Riding a motorcycle comes with its own set of rules and not the law enforcement type.
Those who ride have unwritten rules to follow that keeps us riding another day and also serve as a safety measure for other drivers. We know all too often that no one looks out for us so we need to look out for ourselves. A set of rules, or perhaps more appropriate, a code to ride by avoids unnecessary risk taking, makes us better stewards of the road and helps prevent the unthinkable.
We again turn to Lorri Carney, a motorcycle instructor since 2011 with Team Oregon, and asked her for some rules of the road motorcyclists should embrace every time they gear up.
1. Ride defensively and don't count on eye contact
We are on the smallest vehicles on the road. We are hard to see, even when drivers seem like they see us, they may not register the fact that we are there. If you have ever had a moment while driving when you realize that you have spaced off, realize that may be the space that the drivers around you might be in now. If you see something going wrong, don't wait and hope they will see you. Act don't react.
2. Don't hide in traffic
I can't stress this enough. Dress in colors that are easy to see, including your helmet. Beware of being in a driver's blind spot. If you find yourself there, MOVE. Not only can they not see you or your bike, they also can't see any signals that you may be using to communicate with the drivers around you.
3. The bike goes in the direction that your face is pointing
It is more than just using your eyes to look through the turns. You must turn your head, aiming to the end of the turn. Eyes are for scanning, looking for hazards that we may have to avoid. While riding, our head and eyes each have an important job. When you are scared your body will tense up, causing your eyes to snap to where your face is pointing. If you only turned your head partially through the turn, you may end up going wide into oncoming traffic or into the black berries on the side of the road.
4. In life there is no such thing as "too smooth"
This is especially true on a motorcycle. Rolling on or off the throttle, letting out the clutch (especially when down shifting) and braking are just some of the important inputs that require smoothness. When you have mastered smooth on your machine know that if you change something, like adding a passenger, it drastically changes the handling characteristics. Actually, having a passenger is also a good test of your smoothness. If your helmets are bonking... it is your fault as the rider. Your passenger doesn't have foreknowledge of when you are going to roll on/off, brake, downshift, etc. If not smooth, these inputs will cause enough of a change that helmets will bonk.
5. Rule of Lug nuts/Tonnage - whichever vehicle has the most of either, has ultimate right of way
Is it frustrating when an auto driver violates our right of way? YES, of course. Is it irritating when riding with someone or in a group and a vehicle squeezes in between bikes? Absolutely. Is it worth getting all road-ragey and waving with fewer than all our fingers? No. This really goes back up to the rule of riding defensively. They are bigger, we are not going to win that argument. Pay attention to what they are doing and evade their bad behavior or cluelessness. We can always catch up to our buddies when it is safe to pass.
6. Ride predictably
Most of the drivers out there do not ride, never have ridden and most likely are not interested in ever riding. They only know driving cars. If you ride in a manner that is predictable to other drivers (and don't hide in traffic), you will be less likely to surprise the drivers around you. They expect all vehicles on the road to act in a predictable way.
7. Recognize fatigue/impairment
We are all human, not superheroes. As the day progresses there are many ways that we can become impaired: fatigue of time and distance, distractions or daydreaming, anger, stress, temperature extremes, high traffic situations, higher speeds, "rush" hour traffic stop and go, sickness, age, etc. It is important to listen to your body and recognize that impairment is setting in. Loss of smooth reactions and control, being surprised by things and traffic actions are just a couple of clues that we are impaired. Take time to counteract the effects of fatigue/impairment before continuing on with your ride.
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.