The Dennis Kirk Blog
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Every year, thousands of people decide to get their motorcycle licenses and get out on two wheels. While the biker community is always proud to welcome new members, safety is also a primary concern. In the interest of keeping everyone on the roads safe, especially new riders, we asked experienced riders on our Facebook page what the one most important piece of advice is that they would share with new riders. Below are the top answers.
1. Drive defensively.
This was far and away the most posted response, including this more ominous variation: “Assume everyone else on the road is out to kill you.” As scary as it sounds, riders agree that driving defensively and not “hot-dogging it” or showing off is the first step in staying safe. You may trust yourself, but how do you really know that other drivers are paying attention? Motorcyclists are often not seen, so it ultimately becomes your job to do the seeing. This means constantly checking blind spots, not riding in someone else’s blind spot, always looking for an escape route in case things go south, maintaining a safe following distance, etc.
2. Take a motorcycle safety course.
This was probably the second most posted response to our query. The MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) offers courses nationwide for beginning and seasoned motorcyclists, often granting licensure for new riders upon course completion and passing the driving test. The course requires a certain number of hours and typically includes a written test as well. You can learn to ride, practice basic skills on a provided motorcycle, learn laws, regulations, safety tips and more. The courses aren’t free, but they’re usually very affordable and come highly recommended. (Depending on your state of residence, an MSF course may even be mandatory to get your license.) Visit the MSF RiderCourse website for more info.
3. Don’t try to ride beyond your skill level.
You may be tempted to try and ride with your more experienced friends right out of the gate. However, overriding your skill level can be a serious mistake. It all comes down to your comfort level. If you want a big bike with a lot of horsepower, but you’re not 200% comfortable on it, don’t get it. In fact, we’d recommend starting out on something smaller and easier to handle until you get used to it; you can always sell and upgrade later. If your friends want to ride fast and take hard corners, but you’re nervous about it, don’t. Listen to your instincts and be patient. Know your limits. The comfort level will come and your skills will improve, but also don’t ever get complacent or overconfident.
4. Dress appropriately.
There is a reason you’re required to wear full gear when you take a motorcycle safety course. (This means a helmet, eye protection, pants, a long sleeved shirt, boots, and gloves. Even if it’s 100 degrees out.) Not all states require helmets, and we’re not going to get into a debate about it, but we have to cringe when we see someone on a motorcycle in shorts and sandals. One of our Facebook fans compared the pavement to a belt sander, and you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that skin contact with a belt sander would not be pretty. An acronym that many bikers live by is ATGATT, or All The Gear, All The Time.
5. Don’t Drink And Ride.
Please tell us this one is a no-brainer.
6. Look where you want to go.
One of the things you’ll learn in a motorcycle safety course with regards to the operation of a motorcycle is to look where you want to go. Trust us, you will go there. The temptation is to look down at the road or your bike, especially when you’re navigating turns, but you need to trust your bike, keep your head up, and look through the turn. Keep looking at where you want to go. Looking ahead also enables you to scan for potential hazards so you hopefully catch them in plenty of time. Also in regards to operating a ‘cycle, lean with the bike into your turns and press (don’t twist or turn) the handlebars in the direction you want to go.
7. Get familiar with your bike.
Make sure you know your bike just as well, if not better than you know your car. Think about it: you can probably hit the turn signal, headlights, the horn, find the brake, accelerator, ignition, and steering wheel in your car without looking or even thinking twice. The same should apply to your motorcycle. You have to know your own limits, but it’s also important to know your motorcycle’s limits as well.
8. Know your riding surface.
Watch for gravel, tar snakes, potholes, debris, etc. in your path. Also try to avoid riding down the center of the lane you’re in; this is where oil and other substances like to sit and it can make the road slick.
9. Above all: HAVE FUN!
But have fun within the parameters of safe riding.
Discuss: Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below. What do you think is absolutely the most important thing to remember?
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