According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), motorcyclist are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car. And nearly half of all motorcycle deaths result from single vehicle crashes. These statistics are even scarier for older riders due to factors like slower reflexes, more brittle bones, weaker eyesight and others. Riders older than 60 are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash.
Don’t buy more bike than you can handle.
→ Bikes have evolved over the last 10-20 years so if you haven’t ridden in awhile or are new, the performance of new motorcycles might surprise you. Even bikes with smaller displacement engines are notably faster and more powerful then older models.
→ Start your selection with the fit; you should be able to rest both feet flat on the ground without standing on your toes. Controls and handlebars should be easy to reach, and make sure the bike isn’t too heavy – it should be easy for you to get on and off the center stand.
→ Smaller models with 250-300CC engine are great for commuting.
→ 500-750CC engines are better for highway riding.
Invest in anti-lock brakes.
→ The IIHS results show that motorcycles equipped with ABS (anti-lock) brakes were 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
→ Without ABS brakes the rider can panic and lock the brakes losing any steering control, often resulting in skidding or a crash. These brakes helps during an emergency stop and is especially valuable in slippery conditions.
→ Anti-lock brakes are commonly found on many high end models and usually only add a few hundred dollars to the price of more basic bikes.
→ Motorcycle insurance rates tend to be lower for bikes with a higher safety rating.
Hone your skills.
→ The Motorcycle Safety Foundation hosts riding courses all over the country, . They will teach you the basics, as well as more advanced techniques like how to perform emergency evasive maneuvers.
→ Classes range from free to $350. Insurance companies sometimes have a discount for taking a MSF course, and some motorcycle manufacturers offer a credit when you sign up.
Use your head.
→ Riders not wearing a helmet are 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury , and are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries due to a crash.
→ A full-face helmet approved by the Department of Transportation is the best choice. You’ll see a DOT certification sticker on the helmet.
→ Although modern helmets are light weight, strong and comfortable as well as helpful for cutting down on fatigue and wind noise they do deteriorate over time and might not be as safe as they appear in their current condition. A study done by an independent helmet testing and standards-setting organization recommends replacing helmets every 5 years (or sooner if it’s been in a crash). Not only does this take into account the deterioration of normal wear and tear, but also that there are often notable improvements in design and materials over that period of time.
Wear the right gear.
→ You want to be well protected from the wind chill, bugs, flying debris, and potential road rash. To maximize protection, wear a leather or other reinforced jacket, gloves, pants, and over-ankle footwear (even in hot weather). Don’t forget eye-wear, use a helmet or goggles – don’t rely on sunglasses or the bike’s windscreen.
→ For extra protection wear a specially designed jacket with rugged padding and breathable mesh material provide extra protection as well as ventilation for warmer weather.
→ Remember: often times cars who have hit motorcycles say they just didn’t see them – consider choosing flashy colored gear.
Be ready to roll.
→ Before you set out, do a quick walk around to make sure your lights, horn and signals are working properly. Check the chain, belt/shaft, and brakes.
→ Periodically check the tires for wear and tear and make sure they’re at the proper pressure.
Avoid bad weather.
→ Rain reduces your visibility as well as causes the tires to lose grip on the road, making it tricky to turn corners. The most dangerous time to ride in the rain is right after it begins, as the water can cause oil residue to rise to the surface of the pavement.
→ Avoid making sudden maneuvers: be extra gentle with the brakes, throttle and steering to avoid sliding.
→ During strong side winds, anticipate the potential push from the side by moving to the side of the lane the wind is coming from. This give you a little extra space in case a sudden gust nudges you.
Watch for road hazards.
→ It’s easier to slide unexpectedly (or worse) when driving through sand, wet leaves or pebbles because a bike has so much less contact with the pavement than a car. Potholes are also much more dangerous to a motorcycle than a car. If you can’t avoid them, slow down before encountering them – with minimal steering input.
→ Approach Railroad tracks and other hazards at as close to a right angle as possible. This reduces the chances of a skid.
→ A study done by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research found that in collisions involving a motorcycle and a car, the car driver was at fault 60% of the time. Keep an eye out for cars suddenly changing lanes and cars pulling out of side streets.
→ Don’t tailgate – it’s critical to keep a safe distance to ensure you have enough time to react to objects on the road; they often have no effect on a car, but can be a substantial hazard for a motorcycle.