The Basics of Motorcycle Safety

Mar 2, 2024


picture of a motorcycle rider on road from the view of a car side mirror motorcycle safety

Hitting the road on two wheels is an exciting experience, but it, of course, comes with its risks. The Basics of Motorcycle Safety guide is here to equip you with the essential knowledge and practices to keep you safe, whether you're a seasoned rider or just starting. Understanding the inherent dangers of motorcycle riding, such as reduced visibility and the higher potential for serious injuries, is the first step. 

But it's the proactive measures you take—like enrolling in safety courses, wearing the right gear, and staying sober—that make all the difference. This guide covers everything from visibility and following traffic laws to selecting the right bike and staying alert. It's your roadmap to safer riding, ensuring you enjoy the thrill of the ride without compromising on safety.

First, how dangerous are motorcycles actually?

Motorcycles are notably riskier than cars due to their open nature, offering less protection to riders. Key factors contributing to their danger include lower visibility to other drivers, a higher likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities in crashes, and the necessity for more advanced riding skills. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that motorcyclists are 24 times more likely than car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled. The absence of protective barriers, sensitivity to road conditions, and risky behaviors like speeding or not wearing helmets exacerbate these risks. However, adopting safe riding practices, wearing appropriate gear, and continuous skill improvement can significantly mitigate these dangers, allowing for safer riding experiences.

Adopt these basics of motorcycle safety to ensure you stay safe on the road:

1. Take a Motorcycle Safety Course

Taking a motorcycle safety course will give you the basics of riding that improve your skills and reduce your likelihood of getting in an accident. Still, it also helps keep you aware of traffic safety laws, tips to avoid accidents and even insurance discounts. For new AND experienced riders alike, this course is a must. 

We recommend courses approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Find a course near you HERE

picture of a motorcycle rider and instructor at a motorcycle safety course

2. Stay Visible 

Making sure you're seen is super important for staying safe on your bike. Rock some bright colors or reflective stuff, and double-check those bike lights to make sure they're working and stay ON, regardless of the time of day (which is also the law). It's all about where you place yourself on the road—pick spots where drivers can't miss you and signal early. This way, you're less likely to run into trouble because someone didn't spot you.

3. Follow Traffic Rules

Adhering to traffic laws isn’t optional to stay safe as a motorcyclist. This includes obeying speed limits, signals, and lane markings. Following these rules helps predict your actions and reduces the chances of collisions with vehicles and pedestrians, ensuring a safer riding environment for everyone on the road. Make sure to double-check the state laws that you’re riding in since laws may change across state lines. 

4. Wear a Helmet

A helmet is the most essential piece of safety gear for a motorcyclist. Wearing a DOT-approved helmet can significantly reduce the risk of head injuries and fatalities in the event of a crash. Ensure your helmet fits correctly and is securely fastened every time you ride. Full Face or Modular helmets are the highest-rated type of helmet for safety. 

Renting a motorcycle and don’t have any gear on you? Select bikes available to rent that also offer gear rentals or complimentary safety apparel on Riders Share

5. Inspect Your Bike Before You Ride

Before leaving your driveway, we can’t stress the importance of giving your motorcycle a thorough check-up using the T-CLOCS Inspection Checklist. This mnemonic stands for Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis, and Stands, guiding you through a detailed pre-ride evaluation. Inspect your tires for adequate air pressure and tread condition, confirm that all control mechanisms like brakes and clutch operate smoothly, ensure lights and signals are bright and clear, top off any fluids to optimal levels, examine the chassis for integrity and potential issues, and lastly, verify that the stands are sturdy and reliable. Regularly performing this check and fixing any problems before you ride can significantly minimize the chance of breakdowns or mishaps on the road, leading to a safer and more enjoyable journey.

To view a list of motorcycle maintenance checklists, visit HERE

6. Wear Protective Gear

Beyond helmets, wearing protective gear such as jackets, pants, boots, and gloves made from abrasion-resistant materials can protect you from cuts, abrasions, and fractures. Many protective garments also include armor that protects critical areas like the back, knees, and elbows in the event of a crash.

For more information on choosing the right protective gear, click HERE

motorcycle rider with protective gear - helmet, gloves, leather jacket motorcycle safety gear

7. Don’t Drink and Drive

You've probably heard it a million times, but it bears repeating: Riding a motorcycle demands sharp focus, good balance, and solid coordination. Toss alcohol into the mix, and you're throwing all those essential skills out the window. Booze seriously messes with your ability to ride safely, jacking up the chances of an accident. So, always keep it sober when you're on two wheels. It's not just about keeping yourself safe; it's about everyone else on the road with you.

8. Ride Defensively

Adopting a defensive riding strategy means being aware of your surroundings, anticipating the actions of others, and being prepared to react. Assume other drivers may not see you and always have an escape route in mind should you need to avoid a dangerous situation.

9. Select the Right Bike for YOU

Choosing a motorcycle that fits your body and skill level is crucial. A bike that's too powerful or physically too large can be challenging to control, leading to accidents. Ensure you can comfortably reach the ground with both feet when seated and efficiently handle the bike's weight and power. Whether you’re a beginner, short, tall, or an experienced rider, pick a bike you’re comfortable with to stay safe on the road.

10. Check the Weather

Weather conditions can significantly impact motorcycle riding. Check the forecast before you leave, and be prepared for weather changes. Wet roads, high winds, and extreme temperatures can affect your ride, so plan accordingly with appropriate gear and riding strategies. Set up weather alerts on your phone to be notified when inclement weather may arise. 

11. Avoid Road Hazards

Road hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet leaves, and debris can be more dangerous for motorcycles than cars. Stay alert and avoid these hazards when possible. Slow down and approach at an angle if you cannot safely avoid them.

12. Carry a First Aid Kit

A first aid kit can be invaluable in minor accidents or injuries on the road. Include basic supplies such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. Knowing basic first aid can also make a significant difference in emergencies.

13. Share the Road

Motorcyclists share the road with vehicles of all sizes. Respect other road users by maintaining a safe distance, signaling intentions early, and avoiding blind spots. Cooperation and mutual respect can help prevent accidents and ensure a safer environment for everyone. A motorcycle coming up too fast on either side of the road or making quick maneuvers can easily not be spotted by other drivers.

14. Stay Alert

Staying sharp on the road is about keeping your eyes peeled and dodging distractions. Pay attention to how traffic's flowing, what the signals are saying, and the state of the road itself. If you can guess what the other person will do next and be ready to act fast, you're way ahead in avoiding trouble. If you're running on empty with sleep, feeling off your game, or not in the zone, it's probably not the best time to take your bike out.

Stay Safe When You Rent a Motorcycle with Riders Share

If there’s one thing we can’t stress enough, it’s the importance of safety when riding or renting a motorcycle. Renting a motorcycle has potential risks, such as riding a bike you’re not as comfortable or familiar with. While owners must review the basics and quirks of the specific bike you’re renting, don’t be afraid to ask any additional questions, and only ride a bike you’re comfortable on. 

Wrapping Up

Mastering motorcycle safety is an ongoing journey that demands attention, commitment, and a proactive approach. Each strategy plays a critical role in safeguarding your ride, from the basics of conducting a T-CLOCS inspection to the nuances of riding defensively and preparing for weather changes. Remember, safety on the road is not just about protecting yourself; it's about contributing to a safer environment for all road users. By adhering to these guidelines and staying informed about best practices, you're not just a motorcyclist but a responsible member of the riding community. Remember these principles, and let them guide you to countless safe and enjoyable journeys on your motorcycle.

Keep the rubber side down- keep both wheels on the ground.