Five Motorcycling Tips That Could Save Your Life
Motorcycling by its very nature is a dangerous pastime; sadly, the danger is mainly caused by unobservant motorists rather than rider faults. From the safety of four wheels it’s often easy to see motorcyclists as speed crazed rule breakers but that’s usually not the case.
As soon as you’re road legal, you’ll only ever ride within your own comfort zone and it’s unlikely that you’ll take too many risks. Just in case the unthinkable happens and you (in the words of a car driver) ‘just come out of nowhere’, here are a few tips that can make such dramas avoidable or at least save you from a few broken bones.
If you’re an experienced rider, a lot of this will seem obvious but it’s always worth reminding yourself of the dangers out there.
1. Wear Your Gear
Obviously, this goes without saying but it’s not just about wearing the gear; it’s about wearing the right gear all the time. Here’s what you need and a few reasons why you need it.
- Helmet – a helmet that conforms to international standards is what you want protecting your head, not something bought from the boot fair or anything second hand at all. In fact, many helmets lose their protective integrity after one good bump. Of course, they are expensive to buy but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Buy new and always wear your own. Firstly, you don’t want to bathe in someone else’s sweat but really, you want to know the history of the helmet; has it hit the ground hard before? A good helmet is a key element of your safety.
- Jacket and Trouser – There are all kinds of jacket and trouser combos out their; some riders like leather, some prefer Kevlar. It doesn’t matter what you choose but always remember that when you’re sliding along the road, your skin can only survive a slide so far before it’s scratched away to muscle tissue and bone. It sounds horrible but a quick Google search can show you the hell it cause to unprotected skin!
- Gloves – If you are going to come off your bike, your hands will always instinctively reach out to break your fall. If you’re not wearing good gloves, your hands are going to suffer for it. Gloves are often forgotten; even if you’re wearing the rest of the gear – don’t forget your gloves. Grazed hands take forever to heal and make everyday tasks into a nightmare. Walking away from a crash may seem like a win but having to get someone else to cut up your food for you really isn’t.
- Boots – Everyone has seen images from the tropics of scantily clad tourists riding scooters and small dirt bikes with flip-flops on; now search for the images of when things don’t go to plan. Everyone has heard a horror story and that should be reason enough not to do it. At the end of the day, you’re riding a large engine on two-wheels with little space between your feet and the floor. Durable, sturdy, thick boots are highly recommended; you want something that can protect your ankles, stop a bike from squashing them and survive a slide along the floor.
- Hi-Vis Jacket – Now, this isn’t for everyone; it’s true, you shouldn’t have to wear one and other motorists should be looking out for you anyway. Fluorescent green, yellow or orange doesn’t exactly scream ‘cool’ but it does scream ‘I’m here’ at the unobservant. It’s worth wearing one at night or when there is less visibility.
2. Use Your Eyes
We all know that you need to use your eyes: you need to look where you want go, look out for pot-holes and the like and be aware of the traffic but you should also imagine that every other vehicle on the road is driven by a moron and never assume that they know what they are doing. How many times have you seen the unbelievable first-hand? How often have you thought ‘they’re definitely not going to attempt that…No way, they’re actually doing it’? Surprisingly often, we imagine.
It’s important to keep your eyes open; use your mirrors, your over-shoulder checks and keep an eye on the traffic too. When you’re on the road, imagine that you’re in the scenario from the Hazard Perception part of your theory exam. Look around and analyse every potential hazard; your mind should do this automatically as you ride but it’s always good to keep your eyes out for danger.
3. Avoid Debris
If your eyes are open, you should be able to avoid any sand or gravel that may be lying across the road. If you’re riding with one or more other bikes, it’s always nice to point it out to whoever is behind you, so that they can make preparations to tackle it or avoid it. If you have no choice but to go through it, make sure you approach slowly, with your bike upright. Now, if you’re fitted with off-road tyres, you can disregard this. If you’re armed with road tyres, make sure that you cross the patch slowly, without aggressively braking or accelerating while you’re going over it.
If you’re in a corner and don’t have time to get upright before entering then you’re more than likely going to take a tumble. You were going to fast in the first place or didn’t look far enough ahead and consider the danger. We’ve all done it though…
4. Smart braking
Braking too rapidly can be a cause for an accident but so can braking too slowly. To combat the latter, make sure that your brakes in tip top condition and adjusted to the way you like them; you should also be aware of the state of your tyres too. Make sure they have the correct amount of tread of them and adjust your braking style to their state.
When it comes to braking rapidly, it may be because you’re too close to a potential hazard. Leave as much room as possible between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. It’s also worth going back to basics and re-learning what you were taught when you took your test. Consider your braking routine as weight distribution rather than slowing down; some riders say they never use the front brake first while others swear by it. Using the front brake does shift all of your weight to the front of the bike but you can counter any potential lock up by applying the back brake, smoothening out your weight distribution.
Practice your braking as often as you can. Knowing how to brake appropriately in any situation could save your life!
5. Educate Yourself
All of the skills you need to improve your riding can be learned on an advanced riding course. These courses are designed to help you re-learn the basics, lose bad habits and take your riding to the next level.
In fact, it can also be a wise idea to book a session with an instructor. Obviously, you should do this when you learn but this is aimed at older, experienced riders. It’s interesting to go and try the new testing requirements and you may be surprised to find gaps in your knowledge. By taking a course or booking time with an instructor, you can fill in all the blanks and re-acquaint yourself with the rules of the road. You might think it’s a waste of time now but you’ll feel differently afterwards!
Also, taking an advanced rider course can lower the cost of your insurance. Food for thought…