April 16, 2013

Motorcycle Safety and Survival Guide

After over forty years of riding a motorcycle, I have learned a few simple rules to make each riding experience as safe and enjoyable as possible. I am not an instructor but I am a veteran motorcycle rider and enthusiast. I commute and ride leisurely every chance I get.
In this article, I will briefly discuss the motorcycle, the riding gear and highway safety.
If you are new to motorcycling, I strongly recommend that you contact your local Department of Motor Vehicle Office and obtain all study guides and literature available for your state and city in which you reside.


Is your motorcycle safe to ride?
Before swinging your leg over the seat, it's always a good idea to inspect the following items on your motorcycle. Always use your manufacturer's owner's manual to identify measurements, tolerances and specifications to complete the checklist below. If you don't have an owner's manual, purchase one, read it and get to know your motorcycle.

1. Tire condition
2. Proper tire pressure
3. Front and rear breaks
4. Fluid levels
5. Forks and shocks
6. Chain or drive belt
7. Head lights, tail light, break light and turn signals.
If you feel that your motorcycle may be unsafe to ride, don't ride it until you have made the necessary repairs. The above safety precautions may avoid an accident or a crash. Should you find yourself in an emergency situation, odds are in your favor if your bike is at peak performance level.


What are you doing to protect yourself in case of an accident or from road hazards that you may encounter while riding?
1. Properly fitted DOT approved helmet is probably one of the most important riding gear for a rider. Helmets save lives!
2. Leather, mesh or leather armored jacket to protect your upper body.
3. Leather chaps or pants will save you much pain from road rash, should you go down.
4. Leather boots that are, at minimum, ankle high to protect your toes and ankles.
5. Leather gloves, to protect your hands and fingers.
6. UV protection approved riding wraparound sunglasses or goggles in the morning help to protect your eyes from dust and road debris while protecting your eyes from UV rays. Clear riding wraparound glasses or goggles work best for night riding.
If you have met the safety tips above, you are now ready to throw your leg over the seat and get on the road.

The following tips may be helpful to keep you from harm's way when riding your motorcycle in traffic and highways:
1. Be aware of your surroundings by keeping your eyes moving.
2. Be intuitive.
3. Always expect the unexpected.
4. Be prepared to act rather than to react.
5. Make certain you are seen.
6. If motorcycle equipped with turn signals, get in the habit of using them. If not use hand signal. Always let drivers know your intentions.
7. Stay away from drivers' blind spots.
8. Make certain drivers see you by making eye contact via side view mirrors. If not successful give yourself room to get away if need to or make a safe effort to pass the vehicle.
9. When traveling in a group:
• Ride in staggered formation in one lane.
• Don't horseplay. If you go down, you can be certain you will be taking others down with you.
• If riding in a group makes you uncomfortable, position yourself at the back of the group.
10. Be respectful to all with whom you share the roadways and in return you will be respected.
11. Ride your own ride.

If you are planning a road trip, consider the following tips:
1. Plan your ride in advance.
2. Familiarize yourself with the roads and highways that you will be riding on.
3. Check the weather and road conditions from previous days to the day of the ride. Check for possible flash floods, sand storms, rock slides from days prior. Sand on the road can be just as hazards and dangerous as black ice. In both cases you won't know it's there until your front tire rolls over it.
4. Carry the following:
• Tool Kit, equipped with basic tools
• First Aid Kit
• Emergency blanket or emergency sleeping bag. These emergency products are very light weight (approx 2 ounces) and compact (approx the size of a cell phone) and will fit in any jacket or pants pocket or easily stored in the storage compartment of the motorcycle.
• Emergency light weight (approx 1 ounce) high visibility vest or poncho. These come in handy if you ever have to do repairs on your motorcycle on the side of the road or to keep you dry if caught in a downpour of rain (not recommended to use while riding).
Unfortunately, even the best riders are sometimes involved in accidents. The idea is to take all precautions necessary to protect yourself as much as possible from the unavoidable.
All motorcycle riders must know and respect the fact that the odds are stacked against us every time we ride. No matter our age, gender or the kind of motorcycle we ride, it is very important for us to use common sense when operating a motorcycle and to make certain that our motorcycle and our riding gear is always properly maintained.
Be safe! Happy riding! Keep the chrome side up!
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