Most motorcycle enthusiasts are safety-minded individuals just looking to enjoy their passion. Although bikers face a variety of challenges on the road, it’s possible to minimize some of these dangers with a lot of awareness and a little bit of common sense. Here are six ways to enjoy a safer season of riding.
1. Conduct a Pre-Ride Walk Around
Just as a pilot performs a systems check before a flight, you should do the same before a ride. In just a few minutes, it’s possible to notice anything that has gone awry, like tire and rim damage, fluid leaks and levels that need filling, and loosened nuts or bolts. Make sure all lights are operative, and check drive chain tension and lubrication. Finally, test the clutch and brakes for proper operation.
2. Increase Road Hazard Awareness
A vigilant rider is a safer rider. Constant awareness of potential hazards is the key to avoiding road dangers. To hone your skills, call out hazards as they appear, including hill crests, blind curves, driveways, railroad crossings and intersections. Exit ramps pose a unique risk, especially when panicked motorists suddenly cut across lanes to make an exit. There are pets, children and deer to avoid, while potholes, gravel and construction zones also demand constant vigilance. As one state law enforcement agency advises, “scan beyond your normal boundaries.”
3. Seek Open Space
Road hazards decrease when there’s a greater margin of safety. The more distance you put between yourself and other vehicles and obstacles, the more time you have to react when the unexpected does occur. This means backing off behind other vehicles, especially on wet roads. Stay in open space and stay out of trucker’s and motorist’s blind spots. Always have an exit strategy if traffic suddenly slows. Your bike is no match for the vehicle behind you that fails to stop in time.
4. Minimize Distractions
In a landmark study conducted by the NHTSA and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, distracted driving in the three seconds before impact accounted for almost 80 percent of all crashes and about two-thirds of near crashes. Most riders wouldn’t think of eating, drinking or smoking while on the road, and yet the temptation to reach for that smartphone remains.
A smartphone motorcycle mount is an important solution, but it is not a cure-all. Mounts must not lead to phone use in unsafe situations. Realize that conversations are always a potential distraction. Research at the University of Utah provides clear evidence of this, citing “inattention blindness” as a very real hazard. Even if your smartphone is almost like another appendage to you, it’s important to minimize phone use when you’re on your motorcycle. However, when it is a necessity or will actually help with your driving, such as viewing GPS directions, having your phone visibly displayed on mount can help a great deal.
5. Acquire the Right Gear
In a vehicle, occupants are protected in many ways — air bags, seat belts and crumple zones among them. For the motorcyclist, your attire is your only protection at impact. Therefore, head-to-toe protection with the right materials is imperative, as is an approved helmet. Do more than meet minimum DOT standards with a helmet selection. Look for “body armor” that will protect joints and other areas, even in multiple crashes. In the rain, a waterproof full-body suit, waterproof gloves and waterproof boots improve comfort and safety. Also, dress to be seen with reflective gear and bright colors.
6. Improve Your Skills
An ongoing commitment to motorcycle safety is one of the best antidotes to accidents. Make sure you stay on top of any changing motorcycle regulations and keep your riding skills updated. Enter your zip code on the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s website to learn about courses available nearby. The organization also offers interactive training online.