Every time you take your motorcycle out, you should remember that riding a motorcycle is dangerous. Forgetting this rule can lead to disaster, even for experienced riders. When it comes to accidents among new riders, the common denominator can almost always be boiled down to one of two things: overconfidence and neglect.
1. Riding without a motorcycle endorsement and not taking a rider’s safety course.
Unfortunately, there are still way too many novice riders hitting the streets without the proper licensure. Not only is it illegal to ride without one, but the simple process of getting it can be extremely helpful to novice riders. In most states, you must complete some kind or riding course to get your endorsement, and if nothing else, that course can help teach you the basics of motorcycle control and techniques for riding in traffic.
2. Over-riding your ability.
Riding your motorcycle on the street should be fun, but if your idea of fun is weaving in and out of traffic, blasting down highways, or playing racer on public roads, you should probably rethink your purchase. In fact, if that is what you want to do on your bike, you should do your riding at the track and not on the road. Speeding and riding aggressively on the streets, especially as a novice, all but guarantees that you will have an up-close-and-personal meeting with the pavement. And even if you’re not riding recklessly, simply doing things like navigating traffic in the rain without practice, riding with a passenger when you are not comfortable, carrying too much speed through corners, and not being able to slow your bike properly in an emergency stop situation can result in a crash.
3. Buying too much bike.
Perhaps the most common mistake made by new riders is by getting too much bike. Whether it’s a humungous Harley-Davidson, or a mega-sport bike, it happens all too often. Big, heavy cruisers can be cumbersome when trying to maneuver at low speeds or in tight areas, and they have enough power to cause problems under heavy acceleration. Choosing a high-horsepower sport bike with knife’s edge handling can also cause major issues for beginning riders because of their outright speed and sensitivity to rider input. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 29% of all fatal accidents occurred on bikes with 1400cc or larger engines in 2009. This number increased from just 9% in 2000.
4. Not wearing the proper gear
Even if you are just running down the street to a buddy’s house, always wear all of your safety gear. Make it a habit to protect your head with a helmet. But while a helmet is an absolute must, you should also consider heavy jeans, a protective jacket, gloves, and hardy riding boots or shoes. You can get an idea of what gear will suit you riding needs best in our safety gear guide.
5. Not paying attention to your surroundings.
Keep in mind that riding your motorcycle is nothing like driving a car. You don’t have the same margin for error to be distracted. Don’t think that just because your cell phone is carefully tucked away in your jacket or tank bag that a distraction will not occur. Simply not having your eyes down the road or just letting your mind wander while you ride can be a recipe for disaster.
Keeping an eye out for cars and trucks on the road with you is essential as well. Most motorists are simply not watching for motorcyclists. Always stay focused on what is happening down the road, not directly in front of you, so that you can have enough time to react to what traffic is doing. Also, keep away from the center the lane on most roads, especially near stop lights or signs. This is usually where oil and other slick fluids run to after dripping from cars and trucks, and hitting a patch of the slick fluid in a panic stop situation can cause major problems.