New bike… now what?

  • Published
  • By David Brandt, Staff Sgt. Lauren Douglas
  • Air Force Safety Center

Are you a seasoned rider with a new motorcycle? Below are a few shared tips and tricks to remember as you put miles on your new ride.

Dave Brandt, Air Force Safety Center’s Motorcycle Safety Program manager, provided insights and tips for any rider with less than one year of experience on their current bike. Brandt recently purchased his first self-proclaimed “Dad bike”, the R1250RT, with different weight distribution and overall size than he’s used to.  

“Traditionally, I have been a sportbike rider,” said Brandt. “The ‘Touring’ world is new to me. Though some might argue, my previously owned R1250GSA fits the sport-touring or ADV-touring definitions.”

When Brandt began looking for more information regarding an experienced rider and tips for newer, more modern motorcycles and riding, he found there is very little on the topic. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Vehicle Familiarity and Safety offers research analysis regarding driver performance, risk management and accidents. Brandt found this study from 1983 that posed some interesting data points.

Some of his key study takeaways included:

  • A multitude of factors drives mishap causes.
  • The first 0-12 months on a new motorcycle, a rider is approximately 50% more likely to be in a mishap on that bike.
  • Accident potential drops significantly after 12-months of vehicle familiarity (no indication of riding frequency was given). 
  • There is NO substitution for experience (miles in the seat) on your new bike.
  • After 12-months of experience, you will not be exempted from any accidents, just less likely to be a causal factor.

Riders must be open to new functions and not rely on comfortable knowledge of a previous vehicle. The factors below are expanded to share important considerations when familiarizing rider and new bike: 


On average, the 12-month window could be roughly equated to 7,500 miles, or about 170-hours in the seat. Depending on how much you ride, the time frame to gain that level of experience could take more or less than 12-months.


How much experience translates to a new bike? Most skills transfer, regardless of the bike you’re riding. However, Rider Coaches regularly ride many different motorcycles on the range but being able to simply operate that bike does not equate to “experience.” Experience and gaining the appropriate skillset is the ability to anticipate and react in any type of situation with that motorcycle.  

Technology Deficiencies

New technologies are available on modern motorcycles, which often equates to better safety features. However, the distractions on a bike have also grown substantially. With wireless charging, wireless connectivity with your phone, adaptive cruise control, and several types of ABS, there are many ways to be distracted.

For mature riders Brandt shares, “As I have aged, these technological advances have become more difficult to adapt to. While in my familiarization stage, I chose to only use the technologies I need and am already familiar. Everything else I learn off the bike before utilizing the autonomous features. No fiddling with unknown controls while riding.”


“All the gear, all the time.” This also includes an airbag vest. Although expensive, the value of this particular PPE is priceless - the most significant item of PPE since the inception of the helmet. It has proven to reduce injury or chance of death due to blunt force trauma (#1 killer of riders) by up to 60% within speed parameters.

For a list of PPE, visit the DAF Rider webpage. (


With age and experience, the loss of reaction time and quick reflexes are often a hard truth.  Mr. Brandt shares that while he has enjoyed motorcycle travel over the years, he sometimes tires after a few hours of riding, especially off-road riding.

“This new motorcycle provides more comfort for longer rides,” shares Brandt. “This also presents another potential issue – where the added comfort can allow for a rider to ride for longer, complacency can easily set in over those miles. I will be sure to consider this effect as I ride more.” 


Experienced riders may forget to continue taking time to practice what they have learned in the Basics Rider Course (BRCu), continued learning courses, and mentorship programs. This is one of the many ways to familiarize yourself with a new motorcycle – go back to the basics from BRCu.

  • While stopped, fully lock the handlebars in both directions and feel the weight shift.
  • Practice your threshold braking in a safe environment without traffic.
  • Get up to 20-25 mph and apply both brakes evenly and smoothly. Remember to never “grab” your front brakes but instead, gradually squeeze the brake lever.
  • Learn and practice the controls of the bike.
  • Practice swerving.

Operate basic motorcycle controls, without looking at them.

At the end of the day, there simply is no substitution for experience on a particular motorcycle. “Any problem you have on your bike or with your riding can be solved by simply riding your bike,” a mentor of Mr. Brandt said. Nothing is more valuable than practice. Skills diminish over time when not used. Practice your low-speed skills so when you need them, you have them. Wear ATGATT! When your skills fail you or you cannot “skill out” of a situation, your PPE is all you have between you and a bad situation.

Let’s keep these bikes shiny side up!

For more resources and tips on motorcycle safety, visit the AFSEC DAF Rider page: