|Motorcycle Safety Tips
SAFETY TIP 1
Riding In the Rain Requires Preparation
- Getting the right gear, making sure the bike is ready for
action, and ensuring you have the proper skills will make your rain
riding experience safer and more enjoyable.
- It is best to avoid riding in the rain for the first 15
minutes, that is when all the oils that are left behind by car tires
rises to the surface and is most slick.
- Put your gear on BEFORE you get wet.
- Is my gear ready?
- High Quality Rain Gear (Waterproof, Highly Visible,
- Boots (Waterproof)
- Gloves (Waterproof, Squeegee on left thumb for wiping visor)
- Helmet (Full-face preferred; consider using anti-fogging
product or soaking the visor in warm water with liquid soap)
- Is my motorcycle ready?
- Am I ready?
- Be prepared to ride when there is less than perfect traction
- Increase safety margin and following distance.
- Try to keep the bike upright and use less lean angle when
- More than anything, your skills should meet or preferably
exceed the riding scenario.
SAFETY TIP 2
ABS: Stopping Quickly with Technology
Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) for motorcycles appeared for the first
time in 1981 on BMW motorcycles. Systems vary, but in general ABS use
computers to monitor wheel spin to determine when a wheel is on the
verge of locking up. Instant instructions are given to the braking
components to release and reapply braking pressure to prevent skidding
even though steady pressure is applied at the brake lever or pedal. The
end result is slowing or stopping without losing traction; a big
advantage for motorcyclists.
ABS systems are easy to use from a rider's perspective: BRAKE HARD!
Aggressive braking will initiate the ABS system immediately allowing the
rider to concentrate on the immediate threat versus possible loss of
ARE WE SAFER? WHAT'S NEXT?
A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
revealed that motorcycles equipped with antilock brakes are 37 percent
less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than models without ABS.
California Highway Patrol, concluded after testing that ABS reduced the
number and severity of accidents and now mandate them on their police
Domestically, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is
looking seriously at making ABS mandatory for all new motorcycles sold
in the United States. Internationally, the European Union will approve
later this year a mandate requiring all motorcycles greater than 125cc
to come with ABS as standard piece of equipment sold by motorcycle
manufacturers after 2016.
Pieter de Waal, Vice President, BMW Motorrad USA, says "It's time for
all of us in the motorcycle industry to embrace the benefits of ABS.
Extensive testing by safety experts, law enforcement authorities and
journalists around the world consistently demonstrates that ABS reduces
overall crashes and saves lives." BMW will be the first to offer all
models with ABS as standard as early as 2012.
SAFETY TIP 3
Brake Fluid: Key Ingredient to Stopping Well
Riding a motorcycle well includes not only going fast, but stopping
with control and precision. Motorcycles offer high performance in an
affordable package with some motorcycles capable of going from 0-60 in
just over 2 seconds. With all that go power, we need to make sure we can
stop quickly to avoid a hazard. To be safe we should understand how
brake fluid works and when it needs to be replaced.
How Brake Fluid Works
Brake fluid resides in a chamber called a master cylinder and within the
brake lines (series of hoses, braided lines, connections, and/or metal
tubing). When a rider actuates the brake lever or pedal, typically a
piston presses the brake fluid on one end of the system. The brake fluid
presses on the pistons within the caliper on the other end of the system
causing the pistons to squeeze the brake pads to the rotor. The
resulting friction from the brake pads to the rotor helps to stop us.
(See Figure 3)
When to Replace Brake Fluid
Brake fluid is one key ingredient to our braking system on a motorcycle,
but it often gets overlooked at designated service intervals. Of course
we should check with the Motorcycle Owner's Manual to determine when to
replace our brake fluid and what type (e.g., DOT 4) is necessary for
replacement. Here's some insight into brake fluid:
DOT 3/4/5.1 fluids have some benefits:
- Glycol ether based, thus it doesn't compress creating a firm
brake lever feel
- Recommended for high performance applications
- Color changes helping user to understand when to replace
- The higher the DOT rating, the higher the boiling point
DOT 3/4/5.1 fluids have some negatives:
DOT 5 has some benefits:
- Silicone Based
- High DOT Rating
- Don't absorb water
- Doesn't strip paint
DOT 5 has some negatives:
- Absorbs air
- Higher Viscosity for slower reaction
- NOT recommended for high performance applications
- NOT compatible with the other traditional brake fluids
Why should we change brake fluid every one to two years? Brake fluid
rated DOT 3/4/5.1 are all considered "hygroscopic". Meaning, the fluid
absorbs water which can cause corrosion within the brake system from the
inside out. It can also create boiling within the system causing the
brake lever to feel "spongy" and resulting in a loss of effectiveness.
DOT 5 Brake fluid is a bit different as it is silicone based versus
glycol based, and requires changing slightly more frequently. Its major
drawback is that it absorbs air and causes compression over time. It is
for this reason that it must be changed often to ensure safe operation
of your braking system.
Due to the fact that our braking system may be our greatest asset to
avoiding a crash, we recommend that your brake system is maintained by a
SAFETY TIP 4
Riding 2 Up
The passenger should be aware of the risks of motorcycling before they
even consider riding as a passenger. If they are under 18, we should
consider getting parent/guardian approval before riding. Keep in mind,
it is mandatory for riders under 18 to have a DOT approved helmet and
they must be able to reach their own set of foot pegs. Riding that niece
or nephew around the block on the tank may look cute to some, but law
enforcement regards this as Felony Child Endangerment.
Here's a quick checklist of items to discuss with your passenger:
- How to mount the motorcycle, especially how to avoid the hot
- Where to hold onto the bike/rider
- How to position the body when stopping and taking off, including
keeping the feet on the footrests at all times (no sudden movements)
- Proper attire before mounting the motorcycle
- Where to look during turns and cornering
- When crossing over an obstacle, rising slightly off the seat
SAFETY TIP 5
Motorcycling is a complex psychomotor task that includes mental,
physical and social competencies
and abilities. Motorcycling is a mental task because a rider must
process information and make decisions; motorcycling
is a physical task because it requires simple and complex motor skills;
and motorcycling is a social task because
it requires interaction with other highway users. Safe motorcycling is
more a skill of the eyes and mind than of the
hands and feet. Having a superior mental strategy reduces the need for
superior handing skills. Although having the
superior handling skills for that "Oh S_t!" moment is a great tool to
have in your tool case, safety on the road is more
about using the eyes well and using the brain to sort, organize and
prioritize factors in the traffic environment.
SAFETY TIP 6
Improper searching for hazards and inattention were the two leading
causes of traffic accidents. Today, it is important
for motorcyclists to be more vigilant and perceptive than ever. Devices
that distract other drivers are on the increase,
from cell phones that can be used for talking or texting to video
devices and navigation systems that create inattention to
the driving task.
SAFETY TIP 7
Use SEE (Search-Evaluate-Execute) as a personal riding strategy (see
Figure 4). Search, a visual function, means to actively scan and
identify factors that could create increased risk; Evaluate, a cognitive
function, means to consider potential problems from the interaction of
those factors; and Execute, a motor skills function, refers to physical,
manipulative actions required for communication as well as time and
space adjustments. SEE is an active, thinking strategy that places
responsibility on the motorcyclist to reduce risk by creating time and
space in order to control a personal margin of safety. Look ahead. Look
to the side. Look in your mirrors. Look over your shoulders. Keep
looking! Anticipate the oncoming, left-turning driver, the reckless fool
coming up behind you, the car poking its nose out of the driveway, the
guy beside and a little behind you who’s moving across the lane divider.
Never let your eyes fix on an object for more than two seconds. Keep
SAFETY TIP 8
Successfully piloting a motorcycle is a much more involved task than
driving a car. Motorcycling requires a fine sense
of balance and a heightened sense of awareness and position amidst other
roadway users (See Fig 5). A motorcycle responds
more quickly to rider inputs than a car, but is also more sensitive to
outside forces, like irregular road surfaces or
crosswinds. A motorcycle is also less visible than a car due to its
narrower profile, and offers far less protection by
exposing its rider to other traffic and the elements.
SAFETY TIP 9
Check Your Motorcycle
A motorcycle needs more frequent attention than a car. A minor
technical failure on a car is seldom more than an
inconvenience for the driver. The same failure on a motorcycle may
result in a crash or having to leave your motorcycle
parked on the side of the road. If anything’s wrong with your
motorcycle, you’ll want to find out about it before
you get in traffic. The primary source of information about how a
motorcycle should be inspected and maintained is
its owner’s manual. Be sure to absorb all of its important information.
A motorcycle will continue to ride like new if it is properly
maintained and routine inspections become part of its maintenance cycle.
A pre-ride inspection only takes
a few minutes and should be done before every ride to prevent problems.
It’s quick and easy to check the critical
components and should be as routine and automatic as checking the
weather forecast before heading out for the day.
A convenient reminder developed by MSF is T-CLOCS. (See
T-CLOCS Inspection Checklist.pdf)
SAFETY TIP 10
A motorcycle crash is usually caused by a combination of factors that
accumulate and come together in such a way as to
cause a crash. A good rider chooses to reduce these factors. Each factor
can be viewed as a rung on a ladder. The more
factors that are accumulating the higher you will climb up the ladder. A
reasonable person would not choose to climb to
the top of a 24' ladder and jump. Be aware of your risk factors. (See
SAFETY TIP 11
Improper braking technique remains a significant contributing factor
in many motorcycle crashes. Your motorcycle has two brake controls: one
for the front wheel and one for the rear wheel. Some motorcycles have
braking systems that will apply pressure to one or both brakes for you.
Always use both brakes every time you slow or stop. The front brake will
provide at least 70% of your total stopping power due to weigh transfer
during the stopping process. As the motorcycle’s weight transfers
forward, more traction becomes available at the front wheel, so the
front brake can be applied progressively harder after braking begins.
Using both brakes for even “normal” stops will permit you to develop the
proper habit or skill of using both brakes properly in an emergency.
When you have the opportunity, practice your braking. You can always get
better at it.
SAFETY TIP 12
Braking in a Corner
Any time a motorcycle is leaned over, the amount of traction
available for braking is reduced. The greater the lean angle, the more
the possibility of the tires losing traction. A motorcycle's tires have
a finite amount of traction available. Some of this traction reserve is
being used in a curve to prevent the motorcycle from slipping off the
curve. In order to stop a motorcycle quickly in a curve and not exceed
the motorcycle's traction reserve.
SAFETY TIP 13
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Our eyes don’t
necessarily tell our brain what we see;
rather our brain tells our eyes what to look for. Look quickly at Fig 7
and Fig 8, what do you see?
SAFETY TIP 14
Since a motorcycle is smaller than a car we can divide a lane into 3
parts. We need to choose a lane and position ourselves within that lane
to provide the best opportunity for searching ahead and gives us the
greatest probability of being seen by other traffic. Additionally, keep
a large a time and space cushion as possible to provide room to respond
to other traffic. Lane position should not be static but dynamic. A
motorcycle moving side to side is easier to spot than a motorcycle that
is static and blends with traffic. (See Fig 9 and Fig 9a)
SAFETY TIP 15
Do not ride in peoples blind spots. Tractor trailer truck have huge
blind spots. Minimize the amount of time you are near large trucks. Stay
out of the No-Zone (See Fig 10)
SAFETY TIP 16
It probably surprises no one to know that the majority of accidents
involving collisions between a motorcycle and another vehicle happens at
intersections – the most frequent situation being that of a vehicle
turning left in front of a motorcycle. Wiggle your handlebars and
therefore your headlight when approaching an intersection where other
vehicles have the possibility of entering your right of way.
SAFETY TIP 17
Quite often you’ll have to ride at night. After all, it is dark 50
percent of the time. Dusk is really the worst time, when people’s eyes
are adjusting from daylight to headlights. Be especially careful just
after sunset. Usually it is advisable to slow down a little when riding
at night, especially on any sort of winding road. Use your own headlight
and those of other traffic to keep an eye on the road surface. It is
more difficult at night to see the patch of sand or something that fell
out of a pickup. Your peripheral vision is greatly reduced when riding a
night so be hyper alert for animals.
SAFETY TIP 18
3 Components of Stopping Distance
As you are riding down the road, real estate is constantly moving
beneath your wheels. You will ride a certain distance before you
perceive an object you see as being a threat to you. That is the
Perception Distance. Then you will travel a certain distance before you
can actually cover your controls and start applying the brakes. This is
the Reaction Distance. Finally, you will travel a certain distance
before you can physically get the motorcycle stopped. This is Braking
Distance. Combine the three distances and you have your Total Stopping
Distance. (See Fig 11) This is a skill that should be practiced.
SAFETY TIP 19
Over riding your headlight
When riding at night you have reduced visibility. You need to ensure
that your sight distance is not exceeded by your Total Stopping
distance. If it takes you farther to stop than you are able to see down
the road you are overriding your headlight.
(See Fig 12)
SAFETY TIP 20
Passengers and Cargo
Carrying passengers and cargo will affect the way the motorcycle
handles. It takes longer to accelerate, stop, and may decrease ground
clearance when cornering. Carrying cargo can affect the motorcycles
performance as well. The motorcycle wants the weight to be distributed
between the axis of the two wheels and the crown of the Rider's head.
This is called the load triangle. (See Fig 13)
SAFETY TIP 21
Dogs love to chase motorcycles. What they will do with the motorcycle
if they catch it is beyond me. However, if a dog
is coming at you, the danger is not so much with being bitten as it is
with the dog getting caught under your motorcycle and
causing you to fall. Disrupt the dog's timing, The dog will approach you
in a straight line, slow down, maybe even downshift,
and accelerate past the point of interception. Avoid attempting to kick
at the dog as this could destabilize your motorcycle.
SAFETY TIP 22
Sand in curves
In a sand in the corner skid, steer slightly in the direction of the
skid. (If you’re leaned to the left and skidding to the
right, turn those handlebars a bit towards the right.) Chances are you
will clear the patch of sand, the tires will grip the
pavement again, the bike will stand up, and you’ll continue on your way.
Always try to minimize your lean angle in a curve if
there is a possibility of lose debris such as after a monsoon storm.
SAFETY TIP 23
Group Riding - Size Matters
At 70 MPH the motorcycle is traveling approximately 105 feet per
second. When a change is speed occurs it may take a second for other
riders to notice the change in speed. This increases following distance
for the other riders who will the speed up to maintain their following
distance from the riders in front of them. This accordion effect is more
pronounced the larger the group becomes. Try to limit the size of groups
to 6 - 8 riders depending on the rider's skill level.
SAFETY TIP 24
Running off the road, usually in a curve, often involving alcohol,
accounts for almost 40 percent of the total single vehicle motorcycle
crashes resulting in fatalities. This is more than twice the percentage
of any other cause.
SAFETY TIP 25
The greatest potential for conflict between you and another vehicle
will be at intersections. The most common cause of crashes at
intersections are other drivers entering your right of way.
SAFETY TIP 26
Use your head (to look where you're going.)
This may sound slightly remedial but it is an under-appreciated habit
of a skilled rider. It becomes even more important in corners where
riders tend to be mesmerized by the area of pavement directly in front
of their bike. As you round the turn, keep your head and eyes up,
looking through the corner as far as you safely can, at least three to
four seconds ahead. (If you can't see that far ahead, you need to slow
down until you CAN see three to four seconds ahead.) You'll be surprised
by what you may see. Couple this new-found vigilance with an escape
route (should something wicked come your way) and your chances of
getting intimately familiar with the pavement are cut dramatically.
Often a good game to play is the What if game. Try to anticipate that
car turning left in front of you and have an escape plan if it does.
Look as for through a corner as you can, that way you have more time and
distance to respond to anything that may make you take a tumble.