Motorcycle riders can greatly reduce the odds of being in involved in a motorcycle collision by obeying traffic laws and instilling good riding habits. Defensive, attentive riding habits should always be in practice out on the road. As the summer riding season approaches, more motorcycles will be seen on the nation’s roads.
The following safety tips can help remind seasonal riders of a few simple “best practices”. Many motorcyclists store their bikes through the winter months and ride only during the warmer months of the year. As these riders prepare their motorcycles for another riding season, they can consider implementing a pre-ride action checklist in addition to some tried and true riding tactics that coincide with consistent defensive riding.
Pre-Ride Motorcycle Inspection Points
1. Helmet: Helmets deteriorate over time. Ensure your helmet is properly fitted and replace helmets once they are five years old.
2. Light Check: Verify that the turn signals, running lights, headlight, and brake lamps are all functioning. Do not ride with any burned out or otherwise non-functional bulbs/lamps.
3. Leak Check: Visually inspect seals, bolts, radiators and fuel lines for wet spots or seepage.
4. Tire Check: Ensure PSI levels meet manufacturer specifications. Check air pressure with a tire gauge, especially if the bike has been sitting for more than a few days. Slightly underinflated tires can drastically reduce a rider’s ability to brake and corner. Tires with small cracks in the sidewalls are unsafe and should be replaced immediately.
5. Maintenance Intervals: In addition to daily checks, perform the following maintenance on-time:
- Oil changes on time
- Check the air filter regularly for debris/damage and replace as needed
- Adjust, clean, tighten, and replace mirrors as needed
- Inspect and replace worn brake pads
- Adjust and lubricate the drive chain. Inspect drive belts for cracks and signs of wear
- Test/inspect brake cables and adjust them over time as brake pads wear. Have the brake cables re-adjusted whenever rear brake pads are installed.
Reminders for Avoiding Motorcycle Accidents
1. Leave a Safe Following Distance: Always maintain a safe following distance behind traffic. Slow down or change lanes safely if other vehicles cut in front of you. Following at a safe distance will help to provide sufficient braking distance in case of an emergency and also provides a better window for evasive maneuvering if the situation on the road ahead breaks down. A rider can steer away into narrow escape routes, often providing the best way to avoid a collision or skid.
2. Turn Safely: Slow down just before entering a turn. If you enter the turn a little too fast, gently drag the rear brake to reduce your speed safely and stabilize the bike. Keep your feet up on the pegs or boards at all times, with your knees tucked in against the gas tank. Never stick your foot out and drag it on the ground and do not turn your knee out. For tight, slow U-turns, keep your weight centered. Keep both feet on the pegs but shift slightly more weight to the outside peg. Drag the rear brake slightly through slow, tight turns to help stabilize the bike and balance out fork sensitivity.
3. Check the Mirrors Often: Get into the habit of checking your rear-view mirrors every five to seven seconds as well as each time you disengage the throttle and/or prepare to brake. Watch out for vehicles following too closely or those coming up quickly behind you. If you concerned about a distracted or aggressive motorist behind you, change lanes or turn off the main roadway and let him/her pass.
4. Look with your Head around Turns: As you come through a turn or a curve, keep your head and eyes up and look through the corner as far ahead as possible. If you cannot see three to four seconds ahead, reduce your speed until you can. Proceed through any blind turns/corners very slowly with extreme caution – ready to brake in an instant.
5. Match Speed with Sight Distance: If you cannot see ahead, reduce speed. Fog, rain, and twilight conditions often reduce visibility. Lower speeds provide a rider with more reaction time. Curved mountain and forest roads often provide exhilarating scenery and challenging maneuvers, but are also areas known for very limited sightlines. Reduce your speed on these roads to be better prepared for deer, potholes, stones or tree limbs that could lie around any corner.