Riding a motorcycle poses an inherently dangerous means of transportation which has only increased with all the multiple distractions in our modern world.
Motorists have many diversions (other vehicles, passengers, radio, electronic devices, etc.), automobiles seem to grow in size and despite the increase in motorcycles on the road, drivers still can't seem to see us. Riding on two-wheels often leaves us hiding within traffic and getting caught in the blind spots of vehicles.
But with proper guidance and education as well as wearing all appropriate safety gear you can reduce your risk of accident and, in the event of a crash, lower your risk of serious injury. Beginner motorcycle riders should always take a riding class before hitting the road but outside of that we wanted to know the best tips a beginning rider should follow.
We asked Lorri Carney, a motorcycle instructor since 2011 with Team Oregon, for her thoughts on Motorcycle Riding Tips for Beginners:
1. Get comfortable
If you are new to riding, you will first need to get comfortable riding your bike before even thinking about riding in traffic. Ride at times of day when the traffic is lighter. Starting in heavy "rush hour" traffic will not be confidence inspiring. Practice accident avoidance skills (quick stops, swerving) in a safe place before getting out into traffic. If traffic still isn't your thing, take the back streets. It might take a little longer, but it is always better to arrive safely.
2. Learn to read the minds of the drivers around you
OK, you can't really read the minds of the drivers around you. You can watch for visual clues as to what they might be planning to do. A vehicle moving around in their lane or "hugging" the line between the lanes, might be about to change lanes. They could also be distracted by their cellphone, changing the radio station, a conversation with passengers or children in the back seat. Watch the head movements of the drivers in the vehicles around you. Even if they don't check their mirrors, most drivers will move their head one way or another before moving left or right. We need all the clues we can get!
3. Scan traffic and pedestrians
Seated on a motorcycle, we are higher up than much of the other traffic. This gives us a better view into the vehicles around us. We could see if they are distracted by electronic devices, interacting with passengers within the vehicle or possibly turning their head to see if your lane is clear for them to move over. Pedestrians can unexpectedly cross the street while being oblivious to their surroundings. Especially if they have headphones on or are focused on their cellphones.
4. Look further ahead
Looking past the vehicle directly in front of you, as far as you can see down the road, will give you more time to react to any emergency that might happen. Be aware of any useful escape routes. Some possibilities for escape might be: the shoulder of the road, bike lanes, the space between two lines of stopped or slow-moving traffic. You will also need to have an escape plan while at a stop. Instead of stopping directly behind the vehicle in front of you, angle your bike to the right or left. In the event of being rear ended, this will push you between the traffic ahead instead of crushing you between the cars. An even better solution is to be in first gear ready to go, while checking your mirrors to keep an eye on rear approaching vehicles. Be prepared for a quick escape. If traffic slows suddenly, stay to the left or right of the car in front of you to maintain an escape route.
5. Leaving a traffic light from a stop
When stopped at a traffic light, make sure to look both ways to see if anyone is going to run their red light. Once you have determined it is safe to go, then GO. Don't hang around or you might get run over.
6. Don't hide in traffic
Being visible only starts with wearing attention attracting brightly colored gear. It also includes making sure you are not in the blind spots of the surrounding vehicles. If the car is in front of you, make sure that you can see the driver's face in the mirror. Be aware of traffic beside you, don't ride in their blind spot but also don't let cars PUT you in their blind spot. Change position within your lane to attract the attention of the vehicles behind you. Human eyes are attracted to movement and moving around may help to "wake" them up, especially if they have mentally spaced off. Moving to the left of your lane will help you to see oncoming traffic and they will see you. Moving to the right of the lane will allow you to see any vehicles that are at intersecting roads, ready to pull out. If you can see them, they might see you. Most importantly, never assume that you have been seen.
7. Learn or know your route
Pay attention to traffic patterns, traffic choke points, upcoming off-ramps or on-ramps. Notice how the traffic patterns changes at different times of day. Traffic is unpredictable. Heavy traffic and higher speeds don't make this any better. Be especially alert if there is an accident ahead or a drastic change in weather like rain after a dry spell or a heat wave.
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.