In California we are blessed with a year-round riding season. But unless we use our motorcycles for commuting we tend to ride more often in the summer months. If you have not been on your motorcycle for a while you need to observe a few safety tips to keep it fun.
Before you jump on your cycle and head for the hills take a few moments to make sure your machine is ready. Check your tires for wear, damage and air pressure. Check your oil and don’t forget your radiator fluid if you have a water-cooled engine. It is wise to follow the lead of airplane pilots and follow a pre-ride checklist. Every time.
As tempting as it is to just throw on a light jacket and go you should take the time to put on appropriate motorcycle gear. I see so many motorcyclists riding in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops that I have to wonder if they have ever seen severe road rash. Everybody knows that a full-face helmet, leather or Kevlar fabric jackets and pants, and boots designed for motorcyclists are the safest thing to wear. Most accidents happen close to home, so don’t get lazy because you are just going on a short ride.
Once you are on the road, you should follow a few common-sense rules. Keep in mind that most drivers do not see motorcyclists. I’m not sure why that is the case, since a motorcycle’s headlight is always illuminated. But you must assume that you are hard to see and act accordingly. Wear bright clothing with reflective fabrics to improve your visibility.
The most common motorcycle accidents I see involve oncoming cars making left turns in front of motorcyclists. You should be particularly cautious when you enter an intersection. Unsafe lane changes are also common, particularly on freeways. Try to avoid riding in any vehicle’s blind spot and keep an eye out for sudden vehicle movements.
Your two tires provide the only contact between your motorcycle and the road. Because of this you need to be alert to potholes, fluid spills, sand, gravel, highway sealant (tar snakes), railroad tracks and other road-surface hazards that can upset your motorcycle or reduce your traction.
Take a riding course to refresh your skills. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers basic and advanced courses that will make you a better and safer rider. The most accomplished riders I know make a habit of regularly attending rider courses and participating in track days. Just as pilots need a certain number of hours per month to keep their skills sharp, we motorcyclists need to ride enough to stay proficient. There is no substitute for hours in the saddle.