How To Ride A Motorcycle Forever

Getting Old: The difference between bouncing and breaking.

Motorcyclist street riding tips for older riders.
Getting Old
Yes, it’s possible to perform as well or even better as when you were younger if you remain relatively fit, learn to be physically and mentally efficient, and capitalize on the insight that comes with age. Experience!©Motorcyclist

You might be a young buck full of vigor, flexibility, and confidence. But statistics tell us if you ride a motorcycle in the US, you are likely over 40 years of age. If you’re one of these “seasoned” riders you might have noticed that certain physical and mental limitations have become more pronounced. What you might not realize is it’s possible to perform as well (or better) as when you were younger if you remain relatively fit, learn to be physically and mentally efficient, and capitalize on the insight that comes with age.

Motorcycling isn’t tolerant of people who are weak of mind or muscle. If you aren’t able to maintain a certain level of sensory sharpness, strength, and mental competence you are putting yourself at greater risk of a crash. And if you do crash, you are more likely to get hurt. At twentysomething you’ll bounce, while a 50-year-old will break.

Before you walk away depressed about your dark, inevitable decline, consider some benefits of being an older rider. Most of us who have survived this long have gained wisdom about managing the risks of riding and possess a well-developed arsenal of strategies that preserve mental energy. For example, we’ve learned to select lane positions that afford optimum visibility and know how to prioritize information efficiently so we can spot hazards early. Unfortunately, vision is one of the first things to diminish with age. Slow down if you can’t see well enough ahead, and make sure you use clean, undamaged eye protection.

A big part of maintaining endurance and alertness is to become physically efficient. Anyone can see I’m far from what is considered young. Yet I am still able to match the stamina of riders decades younger—partly because I’ve learned to conserve energy. For example, hanging off the motorcycle to drag knee while on track can be tiring, but I can do it lap after lap because I’ve learned to use my torso and leg muscles (rather than my arms) for support. I also hang off only as far as my speed dictates and change body position only when absolutely necessary. These details really add up.

You can preserve energy on the street by riding smoothly and minimizing unneeded inputs. Look well ahead to see where you want to go, and then maneuver your bike accurately with precise handlebar inputs. You can reduce this effort by pre-positioning your upper body toward the inside of the corner before you countersteer to initiate lean. This “pre-loads” the bike to turn. For even greater efficiency, push the inside handlebar while pulling the outside handlebar so both arms share the effort.

A long life on two wheels is dependent on making smart decisions. Patience and tolerance help prevent road rage and other impulsive behavior that exposes us to more risk. A calm manner preserves mental energy, frees the mind to make better decisions, and allows us to brake and steer with greater precision. In contrast, flustered or hurried riders execute decisions and control inputs erratically.

One demographic at great risk of delusion is middle-aged “returning riders” who think they can pick up where they left off a decade or two ago. Too many returning riders wobble their way out of a dealership parking lot on a shiny, new machine and into traffic with only a faint memory of how to really control a motorcycle. Thankfully, the odds of these mature riders having the common sense to seek training are pretty high.

Whether you’re a newly minted older rider, a returning rider, or a veteran codger, you are smart to recognize that you might not know all you need to about staying safe. Get regular training and continually practice cornering, braking, and evasive maneuvers. Also, minimize the negative effects of aging by exercising, eating well, and visiting your eye doctor. You’ll feel better, ride better, and have more fun while reducing the chance of injury.

Do Your Friends Ask, "Why Do You Ride?"