How To Ride A Harley-Davidson For The First Time: Everything You Need To Know About Riding A Harley-Davidson Bike


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How To Ride A Harley Davidson For The First Time

Are you a biker who decided to make the jump to a Harley-Davidson bike, but aren’t sure about riding it for the first time? If so, then you shouldn’t worry, as you’ll get to know all about it here.

Riding a Harley-Davidson for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with the right info, it’ll feel like a piece of cake. It’ll be all about familiarizing yourself with the bike and taking it slow as you learn to ride a Harley-Davidson bike.

In this article, you’ll get to know about riding Harley-Davidson bikes, how to ride a Harley-Davidson for the first time, how long will the bike learning process take, and the common mistakes that new Harley-Davidson riders make, among others. Continue reading to get all the answers that you’re looking for.

How much time does it take to learn to ride a Harley-Davidson bike?

Are you fascinated by Harley-Davidson bikes, but not sure how to start riding them? Learning how to ride a Harley-Davidson is easier than many beginners think. Harley-Davidson bikes might be big, speedy machines that require a level of skill set, but with the right instructions, they’ll be easy to ride. Essentially, these are just advanced bicycles with engines, and anyone can easily learn to ride a bike.

If you know how to ride a bicycle or the basics of a traditional motorcycle, you’re already advantaged. You’ll know how to balance a bike, with the balance being the key to riding a Harley-Davidson bike. After that, you’ll have to learn to control the gears and speed, how to brake and turn, how to ride safely, and more.

If you’re looking to know how much time it’ll take to master riding a Harley-Davidson bike, there isn’t actually a definite answer. Every rider learns differently, and they do so at their own pace. Some people are capable of riding a Harley-Davidson bike in a single day, while others could take days or weeks. If you feel that you’ll need more time or require extra lessons, it’s perfectly fine. Remember, you shouldn’t rush the learning process and learn at your own speed. Don’t just learn safely, but you should also learn to have fun throughout the process. After all, you are learning to ride a Harley-Davidson bike for the fun of it all.

It’s worth remembering that getting your motorcycle license doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an expert rider. Although when you pass the driving test, there’s still a lot to learn. With experience, you’ll face different types of roads, traffic, and weather conditions. Always be alert and ride defensively, and eventually, you’ll know that you’re well versed in riding a Harley-Davidson bike.

How to ride a Harley-Davidson for the first time?

There aren’t many things more American than going out on a long drive on your Harley-Davidson motorcycle. These iconic motorcycles have been associated with the finer aspects of American culture for a long time. Moreover, these bikes are extremely fun to ride. If you’re a beginner, there’s an entire step-by-step process for learning to ride a Harley-Davidson bike for the first time.

Step 1: Choose the right Harley-Davidson bike

For beginner Harley-Davidson bikers, finding the appropriate Harley-Davidson motorcycle from a wide variety of options will be key. Bikers might want to find new or used bikes that they’re comfortable with and find easy to handle. Purchasing a bike from a local dealership will help bikers who don’t have an idea of what to look for. Moreover, they’ll be able to know which bikes are right and which ones are inappropriate for their skillset.

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It’s wise for Harley-Davidson riders to wait until they’re clear with the basics before upgrading to a giant Touring bike. Start off with a rather small bike, as it’ll make learning the basics easier and safer.

Step 2: Get the necessary gear

The right gear does a lot more than just make you look cool when riding a Harley-Davidson bike. It’ll protect you from potentially dangerous elements while also offering the safety net during unfortunate crashes. At a minimum, beginner riders who are learning to ride a Harley-Davidson for the first time should buy –

  • A full-face helmet
  • Biker boots with ankle support and non-slip soles 
  • Riding gloves covering your whole hand 
  • A leather or abrasion-resistant jacket 

Having appropriate gear will be important for any rider. For new riders, wearing safety gear is definitely essential. It’s common for beginners to take a couple of minor tumbles before they get a feel for their new bike. With time, you’ll get to know about the bike’s weight, handling, and controls. Riders should read the necessary motorcycle etiquette before hitting the pavement.

Step 3: Get familiar with your bike

Every Harley-Davidson bike has a different personality. Take enough time to get to know your bike before you head out for your first ride. To mount it, you should get on from the left side. Mounting from the left will make it easier for you to get a grip on the handlebars and the brakes. Moreover, the kickstand is also on the left side.

After you mount the bike, start it and take time to let it warm up. Listen to the engine, get a proper feel for the bike, and spend time to become comfortable before you take it out for a ride.

Step 4: Learn the controls of your Harley-Davidson bike

Every Harley-Davidson bike is different from the other, but most of them follow the same basic design principle. Before the first ride, you should become familiar with the control systems.

The dash -Every Harley-Davidson motorcycle’s dashboard is slightly different. However, Harley-Davidson bikes have a speedometer and an RPM meter. Keeping the RPMs out of the red zone will be important as it helps in protecting your bike’s engine.

The mirror – Bikers must check the side mirrors to ensure they offer a better view of the road. Don’t just set the mirrors once and then forget about them. Check the mirrors before each ride.

The turn signals – Any bike manufactured after 1973 features turn signals. Most Harley-Davidson bikes have one turn signal on each handlebar switch pack. They can easily be activated with your thumbs. Remember that unlike cars, not every bike has an automatic self-cancel feature that kicks in once the turn is completed.

The kill switch – A bike’s kill switch is essentially an emergency shut-off. It’s generally found on the right handlebar. The switch has to be set to the run position before your bike is started.

The starter – Most Harley-Davidson bikes feature starter buttons beneath the kill switch. They’re easy to identify as they feature a lightning bolt and distinctive circular arrows.

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The throttle – A bike’s throttle is responsible for controlling its speed. The throttle is normally found towards the right end of the handlebar. Bikers can increase how much gas the engine is getting by turning the throttle towards them, and then decrease it by turning it away.

The brake levers – Each Harley-Davidson motorcycle will come with two brake controls. The front brake will be on the handlebar’s right side. The rear brake will be foot operated. You shouldn’t try using the front brake without engaging the rear brake first.

The clutch – The clutch lever is generally found on the left handlebar. Similar to manual transmission cars, the clutch will be used for disengaging power while shifting gears. The shift lever is generally located near the driver’s left foot. It can be engaged only in conjunction with the clutch lever.

Step 5: Find a clear road to ride and practice

The best road for your first few roads should be one that’s straight, traffic-free, and in good driving condition. It’ll be wise if you drive your bike in a parking lot, especially if it’s your first time. Most safety-conscious bikers don’t jump on their bikes in heavy traffic until they’ve passed multiple motorcycle training courses.

Step 6: Jump on your bike and get started

Once you’re familiar with your bike and have found a proper place to test your abilities, it’ll be time to jump on your bike and get started. Once the engine has warmed up, shift your bike into first gear to get the bike moving. Start off by driving in straight lines and then downshift until your bike comes to a slow stop. Most bikers prefer using their left foot for stabilizing the bike as it stops.

Getting used to the steering can take a while. It’s much more intuitive than many of what most people think. You should lean slightly in one direction or the other while pushing the corresponding handgrip. Start off with turns at 10mph before you take them at full speed.

Step 7: Practice to perfect your riding ability

One of the best things about riding your Harley-Davidson bike is that there won’t be a shortage of reasons to go out and practice. Use your motorcycle to commute, head out for long drives, or plan a motorcycle camping trip. Once you have a good grasp of your bike, the sky’s the limit.

Common mistakes beginners make when learning to ride a Harley-Davidson bike

Every experienced and seasoned Harley-Davidson rider was once a beginner. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to learn from them. There are certain steps that you can take to prevent those mistakes from happening again. Here are some of the common mistakes beginners make when learning to ride a Harley-Davidson bike –

1. Being in a rush to buy the bike

Many new riders are so excited to start their Harley-Davidson journey that they buy the bike before even learning to ride it. They even attempt to go big so that they don’t end up wasting money on an intermediate bike that they’ll only ride for a short while.

It’s recommended that you should take your time before making the big buy. Take a few rider courses, where you’ll get a better idea of how certain bikes maneuver and fit your style. Then, start test riding bikes before you see which Harley-Davidson model suits you the best.

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2. Having poor clutch control

Clutch control is among the biggest issues that bikers struggle with. It’ll be all about making small, gentle adjustments while not treating it like just an on/off switch.

One of the reasons that new bikers struggle is that they try to treat a motorcycle clutch like a car clutch. Cars feature a dry clutch. It’ll be more about getting the clutch disengaged quickly, as staying in the friction zone in a car will be damaging and wear out your clutch. Most bikes have a wet clutch, which means it’ll be encased in oil. With a bike, slipping the clutch and using the friction zone will offer smoother riding and better balance.

How To Ride A Harley Davidson For The First Time - Man Riding Harley Davidson Bike

3. Stopping with the bars turned

Say that you’re about to stop your bike at a red light, and you’ve to make a right-hand turn. As you’re approaching the stop point, you’re looking left to check for a safe gap in traffic. But as you apply your front brakes, the bars are slightly turned right. You’ll notice that your bike has magically gained 10,000lbs and you’re struggling to hold it upright. In some Harley-Davidson bikes, you might even drop it.

The best recommendation here is to always straighten the bars by the time your bike is ready to fully stop. This will help keep the weight of your bike balanced while keeping it happy and dent-free.

4. Forgetting to cancel or use the turn signals

Forgetting to cancel and use the turn signals is an extremely common mistake that beginner bikers make. Once you start driving, you’ll start to see beginners and experienced riders make this mistake. Some bikes are equipped with self-canceling signals, although this isn’t very common. In a car, the turn signal gets canceled automatically once the turn is completed. This isn’t always the case with the Harley-Davidson bikes where you’ll need to turn it off manually. Be sure that you’re using and canceling the signals, which allows you to send the correct signals to the traffic.

How To Ride A Harley Davidson For The First Time - Man Wearing Helmet Riding Harley Davidson

5. Not practicing enough

Practicing will make you get better.  Even if you haven’t taken any riders course, it’ll be important to find a safe place and practice your skills. Swerving, braking, the curve technique, and turning from a stop will be the main skills. These skills should be practiced regularly in an open space with decent asphalt. Of course, you should take advanced courses to get important tips and feedback from certified riders. It’ll help you expand your skills with each Harley-Davidson riding session.


Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you know a lot more about riding Harley-Davidson bikes, how to ride a Harley-Davidson for the first time, how long will the bike learning process take, and the common mistakes that new Harley-Davidson riders make, among others. If you’re a beginner biker, riding your Harley-Davidson bike for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with the right info, it’ll feel like a piece of cake. It’ll be all about familiarizing yourself with the bike and riding the bike with the right technique on an empty road in safe conditions.

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White Star Rides is your go-to Harley-Davidson expert. We live and breathe these bikes. Our team has years of experience in fixing, riding, and loving Harleys. We know every part of these bikes and love sharing what we know with you. Whether it's about fixing a problem or just enjoying the ride, we're here to help. Trust us to make your Harley journey better and easier.