How long to feel confident on bike?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by tennyis, May 26, 2013.

  1. tennyis

    tennyis Been here awhile

    May 10, 2010
    I finally realized my life long dream and at 32 years old got a motorcycle.

    The thing is though that I am really nervous on it, I wouldn't say I'm scared of it just nervous.

    Over 40mph and the wind feels like is going to blow me away, I don't like being in the left tire track, etc. I have yet to take the msf course but I have paid for it and it is on June.7th. I am debating just waiting until then before I take the bike out again but it is such a beautiful day today :)

    The bike is a 2006 Ninja 500, it's not the dual sport that I wanted but a trade came along for my atv so it meant I could get into motorcycling without a lot of upfront cost. Gear, course, license, etc was enough of a cost. I already have an ad up to trade it for the dual sport that I really want :)

    Anyways just look to hear other peoples experiences about there first few times on a bike. I've only got about 5km so far, but a lot of that was starting and stopping and practicing uturns.
  2. joexr

    joexr Banned

    Jan 4, 2011
    Just keep riding it as much as possible , you just need seat time.
  3. PT Rider

    PT Rider Been here awhile

    Aug 29, 2009
    NW Washington State
    I disagree with Joe. If one repeats bad movements one develops bad habits. Perfect practice makes perfect...trite but true.

    Read these books:
    Mastering the Ride: More Proficient Motorcycling, 2nd Edition (2012), David L. Hough
    A Twist of the Wrist 2: The Basics of High-Performance Motorcycle Riding, Keith Code (Note that this is the #2 or #II book) His "Survival Reactions" are a list of riding actions that are natural, instinctive, and WRONG!

    Begin to practice what is explained in these books, and you will gain confidence along with skill. You get even more from your MSF class with increased understanding of what they're teaching.
  4. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

    Aug 19, 2008
    New(er) Mexico
    I recommend you stay off the bike until your MSF.

    And, you WANT to be a little scared of your motorcycles. You should have a healthy respect for them. This does not mean riding scared, holding up traffic, and tiptoeing down the roads -- it means being aware and having a full understanding that what you are doing is more dangerous than some other activities.

    Don't ignore the risk -- manage it. Understand it. Take proactive steps to mitigate it, when and where you can.

    The day you stop being just a little nervous about swinging a leg over the saddle should be the day you stop riding.

    You'll get over the jittery feeling while riding in a few thousand miles.

    Take what they teach you at the MSF and use it as a springboard to learn more, more, more! Keep practicing the skills they teach -- yes being able to do tight U-turns IS actually important for everyday riding! Plus, it's not even so much about the U turn as it is the throttle/clutch coordination.

    Good luck!
  5. joexr

    joexr Banned

    Jan 4, 2011
    He's only got 5K of seat time , he needs to RIDE. Not necessarily on the street , but RIDE.
  6. txwanderer

    txwanderer Been here awhile

    Sep 1, 2010
    Almost East Texas
    I agree you need seat time. I disagree that you aren't scared.

    Fear isn't all bad. It stops most of us from doing stupid things. You don't have the advantage of knowing what is stupid and what isn't right now. Good since and the thousands of years of being human don't always make good motorcycle since. Example: we look at danger. It is inbred and reinforced through generations of being peditor and prey. It is natural and the right thing to do 99.999% of the time. It will get you dead on a motorcycle. We go where we look. See?

    Cool your jets and take the course. Practice the things you learn, and get some saddle time that way. Take it easy for a while on the street.

    In the mean time, get your car, roll down the windows, and go for a drive. Look at other drivers as if you have nothing between you and them. Take mental notes of the way the wheels stop, or not. Check out the rolling stops. People chasing yellow lights because they should have left yesterday and the goodwill of the planet depend on them getting there no matter what. Lots of traffic this weekend and plenty of chances to people watch. Look where you are diving. Are you too close? Probably. Are you riding in peoples blind spots? Are you lingering in places that could get you boxed in? Are you speeding? Doing hard starts and stops? Be honest.

    Why are you afraid of the left track? It is the safest place for you in almost every case. You can see and be seen best from there, you have space to move and evade while you stay in your lane, you show that you own the lane, you better own it or someone will own it for you. Less debris is there. Lots of reasons for it, you just don't know them all yet. It sounds dumb, but things like this will teach you how to stay alive.

    Congrats and have patience, good things for those who wait. Your time will come.

  7. 4TooMany

    4TooMany Been here awhile

    Aug 23, 2011
    Ann Arbor
    The class will help for sure, but being in traffic (and at higher speeds) is something you're not going to experience in class.

    I believe what you need is a combination of the class and what joexr and PT Rider said. On one hand it is true that just riding will reinforce bad habits, but just reading books won't help much by itself (not that PT was suggesting that).

    Where I think joexr hits the nail on the head is that your confidence will improve every time you go out and successfully make it home. You're learning to ride as an adult who already has a healthy sense of his mortality, and that's where the nervousness comes from. If you had learned as a kid, this would be a very different experience. Take it slow, it will come.

    One of the most important things you'll learn from the MSF class is to ride within your abilities (and your comfort zone). That means if you're really not comfortable doing something, don't do it. Spend a lot of time on the back roads until you start to feel better at higher speeds and mixed with traffic. If you have friends who ride, DON'T let them push you out of your comfort zone. Take this at your own pace.

    Stick with it, it's worth it!
  8. Bubbachicken

    Bubbachicken learning fast!

    Feb 3, 2013
    I got my first bike in December of last year. I waited two weeks for the MSF before I sat on the thing. I did not think that I could wreck just sitting on it, I just knew me, if I sat on it, I would want to start it. I would then want to put it in gear, and then I would want to know how the clutch felt, and things would have gone downhill from there, as it turned out. The CB 650 C is not a sport bike, and by todays standards, 68 Hp is not even that massive for a bike that weighs this much. But let me tell you, if you wreck now, you are going to tend to have a flinch that will take FAR longer to remove, and you also will have scuffed or broken something your bike for NO reason (especially since you want to trade it for what you really want already (another discussion is in that concept)).

    Now, if you wait for the MSF, this is what will happen:

    A, if it is not for you, you will know.
    B, if you are having any sorts of problems with simple things, you will get a chance to have a qualified person ONSITE tell you what the problem is and how to fix/overcome it.
    C, You will get a reduction in insurance cost (insurance being mandatory in most US locations, not sure about overseas)
    D, You will be getting licensed properly (also required in the US, and not having the license in the US will range from a stern look to a fine or other issues, especially if lack of insurance proof FOR A MOTORCYCLE is involved; overseas, your milage may vary on this one as well).
    E, you will gain appreciation for that wonderful left section (middle) of the roadway lane. It is your friend!
    F, you will learn about friction zones and emergency braking, as well as target fixation and how to keep from being embarassed when you run out of fuel (petcock check!:evil)
    G, you may find some new friends, and your ride coach should offer his/her advice as you move forward in your new potential passion, which is pretty helpful in most cases.

    H, you will have a statistically FAR LOWER probability of having a crash if you wait until after the course to ride than you will if you are riding before it, regardless of what the folks who claim "I just jumped on and was fine!" or "everyone wipes out, you dust it off and keep on going!" are going to say.

    I dumped my bike only a few weeks after the course, going less than three miles an hour, leaving my driveway. Minor scuff on my protective gear and helmet (!!), no real damage, but it was eye-opening and I felt it a couple days later to be sure, sore as heck but no marks anyplace. Last spill I have had, despite MANY opportunities not only to wipe out, but to DIE since, primarily caused by cagers not paying attention or violating laws (intersections are potential death traps) or in two cases, me not trusting that the bike had ability to turn as rapidly as it needed to for negotiation of a bend that was far sharper than what it appeared to be as I set up my entry angle (another thing covered in MSF class, by the way!). I even did a U turn or SEVEN already...:lol3

    Do the class FIRST, don't make your odds of issues higher than the first six months already create for you. There is no need to get hurt. Take your car, as stated above, and do some driving as if you are sedately motorcycling along, and see what the other drivers are up to, especially in those intersections. See how close they come to your lane in those turns especially, and what they do on the twisties, and carry that information over AFTER your class is done and your very next bike ride starts. Wait for the class.:deal
  9. Bubbachicken

    Bubbachicken learning fast!

    Feb 3, 2013
    By the way, missing that 1972 Ponti-Buick that suddenly stalled in the intersection as you were approaching too quickly with a loaded Semi truck tailgating your azz in traffic is FAR easier if you have done that drill in the class, as well as passing the driving test if the instructor properly gives it in places the class does not replace that test. Nothing like rear ending a big 70's automobile then being pinched by the Semi to cut your days of riding short...:eek1
  10. Ulyssessix

    Ulyssessix Been here awhile

    Apr 8, 2006
    North Carolina
    I completely agree here. Confidence should come from years of experiences including bad ones. I have seen too many times a new rider get over-confident then make a mistake not in the first three months, but six month or a year later.

    MSF is also a good start. I recommend it highly. There are also more advance courses like BikeSafe. It was develop by London Motor Cops and now is coming here to the states. I did it last year with some friends. It was put on by Durham North Carolina Motor cops. I think it takes MSF to the next level with motor cops following on the street critiquing your riding. They also cover road conditions and situations that MSF does not like what to do if you hit gravel in the road. They graphically show accident investigations to some really bad get offs, what the situations were, the causes of the accident and the results. All together I walked away with some really good tips. After more than 100,000 miles on motorcycles I found that I am not checking my mirrors enough, still working on that.

    Lastly I would suggest riding with a more advanced rider. When my wife was learning, a friend and I would take her, his wife and a friend of theirs on group rides. Two Buell Blasts and an 883 Sportster wedged between two bright orange Ulys. We clocked off a lot of miles as a group and now the wife will ride solo with much more confidence. We would take them on back roads and had hand signal when I need them to slow down and sometimes speed up. After a couple of rides we worked out that I lead better and my buddy watch them better from behind and critique them when we would stop. The only issue I have now is I catch myself tapping the rear brake when in a group, a signal we would use for a decreasing radius curve or obstacle around a blind curve when riding with more experienced riders. Funny blinking brake lights at a racer that has gone over 200 mph on two wheels. Yeah I did that.
  11. corndog67

    corndog67 Banned

    Jan 24, 2006
    Santa Maria, CA
    Get out and ride. Ride with more experienced riders. Get a dirt bike and ride that. And reading a book isn't going to teach you how to ride. It might give you a little bit more to look for, but until you are actually out there doing it, they make no sense whatsoever.
  12. SkiFastBadly

    SkiFastBadly A beer? Yes, please

    Mar 28, 2007
    Woodinville, WA
    Maybe they teach this in MSF, maybe it's in "Proficient Motorcycling" I can't remember which but the second year of riding is the most dangerous. That's when the rider's confidence exceeds his abilities. Being a little unconfident isn't the worst thing in the world.
  13. CRP6001

    CRP6001 Photographer

    Apr 2, 2011
    Countryside near Hanover, Indiana
    I bought a bike and waited until after taking the BRC to ride. A couple of
    friends told me I would have problems in the class because I had never
    been on a bike, and one suggested I was a poser because I bought an
    expensive helmet and gloves and had not ridden yet. "What's your problem, anyone else would just run and jump on it." I'm glad I waited.
    The course was a great experience, I learned a lot, and learned my limitations, what I needed to work on. The head instructor advised me
    to stay off the Interstate and away from city traffic until I gained more
    experience, advise I took. It took around a thousand miles before I felt
    comfortable on a motorcycle.
  14. LetItRoll

    LetItRoll ForwardAholic

    Jul 14, 2010
    North Central Idaho

    I would ride as much as possible before the class, as long as it is in a safe controlled area that you are comfortable with. You will be more confident in the class and be able to absorb/do more.
  15. ozmoses

    ozmoses ...

    Jul 3, 2009


    But do ride, even if it is only in an empty parking lot slowly.

    As kids we went from mini-bikes to dirt/enduro bikes so the transition to street was natural for me. I cannot imagine suddenly riding on the street, however.
  16. pizzaman383

    pizzaman383 Black 2004 955i

    Jun 19, 2006
    Roswell, GA
    When riding on the street, you only come to stop signs, intersections, etc. infrequently. Practice going up and down the aisles in a parking lot. Go left sometimes, go right others. Go slow sometimes and go fast others. Practice braking, shifting, turning, etc. all while staying in your lane. This will give you a lot more intense practice with things that bring comfort controlling the bike. When you are comfortable with these actions then the other things in real traffic will have more of your mental focus.
  17. ibafran

    ibafran villagidiot

    Apr 16, 2007
    I am in the 'wait for the class' camp. It's only a week away. It is a great confidence builder. And there is no need to put oneself in undue risk at this point in time. Bad riding habits really are tough to un-do. And I still suffer major twitches from falling off in my yoot nearly 50 yrs later.

    Having one's own bike to practice on when coming home from the class is really great. That re-enforces skill deveopment quickly and builds confidence that mastering basic riding techniques is not that hard. Once some basic bike control is built and absorbed, traffic is a lot easier to manage.

    I suspect that the OP's nervousness is due to being slightly overchallenged by the process of trying to it all, all at once. Separating learning bike control from traffic management would greatly enhance learning each part more easily and quickly. The safety course's 'ride a little then rest and think a little bit more' layout eases a lot of noob anxiety and promotes quick, confident learning. In this instance, that is probably the best way to go and is the hot set-up.

    Polite reminder: The learning to ride (better) never stops.
  18. Stan_R80/7

    Stan_R80/7 Beastly Gnarly

    May 12, 2012
    To add another personal opinion: when I picked up riding a street bike circa 1990 I rode in neighborhoods and back streets to get seat time. Today, when I get a new bike I do the same. It's about time in the saddle and comfort operating the controls and the feel - without having to spend time thinking about how to operate the machine. The MSF course will not do that or give you seat time in your bike.

    The course is very useful and worthwhile, but (IMO) you need time on your bike and the only way to get that is by riding. I suppose this is a bit of a 'chicken and egg' quandary, but I resolved the issue by staying out of traffic and riding in slow speed limit areas. Good luck!

    p.s. I am registered to take another MSF safety course next weekend.

    Edit: to clarify, I learned to ride bikes off road when I was ~ 13 years old - so I quickly became comfortable riding a street bike. However, a healthy respect for the dangers present - particularly from other motor vehicles - should never be taken lightly. Over confidence has more dire consequences than being nervous.
  19. BanjoBoy

    BanjoBoy n00bie

    Mar 18, 2009
    Northern CA
    Mah 1st time on a (Mini) bike wuz over 45 yrs ago, (At age 8) 'n far as I remember I've alwayz bean comfortable, 'n confident on bikes. :happay
    They didn't have no msf class when I wuz learn'in just my brother tell'in me to "lay 'er down" if shit happens, and not to use the front brake! The msf might help ya, butt just remember ride'in ain't fer everyone. :deal

    Good luck wut ever ya do.
  20. tijuana

    tijuana Farkling Around

    Jun 26, 2011
    Baja & Southern California
    Make sure you can SLAM! & STOP on a dime. Just do not lock it up and crash or go over the bars. Many times, usually a large SUV with a cee-u-N-T driving, changes lanes, right in front of me and slams on the brakes to make a right, has happened to me three times. (haters) :wink:

    That and always be aware, do not get distracted by anything. Not beautiful women, daydreaming, music... Watch the automobile drivers heads in the traffic ahead of you and across intersections. Do they look sober, sane, do they know you are there?

    Practice evasive maneuvers, like turns and never leave home without protective gear. That means helmet AND armored jacket, gloves, boots, pants.

    Join a local riding group, after you go to your moto safety course and
    "Live long and Prosper"