Motorcycle confidence is something that almost all riders, male or female, struggle with on one level or another. Very few of us, however, ever talk about it. And yet confidence is crucial for your ability to ride well, have fun, be safe, and tackle unexpected situations the road or other drivers may throw at you. Even if you have excellent riding skills, a lack of confidence can hinder your ability to feel good on the bike and to experience the sheer joy that motorcycling brings.
A big part of why we lack confidence riding our motorcycles is the pressure to be an instant expert. Even if you have just started riding, the self-imposed pressure to be an instant expert is immediate. Why can’t I execute a perfect U-turn yet? Why can’t I corner faster? Why aren’t I able to ride confidently on gravel yet? The answer is simple: it’s because you don’t have enough experience and training just yet, and that is perfectly okay.
It really does take saddle time and heaps of practice to get better, just like learning any other sport such as tennis, golf, or softball. Instead of realizing this and objectively evaluating our current skill level and experience, we tend to immediately jump into the disappointment of not being great at riding as soon as we start out, and that takes all the fun out of it.
So how do you stay confident riding a motorcycle even if you’re not an “instant expert”?
Learning at Your Own Pace
Here is a simple fact: people learn differently and at a different pace. If you are one of those lucky souls who started riding motorcycles as a child, your learning curve will be different, and you will naturally have more confidence on the bike. As children, we have less fear and less negative perceptions of ourselves, so we learn with gusto and joy even if we fall and scrape our knees.
However, when we learn to ride as adults, we come to motorcycling with some mental baggage. We are more cautious of falls and crashes because we have already experienced pain. We are more apprehensive about our own abilities because we have already installed an inner critic in our minds who tells us we are not good enough or not talented enough. Most of all, we want to master the ability to ride motorcycles right away in just a few short lessons. Which is impractical.
That’s just not how this works, and it’s important to realize, accept, and appreciate that you may need more time, more mileage, or more training to get to a level where you are happy and confident on the bike. It doesn’t matter if a guy from your training session showed up at an advanced level training after getting his motorcycle license just a month ago and is already ripping up the roads while you are still terrified of speed. It doesn’t matter if your friend is already enjoying twisty roads with ease while you are super cautious.
Focus on your own progress, learn at your own pace, and know that it is okay to take all the time you need and get as much training as you need. In fact, that is a much safer and more productive way to build your skills than rush into new challenges and risk an injury.
Dealing with Pressure
The pressure of becoming an instant expert can be tough. You need to locate the source of the pressure, and then let it go. Are you feeling pressure to be an instant motorcycling goddess from your riding buddies? Perhaps it’s time to get some alone saddle time. Is the pressure coming from all the perfect social media posts? Turn those notifications off for a while, leave Facebook groups that are toxic. Find motorcycle friends who are supportive and encouraging.
Pressuring yourself to be an instant expert is stressful, it does not enhance your ability to improve, and it does not help you build confidence on the bike. Zoom in on the source of the pressure, eliminate it, and focus on enjoying the ride. Yes, it is easier said than done, and we often get sucked in into a certain culture, social circle, or environment where we may feel like we are never good enough.
Ask yourself whether this is helping you or hindering you, and if it’s the latter, perhaps it’s time to change the environment rather than trying to squeeze yourself into an unrealistic version of the rider you think you need to be at this stage of your learning and practice.
You are courageous, you are capable, and you’ve got this. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and enjoy the heck out of your motorcycle…at your own speed and on your own terms.