Thinking of riding a Motorcycle, Read this first

Text by Poonam Halai (@Petitebikers) & Mary Pang (@Wearethegritty) photos by Alice Connew (@aliceconnew)

Do you have to be a badass, wild crazy person to get into riding?

Mary:

No not all. There’s definitely a belief That you have to be a certain type of person, (ex. heavily tattooed, super tough and badass, etc.) I definitely don’t fit the stereotype, but I love riding, and I truly think anyone can ride. It’s kind of fun not fitting the stereotype 🙂

Poonam

No definitely not. Like I mentioned in the question above. You don’t have to be any kind of person. Like Mary, I also don’t fit this stereotype. Very often people are surprised I ride, and they always ask me how I managed it. I managed it with a lot of support, and by overcoming fears and stereotypes about biking.

 

Have you ever fallen off your bike?

Mary:

Never fallen off my bike, but dropped it the first time I took it out. You WILL drop it/ fall (hopefullly not). Just pick it up and get back on. Watch this video on youtube before you go out on how to pick up a dropped motorcycle: https://youtu.be/ODGiGiNZ8Z0 and then I recommend actually going out and practicing it before you go on the road so you know how to do it before you’re in a stressful situation.

Poonam:

I have never fallen from my bike, but like Mary, I have dropped my bike a few times. I do not know anyone who hasn’t dropped their bike, and that’s ok. The fear of dropping your bike is worse than actually dropping it. For me the first time I dropped my bike, I felt like I failed, and beat myself up for it for a few days. The second time, I felt shaken but I wasn’t as hard on myself. The 3rd time, I laughed at myself and by then I knew the drill. So if I were you, when you drop your bike, laugh and avoid doing whatever you did again, and learn from it to become a better biker.

How do you feel about riding in the rain?

Mary:

I tried it out for the first time this spring! It was raining one night and I saw it as an opportunity to try it out without the stress of “getting stuck” in the rain. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be! For some reason I thought it’d be “slippery,” but it’s no different than in a car. I did ride more slowly just because I had less visibility, and I was careful to look for potholes, puddles, in case of hydroplaning. If you have proper rain gear, the weather is not an issue at all! It kind of reminded me of when I was a little kid and would jump through major puddles you don’t care because you have rubber boots on. I would recommend using Rain X or buying finger visors/gloves with wipers on them to help wipe off the raindrops from your visor!

Poonam:

I am not the biggest fan of riding in the rain, it’s just uncomfortable. If you can avoid it, do. I rode in heavy rain for 4 hours straight on my trip to Tuscany, and trust me, I was happy to get off the bike. After 2 hours even with rain gear, everything was fully soaked. We made a break in a chip/fries shop and the owners kindly let us put all our gear on their radiators around the shop so we could semi-dry them before setting off again.

What’s the heaviest load you’ve traveled with during long trips?

Poonam:

My heaviest load was around 12kg, to be honest, I didn’t even notice the extra weight too much.

10. What are the Best beginner bikes?

Mary:

My Honda Rebel! It’s light, low, and easy to maneauver.  recommend getting a 500cc, I feel like I outgrew the 300cc in one season, and don’t feel entirely comfortable in a lot of traffic because I don’t feel like it has a lot of power if I need to get out of a situation really quickly. Still recommend the Rebel though. Plus it’s so good-looking haha.

Poonam:

I have written a whole blog post about the best bikes for beginner riders, you can find it here.

What advice would you give yourself, before you started riding?

Poonam:

I would say don’t think too much about it. Once you decide to get a license, just go do it without quitting. Keep going to the end. When you overthink it, you will find a reason why you don’t want to ride a motorbike or find reasons why you can’t. So stop overthinking, it’s fun and I think everyone should be able to ride a motorbike. And finally, if you’re afraid like I was, accept the fear, and don’t let it get in the way of going for it. Most of the things you’re afraid of aren’t so scary.

How long did it take to get the license and the bike?

Mary:

Took me abnormally long because I was all talk and no action. Took me two years to get my license after making the goal. Took me another 2 years to get my bike. Once I decided to get my bike, I gave myself 3 weeks and had it by the end of the month, so it happened quickly at that point but it doesn’t have to take that long. 🙂 You can get a bike before you get your license, etc.

Poonam:

From the time I decided to get my license to the time I got, it took around 4 months. These 4 months were a mix of emotions and similar to Mary, a lot of it was overcoming Mental blocks I had made for myself.

What would be your dream bike?

Mary:

Right now I have my dream bike! I wanted this bike for 2 years so it’s still surreal that it’s mine!! I plan on keeping it for a couple more years, so not really looking for anything yet, but I’d like to try out a cafe racer or scrambler next. I also want a bike I can do wheelies on.

Poonam:

I love my Ducati Scrambler, Its been adjusted to fit me (you can find out here what I did to it).

What is your favourite part of being a motorcycle rider?

Mary:

WHERE TO START!! Community is so strong, freedom/empowered, given confidence, street cred. Proving people wrong – doing something people don’t expect of you.

Poonam:

Firstly I love the feeling of an open road and the wind on my face, on a warm summer day. Secondly, I love the feeling of people asking me how did a small person like me learn how to ride a motorcycle. It makes me realize I overcame a huge challenge, and even though lots of people including myself believed I couldn’t, I did. That’s a wonderful feeling.

Learn from an experienced rider or take the MSF (safety) course?

Mary:

Take the MSF course!! My experienced friend who has been riding since he was 14 or 15 took the course 20 or 30 years later said he couldn’t believe he hadn’t gotten into a worse accident, and it was hard for him to unlearn bad habits. Start on the right foot, and start by building a good foundation of basic riding skills. Might save you in the long run, and it’s also the best place to make a lot of mistakes when you’re just starting out, you’re in a safe environment with professionals can help out if something happens.

Poonam:

I haven’t done a safety training, but I will. I recommend it too. Every country offers this, I know in Germany we have an ADAC safety training. So I say go on the internet and find one near you and book yourself in.

What upgrade are you looking forward the most on your current bike?

Mary:

Moving the rearview mirrors to below the handbars, replace the brake light, bigger exhaust pipe. LED front lights. I want to clean up the lines.

Poonam:

I would like to change my back indicators and eventually get heated handlebars.

What if your partner or family doesn’t want you to get into riding but you want to get into it?

Mary:

I’ve always had support, but I heard an awesome story from a girl who was actually trying to get her boyfriend to get rid of his bike, and he bought her a bike class and said, “If you still want me to get rid of the bike after you take this class, I’ll get rid of it.” Turns out she rides a bike now too 🙂 and so that would be my advice haha. It most likely comes from a place of fear/care/concern,, and so if you can help them see that while it is dangerous, it is also just such a good time, maybe that’s the most powerful way to persuade them.

What are common myths or misconceptions that people have about biking?

Mary:

I think people assume when you’re a biker, you’re a badass, fearless adrenaline junkie. To be honest I thought that about other bikers before I started biking. But I am very far from being an adrenaline junkie. For me, biking is a fun mode of transport. I also know a lot of bikers that aren’t the badass fearless biking types. A biker can be absolutely anybody.

Poonam:

You don’t have to have been born into a family of riders, or have grown up riding. You don’t have to be 6’ tall and have been born with this need to ride haha. I grew into it and realized my love for riding much later than typical, but now I don’t think I’ll ever stop riding. Any picture you take with a bike is going to look sick/intimidating, but the riding community is made up of wildly different people with all different personalities and backgrounds. That’s the cool part.

 

You have practical advices for anyone wanting to get into riding?

Mary:

  1. Take the time to find the right bike. Makes a huge difference. Bikes can always be adjusted to fit you if you’re a smaller rider.
  2. Take the time to gain confidence. Best ways to gain confidence. Give yourself room to be afraid, but keep pushing yourself to keep learning and growing. Be resourceful/get creative about it.
  3. Just try it. Just start, and finish it!! What would have happened if I had decided to bail on that riding class after the really tough first day? It took me until the end of the second day to really click, and then I fell in love with riding
  4. Take a class!! Best way to learn, make mistakes, have a supportive local group of riders, and also test if you like it or not before you spend a whole lot of money on a bike.
  5. You don’t have to go from 0-100, you can start small, try new things, and build as you grow confidence. Just keep pushing yourself to keep learning, growing and don’t let your fear stop you from doing different things.

What’s your experience been like as a shorter Rider?

Mary:

It’s actually been way better than I thought it would be. I was a little worried about encountering male riders or just other riders, because everyone looks so intimidating from the outside. What I’ve found and what I love so much is that the bike community is amazing and supporting and welcoming and rad. And the Honda Rebel is small, light, and low, so I have had a really good riding experience.

Poonam:

For me being a shorter rider was tough. The first challenge was overcoming the fear. Being small I generally let my size decide what I can and can’t do. I never believed someone as small as me could ride a huge bike. Secondly, it was difficult finding a driving school which had smaller sized bikes. I ended up buying a bike and using that for the driving school. Thirdly finding a bike that worked for my site also took some time. I tested so many bikes, and most of them were just not made for shorter riders. Let’s not forget having to find the gear too. Everything took a lot longer for me. That’s what motivated me to start petitebikers, I felt there was a space for more information on challenges for shorter riders, especially from other short riders.

What works best to keep car drivers away?

Mary:

You can’t keep them away. Just have to ride ultra-defensive and I assume they can’t see or hear me. Loud pipes might give riders a false sense of security. So I want loud pipes for my own sake, but not from a safety POV.

Poonam:

Nothing, most drivers don’t pay attention, even with the brightest gear, lights on or a loud exhaust. This is why you have to think for two people; the car driver and yourself. Always drive passive, you will be the one who gets hurt if you don’t. I recommend sticking to the speed limits, avoid staying in a car’s blind spot, and always assume cars don’t see you, so in a junction be extra careful.

What do you do to maintain your bike during non-riding months?

Mary:

I winterize my bike – the basics are, I top everything up with fresh gas and oil, and then use a fuel stabilizer to keep everything from going bad from sitting for months on end. I also hook up my battery to a trickle charger. M bike is in a garage so I don’t have to cover it, but if the bike is exposed you definitely want to get an all-weather, heavy-duty, waterproof cover for the bike, which you can find on Amazon. You can get a lot more details, but that’s the basics.

Poonam:

I live in north west Germany, and our winters are not so terrible, this year I rode most of the wintertime so my bike didn’t have a long period of not moving.

As a beginner, should you get entry level protection? Or invest in more expensive gear?

Mary:

INVEST IN EXPENSIVE GEAR!! See above. Don’t have to go overboard and pay for the brand name, but you should be paying a good amount. For example, I paid $200 for my helmet, and you can find something that will meet safety minimums and be practically what you’re looking for somehwere in the $150-$350 range. I would be skeptical of anything under $150 actually protecting me in an accident.

Poonam:

Like Mary, I also recommend getting something you like, and not going cheap. Usually, you end up buying twice when you don’t buy gear you would actually wear on a normal day. I bought gear which was not so trendy, but cheap and I never wore it again after my motorcycle test. I ended up buying more gear which I should’ve bought from the beginning.

Is insurance a big deal?

Mary:

Depends on the place you live – just google it, check it up! VERY important that you do have insurance though!

Poonam:

In Germany, it’s compulsory, I’m not sure about other countries, like Mary said, definitely get insurance, and use the internet and do the research on the best insurance for you and your bike.

What was the biggest hurdle: Mental or physical, before picking up riding?

Mary:

Mental – see the answer above!

Poonam:

Definitely, the mental hurdle followed closely by the difficulties of being a shorter rider. The skill itself is pretty straight forward and easy. Anyone can pretty much change the clutch or roll the bike. But overcoming the fear of falling, and the fear of handling a powerful and huge machine took me a bit of time. Now I laugh at myself, I was such a drama queen at my driving school, I used to panic and cause myself anxieties and it all seems so silly now.

Tips and tricks for men/women with long hair?

Mary:

I actually like having my hair out because I like people knowing that it’s a girl on the bike 🙂 And I’m just prepared to really have to take some time to get the tangles out haha. A new product just came out called @hightail_hair that clips to the base of your helmet so you can tuck your hair in, so no helmet hair when you reach your destination!

Poonam:

I usually tie it into a plait. This is best to avoid tangles. It also stops it flying into your face, which can be annoying when you drive. I tried dutch braids, they look great but they hurt because the space in my helmet is already tight.


Poonam is the founder of Petite Bikers.
Her inspiring blog posts are super interesting and empowering. We asked Poonam if she wants to become our reporter and be part of our community.

We are stoked to have her on board!

WELCOME