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Tips for Riding Safely on the Streets

Motorcycle riders (and riding) ROCK! While we believe there's nothing as invigorating as blasting down the street on a bike with the wind in your face, we're still all about safety first and foremost because, you know, crashing hurts.

While riding a motorcycle is perhaps the most exhilarating mode of transport out there (that is... until hovercrafts become a reality!), it is also notorious for being the most dangerous. But we get it. We do it for the adrenaline and thrill factor too.

For one, motorcycles don't have an exterior frame or seat belts like cars do (obviously). So in the event of a collision, the bike and the rider absorb all the forces of the crash, which means a high risk for the rider of being thrown off. Seriously, just ask Aram how badly it sucks to get flung off your bike (twice!). Ouch.

Chances are, if you're reading this, you're thinking about riding or are a novice rider. Don't be scared off by the statistics out there. Riding a motorcycle is not the suicidal affair that your mother would like you to believe. All you have to do is practice some safety guidelines. Here are our most important tips for safe riding on the street!

First and foremost, don't ride above your ability!

start with a smaller bike like YZF-R3
We know riding a motorcycle is one of the most adrenaline-pumping activities, and once you get a first taste, you can't wait to get to do "big boy" stuff! But if you're a beginner, don't be tagging along with your experienced buddies for a highly performance-based ride through twisty mountain roads. Don't be speeding down the highway weaving in and out of traffic (actually, even if you're experienced... we don't recommend doing this either!). And also, don't be starting out on a powerful 1000cc bike. It's best to start with a smaller 250-300cc road bike (you may be surprised at just how powerful the engines on these could be!), and one that you can rest both feet flatly on the ground.

It's okay, there's no shame to start smaller and safer. We all start from somewhere! Nobody was born being awesome at sex either. Once you've got enough experience, you  can be twisting and turning along those cliff hugging roads with the best of them!

So as a beginner, how can you grow your skills? Consider taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course in your area. MSF is a national, not-for-profit organization sponsored by the major motorcycle manufacturers including Honda, Yamaha, BMW, and Kawasaki. It offers a variety of courses, from basics training to more advanced fine-skills courses designed to develop a novice rider into an excellent rider. Find a location near you on their website!

Before hitting the road: 

Always wear the right gear

We cannot stress the importance of wearing the correct gear, for yourself and any passengers you may have! It may look (and sound) cool to go cruising along with beach in a T-shirt and Ray-Bans, with that salty seabreeze in your hair, but it is definitely not cool to end up on the pavement with your head cracked and half the skin scraped off your arm (trust us, we know from a real life example).

At the very minimum, we recommend that you gear yourself up with:

A helmet: We know some states have abolished the helmet law (which is just plain crazy....), but please still choose to wear one! Statistic show that riders without a helmet are 40% more likely to die in a crash due to head injuries. Don't become part of that statistic! We recommend a full faced helmet that is approved by the Department of Transportation (this is very important!). Not only will a helmet keep you safer, it also aids your riding experience by reducing wind pressure and fatigue. And remember, helmets do deteriorate over time, so it's best to get them replaced every 5 years or so.

A riding jacket: A leather jacket is always the best option, or if not, a textile riding jacket is also a solid choice. Leather jackets are classic and are extremely durable and abrasion resistant, while textile jackets are more versatile, lightweight, and less expensive. With the modern advanced materials used, many textile jackets even rival leather ones in terms of abrasion resistance! We recommend riding jackets with built in armor and reflective materials.

Check out our beginner's guide to motorycle jackets.

Riding gloves: Aside from the helmet, this is probably the next important gear to get suited up with! What happens when you fall? Your first instinct is always to catch yourself with your hands. Right... and now think about how well that would go over if you're hitting the asphalt at 20 mph. Ouch! A right pair of gloves will not only ensure that you keep these hands nice with all skin intact, but also offers protection against weather and road rash.

Check out our beginner's guide to motorcycle gloves.

The right foot protection: Obviously, this means no flip flops or sandals! While you don't necessarily haaaave to buy special motorcycle boots, the right shoes should be closed toed, sturdy, and with a rugged sole, something that won't burn your feet or slip off the foot pegs.

These are the gear items we absolutely 100% recommend you slip on before any ride. To complete your head to toe protection coverage, consider riding pants (there are plenty of reinforced riding jeans that are available if you're worried about looking like a power ranges), and motorcycle boots. It is always better to invest in protecting yourself because you never know what kind of riding situation you may get in and there's always that learning curve period where stuff can happen.

Check your bike

Perform a quick pre-ride check to make sure that the tires, brakes, chain, drive belt, lights, horn, and turn signals are all functioning properly. Under-inflated tires and worn brake pads are common no-nos and significantly drive up the risk of crashing. We know expecting anyone to do this on every ride is near impossible but I'd keep an eye on these things at least once a month.

On the road:  

everything in this picture are definitely riding DON'TS 

Practice situational awareness at all times

Watch out for cars: The most common cause for car/motorcycle crashes is because the driver did not see the motorcyclist. So unfortunately, this means that as a biker, we have to do both jobs: watch out for the cars and also make sure they see you. Be aware of cars suddenly changing lanes or pulling out from the side. Use your mirrors to check behind you. Never ride in someone's blind spot and check around you often too.

Don't tailgate: Leave enough stopping distance between you and the car in front, not only for in case the car stops suddenly but also to avoid obstacles in the road. Sand, gravel, potholes, or bumps are no biggies to a car, but can all be hazardous to a motorcyclist. Practice stopping to know just how much distance you would need for your bike - you'll need lot than you think!

If you do encounter road obstacles, it's best to slow down as much as possible and be very gentle with the steering. It can be easy to over-countersteer, resulting in skidding and crashing. Braking and steering are the two most important skills to master to keep yourself safe on the road in case of emergency situations.

Don't be distracted!: Practicing a heightened sense of awareness will save your life on the road. So don't allow yourself to be distracted with headphones or even worse, the phone! If riding with a passenger, don't always turn your head to talk with the person behind. If you must communicate, do so safely with products such as Sena's bluetooth communication devices.

Try not to ride in bad weather

This one seems self explanatory enough. If you're planning on a Saturday morning jaunt through the mountains but woke up to rain, cancel! If you're a commuter and you see rain (or heavy snow) on the forecast, don't take your bike to work that day! Rain makes the roads slippery and thus harder to get traction on your tires. And unlike cars, motorbikes also lack the windshield wipers so you'll also have the added problem of not being able to see the road too well (trust us, this isn't fun!).

However, we do understand that sometimes it is completely unavoidable to ride in bad weather. If you do find yourself out in the rain with your bike, it's best to wait it out a bit. The most dangerous time is when it just starts to rain, as the water brings oil residue to the top of the asphalt, making roads very slippery. And then when you're ready to go, practice extra caution, be extra gentle with the brakes and throttle, and leave extra space in between you and other other vehicles.

And lastly, ride with confidence!

Yes, confidence makes a huge difference in how you ride! So get out there, be safe, and have fun! 

These are our top tips for riding safely on the street! What else would you add? 

By Daniel Relich

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