The number of households with at least one motorcycle has gone up — it’s now 8.02% of all U.S. households!
Now, that may seem like a small 1.08% increase from the 6.94% ownership back in 2014. But that still means there are now 1.5 million more homes owning a motorcycle. Even the number of female riders has increased – almost 20% of riders are women!
In total, Americans now own a whopping 13,158,100 registered motorcycles.
If you’re thinking of joining this crowd of bike owners, you need more than the best model your money can buy. You need to learn and follow motorcycle safety tips that’ll let you get the most out of your road trips. Most importantly, safe riding tactics that can keep you — and other people on the road — breathing.
Ready to ride safe and sound and get to your destination in one piece? Then let’s get this list of safety tips started!
1. Buy Only What Your Riding Skills Can Handle
Let’s face it. A lot of us want the biggest, baddest ride out there. But if it doesn’t feel right, or it feels too big or too heavy, it likely is, and it’s an accident waiting to happen.
That said, stick to a model that fits your body to a T, whether you’re buying your first bike or after taking a long break. That means it should let your feet rest completely flat on the ground as you’re seated. If you have to tiptoe, that’s a sign the bike is too big.
While still seated, check how easy it is to reach the handlebars and control. Doing so shouldn’t put a lot of strain on your arms and make the muscles in them feel too taut. We don’t need to tell you what can happen if the brakes are too far and you need to clutch them during an emergency.
As for which engine size, this depends on what your riding needs and goals are. But know that today’s engines are way faster than those manufactured a decade or two ago.
Let’s say you’re planning to commute with the bike most of the time. A model with an engine between 250- and 300-cc can already be a great starting point.
But if highway and long distance rides are on your list, you need something with twice or thrice the power. A bike equipped with a 500- to 750-cc engine would be enough to conquer those long stretches of roads.
2. Don’t Head Out without Head Gear
Even if your state doesn’t mandate helmet use, don’t risk it. Helmets can lower your risk of dying in a motorcycle accident by up to 37%. They also have a 67% effectiveness rate in preventing brain injuries.
If someone will ride with you, be sure they wear a helmet too. In a crash, they’re more likely to get thrown farther, sustain more serious injuries, and die.
This is evident in the motorcycle fatalities back in 2010. 50% of motorcycle passengers who died were helmetless. For helmet-less operators, the rate was 41%.
The bottom line is, motorcycle road safety starts with donning your helmet. It can save your life, period.
3. Dress Up As Norman Reedus Does
We’re talking Norman Reedus in actual life, and not his TWD persona. If you haven’t seen his “Ride with Norman Reedus” show yet, now’s the best time to. You can learn a lot from it, especially the right — and safe way — to dress and gear up.
For starters, avoid taking your baby out for a ride wearing only jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. You can wear a T-shirt, but make sure you put on a reinforced jacket, or to look more awesome, a leather type one. Your pants should cover your entire lower body, all the way down the ankles.
Ditch your ankle socks, and instead, use longer ones, such as summer socks. Also, invest in high quality vented motorcycle boots for summer rides to keep your heels cool. Get touring boots with extra insulation for your winter road trips.
Your bike’s windscreen can only do so much, so be sure to wear goggles or use your helmet visor. Choose gloves that offer adequate water-proofing, ventilation, and abrasion resistance.
Your gear will act as a barrier from flying debris, wind chill, and yes, even insects and bird poop. They’ll also protect you from road rash, in case you slide out.
4. Enroll in a Riding Course
Check with the nearest Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) for available riding courses. If you’re new to riding, go for a course that starts with the basics and also teaches advanced techniques. You’ll learn emergency maneuvers that can help you evade disasters.
Complete these courses, and you may even qualify for discounted motorcycle insurance premiums!
5. Always Conduct a Pre-Ride Inspection
Riding safely also means riding on tires with proper pressure and enough tread depth. If your tires have a tread depth below 2/32 of an inch, time to get them changed.
Make sure all your blinkers are working too, from the directional signals to the tail lights. Your horn should be honking loud enough for other motorists and passengers to hear. Also, check all your fluids, brakes, and chain or shaft before you roll out.
6. Make Yourself Visible at All Times
Two-thirds of multiple vehicle accidents involving motorcycles result from the other driver’s error. The error? They violate the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.
The cause? Many of the violating drivers say they didn’t see the motorcycle.
That said, it’s best to assume that other motorists can’t see you, so do what you can to make yourself visible to them. Don’t ride within another vehicle’s blind spot and always turn your headlights on. Ready your signal lights well before you make the turn, and always check for turning vehicles.
7. Winterize Your Ride
The biting, cold wind on your face during winter rides is the least of your problems. If you’re going to tough it out and ride your bike in winter, make sure you get winter tires. These have increased traction, designed to have a better grip on that very cold and slippery snow.
Get all those moving parts lubed on a regular basis, particularly the chain drive and cables. You should also lubricate the fork surfaces, pivot points, and controls.
Doing so helps keep the moisture from turning into ice and causing binding. Binding can limit their movement, which can mean stuck brakes when you need them the most!
8. … But Avoid Riding in Extreme Weather
If there’s too much rain, heavy winds, or non-stop snow, better not risk it. Leave your precious bike at home and use an enclosed vehicle instead.
In case you really need to ride, let several minutes pass after the rain started. It’s right after the first wave of precipitation hitting the road that can be the deadliest time to ride. The rain can push oil residue up the road’s surface, making it slicker and more slippery.
9. Slow Down
Your tires are thinner than those on a standard vehicle, so they have less contact with the road’s surface. This surface contact drops, even more, when debris, like sand, pebbles, and leaves, are stuck on them. Drive fast with these on your tires, and you’re at a higher risk of sliding and spilling.
Road debris isn’t always avoidable, but slowing down is well within your control. It’s even more important to slow down when driving in the rain or on snowy conditions. Also, always keep a safe driving distance from the vehicle in front — a distance longer than the car ahead.
10. Use Antilock Brakes
Use your bike’s antilock brakes — it can reduce fatal crash risks by 37%. After all, ABS still gives you enough steering control during panic stops. With more control, you can maneuver better and avoid skidding, slipping, and crashing.
Luckily, most modern bikes on the upper price tier already come with this technology. If you’re gearing towards a lower-priced model, you should still get ABS. It’ll cost you a few more hundred dollars, but your insurer may let you offset it with lower premiums.
11. Don’t Drink and Ride
Without airbags to cushion you in a crash, riding a motorcycle while drunk can be the last thing you’ll ever do. Even if your BAC level is only .05, this can already slow your response times. It also increases your risks for committing performance errors.
If you’ve had a couple of 12-ounce beers within an hour, your BAC is likely at 0.05 already. Stop downing those bottles and sober up in the next hour before you hop on your bike. Better yet, have someone else take you and your bike home.
12. Ride with Your Lights on At Night
Reduced lighting, which leads to impaired vision, makes riding at night a risky feat. Come night time, our body’s reaction time also slows down. Furthermore, our physical and mental fatigue worsens and deepens at the end of the day.
These are some of the reasons that back in 2009, 49% of traffic fatalities occurred in the evening.
If you can’t avoid night riding, be sure to operate your bike with all the proper lights on. Wear motorcycle gear that has reflective fabric, or at least night-visible piping. Get your bike some reflective tape too, as this makes you easier to spot in the dark.
Master these Motorcycle Safety Tips and Etiquette
Remember, motorcycle accidents claimed about 14 lives every day in 2017. You don’t want to be part of the statistics, so make sure you keep these motorcycle safety tips in mind. Plus, safe riding means you can enjoy and make the most out of your open air trips.
Need more riding advice for beginners or a refresher on motorcycle riding tips? Then be sure to check out our ultimate guide on motorcycle etiquette!