Three (3) Conversations with a New Motorcycle Rider

March 19, 2019 Tags: ,
RiderCoach John Wolven Talking to a beginning rider

Three Conversations We Wish We Had As A Beginning Rider

Regardless of how talented a rider may be, they didn’t come out of the womb gripping and ripping.  At one point they were new to motorcycling and hopefully had a mentor guide their learning process.  We hope.

For a lot of us who grew up in the 70’s, that wasn’t the case.  For sure, your author was exposed to a “pain reinforced” method of learning.  That doesn’t have to be the case for new riders in the 21st century.  In fact, rider training has evolved the way in which people come into the motorcycling fold.  The Basic RiderCourse exposes prospective riders to A LOT of information all at once.  It is a very good curriculum; however, as coaches we wonder if a few topics REALLY hit home for participants.

This is the reason for this blog post.  We want to share three discussions we wish we could personalize with each and every attendee.


No, really, take your time.  Motorcycling isn’t something that should be rushed.  We get it.  You’re excited and want to start blasting down the road without a care in the world.  We love that feeling too, but we want you to learn from our mistakes so that you don’t have the same painful learning path we rode.  So where do we see entry level riders making mistakes?

    • We know Daytona Bike Week or Sturgis or <insert other cool motorcycle event> is happening, but you just passed the Basic RiderCourse.  Please don’t try to ride a motorcycle 3,000 miles across the United States into a swarm of 500,000 other motorcyclists.  Rather, take time plodding around your neighborhood.  Find a parking lot to spin circles and learn how to REALLY stop that motorcycle before mixing it up in traffic.  Make sure you effortlessly start and stop your motorcycle without stalling or skidding.  Having these elements on lock down before jumping into traffic is crucial to your success.
    • Avoid group rides initially.  Adding more motorcyclists into the mix only adds more complexity and takes away rider bandwidth.  Hone your skills on a individual basis; get 1,000 miles under your belt before considering riding with one other motorcycle rider.  You read that right…one.  And make sure you trust their mental approach to riding.
    • Two-up to screw up.  If you think riding a motorcycle is challenging, add a floppy meat bag to the saddle behind you!  We know you’re excited to show off your new found motorcycling skills.  We know you’re geeked.  Adding another individual into the mix right away is a recipe for catastrophe.  Taking a passenger for a ride means increased complexity and increased liability; are you sure you want that person’s life on your hands at such an early stage of your riding career?
    • Choose a bike that fits you well.  We hear all the time that riders don’t want to select a smaller, lighter bike and then have to upgrade in six months or a year.  Why not?  We ask the question:  What do pilots learn on?  Jumbo 747s or Cessnas?  Really and truly, there is a lot to be learned on a motorcycle that may be smaller, less powerful, and lighter.  While we agree that riders should select a motorcycle that makes them want to lift the garage door to get out and ride, we also see repeatedly what happens when they rush their decision and go too big too fast.
      • Something happens.  The rider gets scared.  The bike sits.  The passion for motorcycling fades.  That person is no longer a rider.
      • We think that scenario is less likely to happen if a rider chooses a bike that fits them properly.


Gravity is always there…daring us to resist it…daring us to circumvent its grasp.  The truth is gravity ALWAYS wins.  Sure, there are riders out there who can boast they’ve never tipped over or been in a crash.  They are not the norm.  They are but a small sliver at the far end of a massive bell curve.  For that reason we need to acquiesce to gravity and its consequences.

    • Our coolest, most tattooed RiderCoaches will agree; they paid good money for that tat and they don’t want to risk damaging it.
    • Living the ATGATT life (All The Gear, All The Time) is more than a statement than not because it REQUIRES the rider to act.  It requires the rider to take matters into their own hands (literally).
    • Gear doesn’t diminish the effect of the ride; it enhances it.  When it comes to dealing with the environment and everything that gets thrown at you as a rider, well-chosen gear has no equal.
    • The bumps and bruises we’ve earned through our stupidity of not wearing gear are not a badge of honor; they are a reflection of the poor choices we’ve made.  We can and should do better.


Taking the Basic RiderCourse is a great first step.  It shouldn’t be the last step either.  If you want to maximize your motorcycling experience, then make each ride an opportunity to learn.  With the right attitude, we not only get the chance to learn about riding, but we also get to learn about ourselves.  We hear of riders dumping endless dollars into exhaust upgrades, engine upgrades, and vehicle aesthetics when the NUMBER ONE upgrade available exists in the saddle.  It is simple.  Want to improve your ride?  Improve yourself.

    • Part of the fun to motorcycling is that it can be a never-ending rabbit hole for those who dare to explore.  Think you know everything about street riding?  Try heading out to a track clinic.  Think you are a track god?  Try your skills on the dirt where traction is at a premium.  Think you got it?  Try flat tracking.  The opportunities to advance your skills and challenge yourself are limitless.
    • Just when you think you know everything, you’re most at risk.  Studies show riders are most vulnerable when:
      • They’re in their first six months of motorcycling
      • They’re in their first six months of riding a new-to-them motorcycle (what a great time to take a refresher course!)
      • They’re two years after taking a rider training course (skills are perishable; we need to stay up on them)
    • There hasn’t been a single course we’ve taken where we haven’t learned at least ONE thing that makes us a better rider.  There is no better investment in motorcycling than in the rider.

Motorcycle Courses
So those are the conversations that we wish someone had with us as we entered motorcycling.  Sure we’re here today with a smile on our face when riding two wheels, but we’re doing it with more bumps and bruises than necessary.  And we lament the time we lost when we could have been riding more competently or safely.

Take our word for it.  And let us know how you feel about this blog post.  We’re curious to know if it affected you.

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Bill Seltzer Yamaha FJ-09Bill 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. Aleck MacKinnon 10 months Reply

    Good article, thanks. After ‘knowing how to ride’ and some experience years ago, I look forward to my first class and getting my license before I purchase a motorcycle as an adult.

    • Bill Seltzer 10 months Reply

      Thanks Aleck for sharing your experience. Way to keep an open mind and be a lifelong learner!

  2. Don Maxie 9 months Reply

    Great article. I first started riding in 1967 as a 16-year old on a white Honda S90. Uncle gave me ’47 Indian for my 17th birthday and in plain language, at a 135 pounds, I was scared to death. Rode it twice, the day I got it and the day I sold it. No training was available then, even from dealers. Bumps and bruises be damned, this training is the best thing a potential rider can take in order to learn and stay safe while learning. 51 years between rides is an awfully long time.