There are so many details that go into being safe while riding a motorcycle. Motorcyclists need to know how to choose the right bike, gear, gadgets, and even the most important skills to practice. While rider skills and problem areas vary widely, there are a few key exercises every motorcyclist should practice to increase their likelihood of staying safe while on the road. If you are lucky, you will have a riding mentor with some experience to help guide you and tell you some of these tips, but if you don’t, then feel free to study this guide.
- Emergency Stop
Emergency braking on a motorcycle is vastly different than emergency braking while in a car. Unlike a car, a motorcycle’s braking capacity is split between the front wheel (70% of capacity) and the rear wheel (30%) of capacity. Because of this, it’s very easy to either misuse or underutilize a motorcycle’s full braking capacity. Practicing your motorcycle’s maximum braking capacity in a safe and controlled environment is essential for any rider.
- Slow Speed Maneuvers
Not all emergency maneuvers are at high speeds. Good motorcycle control at slow speeds is essential to rider safety, too. Riders need to be able to safely navigate in slow-speed areas like parking lots, gas stations, and slow traffic.
To master this maneuver, use small cone markers to create a box that is roughly 24 feet wide and 60 feet long (7 meters by 18 meters). This box will act as your U-turn and perimeter turn area.
Begin by riding down the long side of the U-Turn box. Before you get to the boundary, complete a U-turn to the left and then to the right. Do not cross any of your boundary lines, and try not to put a foot down to stabilize the bike. Focus on shifting your weight to the opposite direction that you are turning to help stabilize the bike.
- Emergency Swerve
Sometimes there just isn’t enough time or space to perform an emergency stop. In these situations, an emergency swerve may be the best option to avoid an obstacle or collision hazard.
While seated or standing over your bike, practice pressing on your handlebar grips with the palm of each hand. Let the bike dip under you, and press on the opposite hand to bring it back up again. This is the basic movement you will execute while at speed for your emergency swerve.
Draw a simulated collision hazard on the ground with chalk (this could be a car, curb, or other hazardous item). Approach the collision hazard at 15-25 mph (24-40 km/h). When you have neared the collision hazard press the handlebars quickly, one way to swerve around the obstacle, and then press the bars the opposite way to straighten the bike again.
Sadly, corner speed mismanagement is a major cause of crashes for two-wheeled vehicles. Learning and practicing how to corner correctly and safely is essential to staying safe while on the road. Stable, smooth, and controlled riding form should be ingrained and automatic, no matter what is going on around you.
- Crossing an obstacle:
While most road bikes can’t perform the impressive jumps and acrobatics that dirtbikes can, almost all can cross over common roadway obstacles safely. Crossing an obstacle is a crucial skill to practice and one you should be able to execute with ease while on the road.
Practice a “throttle-blip” (rolling on the throttle slightly and quickly) just before your motorcycle’s front tire reaches the obstacle. This slight acceleration shifts weight from the front of the motorcycle to the rear, which allows the front wheel to cross the obstacle with greater ease.
- Master The Clutch
Most bikes come with standard transmissions, and working the clutch can be tricky. As with balance, you’ll only get better with practice, but if you find it challenging, consider a dual-clutch transmission bike.
Motorcycle emergency skills, whether mental or physical, must be practiced regularly to be effective. In an emergency situation, muscle memory and mental habits will take over which is why it is crucial to practice safe riding drills like the ones above frequently.