Many seniors have decided that the time has come to strap on leather and go motorcycle riding. It's never too late to start riding, but there is a commonsense checklist of items that you should complete before you enter this new life phase of being an easy rider.
If you have never ridden a motorcycle before, or it has been a long time since you last rode, take an introductory rider safety course. These courses are usually offered not far from where you live and often in coordination with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. The course will teach you the basics of riding a motorcycle, build your skills and confidence in handling a motorcycle, and in some states, if you pass the course successfully, you will receive your motorcycle license. Motorcycles are typically supplied at the introductory course level so there is no need to purchase one before taking the course. In fact, it may be wise to hold off on making a purchase until after you have taken the course, so that you will more fully understand your needs and will end up with the bike that's best for you.
Most seniors opt for cruising or touring motorcycles. These types of motorcycles are heavier than other types, have powerful engines and usually offer more storage capacity. They are equipped for comfort and driving ease during long rides. Prices can range from $9,000 to $30,000 depending on make and model of the motorcycle and the amount and type of added accessories. Before you purchase, it is imperative that you make sure the motorcycle fits you properly. If you can't touch the ground with both feet flat on the surface while sitting on the motorcycle, it is too big for you. Motorcycles are available in a wide variety of sizes, and manufacturers have even discovered a growing women's market, and are designing motorcycles that sit lower to the ground. Your reach to the handle bars is also important. Consult with various on-line and written sources about how a motorcycle should fit you. Ask questions and look for the right answers from the sales staff as well. Do not purchase a motorcycle that does not "feel" right. Understand the capabilities and limitations of the motorcycle you are considering. If you plan on making longer trips, then purchasing a street bike - rather than a cruiser or touring motorcycle - will ultimately cause you frustration and disappointment. Also, purchase a motorcycle that does not intimidate you. A motorcycle that is too powerful or too big for you to handle comfortably will make the riding experience unpleasant and perhaps frightening.
Familiarize yourself with the owner's manual that comes with the motorcycle. There is a wealth of information contained in the owner's manual; it should be read several times before you first begin to operate your motorcycle and read again in the off season. Understanding the details of optimum performance standards for tires, brakes, clutch, chain, shocks, and engine components, as well as when standard maintenance should be performed, is information that will make you a safer rider.
Do not permit a passenger on the back of your motorcycle until you are completely satisfied with your own capabilities. If you are new to motorcycling or if you haven't ridden in a long time, give yourself at least an entire riding season before allowing passengers to ride with you. With passengers and gear, the motorcycle will operate differently. It will accelerate and stop differently and sometimes it will corner differently. It is important to first become comfortable with and have confidence in your handling of the motorcycle before experiencing events that change the dynamics of the motorcycle. Also, when stowing gear, make sure it is distributed properly, not stowed too high, and not over the weight capabilities of the motorcycle. Gear stowed improperly or a motorcycle carrying too much weight can alter the motorcycle's balance and stability dramatically and perhaps cause an accident.
Make sure you and your passenger are well protected. Ideally, a full-faced helmet, with leather pants (or chaps), jacket, and gloves, plus over the ankle leather boots should be standard equipment for a longer ride. Underneath the leather, a denim shirt and pants will serve as good secondary protection. Rain gear is essential if there is a possibility of a weather change or if it may rain during your ride. Allowing your clothes to get wet during a rainstorm is an unpleasant experience.
It is important to drive defensively on a motorcycle. Motorists sometimes have a hard time seeing a motorcycle or in judging the right distance between them and the motorcycle. The result: a car will sometimes pull out in front of a motorcycle. Practice sudden controlled swerves on your motorcycle in an empty parking lot. Chances are you will have to put this skill into practice on at least one occasion. Motorcycling is an exciting way to see the world. Get out and experience travel in a whole new way! Be careful out there, but have fun, too. Head out on the highway and go looking for some adventure!