52 comments on “Tips for coping with fear on a motorcycle

  1. I have recently purchased a suzuki vstrom and am a new rider. I took the ABATE beginner course on their smaller bike and passed and now have my license. I spent time in parking lots practicing as well and then around the neighborhood. My first trip out of town a few miles went well until pulling out from a slightly uphill stop sign into a right turn. I went down fast and hard. Rode home. Went a little further the second day; it was awesome__until I went down again, same situation. I’m guessing not enough throttle and poor clutch control. I’ve gone back to parking lots, but can’t seem to get my turning skills back; my fear of falling over is so great now. How to practice properly without the fear of falling because bike is so heavy? I can almost flat foot it after lowering the bike and adjusting handle bars back so I feel like I have more control but not enough.

  2. Having ridden everything from a Cushman, to a 1340 superglide, over 40 years, I stopped riding in 1986, sold the H-D thinking I would never ride again.,..THEN at age 75, I bought a 2015 1200 custom, loaded to the max….every accessory available including a custom trailer. Problem???? I am scared to death to even ride around the block…Owning the bike since Aug 2015, I have 121 miles on the bike! One year, I rode 24,000 miles on an 1000E Suz….now I cannot riding two blocks over! What a terrible scene. Thinking seriously about taking a refresher safety course….eithewr that or sell the darn 2 wheeler!

  3. I enjoyed the article. I dropped my Road King in a slow right turn in May, resulting in a broken leg for my widea (my passenger).

    Getting back on the bike has been very difficult. We’ve had a bike for years, but the Road King was new to us. Now she won’t get back on it until I’m comfortable, but I’m not aure when that will be.

    I’m juat trying to log the miles and hope we can get back to enjoying the bike rides like we used to do.

    Some of your advice was spot-on for my situation.

    • Road King is a high quality but very heavy MC….To rebuild your confidence is the issue same as mine.My remedy after nearly 30+ years is to take a safety course on a light MC likely a 250 Virago or Honda. Never laid one down but my loss of confidence comes from my absence over many years of riding. To have injured a passenger is a very bad confidence killer. Hang in there brother and never quit trying….

  4. Hi,since I dropped out from college in the mid-half I don’t go out a lot,neighbours questions so,&every morning I think of riding the scooter so that I can take it to places & college I can’t do it evry day,when I see many people I get nervous & to start scooter in my own & take it on my own I don’t know why I can’t do it,the last time when I took it to practise it stopped on the slope & I couldn’t start it,a yr ago I’v practised a lot but one dah it happened like my dad put me down by applying brakes when the person was far,after that he never sat behind me,I don’t know how to avoid people & ride

  5. Hi, I’ve written a book on body awareness and body control specifically geared towards motorcyclists.

    I was wondering if you would be interested in reviewing it. If so please drop me an email.

  6. Excellent advice. Two things:
    Riding in the dark: the one really worrying thing about riding in the dark (which you don’t mention) is the countryside aspect: the chance of an animal running out into the road in front of you. Even a badger or fox can total you and your steed. I always expect the worst and hope for the best, for that kind of incident is far more unpredictable than drivers coming out of side roads or pedestrians not seeing you. As an “advanced motorcyclist” I’ve been trained to keep my vision up and anticipate, anticipate, anticipate – but that’s far from easy riding along a dark, tree-lined road. My son, a paramedic, was told: animal above the bonnet/hood – emergency stop; animal below the bonnet/hood – keep going. In other words, car drivers have a choice of how to react to anything from a ferret to a deer. We riders don’t.

    The other point is to remind everyone of the 7/10ths “rule” – I won’t bore you here, but just google for 7/10ths and mooch around the net.

  7. Hi all,

    This article has great tips, however I hope someone may be able to give some good advice on something a bit different.

    I was unfortunately attacked on the back of a motorbike which resulted in me being pushed off. Since I do not feel comfortable being on the back as I’m so wary of people getting too close.

    Does anyone have any tips on keeping safe while riding? It would mean a lot to be able to enjoy the wind in my face again!

    Many thanks 🙂

    • That sounds horrible!
      In general, I think it is – again – a case of trying to win your confidence back. In this case, your confidence in “the world”, in the fact that what happened to you is extremely rare.
      The only way I can think of to get your confidence back is to start slowly, riding short stretches, in an environment that is safe. I hope this helps a bit…

  8. Useful and heartening comments from all here, I have had my license 2 years and have my bike for play rather than work as I have to use car for work, I thought I was the only one who gets the jitters after some time passed ! But apparently it’s normal, who’d have thunk it 🙂 . It’s easy to feel worried about not going fast enough or the dreaded dropping your bike but a wise man once told me there’s only two types of biker, those that have dropped and those are going to. My confidence wobbles come from knowing I’m a bit crap at right hand cornering, left, I’m happy as, but some right handers I get a jitter, slow down, destabilise, jitter more cos I know I’ve fluffed it and it all goes to pot – I have had several days when I’ve decided I just don’t ‘have it’ but I love my bike and when I have a good day I try to take that on board as much as my off days and take heart. Biking seems to me a lot about mind and body being in a specific balance, head needs to be engaged but when you get to overthinking your head works against you – but it’s part of what I find absorbing about it, doubt I’ll ever be amazing but if I can improve and not kill or majorly damage myself, that’ll do me. This site is great resource, thanks.

    • Thank you for the compliments! And you are right: cornering comes with the years, and you will have to let go – in a Zen-like way – of your desire to be fast to be fast in corners 🙂

  9. Just a couple of comments. I really am nervous about water and gravel on the road, and as a consequence I am nervous about riding at night, because I might not be able to see the road surface. I am nervous about riding when I’m tired, because I may not be as alert, and I am nervous about riding when I’m cold because I know that even mild hypothermia can affect my alertness. Fortunately, I know from experience it is possible to dress to be warm in temperatures right down to the freezing point of water, and I am nervous about riding at colder temperatures because I am nervous about ice on the road. So never be embarrassed to wear a warm jacket on your bike when its cold. I think its a good thing to be in touch with your fears. It’s important for me as a bike rider that I understand the basic physics of my motorcycles interaction with the road, and for that it’s important for me to be mentally engaged with my riding. Alertness is paramount, and it comes with experience. Finally motorcycle riding is dangerous, even if you’re alert, and make no mistakes, and it is most dangerous for new riders. To balance the danger you should be taking something positive out of the motorcycling experience, and if you don’t, by all means leave the bike at home and take your car

  10. I just got a BMW 1200R and I am struggling with the weight of the bike when riding in the city. As soon as I am on a road, all is good, not many issues with corners, the bike is very confortable. But on the city, each light or corner sends my heart in a mad speed and I am getting more and more panicked to a point I am thinking about giving up and going back to a smaller bike – I used to havea 800cc.

    Reason I changed is to go on a big trip, and to have a safer bike with ABS, ESA, etc…

    I’ve been riding for more than 30 years, but now I feel stuck with the fear of falling or dropping the new bike, whcih happened once when I was parking it. I’ve been doing parking lots, but still cannot manage braking properly or doing slow speed curves. I know practice is the best answer,
    But I have the feeling I made a mistake buying this bike, even if it felt great on the testing ride.

    • This is a difficult one. The BMW-R-series have the habit of leaning slightly to one side when you come to a standstill. It’s hardly noticable, but it really feels different when you’re on a different bike: than you notice that the bike stays completely right up when stopping, which is of course good for your confidence.
      The only way to adjust to your bike is to take it to a parking lot and practice coming to a standstill over and over and over, until you know, not just with your brains but with the rest of you as well, that it is safe to stop. And try to avoid cities in the meantime.

      • Thanks for your comments. I decided to give up after dropping the bike for the second time, the stress level is too high for me right now. I will give it some time and go for a different ike in a couple of months. Probably a smaller, lighter one. Not giving up gor good, no way!

        Cheers

        • We wish you good luck with choosing a new bike! We’re just working on a review on the Honda NC700X and S. It will be ready in about a week. That might be a bike to have a look at.

          • Hi there, I rode the 700 NC today and liked it! Very easy, light, felt confortable which of course boosted my self-confidence. Next week I will try the BMW 700. My concern, once I overcome this step, is if the 700 (any) will be enough to go cross country…

            Thanks for the tip and comments.

          • Every 700 is enough to ride cross-country!
            If you would like to ride 200+ km/h all the time on the German Autobahn, a 700 would be the wrong choice, but for everything else 700 is plenty.
            I myself ride a 650cc single (the Yamaha Tenere) and I’ve never been in a situation where those 650cc wheren’t enough.
            Have fun during those test rides!

  11. Thanks for your excellent article. I am a good athlete – and my riding ability was superb until I got a larger bike.
    I don’t like not being able to not fully put my feet down – like my cruiser (I got the FS 650 BMW) with lowered seat, but my 5″3 frame is still fighting to be able to stop without fully putting my foot down with the 3 point stance it’s okay but I’m getting accustomed to fully stopping and then 3 point stance using front/rear brake to stop.
    As a female it’s a little nerve racking. And it’s hard to manage the bike walking it out of the garage which isn’t flat. As an athlete is alot of pressure on me to do everything really well and I’ve totally lost my confidence.
    Went back to Riding the 250 cc for a few days. I’m ready for the new beast but she feels so ackward

    From: Danielle

    • Maybe it’s time for us to write a page about riding a tall bike!

      One of the tricks is, of course, to always carefully look where you stop: in some places, it’sbest to use your right foot; in other places, your left foot is better. I only get the toes of onefoot to the ground when I ride my Tenere (and then I can shove to the side, to use my full foot), soI know how necessary it is to look.

      You will get used to it: it will become a habit.

      Another thing, probably very difficult for you, is ask for help! There is no need getting tiredwalking your bike in and out of the garage, just ask for help. It won’t be for always, because everything will get easier in time. The better you feel in the beginning, the more confidence youwill get. Hope this helps!

      A link from a long time ago might also help: the Short Bikers List FAQ.

      • I had exactly the same issues with a big heavy xl700 honda Transalp. Got sick of needing help to get it out of the garage and slowly and surely my confidence melted. nothing l tried helped and my so i traded ‘it in on a lowered suzuki dr650 and bingo no fear issues. I can move the bike by myself and am having fun again riding. where as before I could only ride if someone was home to help me.move the jolly thing. Love my dr for the freedom it has given me, do what you need to get your courage back even if its going to a smaller bike! If you want to persevere with the bmw, see if you can get it lowered,

  12. I recently passed my test. All was ok up to then.
    Before I was a beginner and got away with slow speeds and awkwardness. Now after having passed the test, there is a lot of peer pressure to ride faster and not slow everybody down.
    I am riding a 600 racing bike and – love the bike – but find it difficult to ride it. In fact I increasingly get worse and have a growing and increasing fear.
    I have totally stopped riding now for 4 weeks, because it started effecting me driving a car! I have lost belief in my own ability and think I am just not made for it. Some people seem to have great aptitude – but not me.
    It is difficult to explain to other people – because they say, hey, you passed your test. I am not sure if I will continue, but I believe firmly that the transition from learner to holding a license and being accepted by other fellow bikers is a massive and dangerous one.
    Do you have any advice?

    From: Olivai

    • In the first place, of course, congratulations with passing your test!

      Your question is a difficult one to answer. In the first place, peer pressure is one of the worst factors when trying to find your own way of riding, your own speed, your own pace of progression.
      Peer pressure will inevitably make you ride outside your own limits, and that alone will inflict fear of riding. So if you feel peer pressure to ride faster, it will cause fear and you will end up riding slower than you would ride without peer pressure.

      So, of course, the first step would be to ride alone, from time to time, to develop your own riding style, to discover your own kind of riding, to gradually learn more about riding.

      Another factor influencing you in a negative way could be your bike. A 600cc sports bike is nervous: it reacts vehemently on the gas, and you have to shift a lot.
      Those are not the best features when trying to feel comfortable riding!
      You could think about changing it for, for instance, a Versys or a VStrom. Those are far more gentle bikes, on which you will feel more confident.

      I hope this helps!

  13. Hey Ernst and Sylvia,
    Thank you for writing this article.
    Really helps to know that you’re not going mad and thinking you’re the only one who has an issue

    From: Humaira

  14. Thanks so much for this article. I’m sure there are other folks who are beginners and have the jitters, but it is reassuring to read these testimonies and your article regardless.
    I’m fairly new and am in the process of simply trying to add miles and confidence to my riding ability.

    From: Dave

  15. I was inches from getting side swiped (on our 10 year wedding anniversary); riding home just like any other day and I thought the car didn’t see me and I slowed down but he went right in my lane and I slammmed the brakes – I was super lucky.
    Anyway rode home no problem.
    Next time I rode my bike I was actually scared no one was going to see me (even though I have the bright green ninja) – and I had to get my husband to ride my bike home. How do I get over this? Will I get over this?

    From: Susan

    • There are two things needed to get over it, I think:

      One is to keep going, which is hard.
      The other one is accept that you need time and space to get over it, which is also hard.

      The only way to get your “system” (brains, nerves, the whole biological system that warns you by getting scared or afraid that something is wrong) used to cars, is to have the experience, over and over again, that a car passes while nothing happens.

      You have to get used to it without getting scared every time. So start with riding only on very quiet stretches, and gradually get used to more cars on the road.
      I had to do this after my accident and while I was certain, when I started riding again, that I would never feel confident again in traffic, I do so now!

  16. I passed my bike test in may 2008 and bought a 600cc bike only had it a few months and crashed it, I put it down to weather and not experienced enough; I spent 4 weeks in hospital.
    My bike is still sat in my garage. I really want to get back on it but it just seems so hard. my wife wants me to sell it.

    From: Paul

  17. I have waited two years to ride; to afford a bike. So I went to Motorcycle safety class and had a fall with too much front brake.
    After that the fear or nerves took over. I really want to ride and my bike is in the garage.
    I have been a passenger for 3 years, so I don’t know where the fear came from. Although I know it is much different to ride than to be a rider.
    I never give up on anything and I am upset at myself, but I felt unsafe. How should I approach this?

    From: Judy

    • Give in to the “fear”, don’t try to beat it.

      So start riding again with loads of safety margin, and go to a place with a good stretch of tabletop smooth and plane tarmac, with a friend, and practice the given brake practices, so you can first assure you can brake without locking up (not your wheel, but your brain).

      Just try it to lock up the front wheel almost, and release, lockup almost, release etc.

      You will get acquainted whit the weight transfer of your bike, and how to apply the brakes, not slamming on but somewhat squeezing a lemon. Eventually you could try to lock up the brakes a fraction of a second, to experience the self healing stability of the bike.
      As soon as you release the brake, the bike will straighten itself miraculously if there is space.

      I don’t know if there is an antiskidd school in your surrounding, but here we have such training with bikes with sidewheels; that gives tons of self confidence, but the risk is still looming, that won’t change, but the managable risk *is* the essence of biking 🙂

  18. I’m a beginner and I started to love cornering like any biker would do.
    I always felt like i should go faster into a corner to enjoy it more.
    In this article I learned that getting better isn’t about pushing your limits, but riding safe and comfortable for yourself. Time will do the rest.

    From: Baris Mert

  19. I highsided back in july and shattered both of my arms.
    It’s taken me a year to get another bike, mine was totaled, and the fear of locking the front brake or feeling paralyzed in an emergency is going to take way more than this past year. I do appreciate the advice and comments.

    From: Jennifer

    • Ai, that’s great of you to start riding again!The only way to get rid of of fear is, I think, to be gentle on yourself, and to keep confidence.
      Every time you brake in a non-emergency situation, notice how you perform. Train on an empty parking area: try to brake in different ways, and every time, brake a little bit harder.
      Never force yourself to brake in a way that makes you panic, because that would set you back.

      In that way, you may never notice progress, but one day you will realize that you can brake much harder than months before, without feeling fear. Success!

  20. Thanks, I thought I was my the only person have fears but I understood is a comun problem.Thank for you advice and I will push myself to coming a good and clever motorbyke guy,thank again

    From: Michel

  21. I’m an experienced rider (over 20 years), but lately, I’ve become very nervous at high speeds. I ride with a group and it seems I’m holding them back sometimes, especially at freeway/highway speeds (70-80 mph).
    I’ve experienced these “panic attacks” often, and fear it may end my riding.
    Is there anything you recommend?

    From: Deuce

    • Yep, first find your *own* pace by riding alone, especially group pressure takes lots of riders out of their comfort zone.
      Trying to keep up with a group when not feeling comfortable can indeed be ruining for ones self esteem, and thus gives a lot of stress, the cure is riding alone, just keep the pace in the comfortzone, and with time you’ll learn to know the small feelings that need to be known, and the pace will soon be upwards going instead of depleting big time.

      You probably won’t believe it, but even Lorenzo (MotoGP had anxiety stress last year, afraid of his speed after a major crash, just relate to yorself and give it *time*. It’s like a row at work first you stop speaking (ride alone) but after a while the whole situation will be forgotten. And you can go on a ride out stressless again, enjoying the need for (moderate) speed.

      P.S. more often than not people just fantasise that they are holding back the group, but a lot of group members are happy to have a caboose, so they themselves don’t have to come out of the closet at being slowboats themselves 🙂

  22. Lots of good advice. I am a beginner and even the tips on fear for experienced riders was helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

    From: Ray

  23. Hi, I just started riding a G650 XCountry. I’m have some difficulty getting on and off and parking the thing as the seat is quite high.
    I noticed that the super moto bikes are even higher. Is there a trick to getting on?
    I was told that on the Yamaha you can climb on using the foot peg. However I’m not game to try this on the BMW.
    As I’m 60 now, I wondering if there are a collection of tips for mounting, dismounting, reversing etc on a high bike ?

    From: Edward Alder

    • I would not recommend to climb on using the foot peg!
      What I do (most of the bikes I have rided were high compared to my legs), is:
      – put the bike in first gear if it;s possible to start it with the clutch pulled in (on some bikes, you have to start with the gears in neutral),
      – get the bike off the stand, and pull the front brake with your right hand (the bike feels more stable than),
      – point the handlebar a bit to the right (the bike will feel even more stable)
      – swing your leg over the seat, and start the bike.

      For reversing etc, the most important advice is to think before parking your bike: if it’s possible to park it in a such a manner that you can just ride out of the parking space, you should make use of that possibility 😉
      When you have to reverse the bike, do it by walking next to it.
      And for the rest: I wish you a very happy time with you GS! I think it is awonderfull bike!

  24. I hit a deer some time back, totaling my old Ninja, and hopped right on a new KLR650 two weeks later.
    I was fine for a week, then started getting jittery in corners and low speed stuff.
    I’m just now, three months and 2000 miles later, starting to get back to the basics and comfortable again.
    I feel like fear set me back a year in experience. Of course, I’m a much better, much more technical, and safer rider now than I was before.
    It just doesn’t seem that way to me.

    From: Wayne Davis

  25. My Wing does not like my driveway, I am 75 kgs, it is 363 kgs. We rode all the way around Australia but not happy at Zero speed.

    From: Bandit

  26. I’M beginner and I feel afraid to speed and curves , I need to get over with this cause is holding me from enjoy more my learning process, this will help me to look in a different way my fears
    thanks

    From: Daisy Little

  27. Excellent advice!
    Reassuring… well timed…
    I have a downhill driveway (uphill out) and needed to ride across my front lawn to have a safe path to the street.

    From: Neil

  28. Solves some of my problems of courage, or lack of, when returning to biking after a 25 year gap. Reading this makes it all come down to commonsense, and being aware of the lack of experience, which comes with regular riding in all conditions.
    Thank you for your help…I feel better knowing that I’m not the only one!

    From: David Garrad

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