Riding a bike is not always dangerous. Fortunately, bikes also give you the best possible tools to avoid crashing — incredibly powerful brakes, obstruction-free vision, excellent control and extremely grippy tires. When motor bikers talk about how to stay safe on the road, it’s usually something on how to brake or how to lay ’er down which can cause very painful injuries. The problem is that depending on emergency braking to get you out of trouble is usually a really rotten plan. I know, learning how to use your front and rear brakes effectively is a critical skill every rider should develop and practice. And when all else fails, there’s no substitute for having a good DOT-qualified helmet on your head. But depending on emergency braking, alone or swerving to avoid an obstacle is, I think, not really a master plan to stay out of a crash.
1. DO ALL YOU CAN TO MAKE IT EASY FOR CAR DRIVERS TO SEE YOU.
"I never saw the rider" is one of the most common things automobile drivers say after they've struck a motorcyclist. Around 90–95 percent of car drivers who messed up say the same thing. Car drivers don’t want to hit you as much as we don't want to crash into them but a majority of them need extra help to know that you’re there especially at night where everything is dark. Do everything you can to make it easier for them to see you. Use your high beam during the day. High beam is clearly more visible than low beam. Replacing that cool-looking black leather jacket for something neon bright wouldn’t hurt, either. The rider is a big part of a motorcycle's visual existence, and wearing bright or reflective safety gear is an easy way to stand out and look more striking. Choose bright colored gear, and try to find garments that are covered with a reflective finish. Some apparel now comes with a reflective finish that's only visible at night, adding a touch of style to safety gear.
2. NO BOOZE BEFORE RIDING
Never ever drink and ride. Ever. Not only is drinking and riding against the law, it's among the most dangerous things you could do and do to others. Alcohol interferes with your ability to think clearly, negatively influencing your ability to pay attention and make safe riding choices. Your risk of causing your own crash escalates when you drink and ride. And a drinker’s favorite way to crash is by running off the road, which has a higher casualty rate than any motorcycle-car crash except head-on because there are so many rigid fixed objects waiting to, uh, welcome you. Trees, fire hydrants, parked cars, the list goes on and on.
3. LOUD PIPES SAVES LIVES?
Stop saying that! That's less true today. By the time you’re close enough for a car driver to hear you, he’s already in your path. In fact, you run the risk that the driver will be so alarmed he’ll stop dead in your path. On the other hand, loud exhausts sure work wonders for pissing off the people behind you and making ’em hate motorcyclists. If you’re serious about staying out of an accident, make yourself seen, not heard.
4. SPLIT LANES ON THE FREEWAY
It’s safer than trusting the guy behind you not to rear-end you. More riders on the freeway got nailed from behind while staying in their lane than riders who crashed while lane-splitting. But don’t go too much faster than the traffic flow and be really careful when coming up to a car with an open space in the lane next to it, especially if the lane with space is moving faster than the one with the car.
5. DON'T LAY IT DOWN.
You lose only about 8–10 mph every second you spend sliding on the ground while giving away your perfectly good skin. If you do a good job using both brakes, you can lose 15–20 mph every second you brake and save on band-aids, too. About the only time to put yourself down on the pavement is if you’re on an elevated curve (like a freeway interchange) and you’re about to hit the outside wall. The wall is usually high enough to save your motorcycle, but let you go flying off into the wild blue yonder. Well, it might also save you but this accident avoidance technique doesn’t come without costs. You’ll find that most bikes, even Harleys', are made to operate with their wheels, not their bodies and frames, in contact with the road. Before laying ‘er down, run a quick calculation of the costs in doing so. Components like exhaust pipes, headlights, fuel tanks, sweet tasselled-leather saddlebags, frames and chrome engine cover cost money. How much laying ‘er down costs is up to your affordability.