Those who have never thrown a leg over a motorcycle don't understand why we do.
And those who do ride don't understand the few who rip down the road weaving in and out of traffic, hair blowing in the wind, without seemingly a care in the world.
Most certainly, riding a motorcycle is not for everyone. Riding on two-wheels in between cars and SUVs at a high rate of speed requires a lot more precision than people think. Riders need preparedness, protection and an ability to quickly react to the actions of others and anything the road might throw at them.
Crashing is not inevitable and many ride a lifetime without ever hitting the pavement. Sure some have a bit of luck in play but most take the proper precautions to safely ride their motorcycle in traffic. Therefore, we enlisted the help of Lorri Carney, a motorcycle instructor since 2011 with Team Oregon, and asked her for some safety tips for Riding Safely on the Street.
1. Take a motorcycle safety course.
Even experienced all-weather riders can drift back into bad or lazy habits. Safety courses are a good way to "sharpen the saw" of your riding skills.
2. Do a pre-ride check.
See your owner's manual for tips on fluid levels, tire inflation and wear indicators, chain adjustments and so on.
3. Always wear a helmet.
You are 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in a crash without a helmet and three times more likely to suffer brain injuries without a helmet. There are several types of helmets with different levels of protection.
4. Wear good riding gear so you can walk away if the unthinkable happens.
Riding gear will not prevent every injury but can minimize them. Gear should fit comfortably in the riding position and be weather appropriate.
5. Ride un-impaired.
Everyone has heard about alcohol, illegal drugs and recreational drugs as impairments. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also impair riding. Being tired, hungry, sore, thirsty, stressed, angry or dealing with temperature extremes all have an effect on your riding. Clues that you are becoming impaired include mental wandering, nodding off, slowed reaction times and being surprised. Recognize your impairment and take a break to recover.
6. Look where you want to go.
More importantly TURN YOUR HEAD in the direction that you want to go and scan for hazards with your eyes. It is easy to target fixate on a hazard, such as gravel in a turn. If it is noted as you scan, you can change your path of travel to one that avoids the hazard and your bike will follow. Head turns are not intuitive, but they WORK!
7. Ride Smart. Drivers aren't looking for vehicles that are smaller than cars.
Be predictable - a skilled rider can ride circles around most cars, but putting yourself where they don't expect you can create a hazard. Be alert to the smallest clues from drivers. They may be changing lanes or turning. It is especially dangerous if they're turning left. Keep a good following distance, allowing for plenty of reaction time. Increase following distance when there is reduced visibility, heavy traffic, faster speeds, inclement weather and poor road conditions, among others.
8. Don't hide in traffic, make it a point to be seen.
Choose a lane position out of blind spots. Wear gear that is visible during the day (brightly colored) and at night (retro-reflective). Move around within the lane to improve your line of sight and visibility to other traffic. Do what it takes to be visible to those you share the roads with.
9. Ride your own ride.
It is easy to be towed into riding someone else's speed, skills, or length of the ride. Plan a route and destination before you start a ride so you won't feel pressured to keep up with the faster rider(s). When cornering, look past the rider ahead of you to choose your own line. Length of the ride should be discussed before and during the ride. Even if you agreed to the length of riding day, say something if becoming impaired.
10. Too many motorcycle accidents are caused by inability to successfully go around corners.
Usually caused by trying to take them too fast. If you turn your head (see #6 above) to the exit of the turn, prior to entering the turn, you could slow enough to get around the corner.
Lorri Carney has saddled up since 2006 and in that time owned six motorcycles, her current ride a 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 named Gwendolyn. After five years of riding she joined Team Oregon as an instructor, one of the best decisions she's ever made.