TEAM Arizona Riding Tip: 5 Mistakes Experienced Riders Make

February 19, 2016 Tags: ,
Bill's Motorcycle Fail
The author got it wrong at Danny Walker American Supercamp.

Experienced riders don’t mean to do it.  Being complacent.  Making mistakes.  It “just happens” we tell ourselves.  But does it have to happen?  Not really.

After spending more than 20 years and approximately 300,000 miles on the road in multiple countries, this “experienced” motorcyclist has committed every mistake on the list.  We can chalk it up to complacency, overconfidence, or a complete and utter lack of awareness.  I know you’re probably thinking…aren’t you a coach?  Aren’t you supposed to stay on top of this stuff?  Aren’t you supposed to ride without making mistakes? I wish it were that simple.  I’m human.  I make mistakes.  Hopefully, I can assist others by sharing my blunders–and fixes for those blunders.


Old motorcycle riderWhat is the definition of an experienced rider?  I’m sure you’ll answer that in your own way.  If you’re reading this article, I’m betting the majority of you think you’re an experienced rider.  Welcome; I hope you find this informative and valuable.  Or maybe you’re someone well on their way to being an experienced rider who wants to avoid the pitfalls that plagued us, grizzly veterans.  I commend your proactive efforts.  So let’s just agree the term experienced rider applies to all of us.

In this piece we’ll provide a list of the 5 Mistakes Experienced Riders Make and we’ll define each mistake.  In following articles, we’ll examine each piece individually and determine how we can reduce the risk of making each of these mistakes.


  1. Improper Use of Vision
    1. Vision is the most critical skill we can develop for riding a motorcycle.  The two most critical locations on the road where we make mistakes are at intersections and when we’re cornering.
  2. Failing to Predict Danger (Situational Awareness)
    1. Our brains are constantly analyzing trends in an effort to make predictions.  The brain performs this function in an effort to predict danger and maximize our self-preservation.  Predicting danger within our environment means we need to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to survive our ride.
  3. Motorcycle Protective GearOverestimate Riding Abilities (Riding Within Limits)
    1. To be successful riders, we’ll need to be able to understand the difference between the risks we are taking and the skills we actually possess.  Long story short:  know your risk offset.  The Advanced Riding Techniques course is a great place to learn about your risk offset.
  4. Underestimate Effects of Aging
    1. We spend billions of dollars in this country to try to stop and even reverse the effects of aging.  If we misunderstand the effect aging is having on our ride, we can unwittingly add risk to our ride.
  5. Accepting More Risk Through Less Riding Gear
    1. Personal protective equipment designed for motorcycling is necessary to reduce our risk and increase riding enjoyment.  The less we wear, the more we increase our risk.

That’s the list folks. It isn’t a list of ALL the mistakes experienced riders make, but they’re at the core of most experienced rider crashes.  Even though the list is short, there is a lot of knowledge to be culled by looking at each item individually.  Are you ready to go down this rabbit hole with me?

For the Entire TEAM Arizona Newsletter Content, CLICK HERE

Bill Seltzer TEAM ArizonaBill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011.  He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee.  Have questions or comments about the article?  Email him:


  1. Frank Gray 3 years Reply

    As I am a 69 year old rider, having ridden all over the world , not necessarily of the beaten path, yet I have a 2012 GS, your bullet points made me think about the things I am starting to realize and trying to focus on. My bike is starting to become “big”, yet I don t want to go thru all the financial nonsense of trading and getting a lighter bike which is mainly street or light gravel effective. Quiting riding is one option, what are your thoughts.

    • Gotta tell ya Frank, the older we get, the more we love lighter, easier to handle motorcycles. We understand swapping around bikes may not be ideal; however, how much is your enjoyment, confidence, safety, and peace of mind worth? We also see folks moving to three wheel vehicles. They get all of the benefits of being in the motorcycling community without the challenge of balancing the motorcycle. We know a few riders who expressed initial trepidation about making that move, but to a T, they all love the transition eventually.

  2. Stephen Knudsen 2 years Reply

    As of Fall 2018…. I’m now a 68 year old rider, and some of my comments here about “the 5 mistakes” will be controversial. I started riding in early 2013, but this was only after I had asked around if it were even possible to be a safe rider at my advanced age. Someone at a cycle store in Bakersfield, CA, told me the biggest challenge is “attention span” ….. specifically, a wandering attention span. I think that my 30 years of mountain-bike riding had nailed that for me, and I would encourage anyone, even current riders, to consider the benefits of riding a bicycle “on the dirt” to tune up your coordination and to help you in maintaining the focus you need in riding a motorcycle. I started out by first buying a dual-sport machine and learning to ride it by going out on dirt roads. Now that alone….. getting dirt experience with the dual-sport bike (even without riding a bicycle ) is probably the very best way to get the chops to ride a motorcycle. It would be a good approach for a would-be rider of any age, not only for a senior who had not ridden since he was a teenager. I think that some level of physical fitness is actually mandatory if you expect to remain up for the challenge of being a quick-reactioned rider.

    • Yes, yes, yes! We tell riders this all the time. Dirt riding experience can be VERY helpful for street riders. Getting used to the bike moving around with less than ideal traction makes us a much better rider when we have outstanding traction levels. Plus, as you state, a rider must remain engaged the entire time on the dirt or they can easily lose traction and fall. Good stuff Stephen!

  3. Philip Hubacek 2 years Reply

    I’m 68 and after numerous gradually heavier bikes – the last 14 years on Road Kings – I made the move to a lighter Yamaha 1300 Tourer. Hated the thought of admitting the need for the change, but was glad I did it. While easier to handle, it’s got more torque per weight than the HDs.

    The other thing I’ve given up for safety’s sake is riding at night. Can’t see possible road hazards as well, and reactions to after-happy-hour drivers may not be as fast as my younger years. Fifty-five years of accident free riding and hoping to not break my string.

    • We hear you Phillip. As soon as I turned 40, my night vision just went away on me, so I had to adjust my riding accordingly. Thanks for sharing your experience…by the comments in this section, you are not alone!

  4. Bruce M. Prior 2 years Reply

    I am 66 years old and I have also recently confronted this decision point. I developed a “hitch” in my left hip which my dream bike, an ST1100 owned for 20 years, kept re-aggravating. I felt the weight and winced whenever I pushed off the side stand or backed it out of a parking space. The connection between my bike and my hip was not obvious to me for a long time since the ST always felt perfectly comfortable while I was riding. I realized the hip was not going to get better unless I down-sized.

    The solution for me was a Triumph T100. After muscling the ST for 20 years, the T100 feels more like a bicycle when backing it out of a parking space or pushing it off the side stand. I do miss the storage capacity and the coverage from the elements; but my smile is just big – and, boy, do I like the exhaust note!

    • Ya know, Bruce, sometimes when we think we’re taking a step backwards, we’re actually taking a step forwards. As we age, we are certainly finding more and more fun on smaller, lighter bikes. Our favorite ride is our CRF230 flat track bike. Sure it only has 13hp, but it puts a smile on our face every time! We’re glad you found your sweet spot with the T100.

  5. Eldon 2 years Reply

    All good advice.

  6. Charles Edward vlcek 2 years Reply

    I also have been thinking about a trike I am almost 54 and had two heart attacks and open heart surgery in 2014. I have no problems with balance or riding and I love being on 2 wheels but sometimes wonder if a trike would be safer

    • All valid considerations Charles. We hear time and time again a 3 Wheel ride allows people to extend their riding career and it also helps them maintain connection/build connections with a community they love!

  7. Steve Titus 2 years Reply

    I am 78, been riding since I was 15…Whizzer, then Harley Hummer, 650 Triumph bobber, and on and on. over 20 different motorcycles. Including a 500 cc AJS in Tunisia… The last couple of years I found my 2000 Triumph Tiger too top HEAVY and decided to try a 900 cc Spyder…It is NOT a motorcycle plus it presented me with too tight garaging problems (stressing spousal relations) So; on to the LIGHT bike: 390 Duke; really light and flickable but too much like an on-off switch at roll-on. (similar to my ex Ducati engined Gran Canyon)..Now riding a Suzuki twin, 650 “Gladius” (what were they thinking) which I find just right for me now, quite light, easily moved out from garage, no worries about it getting away from me and falling over, feet flat on ground (29″ in seam), plenty of power, and fairly flickable. Wanted a Triumph Bobber, but too spendy and heavier to boot.

    • Steve, isn’t that the greatest part about motorcycling these days? No matter your situation, there is a bike out there for your tastes. So many good options!!!

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Keep up the good riding!

  8. Marvin Cronberg 2 years Reply

    I am 82, switched to three wheels three years ago. I realized I may not be able to pick up a 600 pound bike after stepping in a hole is a gravel parking lot, etc. Riding is much more relaxing now for both me and my wife. I am not into the “zen” of motorcycling. It is just one of my several hobbies I occasionally enjoy but I admit to liking the power and speed (quickness) of a bike. I don’t usually don protective clothing to run to the Home Depot other than helmet and gloves. After a lifetime of biking I believe life is like a Baskin Robbins – when your number comes up it doesn’t make any difference where you are or what you are doing – it’s over!

    • Thanks for your insight Marvin. We understand your position at 82; you are not alone. Balance and stability are major reasons folks find the 3 Wheel life. What a great way to extend that wind in your hair feeling!

  9. Frank Reynolds Mary Reynolds 2 years Reply

    Try a Spyder. I’m 75 and for the last four years I am riding a Can Am Spyder RT Ltd. I love it. Extended my motor cycling riding by at Least 10 years, maybe more if I look after myself. My wife also rides my Spyder and she is 70 +.
    All the safety gear, all the time!

    • We agree Frank and Mary! Our last Spyder ryde was one of the most fun we’ve had in a long time. While the experience may not exactly mimic a two-wheeled experience, it is a lot of fun in its own right!