There’s no better way to enjoy the freedom of the open road than on the back of a motorcycle. Unfortunately, motorcycles are also one of the most dangerous vehicles on the road today.
Each year, more than 500 people die or are critically injured in motorcycle accidents in California alone. In the U.S. as a whole, 4,693 people died in a motorcycle crash in 2015. These accidents accounted for 13% of all motor vehicle fatalities.
If you’re ready to get on the back of a bike, it’s important to put safety first. Every rider should know these four safety tips before heading out on the road.
1. Buy the Right Bike for Your Riding Level
If you’re a new rider or took a long break from riding, you may be surprised by the performance of today’s bikes. Today’s bikes are more powerful and faster than they were a few decades ago.
For this reason, it’s important to choose a bike that fits your riding level. If you’re not ready for a high-performance model, don’t get one. If you wind up with a bike that you can’t handle, you’ll put your safety at risk.
It’s also important to choose a bike that fits you. When you’re sitting on the bike, you should be able to rest your feet on the floor. All of the controls and handlebars should be within easy reach. The bike should also be the right weight for you. Don’t choose a bike that’s too heavy.
2. Always Wear a Helmet
Riders still debate about wearing helmets. It’s true that they only prevent 37% of deaths, but they’re 67% effective at preventing brain injury.
A 67% chance of not suffering life-changing brain damage is better than a 0% chance of prevention.
Arkansas and Texas repealed their motorcycle helmet laws, and they saw a 21% and 31% increase in motorcycle fatalities respectively.
Choose a full-face helmet that’s DOT approved for maximum protection. Modern models are lightweight and comfortable without compromising on safety. Be prepared to spend quite a bit on your helmet. You can’t put a price on your life, so it’s worth the high cost.
3. Wear the Right Gear
Those sandals and shorts may be comfortable, but they’re a recipe for disaster when riding a motorcycle. If you slide out, your feet are going to be in for a world of pain. And those shorts won’t provide your legs with much protection either.
The gear you wear should provide you with protection from the elements, wind chill, debris, flying bugs and road rash.
Wear a leather or leather-reinforced jacket, long pants, gloves and over-ankle shoes. Goggles or a helmet visor will give you the eye protection you need. Even on the hottest day in summer, you still need to wear all of this gear to maximize safety.
Avoid wearing dark or earthy colors. Car drivers often hit motorcycle riders because they can’t see them. Wear bright colors, so everyone on the road can see you.
4. Look Where You Want to Go and Watch Out for Road Hazards
If you’re staring at the curb, you’re probably going to hit the curb. Look for clear spots and look through turns. Keep your field of vision where you want to go. If you’re staring at the back of a car, you’re probably going to hit it. The same can be said for cliffs off the side of the road.
Stay focused on the direction you want to move.
Keep these four tips in mind when riding your motorcycle. If you’re new to riding, consider going out with an experienced rider first to get a feel for how you should be riding.