1. Assume Drivers Can't See You: Ride assuming that you and your motorcycle are totally invisible to motorists. That means you must never assume that drivers can see you. The odds are, they can't, so believe it yourself and always have an "out" for dangerous traffic situations. Motorcycle Safety depends on you.
2. Maintain Safe Spacing: Leave plenty of space in front and back and to the sides from all other vehicles. Be an island. Stay away from traffic as much as possible. This gives you more visibility and more time to react to situations.
3. Anticipate Trouble: Anticipate trouble situations and know what to do when you see them. Analyze what vehicles are doing and try to predict the outcome. Then make sure you're ready to avoid a bad traffic situation.
4. Beware of Oncoming Right Turners: Beware of oncoming motorists turning right in front of you at intersections. This is the leading cause of death of motorcycle riders. I'm deadly serious here. I am sure we have all witnessed these accidents. If you only remember one tip here, let it be this one. Slow down before you enter an intersection. Have an escape route planned. Stay visible. Don't travel too close to cars in front of you. Position your bike so it can be seen by the right turner. Eye contact is not enough.
5. Ride Your Own Ride: Don't try to keep up with your friends who may be more experienced. Know your personal limits. Ride your own ride.
6. Watch Out for Curves: Beware of taking curves that you can't see around. A parked truck or a patch of sand may be awaiting you.
7. Don't Give In to Road Rage: Do not give in to road rage and try to "get even" with another rider or motorist. If you follow these tips, most likely you won't fall victim to road rage. It's better to calm down, slow down, and collect your thoughts first. Then continue on and enjoy the ride. That's what we're all out there for in the first place.
8. Don't allow Tailgating: If someone is tailgating you, either speed up to open more space or pull over and let them pass. Life is too short. Remember that a bike can stop faster than a car so you don't want a truck on your tail when you find yourself trying to brake to avoid an accident. Also, don't tailgate the vehicle in front of you. Oncoming drivers can't see you.
9. Don't Be Blinded by Sun glare: Beware of riding your motorcycle into sun glare. All it takes is turning a corner and finding the sun either directly in your face or passing straight through your windshield. Some helmets have shields to block the sun. Face shields help somewhat. But sometimes you just find yourself blinded by the light. Slow down, pull over, shield your eyes and look for a way to change direction.
10. Avoid Riding at Night: Avoid riding at night, especially late Saturday night and early Sunday when drunken drivers may be on the road. It goes without saying that you shouldn't drink and ride. Going bar hopping? Leave the bike at home and find a designated driver.
What Am I Trying To Say About Motorcycle Safety?
The best way to be safe is to learn the basic ways to control your motorcycle and to learn how to recognise traffic situations that you need to be ready to handle. Dress to fall. Always wear protective clothing and a helmet immaterial of the heat. A tiny beanie helmet held on by a thin strap and affixed with a fake DOT sticker is not enough.
Herewith some riding tips that could assist to make you a safer rider. Please bear in mind that these are guidelines and tips. It does not guarantee making you a better rider or never finding yourself in a dangerous situation.
There are many ways in which to improve your riding skills, such as the Super Bike School and other various rider-training courses.
Dead Men Riding endorses the following training institution for rider training:
MRAC – Motorcycle Rider Advancement Centre:
Although the risk to bikers is higher than that of motorists, research has shown that proper training dramatically reduces the risks of accidents, costly repairs and time off work due to injury. This life saving training is available at MRAC. It is also conveniently located next to the Johannesburg Licence Testing Grounds in Langlaagte, Johannesburg.
Courses presented are:
1. Beginner Courses – for those who have never ridden a bike.
2. Experienced Rider Courses – a refresher course for those with a least 6 months riding experience
3. K53 Licence Training – All you need to know to pass the physical test.
4. Advance Race Track Courses – Michelin Superbike School at the Kyalami Grand Prix- and other circuits.
Contact Detail: MRAC
Main Reef Road
PO Box 45298
Mayfair * 2108
Tel: +2711 839 1660
Fax: +2711 839 1661
Riding a bike is fun, thrilling and exciting! Enjoy the experience more by using these hints to improve your skills and defensive riding strategies.
1. Have a good attitude – share the road considerately with other road users. The worst attitude to have is one of “It will never happen to me!” Driving is like playing in an orchestra, all the instruments need to be in tune and rhythm to make beautiful music. Someone playing out of tune messes up everything, the same with riding or driving in traffic!
2. Always wear protective clothing. Cordura, Gortex and Leather are some of the materials that offer crash and all-weather protection. Gloves should cover the hands, fingers and wrists completely. Wear riding boots that cover the ankles. Use a proper helmet and not a cheap one! “How much is my head worth?” is a question that should be asked when buying a helmet. The helmet strap should be tightly fastened but still comfortable for the rider. Do not ride with a tinted visor during night or in poor visibility conditions.
3. Be visible for other road users. Sometimes bikes are very difficult to see. Wear bright coloured clothing, jackets and helmets. Ride with the headlight on at all times, even during the day. Create a cushion of space around yourself so that you are more visible and have space for emergency manoeuvres when necessary.
4. Keep your bike in good condition at all times. Have it serviced regularly. Check your tyres, fuel levels, lights and brakes before going out for a ride. Worn tyres and faulty brakes are very dangerous. Make sure that the bike is comprehensively insured. If you cannot afford insurance, you cannot afford the bike.
5. Use the S.I.P.D.E. method of defensive riding:
S: Scan for potential hazards at all times
I: Identify any potential hazards
P: Predict the action of the identified potential hazard
D: Decide on a counter action against the potential identified hazard
E: Execute you counteraction with decisiveness without endangering other road users.
6. Deal with potential hazards before you encounter them – look well ahead for potential hazards. Use the International Accident Prevention Formula:
Recognize the threat Understand the defence Act in time
7. Always assume that other road users have not seen you. If you have to change your speed, direction or position, check your blind spots, the sides and ahead. If you can’t stop in the space ahead of you or within the distance you can see – you have to slow down!
8. Observation is important in cornering. Look through the corner on the approach so that you can judge the surface condition, the traffic flow, the slope of the road and the radius of the turn. Turn your head in the direction of the turn and keep your eyes level with the horizon.
9. Braking is an essential skill that everyone can master with enough practice. Always use both brakes when braking or slowing down. Never grab the front brake, rather squeeze it and apply increasing pressure on the front brake and light decreasing pressure on the rear brake. Complete your breaking and shifting down before you turn into corners. When stopping, always shift into first gear before the bike comes to a standstill. Braking practice makes braking perfect.
10. Turning a bike quickly is a critical skill without which you will not be able to swerve, avoid obstacles or corner confidently. To turn a bike you must lean the bike. Handlebar pressure is used to lean the bike. Press left handlebar to go left, press right to go right. If you are running wide in a corner, press the lower bar to lean more and stay on the road. Keep your arms bent at all times and lean with the bike as you corner.
11. To corner at reduced and safer lean angles you should create the greatest possible radius through a corner by going from the outside to the inside (apex) to the outside. The apex is the point closest to the inside on your path through the corner and is also where your lean angle will be the greatest. From the apex you can start to accelerate as you straighten up to exit the turn. Usually the apex of the corner is near or after the middle of the turn.
12. The joy of biking can be shared with a passenger (pillion). Ensure that you pillion is wearing adequate protective clothing and knows how to mount a bike without burning themselves on the hot exhaust pipes. Pillions must lean with the bike in corners – teaching them to look through he corners helps passengers to be more relaxed.
13. Luggage should always be securely tied in the lowest position possible using non-stretch straps.
Biking is a passion of millions of people all over the world. We enjoy the fellowship, the brotherhood, the thrill and freedom of this great activity. Apply these basic principles; make it your goal to do the same for many happy years!
Keep the rubber side down!
Whatever speeds up must slow down!!! Being able to use your brakes effectively is one of the major keys to fast safe riding. Here are a few tips which may well assist you to become a safer rider:
Understanding the Dynamics of Braking.
As you apply the front brake the weight of the bike gets transferred to the front tyre via the forks. The forks are compressed as the momentum of the bikes weight moves forward, the front tyre accepts this loading and grips the tarmac as you slow down.
Loading the front end of the bike via the forks onto the front tyre must be done progressively – fast but always smooth and progressive. Slamming the brake on will throw your weight and the weight of the bike forwards out of control, this will make the front wheel lock before the tyre has been able to accept the load. This will result in a slid with the bike out of control.
Intimidated by the brake
Being intimidated by the brake will cause the rider to avoid the correct use of the brakes. When the rider needs to use them in an emergency situation, the incorrect use of the brakes will contribute to an accident or mishap.
Rear brake is generally used to assist the front brake. It helps to keep the bike in balance and accept a bit of the weight going forward. However 80% of your braking should be done on the front. When going a little to quickly into a corner the rear brake can be ‘feathered’ to shave off a few Km without upsetting the front end which could cause you to lose the front end with the rear end getting out of control (it’s a weight transfer thing… ok… ask a scientist!!!).
Limits of your bikes brakes
Everything in life has a limit… even the bikes brakes… Once the fork is completely compressed and the tyres are fully loaded, the front end will begin to unload. When they unload they have no more to give and either your stopped of the bike is skidding along out of control. Different bikes have different braking ability. The weight of the bike will also contribute to its ability to stop.
Learn your bikes braking ability
There is no magic formula. You will need to learn how to best use your brakes. Experiment when next braking, try to ‘feel’ what’s happening, experiment with the rear brake and get comfortable with using both. If you are heavy on the brakes and the rear tyre skips, you may be using to much rear brake - come of the rear and use more front, keep the bike in control.
Biker Preparedness (Thanks Kevin)
Physical and mental preparedness:
Often overlooked, these are very important aspects of motorbike safety. Operating a motorbike safely is much more physically and mentally demanding than driving a car. Are you physically able to ride safely? Are you mentally prepared to ride and concentrate on the riding tasks? Many things can impair either or both. Some things are rather obvious, some not. Consider this list:
1. You have had a drink in the past two hours. 2. You are just getting over a pretty bad case of the flu. 3. You are upset or angry
It is obvious that item 1 will impair your physical abilities to operate a motorcycle and depending how much you've had to drink, you could be breaking the law . Item 2 is less obvious but potentially just as dangerous. You may feel MUCH better, but after a day or two of extreme weakness and bed rest, you are not back to 100% as quickly as you may think.
Your bike falling from under you when your leg is too weak to hold it up at a stop is not the time to realize it. It would be impossible to list all things that could impair your abilities. The key is to be aware of your physical and mental condition and save the ride for later if there is anything that could substantially impair either. Your life may depend on it.
Riding gear: When most people hear the term "riding gear", they think of things that will lessen injury in case of a fall. While that is a big part of it, riding gear can and should be used to help keep you from falling in the first place. Never thought about it that way? If not, you're certainly not alone. Proper riding gear is used to maintain comfort as well as provide crash protection. Discomfort can actually CAUSE a fall.
So what is proper riding gear? It depends on conditions, but at minimum it is:
An approved helmet: The helmet should fit snugly but not be too tight. In other words, it should be comfortable. Besides being the best defence against head injury in case of a fall, its also the law.
A biking jacket: snug at the wrists.
Long pants: If your bike should fall over at a speed greater than, say, 10 km, one of your legs will likely contact the ground. Bare flesh is no match for the rigid substances that our transportation folks like to make roads from. Long pants also offer adequate protection for your legs from the extremely hot parts that many bikes like to show off.
Full-fingered gloves: Besides abrasion protection, gloves usually offer a better grip on the controls, especially in condition extremes. In the cold, you will need them to stay warm. In the heat, sweaty hands or fingers may slip off the controls. Gloves offer a buffer against this. They also provide some level of protection against flying objects, such as rocks picked up by traffic or insects, that inevitably will collide with your hands.
Eye protection: This may be goggles, sunglasses or a visor.
Sturdy footwear: Preferably leather and preferably over the ankle. Besides the obvious abrasion protection, on most motorcycles there are many hot parts that reside near your feet and ankles. You should avoid long or dangling laces. Your quick thinking may be put to the test if you come to a stop and your foot won't go down because you have a lace caught in the shifter or brake pedal.
Tailor your riding gear to the conditions you will encounter.
Making sure your motorcycle is ready:
You being ready to ride is only part of the battle. You need to make sure your motorcycle is ready too. You should perform a quick, overall inspection of your motorcycle before each ride. To do this, use what is referred to as the T-CLOCK inspection, explained below.
T - Tyres and wheels
Check your tyres for proper air pressure, tread depth, cracks, bulges or embedded objects. Check wheels for dents, cracks and roundness. Check spokes for proper tightness or missing spokes. Check bearings and seals for signs of failure.
Probably the most important component on your bike are the set of tyres. It's the bit of rubber that keeps you in contact with the road.
Your tyres are probably as important tot he handling of your bike as the suspension is. When you are setting a bike up always take into account the tyre pressure as this will effect the way she handles dramatically.
You only have a few centimetres of contact with the tar. Too much pressure will result in to small a contact patch and excessive wear down the centre of the tyre. Too little pressure will result in flexing of the tyre on the rim resulting in a vague feeling and potential damage to the tyre wall.
Always check tyre pressure on cold tyres. Recommended pressures differ due to different applications of a bike and the bikes weight. Manufacturers assume you and the wife will be travelling together so always recommend fairly high pressures. On a sports bike (120 front / 180 rear) about 2.3 bar in the front and 2.5 in the rear should do. If pillowing about 2.5 front and 2.9 rear should do it. These will vary according to your weight/s and the actual bike to use the manufacturers standard as a staring point. For track use drop the pressure considerably.
Track... about 2.2 bar in the front and 2 bar in the rear (yes more in the front). the rear tyre heats up more due to its connection to the drive train (chain or shaft). Once you have warmed the tyres up on the first few laps they will be at much higher pressures due to the heat exerted via the power/torque delivery and braking. Feel the tyres of a bike which has just come off the track (hot and tacky) and check the tyre pressure (up bit time)
Use the local garage tyre gauge, although be aware that they are often not regularly calibrated and will often give incorrect readings. You can buy a cheap plastic gauge for about R25 or go the expensive electronics route of up to a few hundred bucks. Check your tyres at least once a week and when cold,
Check the entire tyre for nicks and tears, nails etc. Remove debris, stones can work their way in and cause damage. If you find any problems or if the tyre looses pressure inexplicably, get it checked out ASAP.
Replace when the tread has finished down the centre, most tyres have wear indicators in the tread, when the tread is level with the wear indicator ... it is time. If you ride in straight lines a lot and the tyres square off, have them replaced as they will handle like a shopping trolley when in corners. Have regular fun in the twisties and on track and they will stay nice and curved.
C - Controls
Check all levers, making sure they are not broken, bent, cracked or loose. Check the condition and routing of control cables, making sure they move freely, are not frayed, and have no sharp angles, and are of sufficient length as to not interfere with steering. Check that all hoses are in good condition and don't interfere with steering. Make sure your throttle moves freely, with no sticking and snaps closed when released.
L - Lights and electrical
Check your battery, making sure the terminals are clean, electrolyte fluid is sufficient, and that it is properly secured. Check your headlight, making sure it works, has no cracks and is aimed properly. Check all other lights and reflectors for operation, cracks and fastening. Check wiring, looking for frays, clean connections and proper routing.
O - Oil and fluids
Check oil and fluid levels, including brake and clutch fluid, coolant and of course petrol. Check all fluid reservoirs, hoses and lines for leaks.
C - Chassis
Check condition of the frame, looking for cracks, dents or bends. Check forks and shocks, making sure they travel freely and are properly adjusted. Check chain or belt, for proper tension, lubrication and wear. Check all fasteners, bolts and cotter pins, making sure they are not missing, broken or loose.
K - Kickstand
Check the side stand and centre stand. Make sure they are not cracked or bent, and that they spring into place and the tension is sufficient to hold them.Although this sounds like a lot, this inspection can be performed quite quickly. While it won't guarantee against a failure of some sort, it increases your odds of finding problems before they become dangerous or fatal.
Practice hard, controlled braking when you don’t need to and reap the benefits when you do. An Emergency is not the best time to practice your emergency stops. Learning to brake properly is one of the most important things you can do. Work on it as you would any other aspect of your riding and when you need to stop hard, it’ll be second nature. Preparing to brake hard Sort your bike out (tyre pressures and condition, suspension settings, brake condition), then find a smooth, straight, clean road without too much camber. Do a few runs to warm up the tyres and get the feel of the bike and the tarmac. As you line up for your first hard stop, you need to be relaxed. If you need to stop yourself pitching forward, grip the tank with your knees.
Starting to brake
The initial phase is important – how you first apply the brakes determines how the bike reacts. Your brakes are not an on/off switch. You’re looking for a smooth initial application that transfers weight onto the front tyre without suddenly compressing the suspension. If you just grab the lever, the suspension just bottoms out, and you can’t absorb any more movement. Something has to give, and it’s the tyre, which will break traction. Smooth and firm is the key.
Having transferred the weight onto the front tyre, you’ve given yourself bags of extra grip. To use it, you need to increase the pressure on the lever progressively. Braking hard tends to lift the rear wheel off the road. If the rear brake locks up, that’s a good indication. If the rear wheel starts hopping that’s because the engine’s locking it up (more on engine braking in Better Riding….5) Once the rear wheel completely leaves the ground, this is as hard as you can brake in normal conditions. Where practicing comes in is to learn how to get to this point more quickly and more smoothly.
Reacting to conditions
Once you’re up to full breaking effort, you will have to assess what’s going on, and react to changes to road surface before they catch you out. If your about to cross a patch of road marking or go through a puddle, you’ll want to release lever pressure slightly, then increase it again as soon as the extra risk has passed. You need to be relaxed so that if you feel the rear wheel lock, you can let the lever off until it spins again, then you can get back to full pressure again.
Keep it controlled
As you come almost to a point of stopping, you’ll obviously need to whip the clutch in to avoid stalling. You also need to release the braking pressure slightly at the very last moment. This gives the suspension a chance to return to normal – otherwise as you come to a halt, the forks bounce back up from full travel, which can unbalance you as you try to put your foot down and stop. You don’t want to avoid an accident and then drop anyway, do you?
Huh? What did you say? Can you hear me now? Do you find yourself talking loud around other bikers? Has riding affected your hearing? How many years in the future do you want to hear well, and how important is your hearing to you?
Earplugs, do you use them? Do you think of them as bike protection like you do your leathers, boots, gloves and helmet? I would guess you probably don't. I polled a few riders and only 5 out of 18 wear earplugs on a regular basis. The majority only wore them on the highways, rarely during in-town riding. A few never wear them saying the noise/loud pipes are part of the thrill of riding. Some said they don't wear them because it inhibits important traffic sounds around them. Others, myself included, disagree and say you can hear sounds of cars while wearing earplugs, plus you don't have the hearing fatigue. And in turn, that makes you a safer rider all around. I personally think if you get into the habit of wearing them the day you start riding, you will always wear them. Otherwise, they are a hassle taking them in and out at every stop, and then trying to find them before you saddle up again. I have tried several kinds, even the ones attached to a string (like idiot mittens for children!), and they get tangled up in my hair or clothing. I have found several loose ones in the washing machine or dryer, and I'm sure they are like lost socks; the machine devours the other one thus eliminating your "pair."
Statistics show that at any speed over 30 mph the noise levels are loud enough to eventually cause hearing damage. Even with a quiet full-face helmet, hearing damage will begin with much more than half an hour of daily exposure at highway speeds. Between the wind, the pipes and even the loud noises of buses and trucks, you're exposing your ears to a barrage of sound every time you ride. Construction workers, teenagers listening to heavy metal music, people serving in the military, just to name a few, are exposed to on-going abuse to their ears. It's a proven fact that continuous exposure to elevated noise levels will cause you to lose sensitivity; the more continuous, the more permanent the damage becomes.
There are many benefits to wearing earplugs besides saving your hearing for the future.
1. Earplugs stop the hiss, and reduce the volume of the engine on your bike.
2. With less noise, you are more relaxed and you have a better concentration level while riding.
3. Ear plugs are inexpensive, moisture resistant, comfortable, easy to use and effective.
4. Earplugs can make a noisy helmet much quieter.
5. They can be reusable, washable, disposable or custom made.
Can't find a pair that fits you or want a perfect fit especially for your ears? Order a custom set of moulded latex earplugs that are a worthwhile investment in protection and comfort. Remember, every ear canal is different, so try several types until you find the one that works best for you. It is recommended your earplugs be at least 30 dB noise attenuation. It is important to make sure your earplugs are inserted and fit property, or you won't get the full benefit of noise attention.
Group Riding Commandments
1. Arrive at the meeting place on time with a full tank of gas and ready to ride.
2. Make sure everyone is aware of the route. Provide a map if necessary.
3. Plan stops for rests, gas, lunch, etc., and ensure that all riders know where the stops are.
4. Split large groups into smaller groups of 5-6 and allow a few minutes between groups.
5. Ride at a pace that is comfortable, but not faster than the slowest bike or least experienced rider.
6. Maintain your position in a staggered formation using the two second rule as a minimum unless road conditions dictate otherwise.
7. Be responsible for your own safety. Don't rely on others. Scan well ahead for hazards and signal the following rider if time permits.
8. Be courteous and allow other motorists to enter/exit a highway, change lanes or pass.
9. Look out for your fellow riders. Should some-one fall behind and the route is not familiar, at least one rider will wait at an intersection where they might make a wrong turn.
10. If you decide to leave the ride it is only common courtesy to alert the leader of your group. If you decide to leave en route you must signal another rider to prevent a wild goose chase.
Carrying a Passenger
Carrying a passenger on a motorcycle is not like taking someone with you in a car. A passenger affects the overall handling and dynamics of your motorcycle. Unless you are a fairly skilled rider, you probably should not even consider taking on a passenger.
If you do carry a passenger, you should know and do the following:
Never carry a passenger unless your motorcycle is designed for one, including seating space and passenger foot pegs.
NEVER allow a passenger to sit anywhere except on the area of the seat designated for a passenger.
Make sure that the weight of yourself, your passenger and all gear does not exceed the maximum recommended weight for your motorcycle according to manufacturer's specifications.
Make sure your passenger has proper riding gear. It's just as important for your passenger to be protected and comfortable as it is for you.
1. Make sure your passenger knows what he/she is supposed to do. Unless the person has ridden with you many times and you know he/she understands the rules, take the time to go over them before you start your ride. The passenger should: 2. Keep feet on the foot pegs at all times, and avoid contact with hot parts.
3. Sit still as much as possible, particularly when slowing or stopped.
4. Always lean with the motorcycle. This means the passenger's torso should always be the same angle as the motorcycle. They should not lean in or out.
5. When in a turn, look over the shoulder of the operator in the direction of the turn Make sure your suspension is properly adjusted for the extra weight.
Loading Your Motorcycle
When loading your motorcycle, you need to do more than just randomly fill space. Check your owner's manual to find out your gross carrying capacity and never exceed it. Whether you have a touring machine with a travel trunk and saddlebags, or a standard motorcycle, the rule is the same - the bulk of the weight should be placed low and as close to the centre of the motorcycle as possible.
Distribute the weight evenly on both sides, and if using manufactured bags, never exceed the weight recommendation for that bag. Make sure that any attached load is securely fastened, and that any straps are tight, have no loose ends, and not freely moving. Make sure that any attached load does not block any lights or turn signals, or interfere with your steering, braking, gear changing, or other control of the motorcycle.
Food for Thought
A couple of weeks ago, I was at a bike gathering at a local Harley Dealer when I struck up a conversation with a guy who was taking delivery of a new Anniversary Edition Ultra. The guy was into his mid to late 40's and he tells me he's been riding for 20 years and this was his 4th new Harley. He said he had an 02 Ultra, but some clown turned left in front of him and he had to "lay her down". The bike was totalled and he had a broken leg which he said was now in good enough shape that he could start riding again. I then asked him if he had ever taken any rider training courses. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "I've been riding 20 years, that's enough training for me". I then watched him as he duck-walked his bike around a U-Turn a Greyhound bus could have easily made, and then saw him drag his feet about 100 yards through the parking lot and out onto the highway.
It made me think of something an MSF Instructor recently told me. He said he teaches the MSF Experienced Rider course and that he sees a lot of people who think they are good riders because they've been riding 20 or 30 years. The instructor said what they really have is one years experience 20 or 30 times.
That made a lot of sense. In other words, a rider gets to a certain level and then, never improves any further, but instead, keeps repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Now, if you're driving a car, you can get away with a lot of mistakes for a lot of years before it catches up with you. But, on a bike, there's usually no such thing as a little fender bender. In almost every crash on a motorcycle, you're going to get hurt or even killed and your bike is going to be a mess, if not a total wreck. The point is, don't fool yourself into thinking you know what you're doing just because you've been riding for a lot of years. Look at it this way. If experience was all you need to be a good driver, then that 80 year old guy blocking the left lane of the highway with 60 years of driving under his belt, should be able to easily win the Daytona 500 should he choose to since he has far more experience than most of those young whippersnappers in NASCAR, right? Of course not!
Those young experienced NASCAR drivers have received the best training available and constantly practice and improve their skills. Now, the old guy with all the experience, like you, the experienced rider, can cruise on down the road just fine, until something unexpected happens. Then, all he and you can do is jam on the brakes and hope for the best. The highly trained driver or rider can rely on his skills and training and probably can avoid the crash altogether instead of "laying her down", (in other words, to avoid the crash). Now, it's true, you can't avoid every crash, but it sure would be nice to avoid most of them.
Myths and Missconceptions
Get a group of motorcyclists talking about crashes and safety, and you will almost certainly hear some of them-popular misconceptions, incorrect assumptions, urban legends, and intuitive explanations about motorcycle safety that turn out to be wrong when you actually check out the facts. The problem is that believing these misconceptions can increase your chances of being involved in an accident or getting hurt when you do crash. Maybe you know BS when you hear it, but maybe you have heard some myths repeated so often or by people whose expertise you respect that you think they are actually true. Unfortunately, there are a lot of motorcyclists who do believe them. We thought that some of these fallacies should be brought out into the light of day so that riders have the right information upon which to make informed riding-safety decisions. We also hope it will keep more motorcyclists from repeating such misconceptions to riders who turn to them for advice. These are the Deadly Dozen, the motorcycle safety myths and urban legends ones that we hear most frequently.
Myth 1: Other Drivers Don't Care About Motorcyclists
It may seem hard to believe at times, but other drivers almost never actually want to hit you. Most of those near-misses come about because they don't always know you are there, even when you are right in front of them, seemingly in plain view. You can be obscured or completely hidden by glare, by other things on or along the road, by the cars roof pillars, the handicap hangtag, or by other traffic. Of course, not all drivers "think motorcycles" and make the effort to look that extra bit harder to see if there might be a motorcyclist hidden by that obscuration or in their blind spot.
Instead of assuming that they will ignore you even when they see you, you should help make it easier for drivers to spot you, especially as the population ages and more drivers have greater difficulty in picking you out. To overcome the fact that you might be hard to see and harder to notice, wear bright colours, especially on your helmet and jacket. Run your high beam during the day. Think about things that can hide you and your bike from other drivers, things that can be as common as the sun behind you, the car ahead in the next lane, or a couple of roadside poles that line up on the driver's line of sight toward you. Make an effort to ride in or move to a location where drivers with potentially conflicting courses can see you before they stray your way.
Myth 2: Loud Pipes Save Lives
Yeah, there are a few situations-like where you are right next to a driver with his window down who is about the to change lanes-where full-time noise-makers might help a driver notice you, but all that noise directed rearward doesn't do much in the most common and much more dangerous conflict where a car turns in front of you. Maybe it's the fatigue caused by the noise, maybe it's the attitudes of riders who insist on making annoying noise, or perhaps loud bikes annoy enough drivers to make them aggressive. Whatever the reason, the research shows that bikes with modified exhaust systems crash more frequently than those with stock pipes. If you really want to save lives, turn to a loud jacket or a bright helmet colour, which have been proven to do the job. Or install a louder horn. Otherwise, just shut up.
Myth 3: Motorcycle Helmets Break Necks
It seems logical-you put more weight out there on the end of your neck and when you get thrown off the bike, that extra weight will create more pendulum force on your neck. Turns out, it doesn't work that way. In fact, the energy-absorbing qualities of a DOT motorcycle helmet also absorb the energy that breaks riders' necks in impacts. Studies show that helmeted motorcyclists actually suffer fewer neck injuries when they crash compared to riders who crash without helmets.
Myth 4: Helmets Block Your Ability to See or Hear Danger
The thing you learn when you dig into the research is that motorcycle riders who use helmets crash less frequently than those who don't. Maybe that happens because motorcyclists who decide to wear helmets have a better or more realistic attitude about riding. Maybe it's because putting on a helmet is a reminder that what you are about to do can be dangerous and the act of accepting protection puts you in the right mindset. Maybe it's because a helmet provides eye protection and cuts down wind noise so you can actually see and hear better. Maybe its because, by cutting wind pressure and noise, a helmet reduces fatigue. Whatever the reasons, wearing a helmet clearly does not increase a motorcyclist's risk of having an accident and wearing one correlates to reduced likelihood of an accident.
Myth 5: A Helmet Won't Help in Most Crashes
People look at the seemingly low impact speeds used in motorcycle-helmet testing and assume that if you are going faster than that, the helmet will no longer be up to the job. That ignores a few critical facts:
Most accidents happen at relatively low speeds. Most of the impact energy is usually vertical-the distance your head falls until it hits. Helmets (or at least helmets that meet DOT standards) perform spectacular life-saving feats at impact speeds far above those used in testing. When a helmeted rider suffers a fatal head injury, it frequently doesn't matter, because, to hit hard enough to sustain that fatal injury, he sustained multiple additional fatal injuries to other parts of his body. In other words, the fact that the helmet didn't prevent the head injury was of no consequence. The numbers clearly say that riders using DOT helmets simply survive crashes more successfully than those without them.
Myth 6: A Helmet Will Leave You Brain Damaged in an Crash When You Would Have Simply Died
Of course that's possible-your helmet attenuates the impact energy enough to keep the injury from being fatal but not enough to keep all of your eggs from getting scrambled. However, that's rare, and if you hit that hard, you are likely to get killed by some other injury. It's actually the un-helmeted rider who is likely to cross from animal to vegetable kingdom, and often from a relatively minor impact that would have damaged nothing but his ego if he'd been wearing a DOT helmet.
Myth 7: A Skilled Rider Should Be Able to Handle Almost Any Situation
The sharpest, most skilled motorcyclist in the world isn't going to be up to the task when a car turns or pulls out in front of him a short distance ahead and stops directly in his path broadside. Believing that your superior skills will keep you of trouble is a pipe dream, even if they are as good as you think. No matter how skilled you are, it's better to ride to avoid situations that can turn ugly. Slow down, scan farther ahead, and think strategically. And dress for the crash.
Myth 8: If You Are Going to Crash, Lay It Down
I suspect this line was developed by riders to explain why they ended up flat-side-down while trying to avoid a crash. They over-braked or otherwise lost control, then tried to explain the crash away as intentional and tried to make it sound like it wasn't a crash at all. Maybe motorcycle brakes once were so bad that you could stop better off your bike while sliding or tumbling. If so, that hasn't been true for decades. You can scrub off much more speed before and there be going slower at impact with effective braking than you will sliding down the road on your butt. And if you are still on the bike, you might get thrown over the car you collide with, avoiding an impact with your body. If you slide into a car while you are on the ground, you either have a hard stop against it or end up wedged under it. Remember that the phrase "I laid 'er down to avoid a crash" is an oxymoron, often repeated by some other kind of moron.
If you are going to ride a motorcycle in the near future, no beer is enough beer.
The only events where being on the ground might leave you better off are: 1) on an elevated roadway where going over the guardrail will cause you to fall a long way, or 2) in that situation you see occasionally in movies, where the motorcyclist slides under a semi trailer without touching it. That's a good trick if the truck is moving.
Myth 9: One Beer Won't Hurt
Maybe not while you are drinking it, but if you get on your motorcycle after that, the effects of a single beer can get you hurt for life. No matter how unaffected you are sure you are, all the studies say differently. You increase your risk to yourself and to others when you drink and hit the road. Also, as you age, your metabolism slows down, and those "coupla drinks" you had last night may still be affecting you when you hit the road the next morning.
Myth 10: It's Better to Stay in Your Lane than Split Lanes
In most parts of the world, motorcycles split lanes all the time, everywhere traffic is heavy. Here in the U.S., people often act as if lane-splitting is insane. But when someone actually studied it in the only place in the U.S. where it's legal (California), they discovered it's actually slightly safer than staying in the lane in heavy, slow-moving traffic. Still many motorcyclists berate others who do it, when they should in fact be endorsing it.
Myth 11: I'm Safer on the Street than on an Interstate
The thinking here must be that slower is safer, but that's only really true after the accident begins. Controlled-access roadways are inherently safer because all the traffic is going the same way, and there are no side streets from which someone can pop into your path, no pedestrians, and, often, less roadside "furniture" to hit if you depart the roadway. Running down the road at 70 mph side-by-sidewall with the whirling wheels of a semi may feel hairy, but you are actually safer than at half that speed on a city street or even a country road.
Myth 12: A Skilled Rider Can Stop Better with Conventional Brakes than with Anti-Lock Brakes
Extensive testing done recently disproves this popular notion. Even on clean, dry, flat pavement, skilled, experienced riders (who did hundreds of panic stops for the testing on outrigger-equipped motorcycles) stopped in less distance with anti-lock brakes (ABS) than with conventional or linked braking systems. Though the tests didn't include samples on surfaces with slick, dirty or wet spots, ABS certainly would have performed even better under those conditions while eliminating much of the risk of crashing.
The other cool thing about ABS on a motorcycle is that allows you to safely practice panic stops without risking a crash caused by lock-up.
Anyway, the next time tells you that he had to "lay it down" or that green bikes crash more than purple ones, you can nod and snicker internally or challenge them. Just don't base your own riding choices on what other people assume unless their is some solid science to back it up.