Motorcycles have always been appealing to me and at the beginning of this year I decided it was time to get my bike licence.
Not having any prior experience on a bike, (except a bicycle at Primary School), I set out to achieve this goal and the best way to learn how to ride a motorcycle is in a controlled and most importantly, safe environment.
BMW Rider Academy
As part of BMW Motorrad, BMW has a rider academy with ten riding courses dependent on your experience on a motorcycle. They have everything from a Novice course for beginners like me to Advanced, High-Performance and two Off-Road courses.
BMW’s Rider Academy is situated in Pretoria on the Zwartkops Raceway circuit. Bonus: You get to learn how to ride a bike on an actual race track!
BMW has a long history of motorcycles, with their first bike, making its debut in 1923. BMW Motorrad, their motorcycle division has over 30 models in over 90 markets. They have motorcycles for every terrain, from World of Adventures which are the GS models that can be used on mountains and in rivers. Their Touring bikes are for long distance travelling and these include the K1600GT. Sports models, which are proper superbikes (300km+), Heritage models, which are the customised 2014 R32’s, the R NineT Pure and Racer bikes. And lastly, the Roadster bikes, the G310R, which is the only 300cc, their smallest motorcycle and Urban Mobility, which are the scooters.
How To Ride A Bike 101
The BMW Rider Academy instructors prepared a theory lesson for the soon-to-be-riders before heading out for the practical training.
They explained the basics: where you’ll find the clutch, throttle, gears and brakes etc. We were also guided through safety lessons – where a bike should be positioned on the road and what a safe following distance is.
Golden Rule of riding a motorcycle
Look where you want to go.
The most important thing you can do while on a motorcycle is to look ahead, and look at the exact spot you want to go – if you’re looking at the tree, that’s eventually where you’ll end up.
In the practical sessions, 250cc motorcycles were used to teach us how to ride. In a demonstration, instructors taught me how to start the bike and slowly move off with my feet lightly dragging on the ground. Once you get more comfortable after “crawling” you can put your feet up and ride, not going too fast – at this point.
I must admit, this wasn’t the easiest task – but the instructors were patient, and spent more time with riders who struggled.
Later they teach you how to change gears, (it’s not as easy as it seems). Your coordination needs focus, managing the clutch, throttle and both brakes take a lot of thought, but after spending more than five hours on the track, you leave the raceway knowing how to ride.
BMW’s instructors also taught students how to do an emergency stop, a stop-and-go, how to swerve correctly with a motorcycle, as well as things like the correct way to pick up a bike when it falls.
Another important rule: Fitness is important when riding a motorcycle.
Until I actually got to ride a motorcycle, I didn’t know that being “bike fit” was a thing – I thought this just applied to bicycles. I was wrong. I came home sore – but it was worth it!