It’s that time of the year when traffic is at its heaviest, stress levels are off the charts, and a little bit of retail therapy (for when you’ve taken care of every other expense) is on the table. Perhaps you’ve decided to take the plunge and get a motorized, two-wheel option to save yourself from precious hours and fuel in gridlock. Perhaps your spouse has finally given in to your long-pending request for approval to finally get a motorcycle because it’s fun, it’s cheap, and it’s freedom on two wheels.
Let me share with you some words of advice to prepare you for your entry into the dark side. And because we’ll save the big-bike discussion for later, we’ll stick to small-displacement motorcycles for now.
1. Riding school is a must, but saddle time is where you’ll learn the most. So you enrolled in riding school so you could get the LTO to classify you as fit to ride. But the learning has only started. While a riding school will teach you how to get moving safely, only through frequent riding will you get the needed muscle memory to get your body in sync with your bike. Countersteering. Leaning into (or out of) curves just the right amount. Throttle control. Heck, even just automatically shifting forward on the saddle so you can more easily put a foot down at stoplights.
2. When it’s hot, it’s damn hot. When it’s wet, it’s miserable. Suck it up. Without your car’s soothing air-conditioning and the insulation of a metal cage, you’re always exposed to the elements. Dress appropriately and be prepared for sudden changes in weather. The first few weeks of being exposed to the elements will be a sensory overload: the sights, the sounds, the smells. After a while, you’ll learn to filter these out to only what you need to ride safely.
3. The discrimination is real. Like it or not, there is a pecking order among motorists. Four wheels > two wheels. Police checkpoints will always target riders, but rarely ever four-wheel motorists because…only bad people ride bikes, right? *shrug* To be fair, these checkpoints are only minor inconveniences, and as long as your license and papers are in order, it’s not a big deal. The more glaring discrimination is in your parking options. Some enlightened malls such as SM and Ayala have markedly improved their parking spaces with well-lit areas and reasonable distances to their entrances. Others treat you like you’ve got the plague with unpaved and poorly lit lots. Sad reality.
4. When you’re new, armor up. Helmet, gloves, padded trousers, jacket. Never mind if you look like an armored dork on a cute scooter. You’ll probably drop the bike or hit an oily patch, and unless you relish the thought of cleaning out asphalt from your shredded skin, wear protection. As you gain more experience, you’ll probably be a little more liberal with what to wear in the name of comfort. But still, walang sisihan.
5. Fuel and time savings will make up for the inconveniences. Non-riders will call you kamote even if you’re riding responsibly (but they’ll never have the guts to say it to your face). Parking in tight spots will be like a real-world Tetris challenge with strength training thrown in. You’ll almost always smell like the road after just an hour out. No matter. The time and the money you save will make up for it. If your car gets you 8km/liter in the city, a scooter like the Suzuki Burgman will easily get you six times more distance for the same amount of gas, and it only needs cheaper regular unleaded, too. For short commutes, and as long as the weather is fine, it’s hard to beat two wheels.
6. Storage space is precious. A top box is the first accessory you should get, because even if it’s a scooter with underseat storage, you’ll always need more space. “Oh, I’ll just wear a backpack,” you say. Been there, done that. A backpack gets tiring after a while, not to mention uncomfortable if you’re also carrying a passenger. A top box solves your grocery errand concerns, and gives you a safe place to stash your helmet instead of lugging it with you inside a mall.
7. Go with the flow. As chaotic as motorcycle riding may seem, ride enough times and you’ll notice there’s actually a natural rhythm on the road. Go just fast enough to keep ahead of potential danger behind you, but not so fast that you can’t slow down in time if some idiot decides to swerve in your lane. It’s the law of the jungle out there; stand out and you’re bound to get in trouble.
8. Enjoy your bike as you like it. Don’t feel pressured to join clubs or hang out with people you barely know just because you ride the same kind of bike. Not comfortable keeping up with adrenaline junkies? That’s fine—go at your own pace. You do you. The point is that riding is a privilege not everyone is blessed with, so you decide how you’re going to enjoy it. Stay humble, ride responsibly, and you’ll enjoy it for many years.