I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time, but one thing I’ve gotten a pretty good hang of is riding motorcycles. I’ve been doing it now for over 20 years (I’m 28 and three-quarter years old) and have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that have not only helped me become a better rider, but a smarter rider as well.

The following tips, tricks and techniques are all things I’ve learned over the years by either being taught or told at one point, by observing better/faster riders, or by simply having figured it out on my own, and I like to share these insights with others whenever I get the chance. To some, a few of these practices may seem basic or rudimentary, but all too often I see motorcyclists exhibiting bad habits or a lack of fundamental skills that can potentially lead to a hairy situation.

Riding motorcycles is risky enough as it is, so let’s all do each other a favor by practicing some of the following skills and techniques in an effort to become smarter and safer riders. Your mileage may vary on a number of these, but this is how I like to ride.

1. Two Fingers on the Clutch

Motorcycle Riding Tips, Tricks and Techniques

Two fingers is all anyone needs to effectively modulate the clutch lever. Using all four fingers to operate the clutch is perfectly okay when you’re stopped or if your bike just has a heavy clutch pull, but once rolling, one or two fingers are usually perfect for modulating the clutch as you work your way around town. Granted, I’ve learned this technique more by riding off-road, where more challenging terrain requires you to hold on more to control the bike, but it no doubt translates to the street as well. By using only two fingers (or just one) on the clutch or brake lever, the rider indisputably has greater control over the bike because both hands have a solid grasp on the bars. If you need four fingers to pull your clutch lever, you may want to look into cable lube. Lots of new bikes, like the Versys X 300 for one, have slip-assist clutches with superlight levers that encourage my one or two-finger technique. Using four to hold the clutch all the way back against the grip for an extended period of time is okay, but remember your clutch isn’t an all-or-nothing control.

If you’re a rider that uses all four fingers for every shift, next time you’re out for a ride, try using only two. It might feel awkward at first, but with a little patience and practice, you’ll be clutching like the pros in no time. To help speed the process along, I recommend getting one of those grip-strengthening clasp thingamabobbers to use at home when you’re watching TV, reading or even driving – ha! But don’t get distracted, focus on the road… Most clutches these days have a pretty light pull already, but it’s not uncommon for a rider’s wrists and forearms to get tired after a long day’s ride, or especially if you have to commute and use the clutch often – building your grip strength will help alleviate that. And besides, nobody likes a dead-fish handshake.

In an ideal world, two fingers on the brake lever will always be enough to howl the front tire. In our world, it depends on the motorcycle. Some bikes will have you clamping the brake lever onto your ring and pinky fingers when you need to stop hard if you only use two fingers, and that can be a very bad thing. Know your machine’s limits, and be prepared to squeeze with all four digits if that’s what your front brake needs for maximum decel.

2. Adjust the Clutch Friction Zone to Your Preference

In one way or another, every motorcycle’s clutch friction zone can be adjusted to suit a rider’s preference. Some are adjusted on the cable itself, others can be changed by a dial on the perch, and hydraulic clutches with master cylinders have a knob or screw you can turn to move the lever back and forth. There’s no right or wrong friction zone area so long as the clutch is functioning properly – meaning it’s not slipping by not completely engaging or disengaging. Each rider’s friction zone adjustment can be unique to their personal preference.

For me, I pull the lever in with my index and middle fingers until it’s resting on my ring and pinky fingers. I like the clutch to start engaging as soon as I start to release the lever. In that range, I feel I have a direct and predictable connection without any lapse between the motor and transmission. This technique’s benefits are most noticed in tight or slow speed conditions when precise clutching is most crucial. Also, keeping two fingers on the bars (three if you count your thumb) and two on the clutch or brake will help you steer and operate those controls better independently of one another, rather than just hooking the grip with your thumb with four fingers on the levers.

If you prefer the friction zone further away where you can quickly fan the clutch, that’s okay too. The point here is more so to be aware that a rider can adjust the friction zone to their preferences, rather than just leaving it as is. Play around with it if you don’t already know what you like.

3. Practice Turning Left and Right in Circles

This one might seem too basic or even silly, but this rudimentary exercise will help you immensely. Believe it or not, turning left is generally easier than turning right on a motorcycle. This is true for two main reasons: First off, most people are right-handed and it’s easier to push the handlebar away with your dominant arm. (At higher speeds, of course, pushing on the right bar will cause you to turn right.) Secondly, and the more significant reason, is that the rear brake lever is on the right, which means it’s more difficult to brake and put a foot down if needed while turning right. This is why in racing, motocross and supercross especially (where riders heavily bottleneck into the first corner), the first turn is usually a left-hander so that riders can effectively brake and keep their balance at the same time.

This exercise is best performed in an empty parking lot where you can use the painted lines as a guide. Start off by going in left-handed, counterclockwise circles and practice getting your circles tighter and tighter. Then do the same thing in the opposite right-handed, clockwise direction. You’ll probably realize this way is a little more difficult. This exercise will help you improve not only your balance, but your slow-speed, tight-quarter maneuvering too.

4. Figure Eights

Same idea as above, but now we’re linking the left- and right-handed turns back-to-back. Same drill – start as wide as you need to and progressively narrow it down. You’ve heard motorcyclists talk about the “flickability” of a bike; this is where a rider quickly transitions and “flicks” the bike from one side to the other, fluidly linking right and left turns together. Be sure to start off slow. Practicing any skill slowly will help you perform it faster – we all crawl before learning to walk.

5. Practice Hard Braking

This exercise can be performed in an empty parking lot or open back road, just don’t do it anywhere near traffic. The idea here is to find out just how fast your bike can stop, because you never know when you might have to slam on those brakes. Practice stopping as quickly as you can by accelerating to different speeds to see how much distance it takes to bring the bike to a complete stop. In fact, you never want to actually “slam” on your brakes. You want to squeeze gently initially, with increasing pressure as needed.

Coming to a halt from 25 mph will clearly happen quicker and in less distance than from 60 mph – obviously – but the bike will react and respond in different ways. Stopping quickly from faster speeds will undulate and disturb the bike’s balance more so and differently than from slower speeds, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with what to expect and how to modulate the lever for optimal braking. Furthermore, this exercise will help you find your bike’s limits, hopefully without exceeding them (i.e. washing the front end and crashing).

Additionally, if your bike is equipped with ABS, you should know how and when the system engages. Some ABS systems engage earlier than others with varying levels of feel at the lever. Just remember – ABS is a rider aid, not a safety net.

  • Mahatma

    Enjoy riding in the wet now and then.May not apply to california though…Maybe not utah or texas either I’ve heard…

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Only on my KTM 1190 Adventure R with Continental TKC80 knobby tires and in Rain mode. It is my rainy day motorcycle.

      • Johnny Blue

        Only a few days per week all year-round. If I skip the rainy days throughout the year I might as well give it up entirely, My bike can swim.

    • Gertrude

      Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
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  • DAVID

    “Look Not Where You’re Going, But Where You Want to Go” plus do not skip on tires/tire pressure is the best advice I ever got in my 35 yrs of riding…….

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Reduce the tire pressure to 15 lbs front and back for more traction in the dirt.

    • Ann

      Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
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  • Rocky Stonepebble

    Whatever happened to good old swearing, and soiling oneself?

    • Alaskan18724

      Nothing happened to it. It’s still there. It’s just so ubiquitous we sometimes fail to remark.

  • gunny 2shoes

    thanks for that, now just waiting for them to plow that empty parking lot.

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      I took off two weeks for Christmas. So far, it has snowed heavily for all but two days. The other day I went out to move my company car, and it was -21c. I don’t know what that is in old money, but it is effing cold in Canada. Most days have been like that. So, I decided to battle that by starting my new motorbike shopping early. 😉

      • Larry Kahn
        • Rocky Stonepebble

          Been there. A few times. Shitty tobogganing weather.

        • therr850

          Not funny….

      • Sayyed Bashir

        It has been unbelievably balmy in California. Been riding every day on Christmas and New Years holidays.

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/016e64668649c07f2829b1f0ebee871e4b43d841b7d59880652617c9e8e3df1a.jpg

        • Rocky Stonepebble

          Great. Now I have to spend good money that could have been spent on motorcycles or motorcycle accessories, to fly down there and beat you to death.

          You better hide come the end of hockey season!

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Well, at least chip in for the flight.
            🙂

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Yeah … they’ve written a shitload of Destination Highways books, starting with B.C.

            Have been to Cali a few times and always made it back and over twenty years ago I vowed to never enter the U.S. again.

          • Johnny Blue

            Did you keep that vow?

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Yup. It all stems from my great antipathy towards the death penalty. Always said I would not visit a country with it. I was wrongly under the impression the U.S. federal government had quit the DP, so I felt safe to visit non-DP states such as New York, Michigan, California or Colorado.

            About 23 years ago I was made aware that the federal government has the DP, so that puts ALL states off limits (I then found out Cali and Colorado always had it – oops!).

            Just my quiet, private remonstration against something morally repugnant. It shall not have an effect on any country in any way, but I at least have the inner knowledge of not contributing in any way to these countries.

            (Sorry you asked? lol)

          • Johnny Blue

            No, not sorry. I didn’t expect this reply, but I agree with you. I always said it would be better to put the convicted criminals on forced labor, to get something out for the society. And that’ll also give them time to meditate on the wrongdoing they inflicted on others. Although I’d like to see the prisons full of white collar criminals, bankers, politicians and their kind instead of the poor souls who didn’t have a chance in life and were forced into a life of crime, or mental disability.

            Happy New Year!

        • therr850

          Also not funny…

  • Jon Jones

    You should always masturbate (at home, of course) before a group sportbike ride to keep the testosterone level down and your bloated ego in check.

  • Mad4TheCrest

    Down with all of those tips except maybe No 7, ‘Scooch right up against the tank’. Whether that’s a great idea I think depends on the bike, your size, and how you are riding at the moment (fast/slow, in traffic, negotiating 180 degree switchbacks, or railing around a sweeping bend, etc). Balance points will shift somewhat between stable riding, hard braking, and hard acceleration. Being flexible enough to adjust your position to suit what you are doing is probably an advanced technique, and maybe for most just hugging that tank is the better advice, but I think we can agree that adjusting your position to balance the bike under different riding conditions is a good thing.

  • Starmag

    Those are all good, but I’ll pass on the nads on the tank thing.When asked,( it’s not polite to offer advice that isn’t asked for, and in my experience it won’t be often), I tell rookies:

    1) Distracted murderous drivers WILL try to turn left in front of you and flying like Superman is only fun until you hit something solid. Therefore, slow down, heads up and cover the front brake when passing through intersections.

    2) DON’T tailgate. Most cars with ABS can stop faster than you can, especially with reaction time.As you mention , hard braking practice in an empty parking lot is great practice.

    3) Ride alongside cars as little as possible.

    4) Forget lane positioning. I tell other riders to stay the hell away from me (unless we’re at a stop light) when we are riding. It’s bad enough if I go down, worse if you run my head over and you go down too.

    • Gruf Rude

      +4 on 4.

    • Alaskan18724

      Concur on all points. And groups of rugged individualists riding together in rugged individualist packs frighten me. Stay the hell away from me, too!

      • Rocky Stonepebble

        LOLOLOLOL!
        Post. Of. The. Year!

        (Yeah, I know …)

      • Rocky Stonepebble
        • This is why Disqus needs to steal Facebook’s reaction choices… I need a LOVE button for this one!

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            But, I am not on FBook, and everyone would be bereft of my bon mots!

            Oh …

            Wait …

          • Alaskan18724

            The love of Facebook is the root of all evil.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I shall guarantee you, I was on FBlast before anyone else here (don’t ask; boring story). About five years back, I realized it was idiotic and bolted. Though they stole all of my photos and links to hot younger … information about my pals.

            Who ride motorbikes.

            Big ones.

            And, quickly.

          • Alaskan18724

            At that point, I had the right to remain silent… but not the capability.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Don’t up-vote me. You just encourage my deviant ways that placate my lost stand-up days at Monday open mics. Forever trying to elicit laughs with any banal or idiotic joke I may foist upon the interwebs.

            Gosh, I miss those booze-fuelled nights of stupidity.

            Do you/MO accept freelance submissions?

          • But….but our spirits are kindred, I just can’t help it!

            We accept a lot of submissions, but don’t run most of them. I suspect you could get something officially published on Motorcycle.com if you really applied yourself to the task and make sure to include plenty of banal idiocy in anything you submit.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Perfect. I’m far too lazy, but I’ve had visions of travelogues to Trawna’s most current bike show.

            This exercise in beef jerky appreciation and cousin wooing is the plus ultra vehicle for a trip down banal lane, with a stop in Idiot County.

      • Toldyouso

        I do a lot of group riding. We have, however, two strict rules: We ride in staggered formation, maintaining the same distance to the rider ahead we would riding single file. That way everybody has plenty of stopping distance and other drivers are discouraged from trying to “Lane Share” with us. And if there are more than 4 of us, we split up in as many groups as necessary to keep groups at 4 or less. We don’t even try to keep the group ahead of us in sight. We all know where we’re going. People get annoyed with long throngs of motorcycles riding together. No need to stoke the fires. We’re better off not ticking off anyone.

        • Rocky Stonepebble

          That all sounds …

          … so dull. So tediously, soul-crushingly, mind-numbingly dull. Dull, dull, dull.

          Tear producing, headache inducing, life sappingly dull!

          When you nail the wife, are you shaking her hand the entire time? Do you think of Prince Charles, or greenhouse gasses, or accountancy?

          Is there space on your bike for golf clubs and your Masonic apron?

          It’s a MOTORCYCLE! Tell the others to go roger themselves and ride the thing! Gie it some Wellie. Try life’s fast lane.

  • Glenn59

    Good article overall but I would quible with your advice about lane positioning. I know staggered riding is taught in many places but I think it has disadvantages compared to simply riding as individuals keeping an appropriate gap between you. Riders vision can be blocked by other riders and I think a staggered situation markedly increases the chance of crashes affecting other members of the group. The only advantage of staggered riding is you may be more visible as a group but I don’t think this is a compelling.argument

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Group rides require staggered riding, It gives each rider the maximum space to move forward, backward or sideways and also doesn’t take up as much space on the road which is important for large groups.

      • Glenn59

        I respectfully disagree with you. I have seen three riders in a staggered group come down together in a crash whereonly one was involved. Unnecessary close proximity riding is not helpful to safety. Also, a motorcycle is legally entitled to take a full lane, there is no obligation to share. I am a rider trainer in Australia. We used to teach staggered riding but research did not support its use.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          There is no lane sharing. Each rider has full use of his or her lane. The only difference is that each rider is positioned a little bit to the left or right in his or her lane. This gives them 2 seconds behind the rider in front of them instead of only one second if they were directly behind the rider in front of them.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/586f47c48dfcfd10904e913e71048e4ed729747889787aca7bb82ba53dbbedd0.jpg

          • Glenn59

            Hi Sayyed, we all stick with what we know including myself but there are compelling reasons not to stagger ride. The primary reason is that you cannot buffer away from oncoming traffic and stay in formation. Even the MSF tells us not to buffer on curvy roads. The superficial attraction of buffering is that you feel like you have more stopping room but when you try to move your motorcycle across the lane to counter cross hazards you may actually increase risk. Can you think of a reason why its safer. Apart from visibility as a group in every other way you are less safe.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Why not use your three second method? Because people are assholes! And idiots!

            Leave a three second gap between you and the next bike, and some asshole in a car shall not be able to live with himself until he passes the second bike, in order to “fill that hole.”

            Also, that three second gap seems huge to the second bike, and we end up getting ‘gap creep.’ this is a symptom of velocitization. The second bike will slowly get very close to the leading bike and there goes any safety margin.

            Also, by staggering, we fill up the ENTIRE lane, which stops assholes in cars from trying to share the lane with the rider, whether to the left or the right. This has happened to me. A lot! I imagine it has happened to Duke a lot, too, because I am led to believe he is from the Vancouver area.

            The safest way is to do what my riding buddies and I do. We don’t go on group rides. We meet for a tea (or coffee or cofveve) to start. Then meet for a beer at the end. We generally take the same route. However, some zoom off like arseholes, at extra-legal speeds (me) and others cruise like grannies.

            Fun for kids of all ages.

          • Glenn59

            I tend ro agree with you Rocky –
            group rides are inherently dangerous so maybe travelling separately is the go?

            Some precincts advocate a 2 second gap which reduces the chance of your overtaking scenario happening. I would advocate three seconds to allow for a concentration lapse by the rider. Riders need to learn to resist the urge to bunch up closer. As you say, we do it unconsciously and it is really dangerous.

            The problem with using staggering to prevent cars getting between you is that the car drivers behind you will get frustrated and may attempt an unsafe pass. As you suggest, some people occassionally try to occupy your lane. I try to let aggressive drivers pass and ride in the middle of the lane when this is not possible.

            Druving in traffic is a matter of managing multple risks for your safety. Their may not be a ‘right’ answer for every situation. I think it is a good thing for experienced motorcyclists to share their experiences though.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            The staggered riding is for the teddy-bears on Lead Wings, and pirates on noise makers crowds. Those clowns can’t get out of their own way, and love to express their individuality by dressing the same, and riding in groups on similar bikes.

            Since they are all dawdling on super-slabs, staggered is best for them.

            I prefer to just f*** off sharpish like. Much more fun, too.

          • fzrider

            I agree. I ride alone by myself unless there are other bikers nearby. Then I treat them like I do four wheelers – Maximum distance between us and suspicion they are about to do something stupid and it’s up to me to survive on my on. Trying to “group ride” just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s just adding difficulty when riding safely is difficult enough already.

            By the way, love your line…”love to express their individuality by dressing the same…”

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            lol … TY

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Advice from the motorcycle insurance companies:

            5. Stagger your riding formation

            Perhaps the trickiest part of group riding is perfecting the formation. That’s because while you want to keep your group relatively tight (so you’re easy to spot), you also want to maintain a space cushion within the ranks.

            How on earth do you do that? The best way is to stagger: the leader rides on the left side of the lane, the second rider stays one second back and on the right side. The third rider stays one second behind the second rider and on the left side, and so on. You don’t want to ride side-by-side since this will limit your maneuvering space if you need to swerve quickly.

            Keep in mind that you may want to go single-file on very curvy or deteriorated roads, when entering the highway, when turning at intersections, or in bad weather.”

            https://www.esurance.com/info/motorcycle/8-rules-for-group-motorcycle-riding

          • Glenn59

            So where did the insurance company get this opinion? It sounds pretty much what MSF teaches. This may or not be correct. My biggest concern about staggered riding is that you cannot buffer away from cross hazards and still stay in formation. Do you concede this Point? If not is there a major advantage of staggered riding that overrides the ability to buffer?

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I stick to caffeine fueled mayhem. On my own.
            ;

          • bvail

            Agreed. More than one is a crowd 🙂 One wag on a forum stated that if you go on a week ride/camping trip and you don’t know who the asshat is, it’s probably you. I usually go solo as it’s a lot easier to figure who the asshole is. On a group ride everyone is only as safe as the lousiest rider. One second gap? Don’t think so. Takes a second (or more) for the brain to kick in and then tell the brakes to stop the bike is a bit longer, maybe much longer depending on the circumstances.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            You. Are. My. Hero.

            Do you live in Kanadastan?

          • bvail

            Koloradostan here.

            p.s. I cannot place my nads on my gas tank, due to the fact I am downsizing from my GL1800 (sportified) to a Suzuki Burgman 650 Exec. If I went that far forward I would be sitting on the floor. Don’t laugh. This is a serious scootin’ scooter. I will need to relearn the friction zone a bit, but doesn’t look challenging at all.

            Why did I make this decision? I’ll be 74 YO tomorrow. BTW the Burgie top speed is said to be around 115 mph. My comfort zone on this bike is around 85 mph.

            Fastest bike I ever owned was my ’03 FJR1300. It had a mind of its own.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I turned 54, two days back. Happy happy.

          • bvail

            You got many miles of smiles left. Careful out there.

          • fzrider

            I’m only 67. Back when I 62 or so met an old guy on a Burgie. Told me he was king of the mountains back in the day on his GSXR 1100. “Well least you can still get around on two wheels” I said. He laughed and gave a wink, “I can still show most the boys the way over the mountains”. For some reason I believed him. May not be too long before my FZ1 gets traded for something…else.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            You don’t have to stay “in formation” all the time. It makes sense that it is safer if you are not directly behind the rider in front. It gives you leeway to move forward and back in traffic because you are both not going to be riding at exactly the same speed all the time. One may be slowing down and the other still accelerating, like a accordion. If you do that in single file, you would get too close to the bike in front or the bike behind you. With staggered formation you don’t have to worry as much because you have twice the space to play with.

          • Alaskan18724
          • Alaskan18724
          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I think WE may group ride together. lol

          • Alaskan18724

            Violently agree.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Well, there is never any need for violence.

            A stern glowering. Muttering under one’s breath. Thinking awful thoughts upon which one shall never act. All of these are acceptable.

            That, and another coffee or tea. I can never stress enough, the tea thing.

          • Alaskan18724

            And they call the wind Mariah….

          • Rocky Stonepebble
          • RyYYZ

            I don’t want to be part of any group ride that involves riding slowly enough and in places that we’d have cars passing us. 30 bikes riding below the speed limit? That’s a parade and I want no part of it, at all. Unless it’s some huge charity ride or something, in which case it should probably have a police escort.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Even in Parry Sound, when we had a police escort, no one slowed down for others … lol

            Going to the show this weekend?

          • RyYYZ

            Yep, heading in on Saturday is the plan. Then to Quebec for skiing on Sunday!

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I’ve goggled the route. Shall be there for opening on Saturday. Haven’t been to that show in about ten years. Then home to east of Trawna to watch TV on Sunday!

          • Dan Loken

            I went on a group ride like that once and it was not fun at all.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Imagine 700 riders with a 3 second gap in a single file vs a 1 second gap in a staggered formation (which yields a 2 second gap to the rider directly in front). In the first scenario the line of bikers will be 7 miles long, in the second it will be 2 miles. Which is more manageable? If it is just 3 riders, who cares how they ride? I went for a ride today with some friends and we rode staggered formation when possible. It is flexible so you can go single file when you need to like when going around curves. What you are after is the gap between the bikes, not which part of the lane they ride in. Since it is a motorcycle, it can use whichever part of the lane is the most useful at the moment, including avoiding pot holes, gravel or rocks. The people who are running into each other are too close together, not because they are in a staggered formation.

          • Glenn59

            But cars can safely overtake bikes in a long column if they have an appropriate gap. Cars confronted with a solid wall of bikes will be frustrated and may attempt dangerous overtakes. The article below is interesting and partially agrees with each of us.
            https://motorbikewriter.com/tips-group-riding-motorcycles/

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            This article lost me at the photo of the teddy-bear boys. Then I read the article and knew I was correct.

            This guy writes a load of bollocks. If I was in my car and came across his group ride, I’d go insane. ‘Slow down to allow stragglers to catch up’?

            What a f****** w*****.

          • Sean Matthew Molle

            I perceive staggered formation recommendations come as an alternative to abreast formations. Two abreast CHiPs style – a style I often see weekend cruisers take on two-laners here in rural central VA – replicated ad noseum to the end of your group creates a wide cross section and reduces all lateral clearances within a lane for the single or staggered rider. And of course I’d agree, riding alone is better than staggered; at least until you crash or end up stranded and a buddy or two would have been helpful.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            What if one takes one’s dog for a bucolic walk in the forest? Should one invite along a pal in the off chance a heart attack or some such sudden medical emergency should arise?

            (And, it is “ad nauseam”)

          • therr850

            Hey,,, I done that once. Thankfully I stayed conscious long enough to call 911 for help. Cell phones can be handy.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Ecstatic that you are now well.

          • therr850

            A double bypass, better diet and some exercise, doing great! Thanks.

          • Sean Matthew Molle

            Thanks for the helpful correction, Rocky. And if you reread my comment it wasn’t meant to be argumentative. I was hoping to share perspective. Coming from Cali I’d easily see myself arguing ad nauseam (is that right?) against staggered in favor of single file or even solo for the sake of safety. It wasn’t till I moved that I saw the prevalence of abreast riding. This is the perspective I was trying to share with the supposition that staggered might be offered as a safer alternative to abreast… And yes, if you take your dog on a “bucolic walk” and suffer an acute life threatening condition, having an additional, human friend could be helpful to your chances of survival. However, I didn’t mean to imply one should never go anywhere alone; my intentions have been noted just above. Cheers!

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Whoa! I did not find it argumentative.

            Merely stating a perspective that might be different.

            And, if anyone wishes to ride with me, just try to keep up. I’m a crap rider, but have a remarkably ambiguous attitude towards my license. lol

          • Sean Matthew Molle

            Lol.

          • Alaskan18724

            And should one’s dog take a position at one’s 4:00, two seconds aft?

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Ahem … uh … look, let’s not discuss that, okay?
            I’m still … well, there is that restraining order …
            Look, I’d rather not talk about me and the dog …
            Are you a judge?

            It was just one of those things … I was not busy at work …
            The dog was just there … you know? Ahem … I … I did not …
            Look, all of the other guys were doing it … I mean, I was a teen Uni student with a summer job at General Motors … What was I to do?

            I was just fitting in! Why won’t you people leave me alone?

          • bvail

            Are you still ‘together’?

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            No.

            Stupid SPCA …

          • bvail

            If it’s properly trained, yes.

          • bvail

            Could always bring a Spot Tracker along https://www.amazon.com/SPOT-Inc-SPOT-1-Personal-Tracker/dp/B000YTZV74 or one of those ‘Help me! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!’

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I’m good. Don’t own a dog. Don’t go for bucolic walks, forested or not. I lied about being the outdoor type.

            https://youtu.be/P-r2BARj6Oo

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I think you are talking about highways that only have one lane each way whereas I am talking about two or more lanes each way. Cars can easily travel in the lane next to the bikes. No need to overtake. I check out motorbikewriter.com every day. The best way to ride depends on the situation, the size of the group and how fast they are going. My comments were based on large groups of Harley riders which travel at a reasonable speed so all bikes can keep up.

          • Alaskan18724

            You lost me at “imagine 700 riders.” I sometimes ride with a friend. As in one. Un, as they say in Canadian. 700 would cause me to fortify the premises and hunker down for the siege.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            The Jeff Keith Ride for Reason I went on a couple of years ago was 700 riders, mostly Harleys but other bikes too. I went on my KTM 1190 R. We went on some small roads too, of course in single file. At the end of the ride was a barbecue dinner, raffle and lots of vendor booths. Made new friends to ride with.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            LOL!

            “Un, as they say in Canadian”

            (Canadien en francais, bien sur)

          • Alaskan18724

            It’s like those Canadians have a different word for EVERYTHING!

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            LOL

            Like restaurant, or entrepreneur!

          • RyYYZ

            I can imagine 700 riders in a group. I’ve done it. That’s not a ride, it’s a parade, and should probably have a police escort and very low speeds, for which staggered riding it suitable. No need for it all for any sort of normal riding, even in groups. No need to keep the group together all the time – if the group get’s broken up, they stop at the next turn for the others to catch up.

  • Larry Kahn

    ALWAYS take that glance over you shoulder when changing lanes or pulling out to pass. Don’t rely on the mirrors. The glance is called a “lifesaver” in England. If it only saves your ass one time in 100,000 it’s worth it.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Mirrors have blind spots. Don’t change more than one lane at a time because you won’t see the cars in the next lane.

  • Larry Kahn

    If you’re riding in traffic in town and find yourself behind a large SUV or big truck remember oncoming traffic waiting to turn left won’t know you’re there. Get out of that position. Learned this with a close call, luckily it was a young guy with good reflexes and he jumped on his brakes in time.

  • spiff

    Cover the brake with your index finger. If you have good brakes one finger is enough.

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      That’s what she sa​id!

  • TC

    20 years of riding experience and 28 years old? I haven’t seen any 8 year old kids riding on the street. Methinks you are padding your resume a tad. It’s ok, sonny.

    • spiff

      Crashing is learning, lots of learning on dirt. Especially in the formidable years. Plus at that age crashing doesn’t hurt.

      • Born to Ride

        I was especially formidable in my formative years. 😉

        • TC

          The older I get, the faster I was…..

          • Born to Ride

            I think you missed the joke, lol.

          • fzrider

            I’ve noticed that too. When I’m in the country, my speed limit is usually as fast as I can go…when I reride those same country roads years later, I notice my “speed limit” has been lowered.

        • Sean Matthew Molle

          I was trying to work out what the right word was. Formative. Thanks!

      • Alaskan18724

        That’s not flying–it’s falling with style.

    • Born to Ride

      First time I twisted a throttle, worked the clutch, and uncontrollably wheelied down a hill and into a ravine, I was also 8 years old. Been addicted ever since.

  • DickRuble

    There was once a little black book distributed by the MSF. It had all the drills needed to master the test course and then some more. If someone has it, please post it. I lost mine. Until someone posts the pdf, here something to use.

    http://www.bikesafer.com/msf_brc_review_range.html

  • Rapier51

    It is controversial but I have the brake lever covered, with two fingers, 98% of the time. I’ve been riding for 50 years and don’t know when I adopted this practice. I am sure there are good reasons why this is not taught and probably discouraged but I don’t care. The braking power of modern non cruiser bikes and tires renders slowing to a crawl or stop from 100mph almost instantaneous. Surely having the brake covered cut’s the time and distance significantly.

    • Gruf Rude

      MSF won’t allow instructors to cover the front brake or teach it as apparently they are afraid it is too difficult for beginning riders to operate the throttle and cover the brake simultaneously They also worry that beginners will have a tendency to lock the front wheel and crash during ‘range’ exercises if they ‘cover.’
      Personally, I do not agree with their approach, particularly for the instructors, as it clearly is a huge safety advantage and for me such an ingrained habit that I can not ‘un-learn’ the habit in order to instruct.

      • Rapier51

        I can see their point but I never ever see these tips say anything about thinking about it, practicing it, or finally doing it most all the time. Nada, Zilch. That makes me believe most don’t and they are surely far far more skilled riders than me who have their reasons. I am certain it is inappropriate for the track but I have never been on one.

        Still, as just some internet schumck, I say, keep the front brake covered.

        • therr850

          Professional racers cover the lever with one finger.

      • therr850

        Just for grins I took the MSF Beginners Course after ten years of riding to pickup things I didn’t learn on my own. At that time, mid 70’s, many bikes still had cable operated drum brakes. I was used to early hydraulic disc and covered the lever with two fingers. The instructor didn’t like that because with cable brakes it was easy to pinch the fingers on the grip with the lever causing you to release the front brake and extend your stopping distance. I countered that if my hydraulic lever came back that far I was already in trouble. Are they still discouraging covering the lever?

  • Rocky Stonepebble

    The. Best. Riding. Tips. Article. Ever. Written.

    Comments discuss everything from masturbation to Doritos to rugged individualists to fingering one’s lever to Julie Newmar.

    Hey! Wait …

    • Alaskan18724

      Godwin’s Law will surely come into play any moment now….

      • Rocky Stonepebble

        F*cking Godwin. A grammar Nazi.

        Oh …
        Wait …
        That’s me.

        F*cking Stonepebble.

  • Alaskan18724

    Great piece. Ain’t gonna crawl the tank, though. I’m old and stiff and a whole lot more concerned with legroom than I am with thigh-gripping the tank. I’ll slow down enough to sit back in comfort and safety.

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      Hold that horn up to your ears, so you may hear the young people, too, grandad.

  • Toldyouso

    If you think doing 80 is ok – do 75! You may think of me as a wimp, but it’s worked for me and kept me alive for over 50 years.

    • I’ve only been riding for 44 years, but I’m still alive and I’d like to add… or 175. 😉

      • Toldyouso

        Not on public roads. Since most highways in my neck of the woods only allow 65 or less – 75 will do.

        • Rocky Stonepebble

          Move

          • Toldyouso

            Who wants to pack up and move at age 70. There’s track day when I get the urge, and I can always hitch the motorcycle trailer to the motor home and head for more deserted areas of the continent for a few days.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            So, you are moving …

        • Have you asked the highways directly? I find most of them are quite amenable to the idea of (insert random speed here) or at least none of them have said anything to me about (insert random speed here) when conditions permit.

          • Toldyouso

            Conditions never permit. Ever. Guys who ignore that fact have a way of dying on the highway. You’ve heard it said, I’m sure: I never saw him. He came out of nowhere. Or: I saw him coming, but I never would have suspected that he was going that fast. You see, the problem that comes with these general speed limits is, that most people never get to go much faster, hence never learn to judge higher speeds correctly. They quite innocently do something that can get you killed. Not their fault. They are not required to be able to judge the speeds you’re talking about correctly. They’re not ever supposed to encounter them.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            “Not their fault.”

            Are you f*cked in the head? Did you take a marijuana?

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL !!! I just freaked out the neighbours! They heard me laughing in Trawna, FFS!

  • Fabian

    Good advice and number #7 is true. I bought two cruisers in my life because I wanted to ride relax and I had to hastily transform because I could not hug the tank. I’m currently woking on that on Sportster Custom.

  • webheadwilks

    DON’T ride in the left portion of your lane when opposing traffic is approaching.
    You will need the extra reaction space when someone, who is using their cell phone, drifts into your lane. Idiots with big bikes ride right against the center line, like they have some right to be there. WAY dangerous.

    • PreachJohn

      I hwy ride close to the center line as normally most detritus rolls or is washed down toward the shoulder, given the grade.
      But never on a blind curve. I’ve seen from oncoming cars to 18-wheelers taking the curve with a set of wheels over the line. Exactly where I prefer to be riding most of the way. And was just doing so.
      And we all know that particularly after a long dry period, to ride either edge of the road, never the center strip.
      Accumulated dripping/leaking vehicle fluids when mixed with a downpour for awhile become treacherously slippery.

  • Mrtwowheels

    Only the cocky get the smackdown. Perfectly practice your skills. Good article.

  • John Gregory

    The December 1978 issue of Cycle Guide had a few of these tips. Everyone on the Editorial Board wrote an article with one tip each. Dain Gingerelli, Paul Dean, LJK Setright and others… I learned to two-finger the clutch and front brake using my middle and ring fingers – my ring finger is a smudge longer than my forefinger AND I get thumb and forefinger in direct opposition to each other. Can’t sit on a bike without covering the controls. Relax, tell the bike where you want it to go and how, but let it move as it will.

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      LJK Setright

      I always thought he was a wanker.

  • johnbutnotforgotten

    mostly good stuff, some a bit dogmatic.
    I teach my students that lane position is about space, visibility and traction and there is no “correct” position. Place yourself to optimize all three priorities (a fellow trainer adds a fourth, time) if possible, or whichever is the biggest priority if you cant have all three. Given that a crash is a sudden lack of space, the best way to prevent crashes is maintaining as much space as possible (so space is usually the biggest priority).
    If you are going to consciously give up space (filtering, for instance) then you better place yourself to be as visible as possible.
    And sometimes the best line is the one that allows you to stay upright (even if it gives up a little space or visibility)
    Both group riding and filtering break my first law (Space)
    As a school we train in groups to facilitate efficient use of resources, and we know students will want to ride with friends, but we teach them to think like solo riders even in a group)
    As i ride and teach in heavy traffic a lot, i set our bikes up so the toes can cover the brake and shifter at all times and the weight sits on the bubbling well (just behind the ball of the foot)
    I don’t push sitting against the tank if it moves the elbows back too far (behind the hips) or bends the feet or knees too much past 90, otherwise it is the best position for control and quick weight transfer.

    • Alaskan18724

      “A crash is a sudden lack of space.” 👍👍

      • Rocky Stonepebble

        Nice time to stop for a cup of tea, though.

  • RyYYZ

    11. Move someplace where you can actually ride (reasonably comfortably) all year-round. Like Los Angeles…

  • W Donald

    Great article , as an advance riding instructor the first lesson the students do is riding in circles and figure 8’s , little things that make a big difference . I also find so many of my students have foot and hand levers set up totally wrong , set it up correctly for them and the difference is amazing .

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      “… as an advance …” grammar, punctuation, usage and structure N​azi, I am ecstatic that you are a riding instructor.

      😛

      • W Donald

        My mistake bud , I will rectify immediately

  • Amazing tips and techniques.