Let's be Careful Out There
Respect the Road and You Will Have Hours of Fun,
Disrespect the Road and it Will Kill You !!
Being a tour guide and motorcyclist for many years I’m often asked by my guests have I got any safety advice whilst riding, which is always a difficult question to answer straight away until I have a little more awareness of their riding ability and experience.
So I have put together some of the problems that I encounter on an almost daily basis and my thoughts on how we can all stay safe out there on our roads and enjoy the freedom that our motorcycles give us.
Riding motorcycles is an immensely enjoyable, but sometimes dangerous passion, although thankfully, motorcycles also give you the best possible tools to avoid the dangers such as powerful brakes, all around vision, excellent handling, and hopefully decent tyres.
Motorcycle Safety Clothing
Motorcycle protective clothing has two basic purposes, comfort and protection. It will help you to stay comfortable when encountering various riding conditions and in the event of a crash, protective gear will help prevent or reduce injuries.
Also bright colours on your helmet, jacket or high-visibility clothing will help car drivers see you, potentially avoiding some of the common accidents detailed below.
1: A Car Turns In Front Of You
A car fails to see you or judges your speed incorrectly, turning in front of you at a junction. You can blame the driver not paying attention, distractions, blind spots and even stupidity, but a driver looking for cars sees merely an absence of cars, not the presence of a motorcycle.
How To Avoid It: Simple, you just need to see it coming. Part of being a good or experienced motorcyclist is to develop a sixth sense of danger or “spidey sense”. Look for signs that could indicate someone may turn in front of you, a car is at a junction waiting to turn, there’s a gap in traffic near a junction, a driveway or parking space. Is the driver clearly able to see you, without obstruction from trees or signs?. Is that person actually looking?. Are they looking at you?. How are they situated in the road?. Look at their wheels, not the car, where are their wheels pointing?, they will give you the first clue of movement. In either situation, slow down, cover your brakes and get ready to take evasive action. Yes, you do need to take something as innocuous as a car waiting to turn as a major and immediate threat to your life. Under no circumstances should you “abandon ship” or try to accelerate out of it. Your best chance of survival comes from dropping as much speed as possible before collision, and you’re going to be able to do that best with the bike completely upright, using both brakes. Even if you only have time to lose 10 or 20 mph, that could be the difference between going home with bruises and not going home at all.
2: You Hit Gravel In A Blind Corner
You’re out riding the twisties when, seemingly without warning, you come round a bend to find a patch of gravel or whatever in your path. You put your front tyre in it and you’re off.
How To Avoid It: Simple, don’t hit it in the first place. Be aware of the road surface and ride at a pace where your reaction time and ability to take action fit within your range of vision. On the road, “Slow In, Fast Out” is an effective rule of thumb. Enter a corner wide, to increase your vision and at an easy pace. You can pick up the speed on the way out, once you can see a clear road ahead.
Some experienced riders may inform you about trail braking which is a slightly more advanced skill where you brake all the way into the apex using the front brake and then gradually release the brake (trailed off). Since you’re already on the brakes and the bike’s weight is distributed forward, compressing the front suspension and increasing the size of the front tyre’s contact patch, you can easily tighten your line by applying a little more brake or widen it by letting off. Doing so should help you avoid obstacles such as gravel.
3: You Entered A Corner Too Fast
And now it’s getting tighter and tighter and you’re just not going to make it around without veering onto the opposite lane, or hitting the barrier.
How To Avoid It: Simple, only ride as fast as you can see and use visual clues like lampposts and signs to judge a road’s direction, even if that road is disappearing over a blind crest. If you do find yourself going too fast in a corner, the best approach is to trust the bike and try to ride it out. The bike is likely more capable than you are, so it’s really you that’s not capable of making it around. Take as much lean out of the bike as possible by hanging off, look where you want to go and be as smooth as possible on the controls. Do not jump on the brakes, let go of the throttle or do anything else that may upset the bike and cause a loss of traction. Don’t panic if a peg or knee or something else touches down, just try to hold that lean angle, look for the corner exit and ride it out and trust the tyres.
4: A Car Changes Lane Into You
You’re riding in traffic when a car in another lane suddenly veers into the space you’re occupying. Remember, our motorcycles can easily fit into blind spots and drivers looking for cars are not necessarily going to see motorcycles.
How To Avoid It: Simple, be aware of where blind spots lie and spend as little time in them as possible. If you can see a driver's eyes in their mirrors, then they have the ability to see you. Create your own personal space around you and manoeuvre away from congested traffic and potential blind spots. Beware of situations where lane changes become more possible. Is the traffic slowing, roadworks ahead, with one lane moving faster than others? Drivers are going to want to change lanes. Don’t be where they want to be.
Look for signs of a car changing lanes: turn signals, wheels turning, the car drifting into other lanes.
5: Not Enough Distance To Overtake
You are stuck behind a slow moving HGV and become impatient and pull out to overtake with little visibility only to find oncoming traffic is moving faster than expected, or appears around a bend causing a head on collision or near miss.
How To Avoid It: Simple, overtaking is a basic skill and requires the ability to judge speed and distance and know the capability of your own motorcycle. Generally speaking, a motorcycle can overtake far quicker than a car because of acceleration rate. However, do not overtake when approaching bends, junctions, or crest of a hill, or when there is oncoming traffic. Take extreme care when overtaking a line of traffic as often a car driver following a slower vehicle in a queue of traffic will be concentrating on what is ahead of him and not what is behind him.
If you are riding with others, plan your own overtaking move and do not rely on the front rider.
6: Your Riding Companions are Bad Riders
A group of you are out for a ride when one of them stops suddenly or something similar. The rider behind him is too busy daydreaming to realise and hits him from behind. It can happen to anyone.
How To Avoid It: Simple, make sure everyone is aware of proper group riding etiquette and knows to ride in a staggered formation. You’d be amazed how many people are unaware of this simple technique. Doing so increases vision and moves motorcycles out of line with each other increasing braking distance, meaning a temporary lapse in attention won't result in a collision, or if necessary ride with a different group.
7: Overtaking Car Moves Into Your Lane
This will have happened to most of us where we have a clear road ahead of us and all of a sudden an oncoming car pulls into our lane to overtake the vehicle in front of him.
How To Avoid It: Simple, you just need to see it coming, use that sixth sense of danger or “spidey sense”. Read the conditions, if you can see an oncoming slow vehicle, either a bus, tractor or lorry then anticipate that someone will try and overtake it especially if it’s a clear road ahead of you. Slow down, cover your brakes and get ready to take evasive action even if it means moving over to the kerbside.
8: A Car Opened Its Door
The biggest gap in traffic was between a line of parked cars and a stationary line of active traffic. So you go riding through it when, all of a sudden someone swings his door wide open right in front of you.
How To Avoid It: Simple, never ride between a traffic lane and a line of parked cars. Not just because of opening car doors, but because pedestrians step out, cars pull out so they can see, cars may turn off to avoid the queue etc. Just don’t do it.
9: It’s Slippery
You're out on the bike and it starts to rain quite heavily and it is cold, wet and, surprise surprise, slippery and before you know it you’re on your backside sliding down the road.
How To Avoid It: Simple, as long as you’re riding with good tyres with plenty of tread, you’ll be surprised at how well a motorcycle does in wet or even snowy conditions. Just slow down and be as smooth as possible on the controls. In the wet, manhole covers, grids and white road markings all become slippery and you’ll need to watch out for oil and diesel on the road as well. Look for patches of rainbow colours to avoid. If it hasn’t rained for a while, the first hour or so of rainfall is the most treacherous; it lifts all the oils and dirt out of the pavement, floating it on top. Also, beware of the limited visibility rain creates for other drivers and their general driving, some car drivers don’t seem to understand that slippery conditions require greater braking distances.
10: The Most Common Bike Accident
Almost half of all accidents involving a single motorcycle are caused by excessive speed, or alcohol use. This statistic is not surprising and these factors play a large role in accidents among cars and other vehicles as well.
How To Avoid It: Simple, don’t drink and ride and watch your speed.
!! Note. Please remember it is irrelevant who is at fault, because if you have an accident with another vehicle it is almost certain that the motorcyclist will come off worse, so RIDE DEFENSIVELY and use your COMMON SENSE.