Big Motorbike Maintenance

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Riding A Motorcycle

Living the biker lifestyle is full of adventure, freedom, and independence. You’re taking the path less traveled, and you take pride in setting yourself apart from the rest of the herd. Much like any other learned skill, you are going to make mistakes. Live and learn, right? While the biker life certainly does come with its unavoidable rites of passage, a little heads-up would also be appreciated too.


1/10 It’s An Expensive Lifestyle

2019 Harley-Davidson CVO Limited 2 riders
Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

2019 Harley-Davidson CVO Limited 2 riders Promo Image

Growing up we learn the difference between “want” and “need.” A car is considered a necessity. A motorcycle is a toy. You don’t necessarily need a motorcycle. So if you want to live out your inner-badass on two wheels, get ready to pay up. The price of a motorcycle in decent condition can range anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to at least $50,000. That’s just for the bike itself. Next, take into account insurance, helmets, jackets, gloves, boots, maintenance, customization, and so on. Those numbers add up fast! So if you are determined to enter the biker lifestyle, make sure you have the extra dough to pay for it!

2/10 Hope You Don’t Mind Bugs And Rain

bug splatter on full-face helmet
Konrad Samsel via Flickr

Bugs splattered on motorcycle helmet

Everyone feels like they’re in the Sons of Anarchy when they put on their leather jacket and roll down the highway. Another feeling we are familiar with is the brief moment of discomfort when a fat June bug collides with your face. Next thing you know you’re trying to wipe its guts off while maintaining control of your bike and staying alert of all the other hazards on the road. Wouldn’t it be great if we knew we signed up for a lifestyle that would lead to a graveyard of insects on our helmet’s visor? The same goes for riding in unpredictable weather. Riding through a torrential rainstorm when you least expect it is another inevitability we’ve all had to face. If only we were mentally prepared for a situation where our concern for our personal safety is magnified.

Related: 10 Safety Tips For Riding A Motorcycle In The Rain

3/10 Barely Anybody Is In A Biker Gang

hells angels motorcycle club in downtown london
Jon Kneller via Flickr

Hells Angels motorcycle club riding through downtown London

Uh, actually they are called “motorcycle clubs.” Yeah, we know. This is another common misconception where bikers are all rough and tough criminals terrorizing communities and striking fear into the innocent. The reality is most of these clubs consist of regular working people that just like to go our for a ride as a group. Meanwhile, clubs like the Hells Angels are known as “1-percenters”, separate themselves from the rest of the motorcycle community for being those outlaws we’ve seen in movies and television shows. So if you ask a member of your local motorcycle club what they do, they are more likely to be involved in raising money for a children’s hospital than illegal activities.

4/10 Tire Dressing Is Not Necessary

sports bikes lined up in a parking lot
Michael J. Slezak via Flickr

sports bikes lined up in a parking lot

Bike maintenance is always on your mind. You want your baby to be clean and sharp before taking it out on the road. While keeping your tank, fenders, engine, and lights in good shape is important, some bikers feel it necessary to utilize tire dressing formulas to clean their tires. This is certainly optional, but should be approached with caution. This is due in part that many cleaners can leave your tires oily and slick after application. This opens the door to them becoming slippery, which can be a big safety concern while out on the road.

Related: 10 Tips For Safer Riding In High Winds

5/10 Tattoos Are Not Required

tattooed biker resting on his motorcycle
Kathryn Allard via Flickr

tattooed biker resting on his motorcycle

Back in the day, if you had tattoos you were looked at as a rebel, delinquent, and troublemaker. These days, everybody and their mother is sporting some ink. While it is a personal choice to get tattooed or not, some feel it is necessary to get some done if they are to be part of the motorcycling lifestyle. In reality, you shouldn’t give in to peer pressure or social obligations in order to feel like you’re fitting in. You want to connect with other bikers because you share a love for this life, not because you got a sick back piece. In the end, tattoos are cool and appreciated, but not required.

6/10 You Don’t Have To Ride Like A Maniac

2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster S

Action shot of the 2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster S

Everyone has their own personal riding style. Some like to haul ass and push it to the red line. Others just like to take a steady cruise. So if you’ve got yourself a high-performance bike, and you’re feeling adventurous, always proceed with caution. Many first responders will tell you that whenever they find themselves reporting to a motorcycle accident, it won’t be surprising when they find out that the rider was going too fast and ended up losing control of the bike. If you are not confident in your abilities as a rider, you don’t have to go out of your way to impress your peers (or bystanders on the street). You might find yourself regretting it later on.

Related: The Most Important Motorcycle Maintenance Tasks

7/10 Traffic Lights May Not Always Sense You

red street light
Christian Stephanescu vi

A red street light at a traffic stop

Whenever you pull up to an intersection, usually there are sensors that detect whenever a vehicle has stopped at a red light. With cars and trucks, they are picked up easily thanks to their size. But with a motorcycle, it may not always know you are there. Because motorcycles are not nearly as big as a conventional vehicle, the sensors’ failure to detect you may result in you sitting at a red light longer than usual. In the event that something like this happens, either be patient and wait for the light to turn green, or hope another car shows up on the traffic light’s radar.

8/10 Wear A Full-Face Helmet

honda shadow rider wearing a full face helmet
SoulRider.222 vi

Action shot of a Honda Shadow rider wearing a full-face helmet

Nearly all U.S. states require that you wear a DOT-approved helmet while operating a motorcycle. While there are many different styles of helmets (half, three-quarter, modular, etc.) many experienced riders will recommend that you wear a full-face helmet. Why? Because your noggin gets full coverage and protection, that’s why! Not to mention it helps protect your face against the wind, road debris, bugs, and rain. If you are more concerned with looking cool by going with a non-DOT-approved brain bucket, then the choice and consequences are yours.

Related: 10 Tips For Riding Your Motorcycle In The Winter

9/10 You WILL Drop Your Motorcycle

sport bike fall mid-race
Franc via Flickr

Action shot of a sports bike rider falling off of his motorcycle mid-race

There are two guarantees in life: death and taxes. But if you ride a motorcycle, add “dropping your bike” to the list. Dropping your bike is scary, and it sucks when it happens. But no biker worth his/her leather has gone their entire lives without making the same error. Sometimes more than once. But it’s an inevitable part of the motorcycle experience. Your bike might get a few dings and scratches, and you might get a little road rash too. But all you can really do is learn from your mistakes, and build your confidence by picking up your motorcycle and keep on riding!

10/10 There Are Awful Drivers Everywhere

distracted driver using smartphone
David Kranker via Flickr

photo of a distracted driver using a smartphone

The motorcycle itself isn’t necessarily dangerous. It’s everyone else on the road you would be worried about. Distracted driving has been a constant concern for motorcyclists as many people can be too occupied operating their smartphones while behind the wheel. Not to mention those who drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Driver negligence is the leading cause of motorcycle-related accidents, usually because the driver failed to yield or see a nearby motorcycle. So the next time you hear the phrase “loud pipes save lives”, now you know.

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