Top 10: Safe Motorcycling Tips

Anyone that rides a motorcycle will tell you; it is the best way to travel those winding, country roads. As well as being a fun way to travel, motorcycles can be remarkably fuel efficient and less expensive than owning a car. However, they are inherently more dangerous than being in a car, due to the lack of exterior protection; there is nothing between you and the road/another vehicle, except your protective gear.  

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to suffer a fatality in an accident, compared to individuals in a car. As well as this, nearly half of all motorcycle fatalities are the result of single-vehicle crashes.  

The reports are even more confronting for individuals aged 40-65 years old, according to the Department of infrastructure and Transport. This aged group is identified as the most vulnerable group, perceived to be due to slower reflexes and poorer eyesight, leading to an increase in fatalities. Maybe this is a bit confronting? Here are some tips on how to avoid adding to the statistics….  

Top ten safety tips for safe motorcycling:    

1) Be ready to ride – physically and mentally:  
Be physically and mentally prepared to ride. Don’t ride when tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Always dress as if you are about to have the worst accident of your life. There are great protective clothing for all different riding styles that not only look great but add another level of safety and comfort. Invest in proper protective gear: a well-fitting helmet, gloves, abrasive resistant jacket, long pants and sturdy boots. Insufficient protective equipment could see you experiencing far worse injuries, should an accident occur. Road rash, neck, feet and hand injuries are often avoidable in minor accidents.  

2) Take a motorcycle safety course:
While undertaking a safety course after obtaining a license is not a requirement, it is the best way to improve your riding skills. Training courses are not only a safe way to learn advance motorcycle techniques they are also heaps of fun to do with your riding mates or even pillion passenger. Training courses are especially useful for returning riders that have not been on two wheels for a few years.

There are a variety of courses to choose from to suit all skills levels. You will learn about road safety, motorcycle physics and fun riding principles like counter steering and safe cornering, emergency stopping. You will also pick up heaps of general riding tips that will make riding even more fun and a lot safer. Your local motorcycle dealer will advise you on suitable courses in your area.  

3) Keep your eyes on the road (look ahead):
Many motorcycle accidents occur due to a lack of attention; the rider is distracted. This applies to all drivers; distracted driving is dangerous. You need to constantly keep your head up when turning a corner and keep your eyes at least 3-4 seconds ahead of where you are travelling. Don’t look where you are going – look at where you want to go. Your body always follows your eyes. Trail riders knows this well – don’t look at the rock – look at where you want the wheels to go.  

4) Monitor and maintain safe speeds:
It is a necessity to maintain a safe speed to ensure safety. This will help you to be able to maintain a safe stopping distance if ensuring safe following distance. Also be aware that some weather conditions, like rain and snow, contribute to less tire grip, it is recommended in these weather events to drive under the speed limit. You will be surprised to know how much further it takes to stop at speed.

Some figures on how far you are travelling per second at various speeds, without taking into account reaction time or stopping distance:

40 km/h: 11 meters travelled per second
60 km/h: 16 meters travelled per second
80 km/h: 22 meters travelled per second
100 km/h: 27 meters travelled per second
120 km/h : 33 meters travelled per second  

5) Be aware of your surroundings:
Often what is out of sight is out of mind. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you are stopping or turning. Be aware of other drivers, especially before you stop or turn suddenly. Get in the habit of doing shoulder checks. Always look in your mirrors for cars behind you, especially when you have to stop suddenly. You also need to be aware of the road changes such as potholes or bumps that might affect your steering. Also be aware of the animals you may encounter specific to your riding area. Get in the habit of checking your mirrors every 5 -7 seconds especially when you slow down.  

6) Avoid Following too closely or tailgating:
Safe Driving Guidelines suggest keeping a safe distance between a vehicle and the driver ahead; this will ensure safe stopping distance. The common rule for this is called a ‘2 second rule.’ To follow this you should find a stationary, roadside object, such as a light pole. As the vehicle ahead of you passes this object, you should count to two before you pass the same object. If this time is less, you should drop back. Motorcyclists should extend this to 2-4 seconds.  

7) Watch the weather and act accordingly:
Motorbikes are not as stable as cars, hey that’s half the fun – however riding a bike in the rain is much riskier than driving a car. With only two wheels, you have far less traction than a car. Plus, without windshield wipers, your visibility is compromised. Finally, riding through the driving rain can hurt as you feel the effects of the weather directly. It’s best to avoid riding in bad weather conditions. If you must ride in these conditions, adjust your speed and leave plenty of space for stopping. Keep constant power on the wheels and avoid wheel spin by smooth acceleration and deceleration. If the weather gets worse, find a safe place off the road to stop and wait it out.  

8) Take extra precautions when riding with a pillion passenger:
A component of owing a motorcycle is transporting passengers; a right only assigned to fully licensed riders. Before you ride, give the pillion passenger instructions on how not to distract you and how to move with you when turning, so they won’t panic when you lean in to the road. It’s best to educate them about riding, to keep both of you safe.

Your passenger should also wear protective clothing and a sturdy helmet. Riding with a passenger also adds weight to the bike; be aware that this may increase your stopping distance and general technique. Often, long distance riding companions utilise Bluetooth communication devices; allowing them to advise each other of dangers, needed rest breaks or other concerns.  

9) Ensure your motorcycle is clearly visible:
Accidents often occur due to the reduced visibility of motorcycle riders. Remember a motorbike is more difficult to see in mirrors and blind spots than bigger vehicles. Ensure you are visible to other drivers at all times.

Avoid weaving through traffic or darting into tight spaces. Visibility can be increased by the use of motorcycle indicators when turning, making sure your motorcycle is visible on the car driver’s rear view mirrors when overtaking, always use your headlights and NEVER ride in a vehicle’s blind spot.  

10) Motorcycle maintenance, keep your motorbike safe to ride:
Motorbike maintenance isn’t just to extend the life of your bike, but the lives of you and your passenger as well. Make sure to check that the chain, belt/shaft and brakes are in working condition and properly maintained. Check the tires for wear and tear and ensure they are always at optimum pressure for the type of riding you are doing. Worn out or improperly inflated tires can cause a bike’s handling to be unresponsive and difficult; greatly increasing safety risk.  

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