The Basics of Operating a Motorcycle


It is vital that a motorcycle rider have an understanding of how to operate it safely. Operating a motorcycle requires multitasking capabilities beyond that which are required of a common driver. Motorcycles come in different shapes and sizes but are all basically operated in the same manner.

There are several basic controls with which the rider should become familiar. On the left handlebar is the clutch lever. Mounted on the right handlebar is the front brake lever. The throttle is part of the right grip of the handlebar. Near the driver’s left foot peg is a gear shifter which changes the gears by moving it up or down. Near the right foot, a rider should locate a pedal similar to those in a car which engages the rear brake.

The concept of how motorcycles are driven is similar to that of a car with a manual transmission which requires careful coordination between the clutch, throttle, and brakes. After consulting the owner’s manual on cranking the bike, a new rider now faces the challenge of getting the motorcycle moving and eventually operating among other vehicles. Getting familiar with this process should be done in a closed area with safety gear including helmet, gloves, eye protection, and clothing that covers the entire body.

The first thing a rider must master is clutch control. When the bike is cranked, and in first gear (usually the shifter near the left foot is all the way down), the clutch lever must be engaged or the engine will not remain running. To begin, the rider must slowly let out the clutch lever until he can feel the motorcycle begin pulling forward. This feeling of the bike being pulled is often referred to as the “friction zone” of the clutch. Often, a new rider can move the motorcycle at very low speeds by keeping the clutch in this area without engaging the throttle.

Once the rider gets acquainted with clutch manipulation, he can begin moving at higher speeds by engaging the throttle on the right handgrip as the clutch enters the friction zone. When first learning, very slight adjustments should be made because too much gas at once can quickly leave the rider and the motorcycle on their sides.

After a rider has begun confidently getting the bike under power, he should begin to change gears. The rider should gradually apply the throttle then, when the engine has been revved up to a high pitched whine, the throttle should be released and the clutch engaged simultaneously. During this time, the gear shifter should be moved (usually by pushing up with the left foot) to the next gear. While gaining speed, this should be repeated until it has reached the top gear.

During this practice time, the rider should also be learning the role that both the front and rear brake take in slowing and stopping the vehicle. The front brake tends to stop more abruptly while the rear is typically used like a car brake in order to gradually slow the motorcycle. Each rider should learn the best combination which works for them and their motorcycle.

When the rider is comfortable with straight line riding, they should begin learning how to negotiate curves and left or right turns. At this point, trust in the motorcycle is imperative. Negotiating most curves requires simply leaning the motorcycle with the rider’s weight and pushing the handlebars to one side. Turning the motorcycle requires a bit more practice and involves looking where the rider wants to go, turning the handlebars, and leaning the motorcycle. This should be done while manipulating the clutch and throttle as discussed earlier. Braking should be avoided while negotiating curves or turns.

The above tips are very basic guidelines and are not all inclusive to operating a motorcycle on the roadway. A proper training program and practice should be utilized to become an effective and safe rider.

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