Teenager learning how to ride a motorcycle
June 27, 2022

There's nothing more exciting than the freedom that comes with a new driver's license. For most of us, it's the first time you can hit the open road and go wherever your heart leads.

As lifelong motorcyclists, we hit the streets on two wheels at the same time we began driving a car, but our friends who got motorcycle licenses later in life said it was "like being a kid again in both good and bad ways."

They were often too used to driving a car to feel natural on their motorcycles. But, over time, they worked on fundamentals and became excellent riders.

Experience is the key to all road safety.

Learning to ride well is a lifelong goal that older riders still put in the time to achieve. Should you encounter a close call, the extra practice in an empty parking lot can make the difference.

This article isn't meant to wag a finger at young riders. On the contrary, we love that teenage drivers choose to explore the world on two wheels. But we do want to give teen drivers the statistics and a few tools that can save them from unknowingly participating in risky behaviors.

Knowledge (and practice) are influential on a motorcycle, which is good because the data for young drivers (and riders) can be alarming.


First, the good news. Things are getting better.

Here are a few top-line statistics and our takeaways from the available data collected from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the state of New York:

  • The unplanned incident rate per mile driven for 16-19 year-olds is nearly three times the rate for drivers ages 20 and over. What this means is that age and experience are correlated with safe driving.

  • In New York, unsafe speed is the leading factor contributing to motorcycle incidents involving 16 to 19-year-old drivers. Two-thirds of all mishaps involving these motorcycle riders were caused by the operator.

  • Time of day plays a factor, and, it turns out, more incidents occur while driving at night. The highest rate of motor vehicle incidents (19%) was between 9 p.m. and midnight.

  • Pay close attention if you are planning to be on the road on summer weekend nights. In 2020 teenage crashes occurred most in June, July, and August, with 50% of all incidents coming on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

  • Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is much more dangerous for teenagers. This is partially due to teenagers' higher threshold for risk-taking behavior, experimentation with illicit drugs and alcohol, and inexperienced nighttime driving.


With the above statistics in mind, teaching your teen how to operate their motorcycle safely can help keep them out of harm's way as they enjoy this popular hobby.

1. Take A Motorcycle Safety Course

We believe that all motorcycle riders (even veterans) can benefit from taking a safety course; these classes aren't just for new riders. More than a defensive driving course, motorcycle safety courses teach you essential skills and provide drills that you can keep working on after the course is over.

If you're interested in getting your motorcycle license, take advantage of the training courses that many local dealerships offer - including Harley-Davidson. These classes can be taken in a classroom and on a motorcycle, depending on availability and which would be more appropriate.

Most motorcycle insurers provide insurance discounts for class attendance.

The course will teach you about safety and the proper way to ride a motorcycle. It may even cover some of the different motorcycles available (traditional bikes vs. scooters vs. ATVs).

2. Don't Exceed Your Skill Level

It's essential to learn how to ride a motorcycle safely, but it is equally necessary for teenagers not to overestimate their abilities. The training courses mentioned above are a great way to baseline your teen's abilities.

There are three additional keys to staying safe on a motorcycle:

1. riding within your limits

2. never let friends pressure you into doing something you aren't comfortable with

3. practicing in a safe place before going out on the road

You should avoid taking unnecessary risks while riding; this means staying off of busy highways during rush hour or rainy weather until there is comfortability.

3. ATGATT Or All The Gear All The Time

The next step is to make sure you're wearing the proper protective gear. Here are some of the safety essentials that you will need:

  • A motorcycle helmet. The most important thing to wear on your head when riding a motorcycle is a DOT-approved helmet. It helps to protect against serious injury in the event of an unplanned incident, but it also helps keep your head warm and dry, which can be especially helpful in cold weather.

  • Protective clothing. Opt for long pants instead of shorts, and boots that cover your ankles. And don't forget about eye protection: goggles or sunglasses are essential.

Motorcycle safety gear will give you peace of mind and your teen a great look. But don't skimp on the research. Try out the items and ensure you get the items that fit best.

You want to wear the right gear to keep riding as long as possible.

4. Never Ride With More Than One Passenger

When learning to ride a motorcycle, it is advisable not to ride two-up immediately. In some states, this is also a legal stipulation. In addition, not all motorcycles are set up to ride with a passenger.

In the event your teen is responsible for a passenger, these motorcycle safety tips are essential:

  • If carrying a passenger, the motorcycle must be equipped with a passenger pillion (seat), a passenger grab strap, and passenger foot pegs.

  • Only carry one passenger. The passenger should be a family member over the age of 16 who is wearing a helmet.

  • Both the rider and passenger should wear helmets and suitable riding gear, including protective eyewear

  • The passenger should sit in a position where they can see directly ahead without straining their neck or having to look over the rider's shoulder.

Discover additional safety tips for riding two-up.

5. Obey The Speed Limit

One of the most important things you can do is obey posted speed limits when it comes to motorcycle safety.

Most motorcycle incidents for any age rider involve a single vehicle. And in most of these, riders were operating above the speed limit.

This means that every age bracket, not just teens, needs to use caution at all points when riding.

6. Keep Your Motorcycle In Good Working Order

It's important to keep your motorcycle in good working order, especially if you're riding it a lot. That includes going through a pre-ride checklist.

The T-CLOCS inspection list, found on the MSF website is the best source for guidance, but some of the basic things to check before hitting the open road include:

  • Brakes and tires: Check that the brakes are correctly adjusted, and also make sure there is adequate tread depth on the tires.

  • Oil: Make sure there is sufficient oil in your engine, but not too much (always follow manufacturer recommendations). You'll also want to check for leaks from any gaskets or seals on your bike.

  • Chain or belt: Keep an eye out for unusual wear patterns, which will indicate issues with its tensioner system or sprocket teeth. If any of these parts needs replacing, do so immediately!

  • Battery: Check your battery's charge level regularly using a voltmeter; when it gets low enough that it starts affecting performance (for example, when starting), replace it immediately.

Discover additional motorcycle maintenance tips.

7. Don’t Ride Under The Influence Of Drugs Or Alcohol

This may seem obvious but is always worth mentioning. While teenagers are less likely than adult drivers to operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol, the risk is higher, especially after only one or two drinks (low to moderate blood alcohol concentrations (BACs)).

The way that alcohol affects the nervous system can lead to drowsiness and distracted driving. As a result, drunk drivers have slower reaction times and often exhibit aggressive behavior.

At night, the percentage of drivers over the legal BAC limit is higher than in the daytime, and the dark can lead to slower reaction time.

If you are under the influence of any illicit substance, call a cab or a friend to pick you up. A DUI is a good way to lose your hard-earned driving privileges.

8. Stay Alert And Conscious Of Your Surroundings

One of our favorite motorcycle writers (Ken Condon) calls it "riding in the zone," but there are many different names for being aware of your surroundings.

The most important safety tip in this category is simply: do not use cell phones or other electronic devices while riding.

The more aware you are of the dangers around you, the less risky maneuvering you will likely participate in. The right mindset will allow you to ignore common distractions.

Read more about the SEE System and the art of anticipation.


A motor vehicle mishap can happen at any driver's age, but looking at the data, we hope that teens understand how serious some of the consequences are of ignoring traffic safety rules.

No single rider's manual tells you how to stay safe in every situation. But riding in good weather conditions combined with these safety tips may help minimize the situations your teen may encounter.

The best advice for teenage riders is to practice their skills, take a safety course before hitting the road, and always be aware of their surroundings and mental state.