Motorcycle Riding Tips

Freedom of the road comes with unfortunate dangers that are out of your control.

Crashes can be alarming and traumatic events; with one or more persons on a motorcycle; factor in the weather, surroundings and time of day - and the results can be catastrophic.

Being prepared can make all the difference! Educate yourself on motorcycle safety, even if you're not a rider - you may learn something new.

WEATHER TYPES:

  • RAIN: Haul out the raingear you've stowed in a handy spot. Make sure your rain gloves and rain boots fit properly. Poorly fitted ones can lessen your ability to brake and shift.

  • WIND: Strong winds can create problems for a motorcyclist. A constant 25-mph wind from the side can make for less than-happy riding. Gusty wind is the worst. You might have to lean a bit into the wind to maintain your position. Keep the motorcycle on the side of the lane that the wind is coming from. This is in case a big blast moves you over a bit. Expect it and be ready to react.

  • SNOW: Don't ride in the snow unless your bike is designed for it.

ANIMALS:

  • The biggest problem... Domestic animals. Most seem to have an urge to chase motorcycles. Those that don't chase often are known to blunder into the path of moving vehicles. Don't let one distract you and cause a spill.

  • If a deer jumps out in front of you on a country road, but is far enough ahead not to be worried about - watch out for its mate. They tend to travel in pairs. Hitting a deer with a motorcycle is a tough way to put venison on the table.

GROUP RIDING:

  • Company is always nice. Some company weighs 100 pounds, other company weighs 200 pounds. Putting extra weight on the motorcycle will affect the handling. Adjust your suspension and tire pressures to compensate for the amount of company you've brought along. (Check your owner's manual.)

  • Realize that your braking capabilities have changed; take that into account. The more weight you have on the motorcycle, the longer it may take to stop.

  • Passengers should be instructed to always mount from the same side, and to warn you before they climb on. This goes a long way to preventing a muddled heap lying on the ground.

  • Passengers need the same protection that you do - proper clothes and helmet. Ten-foot scarves flapping in the wind may look dashing, but not on a motorcycle. You don't want shoe laces or loose pants legs catching on rear wheel or chain parts.

  • Never carry anyone sidesaddle. Passengers should always straddle the bike with their feet securely planted on the footrests. Tell passengers not to put a foot down when you come to a stop.

  • Show them where the hot things are - like header pipes and mufflers. Caution passengers against coming in contact with the hot parts to prevent any injuries. Also, rubber soles can melt and leave a mess.

  • Instruct passengers to hold onto you at your waist or hips, or the bike's hand-holds.Ask them to lean forward slightly when you leave from a stop or accelerate along the highway. When you brake, passengers should be firmly braced against your waist and should lean back slightly. You don't want their weight to shift forward.

  • Advise passengers not to lean unless you do. You do not want the person behind hanging off the bike at 30 degrees; that will do funny things to the steering. However, when you lean going around a corner, passengers should definitely lean as well. Have them look over your shoulder in the direction of the turn when you go through a corner; that will put the weight where you want it.

NIGHT RIDING:

  • Quite often you'll have to ride at night. After all, it is dark 50 percent of the time. Dusk is really the worst time, when people's eyes are adjusting from daylight to headlights.Be especially careful just after sunset. Usually it is advisable to slow down a little when riding at night, especially on any sort of winding road.

  • Use your own headlight and those of other traffic to keep an eye on the road surface. It is more difficult at night to see the patch of sand or something that fell out of a pickup.

  • The distance between you and the vehicle in front becomes even more important at night. Give yourself room to react.

  • Wear a clear face shield without scratches. A scratched shield can create light refraction that might confuse you; two headlights can look like four, and you don't know who is coming from where. One of your biggest hazards at night may be a "who" coming from a few hours of drinking.

Be especially alert for drivers and vehicles doing odd things, like weaving in and out of traffic, and give them lots of room.

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