How to The Journey

20 things I’ve learned about motorcycling

Aliona and me

Today marks exactly six months since Aliona came into my life. That’s not all that much time in the grand scheme of things, but she is, of course, my first motorcycle. So, a lot of things have happened since that exciting June day I took the train out to Cheltenham to pick her up. And from all the experiences since then, those thousands of miles travelled, I feel I’ve gained a certain amount of knowledge. So, here are 20 things I’ve learned in my first six months of motorcycle ownership:

  1. When kids wave at you, it’s awesome
  2. Expect spiders to be hiding in the motorcycle cover
  3. Expect spiders to be hiding in your helmet. They will usually only reveal themselves when you are taking a curve at 80 mph.
  4. Baby wipes are your friend. They are especially useful in cleaning your helmet — inside and out. 
  5. Cold tires really are slippery. That’s not just something that people say. 
  6. Pay attention to tire pressure. And the chain. And fluid levels. And tire tread. And all the other stuff they tell you.
  7. Your hands will always have grease on them. If your hands are clean that means you’ve been off the bike too long.
  8. Confidence ebbs and flows. Sometimes you just have a gut bad feeling about a corner or filtering opportunity, etc. and it builds The Fear in you. It’s OK to back off in these moments; if necessary, pull over, stop, turn off the engine, get off the bike and take a break. 
  9. Seriously, learn the value of taking breaks. Really. Even if you’re not tired. Turn off the bike; listen to the sound of the world. 
  10. Nothing makes you feel more like a magician/god like turning your bike on the side stand. Learn how to do it. 
  11. Keep practicing all that stupid stuff they made you do in training. Yeah, you feel like a loser doing circles in a parking lot on a Sunday morning. But when you find yourself having to U-turn on a stupidly cambered road in some place where drivers have the patience of hornets, you’ll be glad you did. 
  12. Getting angry at bad drivers accomplishes nothing. Expect them to do stupid things; acknowledge; move on. Punching their car only hurts your hand and the reputation of all other riders. 
  13. The overwhelming majority of drivers are not that bad. For every crappy driver you encounter think of the thousands upon thousands that you pass without incident. Often, a friendly wave or nod will pull drivers out of their little zone and they will suddenly become courteous.  
  14. Check the weather of the place you’re going. Just because it’s not raining where you started out doesn’t mean it won’t be pissing rain in the place you end up. 
  15. Expect it to rain. Because it will. Even if you checked. The simple act of getting on a bike is a taunt at God, saying: “I dare you, Almighty Universe Creator, to make me wet and miserable.” And he will almost always take you up on that challenge. 
  16. Get used to chatting with old guys. Bees are to pollen as old men are to motorcycles. If you ride, you are effectively communicating to every old man within sight that you really want him to come over and tell you every single motorcycle-related experience he can think of. 
  17. You will drop your bike. It’s like death and taxes, yo. Accept it. 
  18. Riding will make you hungry. As Sash has already pointed out, riding a motorcycle works up an appetite. Make sure you eat enough; not eating makes you stupid. And being stupid makes you crash. 
  19. Make sure you work out. Not just for the sake of contradicting the negative effects of eating too much, you should try to keep as fit as possible. Your riding will dramatically benefit from the increased strength and stamina that comes from working out regularly.
  20. Everything is an adventure. If you’re like I am, you get caught up in the romanticism of great road trips, and somehow this results in your forgetting to appreciate the everyday. So, you’ll want to go for a ride but think: “Nah, it’s dark and I’ve got work in the morning.” Get on the bike, you idiot. Even if it’s just for a few miles.

Did I miss any? What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned?