Following some simple tips, riders can greatly improve their level of safety. Below is a short list of tips, many of which are very quick and easy to implement.
Look Twice for Motorcycles
Approximately half of all motorcycle crashes involve striking or being struck by another vehicle. Often times these crashes are due to a motorist not seeing a motorcycle and rider approaching and performing a maneuver that jeopardizes a rider. Drivers often provide comments such as “He came out of nowhere!!!” and “I never saw them before I turned!” Always look for vehicles and assume they do not see you.
Never Drink and Ride
Successfully riding a motorcycle requires exceptional visual, cognitive and physical skills. Drinking negatively impacts all of these as indicated by the fact that approximately 44% of all rider fatalities in Texas were impaired. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common causes of motorcycle crashes. Never drink and ride.
All The Gear, All The Time
Motorcycle specific clothing is designed to protect you in the event of a crash. Sure it’s not cheap, but it is a lot cheaper than a skin graft or an extended recovery period off your motorcycle due to injury. Be sure to research the gear that is available and buy the best you can afford, before you buy extra chrome for your machine. Look for high quality items like,
- Helmets (DOT certified, full face, proper fit)
- Jackets (rip and abrasion resistant, padding)
- Pants (rip and abrasion resistant, padding)
- Gloves (preferably with knuckle protection)
- Boots (preferably with hard ankle protection)
Prepare Your Bike
Riding a motorcycle is fun, pushing one is not. Include a pre-ride checklist of your machine to ensure it is in proper working order. These items can include:
- Check the tires for wear
- Check tires for proper air pressure
- Check that all lights and electronics are functioning correctly
- Check the condition of brake pads and brake fluid, check for any leaks
- Check that you have sufficient brake pressure at the handle and at the foot control
- Adjust brake handle for proper finger reach
- Adjust clutch handle for proper finger reach
- Check chain tension and adjust as needed, lubricate chain
- Check the suspension for leaks or broken parts
Prepare the Essentials
Keep the following on your motorcycle at all times (these are all small items that can fit in under seats or in saddle bags):
- First aid kit and tourniquet kit
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire repair kit
- Duct tape (wrap several yards around a pencil to take up less space)
- Small air compressor or several CO2 cartridges
- Replacement headlight bulb
- Super glue
- Zip ties
Carry a tire repair kit and know how to use it since tire failures happen outside of cellphone coverage areas. If you ask nicely, you can likely practice your tire repair skills on an old tire at your local dealership.
When preparing for a ride, the most critical element is you! Prepare a rider pre-ride rider checklist.
- Get enough to drink. Lack of hydration can lead to impaired decision making. Water, energy drinks, and any other non-alcoholic beverage will work.
- Get enough to eat. Keep your energy levels high by eating food before you ride. Riding requires substantial mental and physical effort that can be aided by even a simple meal before you ride.
- Get rest/sleep. Just like driving a car, fatigued riders make poor decisions, their reaction times are poor, and they are not able to pay attention to important information (like cars encroaching).
Consider a Roadside Assistance Plan.
Many motorcycle insurance companies offer this as an option. Also, the American Motorcycle Association has a plan that covers all of your vehicles included with membership. If you are in an unsafe area (e.g., side of highway), they can come pick you and your bike up.
Get Training – On Your Motorcycle!
Regardless if you are self-taught or have taken a Basic Rider Course, taking riding courses can significantly advance your skills and ability to avoid a crash. Many intermediate and advanced level courses are available in Texas that encourage you to use your own motorcycle and completion of these courses could qualify you for lower insurance rates.
Practice Critical Skills
Routinely practice your emergency braking and swerving skills in a parking lot with a good traction surface. If you ride with a passenger, practice with them aboard as well (at safer speeds). Fate will not tap you on the shoulder and give advanced notice when these skills will be needed.
Tips for Riding in Urban Areas
We understand…riding in urban areas is stressful and risky. To stay safe you must treat riding in traffic as “combat riding”. Don’t be complacent, be proactive.
- Assess. Assess the situation all around you and determine which vehicle poses the greatest threat. In almost all situations, motorcycle crashes can be avoided by practicing good rider technique and by utilizing useful knowledge and skills.
- Lane Position. Visibility is the key to success in urban riding. Remember that visibility is a two-way street. Choose a lane and a position within the lane that makes you most visible to the vehicle that presents the greatest threat. One of the key things about riding in traffic in a large metropolitan area is lane positioning and your relationship to the vehicles traveling around you – particularly, staying out of their blind spot.
- Never Assume. Motorcycles are harder to see due to their smaller size and a motorcycle to be missed during a motorists’ check for traffic. Never assume a driver sees you just because they are looking your way. “Eye contact” is impossible to accurately determine at any significant distance.
- Visibility. Increase your visibility to other drivers by wearing high visibility motorcycle gear and/or using additional lighting to the front of your machine. In Texas your motorcycle can have up to 4 driving lamps illuminated at once. LED lighting widely spaced laterally on the lower fork legs of your motorcycle forms a triangle of light that is seen more readily by drivers and draws little current from your electrical charging system. Headlight modulators are also effective and are legal in all 50 states.
- Approaching an Intersection. When approaching intersections where a vehicle is stopped (or slowing) to yield the right of way to you, reduce your speed and cover the brake controls to reduce your reaction time and create greater braking distances. Another effective tactic is to weave your motorcycle back and forth within your lane as you approach the intersection. The lateral movement this creates is much easier for drivers to see than a single headlight moving slowly toward them.
- Stopped at an Intersection. When stopping behind traffic, always offset your motorcycle at an angle to the side of the vehicle in front of you that allows the best escape route. Always, always, always leave your machine in gear and your eyes on the rearview mirror until you are moving forward again.
- Leaving an Intersection. Do not be the first vehicle off the line while other cars are still coming to a stop on the cross street. Sometimes the motorcyclist is the first off the line and gets nailed by someone trying to beat a yellow light. Same thing on “right turns on red.” Getting in too big of a rush and trying to beat the traffic can cause crashes. Allow the vehicle alongside you to proceed through the intersection ahead of you. If someone runs a red light or stop sign better they get hit than you.
- Going Down the Road. Riding in the right-hand lane around shopping centers is a big problem. Cars entering the road from the parking lots don’t often see the motorcyclist coming up the right hand lane. Lane positioning and lane choices are very important.
Tips for Road Speed Cornering
Contrary to popular belief, most motorcycle fatalities do not occur in a collision with another vehicle at an intersection. A higher percentage involves motorcycles running off the roadway in a curve then striking a fixed object.
- Practice and Classes. If you are uncomfortable during road speed turns, increase your skill through training and practice. Classes on cornering are available in Texas and the practice is fun.
- Corner Entry Speed. If you find yourself coasting through corners with the power off, you have entered the turn too fast for your comfort level. Enter the next turn slower and add throttle as gently and early as possible through the turn.
- Vision. Your vision is the key to your survival in cornering. If you are approaching a blind curve due to a sight restriction of any kind, slow down! You do not know what’s lurking just around the bend.
- Turn Your Head. The proper use of your vision through a turn is a skill! Turn your head before the corner starts and look far through the turn, keeping your head and eyes up. This will help you relax on the controls and see any issues far in advance.