We all know that riding a bike carries a few more risks than sitting behind the wheel of a car, but by applying a few simple strategies, we can reduce that risk significantly. I'm not here to preach; you're going to do what you want anyway, and so you should. I'd just like you to do it safely.
By wearing bright clothing and a light coloured helmet, the guy who is talking on his cell phone about last night's game, has a better chance of seeing you. If all car drivers were as vigilant as the average motorcycle rider, we wouldn't have to take these measures, but their not, and saying sorry just isn't enough. Always ride with your headlight on.
We've already talked about the crash helmet, but it's such a crucial piece of kit that it deserves another mention. A white or silver helmet is favourite, but there's another aspect of the lid that's probably more important; the fit. An ill fitting helmet can cause an accident by distraction. If it's too small, it's going to be very uncomfortable, but if it's too big, you'll be forever pulling it back down onto your head or adjusting the strap that feels like it's going to decapitate you, when you should be watching the road.
This probably should be number one. Excessive speed causes more motorcycle accidents than anything else. Apart from being downright unsociable, speed can not only be a sure-fire way of losing your licence, it can also empty your bank account, but I suppose having no money doesn't matter when you're dead.
Hopefully, your motorcycle will have been maintained to a certain degree, but before you set out on a journey, whether it be long or short, check that your lights are working and the tyre pressures are what they should be. A visual check of the chain (if you have one) is also a good idea. If you're riding your own bike, you will notice if there are any unusual sounds coming from the machine. If there are, stop and investigate.
As we said, bright clothing is better, but a yellow pair of shorts isn't exactly what I was thinking of. Anyone who has slid across the tarmac for more than two feet will tell you that your clothing needs to offer some protection. If you do come off your bike, the first thing you're going to do is reach out with your hands in order to protect your face, so wear a decent pair of gloves or forfeit your skin.
ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
I shouldn't really have to include this section, and the people who use the road under the influence of alcohol or drugs aren't going to listen to anyone anyway, but I'd just like to ask anyone who does, to let me know when they're going to be out and about, so that I can keep myself and my family off the road. No, no, no.
RIDING AN UNFAMILIAR BIKE
If you've just bought a new bike, or you've borrowed your mate's machine, take a little time to familiarise yourself with the handling before you get too carried away. Even bikes of the same make have their own little foibles and need to feel loved.
Tiredness is a definite killer, especially on a motorcycle when you need to be on the ball one hundred percent of the time. I know if you're on a long journey it's not easy to pull over to the side of the road and have forty winks, but it may be well worth stopping for a coffee.
RIDING WITH A PILLION
Riding with a pillion can turn your beautiful-handling machine into a monster, especially if you're not used to it. A pillion affects the balance, performance and handling of any bike, so be aware from the outset that there's someone behind you. Another thing to bear in mind is that your pillion doesn't need the living daylights scared out of them. Be courteous to your passenger.
One of the most important weapons in your armoury is anticipation. Try to anticipate trouble before it happens. Ride as if you're invisible and expect cars to pull out in front of you, so that when they do you are mentally prepared and have adopted a good road position and speed to handle it.
If you fancy it, it may be a good idea to attend a training session or two. I know; I'm not your Dad, but I do want you to arrive safely. Safe riding.
Alan Liptrot is the founder of http://www.motorbike-tours.co.uk The Company offers guided motorcycle tours in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. We will guide you through the plains and mountains of Southern Europe and North Africa. The tours can be seen at http://www.motorbike-tours.co.uk/tour.htm
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