With COVID-19 forcing many people to work from home, and with the streets a little less busy than normal, learner motorcycle riders have a great opportunity to practise their skills and gain some more riding experience.
Before you gain your learners permit and can legally ride a motorcycle on the road, there are several steps you have to complete – which vary from state to state – though all require you to complete a short course focused on safety and skills. Assuming that you have already attended a course and gained your learners permit, you’re now ready to develop your skills further.
Riding a motorcycle requires many different skills to driving a car, so there are activities you can do even without hitting the road. Becoming more familiar with your motorcycle and how it works and responds is an important step. Sitting on the bike while it is stationary is a great way to feel the weight of it.
Like with a bicycle, keeping your balance on a motorcycle is vital; the main difference, of course, is that a motorcycle has an engine, has far more power, and is usually much heavier. Therefore, understanding what each of the controls do, such as the brakes, pedals, steering handle and gears, and learning how to manoeuvre without falling off, can be done in short rides close to home.
Once you’re on the road, you have to contend with multiple factors, such as the road and weather conditions, other road users, and the safe handling of your motorcycle. Practising in quiet suburban streets, carparks or on sealed country roads is a great way to help build your confidence and skills.
As motorcycles generally have a better power-to-weight ratio than vehicles – that is, more power and less weight – acceleration, braking and handling will feel different than in a car. Slowly accelerating and braking and not speeding around corners will assist you in maintaining control of your bike until you have the confidence and expertise to handle your motorcycle like a pro.
If you know of other motorcycle riders – particularly ones more experienced than you – then riding together will not only help you get out of the house and be more social (at a distance, of course), but it will also aid in showing you how to handle the bike on the road.
An important concept for a motorcycle rider to understand is the “friction zone”. This relates to the point at which the rider eases the grip on the clutch lever on the handlebar and the clutch, which connects the engine to the gearbox, begins to deliver power to the rear wheel. The best way to master the use of the clutch is by listening to how the bike responds, rather than simply looking at how far the clutch lever has been eased. You’ll then be better able to accelerate and change gears on your motorcycle without thinking too much about it.
As you need to have held your learners permit for at least three months before going for your full licence, now is the perfect time to gain more experience on your motorcycle, learn the skills to be a safe effective rider, and lastly, enjoy the freedom that riding a motorcycle can bring you.