table of contents
- Safety Guide For New Motorcycle Riders
- How To Obtain A Motorcycle License
- Motorcycle Braking Safety
- Motorcycle Braking Tips
- Motorcycle Helmet Laws
- Tips For A Safe Ride
- Preparing For A Safe Ride
- How To Drive Defensively
- Riding With Passengers On Your Motorcycle
- Legal Issues
- Preparing Your Bike For Passengers
- Safety Tips For Passengers
- Ride Safely While Carrying Passengers
- The Importance Of A Motorcycle Safety Course
- Types Of Motorcycle Safety Courses
- Motorcycle Safety In Various Weather Conditions
- Riding In The Rain
- Riding In Warm Weather
- How To Dress For Warm Weather Rides
- How To Avoid Dehydration While Riding?
- Riding In Cold Weather
- Safe Motorcycle Riding In Heavy Traffic
- Maintain As Much Control As Possible
- The More Distance You Maintain, The Safer You Will Be
- Lane Splitting
- Motorcycle Touring
- Preparing For Your Motorcycle Tour
- Preparing For A Group Ride
- Group Riding Safety Tips
- Using Hand Signals To Communicate With Group Riders
Safety should always be your top priority any time you ride a motorcycle. Operating a motorcycle takes different skills than driving a car; however, the laws of the road apply to every driver just the same. Motorcyclists also face a greater risk of injury than vehicle occupants do, because they have far less protection from the force of impact in the event of a collision. This is why it is so important for motorcyclists to get sufficient training and experience, keep their skills up, and drive defensively at all times.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a California motorcycle accident, call Arash Law as soon as possible. Our experienced car accident attorneys have over twenty years of experience. We have collected over 200 million dollars for our clients. We have helped accident victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks and throughout California. We can help you access all sources of compensation so that your legal rights are protected. Call (888) 488-1391 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced California motorcycle accident injury lawyer.
Safety Guide for New Motorcycle Riders
Each state sets legal requirements a rider must meet before he or she can receive a motorcycle endorsement to a driver’s license. Of course, these mandatory minimums are not enough to keep you safe while riding. It is absolutely vital for riders to gain sufficient practical experience before hitting the public roadways. Spend plenty of time practicing with your motorcycle in open areas without traffic. Be sure you are confident in both your bike and your abilities before you ride in traffic, travel far distances, or ride in areas that are technically challenging (like winding mountain roads).
How to Obtain a Motorcycle License
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, there are three separate classes of motorcycle licenses:
- A Class M1 license allows you to operate any two-wheel motorcycle motor-driven cycle, or motorized scooter, motorized bicycle, moped, or a bicycle with an attached motor, or a motorized scooter.
- A Class M2 license allows you to operate a motorized bicycle, moped, or a bicycle with an attached motor, or a motorized scooter.
- A Class C license allows you to operate a motorcycle with a sidecar attached, or a three-wheel motorcycle, or a motorized scooter.
Applying for your motorcycle license is similar to applying for a driver’s license. You will need to take a vision test, knowledge test, and driving test. You must also successfully complete a motorcycle basic rider course, but if you are over the age of eighteen, you can have the driving test waived. Be sure to consult the DMV’s motorcycle license requirements before applying for your motorcycle license.
Motorcycle Braking Safety
Braking is one of the first – and most critical – safety skills for new riders to learn. It often makes the difference between life and death (or serious injury) in an emergency. Even experienced riders should stay current on proper braking techniques.
Not all bikes brake the same way. Before you begin practicing, there are a few factors you’ll want to take into account the type of brakes. There are several different types of braking systems that will alter your braking technique and affect your stopping power. These include:
- Dual-disc brakes: Common on most street bikes, these have a greater stopping power than single-disc brakes.
- Single-disc brake: Common for cruisers, they are usually on the front wheel.
- Linked braking: This system slows both wheels with a single control.
- Antilock braking systems (ABS): This system allows for maximum braking force without wheel lockup.
It is also important to consider the weight of your motorcycle, as this will affect your grip on the road. Cruisers and choppers will generally have more weight over the rear wheel than other street bikes. This can increase traction and improve braking. And of course, you must always control your speed. Speed increases your stopping distance. This, in turn, gives you less time to plan for obstructions in the road and avoid a collision.
Always be mindful of road conditions. Braking techniques will differ depending on the condition of the road. A few situations that could affect your braking include:
- Oil spills, which are common in intersections.
- Rain, sleet, hail, snow, or other conditions that leave the road wet.
- Rough pavement with potholes, gravel, or cracks.
After becoming familiar with your braking system and your motorcycle’s capabilities, your next step will be practicing and perfecting your braking technique in a safe environment. Practice riding in a low-traffic area, such as an empty parking lot or an office park on the weekends. Doing so allows you to practice without having to deal with cars or trucks pulling in and out of the parking lots or service roads. You will also practice braking in your required motorcycle skills class. This is an important opportunity to fine-tune your braking skills under the guidance of a skilled instructor. Finally, you will progress to practicing on actual roads in real traffic situations. Start by practicing in the early mornings, on weekends, or during other off-peak times when traffic is lightest.
Motorcycle Braking Tips
As you begin practicing your braking technique, here are a few tips to help you as you learn:
- Don’t start with maximum pressure on the brakes. Start with a gentle squeeze and work your way to maximum pressure. This will improve traction, keeping you from skidding or losing your steering control.
- Always apply both brakes. Even though most of your braking power is on the front wheel, applying both brakes will help you come to a stop quicker.
- As you slow, begin to release the pressure from your back brake and increase the pressure on your front brake. This will keep you from locking up your wheels.
- Keep in mind that you’ll need to allow for greater stopping distances the faster you’re traveling. Maintain a safe, slower speed until you feel comfortable stopping at higher speeds.
- Keep track of the distance it takes you to stop. This will help you gauge your following distance more accurately out on the road. You’ll need even more stopping distance when road conditions are poor.
- Stay off the throttle and shift down to first gear while braking. If you have to maneuver out of the way at the last second, having your bike in the correct gear could be a lifesaver.
Remember every bike and every braking system is slightly different. Practice often to gain familiarity with your particular motorcycle. Always practice at low speeds until you’re comfortable and confident to begin maximum stops at higher speeds.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that motorcycles accounted for less than one percent of all vehicle miles traveled in 2010, but fourteen percent of all road deaths. Motorcycle riders are far more vulnerable to head injuries than the occupants of vehicles are. This is because motorcyclists do not have a seat belt to restrain them, nor are they protected from the force of impact by a steel vehicle frame.
Often, the only protection you have from serious brain injury (or death) is your helmet. Always wear a helmet when you ride. Time and again, researchers have proven that helmets save lives.
Wearing a helmet is not just a good idea – here in California, it’s the law. All riders and passengers must wear a helmet. This law also applies to motor-driven cycles and mopeds as well. While not all states require helmet use, it is important always to wear a helmet, even if it is not mandatory. The Governors Highway Safety Administration reports that head, face, and brain injuries among motorcycle riders are lowest in states that have universal helmet requirements.
Tips for a Safe Ride
Whether you are running a quick errand or gearing up for a lengthy tour of the country, it is important to prepare for a safe ride every time you use your motorcycle. Follow these tips to reduce the likelihood of having an accident on the road.
Preparing for a Safe Ride
- Make sure that your bike is well-maintained and ready to ride. Check all your fluids and major systems, including your brakes and lights. Check your tires for punctures, debris, or worn treads. Be sure there are no loose parts that could come off while you are riding.
- Pack appropriately for however long your trip will be. Bring a fully-charged mobile phone and a charger. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen. Bring a poncho, gloves, and other cold-weather gear in case the weather turns on you. Wear sunglasses in sunny weather to be sure you can see the road well without glare.
- Make sure that you, as the driver, and any passengers are properly seated on the bike. This means sitting squarely on the center of the seat with feet on footpegs and hands holding handlebars or the rider. Also, make sure you and passengers are always wearing protective helmets. It may not be the law in every state, but it is common sense for safety.
How to Drive Defensively
Defensive driving often gets a bad reputation. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not mean that you are simply driving slow. Defensive driving consists of a few basic riding habits that are intended to help keep you focused on the road, raise your awareness of your surroundings, and prepare you for a fast reaction to avoid a crash. It also consists of avoiding dangerous habits that are responsible for thousands of road deaths every year.
- Avoid all unnecessary distractions. This includes food and drink, conversation with passengers, and even adjusting your GPS. Using a hands-free mobile device does not give you a free pass for safety. Studies have repeatedly found that hands-free devices still distract drivers and cause deadly accidents.
- Aim high when looking out over the handlebars at the road.
- Keep your eyes moving. Don’t just stare at the road ahead: check your mirrors and other views frequently.
- Leave yourself an out. Anticipate what would happen if you had to swerve or slam on the brakes, and have a backup plan for various traffic scenarios.
- Position both hands firmly but comfortably on handlebars.
- Never drive while you are tired. Instead, pull over at a rest stop or other safe place to take a break and get some real rest.
It is easy to get caught up in rushing yourself, as well as other motorists when riding. It is important to remember that although you may be late, or another driver may have cut you off or otherwise disregarded the rules of the road, riding is no race or competition. One of the biggest causes of accidents is vehicles following each other too close. The general rule of thumb for driving is one car length, but extending this buffer can further reduce your risk of having an accident. This is especially important on a motorcycle, which can be difficult for other road users to see. This can also help you maintain a smoother ride that saves fuel (as well as unnecessary wear and tear on your bike). If you are spinning out every start and constantly hitting the brakes, you are accelerating too fast and following too close.
Riding with Passengers On Your Motorcycle
Before you ride with a passenger, it is important to be very confident in your motorcycle riding skills. A passenger affects your braking, balance, and other critical operations. You must be confident in your ability to react to these changes – and unexpected traffic scenarios – with a passenger before heading out on a duo ride.
Practice carrying a passenger in a quiet, open area before you head out into traffic. It is also helpful to take a motorcycle safety course that addresses passenger issues. Check with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to find classes in your local area.
A California motorcycle instruction permit doesn’t allow you to carry passengers. Like most states, California requires you to have a full motorcycle license to demonstrate that you are ready for the added responsibility of transporting another person. Be sure to follow the local laws of any state you are riding in.
Preparing Your Bike for Passengers
Not all motorcycles are equipped to carry passengers. If you want to invite a guest on your trip, you’ll need a seat that’s big enough to carry two people and extra footpegs for your passenger. Your owner’s manual can also provide valuable information about weight limitations, operational recommendations, and equipment setup. In addition, it will tell you whether your suspension and tire pressure should be adjusted. And of course, all passengers should wear a helmet any time the motorcycle is in motion.
Many states have specific equipment guidelines that your motorcycle must meet if you wish to carry passengers. For example, it’s common for the DMV to require your motorcycle to have passenger footrests and a separate seating area for the passenger. Do not carry passengers on your bike until you’re certain you can comply with these requirements.
Safety Tips for Passengers
- Keep your feet on the footrests at all times.
- Keep your feet and legs away from the muffler. It can get very hot.
- Wear a helmet and other protective safety gear.
- Do not make any sudden movements that impair the driver’s ability to control the motorcycle.
- Hold on to the driver’s waist or the bike’s passenger handholds.
Some states have legal requirements for the minimum age of a passenger on a motorcycle. Be sure you know the minimum age requirements of any state you are riding in. Here in California, there is no minimum age requirement, but you must still exercise greater caution when you are riding with a child passenger. Children should not be carried on a motorcycle without the permission of a parent or legal guardian. Even if the child is wearing the appropriate protective gear and follows all safety recommendations, riding a motorcycle still poses a safety risk. Ride as carefully and defensively as possible.
Ride Safely While Carrying Passengers
When you’re carrying passengers on your motorcycle, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your riding. A passenger’s extra weight will substantially affect your bike’s handling characteristics. To help compensate for this difference, remember the following tips:
- Allow more time and space for passing.
- Be cautious when turning corners, since clearance may be affected.
- You’ll need to brake sooner than normal when carrying passengers.
- The extra weight of your passenger will increase the stopping power of your rear brake.
- You’ll need greater clutch finesse and more throttle when starting from a stop.
- If your passenger is heavy, it will take longer to turn, slow down, or speed up on your motorcycle.
- Avoid traveling at extreme speeds.
- Be prepared to counter the effects of wind when appropriate.
When traveling with a guest, remember to start your motorcycle before your passenger mounts the bike. The stand should be raised, and the motorcycle should be securely braced before the passenger mounts.
The Importance of a Motorcycle Safety Course
Many states (including California) require riders to take a motorcycle safety course before they can earn a motorcycle license. This is an important step toward helping new riders gain the skills and experience they need to ride in various traffic conditions safely. But a motorcycle safety course is important for experienced riders, as well.
Experienced riders can sometimes pick up bad habits that should be corrected. They can also miss out on new techniques that have become standard practice. This is especially important when new techniques are based on the latest safety research and other scientific data.
Types of Motorcycle Safety Courses
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers two different course types – basic (for new riders) and expert (for experienced riders). Here is what you can expect in each course:
MSF Basic Riding Course: Ideal for entry-level riders of all ages, this course teaches the basics of how to ride a motorcycle. Students get both classroom instruction and practical experience. The courses contain at least eighteen hours of formal instruction time over a period of up to three days. The classroom instruction includes:
- An explanation of the types of motorcycles
- Explanation of motorcycle controls
- Explanation of motorcycle operation
- Safe riding tips
Students then practice these skills on an instructional riding course. Motorcycles and helmets are provided for students’ use.
MSF Expert Riding Course: This course offers expanded instruction and experience for licensed motorcyclists looking to improve their riding, as well as motorcycle permit holders using the course as a license waiver course. Riders must provide their own bike and safety gear for this level, of course. The rider must also be proficient in riding a motorcycle before the course starts. This course teaches more advanced skills, including:
- Quick braking, swerving, and other advanced riding tactics.
- How to maneuver in traffic or other risky conditions.
- New laws for motorcyclists.
- Rider responsibility.
- Risks of drugs and alcohol use when riding.
Motorcycle Safety in Various Weather Conditions
Even the most experienced motorcycle riders can be placed in danger when they ride in hazardous weather conditions. Be sure to check the weather forecast for any areas you will be traveling to before you leave. Then follow these tips to help you arrive at your destination safely:
Riding in the Rain
Motorcycle riders are exposed to the elements, but this is not the only risk they face in rainy conditions. A motorcycle allows the rider greater control than a driver has over a car. This can help you escape dangerous situations more quickly and effectively, but it also makes it easier to lose control of a motorcycle. Be sure to follow these tips to maintain control of your bike in the rain:
- Aim for smooth control. Be gentle with your brakes and throttle, but balance your grip. When you’re riding in the rain, aim to complete your turns before you accelerate.
- Avoid last-minute reactions whenever possible. In wet weather, you must plan ahead to determine when you will need to accelerate or slow down. Using engine braking for corners and junctions will reduce the risk of skidding.
- Avoiding hazards is extremely important in the rain. Watch out for slick concrete surface, manhole covers, railroad tracks, puddles, potholes, oil spills, and other obstructions in the roadway.
- Avoid tires that are labeled as “long-lasting” if you plan to do a lot of riding in wet weather. Many motorcycle owners think this purchase is a good way to save money. However, these tires do not provide enough traction to keep you safe in wet weather.
Riding in Warm Weather
Warm weather can cause riders to become dehydrated or suffer from a heat-related illness (like a sunstroke). Even minor conditions like sunburn can impact your ability to react while riding effectively. It is important to prepare appropriately for warm-weather rides and notice the signs of dehydration or illness as early as possible.
How to Dress for Warm Weather Rides
Dressing appropriately for a ride in the heat can be tricky. In spite of the warm weather, you still want to keep your arms and legs covered to protect them from road rash and sunburn. Light colors and natural fibers (like cotton) tend to trap less heat, and this type of clothing can help you stay cool while on the road. Clothing does not block all of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It is, therefore,, important to wear sunscreen – especially on exposed portions of your neck and face. A sunburn can cause you to become dehydrated more quickly as your body reacts to the excessive heat.
Another easy tip to keep you comfortable on a hot day is to open the vents on your motorcycle helmet to increase airflow. Just remember to bring along some extra lip balm, since the additional air will dry out your lips.
How to Avoid Dehydration While Riding?
Dehydration happens when you lose more water than you’re taking in. When you are sweating, your body is losing a lot of water, and it is difficult to replace this water by drinking enough to overcome the deficit. Be aware of these specific risks of dehydration you will likely face while riding a motorcycle in warm weather:
- Sun: Direct sun exposure from being out in the open air will make a rider heat up quickly.
- Asphalt: Dark asphalt on the roadway absorbs a lot of heat from the sun. This is a double blow to riders, who will feel the sun’s heat both from above and below their bikes.
- Protective gear: Helmets, jackets, boots, and other layers you’re wearing to protect you during a crash can also, unfortunately, trap heat. Be mindful of which layers you choose to wear when riding on a hot day. Be sure to take frequent breaks in order to take off heavy leathers and other protective gear that traps heat.
- Humidity: Humidity makes it more difficult for sweat to evaporate off your skin. This, in turn, traps the heat in your body. This means riders face an even greater risk of dehydration in humid conditions.
Some dehydration risks include dizziness, fatigue, and confusion. Dehydrated riders can also have a slower reaction time. All these factors can increase crash risk. But that’s not all—severe dehydration can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening issue. Other side effects can include seizures, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, or even death. This is why it is so important to stay hydrated while riding.
Drinking water while riding can be tricky, if not downright dangerous. Because of this, it is not always the best way to combat dehydration while on your motorcycle. But there are some important steps you can take before, during, and after a ride that will help you remain hydrated and healthy.
Before You Ride
Avoid alcohol the night before a ride, and avoid caffeine the day of a motorcycle ride. Both types of beverages are diuretics. This can cause your body to force out more water than it’s taking in. If you must drink coffee to wake up, limit your caffeine intake, and be sure to drink an adequate amount of water before you hop on your bike.
While You Ride
- Carry hands-free water with you: backpack-style hydration systems are an easy way to drink on the fly without using your hands. Camelbacks and similar systems can help you stay hydrated without impairing your control over your motorcycle.
- Stop often: Take breaks to rehydrate. In addition to water, sports drinks with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium) can help replace the electrolytes that are lost in your sweat. Avoid drinks with sugar and caffeine.
- Wear sweat-wicking or ventilated clothing: Some outdoor clothing is specifically designed to pull heat away from the body. Look for gear with ventilating zippers, light colors, and other technologies designed to let your body breathe.
After You Ride
Be sure to hydrate as soon as possible after you reach your destination. However, you don’t want to over-hydrate too quickly, as this could overload your body’s ability to regulate its temperature other functions. Drink small portions over the course of many hours. Try to avoid being outdoors or in warm areas until your body has had a chance to rehydrate and adjust.
After your ride, you should also be aware of these symptoms of dehydration:
- Dry mouth or extreme thirst
- Fatigue or sleepiness
- Reduced urination
- Rapid heart rate or breathing
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
If your attempts to rehydrate with water and electrolytes don’t relieve your symptoms, seek emergency medical attention. Only a qualified medical professional can accurately diagnose and treat severe dehydration or heat-related illnesses. You might need to receive fluids intravenously or receive other critical treatment that only a doctor can provide.
Riding in Cold Weather
Cold weather can also pose a danger to motorcycle riders. Even if the roads are not slick, wet, or icy, the cold can impair your ability to think clearly and react to the traffic around you. Dressing appropriately is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself safe:
- Keep your hands and feet warm. Invest in a good pair of gloves and some high-quality motorcycle boots.
- Keep your torso warm. If your torso is cold, it will restrict blood flow to your hands and feet.
- Make sure the outside layer of your outfit is made of a material that will stop the wind. Look for a windbreaker that is specifically designed for this purpose.
- Seal the openings in your outfit. Don’t let air come in through the neck opening in your jacket, the sleeves of your shirt, or the bottom of your pants.
- Choose a good insulating material. Wool is the best natural fiber insulating material, but synthetics such as Thiosulfate and Gore-Tex also work well.
A windshield is also an incredibly effective way to keep you warm while riding. If you will be riding in a lot of cold-weather situations, and your motorcycle does not already have a windshield, consult with the manufacturer about retrofitting your bike with a windshield or windscreen.
While riding your motorcycle in cold weather, it’s important to watch for signs of hypothermia:
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
You should also know what to do if you begin to suspect frostbite has occurred:
- Check for hypothermia: Get emergency medical help if you suspect hypothermia. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include intense shivering, drowsiness and muscle weakness, dizziness, and nausea.
- Protect your skin from further damage: If there’s any chance the affected areas will freeze again, don’t thaw them. If they’re already thawed, wrap them up so that they don’t refreeze if you’re outside, warm frostbitten hands by tucking them into your armpits. Protect your face, nose, or ears by covering the area with dry, gloved hands. Don’t rub the affected area, and don’t walk on frostbitten feet or toes if possible.
- Get out of the cold: Once you’re indoors, remove wet clothes and wrap up in a warm blanket. Take care not to break any blisters.
- Gently rewarm frostbitten areas: Soak the frostbitten areas in warm water — 99 to 104 F (37 to 40 C). If a thermometer isn’t available, test the water by placing an uninjured hand or elbow in it — it should feel very warm — not hot. Rewarming takes about 30 minutes. Stop the soaking when the skin becomes its normal color or loses its numbness. Don’t rewarm frostbitten skin with direct heat, such as a stove, heat lamp, fireplace, or heating pad. This can cause burns.
- Drink warm liquids: tea, coffee, or soup can help warm you from the inside. Don’t drink alcohol.
- Consider pain medicine: if you’re in pain, consider an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Know what to expect as skin thaws: if the skin turns red and you feel tingling and burning as it warms, normal blood flow is returning. Seek emergency help if numbness or pain persists during warming, or if you develop blisters.
Any time you start to feel uncomfortable, stop your bike, and seek medical attention. Remember: if you are experiencing signs and symptoms of exposure, your body is already in distress.
Safe Motorcycle Riding in Heavy Traffic
Many riders enjoy the pleasures of the open road, but in order to get there, one must usually navigate his or her way through heavy urban traffic first.
Traffic poses even greater dangers to motorcyclists than it does to the occupants of passenger vehicles. Motorcycles are more difficult for other road users to see, and riders must maintain constant physical control of their bikes.
Follow these tips to stay as safe as possible in heavy traffic conditions.
Maintain as Much Control as Possible
While every driver has a legal obligation to be reasonably careful in watching for other vehicles, experience has shown that drivers just don’t see motorcycles as often as they should. You need to be in complete control of your bike, the street (through keen observation and prediction), and your mental state. Drivers and riders both have been shown to drive more poorly if they have just had an argument or are otherwise emotionally charged while on the road. Do not let your emotions overcome your good judgment. Be sure that you are in complete control at all times.
The More Distance You Maintain, the Safer You Will Be
The best way to assume control riding on the motorcycle is to create space. Motorcycle riders have much more success maneuvering in traffic if they allow some breathing room between their bikes and the cars around them. These gaps may be essential for quick reaction and narrow escapes, but they are also key to observing the whole road in front of you. The more you see, the more you can predict.
What is the appropriate distance? Two to four car lengths are usually sufficient. Remember, the faster you are traveling, the more stopping distance you will need. You can also follow the “one-second rule” (which should safely be extended to the “two-second rule” in heavy traffic at higher speeds). Here, you measure the time it will take to reach the vehicle ahead of you. Start by clocking the vehicle as it passes a fixed location (such as a tree or overpass). Then time how long it takes you to reach that same fixed point. If the time is shorter than one or two seconds, you need to extend the distance between you and the car ahead of you.
Lane splitting is the riding practice of riding in between two lanes of traffic. While it is highly controversial, lane splitting is not illegal in California. It can, however, be highly dangerous to motorcycle riders. Most drivers are not expecting motorcycles to come upon them between lanes. They can change lanes or even open car doors into your path. Be sure to make yourself as visible as possible any time you choose to split lanes. Use your headlight and horn as necessary. You should also control your speed and never travel more than five to ten miles per hour faster than the traffic around you.
If you choose to lane split in heavy traffic, be sure to follow the Department of Motor Vehicles‘ guide for safe lane-splitting practices:
- Watch your speed—a motorcycle collision is highly likely to cause injury or death
- Assume people in cars do not see you.
- Avoid blind spots in other vehicles, particularly large trucks.
For many riders, the best part of owning a motorcycle is the chance to see the country on the open road. With careful planning and safety precautions, you can enjoy motorcycle tours of all lengths and technical challenges, whether on your own or as part of a riding group.
Preparing for Your Motorcycle Tour
Every rider has a different answer for what to pack on a motorcycle tour. Start with your safety gear. Always wear a helmet and appropriate footwear. Consider leathers and other protection from road rash. Use common sense when packing sunscreen, water, and first aid basics. You should also be prepared for many different weather conditions. Remember, you will be exposed to the elements, and this can affect your ability to ride safely – especially if you lack adequate protection.
In order to pack properly, you must decide in advance whether you will be camping or sleeping indoors. Camping requires basic gear for sleeping and cooking. You will also need some sort of protection from the elements (such as tarps and a waterproof tent).
Finally, prior to any long trip, it’s a no-brainer to make sure the bike is in tiptop shape. Lube and tighten the chain, change the oil and filter, and check the tire pressure and treads. Before embarking on any long journey, it is a good idea to have your bike serviced by a professional mechanic.
Preparing for a Group Ride
Although motorcycle riding is often a solitary activity, many experienced riders enjoy traveling with friends, as well. A group ride is a great chance to bond with friends who share your love of motorcycle culture. With a few basic preparations and safety guidelines, everyone can enjoy the ride and arrive safely. Hold a brief meeting to discuss the important details of your trip with the entire group before you hit the road. For example:
- What route will you take?
- Are there rest stops are along the way?
- Who will lead the group? (The lead rider should be an experienced motorcycle operator who is very familiar with the route you are traveling.)
- Who will be the tail rider? (The tail rider should be an experienced motorcycle operator who has a cell phone to call for help if necessary.)
- What will you do if someone becomes separated from the group?
Generally, experts recommend that you limit your motorcycle riding group to between five and seven riders. In a larger group, it’s too difficult to keep track of everyone. If you must travel with a larger crowd, divide yourselves into two or more smaller groups.
It’s also a good idea to assign someone in your group to carry a first-aid kit, cell phone, and basic tools. Motorcycle riding can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be prepared for any emergency situation. On the day of your trip, fill up your gas tank and inspect your bike for any mechanical problems. Your motorcycle should be in good running condition before any group riding experience.
Group Riding Safety Tips
When riding in a group, you should always follow the same safety procedures you’d use when traveling alone. However, the close proximity of other riders does add to the risk of operating a motorcycle. To stay safe in a group riding situation, remember the following tips:
- Use a staggered riding formation to provide a sufficient space cushion between group members. Each rider must have enough space and time to react to any hazards that you might encounter.
- If you’re traveling on a curvy road or visibility is poor, ride in a single-file formation.
- Side-by-side formations should be avoided whenever possible. If you’re traveling in this manner, you may not be able to swerve if you encounter an obstacle in your path.
- Riders one the same track should have a distance between them of at least 2 seconds.
- If your group must merge with another group at some point in the trip, let the first group lead.
- Motorcycle operators carrying passengers should ride on the right whenever possible. Novice riders shouldn’t carry passengers at all.
- If someone in the group is riding a motorcycle with a sidecar, have him or her ride at the rear or front of the group.
As you’re riding, periodically check your rearview mirror to make sure the person behind you isn’t falling behind. If necessary, slow down to allow him/her to catch up. Don’t allow anyone to get separated from the group. Ideally, your group should include people with similar skill levels and riding styles. But if you are traveling with both new and experienced motorcycle operators, keep the novice riders in the middle of the group to prevent them from falling behind.
Using Hand Signals to Communicate with Group Riders
When traveling with a group of motorcycle riders, hand signals are the best way to communicate. Using hand signals appropriately keeps everyone informed of the group’s plans and reduces the risk of an accident caused by a surprised rider. Here are a few of the most common:
- To signal that you need to stop for fuel, place your arm out to the side and point to the tank with your finger extended.
- To signal that you need to stop for refreshments, keep your fingers closed and point to your mouth.
- To signal that you need a rest stop, extend your forearm, keep your fist clenched, and make a short up and down motion.
- To signal that there is a hazard in the roadway, point with your right foot or your left hand.
- To indicate that you wish to have another rider follow you, keep your arm extended straight up from the shoulder and keep your palm forward.
- To indicate the need to speed up, keep your arm extended straight out with your palm facing up.
- To indicate the need to slow down, keep your arm extended straight out with your palm facing down.
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