Use your big bike to your advantage, and rethink what you think you know about getting on and off.
When you’re learning to ride for the first time, most riders are taught to always mount the bike from the left side. That’s where the side stand is, and that’s the side that the bike leans on while it’s parked (unless, of course, you’re on a center or paddock stand). Is that always the best option, though? Not if you’re a short rider—which is one of the things that motorcycle instructor Cassie Maier wants us to consider in this video.
She’s 5-foot-4, with a 27-inch inseam—just like me. If you’re a similar height, watching Maier break down a range of techniques for easily mounting and dismounting larger bikes could make a major difference in your riding life. The detailed method breakdowns are incredibly helpful, and can assist in guiding your own efforts—but there’s something that I found even more valuable here.
This is going to get extremely specific, but the combination of watching this video so soon after taking my first ride on our long-term CAKE ösa + :work (full report on that coming soon) brought me to an important realization. For those unfamiliar, the ösa + bikes only come with center stands—no side stands. So, even though they’re only 150-ish pounds at the curb, it’s still tricky to get on and off of one—whether you’re short like me, or 6-foot-2, like my partner.
Getting on that bike while it’s on its center stand requires a cowboy mount, because unless your entire body is just legs up to your neck, there’s really no other way to do it. You put one foot on a floorboard, swing your other foot over, and then rock the bike down off the center stand in order to get going. That’s relatively simple, but it’s the dismounting that’s extra tricky if you have short legs. In fact, I spent several minutes standing in place, right where I wanted to park on my first ride—just strategizing how to dismount without dumping the bike.
As I stood there thinking about my own limitations, it made me reconsider something I’ve been doing almost my entire riding career—and it goes back to how I was taught in the MSF Basic RiderCourse. Mount on the left side of the bike; dismount on the left side of the bike. That works for some bikes, and it’s helpful when you’re first starting out and everything is new and your balance may not be confident—but it’s also OK not to do it that way if it doesn’t work in your specific situation.
In Cassie Maier’s technique video here, that’s something that she shows. Maybe it’s more helpful to dismount on the right side for you—particularly as a shorter rider. Sure enough, that same thing ultimately ended up being my solution to more easily and confidently dismounting that CAKE ösa +. My right leg is my stronger leg, so it makes dealing with the lack of a center stand a whole lot easier if I slide off on my right instead of on my left. Then I can just pop the thing up onto its center stand to park and go on about my business.
To me, this video is valuable not just because of the techniques it shows, but because it makes it extremely clear that there is more than one ‘right’ way to do things on a bike—as is generally true in life.
While there are certain hard and fast rules (such as, if you run out of fuel or break a drive chain or belt, you’re not going anywhere), there are so many other things that it’s fine to reconsider if they’re not serving our needs. It’s important to learn baseline techniques when we’re starting out—but if you realize that there’s another way to do something that works better for your situation, don’t be afraid to use your critical thinking skills to solve the problem and try it!
Like Maier says, it’s all about the practice. You had to practice a lot when you first started riding in order to get good at it, right? The same is true of any new techniques you start to absorb. Also, you’ll probably drop your bike, and you have to be in a position where you’re OK with that possibility. If you can do that, though, you can break through both the physical and mental limitations you put on yourself and get better at this thing that you love.