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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone, I'm new here. I'm getting back into riding and feeling very discouraged about how badly my skills have rusted after a few years out of the saddle. I'm hoping someone here has experience with this and can share their wisdom.

I started riding almost 10 years ago. I took a beginner's riding course, passed my tests, and bought a 1980's 600. I'm a very small person, and my goal was to learn how to handle a tall, heavy bike. I never wanted to have to mess with the suspension on a bike by lowering it. I did drop my bike a couple of times in the very beginning due to having trouble getting my footing at a standstill, but before long I was totally comfortable and never had an issue with the height again.

Then life got in the way and I no longer had the time or money to devote to riding. It sucked, but I thought to myself that there's always next year. One year turned to 6. I'm finally able to get back into riding this season. I was so excited, I've been counting down the days for months. Except that when I brought my bike to an empty parking lot to practice, I found that my skills have gotten very rusty, and my confidence is totally shot. The skills and techniques I had trained to become instinctive don't come naturally anymore. I'm actually scared of my bike now. I've always been a very cautious rider, but I don't recall ever feeling afraid of my bike. It feels like I'm starting over again as a total beginner. Since the weekend I haven't had a chance to try again, but I'm going to take my bike back to the parking lot tonight.

Any thoughts or advice?
 

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Take the MSF course again. When I took the course there was a guy that said its been 25 years since he rode and is looking to get back into it. I talked to him after wards and he was very happy he took the course.
 

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Take the MSF course again. When I took the course there was a guy that said its been 25 years since he rode and is looking to get back into it. I talked to him after wards and he was very happy he took the course.
Canada doesn't have an MSF, per se. The Ministry of Transportation does have equivalent courses, though.

OP: As they said, do the course. Perhaps the middle tier course, if such a thing exists. Down here there's complete newbie course, some experience course [great for rusty riders] and advanced course.

It's not like you can just pop in class next weekend, so if you're wanting to ride practice more by yourself after doing research for popular course layouts. (ie., 'the box' etc)
 

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You have to start from all over again. I am almost in the same shoe as yours, save for the fact that I have completely not given up on riding. Rather than recreational rides, all I day is commute in ****ed up roads & traffic.

Start slowly, cautiously. Read the books & practice. Go for rides. It will take a while to get your rhythm back. And never become over-confident, happens with older riders.

Take it slow, take it easy. You are riding to enjoy & not to rush things :)

And please do gear up prior to heading out.
 

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I was without a bike for 12 years and getting back was pretty instinctual for me.

My biggest issue was target fixation. I took me a few weeks to retrain my eyes to not search for and focus on the shoulder.

Just take your time, it'll come back to you.
 

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I can detect a bit of rust on my skills after being off the bike for just a couple of weeks. But even after the times I was off the bike for years, it only took about a month of steady riding & parking lot practice to get back into it.

Keep at it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the replies, folks. I'll definitely look into courses. Hopefully there is something available over a weekend for people like me who need to brush up on their basic skills. Then hopefully I can follow that up with an intermediate skills course.

Last night I went back to the parking lot with my dad (a very experienced rider) and he watched and gave me pointers. It helped a lot, and everything felt a lot better. The bike even "felt" lighter. I'll do some easy rides with him until I feel comfortable enough to go out on my own, and then I plan on just putting around at low city speeds.

To those who asked, I have an FJ600 and I'm in BC.
 

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I had a similar experience last year; first time owning a bike in over a decade.

My first bike was a Ninja 250, and I rode an early R6 quite a bit (whenever my college roommate would let me). I therefore had to overcome not only the gap in time but my inexperience on a heavier motorcycle.

All my MSF skills were still intact, but at speed I had a very hard time trusting my tires, using good body position and commiting to the lean! I am still working on these things (!) but after a year and 10,000 miles I am a better rider than where I left off 10 years ago, so I am optimistic.

My suggestions are highly anecdotal but I will share them anyway.

First, I started watching racing. A lot of racing. I did the same when I started playing tennis, and I think that after watching several hours of 'tape' your brain has a template for what can be done on a motorcycle. It can be frustrating as the things I want to see can be hard to catch given the way they cover the races, but it adds to the excitement and involvement of watching the race.

Second, I went back and bought my first dirtbike! My dualsport is easier to throw around on the street, and after riding in the NJ pine barrens a few times and learning to deal with the horrors of sugar sand, I started to trust the tires on my streetbike. Dirt riding was probably most effective in increasing my overall confidence in dealing with situations not fully under my control, and ended up teaching me that the bike and the rider are two systems that need to work as one.

Lastly, I spent as much time on the bike as possible. Getting familiar with any new vehicle can take time for us non-professionals, and building that relationship is what allows you to build the trust necessary to progress. I like to 'session' fun sections of familiar roads in order to push myself incrementally and I find that is the best way to improve. Based on this, I am looking into getting the logistics set up for a trackday this year. Even if you cannot get to a track, you can make the best of sessioning some roads as long as you take it step by step and poke gently at the limits of your comfort level. The bike truly is more capable than the mind, so the advice of 'riding your own ride' should usually keep a cautious rider within the safety zone.

I think it is natural and mature for return-riders to be cautious and wary of any deficits. We are no longer young enough to trust in fate or our abilities implicitly, and the people who never stopped riding can make us very aware of where we need to improve. For that reason, I also suggest periodically riding with some people who are more experienced. As long as the gap is not too large, they may actually wait up for you and help build your knowledge and confidence.

Good luck! Knocking the rust off and getting back to or beyond your previous skill level is a lot of fun even if you take it slow.
 

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I took a 17year break! A few years ago when I started riding again I could not believe how badly my skills eroded. So I bought a few books to refresh on technique and practiced cornering and general riding again, started in parking lots and exit ramps. It took me a season to get back in shape. But even now, I think I'm only 80% back from where I used to be.
 
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