7 tips for riding motorcycles

I found a cool video about riding, which is below. After the video, I list my 7 tips for riding.

Take safety seriously before you get on the bike

Motorcycle riders must take responsibility for their own safety, and your safety begins by using your brain and not riding outside your limits or like an idiot.

Good gear is important, too. Consider wearing a helmet, gloves and a quality motorcycle jacket at a minimum. In regard to a helmet, some states have universal helmet laws, partial laws, or no law requiring them. It depends on where you live. However, as many wise motorcyclists have said, just because you don’t have to wear a helmet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear one.

Other pre-ride tips include adjusting the mirrors and inspecting the motorcycle’s chain, belt or shaft to see that it is in good working condition.

Choose footwear with good traction

Roads get slippery in many conditions, not just when they are wet. Oil and sand are among other common road debris that can make the road surface slick.

The last thing you want when you’re coming to a stop and putting your feet down, or when pushing off a bit to launch your ride forward, is for your feet to slip.

If the footwear you choose is designed specifically for motorcycle riding, it will have other built-in features that will make your ride more comfortable and safe.

Ride more defensively than you drive a car

Motorcycles are more difficult to see than cars and trucks, and most drivers aren’t trained to look for them. Plus, the stakes are simply higher for those who get hit on a motorcycle vs. those who have a car-to-car accident. Those are unpleasant facts you have to keep in mind when riding.

Take into account the irresponsible drivers who are talking on the phone, texting or turning around to yell at kids in the backseat, and you get an idea of the dangers you face. Accepting them will make you prepared; ignoring them will make you vulnerable.

Master looking ahead and anticipating

One of the most important principles of piloting a motorcycle is that you will drive where you look. Keep your eyes looking forward several hundred feet to watch how the traffic flow ahead of you is developing and changing.

Use peripheral vision to observe vehicles beside you or about to enter the flow of traffic from side streets and parking lots. Anticipate what is going to happen, and react accordingly. This doesn’t mean you should overreact. Just stay a step ahead of what is developing. For example, if you’re riding on a road with two lanes going your way, and a car is coming out of a parking lot on your right, move to the left lane if clear before the car makes its move. This puts you in control and prevents you from having to react rapidly should the car not see you and pull out in front of you.

Know how far you can go on the gas you have

Learning your motorcycle’s actual MPG and its fuel tank capacity are essential to knowing when you will need to get gas. This is especially important if you don’t have a fuel gauge, and even some newer bikes don’t. Multiply your tank capacity times the MPG to get your maximum distance, and then set a trip odometer. Knowing when you’ll need fuel will prevent the hassle of running out of gas in an inconvenient location, to say nothing of the grief you’ll get from the friends you’re riding with.

Speaking of gas …

Having whisky throttle can be dangerous on a high powered bike. Make sure you are comfortable with your machine and know its throttle response. Don’t use a throttle lock on your motorcycle unless you are an experienced rider. Also, consider taking an MSF course for safety, which leads to the next point …

Know state laws for motorcyclists

Laws for riding motorcycles vary widely. While helmet laws get the most attention, your state might also have laws about eye protection, whether the motorcycle must have mirrors, the use of high beam and rules for riders.

Learn your state’s laws before you start riding, and look up laws in other states you’ll be visiting. Motorcycle laws are available on each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Why start on a 250cc motorcycle

Photo by Sid Mosdell via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Photo by Sid Mosdell via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

The temptation is great, to skip the “Starter” bikes and immediately advance yourself to something beefier, with more street cred. But the fact remains that there are several excellent reasons for beginning your riding career on a 250cc motorcycle. For example:

Acceleration: Just about any motorcycle will go fast enough to turn you into road rash if you push it – motorcycle engines are just that powerful, and motorcycle bodies are just that light. But acceleration is the real key here – it takes years of experience to be able to project how a bike is going to respond at higher torque levels. A 250cc motorcycle will give you a nice, linear acceleration curve, giving you plenty of time to respond to changing road conditions. A more powerful bike can throw you into harm’s way before you are prepared to react.

Weight: Let’s face facts: while you are still learning to ride, you are going to lay your bike down. More than once. Recovery from a spilled Harley Street 1200 Custom is going to involve lifting 587 pounds – a pretty substantial burden for anyone to manage. Getting a Honda Rebel 250 back into the upright position requires managing a weight of 331 pounds – much more manageable for just about any rider. While you are learning to handle your new motorcycle, a 250cc is going to be much more forgiving – not only when you suffer from a spill, but also when cornering, when parking, and when storing the bike. Don’t start at the heavy end of the scale.

Insurance: Like many other high-ticket items in this world, motorcycles require insurance. And insurance costs for motorcycles factor in many things, including price, safety features, engine power, and age. Just hazard a guess which costs more to insure – a new Ninja 300, or its big brother, the Ninja ZX-6R? Precisely. The larger, faster, and more potentially dangerous ZX-6R has premiums that are much higher than the new rider-friendly 300. Take the money you save on those premiums and invest them in a full set of riding gear instead.

Customization and Repair Cost: Economics is a pretty simple discipline, even where it pertains to motorcycles. The more expensive the motorcycle, the fewer people will be in a financial position to buy it. The fewer bikes that are on the road, fewer manufacturers are motivated to produce quality parts for repairs and upgrades, whether the original manufacturer or aftermarket suppliers. Maintenance also is a huge issue for motorcycles, and more bikes on the road will equal more qualified shops to care for them. There are an incredible number of 250cc motorcycles on the road, and because of that there are a much higher number of suppliers offering everything from complete replacement parts to items such as body customizations, windscreens, panniers, and the whole gamut of custom options you might want to put on your bike once the bug has thoroughly bitten you. Do yourself a favor and start with something that is easy and relatively inexpensive to customize to your exact desires, rather than purchasing a “boutique bike” that can only be modified or repaired by heading back to the dealership.

Purchase Cost: In the same vein, as you are learning the ropes of motorcycle riding, you do not want to be in the position of constantly worrying about trashing your 20 or 30 thousand dollar investment. Brand new, solid 250s are available starting at under 5 thousand dollars. With that kind of cost savings, you are free to really put your new bike through its paces, learning to master it without the constant fear of protecting your investment. After you have spent a few years on your new ride, you are free to trade it in on something a little more challenging, now that you have a firm grasp of the fundamentals. Would you hand your sixteen-year old the keys to a Ferrari as their first car? Probably not – you will want them starting out in something with a 4 cylinder engine and a good safety rating as they are learning the ropes. The same applies to you as a new motorcycle rider. Get yourself into a 250, get a firm handle on what you are doing, then decide if you want to trade it in or hang on to it as a Sunday driver or customization project.

6 Tips For Buying A Motorcycle Helmet

motorcycle helmet

Photo by Konrad Samsel via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Let’s look at a few tips for buying a motorcycle helmet.

1. Why Are You Taking This Ride?

Once upon a time, buying a motorcycle helmet meant buying a single type. It was a modified cereal bowl (with a visor if you were lucky), that wasn’t particularly good at protecting the head and neck. Now when purchasing a helmet, you’re confronted with a variety of choices.

This isn’t to make up for the lack of previous helmet variety. All these choices are now here because the only thing safer than wearing a helmet when bike riding is wearing a helmet that is specifically geared to that particular type of motorcycle pursuit. So don’t just resign yourself to the fact that you will be buying just one helmet. Resign yourself to the fact that you will be purchasing at a minimum at least two helmets of probably distinctly different styles.

So because of this, start your helmet shopping by considering all of the ways in which you’ll be using your motorcycle.

2. Helmet Choices

Are you going to be riding that bike on a thirty mile commute most days? Or just on little ten minute excursions? In both cases where helmet laws are enforced, you may be required to wear a DOT certified one. However, there are different degrees of DOT certification (and of course, prices), and how far, how long, and where you’re taking that motorcycle may affect the type of helmet you’re required to wear.

If you’re going to be riding at night, then you’ll need a high visibility helmet, either with neon colors or reflective designs. And a “high viz” helmet isn’t a bad idea either for daytime street riding. The cagers don’t need any more excuses to claim that they can’t see you.

Are you going to be track or course riding? Many venues now won’t even allow you on those tracks unless you’re wearing a Snell certified helmet.

And while it’s not a mandatory requirement, group riding (especially over long distances) is considerably safer if “the pack” are wearing Bluetooth enabled helmets.

3. Labels Do Matter.

You’re looking for a helmet (or helmets) that meet certain certification standards, generally DOT or Snell ones. See: http://www.smf.org/docs/articles/dot

DOT (Department of Transportation) certified helmets are ones that have been approved by the Federal government for various types of over-the-road motorcycle use. While state motorcycle laws can vary, where helmet laws apply, DOT approved helmets are generally acceptable. Be aware that while some popular helmet styles like the “half-helmet” or “jockey” meet minimum DOT requirements, they can now be legally worn only under certain conditions, such as limited street riding. And that “Viking” helmet? Well, at least you’ll be getting to meet a lot of cops.

A Snell certified helmet is the safest motorcycle helmet one can wear, even exceeding DOT “full helmet” standards. This is why the Snell is the preferred (often mandatory) helmet for racing.

4. The Fit Is It

Motorcycle helmets come in a variety of sizes. An ill-fitting one is horribly uncomfortable and dangerously distracting. Many motorcycle helmet brands on the market fit differently. Rather than guessing, get professional fitting help at the bike shop. The helmet should not be down over the eyes, and it should fit snugly. A good test is to strap it on and try to pull the rear of it up.

5. Ventilation

You actually have a lot of selection choices concerning this. Again, how and where are you going to be using this helmet, as it can affect how you want to vent it. Will you be using a Bluetooth? That could affect how you vent the helmet too, as can weather.

6. Face Shield

Your vision should be completely normal and unobstructed when wearing it, even with tinted, anti-fog, and UV-protected ones.

6 tips for riding a motorcycle

riding a motorcycle

Riding a motorcycle is fun and enjoyable; keep it that way by following these 6 tips.

Take A Safety Course

If you are an inexperienced rider, it is a great idea to take a quick safety course. These courses are typically a couple days and can be completed over a weekend. Each course reviews basic safety and also has a riding component so attendees are able to get out on a short course and practice some of the tricky skills such as stopping, starting, corners, parking, and other basic skills.

Wear Proper Gear

When riding a motorcycle, it is critical to wear the proper gear. Eye wear is crucial and required in most states. Ensure you have the correct eye, head, and skin protection while riding. Invest in a DOT approved helmet and mesh jacket with armor for a cool, comfortable, and safe ride.

Conduct An Initial Safety Check

Before taking off into the sunset, make sure your bike is ready to go. Check to see you have enough gas in your tank, that your lights are working, your horn is working, and inspect your breaks, break lines, and chassis so you don’t have any unexpected issues while on the road.

Get Used To Extra Weight

Riding alone is one thing; riding with a passenger is totally different. It is a great idea to take a quick ride around the block first before you set out to get used to having the extra weight on the bike. Get a good feel for how the bike handles with someone on the back. Train them to sit still and how to lean into corners. Keep in mind that having a passenger on the back of your bike is a trust exercise for both parties.

Keep A Safe Following Distance

It is easy to ride a bike similar to your car, but it is critical that you maintain a safe following distance to the car in front of you. It is often difficult for other cars to see motorcycles so maintaining a safe following distance has the dual benefit of allowing you ample time to stop and also allowing the surrounding cars the time to see you.

Watch Your Surroundings

In conjunction with maintaining a safe following distance, it is also important to stay out of blind spots. This is especially the case with the large trucks. If you are unable to see the driver, they cannot see you. This puts you in danger as they can change lanes at any given time and run you off the road.

Traffic is difficult to navigate on a motorcycle. It is essential that you assume cars will merge unexpectedly into your lane without a signal. Ensure you are visible to the cars behind you so if a car does merge quickly, other cars see you and have a chance to avoid you. Watch the car’s front wheel, not the driver. This will allow you to see the motion quicker and react better.

When cars stop at an intersection, it makes it even more difficult to see a motorcycle. Weaving slightly in your path and keeping closer to the center line will make you more visible to left turning cars.

If you notice a car approaching too fast at a stopped intersection, quickly move into the primary escape lane to avoid being it. Flash your break light to attempt to grab the attention of the approaching driver. While no one likes to see an accident, it is better for the accident to happen between two cars, rather than a car and a motorcycle where the rider can be seriously injured even in low impact accidents.