Basic rider courses cost how much?
Here in the U.S., basic rider courses aren’t required by law to get your motorcycle license. You do have to pass both a written and a skills test in all 50 states. Also, MSF courses usually offer both tests in their classroom and on their bikes so you can get your license, if you take those courses. Other private schools offer basic rider courses as well, so check your local area for options, availability, and prices.
It’s worth noting that in some states, such as my own state of Illinois, MSF basic rider courses are subsidized by the state. Our very own Domenick said the course he took in Florida was over $200 at the time he took it.
Meanwhile, MSF courses in Illinois are now completely free, and are paid for by Illinois motorcyclists every time we renew our vehicle registrations! You do have to pay a $20 deposit to hold your place in the course when you register, but it’s refundable after you complete the course. If you don’t show up, you can’t get a refund, though. MSF courses provide you with bikes to learn on for the duration of the course, and some other schools do, as well. You don’t even have to have a bike to learn how to ride, which is great.
It’s worth checking with the MSF organization in your state to see what their terms are. If you’re outside the U.S., your licensing and learning requirements may be different, so be sure to check with appropriate bodies to find correct information to suit your local situation.
Always wear armored pants, even if you don't think you need them. Also, capri pants are a bad idea.
Most of us, whether we ride or not, probably have instincts that tell us shorts and bikinis aren’t the best clothes for riding. Still, when I first started out, I made at least one regrettable gear mistake that I’ll now share with you.
I had a helmet, I had a jacket, I had gloves, and I had proper motorcycle boots that went over the ankle. I thought I’d be fine in plain old jeans, and when I wasn’t crashing, that was true.
The one time I did crash on the way to work, I went down hard on my left knee. Guess who ended up not being able to ride or walk without a crutch for months? Guess who probably could have avoided it if she’d been wearing riding pants with knee armor? It wasn’t a serious crash, but even minor ones can mess you up. Please learn from my mistake and wear armored riding pants so you can walk away and show off that gnarly new dent in your tank while you swear as you look up new mirror and lever prices online.
Be confident enough to like what you like. Don't let anyone tell you the bike you like isn't a real bike.
Peer pressure is real; even if you aren’t in school anymore, and even among other riders. Your best friend might ride a Harley or a Ducati and think they’re the best bikes in the world, to the point where they won’t shut up about it. To them, that might be true. Is it true to you, though? Only you know the real answer, and it’s fine if that answer is no.
There are so many bikes in the world, folks. So many. Look for the one that speaks to you. Your buddy or that old guy down the street who’s been riding since the ‘60s isn’t the one riding that bike; you are. Maybe you like vintage scooters. Maybe you’re like me, and you opted for a maxi-scooter because you were being practical AF and it suited your needs at the time. Know what? It’s not my only bike, and your first bike doesn’t have to be your only bike, either.
That’s another thing, too. As you grow and learn and change as a motorcyclist, you may find that you hold different opinions, wants, and needs in the future than you do right now. That’s also completely normal, and something to look forward to. After all, someone’s got to keep buying those random bikes on Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and Craigslist, right? Right.
Don't assume that just because other riders are older or more experienced than you that they automatically know everything. They don't.
Motorcycle people have a lot of opinions, and many are only too happy to share them. You might have some riders who’ve been doing it for decades, who everyone in your local rider community looks to for advice. They probably have some valuable stuff to share, but that still doesn’t mean you should take every single word they say as the absolute rule on every topic.
Think about the wild debates regarding what oil is best for your bike, how often you should change your oil, or how to clean your chain. Most of the time, people will tell you what they like to do, and then say it’s the best way because they’ve had good luck with it. Also, no one likes to be wrong. Some people are reasonable, and others will fight about it relentlessly, because this is the Internet.
Extrapolating from that, it’s reasonable to assume that no one is right 100 percent of the time, even if they’ve been riding for longer than you’ve been alive. “We’ve always done it that way” is not a valid answer in any decade, unless there’s something else concrete to latch onto behind that well-worn cliché. Unless they’re your parent and you’re a very young child, do you just shut up and do it their way if someone tells you “because I said so”? Didn’t think so. That’s not very far off.
Riding with a group doesn't mean you have to keep up. No need for ego on a bike.
When you’re first starting out, you may be anxious to get into the scene and meet other likeminded riders in your area. That can be great, but just like any other sub-group of people, keep in mind that your mileage may vary! Just because you all like bikes doesn’t mean you all ride the same way, have the same safety standards in mind, or even get along on many other fronts.
Some riders may push you beyond your range of comfort, especially if you’re brand new to riding. It can be hard to do because you don’t have a lot of confidence in your skills yet, but don’t let them. Don’t let anyone make you ride beyond your comfort level. Whenever someone tells you to “ride your own ride,” that’s some of the best advice a rider can give you. Go at your own pace, and if the group you’re riding with decides to break a whole bunch of traffic laws and you’re not comfortable with it, you can always split off from the group. If you feel like you need to reach out to them after the ride, do so, but you don’t owe them anything.
I remember going out for a ride with some local scooterists when I first started out. There were only a handful of us, but that particular group of people weren’t very safe. I finished the ride but never rode with them again.
Another time, my partner was out with a sportbike group, and a newer rider who wasn’t very confident yet was lagging behind. That rider went down, and my partner pulled over to help. The rest of the group left them behind without a backward glance. The rider who went down thankfully just had a scratched fairing and a bruised ego, but my partner also never rode with that group of people again.
Riders are some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet, but some are also jerks. You are under no obligation to ride with jerks.
When I go out on my Hawk, I want to hear it. It’s got a sweet exhaust note, and in fact, that’s what sold me on this particular Hawk (out of all the other Hawks in the world) in the first place. However, I also always wear earplugs, because wind noise is a genuine problem and I like being able to hear. I also used to play live music, and I wore ear protection onstage, too. If you choose well, you can still hear and appreciate sounds while also not destroying your hearing.
You may need to experiment to find the right earplugs for you. As Kate explained, human ear canals come in all different shapes and sizes, so what works great for your BFF might not work as well for you. Whether you choose disposable foam earplugs or reusable, washable ones, just make sure you integrate them into your routine to protect yourself from wind noise while you’re seeking out the best roads in your area.
Pack a proper toolkit.
This one comes with a caveat, because the best tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to use them. Not every rider wrenches, especially if you’re a beginner. That’s fine. However, if you know that you don’t know what you’re doing, consider riding with a buddy who does. Preferably, one who’s also willing to offer roadside mechanical assistance if something goes wrong.
If you’re so inclined, you may also want to start learning all you can about the mechanics of your particular bike when you’re not out riding. Everyone starts somewhere, so don’t let anyone shame you when you’re a newbie and figuring stuff out.
Some people never want to go that deep into their bikes, and if that’s you, make sure you have your phone charged and a credit card handy, because things can and will go wrong. With any luck, it’ll be something you can limp home with and either fix or have someone else fix. With extremely bad luck, it’ll be a snapped drive belt in Volo, Illinois, miles and miles from home, and you’ll have to wait over four hours in the hot sun (with no shade, I might add) for a tow truck. Yes, I am still salty about that one. No, a toolkit wouldn’t have helped in that case, but it will help in a lot of other cases.
Make two spare keys if you can.
Keep one either hidden in your bike somewhere only you know where it is, or in your bike jacket. Keep the other stashed safely at home, also where you know where it is. That way, no matter what happens, you have a spare key if your main key goes missing.
By holding spares in two places, you greatly reduce your risk of having a missing key while you’re out ruin your day. After all, if your only spare is sitting safely in a box at home, it can’t help you if you’re 200 miles away and you lose your main key, can it? That’s obviously a harder thing to do if you have a keyless ignition, especially considering that electronic key fobs tend to be a bit more expensive than going to your local locksmith and having them cut you a nicely formed dupe. If you’re someone with a keyless ignition bike and you have a good solution for this problem, please share!
A zip-top sandwich baggie is your phone's best friend when there's a chance of rain.
There are plenty of fancy cases to weatherproof your phone, but many of them are big and bulky. Since smartphones keep getting bigger and bulkier themselves, the last thing most riders want is added bulk. That’s definitely true if you like to stash your phone in your bike jacket or pants, and that’s still true if you’re stashing it in a tank bag or saddlebag. On your bike, generally, space is at a premium, and the less space things take up, the better.
This is where the totally low-tech zip-top sandwich baggie is your friend. Most of us have these around in our homes. Just make sure that it’s totally zipped, then stash it wherever you like and enjoy not being worried if your phone will be OK the next time you get caught in a sudden storm. Be aware that this solution only works if you aren’t using your phone for visual navigation, and you don’t ride with it mounted in a cradle on your dash. I tend to use my phone for audio navigation only, so it works well for me. As with most things in the riding world, your mileage may vary.
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