The Dennis Kirk Blog
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No one is a perfect rider. Not you, not me and not even the most elite racers in MotoGP. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t strive to be as close to perfect as possible. Focusing on being better can make our rides safer and even more fun.
There is an abundance of mistakes that riders can make. Some of these may lead to the hospital while others may just make your ride less efficient. Some are bad habits and some are just poor technique. Fixing them will make you a better rider. But before any mistake can be fixed, you first need to realize that you are making one.
Check out our list to see if you are making these riding mistakes and then let us know in the comments what other crucial mistakes you see or catch yourself doing.
Not Doing a Pre-Ride Check
This may not be a mistake made while actually riding, but it can certainly affect how your ride will go. Your motorcycle is a dynamic piece of machinery and things can happen. When parts are moving, they wear out. It doesn’t take long to do a pre-ride check, but it’s something that gets passed over time and time again by a lot of riders. To make sure you get the most out of your ride, the pre-ride check needs to become a habit.
You don’t have to do a complete maintenance overhaul before each ride, but you should at least check the basics. That includes the air pressure and condition of your tires, the fluid levels, the working order of the lights, the cables and controls, and making sure the center stand or side stand fold up the way they should. Follow the pre-ride check in your manual for a safe ride.
Trying to Keep Up with More Experienced Riders
Outriding your ability is one of the best ways to put the shiny side down on your bike. No one likes to be bested, but you have to know where the extent of your abilities ends, even if your buddy can push even farther. Competition can drive us to do things that we’re not normally comfortable doing. Things may work out for you the majority of the time, but eventually it will catch up to you if you keep going beyond what you’re capable of.
Track days are a great place to find out what you’re made of. You can push your skills farther in a controlled environment. Sure you can still push too far, but you will be surrounded by professionals instead of traffic and trees.
Duckwalking/Dragging Feet While Riding Slow
Riding slow isn’t as easy as some would think. It’s a fine balance between throttle, clutch and brake that can only be achieved with practice and confidence. That’s why you see so many riders looking silly as they duckwalk their bikes through traffic. They haven’t taken the time to learn how to keep their bikes upright in those slow conditions. They haven’t learned the art of riding slow.
Dragging your feet is more than just looking silly, though. It can also be dangerous to do so. Your feet are not near the controls and you also run the risk of catching your foot on something, like a pot hole. Take the time to learn how to ride slow and you’ll be able to ride through traffic with ease.
Hanging Over the Center Line on Left Hand Turns
Blasting through the twisties is fun. You’ve got your lean angles on point as you navigate the turns. It’s that lean angle that can get you in trouble, though. Time after time riders forget about where they are positioned in the lane. You may be fine during straightaways and right hand turns. But if you are riding the centerline, your head is going to drift into the oncoming lane when you attack a left hand turn. Your tires will stay in your lane, but your top half is now ripe for the picking for the traffic coming at you. You’ll likely get away with it 99% of the time. It just takes that one time when you meet a big rig on a narrow road.
We’ve all seen it and it’s likely that we have all done it. Whether it’s done on purpose or just out of bad habit, tailgating is something that can be bad news. It’s hard enough to be visible on a motorcycle, but it’s even worse when you’re right on someone’s rear. Plus, riding close can raise the anxiety levels of the person ahead of you, which can lead to unforced errors or even road rage.
Even if you’re looking to pass, tailgating is not the best option. It’s harder to see around the vehicle and you will have to make more drastic maneuvers compared to if you keep a nice distance. Plus you’re on a bike. Getting around a car just takes a crack of the throttle.
A little extra cushion is never a bad thing. It lowers the stress level for everyone and it gives you more time and space to make the moves that you need to make.
Assuming That You Are Visible
All of the Hi-Viz gear, loud pipes and flashing headlights are great, but none of that will get you noticed by every single distracted driver on the road. So often you hear of riders being merged into even after the car driver looked right at them. For some reason, some drivers just don’t see motorcycles. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.
You should never assume that every driver will see you. As a rider, you need to ride like you are invisible. Riding defensively is the best way to stay safe. That means giving yourself enough space between all of the cars around you and trying to anticipate any moves that they could make. It may add some stress to your ride, but it’s better than the alternative.
Overriding the Reach of Your Headlight
It’s all about reaction time. Your headlight needs to be able to reach beyond the point of how long it takes you to make a complete stop. If you are riding too fast, you will end up beyond the point of where you could see when you first engaged your brakes. Bad news.
You can actually figure out the speed at which you will be overriding your headlight. First, you need to measure how far your headlight reaches. Then measure the distance it takes you to safely come to stop at different speeds. A large empty parking lot or course is a good place. By comparing the distances of each, you’ll have a good idea of how fast you can go before the braking distance goes beyond the length of the headlight. Also be sure to consider that your reaction time may be a bit more delayed when you aren’t expecting to stop.
Not downshifting properly/Not rev matching
Is your ride herky jerky when you go back down through the gears? If so, you’re probably not using the most efficient technique for downshifting. You can achieve a smoother ride by using the rev matching technique.
By blipping the throttle with the clutch pulled in before downshifting, you are able to match the engine speed to the actual road speed. This eliminates engine braking, which can create those unfavorable jerking motions. Check out how to shift properly and your rides will be much smoother.
Not Keeping Up With Regular Maintenance
You may be getting away with it now, but neglecting to service your bike can add up and cause problems down the road. Follow the maintenance steps in your owner’s manual to get the job done. No, you don’t have to do it on the dot every time, but don’t get into the habit of putting it off for too long. When you know you can trust your bike, you can focus more on enjoying the ride.
Regular maintenance should include changing and topping off your fluids when needed, changing your tires before the tread is too far gone or if they have become damaged. Keep your drive maintained, whether it’s lubing the chain, changing the oil in the shaft drive or ensuring that the belt is not stretched, cracked or missing cogs. Brake pads, rotors, drums and shoes should all be inspected often. Fuel and air filters should be replaced and cleaned when needed as well. And it’s not a bad idea to hook a trickle charger up to your battery when you’re not riding it. Again, follow your manual’s maintenance recommendations so you can have confidence in your bike.
You can always be a better rider and fixing these mistakes can put you on the path to becoming one. Of course, these are not all of the bad habits and mistakes that riders make. What are some mistakes that you see riders or maybe even yourself make? Let us know in the comments.
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