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Riding a Motorcycle

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Step 8: Accelerating and Decelerating

You've taught yourself to start the bike, get it moving, and to turn. Unfortunately, you aren't going to do to well on public roads if you're stuck in first gear. Next you need to work on accelerating, decelerating, and shifting gears.

One of the joys of a motorcycle is that the only difficult gear is first. Once the bike is moving shifting is much easier. When to shift is entirely dependent on your motorcycle, your riding situation, and your riding style. Generally speaking, a sportier riding style favors shifting later, while a fuel efficient style favors shifting earlier.

A rough idea of the gear to be in is:
0-15 MPH - 1st
15 - 30 MPH - 2nd
30 - 45 MPH - 3rd
45 - 55 MPH - 4th
55 - 65 MPH - 5th
65+ MPH - 6th

Emphasis on rough idea. A 1000cc sport bike could go 70 MPH in 2nd gear if you wanted to (not that I'd recommend that).

While accelerating, when you feel like you want to up shift there is a procedure:
1. Pull in the clutch and release the throttle.
2. Kick the gear shifter up and return to the original position.
3. Roll on the throttle as you release the clutch.

When you need to decelerate on a motorcycle there is one key thing to remember, the vast majority (70% or more) of your stopping power comes from your front brake. When you want to decelerate there are two main ways, engine braking and conventional braking. 

Engine braking is using the natural resistance of the engine to slow the motorcycle. This is done by releasing the clutch and allowing the engine's RPM to drop and by potentially downshifting. Be sure not to stall the motorcycle when doing this.

Conventional braking is simply using the disc brakes like on a car. Simply pull the front brake and press the rear brake simultaneously.

If you feel that you have slowed down enough that you should downshift, the procedure is very similar to up shifting.
1. Pull in the clutch and release the throttle.
2. Kick the gear shifter down and return it to its original position.
3. Roll on the throttle as you release the clutch.

If you are coming to a complete stop, be sure to pull the clutch in so you do not stall the bike. When you are about to stop moving, place your left foot on the ground (the right foot should still be braking). Once you come to a stop, place your right foot on the ground as well.

If while braking you lock up a tire and it starts skidding, what you do depends on the tire. If it is the rear tire, your best bet is to keep the tire locked until you are moving in a straight line again or stopped. If you release the rear brake while skidding or drifting it can cause the rear of the bike to essentially snap back into place which can cause you to fly off the bike. If you lock the front brake immediately release it and slowly reapply it. Locking the front brake can be dangerous as you can be sent over the handlebars or the front wheel my cut (sharply turn to one side).
 
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