It may sound like a cliche, but there really isn’t a better feeling than getting your bike out, firing up the engine and just going where the mood takes you. There’s a sense of freedom with motorcycles that a car just simply cannot match; it’s just you with the elements and it’s a feeling that can’t be beaten.
It’s risky business though. Biking can be dangerous and whilst this isn’t news to anyone who owns and rides a motorcycle, it’s worth reminding everyone that there are certain protocols that we need to be aware of.
Are you riding safely? You might initially think so but there are many elements to being a motorcyclist that you might not have considered. How often do you inspect your motorcycle? What do you do when the sun glare is so bad you can hardly see the road? How’s your weather forecasting skills?
Below we have compiled the best motorcycle tips that everyone should follow for a better, safer motorcycle experience. How many of these tips do you already follow? You’ll be surprised how many of these tips you will have simply overlooked.
In order to be able to legally ride a moped or motorcycle on the road, you must first take a CBT course. Every biker knows this and will have already passed it with flying colours. But how many motorcyclists have taken a specific motorcycle safety course? It might sound like the last thing you’d want to sign up for. You might also think you already know how to ride safely, but when it comes to riding to the best of your ability and remaining safe on the road for yourself and other people, is this something you can afford not to do?
If you search around on the internet you will find motorcycle safety courses in your area that are surprisingly affordable and even sometimes free. In as little as a few days, you can expect to learn many invaluable skills in a controlled environment, such as maneuvering your motorcycle through a range of scenarios. It also teaches new skills to the novice rider and helps intermediate and experienced riders unlearn bad habits and refresh their skills. Another benefit to taking a motorcycle safety course is that many insurers will actually offer reduced insurance to motorcyclists who have completed a recognised course. It’s a win-win situation.
Look After Your Head
Again, this might seem like such an obvious tip for motorcyclists, but how many times have you seen riders on the road with unsuitable motorcycle helmets or worse…nothing to protect their heads?
If you are involved in a collision or thrown from your motorcycle and you’re not wearing a helmet, it could easily be game-over. So, rather than dice with death, invest in a good quality motorcycle helmet that is both comfortable and lightweight.
Buying a good motorcycle helmet can be an intimidating experience as there are so many on the market. You’ll need to measure your head to determine the correct size helmet which should fit snugly and evenly around the head without causing excessive pressure.
There are different shapes available including long oval, intermediate and round oval. So, knowing your head measurements is essential. Have a budget in mind and consider the position your head will be in for the majority of your rides, the length of time you usually spend riding and the weather conditions. Many helmets now include additional features too, such as sunshade, wind reduction and Bluetooth communication devices. Remember, the better your helmet the more comfortable and safer the ride.
This follows on to the next point perfectly. In order to get the best riding experience you also need the right type of clothing. It isn’t just about wearing a helmet. To get the best and safest experience you will need the full kit. It’s said that one of the most prolific and horrific accidents that emergency staff see when called out to motorcycle collisions, is one that involves skin that has separated from the bone. Not a nice image at all. Damage to your body can be prevented or at least reduced greatly if you wear the right type of clothing specifically designed for biking. Invest in motorcycle leathers for cold weather and waterproof and lightweight clothing for the summer months. Pay particular attention to knee and elbow reinforcements and don’t forget to check movement, as you don’t want to be restricted in your kit. Don’t cut corners when it comes to buying motorcycle gloves and motorcycle boots either, these things will literally save your hands and feet in the wrong situation.
Cover Your Passengers Up
It goes without saying really, but if you are investing in safe motorcycle clothing for yourself and plan to eventually carry a passenger on the back of your bike, then you’ll need to consider what additional kit to buy. Carrying a passenger who is wearing jeans, flip-flops and no helmet is a recipe for disaster, so ensure you have a second helmet, motorcycle gloves and a motorcycle jacket and trousers in your arsenal. Safety first, for everyone.
Practice Turning in Circles
Sounds bizarre but there’s a lot of common sense in this practice. Finding an empty car park and practicing turning left and turning right in circles is an invaluable skill to learn and will set apart the mediocre riders from the best of the best. Surprisingly, turning left is easier than turning right as most people are right-handed and turning the handlebar away from your dominant right side is thought to be generally easier. Also, the rear brake lever is located on the right, so it can be trickier to put your foot down and brake whilst turning right.
Get great at turning in tight spots and practice turning left and right in circles that incrementally increase. Start on the left side, riding in counterclockwise circles and practice tightening those circles until you feel comfortable with this and then do the same on the right-hand side (clockwise). It will help you learn how to control the bike at slower speeds and will greatly improve your balance too.
Two Finger Clutch
Here is a bit of a controversial motorcycle tip…use two fingers on the clutch only. Many motorcyclists swear by this method and believe that two fingers are all you ever need to operate the clutch on a motorbike. You might feel a bit strange trying out this technique at first, but generally, it is thought that using just two fingers on the clutch, means that you have better control of the motorcycle, with a firmer grasp on the handlebars.
Carry Responsible Passengers
It doesn’t matter if you’re the safest, most skillful motorcyclist in the world, if your buddy doesn’t understand the basics of being a motorcycle passenger, then you’re putting many lives at risk.
Firstly, the most important thing is to consider if you’re comfortable riding with someone on your motorcycle. Riding with a passenger feels very different from riding alone and requires much more skill as the bike will feel heavier and won’t be as easy to steer. It’s also trickier to balance, stop and brake, at short distances.
Are you sure you’re ready?
If you’re ready to go, then you need to check that your passenger is also ready and responsible enough to join you on your ride. Are they aware of the basic rules of biking and how a motorcycle operates? For example, are they likely to lean the wrong way or disregard safety rules when holding on? Do they know how to hold onto the bike correctly? It’s the simple things that you take for granted that are essential to communicate first, such as which side to mount the bike from, who mounts first, where to hold on and where to put your feet etc Start with a short ride to see if the rider/passenger relationship works before committing to a full-on biking trip to Germany!
Ride Within Your Skills
A large element of riding a motorbike involves taking risks. In fact, every time you hop onto your bike, you’re doing something highly regarded as dangerous. The difference is that some risks are necessary whilst others are completely unnecessary. Don’t ride outside of your skillset without practicing first. It makes no sense to plan a biking trip which includes a section of off-road biking, if you don’t have the right equipment or skills, or even just tackling hairpin roads at greater speeds. Build up your skills, be safe and be responsible.
Avoid Bad Weather
Bad weather and motorcycles = danger. Get familiar with weather reports in advance and get to recognise subtle weather changes to minimise any chance of risk. If you know that your beautiful sunny morning is going to turn stormy during the afternoon, plan your trip short. Avoid heavy rain where possible and if you are unfortunate to get caught in the torrential rain then take a break and wait until it passes. It’s better to get home late than not at all. Recognise the weather conditions that you will regularly be riding through. Download a specific weather app such as Motorcycle Weather and make sure your motorcycle wardrobe fits your needs. This isn’t about fashion. It’s about visibility, comfort and safety.
Bad Mood, No Riding
There’s a difference between road rage on a motorbike and road rage in a car. In a car, you’re more protected from bad decisions and other people’s errors, on a bike you are not. Riding on the roads whilst angry is a very bad decision that could have nasty consequences. You don’t have to be the happy-smiling-rider each and every day, just be mindful that being in a bad mood could badly impair your judgment.
You Bike Should Fit Your Needs
What makes us fall in love with a motorbike? Is it the sexy shade of racing red on the body? Or perhaps its chrome headlights? Or maybe it’s the bike’s powerful engine? The point is, we often choose motorbikes based on appearances and power but rarely on suitability alone. This is where most novice riders go wrong. When you buy a bike it should fit your needs. Buy something suitable for your riding experience and forget about the focus on horsepower.
This is probably the simplest tip on this list and it could easily save your life. Inspect, inspect, inspect. Not just long road trips but short daily commutes too. Make a habit of checking your motorcycle before each trip, even if it’s just a quick glance to check the brakes and oil. Check it over yourself and get it inspected by a professional regularly too. This is an invaluable part of motorcycle safety.
Don’t Trust Your Mirrors Completely
We’re not saying don’t use your mirrors here. Mirrors are essential. Just don’t trust them entirely, as they only show a small section of the bigger picture. Use your mirrors wisely but also learn to look around at the full picture to spot any oncoming hazards. Being a good motorcyclist involves using all your senses. Get good at this and once you’ve mastered it, get even better.
Learn To Predict The Future
This is applicable to car drivers too but more for people who ride motorcycles/bicycles as the negative consequences are higher. Learn to predict the future. Obviously, no one can see into the future, but you can learn to predict what could happen at any given moment. We would argue that this is one of the most important skills of a motorcyclist, especially in heavy traffic. It’s about not only seeing what’s going on around you but also predicting what might happen and how you might react. Is that speeding BMW in front likely to cut you off and turn right? Are those school children likely to step out into the road? Second guessing what other motorists and pedestrians might do means that you’re staying sharp and alert at all times. Learn to predict the future so when the predictions become a reality you are ready to react, fast.
Scan Your Environment
Focusing on that one spot on the road ahead and zoning out could be another recipe for disaster. Scan your environment. Look at everything around you, the bigger picture, and assess if you’re safe to ride through. It’s not only the weather, the unpredictable pedestrians and the other motorists you have to look out for, but also any obstacles or obstructions that you might encounter on the road. If you make it a habit to regularly scan your environment then you’re practising safety and responsibility.
Use Your Sense Of Smell
Unless you’re driving on the motorway in a car then normally you wouldn’t have to be hyper-vigilant of road surfaces. Motorcyclists, however, have to constantly be aware of road surfaces and spillages, as a bike could slide badly on an uneven or slippery surface. Be constantly aware of the road surface and any changes that may occur. The road suddenly looking shiny…could that be ice? Loose gravel? That could cause your visor to crack which would instantly reduce visibility. Use your sense of smell too. One of the benefits of not being in an enclosed vehicle is that you’re more in touch with the outside environment and may smell oil spillages etc before you get to see them.
Sometimes it’s the small things that can really make a difference. One of the worst, most uncomfortable aspects of riding a motorcycle is the cold. Nothing is worse than being cold whilst riding apart from being cold and wet at the same time. The area where you’ll feel the cold the most is your hands. Carry a few spare pairs of latex gloves in your motorcycle box and the next time it rains you’ll thank us. Putting on a thin pair of latex gloves underneath your usual motorcycle gloves will not only keep your hands dry, but they will form a protective layer that will keep your hands slightly warmer too. Every little helps.
Don’t Underestimate The Power of Duct Tape
When we visualise motorcycle accidents it usually involves other cars and motorway pile-ups, but one of the most common dangers on the road is actually the sun. Sun glare can dramatically reduce your vision and this can be lethal if it hits suddenly and you’re traveling at great speeds. Anyone who has been caught in sun glare after a storm will know how impossible the combination of sun and wet road surface can be to navigate, as you can’t see anything. There’s no easy solution for this, but there is a simple and popular hack which many motorcyclists use: duct tape. A line of duct tape at the top of your visor can help reduce the glare when you slightly lower your head. It acts like a mini-sunshield and whilst it will restrict your vision slightly, it also provides an essential block from wet, shiny roads.