A Guide to Motorcycle Safety
What You Need to Know
- Consult your motor cycle’s owner’s manual to find important details of your machine’s maintenance requirements, such as the right tyre pressure. See the ‘Maintenance’ section for details.
- In winter months salt will attach itself to your brake callipers and may compromise your braking ability. Be sure to strip the callipers in the summer.
- Once the cold sets in you should switch to winter tyres for the much needed extra grip they provide. See the ‘Weather’ section for details.
- Your helmet should last you 3-5 years, make sure you don’t weaken it by storing it incorrectly, lying on it’s crown or near a source of heat.
- Ensure you can be seen by other motorists by wearing reflective strips or a high visibility jacket. See the ‘Safety Equipment’ section for details.
- Never carry a passenger if they are not wearing appropriate safety gear or do not have sufficient experience of motorcycles. See the ‘Good Habits’ section for details.
- Take an advanced riding course. Not only will it make you more competent on the road, it will allow you to get cheaper bike insurance.
Motorcycle riding is, for many, a rewarding and addictive pastime. Others are attracted to the economical and practical advantages (not least the ability to carve through lanes of static traffic!) However, it is undeniable that, often, motorcyclists are more at risk than other road users. There are a wide number of factors that can contribute to accidents. Often there are steps you can take to increase your control over any given situation. Here are some of the most useful tips for keeping you safe on the road.
It’s absolutely vital to keep your bike in top condition. You should consult your owner’s manual which will feature advice on some of your bike's maintenance needs, including details such as the required tyre pressure.
You should also be aware of how various conditions might wear on your bike. For example, in the winter months you’ll find that salt will attach itself to any exposed metal on your bike, including bolts and, more importantly, brake callipers. This can compromise your braking capabilities and lead to accidents. Be sure to strip the callipers in the summer.
You should also regularly check the forks and shocks and cast an eye over the chain’s tension, lubrication and wear. In addition ensure that the oil, coolant and brake fluid are all at the correct level and that there are no leaks in the hoses or reservoirs.
Finally make sure your bike's electronics are working. Check that the battery is secure, that there is enough electrolyte fluid and that none of the wires are frayed or cracked. Even if all of these are in good order you should still check that all the lights are working before setting off.
Make sure you are prepared for the weather conditions you are going to be driving in. In winter you should switch to cold weather tyres, which are specially designed to heat up quicker and offer you grip when temperatures are lower.
You should make sure you have wind and waterproof gear to help keep you comfortable in the wet. This is very important as it can have a big impact on your concentration levels. It may also be worth investing in a heated garment. This can be wired up to your bike and will work wonders to keep you warm on long journeys.
Crosswinds can also often provide problems for motorcyclists. If you find this to be a particular problem there are modifications to you bike that can be made to decrease the impact of lateral gusts.
The most important piece of biking paraphernalia you can purchase is a good helmet. The right helmet will drastically reduce your chances of suffering a head injury and, if worse comes to worse, may very well save your life. You must always ensure that your visor is cleaned and you should never store your helmet lying on its crown or near a source of heat, as these things can weaken the shell. On average a helmet should last you 3-5 years, depending on how regularly it is used. (You can find out how well your helmet ranks for safety using the SHARP website, the government’s helmet safety initiative.)
High quality protective gear, including jackets and trousers made of leather, nylon or Kevlar are a must have and should have heavy padding built in.
It is also important that your boots are made of a rigid but flexible material with good grip, as this reduces the risk of foot and ankle injuries. It is now increasingly common, for those riding on public roads to wear extra safety items that were previously the preserve of motor-cross riders such as spine, chest and neck protectors.
Finally, it is a good idea to attach reflective strips to your clothing or to wear a visibility jacket when riding. “I didn’t see them” is the excuse used most often by drivers of cars who cut across motorcyclists. Any steps you can take to avoid this being the case are worth taking.
Develop Good Riding Habits
You need to be sure that you always ride within your ability, but this will prove very difficult if your normal riding level is decreased due to tiredness or some other incapacity. Always make sure you feel well rested and physically fit before setting off on any journey. Needless to say, alcohol and safe riding don’t mix.
Never take unnecessary risks and only ever overtake when you have good visibility and can clearly see the whole of the road ahead. This is especially important on bends. A very good rule of thumb is to listen to your inner voice, if something feels wrong don’t do it.
It’s very important that you know your bike well. Learn how to handle the power of your bike and become accustomed to its acceleration. Equally, you need to be familiar with your bikes braking so you’ll know what combination of front and back brakes you need in order to avoid skidding or being sent over the handle bars.
You should only ever carry passengers if your bike is able to accommodate them and both you and they have experience riding motorcycles. A passenger panicking or failing to distribute their weight properly can result in you over-balancing and crashing.
In addition, it is often wise to take an advanced riding course. Not only will this make you a safer and more confident motorcyclist, not mater what the situation, it could also help you get cheaper motorcycle insurance.
You can find out about the Enhanced Rider Scheme here.
- You can find lots off helpful advice on passing your motorcycle test here.
- You can read more tips on motorcycle safety from the government.