Sometimes life gets in the way and before long your motorcycle has gathered more dust than miles just by sitting in the garage.
Weather, life events and even laziness all contribute to time off the bike but eventually, even if a few years have passed, we get back on our motorcycles and head out. But, when the time comes, don't expect to hit the open road like you did a year ago as if it were just yesterday.
Sure riding a motorcycle is much like riding a bicycle, you'll always know how to ride, however expect to lose some proficiency even if you feel just as confident as last time out.
Such was the case with MotoSport employee Amanda Heaberlin who, like the rest of us, has been stuck working from home as the country navigates the effects of coronavirus. After starting a family, her daughter became priority as her other love rightfully took up residence in the garage. But on the first warm sunny day in quite some time last month, the itch returned and Heaberlin took her Suzuki GSX-S750 out for the first time in two years, cruising the Oregon countryside one Friday afternoon with her husband.
And was she ever surprised.
Not in just how much she missed riding but how much she needed to relearn. She quickly discovered riding a motorcycle requires a constant presence to keep skills reinforced, but the bike needs a little work too. After the ride, Heaberlin emerged unscathed, in fact she had a great time but admitted, in hindsight, the need for a pre-ride check and a bit of preparedness on her end.
MotoSport employee Amanda Heaberlin and her husband getting ready to ride
Motorcycle Pre-ride Check
Sounds obvious but when the excitement to ride takes over how soon we quickly forget to ensure the motorcycle is ready to go. Heaberlin was doing her due diligence by starting the Suzuki once or twice a month to get it warm and refresh the battery but a five minute engine idle in the garage hardly replaces an hour long ride. Therefore, before heading out check the following:
- Tire pressure
- Gas tank (got fuel?)
- All fluid levels
- Add fresh oil and filter if a year has passed
Riding regularly creates a habitual routine so you generally remember all the gear you need to safely ride. You won't forget to wear a helmet but maybe the armor in your jacket was removed and set aside or the base layer shirt you wear underneath a jacket sits somewhere in a drawer. Get all your riding gear together and check for tears or anything else that makes it obsolete.
MotoSport employee Amanda Heaberlin
Finally, does it fit? Try it on. Loose or tight fitting riding gear does not protect as well as properly fitted gear and makes for an uncomfortable first time back on the motorcycle.
Before the Ride
Get reacquainted with your motorcycle. Sit on it and familiarize yourself with the controls and their location. Your brain remains in tune with your car or truck therefore you need to rewire or tap into the lost circuits your brain developed for your bike.
It helps to take a slow stroll around your neighborhood while engaging all the necessary functions like the turn signals, brake and throttle which also ensures these work correctly so you don't end up in a pickle miles from home.
Riding a Motorcycle for the First Time (Again)
Expect the excitement of riding to return forthwith. But keep it in check. Overconfidence can lead to undesired results. Therefore, Heaberlin found the following helpful in her return on the motorcycle after an extended absence:
Find a Riding Buddy
In this case, her husband filled this role. Riding with someone else helps with confidence because two is better than one, especially visually for drivers, and if she were to mishandle the motorcycle resulting in anything from an engine stall to an accident at least someone was there to help.
Take an easy route when riding for the first time in a while
Pick an Easy Route
Sure, you want to carve up some switchbacks like you did the last time out but consider that a mistake. You need to ease back into your riding routine before dragging a knee. So, pick a less curvy route you know won't be flooded with traffic or gravel.
Take a Break
Plan on stopping every 20 to 30 minutes to give your hands, arms and back a rest. You will be clenching tighter than normal so you'll need to relax your muscles as you get the back into riding shape.
A rider for more than 10 years, Heaberlin ended that day a bit frustrated with her technique and somewhat diminished skill set understands it comes with the territory. Her advice? Don't be too hard on yourself after the ride if you too require an adjustment period. Reflect on what worked and what didn't then adjust accordingly.
Finally, Heaberlin said make plans to hop back on the bike regularly even if every few weeks until you get more comfortable with your bike and the road. Before long, you'll be carving up the canyons once again.