overlooked, these are very important aspects of motorcycle safety.
Operating a motorcycle safely is much more physically and mentally
demanding than driving a car. Are you physically able to ride safely?
Are you mentally prepared to ride and concentrate on the riding tasks?
Many things can impair either or both. Some things are rather obvious,
some not. Consider this list:
have been drinking for the past two hours.
are just getting over a pretty bad case of the flu.
have just been notified that a member of your family has passed away.
just had an argument with your spouse.
is obvious that item 1 will impair your physical abilities to operate a
motorcycle. Item 2 is less obvious but potentially just as dangerous.
You may feel MUCH better, but after a day or two of extreme weakness
and bed rest, you are not back to 100% as quickly as you may think.
Your bike falling from under you when your leg is too weak to hold it
up at a stop is not the time to realize it.
3 and 4 similarly both impair mental readiness. Item 3 is obvious, but
item 4 will generally cause you to have your mind elsewhere, at least
temporarily. I've been told that it's no big deal because it happens
all the time. I have to say that it IS a big deal, at least to you, or
you would never have been arguing in the first place.
would be impossible to list all things that could impair your
abilities. The key is to be aware of your physical and
mental condition and save the ride for later if there is anything that
could substantially impair either. Your life may depend on it.
most people hear the term "riding gear", they think of things that will
lessen injury in case of a fall. While that is a big part of it, riding
gear can and should be used to help keep you from falling in the first
place. Never thought about it that way? If not, you're certainly not
alone. Proper riding gear is used to maintain comfort as well as
provide crash protection. Discomfort can actually CAUSE a fall.
what is proper riding gear? It depends on the conditions, but at
minimum it is:
helmet approved by DOT, and preferably also by Snell. The helmet should
fit snug but not be too tight. In other words, it should be
comfortable. Besides being the best defense against head injury in case
of a fall, a helmet has some other advantages as well.
long-sleeved shirt or jacket, snug at the wrists.
gloves. Besides abrasion protection, gloves usually offer a better grip
on the controls, especially in condition extremes. In the cold, you
will need them to stay warm. In the heat, sweaty hands or fingers may
slip off the controls. Gloves offer a buffer against this. They also
provide some level of protection against flying objects, such as rocks
picked up by traffic or insects, that inevitably will collide with your
protection. This may be goggles, a face-shield, or glasses. Windshields
attached to motorcycles DO NOT offer adequate eye protection.
footwear, preferably leather and preferably over the ankle. Besides the
obvious abrasion protection, on most motorcycles there are many hot
parts that reside near your feet and ankles. You should also try to
avoid long or dangling laces. Your quick thinking may be put to the
test if you come to a stop and your foot won't go down because you have
a lace caught in the shifter or brake pedal.
Sure Your Motorcycle Is Ready
being ready to ride is only part of the battle. You need to make sure
your motorcycle is ready too. You should perform a quick, overall
inspection of your motorcycle before each ride. To do this, use what is
referred to as the T-CLOCK inspection, explained below.
- Tires and wheels
Check your tires for proper air pressure, tread depth, cracks, bulges
or embedded objects. Check wheels for dents, cracks and roundness.
Check spokes for proper tightness or missing spokes. Check bearings and
seals for signs of failure.
Check all levers, making sure they are not broken, bent, cracked or
loose. Check the condition and routing of control cables, making sure
they move freely, are not frayed, and have no sharp angles, and are of
sufficient length as to not interfere with steering. Check that all
hoses are are in good condition and don't interfere with steering. Make
sure your throttle moves freely, with no sticking and snaps closed when
- Lights and electrical
Check your battery, making sure the terminals are clean, electrolyte
fluid is sufficient, and that it is properly secured. Check your
headlight, making sure it works, has no cracks and is aimed properly.
Check all other lights and reflectors for operation, cracks and
fastening. Check wiring, looking for frays, clean connections and
- Oil and fluids
Check oil and fluid levels, including brake and clutch fluid, coolant
and of course gasoline. Check all fluid reservoirs, hoses and lines for
Check condition of the frame, looking for cracks, dents or bends. Check
forks and shocks, making sure they travel freely and are properly
adjusted. Check chain or belt, for proper tension, lubrication and
wear. Check all fasteners, bolts and cotter pins, making sure they are
not missing, broken or loose.
the side stand and center stand. Make sure they are not cracked or
bent, and that they spring into place and the tension is sufficient to
this sounds like a lot, this inspection can be performed quite quickly.
While it won't guarantee against a failure of some sort, it increases
your odds of finding problems before they become
dangerous or fatal.
a passenger on a motorcycle is not like taking someone with you in a
car. A passenger affects the overall handling and dynamics of your
motorcycle. Unless you are a fairly skilled rider, you probably should
not even consider taking on a passenger.
you do carry a passenger, you should know and do the following:
carry a passenger unless your motorcycle is designed for one, including
seating space and passenger foot pegs.
- NEVER allow a passenger to
sit anywhere except on the area of the seat designated for a passenger.
sure that the weight of yourself, your passenger and all gear does not
exceed the maximum recommended weight for your motorcycle according to
sure your passenger has proper riding gear. It's just as important for
your passenger to be protected and comfortable as it is for you.
sure your passenger knows what he/she is supposed to do. Unless the
person has ridden with you many times and you know he/she understands
the rules, take the time to go over them before you start your ride.
The passenger should:
- Keep his/her feet on the foot pegs at all
times, and avoid contact with hot parts.
- Sit still as much as possible, particularly
when slowing or stopped.
- Always lean with the motorcycle. This means the
passenger's torso should always be the same angle as the motorcycle.
They should not lean in or out.
- When in a turn, look over the shoulder of the
operator in the direction of the turn.
sure your suspension is properly adjusted for the extra weight.
loading your motorcycle, you need to do more than just randomly fill
space. Check your owner's manual to find out your gross carrying
capacity and never exceed it. Whether you have a touring machine with a
travel trunk and saddlebags, or a standard motorcycle, the rule is the
same - the bulk of the weight should be placed low and as close to the
center of the motorcycle as possible.
the weight evenly on both sides, and if using manufactured bags, never
exceed the weight recommendation for that bag. Make sure that any
attached load is securely fastened, and that any straps are tight, have
no loose ends, and not freely moving. Make sure that any attached load
does not block any lights or turn signals, or interfere with your
steering, braking, shifting, or other control of the motorcycle.