Still On The Fence About A Motorcycle? Get On A Bicycle First

Illustration for article titled Still On The Fence About A Motorcycle? Get On A Bicycle First

Besides my oma telling me “not to ride faster than my angel can fly,” there are two things I hear a lot as a motorcyclist: “I’d love to get into bikes but I’m nervous about balancing,” and “what’s a good first bike?” Honestly, if you’re really on the fence about the whole idea why not start with pedal power?

A lot of folks get into motorcycling later in life, nothing wrong with that. But by the time you’re a working professional you might not have swung a leg over a bicycle since you ran that rusty 10-speed around your college campus.

If that sounds like you, yeah, I can understand a little apprehension about trying a two-wheeled machine in traffic.


Riding a bicycle on the road obviously isn’t the same as riding a motorcycle, but the experience is remarkably similar and your comfort with pedaling among the cars is a good way to gauge whether or not motorcycling might actually be for you. Full disclosure – I think it’s hard not to have fun on a bicycle and I’m betting a quick ride will remind you why you starting thinking about getting a motorcycle in the first place; it’s gonna be awesome.

We’ve all ridden bikes before, but I’m not talking about spin class or towing your daughter down the rail trail.

Get your bicycle out on the road. Into traffic (legally). Obey the lights, use hand signals. And obviously use the bike lane if nobody’s parked in it.

You’ll feel the glorious sensation of windy freedom! But also the not-so-glorious realities of two-wheel travel. You will notice that: car’s don’t see you. They seem a lot scarier when you’re not in one yourself. It’s very tempting to break the rules of the road. And hey, it’s not that hard to balance a two-wheeled vehicle.


Eventually you will fall, which will hopefully be mild and assure you that you can crash on pavement without dying or even having to go to a hospital. You did put a helmet on before you set out, right?

Aside from the throttle and shifter operation, which you’ll learn when you take an MSF class before getting your license, that’s a pretty decent preview of what it’s going to be like to ride a motorcycle (slowly) in your city. And you should start slow. Hell I’ve been riding ten years and rarely go more than 40 MPH.


Starting on a bicycle will also be cheaper, but only because you’ve probably got one in a dark corner of your garage already. Turns out a decent road bike actually costs about the same as a rideable used motorcycle... as I learned when I went shopping for one and ended up straight-trading some cool dude my ‘81 GS450 for a Cervélo S1.

You also don’t have to pay for registration or insurance on a pedal bike. Even better; you won’t have to hear your concerned family members’ lectures about inevitable death. Nobody’s going to mind that you’re pedaling a bike around.


Don’t get me wrong; I ain’t here to categorically discourage would-be motorcyclists. The opposite, in fact. Motorcycling is a fun and efficient way to get around, but just like driving cars it’s not for everybody.

It seems kind of obvious that a bicycle would be the perfect gateway drug to motorcycling, but since it didn’t occur to me this morning I bet it didn’t occur to a lot of you either. A push-bike will either whet your appetite for the speed and range an engine will get you, or it might make you retreat to the comfort of your car.


But I’m willing to bet it’ll get your butt into a motorcycle licensing class, and hey you just might remember how much fun biking is and end up getting in shape too!


Image via m-louis/Flickr

Contact the author, a longtime motorcyclist who discovered road bicycling this morning, at or on Twitter.

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how did you write this piece and not mention dirt bikes...?

throttle and handling are THE critical learning curves on a motorcycle.

hands-down, a dirt bike is the best way. learn to ride off road, where there are no cars, the ground is softer and the bike is literally designed to handle crashes / dumps.

better still, you can pick up a little 80-90s dirt bike for a couple hundred bucks, and learn some great basic mechanics while you’re at it!

how carbs work. brake calipers. forks / shocks. all the things you should know how to maintain on a street bike.