Safety on a motorcycle
Every rider will confirm that a motorcycle is not simply just a mean of transport. Riding is not so much about being able to get from point A to point B as it is about everything in between – it is the excitement, sense of freedom and eternal adventure that every rider enjoys the most. The unpredictable and ever changing nature of the road is what fuels this experience. A serious rider, however, will not take this unpredictability lightly – as much as it is, on one hand, what makes riding a motorcycle such a special experience, it is, on the other hand, what poses a danger to a rider as well.
As much as experience of a rider matters for his own safety on the road, there is no denying that what ultimately defines a ride is even more a matter of external factors. A quality of an experienced rider is to expect the unexpected on the road and to do, accordingly, everything in his power in order to make the trip as safe as possible. We all strive to become better, safer and more reliable riders – these are some of the basic tips that should be known to anyone who realises the importance of safety on a motorcycle:
A good helmet, first of all, needs to have a certificate of quality (“D.O.T. approved”) – meaning it has to meet certain safety standards in order to be deemed “street-legal”. Moreover, a quality helmet will properly address all of the following requirements:
- Impact protection – a helmet can protect your head only if it properly distributes the force of impact over its entire shell and the impact-absorbing liner – expanded polystyrene (EPS).
- Penetration protection – the outer shell of a helmet needs to be able to take the impact of various flying objects ranging from small insects to gravel without being penetrated.
- Retention system – a helmet flying off your head at the point of initial impact does not offer the necessary protection – it has to have a proper retention system that will keep it fixed on your head.
It is very important to select a helmet that fits your head as perfectly as possible – the right helmet will fit your head tightly. In order to wear your helmet comfortably, you should try helmets with different paddings. You should also consider some other important features such as airflow and sound insulation (soundproofing).
It might sound strange, but even a helmet that has not received a serious impact during its use, might have lost its quality over time. According to commonly accepted standards in the world of motorcycles, a helmet older than 5 years might not be able to guarantee the same standards of safety it once had. A helmet that has taken a serious impact (even if just once) should be replaced with a new one as its safety characteristics might have been diminished by the impact (this does not apply if, for example, the helmet has fallen from the shelf (or your hand) to the ground).
Motorcycling clothing offers more than just protection from cold and other weather conditions – it offers essential protection in case of an accident. Some riders wear jeans pants and leather jackets for short trips but it is important to realise that even on a short trip and at low speeds an accident can happen – without proper protection it can quickly be an accident with bad consequences. A proper riding equipment consist of protective pants, jacket, gloves and boots. Good protective gear will be additionally padded at the most exposed parts. It is also important that once we have all of this gear, we take good care of it and inspect it often.
Frequent use will take its toll and the protective gear will show its wear – a small tear can make a big difference in performance: if you fall off your motorcycle and slide on the road, a small tear will turn into a larger hole and your skin will be exposed.
As weather conditions can change rapidly, every rider should consider this in advance – a good strategy is to wear a few layers of clothing so you can adapt on-the-go.
Another part of motorcycling equipment that some of us pay too little attention to is the footwear. A responsible rider will always use protective boots – not only do they offer the necessary protection in case of a fall but they also provide better traction and control.
You should constantly observe the condition and wear of the tyres on your motorcycle. A worn-down tyre poses a great safety risk – you should always know when it is time to invest in your own safety and buy new tyres. Different types of riding styles mean different types of wear on the tyres: if you are usually driving straight, the top (mid) of the tyre will wear down first; if you like to put your knee to the ground often, the wear will show sooner on the side part of the tyre. Additionally you should always check if the tyre pressure complies with the manufacturer’s instructions.
We all know how important the breaks are for a safe ride, however we rarely check the condition of braking fluid. Through time braking fluid absorbs certain amounts of moisture through the air and consequently the braking power is diminished. You should check your braking fluid regularly in order to be sure you can rely on your brakes to work as well as they should.
Inspecting other parts of the motorcycle
Prior to getting on your bike and taking a trip you should always inspect some of the vital parts of the motorcycle. You should inspect the chain by spinning the rear wheel and check if it runs smoothly. Check if there are any leaks and if all of the lights and other electronic equipment are in order.
Additional safety equipment
It is true that a motorcycle rarely offers any extra space for additional equipment, but you should always be able to find some for a safety jacket, first aid kit and tyre repair kit – you never know when any of them might come in handy.
These are obviously just some of the basic tips you should consider for improving your safety. An important advice is to drive according to your abilities and with regard to road conditions. Along with all of the above an important (if not the most important) part of safety on the road is experience. Experience enables us to react in proper way when faced with a dangerous situation – on the contrary, lack of experience often contributes to a dangerous situation that could otherwise have been avoided altogether.