15 Things to Know When You Start Using Motorcycle
Motorcycles are not only fuel efficient, but they’re also a blast to ride. Ask any motorcyclist what it’s like to rev down a scenic freeway, and they’ll tell you that it feels like pure freedom and bliss. The love of motorcycling is especially strong in California – there are more than 800,000 registered riders in the Golden State.
As beloved as motorcycling is, most riders will not hesitate to tell you about its many dangers. If you’re the reckless and overeager type, they’ll probably tell you not to even try picking up a bike. The cold fact is that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of passenger vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). And close to half of all motorcyclist fatalities are the result of single-vehicle accidents.
This is not to say that accidents are inevitable. In fact, many riders go through life without suffering a single crash-related injury. The key to staying safe is to be knowledgeable about the risks and to avoid them at all costs. If you’re a beginner rider, or even someone who is getting back into motorcycling after a long break, it is highly recommended that you check out the tips below:
- Buy a bike that fits you. You should find it easy to use the handlebars and controls. It should also be easy to get on and off the seat. If a bike feels uncomfortable at all, it’s not the right one.
- Find a model with an engine that meets your purposes. If you just need a good starter or commuter bike, stick with a 250- to 300-cc engine. If you’re planning to do a lot of riding on the highway, you might want a bike with an engine in the 500- to 750-cc range instead.
- Antilock brakes may save your life. When a rider locks up the brakes while performing an emergency stop, he or she loses steering control, making a dangerous skid and crash more likely. Antilock brakes help riders retain steering control in potential life-or-death situations. Make sure your bike comes equipped with them. You won’t regret it.
- Take courses. Whatever you do, don’t start riding without first receiving supervised hands-on instruction and training. Motorcycling is not like riding a bicycle or driving a car – there’s a distinct feel to a motorcycle’s handle. Why test yourself on the open road where so many things could go wrong? It’s better to hit up a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course in your area and learn the basics, as well as advanced techniques, in a safe, controlled environment.
- Get a DOT-approved full-face helmet. Wearing a helmet may not look “cool,” but it helps prevent death which is certainly cool indeed. Riders who forego this important safety feature are 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in a crash.
- Also get some proper gear. T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers = road rash and other nasty injuries. Unlike “cage” drivers, motorcyclists have no barriers between them and surrounding objects. They are exposed to the elements. The only line of defense they have in an accident is their gear. For maximum protection, wear a leather or other reinforced jacket, gloves, thick pants, and boots. And make sure they’re brightly colored for visibility’s sake.
- Look where you want to go. Don’t fix your gaze on any single target when riding. Instead, look far into the distance and keep your vision wide. You’ll go in the direction you want to go while being aware of any oncoming obstacles.
- Ride defensively. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad drivers out there – people who text while driving, speed, tailgate, or otherwise act in a negligent or reckless manner. Stay alert in order to stay alive. This means scanning every intersection, street corner, parking lot, driveway, anywhere a vehicle is going to try to enter moving traffic from a stand-still. Also look ahead to note any possible hazards, such as a merging driver or a construction site. Basically, trust no one but yourself.
- Don’t forget to turn your choke off. It’s okay to forget once or twice. However, don’t make a habit out of it. Leaving the choke on will not only lead to mechanical issues down the line, but also waste gas.
- Adjust your mirrors. Your mirrors are your vision. And your vision is your life. Every time you get on your bike, make sure your mirrors are adjusted in a way that allows you to see as much as you can of your surroundings.
- Keep your bike in tip top shape. Inspect your bike before you ride. Check to see whether the chain, shaft, or belt is damaged. Also look for leaking fluids. If something feels off, take your bike to a trusted mechanic immediately. Don’t wait for your bike to break down on the road – this could cause a disastrous accident.
- Tires are everything. The condition of your tires affects your control and ultimately your safety. Low tire pressure can lead to difficult and dangerous handling. A tire blowout can lead to serious injury and death. Suffice it to say, inspect your tires often.
- Know your bike’s estimated MPG and fuel capacity. Some manufacturers install fuel gauges on their products while others don’t. It’s a stylistic choice. If you’re familiar with your bike’s specs, you can use a trip odometer to inform you when you need to make a gas stop. This is especially useful in nature rides.
- Research local motorcycle laws. Make sure your bike and your gear are up to snuff. Why waste your money on traffic tickets when you could be spending it on more rides?
- Know whether your bike has a fuel valve. If your bike is carbureted rather than fuel-injected, it most likely has a fuel petcock valve with three positions: ON, OFF, and RES. The valve controls the flow of fuel from your tank to your engine. Switch the valve to RES, short for “Reserve,” when you’re close to empty, and then get to a gas station ASAP. Don’t forget to turn the valve back to ON after filling up.
One final tip: if you do get into a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another party, call Wilshire Law Firm at (800) 522-7274 for legal assistance. Our attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of motorcycle crash victims throughout California. Throughout the many years of our practice, we have collected millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts on behalf of riders like you. We offer FREE case evaluations and provide our services on a no recovery, no fee basis.