Whether you’re brand-new or you’ve been riding your whole life, the entire process is a journey in itself. The more time you spend riding (or even just living in general), the more you learn that any new thing you do is a learning process. It doesn’t matter if you’re the kind of person who does exhaustive research into things (hello, hi, nice to meet you), or the kind of person who likes to play it by ear. Get passionate about riding, and you’ll learn new things about both motorbikes and yourself along the way. It’s that simple.
That said, the more time you spend riding, the more you may end up reconsidering some of your early riding decisions. (Does anyone pick a helmet that fits perfectly the first time out?) If you stick around in the hobby, though, chances are good you’ll learn from your mistakes—and hopefully be lucky enough to tell someone else your amusing anecdote later.
With that in mind, I consulted our RideApart hive mind to see what we’ve all learned that we wish we knew back when we started. Here’s what we all had to say. (Normally, I’d put myself down at the bottom of the list since I’m the one writing this piece, but I’m going out of order here so we make contextual sense.)
When I started riding, I had a helmet, jacket, boots, and gloves, but for some reason, didn't feel like I needed proper armored pants of any kind. Found out the hard way that I did, when I slid in some oil, went down, landed on my left knee, and ended up on crutches for the next few months.
If I'd been wearing proper protective pants, me and my bike would've rolled off with just a few scrapes.
I have a similar story when it comes to riding jeans, but I'll spare you that one since you've got it covered already.
I've repeatedly learned that maintenance takes more time than anticipated. Trying to stay on a timeline also results in mistakes, which only makes the process even longer.
On one occasion, I attempted to swap out my handlebars. I thought it would take an afternoon. It took 2 days. I learned that in order to do a job right, you should give yourself ample time. Rushing only makes things worse.
Guilty as charged for the riding jeans thing. I’ll admit, even to this day, I sometimes ride with regular jeans especially if I’m just running errands around town on my scooter.
Building on what Dustin said, I think it’s also really important to be very organized and systematic when working on your bike.
I remember attempting to change the fork seals on one of my bikes, only to find myself stuck and extremely frustrated because I didn’t know how to put it back together. Luckily, you can find everything on YouTube nowadays. Otherwise, it certainly pays dividends to document the teardown process by taking pictures before taking things apart.
Quite a few things really. First and foremost, overspending on gear and other things. I thought before that I'd need multiple helmets for every day of the week and multiple jackets. If you have one bike, you really only need a few pieces and rotate among them. Not to mention that helmets can get quite expensive. I ended up selling a number of pieces from my selection of gear, and it was money down the drain. Lesson learned, just buy good pieces that you will see yourself using way down the line, but I guess that comes with the territory.
Secondly, ditto on the pants, I have a scar on my right knee because I wore sweat pants while practicing my low-speed maneuvers. Now I'm out one pair of sweats, and a constant reminder to wear thicker leg wear.