1. Get your motorcycle licence and some decent gear.
Too many riders start motorcycling the wrong way and end up leaving the brother/sisterhood forever after an incident. A lot of riders start off on bikes that are far too big for them to handle (in terms of power and weight) but also lack the basic understanding to ride a motorcycle safely and skilfully. Couple that with the fact many new riders who don’t get their licence are the types of people who also don’t wear their gear… One incident is all it takes to have them in bed recovering for weeks and becoming another statistic that your mates and others on the “other side” can use against you when they go on and on about how dangerous motorcycling is! Start off your motorcycling career on the right foot and you’ll be prepared for most eventualities. Coming off your bike and ripping your leg open because you decided to wear your regular jeans to the gym will put you off riding compared to sliding along in a pair of kevlar jeans or textiles that cost the same nowadays as a decent pair of designer jeans.
At a minimum I recommend:
*Textile jacket and pants – Waterproof ones, summer jackets are good, until you get to winter. You can live with winter jackets in summer.
*Gloves – proper motorcycling gloves, gauntlets that come up past your wrist.
*Back protector – CE2 approved as they will take a larger impact force
*Helmet – An expensive helmet doesn’t necessarily mean it is safer. Some of the cheapest helmets, around $100 perform better in safety tests than other big name brands. Check out Sharp Helmet, safety ratings
2. Take motorcycling lessons.
One thing that changed my riding after the shaky first few weeks was taking a full day riding lesson. The course is done by Pro Rider and is ACC funded so it is dirt cheap for any newbie rider! The bronze course starts at just $20 and is more than enough to build confidence when approaching a lot of corners and situations NZ roads can throw at you. You’ll learn things like lane positioning for the safest line through a corner (which even highly experienced riders still struggle with) and how to spot and avoid hazards on the road. A must do for any new rider!
3. Get insurance on your bike.
Full cover motorcycle insurance is generally a lot cheaper than car insurance, especially when comparing cars vs bikes for young people. The affordability coupled with the fact you’re a lot more likely to have your bike written off compared to a car in a minor incident makes it a no-brainer to get insurance. Just make sure that your bike is always in roadworthy condition otherwise your insurance is void! I say roadworthy because it doesn’t necessarily have to have a WOF (warrant of fitness), it just needs to be safe and legal. You can have a WOF, ride around with bald tyres, crash, try claim insurance and have the claim denied because your bike was not up to WOF standard. So beware! Also keep in mind that you need the right licence and bike to suit that licence if you want your insurance to be valid. Most decent insurance companies will also cover your gear up to a certain amount. Check out Kiwibike Insurance, they always seem to have the best prices in my experience.
4. Don’t spend tons on your first motorbike!
Loads of newbie riders go and spend huge amounts of money on a motorcycle they will outgrow in a few months. No matter what motorbike you buy to start with, you’ll get bored of it. You’ll also drop it. As sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, you will eventually drop it. If the bike gods are kind, it will be off the side stand while pumping air into your tyres. If they are extra grumpy, you’ll be glad you have insurance. Buy a small motorcycle to start off with that doesn’t cost the earth, even going brand new straight away is a bad idea in most cases unless you get a bike that is LAMS Approved but with a larger displacement engine that you can grow in to and still have fun in the long term. Bikes like the MT-07 are a prime example of this. However if you want to have a bike you can learn to ride on, completely abuse, have cheap parts for and even learn to wheelie on… You cannot go wrong with a DRZ400SM. Go watch some youtube videos of the hooligans these motards attract. It is a completely different culture to the sports bike side of riding!
If you have a budget, 60% on the bike, 40% on decent gear is a good starting point. If you don’t have enough for both, you can’t afford to run a motorcycle in New Zealand safely.
5. Finally, have fun!
I know this sounds very ironic and stereotypical of a motorcycle article, but seriously. Have fun! Go home the long way after work. Go out on weekends just explore the country. You’ll be amazed just how different the same roads you’ve driven a car on for the last however many years are when you ride a motorcycle. There is just so much more space in your lane! The sights, the sounds and smells are just so much more different in a helmet compared to a car! I could go on and on but I’ve found that riding a motorcycle is positively life changing and it makes you more confident in all areas of your life.