Motorcycle Safety Tips That Can Save Your Life
They say that there are only two kinds of motorcycle riders – “those that have been down, and those that are going down.” Ouch. While I don’t believe that adage, it’s a cautionary quip worth paying attention to.
I have been an avid motorcycle rider since 1986 when I bought a my first bike, a used Kawasaki 454 LTD. I’ve had a handful of bikes and a scrape or two since, but the little LTD cruiser will always hold a special place.
Over many miles and decades of riding, I’ve learned a few lessons about riding safely – and I am still learning. Here are five dusty tips that might just save your hide.
- Attend A Motorcycle Safety Class
I cannot stress this enough. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers excellent classes that cover basic through advanced riding techniques. There are lots of class options, and you don’t even need to own a motorcycle to take certain MSF courses. You can ride your own bike or learn on (drop?) one of theirs – which brings me to my next point.
- Ride What Your Comfortable Riding
I always suggest starting out on the smaller, lighter displacement bikes (in the 450cc – 750cc range for street riding) and working up to larger, heavier bikes. Smaller bikes have plenty of torque and can be more forgiving when learning to balance at slow, parking lot speeds. Eventually, your skills and desire to go for longer distances, maybe even with a pillion passenger (2-up), will suggest when it’s time to move to a bigger bike. Whatever your ride, check for proper tire inflation and tread wear, functioning headlights and signals, and proper mirror alignment.
- Ride In Your Comfort/Skill Zone
Getting out on the road is the first step to gaining experience. Be aware of the road conditions – fresh rain, loose gravel, unpredictable animals and ever-present construction take special attention. Gradually increasing your skills and the relative difficulty of your rides will bring competence and confidence. Remember, your bike tends to go in the direction you’re looking. Take twisties at controlled speeds and with good entry and exit paths. Don’t put yourself into a position where you have to lean over a double yellow line to take a turn.
- Ride Like You’re Invisible
When riding in traffic or coming to a stop, assume that drivers can’t see you. Drivers are distracted – talking on mobile phones, texting, daydreaming – they’re doing anything but looking for bikers. When riding, look for an open space where the area around your bike would be least threatened by distracted drivers. Try to anticipate what a car will do and always think about escape routes. Make yourself as visible as you can by smart lane positioning and gear.
- Use Safety Equipment That Fits and Is Appropriate
Having a 4mm thick leather jacket does no good if it’s home in your closet on a summer day. Perforated leathers or nylon jackets with armor are good hot weather alternatives. If you must ride in the rain, invest in biker-specific rain gear that won’t flap around or get caught on the bike. Always wear eye protection. Sturdy, non-slip boots that protect both foot and ankle should zip or tie securely. Controversy aside, for those like me who wear a helmet, make sure it fits properly. Local motorcycle apparel shops are great resources and appreciate your patronage – many will price match online vendors or at least come close. It’s worth a few extra dollars to ensure a proper fit. For longer rides, it is also good to carry a charged cell phone, map or GPS, and to let others know where you’re headed and when you expect to be back.
Keeping these motorcycle safety tips in mind, stay safe and enjoy the ride!
Bonus Rider Tip: There’s a great twisty road between Huntsville and Scottsboro in Gurley off AL Highway 72 — it’s AL Highway 65. Nice sweepers and S-turns as the narrow, lightly traveled, country road roughly follows the Paint Rock River to the east of the road. From AL Highway 72 take AL Highway 65 north for about 25 miles until it “T’s” with AL Highway 146, then head southeast about 5 miles until you come to AL Highway 79. Ride Highway 79 south the 20-plus miles back to Highway 72 in Scottsboro. Scenic and lots of elevation changes!