There’s no better feeling in the world than throwing on your helmet, strapping on your boots, putting up your kickstand and hitting the open road. However, it’s also one of the most dangerous forms of transportation out there. No matter how hard we try to stay safe, there are just some factors that are out of our control. Like for example, that SUV that didn’t see you when they cut you off, that patch of loose gravel around the bend, or even something as simple as a tire blowout, can turn a joyful afternoon ride into a nightmare very quickly.
This is why motorcycle safety should be your number one priority at all times. This guide will give you a general overview of the steps that you can take to make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.
What riding gear to wear:
The most important part of staying safe, is making sure you’re wearing the proper riding gear whenever you ride or “ATGATT – All The Gear All The Time”. Too many bikers care more about looking cool, than staying protected. We’ve all seen them at one time or another, wearing nothing more than gym shorts, running shoes, a t-shirt, with a hat with sunglasses. Well, what’s not going to look cool is the road rash across their face, the broken bones, the giant hospital bill, or even worse…death. Making sure you’re armored up from head to toe can mean the difference between a cracked helmet or a cracked skull. So let’s go over the basic riding gear you need;
• Motorcycle Helmets: A proper fitting helmet is the most important piece of gear you should own. Not only does it protect your most important body part (your head), but it keeps your face safe from the elements, and more importantly bugs.
• Motorcycle Gloves: Gloves come in many styles from full on armored gauntlet, to black leather fingerless gloves. Gloves may not seem like they do much, but they can protect your hands form serious road rash, and sometimes even a broken wrist.
• Motorcycle Jackets: A well-fitting, armored jacket could mean the difference between minor bruises and road rash/broken bones. Leather will offer the most protection, but for those hot summer rides, textile and mesh will do just fine.
• Motorcycle Boots: Biker boots come in a variety of styles, depending on your personal taste and riding style. Obviously if you’re riding in the dirt, than motocross boots are your best bet. However, Harness, Engineer, and Street boots can work for cruiser, scooter, and street riders alike. The most important thing to look for when shopping for boots is proper ankle protection as you can break or sprain your ankle very easily.
• Motorcycle Pants: Just like your jacket, armored pants can mean the difference between some small bruises and scrapes, to major road rash, and shattered knees. Now for those of you that work in an office, you can grab a pair of over pants that will fit over your dress pants, and keep them safe and clean. Now if you work in a more laid back environment, Kevlar riding jeans are a good option, but just know, they offer no real armor or impact protection, but will generally keep you skin intact.
Maintain your bike:
Maintaining your motorcycle is the first rule of owing a bike. How can you expect your bike to treat you with respect, if you don’t respect your bike?
• Check Your Tires: Properly inflated tires not only make your bike safer to ride, but they improve your fuel mileage and their longevity. You don’t need to check your tires pressure before every ride, but get in the habit of checking it at least once a week, and between pit stops on longer rides. Also make sure to never over inflate your tires, as that can lead to a harsher ride, premature wear, and in some cases popping.
• Check Your Mirrors: Just like driving a car, making sure your bike’s mirrors are properly adjusted is crucial and could sometimes save your life.
• Check Your Brakes: This is a no brainer, but making sure your bike’s brakes are fully functional is imperative. Checking your brake fluid reservoir levels, swapping out old brake pads and rotors and even checking your lines and levers are all important steps to marinating a fully functional braking system.
• Check Your Lights/Horn: “Loud Pipes save Lives” but for those of you who prefer a quieter ride, your bikes horn can come in handy for alerting adjacent drivers of your presence when they’re swerving into your lane. Also making sure your taillights, turn signals, and headlights are all in working order, can keep drivers aware of you on those night rides.
• Service Regularly: Getting your oil changed, replacing filters, tires, brakes, and generally all tune-up type services, will keep your bike running for a long time.
Motorcycle riding tips:
• Avoid Target Fixation: Target fixation is one of the number one causes for accidents with new riders, and sometimes senior riders. Basically, you just want to avoid fixating on an object when you’re riding, especially when you’re going into a turn..
• Watch Out For Debris/Road Hazards: This is especially important around turns, as you can’t always see what’s around the bend. So if you’re hauling ass and there’s loose gravel on the road or a pot hole right around the corner, you’re going to have a bad time.
• Don’t Drink/Drugs/Tired: This is obvious, but avoid riding while intoxicated. Riding is dangerous enough as is, and if your reaction time is delayed because you had one too many at the bar, then very bad things can happen. Also exhaustion is just as dangerous as intoxication, so if you’re on a long ride and feeling sleepy, then it’s time to pull over.
• Ride Like Your Invisible, Because You Are: Defensive riding is the most important skill you need to learn, especially if you plan on daily commuting. You are sharing the road with 3+ ton hunks of steel, and more often than not, you’re in their blind spot. If you ride like everyone is out to kill you, then you’ll constantly be aware of all the surrounding dangers, which means you’ll be able to avoid a lot of accidents.
• Don’t Ride Like a Jackass: There are so many bikers who care more about looking cool than riding safely. These are the guys who never wear riding gear, speed everywhere, or even pop wheelies on the freeway. These are the guys who give us bikers a bad name. Riding is about the thrill of the open road, the freedom to go anywhere, and being different. Plus you’re riding a motorcycle, you already look awesome, so obey the laws and ride safe.
So there you have it folks, the basics of motorcycle safety. Now again, these are just the bare bones of staying safe, you’ll learn your most valuable lessons out on the road. So get out there and go for a ride, have fun, and most importantly, stay safe.