I’m Afraid To Go Faster Than 25 mph

Help a new rider with your advice with how to get up to speed on her new motorcycle

im afraid to go faster than 20 mph

Dear WRN,

Ive had my 2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim for about a year and have put almost 1,000 miles on it. However, all the miles have been from riding only 20 to 25 mph. Im terrified of going faster than 30 mph. Did anyone else feel this way? Other than just keep riding, was there anything that helped you get over the fear of going fast?

Jennifer Gerhardt
via Facebook

Please post your response to Jennifer in the comments below. Thanks!

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34 thoughts on I’m Afraid To Go Faster Than 25 mph

  1. Very helpful and reassuring. I’m just starting out and am trying to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Good to know I’m not alone. Many thanks!

  2. Are you riding with anyone? You need to talk to someone who can explain to you the transilical forces of how that scooter your riding stays upright. Maybe you need to comprehend this better. The faster you’re going the easier it is to handle that bike. You need to get someone to go with you and get you on some superslab where you’re going to have to do the speed limit. After you have done your first 100 miles you will have relaxed and get it. Ride it like you stole it as they say.

  3. I took the motorcycle safety course about 2.5 years ago. I have a Honda Rebel 250 and love it because I am only 5 feet 1 inch. I was not able to ride last summer due to back issues.Now I’m ready to get back out except my biggest problem is when I am going about 50 mph and coming to where I need to slow down for the driveway and trying to figure out the speed to start downshifting.

    1. Hi Kim. I’m happy to hear your back is better so you can ride again.Since the Rebel doesn’t have a tachometer, you don’t have the benefit of reading your bike’s engine speed. Listen to your motorcycle for clues about when to shift. If you are “lugging” the engine, it sounds low and feels like it’s about to stall. This means you are in too high of a gear and need to shift down. If the engine is whiny and high, you are in too low of a gear and need to shift up. Be careful to release the clutch easily and smoothly when downshifting, so that you don’t accidentally lock up the rear tire if your choice of gear wasn’t perfect.Just keep practicing and you’ll get it down in no time. The only way to get better at anything is to practice. Ride safe!

  4. Hi fellow riders, I started riding at 50 years old on a Sportster 883. Since then, I have upgraded to a Heritage Softail. In my own experience, and most riders may agree, that “slow” riding is much more difficult and dangerous. Obviously stick to the speed limit but you will find that you have much better control while riding thus increasing your confidence. Take your speed up slowly to see how it feels. At all times safety first. Go for it.

  5. If you haven’t taken an MSF safety course for beginners, I highly recommend it. You will learn some basics that may help you overcome your fear. If you did take a class, then take the next level. MSF offers a “Basic Bike Bonding” class, and a Basic Rider Course 2, both of which are on your own motorcycle, not on the Honda 250 trainer bikes. I have ridden for five years and 75,000 miles; now riding a HD Road Glide Ultra.

  6. I’ve only got my left eye and was incredibly scared of making left hand corners because I couldn’t see what was sneaking up on the right. I watched a group tear through corners, hills, and thought wth? If they can, I can too. My Indian is 111 and the men get drooling hot watching me, but the best part is I feel better knowing I can run as I want. Find the thought that helps you. Gang on to that thought till it’s a habit

  7. I have a 2014 Harley-Davidson Slim also. I’m a 57-year-old new rider and am 5 feet 2 inches, about 106 pounds. My hubby got me this bike a couple years ago. The first year I was scared because I had only ridden for six months on a Suzuki after taking the course. I’m glad we chose this bike. It may be big, but it handles like a dream, and for a new rider like me that’s key. We have also added a few things to make it a more comfortable ride for me. I just think that it takes time for our confidence to grow being new riders. Your speed will come when you are ready. I prefer to ride along with my hubby or a friend, so I have a fear of getting out there alone, but I’m in no hurry because I know I can do it on this big bike. I love my Softail Slim! Just keep enjoying your ride.

  8. Hi Jennifer, you aren’t alone with your fear. But I absolutely agree you are riding a really big bike. Here’s a couple of things I want to share. First, husbands are really excited to see their wives on a big ol’ Harley. And that’s just wonderful! However, what’s more important than seeing the smile on his face is you getting your skills up. You can’t do it on a really big bike. I rode a Honda Rebel for a couple of years until I knew I was solid. Now here’s the funny thing, a Rebel really has all its squirrels running full force at 50 mph so you totally feel the bike trying its best. But when you get to the point that you want to go 50 mph, you’re probably about ready to move up. Second thing, the height of the bike is not the only thing to think about when picking out a bike. I’m 5 feet 3 inches and my arms and legs and feet aren’t that of a man’s. So getting the handlebars dialed in so that I can sit comfortable was a huge help. Also, can your foot reach the gear shift easily? All these things help you feel more in control of the bike. You have to build your confidence and making sure the bike fits all of you is important. It’s like driving a car with the seat all the way back. You can do it, but who wants to drive like that?Hope this helps! Don’t give up but you really need to get a smaller bike. Best advice!Susan

  9. I too have struggled with going faster. I’ve been riding for almost two years, and it seems like it’s taken me forever to get my speed up. I remember when 25 mph was comfortable for me, and 30 mph felt like it was 80 mph. Now I can go about 50 mph or so if I’m on a clean straightaway, but other than that, 40 mph is about my comfort zone. All of these posts are really good advice. I especially agree with Sandra from Mt. Pleasant, SC — is this your first bike? And if so, maybe it is really too big for you and you should get a smaller bike to build your skills and confidence. I rode a Honda Rebel for about a year until I got bored with it. But the experience I got from riding it was invaluable, and I was able to transfer all the skills I learned to a slightly bigger bike which I have now, a Harley Street 750. What I would say to you is this: do not let anyone pressure you into going faster—not your husband, boyfriend, or anyone. And if they do, you have to be absolutely firm with them (I’ve been there. He used to pull over and ask me, “What’s the problem?”) and tell them that you are just not ready to go faster yet, because some men who have been riding 40 years or whatever just don’t get it or don’t remember what it’s like being a beginner. Ride the speed you are comfortable with and only increase it at your own pace, a little at a time. It’s your life, it’s your safety. Don’t worry about the speedometer. Try to ride at times when there is little traffic. And if someone is tailgating you, you can always try to find a place to safely pull over and let them pass.I think part of the fear of going fast is the fact that you feel you need to be in complete control of your bike. If someone pulls out in front of you, or if a deer suddenly appears, etc., you need to be able to stop quickly. And if you don’t feel confident with braking/stopping in that situation, it contributes to your fear. And I think only the experience of riding, riding, riding will slowly give you that confidence, and you will find yourself going faster without realizing it. I found that picking a route that you are comfortable with and practicing that, over and over again (I’ve done mine countless times and still do!) will help you gain confidence. But I still think you need to seriously consider, as Sandra said, getting a smaller bike to build up your skills. I think everyone is different, everyone learns at a different pace. And as they say, ride your own ride. Good luck, Jennifer!

  10. I rode on country roads by myself at first and worked up to 50 mph quickly (it was a little overwhelming). I knew we had a ride coming up that included freeway ramps. So, one day I told my husband I was practicing on-ramps and off-ramps. I did well. I just had to be in the right mindset. Remind yourself that you know what you’re doing, have the training, and be confident. You’ve got this!

  11. You are actually in more danger by not riding the speed limit. Get in your car and try driving under the speed limit. Tail gaters, people turning in front of you, etc. If you have had proper training, you have the tools. Use em or loose em

  12. I got my license the beginning of August a couple of years ago, then July of the next year my husband and I went on a poker run with his dad, his step-mom, and our two daughters. I know parts of that run were faster than 30mph, but nothing too fast. The problem came on our trip home. We towed our two bikes (one daughter rode behind my husband and one behind me) and on the way home we lost the trailer. We had no cell signal where we were and could not drive up to the next exit; our only choice was to have the eldest daughter drive the truck and my husband and I drive out bikes on the highway, 65mph speed limit. Yep, I had to get used to going fast all right. Luckily I had my experienced husband with me as well as a vehicle of another family member. We were still about 100 miles away from home. I know I was having a tough time at first because I could see my husband getting a little frustrated as he kept signaling me to keep up, but I did get used to it.Not sure how to help though, I got thrown into the deep end so to speak 😉

  13. I remember after I got out of the MSF course and got my license, going faster was scary! Twenty to 25 mph felt like a good speed to me, too. What helped me, when I was ready, was going on a road nearby that was a good distance (about 5 miles and close to home) that didn’t have a lot of cross roads or obstacles to negotiate while I was still learning about my bike. The road is a 50 mph zone so you do have to go about that or 5 mph over to keep cars from tailgating. I also had my husband ride behind me, because as a more experienced rider, he knew what to do with cars that tended to ride a little close. The scariest part is getting up to speed. The easiest way I found to do it was to make sure that I gave myself plenty of time at first. When I turned on the faster road, I made sure that there were no cars around so that I could take my time getting up to speed. Being able to take my time shifting through the gears made it less scary. It’s harder to get up to speed when you see a gap in traffic and want to go, and you’re still learning your bike. I was lucky because the road that I really learned on initially also had more gentle curves so that I wasn’t overwhelmed with figuring out my lean at faster speeds right away. If you can find a good country road with not a ton of traffic, I would suggest that for going faster.

  14. Jennifer,There is a lot of great advice in these responses, I’ll be using these suggestions myself as I always think there is something to learn to get better. I was scared to go fast at first as well. I rode my GZ250 at 35 mph for longer than I should have but always had the desire to go faster and further. It sounds like you do too. One part that bothered me was the wind and feeling like it was pushing back and my neck feeling strained by trying to hold my head still. I was not a huge fan of busy streets either. I rode the back roads that were less crowded, pushed a little harder each time to go a little faster. When I finally got a bigger bike it had a windshield. Wow! What a difference that made for me. The wind stopped bothering me and I started feeling more comfortable going faster and faster. Another big leap was when I found other women to ride with. Even though they’d been riding for years they would always preach to ride my own ride. They’d push me enough but not too much. Well sometimes too much but I remembered their mantra, ride your own ride.You seem like you really want to get past this and the fact that you’re asking for advice is a great sign that you will. My fears that I had may not be the same as yours. Really think about what is scaring you about the speed and then you’ll find how to conquer it. Good luck and happy riding!

  15. Thanks for all the posts. I am glad to see I am not the only one who was afraid!I bought my Sportster 1200 Low before I knew how to ride. I took the riding class and felt great afterwards.However now that I’m on my Sporty I feel much more nervous. I am having issues with turning. I feel like I’m afraid to lean and I make wide turns at times. Also I go real slow in some turns keeping the clutch in a bit. How can I get the feel of turns, roll smoothly, like when I was in class on a 250?

    1. Hi Donna,It’s a big jump from riding a 250cc bike in a parking lot to muscling a powerful 1200cc motorcycle in traffic. It’s natural that you feel nervous translating what you learned in class to real life, on-the-road scenarios. Practicing the correct techniques will help your confidence, and your skill level will naturally improve the more you ride.I recommend taking your Sportster to a big, open parking lot and practicing the maneuvers that you were taught in class, specifically the slow, look, press, roll technique. Here is what you want to do:• Start on one end of the lot, get your speed up until you’re in second gear.• Well before you reach the end of the lot, slow using only your brakes (don’t pull in the clutch at all) to an appropriate approach speed.• Turn your head to look where you want to go. In this case, you want to make a smooth arc to round the corner of the lot, then repeat in the other direction.• Press the handgrip to initiate the motorcycle’s lean in the direction of the curve.• Finally, roll on the throttle as you smoothly round the curve.Another article that specifically addresses your tendency to run wide in turns can be found in our Safe Riding Tips section, which is full of articles that I recommend you read.Also consider taking another riding course or hiring a RiderCoach for a private lesson. Arizona offers several levels of instruction, including the MSF’s BRC2, which is a one-day course that will have you practicing some of the same techniques learned in the BRC, only you’ll be on your own motorcycle.Good luck!

  16. I had a friend who felt the same way. I mentored her by riding with her. She and I rode on the backroads, and I would lead. Usually picked a long straightaway. Would start at the speed she’s comfortable with, increase it about 3 mph. Then ride a long while. Then I would increase it another 2-3 mph. Then ride a long while, etc. Would stop every time we reached 5 mph more than we started with. Just go riding a while at the speed. Then we talk about how it felt, and do it again in a few days.Took about a couple months, but she finally felt comfortable going 50-60 mph and went solo. She rode with a group on a freeway after about a year, that was 65-75 mph. If she can do it, then anyone can. Figure out if it’s the speed, or the bike or, the person you’re with( different riding mentality?), or the wind in your face (wear full helmet to counteract that), or…?) See what it is that makes you hesitant (with help). That would go a long way when figuring out, what it is you’re uncomfortable, so you can ride the way you want to ride!

  17. Practice is great and necessary, but to address your specific issue: Keep your head up, not down at the road by your feet or directly in front of you. Naturally one must make sure the road surface is clear but looking towards the horizon, using peripheral vision, turning from side to side for traffic, etc. will keep the focus off how fast you “feel” you’re going. You may be surprised at how fast you’re actually going once you take your attention off the speedometer and the ground. Have fun and only ride your own ride! Many safe, joyful miles to go!

  18. I felt the same way. I took the course and as soon as I passed the class my husband bought me a Suzuki 250 to practice on. I had her for about a year and at times I was very scared to go fast or have the wind hitting me and felt like I would fall off. The “going fast” took me awhile, but when I got on the highway going at more than 60 mph I finally felt that I needed more. Now I own a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 and am still learning, hoping to upgrade to a Heritage Softail. It is scary but being with a group or hubby really does help because they push me in a positive way. At every light or stop he gives me advice or points out what I did wrong. It is always a learning experience. I love riding every chance I get.

  19. I know exactly what you are feeling. As a new rider I liked the comfort of riding in the 60 to 70 km (37 to 44 mph) range! The first time I went out on the highway, I could only muster the courage to get up to 90 km (56 mph). I ride a Sportster 1200, and although the bike has lots of power I was too scared to go outside of my comfort zone. Riding close to the center line, meeting a semi, and feeling the wind, was nerve-wracking and just plain terrifying. I kept heading out on the same route, and as I began to gain more confidence I noticed my speed picking up. The next thing you know I was cruising at 110 km (68 mph). It sure helped knowing my husband was behind me, guarding me from those tailgating out of frustration for my slow and steady riding. Keep trying, find a familiar route and try to increase your speed in small increments. Before you know it you’ll be there!Happy riding from a fellow Canadian rider!

  20. I’m a new rider. I’ve put about 600 miles on my GZ250 since buying it last fall. My husband has been riding for decades (FJR 1300), and my husband and 18-year-old son both ride Harleys. I find that several different components contributed to my comfort level with using the throttle:1. For those who have companions to ride with, having an intercom system really helps. DH rides behind me, but provides an extra heads up when a challenge appears ahead, or if I forget to turn off that damn turn indicator(!). He’s also there to provide encouragement or jog my memory when I get freaked out and can’t remember the basics (like at the four-way stop on a curve near the top of a nearby hill that made me panic every time after I killed the engine and rolled backwards, almost dropping my little bike. Ack! I’ve since conquered it. Constant feedback isn’t the goal though now that it’s been a while. We mostly just chat, but if I do get rattled or don’t feel like being coached, I just say so. Thankfully neither of us get our feelings hurt. He says he’s learned to be quiet after two one-syllable responses. 2. Familiarity with my practice route also helped a lot. The first several times I took my bike out we did the same 5-mile loop. It is near our neighborhood and only has a few stop signs and little traffic. The speed limit tops out at 45, and most of the way has two lanes each direction, so I didn’t feel like I was going to be run over, nor did I feel pressured to go over 30 before I was ready. When I mastered going 45 without sweating and grew bored with that same trip, I graduated to my next recommendation.3. A one-way scenic road. Heading out on a one way loop through a nearby recreation area (max mph 55) was perfect for relaxing and trying out some even higher speeds. 4. Ride in a threesome if possible. My challenge is riding in heavy traffic, it really freaks me out! The first time I drove through city traffic my DH road behind me, and my son lead. We did the same thing the first time I rode around the lake and my first time on the freeway. I felt much more confident with one rider setting the pace and clearing out the rabbits and whatnot, and an experienced sweeper behind me. My final tip comes from a lucky bit of misfortune.6. Ditch the speedometer! My speedo died a few weeks ago, so I had to rely on the feel and sound of my bike, and the occasional check-in with DH to monitor my speed. Apparently I started zipping along at highway speeds without hesitation, once I didn’t know I was doing so! Turns out knowing I was going 60 was worse than actually doing it. I replaced the speedometer, but I gained a lot of confidence in those three weeks, enough to start going out alone – which was my biggest fear before then.Hope these ideas are helpful to others.Good luck, and stay safe.

    1. Thanks for this very helpful and well-thought advice Danielle. I’m going to assume DH means dear husband?

  21. I have learned over the years that what makes us drop our bikes is usually using the front brake at a very slow pace (or stopped) while turning the front wheel at the same time. Don’t do these two activities together!

  22. The first time I had to go faster than my motorcycle class speed of 35 mph was test-riding my first bike, a Harley Sportster 1200 Custom. It was very different than the Honda Shadow 750 that I was training on and never dropped. I thought I was going to blow right off the back of it. A windshield made all the difference for me. I’m not sure I’ll ever ride without one. Without it, all that wind on you makes you realize how fast you’re going. Also, the Sportster was a little tall for me. So now I have a Softail Deluxe. I don’t like dropping my bike but there are many videos showing how to pick it up. Please don’t give up. If you need help watch Jerry Motorman Palladino’s videos, he’s amazing. If you master slow maneuvering you’re already a good rider. Just remember the bike has more stability with higher speeds. And try a windshield. Keep us posted.

    1. Thank you for your advice Lynn. I agree with your thought about how slow, parking lot maneuvering is more difficult than riding at faster speeds. A motorcycle will stabilize itself once it’s rolling with enough inertia to keep it from falling over. But if it does, we have a step-by-step article that demonstrates how to properly pick up a bike here.

  23. I am a first-time new rider as of September 2015. I took the now-required motorcycle riders safety course. That basically showed me that I was just as good and actually better then everyone else in my course, thus giving me more confidence in my riding ability. My biggest fear, which I still work on today (not nearly as much), is my turns. I used to have an issue with speed too, but that is now long gone after more than 3,000 miles under my seat. (My average speed on the back roads is 60 mph.) My husband told me I’ve out grown my bike, a Honda CB300F. I needed this size bike to help me understand how to ride. I’m 115 pounds and 5 feet 6 inches tall. Bottom line, I would highly recommend getting a smaller, much lighter bike to help build your confidence and ride with people that have ridden forever. Don’t give up, enjoy the freedom!

  24. For me, when I go faster I feel like the bike is more in control. This is only my second year riding so I’m still learning. But I’ve noticed that the bike is more capable than me. Even with the wind, when I feel like I’m getting blown away I have to remember that it is me being blown away, not the bike, so I hold onto it. Good luck! The more you ride, the more confident you will get. I’m working on getting my confidence back right now because I dropped it. You are not alone.

  25. Jennifer, you did not say in your letter but it sounds like the H-D Softtail is your first bike. Whether is or is not, your terror tells me your bike is way too big for you. My advice is sell it and get something small to gain your confidence, then slowly move up. A frightened beginner is better off on a 125cc or a 250cc motorcycle. If you drop it … you will be able to pick it up.Don’t give up, it’s too much fun.My best to you.

  26. I can relate to this. Newbie fright. All I can say is to keep practicing. Practice in your neighborhood, practice in a parking lot. Find someone, a seasoned, patient rider, who’s willing to ride alongside with you to help you out. Practice, practice.

  27. Great advice Megan from Edmond, OK. I agree with every point made from Megan on this topic, Jennifer. I also ride a 2014 Softail Slim after riding a 1200 Sportster Custom for several years. Each bike handles differently. I could feel a world of difference when switching bikes.Like Megan said, take baby steps. I was terrified to go 75 mph on the interstate at first, but was forced to on several rides I did with friends. I am not a big person and only weigh 120 pounds. The wind was the horrifying part for me. Even though the bike is big and heavy, I am not, and felt as though I would get blown around and off the bike, but I eventually got the hang of it. In Western Montana we have a many canyons and mountain passes and the wind can get crazy.Gaining confidence in your handling abilities is key when riding any bike. If you haven’t taken a riding course, I would strongly suggest doing so. Even though I had ridden off-road bikes since a very young age, when I wanted to get my dream bike (a Harley) I went to a riding course and leaned so many more handling techniques than I would have otherwise.With any motorcycle, momentum can help you, so remember that the more speed you have, the better handling you may have with cornering, wind, and any other challenges you will face. Keep a steady hand on the throttle and always remember to keep your wrist flat and level for even speed control. Megan also pointed out having a lead or partner take position in front who will maintain a comfortable speed for you. This will allow you to focus on having fun and not worry about how fast you are going. After all, riding a Harley is all about the fun. Don’t overthink it and relax. Good luck and stay safe.

  28. I loved Megan’s response to Jennifer’s question, and I love Jennifer for being woman enough to ask it! I have been feeling the same way but didn’t quite know how to ask for help. My fear is not only the instable feeling of the bike at lower speeds, but being terrified that I will have to stop short while at a higher speed. There are many lovely country roads where I live, which means many, many deer. My husband usually rides behind me but next time I will definitely ask him to pace me in the front so he can deal with the deer and that will probably sooth my nerves a great deal. Excellent advice! Thank you!

  29. I will admit that I have never really been afraid of going fast on my bike. I have more than 70,000 miles on it, most of that at highway speeds and then some. However, I think some of the insecurity you might be feeling is due to the fact that bikes tend to feel less stable at lower speeds, like you don’t have much control (I feel this most when I go from riding my supersport to my dad’s cruiser back at home), and that is what is keeping you from going faster. Please know, if that is indeed what is holding you back, this unstable feeling does not transfer to higher speeds. Once you get moving a little faster you will notice your bike feels much more balanced, and you will enjoy it all the more rather than being afraid of going to fast. Here are some tips though:1) I am sure you won’t, but don’t go out and hammer the throttle. Since you are nervous about the speed take it in steps. 2) You probably know this to, but pick a less traveled road if possible, that way you don’t have to deal with cars flying around you which might also get your nerves going.3) And probably most important, the first time you decide to go faster than you have been comfortable with, take someone more experienced with you and have them pace you in front. Tell your partner what speed you want to go, and let them set it. That way you can focus on riding and not be staring at your speedometer the whole time. Don’t focus on your speed, keep your eyes on your leader and the road. Put tape over the speedometer if you have to. It’s their job to watch the speed limits. Once you are able to stop worrying about your speed you will enjoy your bike and rides so much more!! Then you will be like the rest of us and start trying to make it go faster ;)Hope this helps

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