It's normal to be nervous when you're new at something. It's actually healthy to be cautious as you learn. It also helps new rider anxiety when you know others have felt the same way and come out on the other side.
Common New Rider Fears
It's pretty universal to put off telling certain family members you're taking up motorcycle riding. Maybe it's your mama who you know will put her hand over her heart and gasp at the thought of her precious baby being subject to that kind of danger. Or perhaps it's an aunt who will start sending you articles about tragedies and statistics. Sometimes those fears do rub off on people when they first start riding, but most of the time new rider anxiety happens because you come face to face with the fragility of human life.
In a contest between bone, skin and asphalt, the asphalt will always win. Colliding into hard surfaces at any speed can cause injury. And while safety gear goes a long way toward preventing head injuries and road rash, riding a motorcycle will always make you more vulnerable than riding in a car.
New riders have a decision to make. Is the risk worth the potential reward? Once they start riding, will they "get good at it" quickly enough that they experience enjoyment to balance out the challenge? What if they put in money and time only to find out it's something they're just not able to do? In addition to these fears, new riders also worry about the following:
Dropping Their Bike
Beginner and veteran riders both cringe at the thought of accidentally dropping a motorcycle. It's embarrassing and it can do damage. Tank dents can feel like a flashing neon sign that says, "I messed up!" Also, no one is more conscious of how heavy and unwieldy a motorcycle can be like a new rider. But it's kinda like getting a new car. Eventually you're probably going to get a ding. Sure, it sucks, it makes you want to kick cats, but you get over it. Since the primary cause of this fear is embarrassment, it helps to recognize eventually it happens to everyone. Bikers won't laugh at you, they'll empathize. If they don't, karma.
Riding on the Highway
Dallas highways are scary. They are no matter what you're in. Speed limits are higher and drivers are both aggressive and oblivious (and sometimes it's the same as...jerk.) It's very, very wise not to take it on if it's outside your skill level.
However, even with rush hour traffic, it's all going in the same direction. There aren't unexpected turns or a lot of starts and stops. Cars aren't unexpectedly backing out of driveways or darting in from alleys. Learn your stuff, but don't let this fear keep you from riding.
Riding in the Rain
Okay this article is being written in Texas in one of the hottest, driest June days we've had in a long time. So if you're reading it at the time of publication you might be WISHING for a few drops of rain. Triple digit temps came early this year and it looks like we might have a drought that lasts at least until fall. But this fear still bears mentioning because it's a common one.
Yes, wet roads can be more hazardous than dry ones. Riders should be alert for wet patches, puddles and oil slicks. But with preparation and practice, rain doesn't have to keep you home. Use common sense. Pack rain gear. Pull off if the rain is heavy and wait for it to pass.
Looking Foolish in a Group
Let's just be honest. For a lot of people, part of the motivation for riding is that it just looks cool. Motorcyclists are perceived as badasses. Everybody has a little something inside them that wants to know if they ever were in an action scene, they could jump on a bike and roar through the cobblestone streets of a seaside European town with six ninja assassins in chase and come out looking like a hero.
So the possibility of things going the opposite way also causes anxiety. What if you're riding with people you know and you do something that makes you look like a total newbie? What if they look at the way you turn or brake or pull into parking spaces and snicker behind your back? What if you find yourself in an unexpected situation and you don't know what to do and you're forced to choose between asking for help and just doing your best, so you just go for it, and you do the worst possible thing?
If that paragraph made you hyperventilate a little, know it was written from a position of having been there. Those fears are normal, but they're not how things actually go. Everybody was a beginner once, so the people worth riding with are supportive and encouraging. If that's not your group, find another one (visit some of our events and you'll meet the right people.) Enjoy the freedom and ditch any need to be competitive.
This fear is healthy and legitimate. Take classes to level up your skill and have a realistic idea of what you should and should not attempt. Invest in good, protective gear. Keep your brakes and tires in good shape. Determine from the very beginning you're not getting on the bike if you're fatigued, emotional or under the influence.
How to Get Over Lost Confidence
Let's say the worst happens. You drop your bike, more than once. You totally embarrass yourself in a group. You go for a ride in the rain and make every beginner rider mistake in the book. Maybe you even crash and hurt yourself or your bike.
There's a saying that gets passed around - two types of riders exist. The one who have already come off their bike, and the ones to whom it hasn't happened yet. The same could be said for those who have dropped their bike and the ones who haven't yet had that experience, but eventually will.
Don't let that fear make you park your bike for good. Experts offer these tips for getting over lost confidence so you can get back on the road.
- Analyze what went wrong. Not like beat yourself up for what you should have done or envision how it could have been worse. Just logically assess what happened and mentally walk through what you'll do next time.
- Get back on as soon as possible. If you were injured, of course you should let it heal first. However, if you just made a mistake, shake it off and try again.
- Train with experts. The first Sunday of every month we have a class, contact us to find out how to get involved.
- Ride with encouraging friends. Join our H.O.G. chapter to meet riders who will encourage you to grow your skills and give you opportunities to do so.
Most riders say the best way to get a confidence boost is to ride with a supportive group. When friends cheer you on, it boosts your confidence. One small win after another erases the sting of past mistakes. Over time you'll find the anxiety fades until all you notice is the joy and freedom of the open road.