Riding safe means a lot of things, but most importantly to me it means seeing every cager on the road as someone who’s trying to kill you. I didn’t do this a lot in my early years of riding, but now I don’t take any car for granted. I always try to have an escape route planned and always try to be ahead of the traffic. Just the other day I was following a semi (in my car) who lost a tire tread. Traffic was pretty heavy so I couldn’t swerve totally out of the way. I caught a piece of the tire and all I was thinking was if I was on my bike it could’ve been ugly.
Whether it’s a quick trip to the corner market for a few things, or a two-week touring trip with friends, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure your motorcycle driving is safe and enjoyable.
It would be nice if the road was always smooth, and without bumps, but those bumps, potholes, breakdowns, lost riding moments and more are out there. The best way to avoid trouble from these instances is to be prepared. You can also improve your own safety, as well as that of your passengers and vehicle, by not only following the laws and rules of the road, but also by knowing them well and always practicing courteous and calm driving.
Safe From the Start
The best way to start off right and ensure you have a smooth ride, and to anticipate problems that may occur, is to prepare and pack for your trip, bringing water, extra clothing, a map of the area you’re driving, or other items that might be necessary, depending on your trip. You should also be sure you have some safety basics, particularly a first-aid kit, and a charged mobile phone if possible.
It is also important to make sure that your bike is well-maintained and checked, and that all fluids and major systems, including braking and lights, are in working order. You cannot predict and prevent all vehicle failures and breakdowns, but you can reduce the risk by maintaining your motorcycle.
Next, you will need to make sure that you, as the driver, and any passengers are properly seated on the bike. This means sitting squarely on the center of the seat with feet on footpegs and hands holding handlebars or the rider. Also, make sure you and passengers are always wearing protective helmets. It may not be the law in every state, but it is common sense for safety.
One of the most obvious things you can do to make sure your driving is safe is to practice defensive driving. This does not mean you have to drive extra slow, but you should use extra caution at all times, and remember that other vehicles are not just other cars and trucks, they are people. Defensive driving consists of a few basic driving tips that are intended to help keep you focused on the road, raise your awareness of your surroundings, and prepare you for a fast reaction to avoid a crash.
A List of Defensive and Safe Driving Skills and Practices
- Avoid distractions, including mobile phones and other devices, which can divert your attention, even with hands-free functionality.
- Aim high when looking out over the handlebars at the road.
- Keep your eyes moving, meaning don’t just stare at the road ahead; check mirrors and other views frequently.
- Leave yourself an out; this means anticipating what would happen if you had to swerve or slam on the brakes.
- Position both hands firmly but comfortably on handlebars.
- Never drive while feeling drowsy or sleepy; pull over at a rest stop or other safe place to take a break and get some real rest.
Courtesy is Cool
It is easy to get caught up in rushing yourself, as well as other motorists, when riding. It is important to remember that although you may be late, or another driver may have cut you off or otherwise disregarded the rules of the road, riding is no race or competition.
One of the biggest causes of accidents is vehicles following each other too close. The general rule of thumb for driving is one car-length, but it never hurts to extend the buffer between yourself and the vehicle or vehicles in front of you, especially on a motorcycle. This can also help you maintain a smoother ride that saves fuel and wear and tear on your bike. If you are spinning out every start and constantly hitting the brakes, you are accelerating too fast and following too close.
Courteous driving also consists of allowing other motorists to merge into traffic by giving them the space to do so. Similarly, if you are merging, maintain a safe speed, but do your best to quickly accelerate to the flow of traffic.
For more information about safe driving, refer to the National Safety Council (NSC).