To ride a motorcycle is to make a million decisions with each passing minute. Some of those decisions are big. Some of them are small. But all of them are in pursuit of the same ultimate goal: stay on the bike, and stay alive. That’s kind of the fun of it though, isn’t it? The feeling of freedom that comes with being one with the bike and the pavement beneath it. Every bump in the road; every crack in the highway — you feel them, and you react.
Riding a motorcycle has this way of dragging you headlong into the present, because if you let your concentration drift too much, well… we’ve seen our fair share of crash scene photos, and we’d rather leave them to your imagination.
A lot of those million decisions you’re making are unconscious. They’re not things you actively think about. They’re the product of your experience, your training, and instinct — plus a bit of that human will to live. But there are some things you should be actively putting thought towards when you’re on the road. If these are things you’re already thinking about each time you ride, that’s awesome! There’s nothing wrong with a refresher.
With a big assist from the California Highway Patrol, let’s jump back in with or next three reminders:
Reminder #7: Keep an eye out for any debris on the road.
If you’ve ever picked gravel out of a wound, you know just how terrible that stuff can be. There’s that old saying, “There are two types of rider, those who have gone down and those who are going down.” Whichever camp you’re in, there’s a decent chance gravel will play apart in it. Invariably, you don’t see it until you’re coming up on a turn, and once you do you’ve got to hope the right instincts kick in. (Note: locking your brakes is the wrong course of action.) Debris or an obstacle of any kind can spell disaster for even the most experiences of riders. You’ve only got two wheels, so it’s best if you don’t get one caught up on something other than the road.
To make sure you always keep the rubber side down, keep those eyes roving across the road for any potential hazards. Things you wouldn’t think twice about driving over in a car might be the deciding factor in whether you get home safely tonight. In addition to the dreaded gravel, steer clear of sand, manhole covers, wet leaves, and oil slicks. Basically, if it’s not supposed to be there, you really shouldn’t be riding over it.
Reminder #8: Stay clear of blind spots.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to change lanes on the highway, only to hear the squawk of a horn from right beside you? Did you remember to check your mirrors? Your blindspots? Or did it slip your mind? It happens to everyone at one point or another. A tiny lapse in concentration brings us inches from a new paint job. And that’s why, when you’re riding your motorcycle, you should never assume that drivers cars can or will see you. Especially if you’re in their blind spot. Though the noise of a motorcycle certainly helps with being noticed, they’re still a lot smaller than a full-sized sedan (and not everyone is going to hear you).
Considering how few motorcycles there are on the road comparatively, it’s no surprise to learn that most drivers look for cars first and foremost when checking their blindspots. So steer clear of them as best you can. Not every driver checks their mirrors, and you don’t want to be drawing alongside them the one time they don’t.
Reminder #9: Be predictable. Predictability means caring.
That is, avoid sudden starts, stops, or turns. It might sound passive to be predictable, but in fact it’s a really smart defensive riding technique. To ride in a predictable way doesn’t mean “be boring.” It means that you’re not doing anything that could spook drivers on the road around you, potentially causing an accident. When you get on the road, you’re surrounded by thousands of people purportedly following the same motorist rulebook, which give rise to what is expected, and what is not. Predictability is how we’re able to have three ton vehicles coming within feet of one another while roaring down the highway and unnatural speeds. Predictability is what allows us all to get home to our families at night, instead of ending up in a crumpled heap at the foot of a canyon.
Operating outside these norms is dangerous. It’s a wrench suddenly hucked into a finely oiled machine. You want drivers to be able to accurately anticipate your next move. Doing so is how you will stay safe.
Bonus Reminder: Keep your eyes on the road ahead.
The list of things you need to think about is long and winding, much like the roads most fun to ride. We’re going to be releasing a bunch more tips like the three above over the coming weeks, so stay tuned, and keep your eyes on the road ahead!
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“California Motorcyclist Training.” California Highway Patrol. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
“Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Motorcycle Safety Gear.” Retrieved 13 February 2020.
“You and Your Motorcycle.” Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
“Motorcycle Safety is a Two-way Street.” National Safety Council. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
“Motorcycle Accidents: Common Causes.” NOLO. Retrieved 13 February 2020..