Riding a motorcycle is the ultimate freedom. There are few things more exhilarating than having the wide open road unraveling before you without being encased by the bulkiness of a traditional vehicle.
However, whether you’re a seasoned rider or an excited beginner, knowing the essentials of motorcycle handling and safety are crucial for making sure you have a good time.
While you probably already know the basics from either your own experience or from a motorcycle course you just took, it’s still a great idea to brush up on the riding fundamentals every once in a while so that you can stay safe and keep riding freely. Check out our 7 essential motorcycle tips for safe riding and effective handling.
7. Essential Motorcycle Tips
1. Be visible
This probably goes without saying, but motorcycles are considerably smaller than other vehicles on the road, often making them and their riders difficult to see. This is especially true if you are a fan of café racer style bikes, which are designed to be more compact than other styles of motorcycles.
Simply put, being visible means that you are doing everything you can to signal your presence on the road so that you don’t run the risk of going unnoticed by another vehicle and caught up in a risky road situation. It’s recommended that you wear bright clothing or protective gear, rather than a dark ensemble.
Either that, or you could invest in a uniquely-colored bike to make you unmissable on the roads!
2. Pay attention to the surface of the road
Even if you’re riding on freshly paved asphalt, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the surface you’re driving on. Things like spilled oil or other engine liquids like antifreeze can make the road slick and potentially pose a hazard. Keep an eye on any shiny patches on the pavement.
Also, be sure to look out for loose sand or gravel on the road. While this is usually not something you have to be concerned about when driving a car, sandy/gravelly surfaces can occasionally make your motorcycle a little more difficult to handle, so be detail-oriented and be prepared.
3. Keep your eyes focused on where to go
This tip is one of the most commonly shared among riders, and for good reason. Motorcycles will usually go where you’re looking. For example, if you’re making a turn and you’re looking at the curb, chances are that you will probably hit that curb.
Instead, look ahead of your current location and see through to where you want to be, rather than where you are. It’s a difficult thing to learn, since it’s natural for humans to want to maneuver toward their current target, but practicing this can help you become a much more skilled and a much safer rider.
4. Have an escape route
Everyone should know just how important it is to think quickly and be a good problem solver when they ride a motorcycle. The design of a motorcycle means that the rider is more vulnerable and more prone to tipping over than if they were in a four-wheel vehicle, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
In fact, taking advantage of a bike’s slim shape is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe on the road. Because they are lightweight and easily steered (especially small styles like the café racers), motorcycles present you a unique opportunity to get out of potentially dangerous situations quickly and efficiently.
Keep your size in mind and think of ways to use it to your advantage if you need an escape route.
5. Only ride with people you trust
Much like life in general, we should surround ourselves with people that we can rely on. If you’re the type of rider who prefers riding in groups over going solo, make sure that you have confidence in your fellow riders. Sharing a lane with someone who doesn’t follow essential tips like these can put both of you at risk.
Furthermore, riding with people that you know and trust can increase your level of safety on the road because they might be able to catch a potential danger before you do and send you a signal. Also, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to maintain a 20-foot distance between yourself and other riders on the road.
6. Practice maneuvering in figure eights
Especially if you’re fairly new to riding a motorcycle, it’s a good idea to take some time and practice your bike handling in a safe location like an empty parking lot. Turning a motorcycle can be tricky depending on which hand is your dominant one, but being adept at maneuvering your bike will increase your safety on the road.
That’s why practicing turning in figure eights is a great exercise. It will help you become more comfortable with the overall motion and will also make you more familiar with the fluidity of moving the bike from left to right in a tighter space. Increasing your overall skill level will no doubt increase your safety.
7. Don’t stay in the center when traffic slows
When you’re riding and you notice that that traffic around you is slowing down, whether it’s because of an approaching traffic light or an unseen blockage up ahead, never maneuver your motorcycle into the center of the lane. Instead, move either to the right or the left of the vehicle in front of you.
Remember what we said about escape routes? Keep that in mind here. Staying to the left or the right of vehicles in slowing traffic will help you prevent being squished between two cars if the vehicle approaching behind you fails to stop in time. Watch your rearview mirror.
In general, always pay attention to what’s happening around you and be prepared to act. Motorcycles can present you with a lot of freedom and opportunity for adventure; knowing these essential tips will keep you safely riding on into the sunset.