Content approved by Jerry Parker
Anyone who has the itch to hop on a motorcycle may be thinking that riding a cycle can’t be that hard. Of course, motorcycles are very fuel-efficient, which can be a big plus when considering your mode of transportation. But although there are positive aspects of riding motorcycles, there are also some risks. Motorcycles are much more dangerous than standard vehicles because riders are more exposed to injuries. In fact, in the past seven years, an average of 4,200 people have died riding motorcycles each year. While it’s impossible to reduce all motorcycling risks, you can mitigate some of these risks by learning as much as possible about riding safely as well as using safety equipment such as helmets.
Invest in a Motorcycle Within Your Riding Ability
New motorcyclists need to consider how they plan to use a motorcycle, since this has a direct impact on your choice of motorcycle. Many different types of motorcycles exist, and some are better for beginners than others. It may also be a good idea to start with a used motorcycle, so you can get the hang of it and decide whether you intend to continue riding before spending too much money. Make sure to buy a motorcycle that’s a good fit for your height and size, as this will help you be safe while you ride.
ATGATT: ATGATT is an acronym for “all the gear, all the time.” All riders, but especially new riders, need to adopt this mindset when riding a motorcycle. Make a commitment to wear all of the motorcycle safety gear every time you ride so that you can be as safe as possible while you are learning how to ride.
Helmet: A helmet is the most important item of safety gear that riders need to wear to protect themselves from injuries. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 2,089 riders were killed in motorcycle accidents in 2016 because they weren’t wearing helmets. Furthermore, nearly every state in the United States requires that motorcyclists wear helmets. Your helmet needs to be DOT-certified and bear the name of the manufacturer, the model, and a text code on the helmet. You can choose a full-face, three-quarter, or half-coverage helmet, with the full-face design offering the most protection.
Jacket: A motorcycle jacket helps protect you in the event of an accident, and this piece of equipment is second in importance only to the helmet. The jacket should have a snug fit, but not to the point of being uncomfortable. A leather jacket is ideal for riding on a closed racetrack, while a textile material is suitable for off-road riding. A jacket should have built-in protection as well as pockets.
Gloves: Gloves help protect your knuckles while riding, and they also help you to grip the handles. Gloves help protect your hands from sunburn and windburn, too. Leather is excellent for protection against abrasion, but keep in mind that leather is not water-resistant. Gloves should be snug but not too tight.
Boots: Boots protect the feet from the weather while riding. Boots need to be comfortably tight, and the tops of your boots should be higher than your ankles. Motorcycle boots often have hidden laces and oil-resistant soles.
Pants: Pants protect the lower body while riding and in the event of an accident. Jeans are often worn while riding, but they won’t protect you from abrasions in an accident. Leather pants offer excellent protection. Choose a pair of pants that are comfortably snug.
One-Piece Suits: Some motorcyclists prefer one-piece suits. Many suits have extra padding, and they’re designed to be worn over other clothing. Don’t choose a suit that is overly restrictive or tight.
Motorcycle Accessories: Explore additional accessories such as earplugs to block sounds and riding glasses to protect the eyes. Some riding glasses are designed specifically to be worn with certain helmets.
- Motorcycle Safety: Wearing a helmet significantly increases your odds of surviving a motorcycle accident.
- Motorcycle Safety: This publication outlines practices being used to enhance motorcyclist safety.
- Motorcycle Safety Tips: It’s estimated that about 70 percent of motorcycle accidents happen at intersections.
Take a Motorcycle Course
Motorcycle education benefits nearly every rider. Take a short class if you want to improve your skill level in a specific type of riding, such as racetrack riding or street riding. Other classes offer more generalized instruction to help build riders’ confidence and skills. You might expect to learn racing techniques that will help boost confidence. Private lessons are another option for learning riding skills.
Conduct a Pre-Ride Inspection
Always inspect your motorcycle before you ride it to ensure that all of the components are operating correctly. Check the tires, brakes, throttle, clutch, and other components. If you find any issues, have the motorcycle serviced before you ride.
Motorcycle Riding Techniques
Motorcycle riding techniques are important for overall safety. While riding, motorcyclists do not maintain a static body position. Instead, riders are constantly adjusting their body position in response to the motorcycle.
Body Position: Stay centered with your arms bent slightly. Your knees should hug the fuel tank, and keep your feet on the foot pegs.
Leaning: Leaning the motorcycle while maintaining balance requires practice. Keep your body position inside of the motorcycle seat, look to the corner where you want to direct the motorcycle, and counter-steer to begin the lean. Corner speed helps with balance, but too much leaning can cause errors.
Braking and Turning: New riders should brake before turning to keep the two actions separate. This allows the motorcycle suspension to become neutral before turning. Cornering speed and leaning should happen together to maintain balance.
Shifting: The clutch changes transmission gears to match the speed of the engine with the road speed.
Counter-Steering: When traveling 12 miles per hour or slower, turn the handlebars in the direction you want to move. When traveling above 12 miles per hour, turn the handlebars in the opposite direction, known as counter-steering.
Where to Look While Riding: Maintain your vision on the horizon in the direction you are traveling. Keep scanning the horizon to see potential obstacles. Always look where you want to go, never at a fixed object.
Riding in Proximity to Other Vehicles: When riding in traffic, stay out of other vehicles’ blind spots. Never ride directly next to other vehicles; instead, stay to the front or rear of them in case they swerve unexpectedly. Follow other vehicles two seconds behind so you have sufficient reaction time.
Escape Paths: An escape path is a route of travel that you can take to avoid a collision. Always plan an escape path so you know what to do if something enters your path.
Handling Intersections: Expect that other drivers won’t see you, especially in intersections. Slow down when approaching an intersection, and be ready to yield the right-of-way. Plan an escape path here, too.
- Ten Motorcycle Riding Tricks You Don’t Know Yet: Dragging the back brake in intersections can enhance balance.
- Motorcycle Safety Tips: Never assume that drivers in vehicles see you on your motorcycle.
- Safety Tips for Group Motorcycle Rides: Group riders should designate a leader who can set a pace that’s appropriate for every rider.
- 18 Motorcycle Tips Every Rider Should Follow: Always ensure that passengers use important safety gear such as helmets and protective clothing.
Motorcycle Safety Tips
Learn and follow safety tips so you are ready to use them. Motorcycling demands ongoing attention to details and driving defensively to avoid accidents.
Ride Defensively: Continually scan the roadway ahead of you to spot debris and to be ready for the unexpected actions of other drivers.
Ride According to Your Skills and Ability: Don’t try to maneuver beyond your riding ability. Stay at a safe speed at all times, even when you ride with more experienced riders.
Maintain a Safe Speed: A safe speed for you is determined by the amount of time it will take you to react to an unexpected hazard. Higher speeds might be safe if you’re riding on an open stretch of road. Heavy traffic and obstacles demands a slower speed, though.
Be Cognizant of Other Vehicles: Most of the vehicles around you when you’re riding a motorcycle are larger and heavier. This means that you must give enough space to protect yourself from these vehicles.
Beware of Road Hazards: Road hazards such as debris, potholes, and bumps can be very dangerous for motorcycles. Continuously scan the horizon to spot these hazards so you can swerve around them.
Make Yourself Visible: Wear highly visible clothing so you’re seen by other drivers. Reflective patches and colors on clothing will help you be seen.
Avoid Bad Weather Conditions: Inclement weather can be very dangerous for motorcyclists. Don’t ride on wet surfaces.
Invest in Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS): A motorcycle equipped with ABS will have more stopping control.
Follow All Traffic Laws: Follow traffic laws carefully. When you ride in different areas, make sure you know the local laws.
Never Ride Impaired: Never ride when you’re impaired, whether by intoxicants or by fatigue.
Keep a Tool Pouch and First-Aid Kit on Your Motorcycle: Always carry tools and first-aid materials with you on your motorcycle so you’re prepared for any situation.
Ride in the Safest Lane: The safest lane for motorcyclists depends on the escape path you’ve chosen for yourself. Position yourself in the lane that gives you an escape path.
- 12 Safety Tips Seasoned Riders Swear By: Maintain at least 20 feet between you and other riders in your group.
- Top 15 Motorcycle Tips for Street Riding Safety: Keep an eye on drivers’ heads, as they usually move their heads abruptly before making a sudden lane change.
- Ten Motorcycle Safety Tips for New Riders: Choose a bike that you can handle easily.
- The Nine Motorcycle Safety Tips That All Riders Need to Know: Check the weather before you go out so you don’t have to ride in bad weather.
- Learn to Ride: Don’t forget to turn off your turn signal after a turn if your motorcycle doesn’t do it for you.