Fears are very personal experiences – the relationship you have with them, the reasons behind them, how they make you feel, and how you respond. Fears are very common – they can either make you or break you. And there’s nothing like motorcycling to put them right in front of you and make you question – how can I overcome my fears?
If you’ve ever thought about learning how to ride, or you’ve recently started your journey as a rider, you would be somewhat familiar with fear. They usually turn up in the following ways: butterflies in your stomach, panic attacks, constant overthinking, the inability to make your body do what your mind tells you to do, reflex actions that make things worse, and getting into a demoralising talk with yourself. Well, a lot of us have been there in our motorcycling journey (yes even us here at FreeW!) but hey, take comfort in knowing that it’s ok and there are ways to slowly chip away that fear! So here are the top 3 most common fears and how to overcome them.
Fear #1: Dropping the motorcycle
Oh yes, the dreaded drop where your heart and confidence drops together with your motorcycle. This fear is very common especially amongst learners and new riders, even experienced riders worry about this! You can’t help but constantly think “What if I drop the motorcycle? Will I break my motorcycle? What if I hurt myself? Will I ever get to a point where I won’t have to worry about dropping my motorcycle?”. The good news is you will get over it, provided that you make sure you equip yourself with the right protection and the right mindset.
First of all, accept the fact that when you’re starting out as a new rider, you will drop the motorcycle at least once. Accept that dropping your motorcycle is ok (it really is!) and accept that this is a rite of passage for many. I know, it’s easier said than done, so here are more practical steps on how to deal with the situation.
When you’re getting your first motorcycle, make sure it’s not your dream bike. Instead, get a “training motorcycle” (check out our article on how to choose your first motorcycle). It will allow you to build up your confidence and skills without hurting too much your heart and pocket in case of a drop.
Next, look into protecting your bike from those drops like installing crash guards or long sliders. Not only will these help minimise damage to your bike, they will also limit the risks of getting your legs stuck under the bike in the event of a fall.
And of course it goes without saying, invest in decent gear and make sure you wear them all the time when you’re on the motorcycle! At the very least, make sure you have a well-fitted helmet, riding jacket, gloves and sturdy shoes. Proper gear makes the world of a difference in protecting you from scrapes, sprains, and fractures when you’re practicing your riding skills. You can then take comfort in knowing that if you do drop the bike, you’ll be ok! One thing less for your anxious mind to worry about.
Yes these things cost quite a fair bit of money, but consider it as an investment in yourself. There are usually decent second-hand options out there if you’re willing to spend some time to search and ask around! A good starting point could be to reach out to the community in FreeW Tribe on Facebook and check who might be selling their pre-loved gear and/or motorcycle parts.
Fear #2: Navigating through traffic
Boy oh boy this is an absolute nightmare when you’re just starting out. You feel exposed, vulnerable, unprotected. It seems that all the cars are closing in on you and they are completely oblivious to your existence. You panic and worry, thinking how you’d ever get from Point A to Point B. Fret not, it does get better!
First of all, start with sharpening your skills and do it in a safe space like a parking lot before venturing out into the traffic. Get some cones (you can find them online) and look for a safe open space with level ground for you to set up your practice area. There are online resources which show how to set the space up for practice drills (or you can sign up for one of our motorcycle classes) . The key skills to practice are turning from a stop, u-turns, going over speed bumps, emergency braking and slalom. The whole idea is to create muscle memory so that when you’re out in traffic, your body already knows what to do and you can focus on your environment.
Another key skill to practice is to avoid target fixation. Use your peripheral vision to be aware of your surroundings without focusing on just what’s ahead of you or the obstacle to avoid. Yes it’s very tempting to look at that car next to you to make sure you don’t ram into it but trust me, the more you look at it the more likely you’ll head straight into it! So practice looking at the solution, i.e. where you want to go, and keep obstacles and surroundings in your peripheral vision. Build your situational awareness of seeing what’s around you but not focusing on them, e.g. watch for intersections, slowing down traffic , or forks ahead where cars might turn. It feels very counterintuitive at first, hence it does take conscious effort and practice to override that urge of focusing on the car/truck/bus coming close to. You can practice situational awareness anywhere, – while driving, while going for a walk, while doing grocery shopping. It’s a matter of consciously training yourself to spread your vision.
Once you feel ready to venture out, start going around your neighborhood or roads which are less busy. Try to find fellow riders who are willing to take you out for a short ride on city roads. The more experienced riders will be able to create a buffer space for you and help maneuver traffic to keep you safe on the road. The key is to find your own little crew of people whom you can connect with and help guide you on this journey. You can start with heading to FreeW Tribe and see if there’s any female rider who lives near you and is willing to help you out! Another idea is to get one of your friends to follow you in a car to ensure some buffer space for you to ride safely.
Fear #3: Lose control of the bike
Ah, this one! You can’t help but imagine the worst if you can’t control the motorcycle on the road.
The practice drills mentioned above are key to get used to challenging situations and help you get the right automatisms.. The more practice drills you do, the more familiar you are with the handling and control of the motorcycle.
The one key skill you should always practice is clutch control. Practice and get acquainted with your clutch’s friction zone, by feeling how far you can let out your clutch before your bike catches and moves forward (i.e. has power). A few millimeters can make all the difference! Use this practice opportunity to adjust your clutch lever such that it is at a distance comfortable for your hand size.
Some key situations where clutch control helps:
- When going too fast, pull the clutch in a little to reduce the traction power . This is a more refined way to slow down your bike rather than slamming on the brakes. But make sure you don’t yank the clutch all the way in as you will end up freewheeling.
- When about to tip over, let out your clutch a little to give more power to the motorcycle. With that power, your motorcycle will straighten up and keep you upright. Don’t let out the clutch too quickly or too much, as that might make you lurch forward and cause your bike to stall, hence lose balance..
So there you are! Simple tips to get you started and chip away at your fears. This list is by no means exhaustive but we hope it will help you build self-confidence. Motorcycling is very much an inward journey towards overcoming your fears and self-limiting beliefs.. With the right attitude and the right skills, you’ll get better. Remember, being 1% better today than you were yesterday makes all the difference.
So go on and own that fear!