How to Get Back Your Motorcycling Groove After Months Away
Ok, Stella, it’s time to get back in the saddle.
Your passion, hobby, mode of transport, and the thing that makes you feel simultaneously alive and calm: riding motorcycles. Many lucky bikers get to throw their leg over whenever the mood strikes, all year-round. But not everyone is as fortunate and, for one reason or another, some of us need to spend time away from two wheels. If you’ve ever been forced to take a breather from riding, you might be familiar with the mix of excited nervousness that precedes your first time back in the saddle.
It’s perfectly normal to feel some nerves creep in, healthy even. But if you feel like you've lost your groove, know that you have a right to get it back, that you've earned it from the countless miles you’ve wracked up on odometers.
Thankfully, nothing has actually been lost. The path to getting your confidence and skills back to where they were is straightforward and only requires some patience. The guide below outlines some of the ways that we at The Drive get our grove back after months away from biking.
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Why Do I Need This?
You’re about to take charge of something that’s the equivalent of a ballistic missile to most non-bikers. Ok, that might be over the top, but motorcycles are serious machines and need to be respected. Speaking personally, I spent hundreds of hours on two wheels before I truly felt comfortable and developed my biker’s intuition. That confidence was severely diminished when I wasn’t able to ride for almost a year.
Bikers who ride frequently are constantly honing their instincts and reactions, and developing a feeling of unity with their bike. If you’ve spent some time away from riding, it can take a while to get your mind and muscle memory back to where it was before. You’re safest when riding to the best of your ability, so that’s why you need to spend some time getting back to that state.
What Do I Need To Do?
There are a few ways you can get back into the swing of things, both mentally and physically. None of these suggestions are mandatory, but all are advised.
In this guide, I’m going to cover how to feel comfortable in your gear, getting back to basics, what you do to find your grove again, and preventative measures you can take to stay groovy all year round.
Get Comfortable With Your Gear
Being comfortable in your riding gear is a determining factor in how confident you feel on the road. I’ve ridden in gear that’s been too big for me and other gear that was too small (sometimes simultaneously). You don’t want your jacket flapping around in the wind, and likewise, you don’t want to fight against your gloves when you need to use the controls. Gear that doesn’t fit correctly isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous. If your riding gear is too loose in the event of an accident, the armor won't work the way it should.
A few weeks before hitting the road, try on all your gear to make sure it still fits. Some gloves, especially leather ones, can become tight if they’re not in use. If your gloves have stiffened up, spend some time wearing and stretching them. Anyone who needs new gear should check out this article, where we recommend some of the best gear to pick up before you start riding again in spring.
In short, here’s what you need to do:
- Make sure all your old gear still fits
- Break in any gear that’s become stiff
- Replace anything that doesn’t fit correctly
Back To Basics (With a Course)
Riding a motorcycle is a skill, and like any skill, to be good you need to have solid fundamentals. As the saying goes, ‘you need to know the rules to break them.’ There’s no better way to get back to basics than taking a motorcycle safety course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is one of the biggest names in the game, and for a good reason. The company’s Basic Rider Course has helped countless rides establish or re-establish motorcycle fundamentals.
Some people will even take the Basic Rider Course and then the Advanced Rider Course to bring their skill level back to where it was relatively quick. If there’s no MSF school in your area, consider other bike safety schools. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth checking whether your state offers a free motorcycle safety program, as some do.
Back To Basics (By Yourself)
If your budget doesn’t stretch to a motorcycle safety course, or you can’t find a suitable one in your area, all isn't lost because you can do it yourself. All you need is a large empty space, your bike, some cones, and patience.
Anyone who’s taken a basic motorcycle course before can recreate the drills you practiced on the course. If you’ve never taken a course, keep reading to find out some of the skills that you can practice by yourself. Set up two cones as far apart as your space allows, and practice starting, stopping, and shifting up and down smoothly. You can also move these cones closer and practice emergency braking from around 30 mph.
Using markers, practice slow-speed maneuvers, like figures of eight and weaves. If you’re in a car park, the parking space lines are great for practicing performing a U-turn from a standstill. You can also practice turning your bike and leaning it to higher degrees as your confidence returns. It’s always good to run through the procedure of picking your bike up, as you never know when you’ll need to, especially if you like adventure riding.
Hit The Road
Once you feel comfortable with your motorcycle fundamentals again, it’s time to hit the road. My personal preference isn’t necessarily my favorite road, but it's a route I know extremely well and know how my bike performs on it. It's also quiet, so I never run into any traffic.
I’ll ride this road over and over again, focusing on things like road positioning and smooth inputs while accelerating, braking, and cornering. Once you’ve been doing this for a while, your biker’s sixth sense should start to come back, and you’ll stop thinking about what you’re doing so much and start doing it intuitively.
A preventative measure you can take to keep your riding instincts well-maintained year-round is to never stop riding. I appreciate this won’t be possible for everyone (that’s why this article exists), but if you have some land, it could be worth investing in a cheap pit bike or small dirt bike. So you can stay familiar with the fundamentals of riding, even if there’s snow on the ground.
If you want to get a better idea of what drills you can practice by yourself in an open space, check out the video below.
FAQs About Finding Your Riding Groove
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q. What should I focus on when I get back on the road?
A. Something that separates a good rider from a poor rider is their road positioning. Whether you’re riding in a straight line or approaching a left or right-hand bend, you want to be in a position that gives you optimum visibility. When changing your position on the road, don’t forget to do a shoulder check, so you don’t miss anything in your blind spot.
Q. Do I need to change my gear?
A. As mentioned, if you’ve gained or lost a few pounds since the last time you rode, you might need to get new gear that fits you correctly. You may need to change your helmet too, as it’s recommended that you replace your helmet every seven years from the date it was produced, or after five years of use.
Q. What safety precautions should I take?
A. It’s always good to let someone know when you’re going for a ride, what route you’re thinking of taking, and around what time you expect to come back. Since a lot of riders return to biking in spring, it’s important to be extra wary of wet leaves, manhole covers, and debris on the road.
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