It’s probably not a huge surprise that women ride differently than men. Hell, we do just about everything differently, some tasks with greater finesse and awareness, some tasks with less. The point is that women face additional struggles when learning to ride motorcycles that men don’t typically experience. Many beginning women riders suffer from a lack of confidence, fear, frustration, or physical challenges that can be stressful, upsetting, and highly distracting.
So, the following are helpful tips for beginning women riders, gathered from lots of different people and resources, that will hopefully assist you in gaining the confidence and skills that you need to relax and enjoy being out on your own bike.
Tip #1: Before You Buy a Bike, Take an Accredited Safe-Riding Course
Before you buy a bike, make sure that it’s actually something you like doing and start out on the right foot by taking an accredited safe-rider course. Plenty of courses are offered that provide smaller-CC, manageable, loaner bikes on which you can learn the necessary safety skills and get a feel for motorcycle riding without committing to a purchase. Plus, a course will teach you all the riding basics in a safe, controlled, and supportive environment with other people just like you.
Despite having over 20 years of riding experience, I take an advanced safety course every few years, just to make sure that my skills stay sharp. The courses that I take are offered through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. But, you can find all kinds of good courses out there.
Tip #2: Gear Up Every Time
It goes without saying, but I am gonna say it anyway: having full gear on while riding actually makes you feel safer and more secure and it helps you be safer and more secure. Plus, you give yourself a fighting chance if something should go wrong. For example, if you do accidentally toss your bike, you stand a much better chance of emerging uninjured (or less injured) if you are wearing protective gear. What is the recommended gear? A helmet (I sport a full-face helmet, every time I ride, without exception), sturdy chaps made of leather or motorcycle-nylon worn on top of denim, a padded motorcycle jacket, over-the-ankle riding boots, eye protection, and full-finger gloves.
No excuses! I live in Phoenix now and I fully gear up every time I ride no matter how hot it is outside or how short the ride is that I am taking. You just can’t be fully safe on a bike without the proper gear. And, when new to riding, the gear will help you know that you have done everything humanely possible to protect yourself.
Tip #3: Start Slow, Practice in a Parking Lot
So many women riders I know, when learning to ride, put all this extra pressure on themselves to learn faster or to do better than they were capable of doing. I don’t know what that is about women, but we, in general, are way too hard on ourselves. So, this tip number three is your “permission slip” to take as long as you need to learn how to ride safely.
Like anything worthwhile, learning to ride a motorcycle (well and thoughtfully) takes time. Try to be patient with yourself. Motorcycle riding is so much more complicated that driving a car. You have all these extra distractions to consider when on a bike and you have to be so much more present, alert, calm, and awake on a bike than in a car.
Good riding skills do not come overnight. When I learned to ride in the early 80s, it took me at least six months of regular riding (or the equivalent of several thousand miles) to feel confident enough to drop one arm and rest my shoulder as I rode. And, I had started out on dirt bikes as a kid! I used to rip through the CA deserts on a fatty dirt bike with no problem, but moving from dirt to street took some real adjustments for me and a learning curve. Tell yourself: “If I learn this in a year, I am ahead of the game.” Or, “I have six months to learn how to do this, and if I still suck after that, I’ll learn how to knit instead.”
One thing that I found particularly helpful was practicing in a huge parking lot for weeks and weeks. I did this before I ever even went and got my motorcycle license. I knew that I would be tested on clutch control, cornering, and turning, so I just practiced that stuff over and over until I could do it on the bike (going very slowly) without ever dropping my feet. It also helps to practice at a time of day when there are not lots of people coming and going in the parking lot. Just go out there and practice, practice, practice! You will get better at it, in time.
Tip #4: Avoid Nighttime, Bad-Weather, or Emotional Riding
As mentioned above, riding a motorcycle takes a great deal more concentration, stamina, and alertness than driving a car. While you are learning, avoid riding at night, during inclement weather, or if you are upset or preoccupied. Those kinds of conditions make riding that much harder and frankly, unsafe.
You can’t always help the weather conditions out there (or, for that matter, when emotions will arise), but with a little careful planning and self awareness, you can at least try to protect yourself from situations that will place you under more stress on your bike.
The general rule of thumb seems to be that you should put in at least 5K miles before trying to ride at night or in situations where bad weather could result, but this is just an arbitrary number. You have to monitor yourself and know your limits. If you are not feeling comfortable, don’t have good visibility, or if the weather will be a distraction, do not ride!
And, this one is really important: do not get on the bike if you are upset about something or preoccupied. Motorcycle riding is so inherently unpredictable and often risky that riding while upset is just irresponsible and unsafe. Ask yourself before heading out: “Can I be fully present on this ride? Can I put this issue aside and pay attention to what I am doing? Is this ride necessary right now? Can I wait for an hour or two and see if I am feeling better then? Am I tired? Would it be better to take the car right now?”
Be honest with yourself. You may want to ride in your mind, but your body is just too tired. Or, maybe you had a cocktail with lunch and although it’s four hours later, you are feeling a bit groggy still. Whatever it is, you will have to get used to taking a near-constant personal inventory as a biker and then honoring the answer that you receive from within. Your well-being counts on it.
Tip # 5: Ride with a Friend
Until you feel completely comfortable and safe, always ride with a friend, but avoid riding two-up until you have the skills to manage the bike, yourself, and another rider. Riding with a friend in the beginning helps give you a sense of safety and confidence. Plus, it’s just lots of fun. Try to pick a friend who has lots of experience so you two can talk about how to handle different situations out there. A highly experienced friend with whom you can ride and learn from will make all the difference in your success.
Note: The tips on this page are merely supplied for your information and consideration only. They are, in essence, opinions, ideas, and comments gathered from a number of sources. These tips are not meant to replace any professionally offered training, education, or your own common sense. Motorcycle riding can be a highly risky and even dangerous activity; Biker Babe Tours accepts no responsibility for any rider’s situation resulting from the use of these tips.