Motorcycling

The weather is finally warming up, and people across the country are heeding the call of the open road. While most motorists stick to cars, some prefer motorcycles for unrestricted on-road bliss. If you are curious about the world of motorcycling, but unsure where to start, you're not alone. While motorcycling is often identified with the young and rebellious, two-wheeled transportation has caught on with people across a range of ages and demographics. In the past year, the Motorcycle Industry Council reported sales of all motorcycles increased 3.8 percent. That jump indicates pronounced interest in the benefits provided by this alternative form of transportation.

Unfortunately for even the most excited would-be motorcyclist, the world of bikes can be inhospitable to the new rider. The Internet is full of conflicting information on how to start the hobby, and it can be impossible to know where to begin a quest for two-wheeled freedom. If you're pondering entry into the world of motorcycles, read through the following tips to discover the safest and least-intimidating way into this exciting world:

Take a class
Without question, this is the best way to start your motorcycle journey. Before you purchase a bike or invest in expensive gear, take a beginning rider course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. These courses provide a comprehensive introduction to the world of motorcycling, and over two days you will gain extensive on-bike experience in a controlled environment. Many people become interested in motorcycles after seeing other people ride. For these individuals, a MSF course offers a the chance to actually ride a bike and see if motorcycling is right for them.

MSF courses provide more than educational benefits. In many states, the riding portion of your motorcycle license test is waived if you have passed an MSF course. Additionally, these courses, and further education on how to best ride a motorcycle, can result in discounts when you finally purchase a bike and need to get motorcycle insurance.

Be ready to spend
While motorcycles often cost less than cars and can provide long-term savings on gas bills, the motorcycling hobby is not cheap. A bike, proper safety equipment and the maintenance costs associated with these items will add up. If you are not prepared to spend serious money to protect your body and investment, consider waiting to purchase a bike until you've saved up some more dough.

Safety gear is key
Unlike a car, which features an extensive safety system designed to protect your body from the sudden shock of a crash, a motorcycle exposes its rider to the elements. Of course, this exposure is part of what makes motorcycling so appealing, but it also means the results of a crash can be much more severe for riders. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that just 19 states mandate that motorcycle riders wear helmets, but head protection has been demonstrated to save lives. The U.S. Department of Transportation found helmets are 37 percent effective at preventing motorcycle death and 67 percent effective at preventing brain injuries.

The value of helmets is clear, but that's just one part of the motorcycle safety equation. Riders can invest in boots, gloves, jackets and pants, which can all be outfitted with armor plating that provides additional protection from high-speed collisions. While many people eschew these protective layers, there is undeniable evidence that wearing the proper safety gear can prolong riders' lives and keep them on the road. When you decide to purchase a bike, stop by a motorcycle equipment store and speak with a representative about safety gear. They can help you find items that are appropriately fitted for the best protection.

Pick the right bike
Motorcycling is about projecting an image as much as the thrill of the open road. Anyone who gets involved in this hobby has spent time lusting after high-end bikes from the major manufacturers, but that might not be the best place to begin. Consider that many motorcycles have engines that are as big as the motors in some cars, and the risks associated with purchasing an expensive high-end bike as a beginner become apparent. You want to start riding with a machine that will have limits you can understand, not a race bike tuned down for street use.

Additionally, it might be smart to shop used. While a new bike offers the benefit of a clean repair history, it will also cost more upfront and depreciate more than a used model. If you find you like motorcycling on a smaller beginner bike, you might want to step up to a larger example a few years down the line. Buying your first bike used makes the financial hit from trading in your first bike much less severe.

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