Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
I got my first motorcycle when I was 10 years old and I have enjoyed them ever since. There are few things that beat cruising through some of the amazing mountain canyons here in Colorado.
That said, the latest vehicle travel data show motorcyclists are about 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash. They are also six times as likely to be injured. There is a reason why ER staff call them suicycles.
If you also enjoy riding motorcycles, there are additional precautions you need to take to avoid becoming one of these statistics.
There are several things you need to do before you even turn the key…
First off, make sure you have the proper motorcycle endorsement added to your driver’s license. Most (if not all) states require this designation in order to legally operate a motorcycle, moped or scooter on the road. I also highly advise taking a motorcycle safety course.
Before every ride, check the tire pressure and tread depth, hand and foot brakes, headlights and signal indicators and fluid levels on your motorcycle. You should also check underneath for signs of oil or gas leaks.
A good rule for checking tread depth is to take a penny and place it upside down in one of the center treads. If you can still see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires. (This does not apply to those brave souls who race their bikes on tracks and use a different kind of tire.)
I had a good friend in college whose rear tire had treads from the inner tire showing, yet he refused to change it. So one night I slashed his tire — sorry, Eddie, it was for your own good, buddy.
Good gear is probably the No. 1 thing that will save you from becoming one of the statistics above. Here are five critical pieces of equipment you should wear every time you go riding:
- Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet
- Heavy jacket. I strongly recommend getting one with internal armor on the chest, back and elbows
- Heavyweight pants or denim jeans
- Good boots
Don’t ever go riding in a T-shirt and shorts, and ALWAYS wear a helmet.
On the Open Road
RIDING DEFENSIVELY IS KEY!
I take on the mindset that every vehicle out there is going to hit me. Always assume other drivers don’t see you so you can put yourself in a position to reduce the chances of a collision.
Here are a few more tips to keep you safe:
- If you have a new bike, go to an area with little to no traffic and get used to how it handles. Practice quick-avoidance turns (as if someone just turned in front of you).
- Always stay out of blind spots — especially of trucks and larger vehicles.
- As an added precaution, flash your high beams multiple times when approaching intersections to signal drivers you are approaching.
- Scan around you the entire time, including using your mirrors. Try to anticipate what vehicles in your area are going to do and put yourself in a favorable position.
- When riding in the spring, be aware that there may still be gravel remaining in places from winter snow removal efforts.
Lastly, try to make eye contact with other drivers when they are stopped near or approaching you so you can confirm that they see you. Texting while driving has just taken over as the No. 1 cause of automobile accidents in the U.S. Unfortunately. It’s up to you to be extra aware if other drivers are not paying attention.
Be a survivor… not a statistic,