As much as we would like to believe that all accidents are preventable, the truth is that they can and will happen — no matter how much we wish they wouldn’t. Sometimes, they can occur because of a driver’s negligence, because of the rider’s negligence, because of the weather, or just an operator error. Whatever the case, check out the following tips to limit your chance of being involved in an accident.
Always inspect your ride before going on the road
The first piece of advice that we can give you is for you to be aware of your own abilities in terms of what you can ride and the route that you can choose. If you are a newbie when it comes to riding a motorcycle, it would be better for you to pick safer roads than other, more adventurous ones. The more familiar you are with the route that you have chosen, the better, and the easier it will be for you to focus on your safety instead of always focusing on not missing one turn or the other.
Also, the bike should fit you perfectly, which basically translates to you being able to rest your feet flat on the ground when you are seated — not your tiptoes. If the bike feels too heavy for you, it’s likely that it is, and the truth is that heavier motorcycles are harder to maneuver, especially in critical situations.
As for the technical aspects of the problem, you should always read the owner’s manual to find out how you can maintain the bike as best as possible. Before leaving, check the tires (their surface – for foreign objects, as well as cuts), the tire pressure, and the controls. Even though your cables might be strong, sometimes they can break if they become overly stiff.
Other things that you should check are the oil, the fuel, as well as the coolant levels. Needless to say, you should always check your brakes before going on the road.
What about on the road?
Prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that couldn’t be truer in the case of motorcyclists and the way they should react to potential hazards on the road. However, one of the most important things to always make sure of when it comes to preventing accidents is knowing that the other drivers or motorcyclists see you. What this means is that you should wear reflective clothing, make sure that your headlights are always on (yes, even during the day) and make sure you signal your intentions before making a specific move.
You probably heard that rumor that some car drivers have a blind spot where they just can’t see another car or a motorbike rider. If you are suspecting that there’s something wrong with the driver you’re close to, that they haven’t noticed you, or that they might be dozing off, don’t be shy in making your presence known. Use the horn to protect yourself, first and foremost.
Keeping your eyes moving all the time is another tip that we can give you, and what it means is that you shouldn’t allow yourself to focus on one thing for more than two seconds as this can practice can put your safety in danger. Get a glimpse of the scenery as you ride your bike but don’t turn your head and take a long look at whatever might be beautiful.
We might have noted that you should never feel pressured to keep close to a group of motorcyclists if you are all riding along. If you know that you don’t yet have the necessary amount of experience to ride closer to them or if you just want to be on the safe side of things, we recommend keeping a distance of about 2 to 3 seconds between your ride and the one before you. If you’re on the open road and have a higher speed, this gap could even be 4-seconds worth.
As intersections can be quite dangerous, we suggest always checking for traffic coming from behind and the side. If you want to pass another vehicle, again, you should stick to the rule of the 2-second gap. Never overtake another bike or automobile if there’s a corner coming up and make sure that you turn and check your blind spot with your head.
It is both illegal and extremely dangerous to ride between two other vehicles. Sure, you can save a lot of time doing it, but we’ve already discussed that you can get into one driver’s blind spot and he or she might not even be aware that you exist. As you can expect, that means that the driver’s behavior is totally unpredictable in relation to you.
Reflective clothing can be even more important during the night as it can protect you effectively — after all, the others’ headlights (and your own) are going to signal your presence even better on the road. Dusk can also be particularly dangerous to ride in since people’s eyes are adjusting from daylight to headlights. Needless to say, the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you becomes even more crucial as it becomes darker.
Your face shield should be clear, and it shouldn’t have any scratches. These can be dangerous since they can create light refractions which could confuse you — you can see two headlights instead of four, for instance.
Tips for safely carrying a passenger on your motorcycle
Some bikes just aren’t designed to carry passengers, so you should never try to take someone on for a ride if there isn’t enough space to do so. If you decide to carry a child, make sure that he or she is mature enough to handle the responsibility of riding a motorcycle (even as a passenger). It’s worth noting that some states have certain minimum age requirements for motorcycle passengers.
Your passenger should also be instructed to hold his or her legs away from the muffler – this will help them avoid any potential burns. Furthermore, you should always make sure that the person in the back is wearing the appropriate gear – a helmet and other protective equipment.
There are two ways of going about things — he/she can hold onto the passenger hand-holds or onto you. Some motorcyclists argue that it is much safer to have passengers hold onto them instead of the hand-holds as this can help them better keep their balance and they can rest assured that nothing out of the ordinary is going on with the person in the back.
Instruct the individual you’re taking on your bike to limit talking and movement.
Consider that your bike might react differently when it’s carrying someone else, not just yourself. For one, it’s going to have to handle the extra weight, which means that a variety of procedures from braking to starting from a stop or riding through a particular corner can all be very different in this situation.
It might actually make more sense to have your passenger take a test ride with you before you really go on the road together. Just like it is not a good idea for you to go on a long-distance trip when you’ve just had your rider’s license and have completed the safety course in a month, it’s not a good idea to go on a long ride with someone else if they have never been on a bike before. Keep in mind that you should never exceed the weight limitations specified in the motorcycle manual.
Perhaps the behavior of your passenger is something that you cannot predict, but the way that your motorcycle reacts to the extra weight you can. Go to an open area such as a parking lot with a passenger and practice normal and emergency braking, as well as low-speed clutch or throttle control. Instruct your passenger to keep their knees slightly bent in the event that you have to cross an obstacle — this way, their legs will absorb part of the shock upon impact.
Riding in groups
Whether you are the leader of the outfit or not, you should be aware of several important things before you hit the road. It might actually make sense to hold a meeting and discuss the route itself, the fuel and rest stops, what hand signals you have for different types of messages you’re trying to come across, and what methodology you have to adopt in case someone is involved in an accident or just separated from the group.
In a group of motorcyclists, the rule of thumb is that the most experienced riders should always be in the front and in the back. These should be the people that are most knowledgeable and that have ridden their bikes in groups before.
If you plan on going on the road with as many as thirty individuals, it’s a good idea to split the pack up into several smaller groups (of 5 to 7 people). In this smaller group, one should always have a functional cell phone, a first-aid kit, as well as a full repair kit. The most basic first-aid kit is actually mandatory in many states for all motorcyclists on the road.
No matter what happens, try to keep your bike in the middle of the lane at all times. It doesn’t matter what kind of formation you’re used to riding in or what specific formation was chosen for this experience, but you should know that you should never ride side by side as this can reduce the space cushion.
We’ve written about how important protective gear can truly be in many of our other posts, and we’ll reiterate how crucial it is in this one, as well. When getting a helmet, make sure you pick one that comes with a Department of Transportation sticker — this lets you know that the helmet was tested and that it meets basic impact standards.
If you have dropped your helmet on a hard surface or if it has sustained a blow, it’s quite possible that it is no longer safe to use. Get a helmet that feels good on your head, and that fits comfortably as wearing one that’s unsuitable for your physical attributes can impair your hearing or your vision.
Helmets can be pretty expensive if you’re willing to invest in one that’s super high-quality, and that keeps you feeling at ease for the duration of your whole trip. However, keep in mind that most helmets need to be replaced once in a while as they are bound to be dropped on the floor or can be involved in certain impacts. Do not get a second-hand helmet. Even if it looks structurally sound, it might have been involved in an accident that you might not be aware of. And once a helmet sustained an impact, it is no longer safe to be worn by any motorcyclist.
A helmet should fit securely, with your cheeks being pressed on it. They break over time and they have to be replaced. More expensive models typically have outer shells crafted from fiberglass or plastic combination material — these are lighter and are capable of spreading or absorbing the impact. The outer shell should come with vents, and the helmet should boast an overall aerodynamic design to reduce wind pressure, as well as noise.
Full-face helmets are the best when it comes to giving you the protection you need, but if you choose to wear a half helmet, make sure you wear eye protection, as well. You are free to use lenses that are tinted for when you are riding in the sun, but make sure that you have a replaceable one if you want to ride in the dark, too.
Protecting yourself from an impact should also be done with the help of appropriate jackets, pants, gloves, raingear, over-the-ankle boots, and even extras such as backbone protectors, knee protectors, and elbow protectors.
Check the weather
If there’s any possibility for you to avoid riding your bike in inclement weather, we advise you to grab that chance and stay safe. If this is not the case, you ought to know that learning about the weather is a very important part of planning your particular motorcycle ride. This is even truer if you are planning a long-distance trip. Make sure to check the weather forecast, but avoid doing so just in your city — check the forecast for all of the areas you’re going to be transiting on that day.
If it is likely for you to ride your bike and the weather conditions are rough, at least check if the route you have chosen has plenty of motels you can stop by in case there’s an emergency. Lack of visibility and the condition of some roads can make riding absolutely impossible, especially when paired with certain weather conditions.
Your legal responsibilities
Although it might sound crazy, it has been estimated that about one-third of all motorcycle operators that are killed in crashes are not licensed at all or are improperly licensed for operating a motorcycle. Obtain a license from a state licensing agency and do so before you hit the road. Take the written test, as well.
Get insurance coverage and check for your state’s helmet laws. Do not drink alcohol before you get on a motorcycle and don’t ride your bike even if you had just one beer. You can’t predict how it can affect you when there are so many other factors to take into account.