A motorcycle is a two wheeled motor vehicle, a heavier version of a bicycle, whose design is based on the bicycle. While there were earlier motorized versions of the bicycle in 1885 the German inventor Gottlieb Daimler built the first practical motorcycle. In the 20th Century the motorbike has remained a popular means of transportation for work, leisure and sport. Although there are now numerous types of bike on the market, typically the essential motorcycle design remains the same with an air-cooled engine and seat supported by a metal frame between two wheels.
Because it is a great sensation. It can be relaxing and invigorating. There is a great sense of freedom and mobility on a bike.
Despite fears that motorcycles are dangerous riding a bike can be very safe given proper training and following sensible precautions.
Bikes are widely used for pleasure riding, racing, touring and commercial transportation of light goods.
Motorbikes are very convenient and flexible. They take up less space than a car. They are generally more economic and offer better fuel efficiency.
Modern touring motorcycles provide automatic transmission, stereo sound and luggage space. Motorcycles are widely used by the police for traffic patrols.
Use of the motorcycle has increased greatly in recent years as a result of the development of the inexpensive, lightweight motorcycle, manufactured chiefly in Asia.
There has never been a greater choice of the types of motorcycle to choose from than today.
In the UK the starting point is the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course. This was introduced in 1990 to help reduce the high accident rate among mainly young inexperienced bikers. The course is conducted by various training organisations validated by the DSA (Driving Standards Agency). All learner motorcyclists and learner moped riders have to complete CBT before getting started on the road. New car drivers wanting to validate their full moped entitlement which comes with their full car license must also complete one of the CBT courses.
The DSA is responsible for conducting driving tests in the UK and contributes to the road safety of drivers, riders and other road users. UK license holders will need to take a theory test if they want a license for a motorbike. Any new category of vehicle these days requires a theory test. Even if you have a car license and you need a motorcycle license then you will have to take a motorcycle theory test. For full details you need to check with the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) or the DSA.
A practical test is also required involving emergency stops, u turns and other safe driving techniques.
The British Motorcycle federation (BMF) was formed in the sixties due to increases in the numbers of motorcyclists being killed or injured on the roads. In 1982 the BMF Rider Training Scheme was introduced establishing a network of training centres throughout the UK. Bike Safe is another initiative, this time run by UK police forces, who try to help lower the number of motorcycle rider casualties. Motorcycle holidays can be a great way of combining training with leisure.
Getting back on the road is becoming ever more popular among mainly middle aged men who are rekindling the love affair that existed with bikes when they were younger. But returning to motorbikes needs to be a cautious affair for your own safety as accidents often occur in the first few weeks of getting back on a bike. Bikes now are faster, lighter and more technological complex than they were even a couple of decades ago. They now have disc brakes, traction control and anti-lock brakes. Roads are also busier and some may argue more dangerous with less courtesy on the roads. You need to take extra care when starting out again especially if you have purchased a powerful machine. Concentration must be maintained at all times. Training should be considered even if you regard yourself as a competent driver because it's best to start again with best practices. Basic and advanced training courses are widely available through the UK.
You can only hold a provisional moped licence if you are at least 16 years old. It entitles you to ride a moped on the road as a learner with L-plates (D-plates in Wales) but you must not carry a pillion passenger or go on a motorway and you must complete your compulsory basic training (CBT) by an approved training body (ATB). A CBT certificate obtained on a moped is also valid for motorcycles once the rider has reached the age of 17 years and has the necessary licence. If you have a full car licence, you are automatically entitled to ride a moped without L-plates (D-plates in Wales). If you obtained a full car licence after 1 February, 2001 you must first complete a CBT course and obtain a certificate to validate your entitlement. There are two types of full motorcycle license. The A1 restricts riders to any motorcycle up to 125 cc. The practical test must be taken on a motorcycle of between 75 cc and 125 cc. The A license is obtained if the practical test is taken on a motorcycle of over 120 cc but not more than 125 cc and capable of at least 100 km/h. After passing the standard motorcycle practical test you will be restricted for two years to riding a motorcycle of up to 33 bhp. After the two year restriction period you can ride a motorcycle of any size. Direct access is a scheme which allows a person over the age of 21 to avoid the two year restriction by taking a test on a machine of at least 46.6 bhp. A pass allows you to ride any size of bike.
Accelerated access is for riders who reach the age of 21 while still within the two year period where they are restricted to maximum 33 bhp machine but who wish to ride larger bikes. They may practice on bikes over 25 kW (33 bhp) under the same practice conditions for direct access riders reverting to learner status. Test failure does not affect the existing license.
You need the right clothing and safety gear. You will be exposed to the cold and rain. Special motorcycling clothing as well as protecting you from the weather helps prevent injuries and increases safety by allowing other road users to see you better.
By law you must wear a safety helmet on the road. Visors or goggles, gloves and gauntlets, leathers and other types of protective clothing such as boots and visibility aids are also essential for your safety and protection.
Remember to have some lessons. As well as being fun and helping your personal development as a rider they will help you gain experience and confidence in riding quickly. Familiarize or re-familiarise yourself with the Highway Code. You will also need bike insurance.
Before you motor read your manual. If your bike is second hand and did not come with the original manual you should be able to find a specific one for your make and model at your local bike store or at a major book shop.
Remember motorcycles typically consist of general basic parts/controls.
Right side handlebar accelerator control
Right side handlebar brake control
Left side handlebar brake control
Left side handlebar clutch
Foot-pedal gear shifter
Speed and fuel gages
If you have never ridden before a friend should be able to run you through how to start your bike and run through basic postures and how to accelerate, decelerate, clutch and brake control. The brakes are the first thing to familiarise yourself with.
You should never attempt to ride a motorbike without an experienced rider present.
Take your time and familiarise yourself with the controls and posture before you switch on the engine. Make sure your pedals and handlebars are properly adjusted and you are comfortable. Always have your first riding experiences in a deserted car park or some other isolated area where the risks of accidents are reduced.
Remain within speed limits and the flow of traffic.
Avoid darting in between cars and lanes in heavy traffic.
Remain focused on the road and any potential dangers.
Practice courteous and calm driving.
Prepare and pack for long trips with extra clothing, a map or sat nav, first-aid kit, a charged mobile phone, water.
Maintain your bike properly and check all fluids and major systems regularly including brakes and lights.
Sit square on your seat and ensure footpegs and handlebars are comfortable.
Wear your protective helmet and other safety gear.
Practice defensive driving i.e. using caution to be aware of potential problems at roundabouts, on bends, etc, including potential get outs if you have to swerve or break suddenly.
Avoid distractions, including mobile phones and other devices which distract your view of the road.
Maintain a comprehensive and peripheral vision by keeping your eyes moving, checking mirrors and other views regularly.
Position hands firmly but comfortably on the handlebars.
Never drink before driving or drive while feeling drowsy.
Safe riding is not about racing. Avoid confrontations with other drivers.
Keep a safe distance behind other drivers.
Try and stay relaxed and careful.