Five things you'll learn after you pass your test

Got your motorcycle licence? Congratulations! Now it's really time to start learning...

THE moment the examiner says: “Congratulations, you’ve passed” might feel like the end of a journey – all that effort to get your licence has come to a head and you’re finally qualified.

But the truth is that you’ll keep learning every time you get on a bike. Your licence might give you the legal right to ride, but in terms of the journey to motorcycling wisdom, you're on the bottom step of a long but hugely satisfying and rewarding ladder.

Here are five pointers to things you’ll soon be picking up once you’re out on the road on a regular basis but learns from us so you don't learn the hard way. Experienced riders will no doubt chip in with their tips and advice in the comments section too.

1: Use your nose

DIESEL is the motorcyclist’s enemy, particularly when it’s mixed with water. The first time you hit a patch, you’ll wonder how ice managed to form when it’s way above freezing.

Unlike petrol, which evaporates quickly, diesel will sit on the road almost indefinitely, soaking into the asphalt and being brought to the surface again as soon as it rains – oil floats on water, remember.

Your early warning might be a rainbow-sheen on the surface of the water but, even before that, never forget that diesel is stinky stuff. If you get a whiff of it, beware. While it might just be a poorly-tuned truck up ahead, you could just as easily be about to ride straight into a massive diesel spill.

2: Think about where you are

STICKING to the subject of fuel spills, whenever you ride past a filling station, be aware that it means you’re in a diesel-spill hotspot. Trucks filling to the brim are often to blame, and the result can be splashes of the stuff on the road on the exit of the garage.

And just because you got past that, don’t let your guard drop. Overfilled tanks tend to spill on corners, so the next roundabout after the petrol station – even if it’s a couple of miles down the road – might well have a higher-than-average chance of being covered in diesel.

3: Get some heat in your tyres

WARMING your tyres up might sound like the sort of thing that only racers need to worry about, but even on the road stone cold rubber has less grip than it will once it’s got a bit of temperature in it.

We don’t mean you need to weave around or to buy a set of tyre warmers to fit before your daily commute, but just be aware that for the first couple of miles of a journey your grip levels won’t be as high as they are later on.

Weather has an effect too. Those sunny winter days when roads are dry can be great fun, but the lower temperatures, coupled with cold tarmac that hasn't warmed-up after the overnight chill means your tyres will take longer to warm up, too.

4: Metal isn’t grippy

MANHOLE covers and drains can be lethal – so avoid them if possible.

Sounds straightforward, but remember that when manholes are put into the road, they’re often positioned so cars won’t run over them. Unfortunately, it also means that you’re more likely to hit them and they're even less grippy in the wet.

Usually there’s some sense in their placement. They’re more likely to be on straights than corners, but even then if you’re accelerating or braking as you hit them it can spell trouble. 

Drains are a little different. You’ll often find that as you enter or leave petrol stations you’ll have to run over a seamless channel of drainage, designed to keep the forecourts clear of water. Unfortunately these metal grills might well have a liberal coating of diesel on them. Not ideal if you’re accelerating back onto a main road just as you cross them… Just knowing the risk is almost always enough to prevent an embarrassing spill.

5: Treat new tyres as if they have no grip

WRITE it out a hundred times. Say it to yourself in bed. Do something, but remember that new tyres are slippery as hell for several miles.

The problem here comes partly from the fact that, for many riders, getting new rubber fitted is a fairly rare occurrence. A set of tyres might well last the average rider a couple of years. Maybe more if you’ve got more than one bike or cover less miles than the average. Which means that even if, somewhere in the back of your mind, you know you’ve been told to be careful on new tyres, you might not be familiar with just how slippery the road can feel for the first few miles on a new set of rubber. If you want to see an example of it going wrong, watch this video.

The tyre fitter will often remind you, too. Make sure you pay attention. Even journalists who should know better, and who probably have more new-tyre experience than the average rider, are known to come off on fresh tyres once in a while. Help make them feel stupid by making sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Want more?

Click here to see the 5 things that no-one told you about becoming a biker.

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