A Beginner's Guide to Riding a Motorcycle

Essentials tips for motorcycle riders beginners.

According to the Land Transportation Office, there are a total of 18.8 million motorcycles in the Philippines as of March 2019. And those are just the registered two and three-wheelers. You can imagine how many more aren’t officially in the LTO’s database. 

Of course, you only need to step out onto the streets to get a sense of just how many motorcycles there are on the road these days. And the number is still growing. For many people, motorcycles offer an affordable, practical solution to getting around without getting caught in mind-numbing traffic.

If you’re one of those thinking about getting a motorcycle, or already got one but are still technically a beginner, you might need this guide on how to ride a motorcycle.

First things first though: while there are a number of tips you can get online about how to ride a motorcycle, nothing beats personalized instruction from reputable training schools. So if you’re serious about learning how to operate a motorbike, enrolling in a professionally run school or training center is your best bet to learn the skills to properly and safely ride a motorcycle.

That said, here are a few basic tips to get you started if you’re a beginner in the world of riding two-wheelers:

1| Check your bike

It’s just good sense to make sure that your bike is road-worthy before attempting to hit the road. The American Motorcycle Safety Foundation developed the acronym TCLOCS as a checklist for this reason. 


TCLOCS stands for Tires, Controls (levers and pedal, cables, hoses, throttle), Light (battery, headlights, turn signals, mirrors, etc.), Oil (fluid levels), Chassis (frame, suspension, chain, etc.), and Stands (center stand and/or kickstand).

When your bike is in tip-top shape, you’ll have peace of mind while out riding it.

2| Wear proper gear

It’s not just about looking cool when you’re straddling your bike: wearing the proper attire helps protect you from the elements and could spell the difference between life and death, and that’s no exaggeration. If you can’t put on a full-body biker’s outfit, at least get the essentials: gloves, pads, boots, and, of course, a helmet. Even if it isn’t required by law, (which it is, by the way), wearing a helmet every time you ride a motorcycle is just common sense.

3| Familiarize yourself with basic controls

When it comes to riding a motorcycle, you’ll need your all your hands and feet (not to mention your head) working together in harmony. The right hand controls the throttle (acceleration) and front braking, while the right foot handles rear braking. The left hand, meanwhile, controls the clutch, while the left foot shifts gears. If you already drive a manual transmission four-wheeler, the concept is essentially similar. It’s the execution that is a tad different.

To switch gears, you’ll need to disengage the clutch with your left hand, shift gears with your left foot, and then engage the clutch. You’ll also need to know that, unlike cars, the shift pattern on motorcycles from neutral is one down and 5 up. So it’s 1-Neutral-2-3-4-5-6.

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It might sound a bit complicated when you’re reading it like this, but in time, and with practice, it’ll be like second nature.

4| Start your engine

Motorcycles have a red kill switch that is used to shut off the engine. When you think you’re ready to ride, turn the kill switch on (or just flip it down), slide the key into the ignition, find neutral (green N lights up in the dashboard) then press the starter button. You should now be able to hear your motorbike purring. 

5| Pick up speed

Just like a car, you should be starting with first gear as you start moving. When you pick up speed, you’ll need to upshift, or change gears. To do this, just go easy on the throttle (your right hand), slightly pull the clutch (your left hand), press the shifter lever up (your left foot) until you hear or feel it click, then slowly release the clutch as you engage the throttle. Following all of these steps, you should be able to accelerate smoothly. 

To slow down, just follow the same steps, but press down on the shifter lever (your left foot) instead of pressing up.

6| Braking

To slow down and come to a stop, slowly release the throttle, pull the clutch lever, then start gradually squeezing the brake with your right hand. Some guides suggest also braking using the rear brake (controlled by the right foot). We think it’s a good idea to form the habit of using the rear brake, especially in case of emergency.


Other motorcycle tips

Practice – The only way to get good at anything is to do it constantly. By practicing riding a motorcycle, you’ll eventually be good at it enough to boost your confidence.

Always watch out – Especially on urban roads and highways, motorcycles are always more likely to get into accidents for the simple reason that they don’t always register with car drivers. So it’s a good idea to be extra attentive when you’re riding your bike, always taking care to anticipate dangers and moving away from risky areas.

Avoid taking on passengers – At least, until you’re 100 percent confident of your riding skills. Angkas drivers have logged countless hours as professional motorcycle riders (or so we’d like to hope) so don’t feel like you can give your brother, neighbor, cousin or girlfriend a ride unless you’re sure you’re not going to potentially injure them or yourself. There’s a time for everything, and in this case, that time is when you’ve mastered the art of riding a motorcycle by yourself.

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