If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re interested in riding a motorcycle but arent sure where to start. You might be asking yourself questions like, “Should I buy a motorcycle first or take the training class first?" or “Do I really need to take formal lessons, or can a friend teach me?” When youre brand new to riding, figuring out what steps to take to get into the saddle can seem overwhelming.
There is no one right way to learn how to ride, but there is a step-by-step process that’s proven most effective in getting started. At Women Riders Now, we’ve been sharing this guide with women for more than a decade, helping hundreds of women get into the drivers seat of their first motorcycle. Our 10-step plan eliminates most of the “errors” new riders make when they have not been advised properly in the learning and buying process.
10-Step Plan to Achieving Your Dream of Becoming a Motorcycle Rider
Read below to learn the right way to get started with motorcycling. You may even want to print out this list and put it somewhere where you can refer to it on a regular basis.
- Make a commitment, then set a goal.
- Take a motorcycle training course.
- Buy a motorcycle.
- Research and purchase basic motorcycle riding gear.
- Find a mentor and use the buddy system.
- Rack up some miles and practice.
- Plan on setbacks.
- Research and purchase gear for a longer ride, both you and your bike.
- Go on your first overnight trip.
- Call yourself a motorcycle rider!
1. Make a commitment, then set a goal
Whenever youve made a commitment to do something in your life, you probably set a goal to achieve it. You will need to apply that same thought process to becoming a motorcycle rider. If you don’t, you leave yourself open to procrastination. Decide on an exact date by when you want to have completed the motorcycle training class. Make sure the date is realistic and achievable. Is it two months, six months, one year? Set the date and write it down. If you’ve already taken the class, then set a goal by when you want to own a motorcycle. The key here is writing your goal down and then checking in with it on a regular basis.
2. Take a motorcycle training course
The MSFs Basic RiderCourse offers a very straightforward, proven method for learning how to ride a motorcycle. Motorcycle training classes are offered in all 50 states. The majority use standardized curriculum developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Harley-Davidson offers its own training course called The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy New Riders Course (formerly Riders Edge) that uses the same curriculum, but also includes specific information for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Visit our story Motorcycle Training Classes for New Riders to learn more about these programs and how to find one near you.
3. Buy a motorcycle
Below is some general advice on selecting your first motorcycle. For more in-depth advice, plus specific make and model suggestions, visit the Choosing Your First Motorcycle section of the WRN Beginners Guide.
The most important advice we can give new riders: Dont buy a motorcycle you don’t think you can handle. Salespeople or misguided loved ones may try to convince you to choose a bigger motorcycle for your first bike. This is usually based on the belief that its less expensive to buy a "dream bike" straight off than to purchase a beginner bike to learn on and then a bigger bike later on. Problem is, when you’re fresh from the MSF course, you will need a lot of practice to get used to the feel of a motorcycle under different riding conditions. It’s likely you’ll drop the motorcycle as you get used to its weight distribution, which may end up costing you the same amount in repairs as what you would have been spent on a used beginner motorcycle. So you’re not really saving any money in the long run.
When you take the MSF basic beginners course, you’ll likely find a mix of 250cc cruiser-style motorcycles and 250cc standard and sportbike styles. Try to get on both styles to help you decide if you want the more laid-back ride of a cruiser or the more upright and aggressive riding position of a standard or sportbike. This experience is invaluable in steering you toward the style of bike you want.
Buying a used beginner motorcycle is most riders best bet, and the best place to start looking is at a motorcycle dealership. Get as much information as you can in person, then start doing Internet research, visiting used motorcycle classified websites to compare prices.
If you decide to buy a used beginner motorcycle, you could spend anywhere from six months to more than a year practicing your skills before you’re ready to trade it in for a larger, more powerful motorcycle. Buying a used beginner motorcycle gives you the opportunity to be a part of the motorcycle community with little financial commitment as you observe the different styles of motorcycles and the people who ride them.
4. Get geared up
This is the fun part—shopping for all your riding gear. Consult the What It's Going to Cost page of the WRN Beginner's Guide to help you figure out what riding gear you’ll need initially and approximately how much it is going to cost. Visit a few motorcycle dealerships and find a salesperson you trust to direct you to gear that will work in many different riding conditions. There have been many advances made in riding clothing over the past few years, so it’s important to know things like the difference between how leather will protect you versus a textile jacket, how to make one garment serve many purposes, etc. Visit the WRN Clothing Reviews section to read about gear we've tested and written about.
5. Find a mentor and use the buddy system
Find a rider who has more miles on his or her tires than you do to serve as a mentor—a person who can offer advice and steer you away from typical beginner mistakes. This step is not absolutely necessary, but it sure is nice to have someone to call when you’re itching to go for a ride and you want to share it with a friend. Visit WRN's extensive list of Women's Motorcycling Clubs to find a group near you. Many work with new riders to mentor them.Skills you might practice together with a mentor or riding buddy include taking your first ride on the interstate, riding in the rain, pulling into a parking lot and parking the bike, and packing your motorcycle effectively. Your mentor can be a man or a woman, but just make sure this person possesses these two important qualities: compassion and patience. Without those, the person is not a mentor.
6. Rack up some miles and practice
The only way to become a better rider is to get out and ride. If you don’t have time for day-long rides, then schedule short hops to your local dealership or some other nearby locations to start experiencing your motorcycle in different traffic and riding conditions. Set a short-term goal of riding 1,000 miles before a certain date. If riding on a street gives you the jitters, then have an experienced friend or partner drive your motorcycle to a big empty parking lot where you can practice your newfound skills. A large number of riders do this right after passing the MSF class in order to practice what they've learned without the distractions of traffic, so don’t feel bad if you’re not ready to hit the road just yet.
7. Plan on setbacks
No one wants to hear that there are going to be setbacks, but if you start your riding life out with false expectations, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Setbacks could be anything from a fear of getting on a busy interstate the first time to dropping the bike. Share any fears you have with a riding friend or mentor so he or she can help you overcome them. If a setback happens, allow yourself to learn from it and move through it gracefully.
8. Gear up for a long ride — both you and your bike
By "gearing up," we mean outfitting your bike and you for your first long-distance, overnight ride. You’ll likely need a lot more luggage and riding gear than you’ve used on your short hops around town. Visit your local dealership to see what accessories are available for touring on your motorcycle (e.g., luggage rack, saddlebags, windshield). You’ll also need rain gear and, if you plan on riding after dark, night-riding glasses. Find a trusted salesperson to advise you on what you’ll need. Don’t go overboard. For example, you might find that expensive pair of sunglasses someone talked you into buying doesn't hug your face properly, letting the air creep in on the sides and giving you watery eyes after hours in the saddle. Be sure to thoroughly test out all products and read reviews when possible. You can find reviews of riding gear, apparel, and accessories right here on WRN in the Clothing Reviews section, and products for your motorcycle in our Product Reviews section. Also check outreviews from our readers on a variety of apparel and products on the Your Reviews page.
Finally, be mindful of buying “luxury” items. Dealers find ways to pad basic purchases with items that may seem essential but are really unnecessary. Take saddlebag liners for example. These canvas bags go inside your saddlebags making it easier to take everything out of your saddlebags at once. In most cases, plastic garbage bags will do the trick for a fraction of the cost.
9. Go on your first overnight trip
One of the most exciting times for a motorcyclist is going on that first overnight trip. Half the fun is planning what gear and accessories you’ll need, acquiring those items, and then mapping out the route. The rest of the fun is starting your engine and heading off in search of your first big motorcycle adventure—and it’s always an adventure.
Find a friend or two to go on that first overnight trip with you. You can certainly do it alone, and many women have like this woman who shared her story with us here, but going with a friend will likely be more fun and take some of the edge off. There’s nothing like hitting the road with a friend in the saddle of your own motorcycles, stopping when you want, taking in the sights, and enjoying the freedom and empowerment that comes from riding. You've dreamed of this moment—this is your chance to do it.
10. Call yourself a motorcycle rider
You can certainly call yourself a motorcycle rider the day you pass the MSF course, but if you’re like most people, you’ll really start to feel like a rider after that first overnight trip. You will have created a new identity for yourself. You’re a motorcycle rider! Now share your experience with others. Be a mentor to someone else and start the cycle over. You have the knowledge, you have the bike, you have the gear and accessories, and you’re racking up miles and experience. Share the passion with others. Here's a great story by one of our readers on how she learned the right way using our step-by-step process.And be sure to check out stories from our readers in the Your Stories section where you can read first hand how others made their dream of riding a motorcycle come true.
Looking for more information on how to get started? Return to the Where Do I Start? section of the WRN Beginner's Guide.
Beginner's Guide: Common Obstacles and How to Overcome Them
Beginner's Guide: Just Do It: Getting Over Your Fears and In On the Fun
55 thoughts on Beginners Guide: 10 Steps to Becoming a Motorcycle Rider
I’m 79 this week and I always wanted to have a bike. I don’t have a friend to ride with. I’d love to take the lessons, get legal, and get a bike.
Happy birthday! Signing up for the class is the best place to start, and a wonderful birthday gift to yourself. Good luck and here’s to making your dream come true!
I have wanted to ride my own motorcycle for years. I’m 66 now and have joined a local gym with a personal trainer. In two months my strength, range of motion, stability, and endurance have increased dramatically. This has boosted my confidence in my ability to handle my own machine, and has been the first step to my goal. Training classes next month!
Congratulations Gale! You are doing it! Welcome to the forces of women riding motorcycles. We wish you all the best in your class, and remember, not everyone “gets it” right away. Be patient with yourself and dig deep and you will persevere!
So happy to find this site. Wish I had known about it when I was first learning. The upbeat and positive encouragement you give to us women is invaluable. Thank you!
Thanks Agnes! We love all the positive encouragement we get from our readers, too! Please share WRN with anyone who might need that encouragement. Ride on and be safe.
I have never owned a bike, but I have been interested in getting one for years. I am 60 years old, been working the grind since I was 16 years old and now I am ready to have some fun so I am looking at buying my first bike. I am interested in a 3 wheeler; have been looking at the Can-Am Spyder. I have looked at the steps you have listed here and have already begun looking into training classes. Is there some additional advice I would need if purchasing a 3 wheeler? I also looked at a Slingshot, figured I would not aim so high.
There are three-wheeled training classes out there that I would highly recommend if you can find one in your area. These classes offer more specific training focused on how to maneuver a three-wheeled bike. Good luck!
Thanks for all the information. I climbed on for the first time yesterday and I think I got way over my head. My son got his first motorcycle earlier this week, a Suzuki DRZ 250. I laid it over three times and I am not strong enough to lift it back up. I don’t want to quit, but I need recommendations on maybe smaller bikes to get started. I’m about 5 feet 8 inches, not very strong, and would love to introduce my daughter to the experience as well. Please let me know.
Hi Anna,You are in the right section, but did you click the link in this article that takes you to our article about taking a training course? This is truly the first step to finding out whether or not motorcycling is for you in the safest possible environment. These classes have small, easy-to-handle motorcycles to use, and while there, you can talk with trained professionals about what kind of motorcycle might work best for you going forward.Please scour our Beginner’s Guide section. It includes a wealth of information that you will find helpful from what to look for in a first bike, what kind of gear you’ll need, and so much more.
I am so glad to have found this newsletter. I have been riding almost 10 years now and never knew this existed, but I will be a regular reader now. I rode scooters as a kid and got my first motorcycle when I was 32. I bought a used Honda Shadow ACE 750 and never looked back! I had so many wonderful adventures on that bike. I sold it two years ago when my partner and I had our daughter, but I missed riding so much—it had just become so much a part of who I am. So two months ago I bought a 2002 Suzuki Volusia VL800. It’s a little bigger than my Honda and was well taken care of. I have no desire for any more cc’s. I am reunited with my motorcycle buds and look forward to meeting new friends.I looked into North Carolina’s “Bike Safe” when I got my new bike, which coordinates with different police departments around the state. I am signed up for the one in my town in August. It’s a full day with the motorcycle police (for free, I might add!) and there is riding time and classroom time. You learn from them and they assess you as you ride and give you helpful tips and pointers on how to improve. Such a great program. I’m wondering if there are other programs like this in other states.
Sounds like a great program. Thanks for sharing that with us. Hopefully some other readers will chime in if they know of similar ones around the U.S.All the best to you,
I’m taking my class in April and can’t wait!
The only thing I would add is # 11) Sign up the WRN’s Newsletter to get the most up to date information, best techniques and best info all over for women motorcyclists. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Genevieve!
Thanks for the kind words Gina, and for the great plug to sign up for our newsletter. I’ve made it a live link so readers can click it to be directed to the sign-up page. Awesome photo by the way. Sincerely appreciate your support.
Great advice! I’m merely 5 feet 1 inch, have been a rider for 30-plus years, and I’ve been an MSF RiderCoach for 8 years. I think that you are absolutely spot on!MSF offers some practice classes and some locations are adding street riding instruction. It’s a perfect next step if you don’t have that mentor. Also, check with local women riding groups; members understand and typically welcome new riders. And, your RiderCoach could be a good source to find a mentor or group, and may even join you for some riding time.One last thing, a Sportster is not a beginner bike, except for maybe the price tag, not ergonomic and top heavy. I own and love my 1200, but folks don’t remember that this model was built as HD’s race bike. So cc for cc, it’s HD’s powerhouse. If you are determined to own a new HD ASAP, check out the new Street models, 500cc and 750cc, beautiful, handsome, respectable, I want one (of each).
I did things out of order, because I bought the bike yesterday (Sept 6) and my rider class is in November. My husband rode the bike home for me and test drove it. I sat on it and managed to put it in first gear in the driveway. Had a difficult time trying to get it back to neutral. I’ll figure it out. Hopefully I haven’t bought an expensive lawn ornament.
My advice to you is to not get on that motorcycle again until you’ve taken the training class. There are several reasons why:1. There is a high probability you will drop the motorcycle and damage it with knowing the proper riding skills. There’s no way to drop that motorcycle and not damage some part of it. That costs money. Your brand new motorcycle will forever be scarred with that damage. And Harleys are not cheap to repair. Even a brake or clutch lever that will take the whole weight of the motorcycle in a fall. 2. Learning from a friend of family member, even small little things, is not a smart idea because you are going to learn what they know and most likely that is not the proper way to execute a skill. Plus you might pick up bad habits they have that they don’t even know they have.3. The Sportster is a big first motorcycle, even for someone of your stature. I advise learning on the small 250cc motorcycle provided at the class so that when you do get on your Sportster, you’ll have the basic skills mastered so that you’ve lessened the chances you’ll handle it improperly, thereby reducing your chances of dropping it, or hurting yourself in the process.Please don’t let me say, “I told you so.” 🙂
When I started looking for a bike, I borrowed a dirt bike for a few weeks and signed up for the safety course in good faith. It was a great experience – my husband (an experienced rider) took the course as well. I purchased a friend’s used XL883 Sportster and am having the time of my life taking short rides whenever I can with my husband.
My husband and I are signed up to take the Basic Rider Course this weekend and I am nervous. My husband has been riding for years and only needs to take the class to get his endorsement, but I have never attempted to ride before. Heck, I have never even driven a stick shift! This is something I have always wanted to do and am determined to do it. It is calming my nerves to know that my husband will be right there by my side. I have been driving him crazy the last few weeks asking him tons of questions about how everything works. But, he is being a great about it all.Any advice would be much appreciated!
This is a great question. I encourage you to join the WRN Forum at this link where you can connect with other women with this question.
I purchased my bike with the help of my son, who works for a Kawasaki dealer as a technician. I have had my V Star since April 2015. Myself and my sister are signed up for the safety course in August. I have ridden more than 2000 miles; my sister about 200, so it’s going to be a learning experience for the both of us. I’m so excited to share this experience with her.
I scheduled my first class in August. I’ve never been on a motorcycle so I’m really scared. However, I love the breeze and speed when riding on a regular bicycle and in a car. I know being on a motorcycle is very different, but perhaps I may love riding one too. Well, I wouldn’t know until I try… wish me luck!
I’ve scheduled my class for later next month and can’t wait. My hubby has a bike and I will practice on his until I can get my own bike. I am excited to be finally getting back in the driver’s seat after well over 2 decades of no riding. Even our son is excited for me to be getting my license and my own bike. I know I don’t have to have my own bike straight away but have a feeling the hubby will want to take a ride once I am done with classes. I look forward to learning again. I am looking at a cruiser like the Suzuki Volusia. Not too big and not too small. Hopefully soon!
I took my class more than two ago with my son. Got my license two weeks later and didn’t do anything with it for a year and a half. My husband and I went to Bermuda in December and I rode a moped around the island for the week. I fell in love with riding, not just being a passenger as I had been for the last 15 years. I just got my first bike which looks like a baby compared to his big Harley cruiser and am addicted. I am so lucky to be encouraged and inspired by my girlfriends who listen to my nervousness and frustration. They too have been in my place at one time and understand what I am going through. Best of all they guided me to this website! I will see you all out safely on the road!
I took a course last summer and”barely passed. I’m kicking myself for not keeping at it and trying again. So, after reading all this, I decided to take a refresher course (almost two hours away) and buy a bike for the summer. I can do this!
Good luck. Remember to take deep breaths and be calm. Really, that works!
I just finished my safety class! Loved it. Rained the whole weekend and still we rode. I have a realistic fear of riding in the rain now but the rain will never stop me from riding! Buying a 2006 Honda Shadow Aero 750…it’s been sitting in a garage for five years…gonna need some work but all my guy friends ensure me it will run well with new tires, new battery, fresh fluids, clean hi-dolla gas. I have always been the passenger. Can’t wait to get to be the driver! See y’all out there!
Congrats Sherry! It’s so excited to me when I hear of another newly minted female motorcycle rider. Keep in touch with us. There are many ways to do so through our Forum, the “All About You” section, and on our Facebook page. We’d love to follow your progress.
Great advice, all! I have two added suggestions: 1. Get that bike fit to you! It could be the difference between enjoyment and frustration, and safety vs. comfort/confidence in any stressful moment on the road. 2. Once we’ve learned how to actually ride the thing, practice (and master) skills such as back-in parking, starting on a hill (think stop lights), U turns on a two lane, no shoulder road, riding on gravel (roads/driveways), maneuver hairpin turns. And let’s not forget group-riding skills. Thank you for all you do for us Genevieve!
It’s so amazing that everyone is finally embracing the value of taking a course! It’s the absolute safest way to get started with motorcycles.Basic RiderCourses teach everything from basic operation and motorcycle law all the way to critical safety maneuvers. Your friends could never give you that depth of knowledge.
That was neat. But my parents will need a lot of convincing.
Thank you sooo much for this list! I have completed several of the steps and am so excited to get on with the rest! I bought a Yamaha V Star 650 Classic; it’s a 2006, and I am in love. I found that this bike is low enough for me. I am 5 feet 3 inches and balanced so that I feel really secure on it. This was very important to me. I have most of my gear and am taking the next available riders safety course. This 45-year-old mother and grandmother is about to spread her wings!
Thanks for the to do list. I’m a 21-year-old Kenyan who has been brought up in a very conservative family. My parents are against the idea of me wanting to be a biker, despite my enthusiasm and passion for machines. I plan to take some classes in secret despite their words of advice because the traffic has become unbearable and I’ve been heavily influenced by a Why We Ride documentary I once saw. Also in my home country around 99.99 percent of bikers are male. Any words of encouragement before I start my classes this December?
Congratulations on taking the brave step to become a motorcycle rider in a country of mostly male riders. I am going to post your question in our Reader Question and Answer section so our readers can answer you. Please check back in a few days to see their responses. Thanks!
I’ve made the commitment. I want to be a rider. I’ve been a passenger all my life. My daddy never owned anything other than a motorcycle and on the rare occasion when I saw him, he always took me for a ride. After a lifetime of only dropping a bike a few times, and no accidents, two years ago, my dad was killed by a 19-year-old who pulled out in front of him. I never told him how much I loved riding with him but before I had to take him off life support, I told him I wanted to learn to ride. I bought my husband a 2013 Road Glide for his birthday and for months I cried every time I jumped on it. However, I know I want to do this so I pulled up the big girl panties and over the winter we put more than 5,000 miles on it. I love riding with my husband but it’s time…I want to do this. Thank you for posting this article. Reading the articles on your website is comforting and I am ready to take a rider course.I’m 46, 4’10” and small. I hope I can find a bike I can handle. LOL
I’m glad that I found WRN. Great articles and advice. After riding on the back seat for about two years with my boyfriend, I decided to sign up to the training curse and bought a 2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883. So now I’m on step 6, I still need to add up lots of miles and practice but I have a great mentor and buddy and I’m loving it.
Thank you so much for this article. I’ve always wanted to ride and now everything is pointing that direction. I have all my safety gear and am signed up for a Team Oregon three-day training session on June 20-23rd, 2014. I can hardly wait! The article was helpful. I am now starting to read about bikes and will be looking for a mentor. Thanks!
Thank you for this article. I have been riding a trike Harley-Davidson for the past two years, but I am ready to put away my training wheels. I have to say that I am a bit scared to go on two wheels as I have to remember to put my two feet on the ground, but I will start with the course because I need to get past my fear. You are right. Some people want me to go for a more powerful motorcycle, but I am going to listen to my inner thoughts and go for the bike that fits me. I’ll write back after I go for my training on June 7, 2014. Thanks again.
What a wonderful start to a new life. Thank you for writing this as I have ridden off road motorbikes all my life. Going for my road license is still scaring the hell out of me, so this article has helped me a lot. Cheers from down under!
Great advice, great article. I fell in love with riding when my ex bought a Road King. I rode on the back for about a week and that was it. I wanted my own. He promised me a bike if I passed the classes and got my license. Much to his surprise I did pass and he bought me a used 2003 Sportser. Great first bike! I rode that for about five months and traded it for a 2009 Sportster 1200XL Custom. Some more juice, now I have my eyes on the Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback. Hope to get that real soon. There’s nothing else like it.
I took the motorcycle training course about a month ago and it was an excellent course for beginners. I have an 1984 v65 Moto Guzzi that needed some repairs before I could ride it. The first day I took it out around the neighborhood to get comfortable and practice riding, I dropped it at a stop sign. I went to take off and released the clutch to fast and stalled the engine. I ended up on my back in the dirt, but I was OK and my husband, who has been riding forever, was with me. I got back on my bike and continued to practice. I’m now happy that I waited to buy a new bike. I need lots of practice first.
Thank you so much for writing this and all the other guides on WomenRidersNow.com. I’m so glad I found this resource.I took the MSF course and am slowly but surely getting to my goal of being a rider.
I love the sounds of motorcycles and have ridden on them but never really drove one. I really am very encouraged by the information. Can’t wait to go to a class and to become a bike owner and rider.
Honestly, turning 17 and deciding to get my riders license shocked both my parents. But after searching through this site I’ve decided nothing is going to stop me from riding and getting my own motorcycle. After reading these articles I’m feeling very confident with the learning curve it offers. I love this site! It was extremely helpful.
I have always wanted to ride and own a motorcycle, now I feel more comfortable after I reading this. I’m taking a course in one month and can’t wait to feel the wind. For me, this is a different world.
I’m glad I found this website. After reading just a handful of articles and stories, my feelings of doubting my ability to ride is quickly diminishing! Thank you! Looking forward to calling myself a “motorcycle rider.”
Riding has been a dream of mine for a long time and your article helps me plan what I need to do to make it a reality. Very well written. Thank You!
I have always wanted to ride and own a motorcycle and at the tender age of 58, I’m ready to make my dream come true. This article is great. In fact having searched the web WRN is the best! I am so grateful for having found your site. You gals know how to empower us newbies, a big THANK YOU!!!
Great article. I think the most overlooked points are to set a goal and plan for setbacks. I did neither when I started, and it took me three years to finally get out on the highway.
I’ve searched for information about women who ride or want to buy a motorcycle. All over the web…your site surpasses any other I’ve found so far.Thank you.
We try to be the best and most comprehensive site for women riders. Thanks for noticing. Please keep in touch with us by signing up for our newsletter.
Wow, I love this site. I have not gotten on a bike yet, but plan to take the MSF course soon. What I love about this page is the encouragement it gives the reader.
I’m getting my learner’s permit soon and can’t wait to get my first bike and be on the road. Your article has opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know and I’m happy to have came across it. Keep up the good work. Glad to have something for women regarding bikes as it is normally regarded as a male sport.
Great information. Wish there had been something like this when I first started out, first on a Honda 50cc Cub when I was at school, to later bikes I rode in the 1970s and up to the present.