The Complete Guide To Motorcycle Safety

THERIDER

To outfit yourself in the safest possible gear, here’s what to look for, says Ty van Hooydonk, vice president of communications and rider coach with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Helmet

  • Style: Your safest choice is a full-face helmet.
  • Rating: Be sure it’s certified by the Department of Transportation—check for a DOT sticker on the back. Some helmets provide a higher level of protection (see that list here).
  • Safety feature: Choose one with a face shield; click it down when you’re riding to help protect your eyes.
  • Fit: It’s essential to have a helmet properly fitted to your head. When in doubt, have a trained professional help you size it.
  • Age: Manufacturers generally recommend replacing your helmet every five years (with some, it’s every three years). Things like helmet glue, oils in your hair and normal wear and tear can result in degradation of the helmet.

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Jacket

  • Fit: You want a snug fit that allows for easy arm movements.
  • Structure: Strong jackets have armor in the chest, elbows and shoulders; back protection; and double- or triple-stitched seams.
  • Rating: A jacket certified as “CE” has met high safety standards.
  • Extra safety: Some newer high-end jackets have built-in air bags.

Gloves

  • Material: Aramid fiber is tough enough to help protect your hands from asphalt.
  • Structure: Look for armor across the knuckles, wrist and palm, as well as a wrist strap to keep the glove in place.
  • Fingers: You’ll get a better fit and grip on the handlebars if the gloves have curved fingers with extra-grip padding.

Pants

  • Fit: Make sure pants fit snugly, especially from the knee down. Pants that attach to the jacket will help ensure that skin is covered.
  • Structure: Look for armor in the hips, as well as extra protection for the knees and shins, plus internal pockets to hold the armor in place.
  • Rating: Wear pants with a CE rating.

Boots

  • Structure: Look for boots with armor over the ankles, as well as shin protection.
  • Size: Boots should be tall and fit snugly.
  • Soles: Bottoms should be tough and nonslip.
  • Toes: Toe boxes should be sturdy. If possible, opt for an extra layer of protection, as operating the shift lever causes wear.

Safety Checks
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All AboutHelmets

By The Numbers

Helmets By The Numbers

Estimated number of motorcyclists’ lives saved by helmets in 2016.

Estimated number of additional lives that could have been saved in 2016 if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.

%

Percentage of cyclists in 2017 that used DOT-compliant helmets.

%

Percentage of risk of operator deaths that helmets reduce.

How A Helmet Should Fit

Here’s what the Motorcycle Safety
Foundation recommends.

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How A Helmet Should Fit

Here’s what the Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends.

  • • Holding the helmet by the chin straps, spread the sides slightly and pull it down on your head.
  • • The helmet may feel a bit tight at first, but it should sit snugly and squarely on your head, with the cheek pads touching your cheeks comfortably and with no gaps between your temples and the brow pads.
  • • Press on the chinpiece to be sure the helmet and face shield aren’t touching your nose or chin.
  • • Fasten the straps securely and try to move the helmet around (side to side, up and down) with your hand. You should feel your skin moving with the helmet, but not the helmet moving around on your head. Also try rolling the helmet forward off of your head; it should stay on securely.
  • • Once you remove the helmet, see if your head feels sore, and check for any red spots on your forehead. These are signs that it’s too tight, which can cause headaches after the helmet has been on for a while.
  • • New helmets will loosen up as the comfort liner compresses, so make sure that if the helmet is new, it’s tight without being uncomfortable.

Parts of TheBike

These suggestions for maintenance, add-ons, and theft prevention are just a few ways to help keep your bike running safely. Remember that bikes can be different, and tasks on some may require removing parts to access things like filters and plugs. Always check your owner’s manual and/or with a motorcycle professional before making adjustments or doing other work.

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Oil Change

DIY maintenance task. Check your owner’s manual for specifics, but in general you’ll want to ride the bike for about five minutes to warm up the oil so it drains easier. Turn the engine off and put a pan underneath it. Remove the drain plug and the oil fill plug and drain the oil. Then install a new oil filter, replace the drain plug gasket if needed and reinstall the drain plug. Then refill with the recommended amount and type of oil, and replace the oil cap. Recycle the oil at an approved facility.

Source: Paul Olesen of DIY Moto Fix

Air Filter Change

DIY maintenance task. A dirty, clogged air filter can affect your bike’s performance. Depending on the bike, the air filter may or may not be easily accessible; reaching it could involve removing the gas tank or other parts. When you get to the air-box, take out and replace the filter, then reinstall anything you removed.

Source: Paul Olesen of DIY Moto Fix

Tire Check

DIY maintenance task. Deep treads and correct pressure are essential for safety; incorrect tire pressure could also affect your gas mileage. Check tire pressure when the tires are cool. Find the proper pressure in the owner’s manual (or the sidewall if the tires aren’t the originals), then use a gauge to see what the pressure is. Check the tire treads by monitoring the wear indicator—a rubber knob that sits in the tire grooves. When the tread is worn down to the knob, have the tire replaced.

Source: Paul Olesen of DIY Moto Fix

Coolant Change

DIY maintenance task. Coolant helps keep your engine from overheating, freezing, and getting corroded. The bike should be upright when you change the coolant, and some bodywork may need to come off first. Then find the drain bolt, put a pan under the engine, and remove the bolt as well as the radiator cap, to ensure proper drainage. Once the coolant drains, replace the drain bolt, refill the system with coolant using a funnel, replace the radiator cap and reinstall any bodywork you removed. Start the engine and let it run for a few minutes, then turn it off. Once it’s cool, remove the radiator cap and check the coolant level; top off if needed.

Source: Paul Olesen of DIY Moto Fix

Chain Cleaning

DIY maintenance task. If you have a chain on your bike that isn’t sealed, clean it when it gets especially dirty, or as recommended in your owner’s manual. Elevate the rear wheel and put the transmission in neutral. Use a brush with gentle bristles to clean the chain; then lubricate it with specially formulated chain lube by rotating the back wheel as you go, to get an even coating. After a few minutes, wipe off any excess lube with a paper towel.

Source: Paul Olesen of DIY Moto Fix

Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

High-tech safety option. This system uses sensors to predict when your wheels might lock up, then it applies and reduces brake pressure very rapidly so that they don’t. The addition of this feature has been shown to dramatically lower the rate of fatal accidents.

Source: Mitchell Nicholson of Essential Moto

Adaptive Headlights

High-tech safety option. These smart headlights help ensure that you have light where you need it when making turns. Using sensors, adaptive headlights pivot as you turn, so that light always shines where you’re going.

Source: Mitchell Nicholson of Essential Moto

Chain/Security Cable

Anti-theft feature. Locking your bike is always a good idea, even when you’re just parked at home. Use a chain or security cable to lock your bike to a sturdy, fixed object.

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau

Ignition Lock And/Or Alarm

Anti-theft feature. An alarm offers an extra layer of protection from motorcycle theft. You can also add an ignition lock or hidden kill switch. These features could even qualify you for a discount on motorcycle insurance.

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau

Tips ForRiding

Navigating Intersections

  • • This is where the majority of collisions happen between motorcycles and cars, especially when an oncoming vehicle is turning left in front of you.
  • • Check for traffic on all sides.
  • • A light changing from red to green only means you have the right of way; check carefully that you have time and space before proceeding.

Passing Other Vehicles

  • • Be sure you have enough room to make the pass. Be two or more seconds behind the vehicle you want to pass, so you can see around and ahead of it.
  • • Move to the left-hand side of the lane, in order to check oncoming traffic to make sure you have enough time to make the pass (if it’s a two-way street).
  • • Use the turn signal, check your mirrors, and look over your shoulder to make sure no one is passing you.
  • • Pass as quickly as possible without exceeding the speed limit.
  • • Before returning to the original lane, use your signal again and check over your shoulder.

Riding At NightTime

  • • Be especially careful just after sunset; that’s when people’s eyes are adjusting from daylight to headlights.
  • • Be especially vigilant: It’s more difficult to see hazardous road conditions at night, and there’s an increased risk of encountering drivers who have been drinking.
  • • It’s usually a good idea to slow down a little, especially on a winding road.
  • • Scratches on a face shield can refract the light from headlights; be sure yours is clear.

Riding With A Passenger

  • • Be sure that your passenger, like you, has a full-face helmet and safe riding gear.
  • • Ask them to wait until you’ve started the engine before mounting, and have them mount from the same side as you.
  • • Have them sit directly behind you and as far forward as possible.
  • • Tell them to always keep both feet up on the foot rests, even when you’ve come to a stop.
  • • During turns, have your passenger look over your shoulder in the direction of the corner.
  • • Passengers should avoid turning around or making sudden moves that might affect operation.
  • • Be sure they know which parts of the bike get hot, like the muffler and pipes.
  • • Have them lean forward slightly when you’re starting out after a stop.
  • • Tell your passengers that when you stop, they should brace themselves against your waist and lean back slightly.
  • • Realize that the extra weight on your bike will affect the handling and stopping distance. Check your owner’s manual to see if adjustments in the suspension or tire pressure are recommended.

Riding On Wet Roads

  • It’s best not to ride on slick roads if at all possible, as they can be more hazardous. But if you must:
  • • Wear reflective rain gear that fits properly and doesn’t flap loose, but also doesn’t restrict you from braking or shifting.
  • • Try to keep your hands dry. A good pair of waterproof gloves can help.
  • • Use a clear visor in your helmet.
  • • Think about taking a break when the rain starts; when water first starts pooling in dimples in the road, oil residue from other vehicles floats to the top, making the road especially slick.
  • • Accelerate, brake and turn more cautiously, since traction will be reduced.

Riding In High Winds

  • It’s best not to ride in high winds if at all possible, as they can be more hazardous. But if you must:
  • • For a headwind: Drop down a gear and accelerate smoothly into the wind.
  • • For a crosswind: Move forward in the seat and drop your elbows.
  • • Keep your bike on the side of the lane where the wind is blowing from, in case it moves you over a bit.
  • • Whatever corrections you make, don’t overcorrect; the wind may suddenly lessen or stop blowing.

Riding On Rough Roads

  • • Downshift and slow before you get to the rough area.
  • • Try to follow a straight line as you cross.
  • • Pay special attention to your balance.

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BY RICH BEATTIE
COLLAGES BY ALEX WILLIAMSON, ILLUSTRATIONS BY LEANDRO CASTELAO

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