Stupid Motorcycling Mistakes That Make You Look Like An Amateur

Don't look like an amateur!

Stupid motorcycling mistakes
Avoid the following mistakes and don't look like a complete amateur while out on the road.Photography by Fran Kuhn

Style is a big element of cruising. We like our motorcycles because they look good, and therefore, we look cool riding them. But cool is an ephemeral thing. A couple of unsmooth moves can rip that cool image to shreds. Things like putting your foot down in oil at a stop and dumping you and your passenger on the street or hitting the starter button with your bike in gear on the sidestand.

Though memorable, those debacles are one-time mistakes, quickly overcome and visible only to those on hand for the occasion. The blunders that keep on giving are those that we repeat or have a chance to correct, but don’t. They are obvious to anyone watching. Whether they end in crashes or not, some signs immediately indicate that the rider is, at best, an unaware amateur. At worst, he is a burrito grande shy of a full combo plate. The stuff he is doing is so obviously stupid that everyone mentally steps back when they see it.

Every year at Daytona, you see the full range of cruisers, from bravo to bozo. After this year's demonstration, I compiled a brief list of the more common and dangerously unfashionable moves I saw repeated most frequently.

Riding after drinking: He may be a fun guy back in the bar, but no one is impressed when he climbs onto his bike. Most motorcyclists who get killed have been drinking. And that doesn't include all of the lesser injuries and damage. If you drink, take a cab or have a non-drinker take you home. If your friend pulls out his bike keys after drinking a couple of beers, talk him out of riding. It will be safer for him, better for motorcycling, and easier on your conscience.

Riding while smoking: When that ash blows into your eyes, you may make an ash of yourself as you try to find a place to pull over through the tears.

Riding in shorts: Short-sleeved shirts show an excess of optimism, but short pants cross the line into stupidity. They aren't even stylish. And when you fall down, you'll need to wear them for weeks while the oozing abrasions heal.

Foot-dragging: It's a solid sign the rider lacks confidence in his ability to control the bike, as he drags his foot all the way across the intersection or through a turn in a parking lot. He'd be much better off, and look more expert, with his feet on the pegs, operating the controls.

Leaving without looking: When the light turns green, this rider simply goes without a sideways glance. This cool, unflustered appearance rapidly vanishes when he meets impatient cross traffic.

Using just the rear brake: Thanks to education, this particular blunder is becoming rarer, so riders who still do it stand out even more. I spotted a few on the streets of Daytona. They may not be obvious every time, unless you look at their right hands as they come to a stop. They stand out, though, when they have to stop moderately hard and lock up the rear wheel, while everyone around them is making nice, controlled stops. Unfortunately, they are most obvious when something surprises them and their conditioned response keeps them from squeezing that front brake lever—and about 70 percent of their bike's potential stopping power. Hitting a car or, worse, rear-ending the bikes in front of you wreaks havoc with your coolness quotient. Learn to make the front brake a part of every normal stop. It is good practice and might protect your legend when the chips are down.

Sunglasses at night: or a dark faceshield. Your vision is already reduced at night, and things like oil slicks and sand don't go away, they just try to disappear, and successfully if you compromise your vision even further. I saw someone with sunglasses drop his cruiser in Daytona a few years ago. He didn't seem very cool, especially since he was trying to blame the bike and his tires, and almost anything but his own failure to see the sand on the street.

Loose chain: I've never seen a bike with a loose, rusty chain that wasn't piloted by a raw beginner. Most loose chains indicate the same. By the time a chain sags, any knowledgeable owner should have caught it. Therefore, the guy with a loose chain is, almost by definition, an amateur.

Bald tires: Blowouts, no wet-road traction, terrifying handling while leaned over, these are a few of their favorite things. Those bald-in-the-middle tires are a recipe for a variety of disasters, all of them painful. (Check out Tips for Maximum Tire Life)

Underinflated tires: Can't they find the tire valve at a gas station? Don't they own a $3.95 tire gauge? Are they blind? (Maybe they check their tires at night while wearing sunglasses.) Can't they feel that the bike is wallowing around? You have to wonder about anybody who won't add a little free air to the most critical component on his ride.

Bottom line: Looking like an amateur does nothing for your image. A rider who is losing control of the situation makes a less favorable impression than a pedestrian. When you ride like a pro, it simply enhances the rest of your image.

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