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Staying Safe on Your Bike

November 15, 2010

Riding a motorcycle may look easy, but for a rider, there’s a lot of skill and preparation involved in staying safe on the road. Motorcycle accidents are generally much more severe than car accidents, so every rider’s first priority should be safety. Before you jump into motorcycle riding, these expert tips will help you prepare:

Outfit Yourself Appropriately

  • Helmet: It’s the law, and seems like a common sense to wear a helmet, especially on a motorcycle, but many riders still ignore this precaution. Fatalities are common in motorcycle accidents – particularly when riders don’t wear the proper protective gear.
  • Protective Garments: Wearing appropriate clothing is as important as wearing a helmet. Motorcyclist clothing is designed to protect your body from road rash and keep everything together. These jackets, chaps and boots are often reinforced and layered to best protect you from the road – increasing your chances of keeping your skin from feeling the pavement and decreasing your chances of losing a limb in the case of a crash.
  • Stay Visible: Choose gear in flashy colours with reflective detailing that stands out from the road. Motorcycles are smaller than all other vehicles on the road, and often move faster – which makes it harder for motorists to notice them. As a rider, the more you can do to increase your chances of being seen, the better your chances of avoiding an accident.

Be Prepared

  • New Riders Need Lessons: It may be cheaper and more convenient to learn how to ride from a friend or relative, but nothing substitutes for learning from a professional. Statistically, new motorcyclists who take professional riding courses from accredited training schools become better riders. As a bonus, you can likely secure cheap motorcycle insurance from your provider because of your additional training.
  • Practice: No matter how long you have been riding for it’s a good idea to practice regularly to keep your skills sharp. This is especially important in the spring when the season opens again and you may need a refresher. Throughout the year try to focus on difficult manoeuvres, such as hard braking, swerves and slow turns in practice situations, so you’re trained to react safely and instinctively when you need these manoeuvres on the road.
  • Singles Only: Even experienced riders don’t have the same control of their motorcycles when they’re riding with a passenger. Until you are perfectly comfortable handling your motorcycle, avoid carrying passengers, as it is more difficult to safely handle a bike with the extra weight. When you’re ready, practice in a safer environment (like an empty parking lot) before hitting the open road.

Drive safely

  • Keep Your Lights On: The more visible you are to other drivers, the less chance you will have of being hit by one. Always use your headlights – regardless of what time of day it is.
  • Keep Your Distance: Always keep a respectful distance between yourself and other vehicles, particularly those ahead of you. By keeping the road around you clear you will have more time and space to react to vehicles and road conditions. Closing the distance on the vehicle ahead of you shortens your field of vision, and an extended field of vision is particularly important on a motorcycle, because debris or road inconsistencies (like potholes) can cause an accident.
  • Be Defensive: It’s harder for other vehicles to see a motorcycle, so you have to stay alert and aware of what is going on around you. The highest risk areas for motorcycles are in intersections, and entering / exiting alleyways and driveways. Be extra careful and you will enjoy many years of injury-free riding.
  • Lookout For Lefties: When driving straight through an intersection, be aware of oncoming left turning vehicles – they may not see you. By slowing as you enter an intersection and planning an emergency exit route in case the driver doesn’t see you, you can keep yourself safe.
  • Respect the Road: Road conditions in Canada are ever-changing, so be prepared and stay focused. After extended dry conditions, oil soaks into the road’s surface and is easily drawn out when there’s a sudden rain shower. This makes the road a dangerous place for all drivers, not just motorcyclists, but motorcyclists need to be especially careful, as they aren’t protected by the steel cage of a car.
  • Go cheap: You may want to impress everyone with your first ride, but choosing a less expensive bike is a good idea. Less expensive bikes generally aren’t as powerful, which makes them easier to handle. Cheaper bikes will save you money on repairs, and you’ll see a definite financial advantage on your next motorcycle insurance quote. Once you gain some experience and confidence on your bike, an upgrade is always an option!