to understand throughout the course include:
- Controlling your bike when stopping in a curve
- Counterweight techniques
- Crossing obstacles
- Driving in areas with limited space
- Focusing on head and eye placement when driving around corners
- Intersection strategies
- Knowing different paths of travel
- Shifting body weight in turns
Throughout the entire process, your trainers will give consistent, rider-specific feedback. Each progression also ends with a debriefing of what you learned. It’s an open-ended opportunity for you to discuss what you gained from the activity and to ask any questions.
How Training Can Help You Prepare for Your Test
Participating in a motorcycle training course helps you prepare for your final motorcycle driving exam. After completing the classroom and riding components of the class, everyone will take a driving test. The instructor will look for your comprehension in necessary skills like stopping, turning, weaving, U-turns, quick stops, swerving and cornering. You must be able to demonstrate fundamental control skills while avoiding hazards and obstacles by using proper techniques. If you perform well, you will pass the motorbike riding course.
Some classes may require a classroom knowledge exam, as well as a hands-on riding evaluation.
Where to Go From Here
After you pass your final exam, the best thing you can do is keep riding. Practice several times a week, whether it’s in a parking lot or traffic-free road. You will want to gain confidence before driving on busy streets because it’s different from the controlled setting of a riding course.
Take it slowly and steadily, then work your way to busier and faster environments. When you feel comfortable, start riding your bike on the highway.
Don’t assume earning a motorcycle license means you know every riding technique. It will take time and practice to foster different skills that are ideal for you and your bike.
Call Peterson's Harley-Davidson
Peterson’s Harley-Davidson is here to support you with the Harley-Davidson® Riding Academy New Rider Course— and when you’re ready, our experts can help you choose the right motorcycle for your adventures. We’ve been serving Miami, FL, and the surrounding areas since 1954 as a family business. When you come to us, we put you first and treat you like family. Our superior service, forged by strong relationships, will get you on the open road — an experience you’ve been eagerly anticipating.
Contact us online or call Peterson's Harley-Davidson® at 833-427-5391. We are excited for you as you begin your motorcycle journey.