Want to return to motorcycling and live to tell about it? Listen up!

By Ryan Hurlbert on March 30th, 2012

I've been an avid motorcyclist for over 30 years, riding hundreds of thousands of miles on many different styles of bikes. I've found that riding a motorcycle sharpens your reflexes and makes you a more defensive driver no matter your age or what vehicle you're driving.

However, in my home state, a recent news story focused on the sharp increase in motorcycle accidents among older riders. My wife was quick to point out that I am now part of that "older rider" group, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. The report also showed that traffic fatalities among riders over 40 were twice as high as for riders under 40 -- and I know how I feel about that.

Many older riders are "re-entry riders" who rode motorcycles when they were young, but stopped when the responsibilities of jobs and families took over. Now that the kids are growing up, they have a little more money, and with midlife fears of wasted opportunities piling up, a return to motorcycling seems like the cure for all that ails them.

Trouble is, many have forgotten how to ride. Motorcycles today are bigger, more powerful, and faster than what was available even ten years ago. Things can go wrong quickly, and if a rider is out-of-practice and suffering from reduced reaction times that come with age, recovering from a mistake or mishap can be difficult at best, and impossible at worst.

Here are four suggestions for getting back into motorcycling that will make it safer and far more enjoyable:

  1. Take a basic riding class. Sure, you know how to ride, but if you haven't done it for a while it can't hurt to have a pro make sure you are using good form. This might even help shave some money off of your auto insurance.
  2. Buy the right bike. There are a lot of three-year-old motorcycles for sale with less than 1500 miles on them. They were purchased by a rider who listened to his buddies and his ego and decided that bigger was better, got scared to death during the first couple of rides, and relegated the bike to the garage. The moral of this story is to buy a bike you can easily handle; you can always move up to something larger if you need to later.
  3. Ride. Motorcycling is a skill that requires practice. You can't become a better rider on your couch, so get out there and ride regularly.
  4. Dress for the crash. A minor get-off can become a major event if you leave your skin behind. Helmet, gloves, boots, jacket, and pants -- every time.

Welcome back. Stick around a while.

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