Riding on the open road is a thrill to most every motorcycle enthusiast, but accidents do happen. Following a few safety road rules will reduce risk to the biker and everyone around them, making this a pleasurable endeavor instead of a safety hazard.
1: Safety Gear
Of course the number one piece of equipment for motorcycle safety is a helmet. There are a few different ways that a helmet protects a rider’s head. The hard outer shell helps to prevent abrasion and penetration of foreign objects. The soft lining absorbs impact and the cloth liner ensures a secure fit, making it more comfortable to wear. The chinstrap is also important, not only for keeping the helmet snug, but in the event of a crash, it keeps it securely on the head. Riders should also strongly consider using a face shield to prevent injury from a crash or flying debris.
Abrasion resistant fabric, such as leather or ballistic nylon, can prevent injuries to the skin while also offering protection from the elements. Protective gloves and boots are also very useful.
2: Lane Splitting
Lane splitting is when a two-wheeled vehicle passes slow moving or stopped traffic either on the center line, or on the shoulder line. Though only legal in California, several provinces and states don’t have any laws about it on the books. There are arguments on both sides about the safety of this maneuver. One opinion is that it reduces the number of motorcyclists getting rear-ended in heavy traffic by a non-attentive driver. On the other hand, some see it as more dangerous because of the possibility of opened doors and larger vehicles that don’t see approaching bikes as they start to change lanes. If a rider decides to lane split, the most important thing is for them to be aware. They should stay behind or just ahead of large trucks and not hold position at a passenger window or blind spot.
3: Lane Sharing
While some refer to lane splitting as lane sharing, it is a very different concept. It is actually when riders share a lane, two-abreast. Both riders need to be aware of one another and their surroundings. It is harder to move out of the way if there is a pothole or object in the road, so the riders need to look ahead. One positive aspect of riding in this manner is that the motorcyclists are more visible to other vehicles.
4: Ride Sober
While this is an obvious addition, it cannot be iterated enough. Riding safely on a motorcycle requires mental sharpness and alertness. Alcohol dulls the senses and puts everyone on the road in a dangerous situation.
5: Equipment Checklist
Even a minor technical failure can lead to a crash on a motorcycle. It is important to do a safety checklist before starting any ride. Each rider should:
- Make sure every throttle and lever works smoothly.
- Check tire tread and air pressure, and make sure the brakes are firm.
- Headlights, brake lights, signals, and taillights should all be in working order.
- Fluid levels should be topped off and everything should be inspected for leaks.
- Mirrors should be adjusted
6: Key Riding Skills
There are three basic skills that every rider should know how to maneuver.
- Curves: Coming into a curve, riders need to slow down and see where they are going to go, then press the handlebar into the same direction as the curve, and as it turns, roll into the throttle.
- Turning: If the motorcyclist looks into the end of the turn, the motorcycle will automatically follow.
- Braking: While pressing on the rear brake, they should then squeeze the front brake for smooth maneuverability when stopping.
7: Riding With A Passenger
Before safely accommodating a passenger on a motorcycle, certain safety issues need to be considered. The bike should be built for an extra person and weight limits cannot be exceeded. When riding with another person, one should give extra time for braking and corners, taking the additional weight into consideration. The passenger needs to be aware of safety precautions and avoid sudden movements, keeping away from hot or moving parts.
Accidents can certainly happen during a passing routine, so each rider needs to go about it as safely as possible. Often times a motorcycle winds up in a car’s blind spot, so it is best to be conspicuous and for the rider to make sure they are seen in the vehicle’s rear view mirror before proceeding. Signaling before acceleration then pulling over to the left side of the far lane when passing helps to prevent an accident if the car swerves. After the vehicle is cleared, acceleration should continue until the bike is well ahead, leaving a gap.
9: Training and Licensing
Staying up to date on the laws within each area, and to any area a rider may be traveling, is always good advice. Training is ongoing, and licensing is just a part of the process.
10: See and be Seen
Possibly the most important for a rider to remember is to stay acutely aware of their surroundings at all times and make sure the motorcycle stays visible to others. Bright clothing may be worn and a headlight can be turned on. If in doubt, the rider can beep a horn when passing. No one can stop another driver from behaving irresponsibly, but taking safety into one’s own hand can certainly give every motorcyclist a better chance at a smooth ride.