Every time you ride is an opportunity to learn, and to improve your riding skills. The average motorcyclist rides in urban and suburban areas, where you need a different set of riding skills to remain safe. Being a better rider is something you can practice – the only thing required is time, and your willingness to learn.
Awareness Is Key
It is an unfortunate fact of life that careless drivers are the cause of most motorcycle accidents. A motorcyclist with great situational awareness could, however, have avoided that accident in the first place. Riding in built-up areas requires you to be aware at all times, scanning your environment for potential threats, ranging from stray dogs, to fuel spills.
Things to watch out for include opening car doors, tires pointing outwards and any signs of movement inside a parked car or truck. There are many indicators that the vehicle in front of you is about to do something which might endanger your life, so pay attention to any warning signs. Always drive with more caution near homes or schools, checking beyond the nearby traffic for people or animals. This includes scanning under the fenders of parked cars for feet or paws.
Checking your mirrors is also important. There’s no hard and fast rule on this, but in urban areas you should check at least every 20 seconds. Once you do this often enough it will become a habit, and you’ll barely notice yourself performing this check.
That might sound like a case of stating the obvious, but it’s not. Look at how most motorcyclists dress – black textile or leather jackets and pants. You should also ensure your protecting clothing has reflective strips, or a similar feature. But if they don’t then wear a high visibility vest instead.
Never drive in traffic without your DRL (daytime running lights) on. Far too many motorcyclists only use their lights when riding in the dark, but drivers and pedestrians will pay more attention to you when you’re driving with your DRLs on during the day. This alone can prevent accidents.
Always ride with your hands covering your brakes because this will allow you to brake more quickly. It is human nature to glance down when you’re trying to find your position on the brake levers, and although this only takes a split second, this is time you won’t have in an emergency. Plus you run the risk of panic braking, and dropping your bike.
Remember riding a bike means watching out for drivers or pedestrians who act like you’re invisible. Cars, pedestrians and animals will appear on the road in front of you without any warning. If the person in the car or on the sidewalk is using a cell phone then your risks just increased 100%. Always knew the emergency braking distance for your current bike, and you can then double that for wet weather conditions.
Your emergency braking style will depend on your bike, so a sports bike and heavy cruiser have completely different braking “patterns”. Regardless of the bike you’re driving you should focus on squeezing and not grabbing your brakes when the time comes. Grabbing at your front brake will overload your forks, and the front tire is going to come out from under you. Or the bike will pitch you forwards over the handlebars. If you slam your foot down on the rear brake you run the risk of locking the rear tire up, leaving you “fishtailing”. Once you lose control of your back tire it takes a lot of skill to regain control and stay upright.
Smooth emergency braking is possible, but only with practice. Practice emergency braking at walking pace, and then increase your speed until you reach a point where you are confident you can stop in an emergency. Advanced rider training programs are another great way to learn these skills.
The stereotypical image of any motorcyclist is of a bike leaned into a corner, with the rider getting their knee down. While this is fine for high speed/track riding, it’s a not a riding style for the street. Street riding requires fast reaction times, and even faster steering. The only way to combine these two requirements is by learning how to counter steer. So, instead of trying to lean into a corner you’re going to steer into it by only applying pressure to the handlebars. If you want to turn right you’re going to push the left side of the handle bars forwards, and vice versa for turning to the left.
Faster steering is the difference between avoiding a collision and calling a tow truck. Or, worse again, an ambulance. Counter steering can save your life.
If in Doubt…
Don’t. What we mean by this is that if you suspect that a driver or pedestrian is just about to do something careless or dangerous then it’s a safe bet they will. Do you get a feeling that truck is about to pull out of that junction when it shouldn’t? Wait until they make the first move. Does the car ahead of you look like it’s about to cut across into your lane? Hang back and wait. A small amount of caution will keep you where you belong – upright and riding the bike you love so much.
Permit.Bike is singularly devoted to the purpose of providing an easy-to-learn and simple approach to the act of riding.