Young Riders-- Getting Started

You are about to embark upon one of the most fun pastimes of your life. But trust me on this part: you are not invincible. One of the young motorcycle riders who used to work in our law office has already lost three of his friends to motorcycle crash death.

Rider training will save your bacon. Several years ago we read about a young soldier who returned from duty in Iraq, bought the sport bike that he always wanted, secured his motorcycle learner's permit from DMV, and then followed three other sport bike riders on a beautiful summer day as they cruised across the Kanawha City Bridge in Charleston, West Virginia.

There is a turn at the end of the bridge and the young soldier hit the wall, falling to his death on the interstate below on what should have been the happiest day of his life. With practice and the knowledge that you must press down on the inside handlebar to turn in that same direction (somewhat counterintuitive), that young man would still be with us today.

Take the class and read a book or two. Your friends don't have to know that you will actually know what you are doing when you turn the ignition key and ride with them.

When your friends aren't around, practice in a deserted parking lot. Do figure eights. Do "emergency" stops, starting first at a slow speed and the gradually accelerating. Practice suddenly swerving to avoid an imaginary obstacle. You never want your first practice to be out on the highway when you need to do it right to avoid a crash. And last, but possibly most important, get some decent body armor, boots, gloves, and a helmet that fits.

If the opportunity presents itself, gear up and go for a dirt bike ride. Experience on dirt, rough terrain and gravel will give you confidence when you round a corner and suddenly find yourself in less than optimal conditions.

Ride smart, ride safe, and don't try to keep up with your friends who might not be with us tomorrow.