There’s no denying that motorcycles are cool, fun and fuel-efficient. But it’s also true that riding a motorcycle is more risky than driving a car.
The reality is, a crash as a motorcyclist is about 30 times more likely to be fatal than as a motorist, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
There are plenty of dedicated riders who are able to steer clear of accidents and enjoy their bikes without incident – but their success comes from following basic motorcycle safety practices. To make sure you stay on the safe side of riding, here are ten ways to keep your rides incident-free.
1. Gear up.
Contrary to popular belief, looking cool is not the top priority when getting on your bike. No matter how hot it is outside, shorts, a T-shirt and sandals are not proper riding attire. Even jeans provide minimal protection against injury and road rash if you happen to slide. You can go for extreme protection with leathers or reinforced jackets, pants and boots.
Glasses or goggles are a must if you have an open-faced helmet and to protect your hands, you should always wear gloves. In warm weather there is specially designed gear that is intended for ventilation and cooling. And, it should go without saying, never ride without a DOT-approved helmet. It doesn’t matter if you look silly because it will help keep you alive.
2. Stay in the comfort zone.
Know your abilities and make sure that neither your chosen route nor motorcycle is more than you can handle. Your bike should fit you; that means that your feet should be able to rest flat on the ground when seated – no tiptoes. And if the bike feels too heavy for you, it probably is.
You want to be able to easily get on and off your motorcycle and the handlebars and controls should be easy for you to reach. The more familiar you are with your route, the easier it will be for you to focus on safety instead of not missing a turn. And if you’re riding with a group, don’t push yourself just to keep up with the pack. Always ride to your comfort level, not theirs.
3. Inspect your ride.
Give your bike a good once-over before hitting the road. Things you should check out every time you get on your motorcycle include tire pressure, mirrors and lights. Taking a quick walk around your bike will give you an idea if there are any loose bolts, leaks or other potential mechanical hazards.
You also need to be diligent about regular care and maintenance. Don’t delay fixing something that needs attention, conduct all recommended regular maintenance including oil changes, chain and suspension adjustments, and stay on top of brake pad and tire wear.
4. Use your head.
While mirrors are there for a reason, you can’t solely rely on them to remain aware of what is in your immediate riding space. To keep cognizant of your surroundings and your position in relationship to those around you, you need to use your head.
Experienced riders know that it’s important to keep your head and eyes up while rounding corners and that the safest way to change lanes is to actually turn and look over your shoulder to make sure you are clear. You will also be able to get a feeling for whether other drivers are paying attention to you.
5. Watch the road.
As a motorcyclist, you need to pay attention to the road you are riding on. Err on the side of caution when going into curves; be vigilant for potential gravel or other unstable road conditions. Be careful when crossing rail road tracks because the paint can be slippery – the same goes for the white lines at stoplights.
6. Find your happy place.
One of the biggest dangers to a rider is getting on your bike in the wrong state of mind. Riding angry, drowsy or distracted can be a recipe for disaster. Remember, when you’re on a motorcycle you are ultimately the only one on the road looking out for you. If your mind and emotions are anywhere other than the road ahead, you are susceptible to making rookie mistakes that can end in a crash, injuries or worse.
7. Know the forecast.
Weather is a regular foil to perfect driving conditions and the dangers of wet or icy roads multiply when you’re on two wheels. Not only do you have half the stability of a car, but the lack of a windshield and your body’s exposure to driving rain add to the risk.
Lack of visibility is a rider’s worst nightmare and until you’ve been caught on your bike in the rain you will never understand just how much being pelted by rain drops at 50 or even 30 miles per hour can hurt.
8. Make sure two isn’t a crowd.
Who doesn’t want to cruise around with a hottie riding on back? But you need to make sure you are comfortable with a passenger and also make sure that your passenger knows how to do their part to make sure the ride stays safe and sexy. Something safe and sweet is ensuring your passenger has the right gear.
They need a helmet, protective clothing and the right shoes. You also need to make sure they know what to do when you turn corners or need to stop. It might be a good idea to take a test run together in a safe environment like a parking lot before hitting the open road or the stop-and-go of city traffic.
9. Brake for motorcycles.
Just because you’re on a motorcycle doesn’t make it any easier for you to see other motorcycles. Always double-check when changing lanes or turning. You also need to practice braking in all sorts of conditions.
To make sure that a quick stop won’t result in tragedy, always give extra space to the vehicles in front of you and know how to stop on a dime without locking your brakes. In fact, you might want to upgrade to anti-lock brakes. According to IIHS research, having ABS brakes on your bike can reduce your chances of being in a fatal accident by 37 percent.
10. Spread the love
There’s no denying that motorcycles are often overlooked or regarded as the second-class citizens of the road. As a rider, you have the chance to help make that different. When you’re on the road, always drive as if you are an ambassador for motorcyclists everywhere.
Ride with courtesy, care and awareness that you are representing motorcycles for those around you. Don’t let an urge to prove a point or retaliate against an inconsiderate driver overwhelm your better judgment – after all, that takes away all the joy, which is why you’re riding in the first place.
When all is said and done it boils down to this: wear your gear, know your bike and know your abilities. You can’t control your environment but you can control how you react to it. What other tips do you have to stay safe and sane on two wheels?
Photos courtesy of Flickr