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Contact: James Holter
Phone: (614) 856-1900, EXT. 1280
E-mail: jholter@ama-cycle.org


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Ask the MSF: Common Beginner Mistakes

October 28, 2013

Q: “What is the most common mistake you see new riders make, and how can I avoid it?”

A: There are several mistakes that novices make that can put them at risk. Here are five that come to mind:

1. Selecting a motorcycle that’s too large or heavy. Many riders find it more comfortable to start on a smaller motorcycle on which to gain experience before investing in a larger, more powerful motorcycle. 

2. Getting into complex situations too soon. Dense traffic, tricky intersections, and hairpin curves are integral parts of the real world, but they shouldn’t be an integral part of the early miles you put under your seat. Build your skills on less-traveled backroads, sedate neighborhoods and country roads with gentle curves.

3. Failing to maintain a 360-degree mental picture of traffic. As we’ve stressed in prior “Ask The MSF” articles, motorcycling is more a skill of the eyes and mind than of the hands and feet. If you don’t know that traffic has come to a standstill a few seconds ahead of you, or that a sleepy commuter is drifting into your lane from your right, or a distracted driver behind you hasn’t noticed that the traffic light ahead has turned red, how can you prepare for the threats? Scan near-to-far, side-to-side, and periodically glance at your mirrors.

4. Overestimating one’s own visibility. This is the flip-side of number 3. While you need to pay attention to other road users, you need to realize they may not be paying attention to you. One mental trick is to assume you’re invisible. That puts you in a frame of mind where you won’t expect others to yield to you. Instead, expect them to violate your right-of-way, and ride defensively. For example, cover your brake lever and pedal to give your reaction time a head start. 

5. Carrying passengers or participating in a group ride too soon. You need to be comfortable with your motorcycle and confident in your skills before adding these additional factors and responsibilities. Carrying passengers can reduce your maneuverability or upset your balance. Riding in a group means paying attention to all the other riders while trying to focus on your own ride. Novices don’t need this sensory overload.

The best way to approach motorcycling is to take a formal training course and practice on your own, progressing at a reasonable pace. Be a lifelong learner and seek out a variety of MSF RiderCourses.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (www.msf-usa.org) is internationally recognized for its comprehensive, research-based rider education and training programs. It offers a wide range of programs, from hands-on training to online opportunities. The group's Basic eCourse (http://online2.msf-usa.org/msf/ecourse.aspx) is an interactive computer-based program that provides riders of all knowledge and skill levels with the basics of motorcyclist safety, while recognizing the best first ride is in the hands-on MSF Basic RiderCourse.

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About the American Motorcyclist Association

Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycling rights organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through its support of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, please visit AmericanMotorcyclist.com.