Riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous activity for both riders and people in other vehicles. As the days start to get warmer, it’s important for motorcyclists to ensure they are doing all they can to protect themselves and others on the road. While some motorcycle accidents are unavoidable, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of injury to yourself, your passenger, and other road users.
Never ride without a motorcycle license
In the U.S., you are required to have a motorcycle license or endorsement in addition to a driver’s license to legally ride a motorcycle. Taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course can increase your skill as a motorcyclist and better prepare you to make emergency maneuvers when necessary.
Always wear an adequate helmet
Wearing a helmet significantly reduces your risk of serious head injury or death in the event of an accident. You should wear a helmet every time you ride a motorcycle, even for short journeys. When buying a new helmet make sure it meets the safety standards approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Replace your helmet about once every five years, unless it shows visible signs of damage in which case you should replace it immediately.
Check your bike before you ride
Before every ride, do a quick check to make sure your bike is fit for the road. This includes checking that the tires are properly inflated and not worn down and that everything is in working order, particularly the brakes. If you spot signs of a fluid leak beneath the bike, or other signs of damage or overuse, don’t risk riding it.
Watch for damaged roads and obstacles
Motorcyclists need to be especially vigilant about road obstacles, like fallen branches, oil spills and uneven surfaces like potholes. A motorcycle has less contact with the road than a car making it more likely to skid out of control. There is also a possibility that you could be thrown over the handlebars. If you can’t avoid an obstacle in your path, try to slow down before riding over it. You should rise slightly off the seat to absorb the shock with your legs while gripping the handlebars tightly.
Never ride under the influence or otherwise impaired
You should never ride a motorcycle when your judgment, reaction time, alertness, balance, and other necessary riding skills are impaired. This includes riding when intoxicated or after taking drugs, including some medications. Drowsiness can also impair your ability to ride, so take a break when tired.
Adjust for inclement weather conditions
Rain, snow, high winds, and other inclement weather conditions can make riding more dangerous. Adjust how you ride accordingly. On wet roads, for example, you should avoid making sudden turns since your margin for error is reduced and you may skid. If you don’t feel comfortable riding in bad weather leave the bike at home.
Dress for protection and visibility
Loose, flapping clothing and exposed skin is the last thing you want when riding. Your arms and legs should be well covered, preferably in leather, and your boots should cover your ankles. Never wear shoes that are prone to slipping off, like sandals. To protect your hands and increase your grip always wear gloves. To increase your visibility to other drivers you should ideally wear bright clothing and apply reflective material to your clothes and your bike.
As the saying goes, DRESS FOR THE SLIDE, NOT THE RIDE.