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Motorcycling Safety top tips

Let’s not sugar-coat it: there are safer ways to get around than by doing it on a motorcycle, but few, if any, are as fun or as exciting.

If you’re got this far we’ll assume that you’ve weighed up the risks and haven’t let the scaremongers put you off – good for you – but it’s fair to say that there’s a lot you can do yourself to mitigate the danger and minimise those risks.

First, make sure you’re properly kitted out with protective riding kit. We’ve gone into that in much more detail elsewhere, so suffice to say for now that you’ll need a decent helmet, gloves, boots and riding jacket, and ideally protective trousers.

Make sure your bike is safe to ride, too. It might sound nannying and fun-sappingly tedious to say it, but you should regularly check that your tyres are in good condition and at the correct pressures, and ensure your brakes are in proper order.

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Mistakes you make and mistakes other people make

Broadly speaking, we can divide the risks you face into two: mistakes you make and mistakes other people make. A minor lapse in judgement or act of stupidity – either yours or someone else’s – is punished much more severely if you’re riding a bike than it is when driving a car.

Once out on the road, be alert and stay alert. It sounds obvious, and actually it tends to happen largely by default.

There are far fewer distractions when riding a bike compared to those present in increasingly tech-laden cars, and this, coupled with a biker’s heightened sense of risk, tends to focus the mind. It’s this awareness of your vulnerability as a rider that, once ingrained – and it doesn’t take long – makes most motorcyclists more alert and more attentive than your average car driver.

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Don’t run before you can walk 

Don’t run before you can walk. Two of motorcycling’s biggest draws – the freedom and exhilaration of the open road and the ability to scythe through congested traffic – also present some of the biggest dangers.

Much of the open-road risk is down to you, so don’t get carried away on country roads. Take it steady, build up your pace slowly and learn to read the road ahead of you.

Practice adjusting your line into corners for the best view through and out the other side, both to see what’s coming and to be seen by other road users.

Be aware of hidden dangers lurking behind hedgerows and round blind bends, particularly on country roads in the summer months when farm vehicles could be exiting fields – and spreading mud on the road.

Overtaking is a common cause of accidents, so take a measured approach and don’t take risks. Never overtake near junctions – you might be so focussed on passing the car in front that you miss the fact they’re about to turn right into a side road just as you go to overtake. Or a car might turn left out of that side road, putting you on a head-on collision course.

Overtake with caution 

Plan your overtakes and don’t be afraid to back off if you change your mind. And don’t follow the car in front too closely – it’s annoying and possibly intimidating, and could result in them doing something stupid as you pass. Also be aware of other bikes or cars coming past you as you’re about to overtake – especially if you’ve been hesitant about getting past yourself.

In town, safe riding requires a different kind of focus. New riders tend to fall into one of two camps when it comes to riding in traffic: over-cautious or over-confident. You should aim for a happy medium between the two.

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You need to be hyper-alert in order to filter safely. You might be travelling more slowly than on the open road but there’s much more going on and more potential for things to go wrong. Technically, filtering is overtaking, so be aware of the cars you’re filtering past turning right as you pass them, and look out for cars, cyclists or pedestrians appearing from the gaps between the vehicles you’re passing.

Confidence comes with practice

Confidence will come with practice, especially if you commute the same busy route each day. You’ll soon learn how the traffic flows and spot the best ways to take advantage it, then you can apply those lessons learned elsewhere.

Finally, never underestimate the benefits of further training. Of course you’ll have been through – or are about to go through – the mill of CBT and on-road training to get your licence, and hopefully you’ll have absorbed the fundamentals of safe riding by doing so. But don’t let that be the end of your structured learning. Advanced riding, refresher courses, post-test training, call it what you will, but we can’t recommend it highly enough.

There are a wide range of organisations and companies offering further training, some independent and some affiliated to manufacturers, but they all have the same goal: to make you a better, more confident rider and safer rider.

Top up your biking knowledge and check out our basic motorcycle maintenance tips

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5 comments on “Staying Safe on Your Motorbike”

robert cravensays:

Safety is and always should be the mantra to ride by. Safety is the priority and made better by and benefits from improved vision. These two seem to go together well, se more and be seen by more leads to safer riding. If in traffic, heavy or light make yourself as visible as you can by taking the right path through traffic and with traffic. The most important of these spaces is the space that you give behind another vehicle. If in town doing 30 mph you were only 20 or 30 ft behind say a transit van or lorry just how far in front can you see….not far or next to nothing thats how far you can see and just how many other road users can see you. none or few at the best. If on the other hand you give a recommended space such as the distances in the Highway Code then at say 70/80 ft behind the vehicle in front you can see past that van or lorry and see what is happening all around and can take evasive action earlier if one sees a potential danger. Not only that but by giving space other road users can see you and having seeing you can also make efforts to avoid you.

So the greatest safety come from a positive state of mind that recognises your vulnerability and the way to deal with that is to give as much space to other roaders as you can and at all times. Further recognise that at a slow speed if involved in a collision then one may get away with suffering bruises but at a higher speeds one can suffer cuts and bone breakages and possible loss of life so take it easy on the throttle and avoid others. Give safe following on or stopping distance and remember that one should always be able to stop in the distance one can be seen to be clear and on your side of the road.

Have a look at the Highways Code sect 126 which recommends certain distances to be behind another vehicle. Learning those distances could at some time save your life.

robert cravensays:

Following on from Safe Stopping Distance or what I call Safe Following on Distance. With over 55 years of driving and riding and for a number of years being a Motorcycle instructor but nowadays retired and having no official qualifications I have found some simple tools that will help one stay alive and well on a motorcycle.

First….about Safer distance. Forget anyone or anything that recommends being anything closer than the Stopping distances. It’s easy to see that in some traffic around town vehicles are somewhat closer than the that distance and probably about the Thinking Distances only. That is probably because they are following the advice in ‘Separation Distances’ as in the DVSA Driving/riding Handbook . Look it up and it does say in urban traffic queues, in order to make best use of valuable road space then be no less than the Thinkinging Distance . That difference is between being only some 30ft behind the vehicle in front or some safer 90ft behind.[ distances are approx] Now which one do you consider to be safer or more appropriate in a heavy traffic queue. It does go on to say on the same page say that the safest distance is the 2 second rule [90ft approx] and that anything being closer than the Full stopping distance my place you at risk. So reading that I ask myself why do they advise one to break that safety rule and adopt a very much closer position. Further if it comes to my safety or the use of valuable road space I know which one will win hands down every time. My rule of safety does.

The other day I was driving my car along a main road and stopped to turn right at some traffic lights. There were several vehicles coming towards me and so I took up a position through the lights and waited for a gap to appear. After a few cars there was a minibus and then nothing behind it. So I anticipated to turn after the bus. It’s a good job that my 6th sense shouted for me to hold on a bit. Before I could commence to turn I hesitated and there behind the bus, buy only some 20/25 feet was a a scooter rider. He or she was completely hidden by the oncoming bus and in no position to see me or to be seen by me or anyone else. If i had just turned behind the bus as most normal drivers would do I could have killed the rider. The rider was giving just the Thinking Distance only so don’t be a domino and end up in a pile up.

Ride your own ride by yourself and stay away from the rear of all other vehicles. Yes, even when stopped give a good 10/12 ft between yourself and the vehicle in front. When it sets off allow it to do so and then a second or two later you set off also and keep it slower building up your speed so that you end up giving enough Safe Stopping Space as you follow it down the road..

In urban traffic [ Towns] I try to keep at least one lamp post between myself and the vehicle in front at speeds up to 30 mph. That is an easy guide to the 2 second rule. Keep at least that distance and if you can pull back more the greater distance the safer you will be and you will find that you can see more and more can see you. ok.

robert cravensays:

The vast majority of bad and dangerous overtakes are as a consequence of bad decision making. Of making an overtake that is either unnecessary or inappropriate or just merely foolish. In training we are too ready to encourage a somewhat aggressive attitude to being behind other vehicles and particularly in overtaking when training for Advanced riding. We cannot and should not ride to the speeds and in a manner that a police officer must when duty requires him to be somewhere urgently.

We must be encouraged to ride like a police officer would under normal duty conditions on the road in order keep him safe on those roads.. Not to blast away around country roads or all over the place as some would want to do. The police officer is more aware of needing a positive attitude to his own safety , the safety of others and an understanding of his vulnerability. It calls for a lot of defensive planning. Of good sight lines that enable the best or safest positioning on the road. With the best vision possible and resulting positioning we come some way to being safe. The rest is about common sense and understanding of one’s abilities, not being inflated, and of experience. Of learning from our errors or mistakes and those of others . By experience and knowledge we build up an element of sixth sense and it enables us to make better presumptions and assumptions that benefit and support our riding skills. We begin to know what to do and when to do it. Of expecting the unexpected and being forward thinking enough to reduce or eliminate the risks before they become of danger to us.

Happy and Safe Riding.

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