Eight Tips for Defensive Riding
The best defenses when riding a motorcycle are training, caution and anticipation. Here are some general tips for everyday riding:
- Understand what constitutes a road hazard. Some bikers are unaware that certain things are hazardous for motorcycles (I’ll cover this in detail in my next post). Don’t assume that you know all the dangers because you’ve been driving a car for years.
- Avoid heavy traffic. When possible, travel when traffic is light. That way, if you encounter a road hazard, you’ll have more room and time to maneuver. Look for less-traveled routes where vision is unobstructed.
- Don’t tail the vehicle in front. Follow vehicles at a safe distance (at least two seconds behind). Slow down if you see (or even anticipate) a hazard. Don’t ride in a car’s ‘blind spot’. It’s bad enough when a car driver doesn't turn and look when changing lanes in front of another car; worse when it’s in front of your motorcycle!
- Constantly survey the road and the surrounding area. Keep your eyes up and take note of everything; other cars, children playing, trees that might house small animals, painted surfaces. Change your speed or path accordingly.
- Plan escape routes. As you ride, think of ways you could evade a potential road hazard. For example, can you safely travel on a shoulder to avoid a large gravel patch? Be aware of what cars are around you in case you must swerve to avoid a squirrel or debris.
- Note hazards on roads you use. Make mental notes of hazards that you encounter on roads you travel. That way, you can anticipate problems or even avoid some routes at certain times or during bad weather.
- When it rains, wait. If possible, wait until the rain has stopped before you ride a motorcycle. If you must travel in the rain, try to wait until it has been raining for at least a half hour before you hit the road.
- Get skills. Motorcycle handling skills are often the key to safely navigating a road hazard (or surviving a skid, wobble, or dicey situation caused by a hazard). Get training on how to safely handle your bike, navigate gravel and ridges in the road, and what to do if your tires skid on slippery surfaces.
- Tracey Cramer