Cool Bike Rides
That's how I end most of my coorespondence and I mean it. Having been in an accident myself since writing this piece, I mean it even more...
Whether you're new to riding or an old veteran, you should always be focused on safety. There are many different things you can do to ensure your safety while riding that should be applied each and every time you head out on the road!
I have a freind who belongs to one of the Star Rider chapters here in Massachusetts and she's told me they host a rider safety day for all members each year. Many of these folks have been riding their entire adult lives but will take the time to attend the event to be sure they brush up early in the season.
Below you will find a few safety tips and some recommendations you can apply when you hit the road. By no means is this to be considered complete, but it's a great start...
Use Common Sense
All right, this one should go without saying but let's face it, we don't always practice this rule in life. Applying a little common sense to all we do generally leads to better decisions.
Don't Drink and Ride
This is another obvious one but not one practiced by all. As a biker, you should always be practicing defensive riding techniques. In other words, you need to be looking out for the "other guy" as well as things like potholes, debris in the road, dogs, and anything else that may pose a danger. The ability to perform this task can be greatly impaired by alchohol and drugs, In addition, alchohol can impair your ability to balance properly. Ever seen a sobriety test being administered? There's always one or two balance tests issued for a reason. It's a sure fire way to tell someone's been drinking to the point of being impaired. Riding requires great balance. Impair that and disaster is sure to follow...
Wear The Proper Gear
Unfortunately, accidents can and do happen. It's important you be prepared in the event one does. Wear the proper gear when you ride. This should include a DOT approved helmet, gloves, sturdy boots, and at the very least long clothing. Leather can be fashionable and offer you a good deal of protection from the road should you ever lay your bike down. There's also a ton of body armor available to help you keep your skin where it belongs. It's also a good idea to have bright colors (reflective designs and patches are available on some leather products and can be added to others) to ensure other drivers can see you on the road.
Keep Your Speed In Check
Speed is one of the biggest factors in motorcycle accidents. Riding fast can sure seem like a lot of fun until you hit a curve you can't negotiate, or a branch that fell into the road. Keep your speed at a safe level and live to ride another day!
A bike is tough to see at night. Be sure you have all of the proper reflectors on your bike and that all of your lights are working properly. In addition, don't overrun your headlight. You can't see nearly as far at night so your reaction time is diminished greatly. Stay focused and keep your speed down to a point that your reaction time is enough that you can respond to danger within your field of vision.
Look Through Your Turns
This is probably one of the more difficult things to get used to doing when you're new to riding. As you start your lean into your turn, you shouldn't be focusing on the pavement immediately in front of you. You should be looking where you're going. That means you're looking at the furthest point you can see in your turn. You're brain (assumption here is you have one ;-) will help take you smoothly to that point. You'll find your turns are smoother than ever once you perfect this habit!
Group rides can be a blast. There's nothing cooler than running down the road with a large group of bikes! There are also some safety advantages to a group ride such as a larger group is much more visible than a single rider. If you're new to riding or are prepping to do your first group ride, you should take a few minutes to check out this video:
Take A Rider Training Course
I recommend a rider safety course for any and every rider who hits the road. Even if you've been riding for years, if you haven't taken one, do so. You're apt to learn a few things. Here in Western Massachusetts, we have the Pioneer Valley Rider Training which is a fantastic school that will help you start off right! They also offer advanced courses for folks who've been riding for a while and want to keep improving or just want to brush up on their skills. My wife's uncle Tim in Florida is a Master Tech at a large Harley dealer in Florida and has been riding since he was like 16. He took a course down there back around 2000 and says he learned a ton of great tips and hhas never ridden better!
Take your safety seriously. I thank God I did as my helmet at the very least safed me a ton of greif if not my life. So as always, shiney side up and ride safe!