Like most people in the world, I haven’t been able to ride my bike much over the last 12 months due to various restrictions.
But now, in the UK at least, restrictions are starting to ease and we’re allowed to travel further than our local area.
And for bikers, that means we get to go on some proper ride-outs again!
So this morning, I headed out and was surprised at just how much my riding skills had diminished over the last year.
I used to be refined, polished, and confident.
Today I was wobbly, uneasy, and nowhere near as competent as I used to be.
Back To Basics
I found myself taking a break in a quiet part of the Lancashire countryside and pulling out my flask of coffee.
It was about time I went back to basics to think about what was important when riding a motorcycle.
And as well as the obvious stuff, I was struck by just how many motorcycle riding tips and tricks we pick up as our experience grows: Stuff we’re never told of (or warned of) when we’re learning.
So when I got home, I started to write down all things I’ve learned over the years.
And as a result, here are 22 motorcycle riding tips and tricks!
Some are for new riders and some for experienced riders. Either way, they will make you the best rider you can be.
1. Most People Aren’t As Good A Rider As They Like To Think They Are!
If I’m being honest, there have been times in my riding past when I’ve been hit with bouts of imposter syndrome.
I used to be an advanced riding observer and a motorcycle riding instructor. But there were times when I used to question my own riding abilities.
Now you may or may not be the same. But there are times when most people think they’re a good rider. They’ll be out riding with friends and they’ll think they are the more skilled motorcyclist.
They’ll think they’re faster, smoother, more advanced, and quicker to act and react.
But don’t let that fool you.
Most people aren’t as good a rider as they think they are.
If you’re a new rider, you have a lot to learn.
And if you’re an experienced rider, I guarantee you’ll have a tonne of bad habits you’ve picked up over the years.
Even after decades of riding, you still have a lot to learn. Whatever you do, never become complacent.
2. Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: Do An Advanced Riding Course
Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t try to improve after passing their test.
Your learning on two wheels will never come to an end.
Do the BikeSafe course. Have your riding critiqued by a Class 1 Police motorcyclist.
Put your ego away for the duration of the course and dedicate your time to becoming a better, safer rider.
3. Do An Off-Road Course
If you plan on never going off-road, I would still highly recommend doing an off-road course.
There are lots of places that offer beginner off-roading experiences for less than the price of a night out.
With an off-road course, you’ll learn machine control on a level you never thought possible.
You’ll realise that having the back tyre slide out on gravel isn’t the end of the world. You will be surprised at what motorcycles and tyres are capable of.
But more importantly, you can take what you learn in an off-road setting and use it on the road.
If nothing else, you’ll have a brilliant day out. And I guarantee you’ll leave with more confidence than what you started with.
4. Practice Slow Speed Manoeuvres
Okay, I’m not saying you need to replicate your Mod 1 test and ride around cones all day.
But go to a big car park early on a Sunday morning. Practice slow riding by using the back brake.
Practice u-turns and figure of 8 turns.
If you lack confidence in the physical handling of your bike, use this time to push your bike between parking bays, or get it on and off the centre stand.
Want to make it more fun? Take a buddy and you can support each other so you don’t drop your bike whilst practicing.
5. Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: Practice Your Riding
I know this sounds weird. You’re always riding, so you’re always practicing, right?
I beg to differ!
What you’re actually doing is riding on autopilot. And you need to make a conscious effort not to.
Every few weeks, go for a ride out with the sole intention of riding correctly.
Imagine you’re being followed and assessed by a police biker.
Do every shoulder check. Observe correctly. Use your mirrors properly. Ask yourself as you’re riding if you made the right decision at the last junction.
Justify your reasons to yourself and think about what could have been done better.
Want to take it a step further? Go with a riding buddy and take turns ‘assessing’ each other’s riding. And then at the end, be honest with your feedback.
6. Provide A Running Commentary
If you want to make sure you’re not riding on autopilot, try giving a running commentary as you ride.
And don’t just say what you’re doing, say what you see.
“Bend to the left – shifting into position one for better visibility. Checking mirrors. Shoulder check to the right. All clear to move.”
“Approaching green traffic lights. Checking rear as I may need to brake if the lights change to red.”
Commentary forces you to slow down. It forces you to think and concentrate on nothing but riding. And it forces you to look rather than see.
You’ll feel silly at first, but I promise you’ll get used to it!
7. Everything Is Your Fault
Of course, everything isn’t your fault. But you should ride like anything that might happen on your ride could be influenced by you.
If a car pulls out in front of you from a side street, that clearly isn’t your fault.
But maybe you were going too fast.
Perhaps you could’ve been in a better position that would’ve allowed the driver to see you.
Or maybe you could’ve anticipated that the driver was going to pull out. In which case you could’ve altered your speed, changed your position, or even beeped your horn.
Just because something isn’t your fault, that doesn’t mean you did everything you could to prevent it from happening in the first place.
After all, if you die whilst riding your bike, does it really matter whose fault it was??
8. Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: You Are Invisible
Whilst you’re not literally invisible, car drivers we still fail to see you!
Because they’re not looking for you.
You’re small, compact, and fast. But drivers are looking for cars, buses, and trucks. In other words, they’re looking for large vehicles that are spanning a lane and with two lights on the front.
The simple fact you don’t match that description means they don’t see you.
Assume you are invisible and assume people haven’t seen you.
And then you can make pre-emptive plans.
9. You Don’t Always Have To Ride Fast
I can never understand how some people ride everywhere like they’re being chased.
For a start, it’s tiring! And after a while, it becomes boring.
Plus the level of danger increases exponentially.
It’s worth remembering that whilst riding a motorcycle can be a thrill, it can also be therapeutic. Use it to de-stress and clear your mind.
It’s probably the only time your phone is turned off. You’re unreachable and nobody can ask anything of you.
So use the time to relax and unwind.
10. Stop And Smell The Roses
Just because you go out on your bike, that doesn’t mean you have to spend all day on it!
If you find yourself riding through a beautiful part of the countryside, stop and get off the bike.
Have a wander around a nature trail for an hour or take a few pictures.
Sit with a flask and enjoy nature.
Bask in the sunshine, listen to birds, contemplate life, and leave feeling better because of it.
11. Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: Nobody Is Impressed
People who don’t ride bikes never notice you.
And whilst other riders on the roads may acknowledge you, they don’t particularly care what bike you’re riding or how you look on it.
So what’s this obsession with some riders revving or popping wheelies when they see other riders coming in the opposite direction?
Seriously, nobody cares. And nobody is impressed.
12. Don’t Hate ‘Cagers’
I’ve never understood why some bikers have such animosity towards car drivers.
In the UK, motorcycles make up just 2% of traffic.
So that means the other 98% of vehicles are not bikes.
Isn’t it difficult to go around hating all the time?
Whether you like it or not, you will need to share the roads with cars, buses, lorries, cyclists, pedestrians, horses, scooters, and a whole variety of other vehicles.
Nobody is aiming for you. But they may make mistakes occasionally.
Cagers aren’t out to hurt you.
So make it as easy as you can for them to see you. Accept that they make errors of judgment. And do some of the work for them by putting yourself in the safest position possible.
13. Always Wear Earplugs
As far as I remember, I was never told about earplugs whilst learning how to ride a motorcycle.
And I was never told about them on any of the various advanced riding training schemes I’ve done, nor on any other course.
But they’re important!
We uploaded a dedicated post on earplugs a few weeks ago which goes into the subject with more details.
But the takeaway message is that hearing damage is irreversible. And to make it worse, it doesn’t take too much exposure on a motorcycle to start causing that damage.
Related: A Guide To Motorcycle Earplugs
14. Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: You’ll Have Off Days
Have you ever had one of those days on a bike where the sun is out, the roads are quiet, and you seem to dance your way through the bends?
You have a permanent smile on your face as you devour each curve and it feels amazing!
But if you’re a newbie, riding is a skill. And even as an experienced rider, you will have good days and bad days.
This isn’t a reflection on you. In the same way a footballer can have good games and bad games, you too will have good days and bad days in the saddle.
Don’t beat yourself up about it.
15. Fitness Matters
Without going off-piste here, fitness is a cornerstone of life.
And when it comes to riding, having good physical fitness translates into having a good mental state, too.
Having foundational cardiovascular fitness will vastly improve your levels of alertness and concentration on the bike.
And it also improves your ability to stave off fatigue – which means you can ride for longer before you get tired.
From a physical standpoint, having decent strength through resistance training gives you better control of the bike.
Additionally, it could stop you from dropping it and will certainly help with picking your bike up even if you do drop it.
16. Don’t Ride When You’re Mad
I don’t need to tell you the symptoms of getting mad. How many times have you snapped at an innocent family member or partner for no other reason than you’re pissed off?
And I guess that most of the time, you didn’t mean to – it was uncontrollable.
So you can see how this can be detrimental on a bike.
Acceleration becomes aggressive. Braking becomes hard and uneven. You may take risks due to a lack of patience. Or you might act aggressively towards other road users for otherwise minor infractions.
But riding mad increases your chances of having an accident.
That heavy throttle or heavy braking on wet roads could cause you to lose control.
And those rash decisions made through a lack of patience could cause you to make a terrible misjudgment.
17. Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: You Can Still Have Fun On A Small Bike
If you’re a new rider, don’t be sucked into the stigma that you need a big bike.
Because you don’t.
Big bikes are heavy, difficult to manoeuvre, and difficult to tame and control if you’re still inexperienced. They’re also expensive to buy, expensive to maintain, and expensive to fix.
Smaller bikes are lighter, easier, and cheaper.
And their versatility means they will put a smile on your face a whole lot more than their bigger, more serious counterparts.
18. A Good Mechanic Is Worth Their Weight In Gold
Taking your bike to the garage isn’t the same as taking your car.
You have enough to contend with on the roads without having doubts about your bike.
And to make it worse, good mechanics are hard to come by. But in an unfortunate contrast, shit ones are on every corner.
Take the time to find a good mechanic who you trust. Ask around at bike clubs. Read reviews on Google and social media. Ask people you trust who they use.
Chances are, the same name will keep cropping up.
And when it does, become best friends with them. Because although expensive, a good mechanic is worth their weight in gold.
19. Don’t Scrimp On Tyres
The first time I bought a new(ish) bike, it cost me £6,500.
And because I bought it in cash, I decided to wait until my next payday before replacing the tyres that I could feel were twitchy in wet conditions.
Whilst waiting for my next wage, I went for a ride out in Wales. Where it began to rain.
On a left bend, the rear tyre slid out from beneath me and I wrote the bike off within 4 weeks of buying it.
Not only was it a lengthy insurance process, but I also had to cancel my long-awaited tour as I had no bike.
Good tyres make a huge difference to your riding – whether on-road or off it.
Do yourself a favour and get some decent tyres. They make the world of difference.
Related: How Long Do Motorcycle Tyres Last?
20. Learn How To Brake
To this day, I’m surprised at how many people don’t brake properly on a bike.
When you’re on an empty car park practicing your slow riding (above), be sure to practice your braking. You need to know how the bike will react if you have to brake hard in an emergency.
Not only is it good to know how the bike will react, but you need to build that muscle memory of applying the brakes correctly.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to brake hard, you don’t have time to think about it. So cement the muscle memory to do the braking for you when you need it.
21. Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: Learn How To Use The Back Brake!
Whilst on the subject of brakes, don’t neglect your rear brake.
At slow speeds, using the back brake makes everything so much smoother and neater.
But mastering your back brake also improves slow riding and manoeuvers such as u-turns or negotiating mini-roundabouts.
Mastering the balance between positive throttle, clutch control, and rear brake is the biggest thing you’ll ever do in terms of machine control.
22. Sometimes It’s Easier To Take The Car
If your motorcycle is your only means of transport, then you don’t really have a choice.
But don’t feel like you need to go everywhere on a bike just because you own one.
Sometimes, going in the car is just easier. It’s warm, it’s safe, it has climate control and comfortable seats.
And much of the time, going to work on your bike takes longer than going in your car.
By the time you’ve unlocked the bike, got it out the garage, got to work, and then got changed out of your bike gear, it would’ve been easier to go in the car!
Motorcycle Riding Tips & Tricks: Conclusion
So there we have it! If you’re a new rider, this post should stand you in good stead for what you’re letting yourself in for!
And if you’re already an experienced rider, I hope it gives you something to think about also.
Would you be interested in a similar post for touring?
If so, follow us on social media and let me know in the comments!