Rules for Riding

DISCLAIMER: Use these rules at your own risk, or don't use them at all. I make no statement of their suitability to your riding style. I certainly take no liability for your using them. And, even following them does not guarantee you want have an accident. And, not having the feedback loop involved with talking to you about them personally, I have no way to ascertain that you understand them as presented. If you choose to follow them, you assume all responsibility for yourself, and those you ride with, and those who ride with you, and anyone you share these rules with. Riding is risky business. You should always take a motorcycle safety class before riding on the street. And always remember Riding Rules #1-3!

The following are rules that helped me when I first started to ride. They were given to me as advice upon buying my first street bike. The BMW dealer spent a great deal of time with me before I got on the road. I have found that (minus one or two duds) all motorcycle dealers seem to really love what they do. And, they are great about spending time with you; and I don't mean in the "used car salesman" kind of way. There must be something about riding that attracts friendly and interesting people.

BMW dealers especially seem to have this nailed. They are a truly special group of folks. They are dedicated to fun and safety. And they know their bikes and their quirks inside and out. It is quite a different experience from the auto dealers.

When I purchased my first street bike in 2000, I had already been riding dirt bikes for years. But this did not prepare me for riding on the road. Not in the least. The salesman, and great friend for years after, gave me these basic lists. As I recall, he started the day I walked into the store. I would stop by on the weekend and admire the bikes, checkout the new models, and plot and plan how to sell this to my wife. J

My youngest son on my first street bike, "Misty" (BMW R1100R)


Each time I would go in, he would talk to me about one of these rules. He always started from the beginning. Conversation would quickly lead him to where we left off. I am sure he did this with all his customers. There was just a gentle and caring way about him. He knew what we came there to get. And he would feed it to us with a lump of safety. By the time I brought my wife to the store, I knew them by heart.

Suggestion for Beginners

Buy something that you can ride. Take your time and learn slowly. Let the lessons sink in. Don't just think you get it; know you get it. If you are thinking of trying something new, try it in an empty parking lot before you try it out on the street. You don't need the biggest fastest bike you can afford. In fact, the Kawasaki Ninja 250 is a great bike to start with. It will give you the same feeling you get when riding bigger bikes, but is a lot safer for beginners. And, it has a high resale value. So, later when you know how to ride, and have some clue of what to look for in a bike, you can trade up.

Rules before Riding

  • You have to pay to play.
    • I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but it really means "if you can't afford the safety gear, the maintenance on your bike, etc., don't ride!
  • "If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 helmet." Ok, I like this saying, but let me make it clear, buy a high quality helmet that is SNELL approved. The cost a lot. (Suck it up; if you can afford a bike, don't skimp on the helmet.)
    • Personally, I have not found one yet that covers the cost of my head. But I typically pay right around $600.
  • Always wear complete protective gear. That is:
    • Motorcycle street pants (designed to save your skin if you fall; not regular jeans)

    • Motorcycle street jacket (designed to save your skin if you fall; not the cool jacket for hanging out)

    • Safety (some jackets have this built-in now)

    • Motorcycle street gloves

    • Motorcycle boots

    • SNELL approved helmet with face shield

      * Never ride in tennis shoes, flip flops, loose fitting shoes, etc.

  • Read you bikes manual from cover to cover and understand the material in it. Some of it is just cool. The rest of it is important. If you don't have the manual for you bike, call the manufacturer and ask for one. Most will send you one "no charge".
  • Make sure your bike is ready to ride. All maintenance is up to date.
    • Never use tire cleaners on motorcyle tires. Sure they make car tires look sweet. But one drop of that stuff on your tires in a turn is disaster. If you really want to wash them, use water. You can use a small amount (teaspoon) laundry deterdent mixed in a lot of water (1 gallon +), but if you do, make sure you get it all off.
  • Perform a preflight checklist everytime you ride. Your bike most likely comes with a checklist in the owners manual. Use it. Some obvious things are:
    • Check the tire pressure
    • Check tires for oil or other resdue
    • Make sure you have enough gas to get where you are going; especially if you are going on the interstate
  • Always take foul weather gear with you. If you ignore this rule, and foul weather comes, get off the road and wait for it to clear. And overpass makes a great place to wait out the rain. Just make sure you get your bike and gear clearly off and away from the road.

Here are some of the items I use when riding:


My current bike "Annabel" is a BMW K1200RS 

Rules for Riding

To be successful, you must incorporate your own riding style, type of bike, etc. with these rules. These rules did not come naturally to me. I spent months learning on slow back roads with no traffic. Build you confidence and know your capabilities before you get into a situation that requires them. When you are applying these rules correctly, the feeling is a very natural and fluid motion. If it does not feel right, it is probably not. Most of these rules were given to me. A few I have learned on my own. If I find more, or recall more in my old age, I will do my best to add them here. I hope these rules help you as much as they have helped me.

  1. Everyone in a car, truck, or other type of vehicle wants to kill you. Keep your eye on them and avoid them. Remember that between you and vehicle, you lose every time.
  2. Everyone in a car, truck, or other type of vehicle wants to kill you. Keep your eye on them and avoid them. Remember that between you and vehicle, you lose every time.
  3. Everyone in a car, truck, or other type of vehicle wants to kill you. Keep your eye on them and avoid them. Remember that between you and vehicle, you lose every time.
  4. Always ride below your capability.
  5. Between you an another vehicle, the other vehicle wins 100% of the time. Do not get into a situation where you challenge another vehicle.
  6. Bikes turn by counter steering. Pressing gently forward on the grip to the side in the direction you want to go will cause the bike to dip (fall over) in that direction. The bike turns by leaning. You accomplish the amount of lean by causing the bike to dip. You cannot steer a bike by you leaning. (There was a great TV episode of one of the myth bustnig type shows on this.) It is a gyroscope, and it will resist you. You must lean the bike by pressing the grips.
  7. Keep your head up. This is especially true in the turn where there is a tendency to dip you head.
  8. Always be aware with what is going on around you. Track all vehicles in your mind. Use your peripheral vision. When in doubt, look again before proceeding.
  9. Imagine a line in front of you that follows the path that you want the bike to follow. Focus your eyes about 50 feet in front at a point on that line. (You will have to look farther ahead if you are going faster and closer to you if you are going slower, but 50 feet is a good starting point.) Follow that point with your eyes and head. If your head turns left, the bike will turn left. If your head turns right, the bike will turn right. Remember rule 6. This will become natural with practice. Remember rule 5.
  10. The back brake is to turn on the red light on the back of the bike to warn those following you. It will have little effect at stopping you.
  11. Never use the front brake while in a turn. In an emergency you will need to stop turning first, then apply the front brake hard but gradually.
  12. Weight balance matters. Shift you weight to the side of the seat where you will be turning. This lowers the center of gravity during the turn and pushes it outward toward that side of the bike. The faster and sharper the turn the farther one general tends to push their weight out. The weight shift does not happen during the turn, but before the turn. When done right, the sharpness of the turn matches the weight shift, and it feels like a ballet, with the bike wanting to be held at exactly that lean.
  13. When passing other vehicles on the road, look toward the drivers eyes. If you don't see their eyes, they don't know you are there. If you see their eyes, assume they don't know they are there.
  14. When waiting at a red light at an instersection in a turn lane, and you are not the first in line, before proceeding with the turn, stop at the first spot in line. If a car is turning in front of you, and a car coming the other way does not see you and is timing the gap, you lose.
  15. Never user headphones or listen to music while riding.
  16. Always pay attention. There is a lot think about when riding. (Look at all the rules above.) If you want to admire the view, stop and do that.