How Mastering These Five Essential Motorcycle Riding Skills Can Keep You Safe And At The Top of Your Riding Game

If you already have a few years to your record, then you’ve had the chance to experience just rusty your motorcycle riding skills can get and how out of practise your riding can become when you’re not using them. And often there can be long pauses between rides from days to weeks or even months. Therefore it’s best to keep your motorcycle riding skills especially those emergency procedures honed, active and –close at hand.

Five Essential Skills MOTORESS
Motorcycle Riding Skills Best Kept at Hand

When on the road, many riders go to great lengths to avoid situations which they find uncomfortable such as cornering, slow speed control, street car tracks – rather than challenge themselves to learn these things proficiently. And yes, you can ride for many years avoiding such motorcycle riding skill,  manoeuvring in your own little bubble of competencies – so to speak. But what fun is that? On top of which you create unnecessary anxiety.  For example, riders who can’t make sharp right turns will often avoid a full stop (at an intersection) , rolling roll right through – which can be hazardous.

The following five key motorcycle riding skills will not only give you a refresher but will without a doubt increase your riding pleasure and confidence. Practise them in a parking lot at the beginning of a ride especially if you’ve been off the bike for some time. These skills are equally important to practise at the beginning of every new riding season  and/or when you buy a new motorcycle or scooter.


Riding at slow speeds is used in city traffic, moving off from a stop, turning around in parking lots, turning around on a road/highway to change direction; bumper to bumper highway traffic to name a few.
What to do and how to practise it:

  • The technique of riding your motorcycle clutch at the friction zone the area when the clutch is released begins the engaging of the power to the rear wheel.
  • Rear brake is applied creating a drag and increasing stability of the motorcycle
  • No front brake use
  • Throttle at constant level creating available power – “money in the bank” as I like to call it.
  • Clutch controls delivery of power to rear wheel – need more: clutch out; need less: clutch slightly in.
  • Upper body relaxed – don’t fight handlebars/steering.


This technique still stifles riders – experienced or starters alike. This manoeuvre is a challenge because you need to turn sharply within a smaller space (i.e. right lane) and avoid the power of the motorcycle forcing you to the outside of your turn and into oncoming traffic! You also have to manage the throttle keep it applied and smooth.
What to do and how to practise it:

  • From a stop move off using the riding with the friction zone technique and make an immediate sharp right turn. Make sure you aim for a 90 degree angle, narrow turn. If not you won’t improve your skills!
  • Look up and ahead to where you want to be (don’t look down).
  • Feel the motorcycle; listen to the rev’s which will guide your sense of power/engine management judgement
  • Increase space between your body and your right elbow. Extend right elbow only away from your body. This will prevent your elbow cramping into your body where there is no more room to manoeuvre while increasing space to turn.
  • Use a small amount of push steering – a push applied to the right bar to keep the motorcycle in its line/path. (Push right go right—remember?)
  • Once the turn is completed, fully release throttle and return your fingers to grip the handlebar fully and move your feet back from the levers (gear-shift and rear brake) to pegs with feet positioned on the balls of the foot.


Higher speed braking or a emergency quick stop is actually quite simple to do. It’s a truly important skill as this will ensure you avoid collision in any applicable emergency situation – or when any abrupt stop is required in general traffic.
What to do and how to practice it:

  • You will need to accelerate in a straight line to at least mid/high 2nd gear. Pick a predetermined stopping point ahead and apply both brakes simultaneously along with clutch lever, stop as quickly and safely as possible without locking up the rear wheel or skidding.
  • You are not ‘grabbing’ the controls but quickly squeezing them. As you need more stopping – squeeze more toward you. You’ll find there is much more ‘brake’ available as you squeeze.
  • When you make the decision to stop…STOP!
  • Tapping down on the gear-shifter while you are in the motion of stopping aiming at being in first gear when fully stopped.
  • Keep the motorcycle straight and upright in order to use the full amount of the tyre’s contact patch (Maximum grip!)
  • Expect your body to be forced forward due to the stopping thrust of the motorcycle. Keep knees into tank/grip tank with knees; chin up and arms strong to avoid this.
  • Once fully stopped, left foot goes to ground. This is then your signal to perform a traffic check over your left and then right shoulder to ensure no hazard(s) coming into the back of you.
  • Important to note: feet do not leave pegs until full stop nor do you perform traffic checks until after full stop. Movement on the motorcycle during this manoeuvre could result in upset/the motorcycles path changing.


It’s a fact that you can achieve your motorcycle license with never really push steering to full ability. In a parking lot (most training courses in North America are done in this manner) you can actually achieve high speed swerving by body and usual bicycle steering inputs without truly doing a push steer (even though your test said you did it!)

This is a manoeuvre you will use all the time and truly must be grasped to be a proficient and safe motorcycle rider.
What to do and how to practise it:

  • Accelerate in a straight line to at least mid/high 2nd gear or higher! Pick a spot ahead and as you approach it, push to swerve around it.
  • Remember this is a push forward like you would do to a door. There is no pulling.
  • For full details read the MOTORESS push steering article.


It is important when riding a motorcycle to learn NOT to overreact at the same not to under-react. Our self-imposed fears can be our greatest hurdles!

SR’s are called “survival responses” and PR’s are “panic reflexes” – they’re bunched into the same set of reactions on a motorcycle.

The challenge is when you’re finally relaxed and something jumps out in your path – number one reaction is panic. This usually means grab a handful of brakes resulting in mishap. Really, at no time on a motorcycle can you drop your guard.
What to do and how to practise it:

  • Constantly scanning the road and area – front, sides and rear will make sure ongoing flow of information.
  • Interpreting hazard: i.e. car ahead turning left in front of you, street car tracks, construction zone ahead, lane positions
  • Predict – i.e. if the car did pull in front of you – you would be ready and not need to deploy a PR!
  • Decide – if the car did cross your path would you stop or can simply slow to avoid it.
  • Execute would be the operation you would choose and of course the ability to do it i.e. Proper quick stop – are your abilities good enough to do this?

Skill development never ends. Road scenarios are ever changing. Perhaps you’ll go from riding a cruiser style motorcycle to a sportbike with twitchy power and instead of one disc brake it will have a multi-disc brake system. Take even the fact of eventually taking a friend for a ride. Passenger riding changes dynamics entirely.

It’s these constantly changing variables we embrace and which keep the adventures ever riding forward!


MOTORESS director, Vicki Gray is a basic and advanced motorcycle instructor – certified for over 30 years. An on-road and racing motorcycle licensing examiner – has instructed, examined and licensed riders for European, Caribbean and North American training institutes.


  1. Thanks. That comes from the experience Vicki has riding and teaching these skills. She’s taught thousands of riders and is a motorcycling advocate.

  2. How can you find so many details? I like how that you arrange everything, as it is truly simple
    to read. All in all, I can recommend this guide to everybody who is interested in that subject.

  3. YES, it’s RIDING TIME! (Thank Mother Nature for finally coming out of her groundhog hole!!)
    And, as usual, at this time of year especially, be mindful of those early season hazards such as left-over Winter sand in corners and the middle of intersections; wet leaves; early-morning frosty patches and cold-hands/fingers delayed response times!
    Happy motoring kids, and BE CAREFUL.

  4. Hi Vicki Gray, I always enjoy your short articles. They are insightful and timely. In the emergency braking and push steering exercises above you may wish to provide a speed reference such as 30 to 50 kilometres. Using mid/high 2nd gear is fine on typical course bikes but it may be too high for many street bikes. Keep up the good work.

  5. Some very good points here. Riding weather is showing itself all over this country! Get out and practice. You never know when the skills will come in handy.

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