Anyone who rides motorcycles will know that there’s no other feeling in the world like it. After you’ve been out on the road with the wind and sunshine in your face, able to look in any direction with unobstructed views, you may find it hard to get back inside a “cage” — those cars, trucks, vans, or SUVs that seem designed to block your views and take all the joy out of driving.
But those big cages do have one undeniable advantage: they’re safer than motorcycles. Without the cage, motorcycles expose their riders to tougher crashes and more dangers. Motorcycles are also smaller than cars and SUVs, which makes them tougher to see. That’s not the rider’s fault, but it still leads to a higher number of accidents. So take special care as a motorcyclist to protect yourself. Here are a few ways to do just that.
Always wear your helmet
Most states and countries where you’ll ride a motorcycle now demand that you wear a helmet when you do so, and to go helmetless in these areas is against the law. But other areas will let you ride helmet-free, and some motorcyclists prefer to drive without a helmet whenever they think they can get away with it, even if it’s against the law.
Yes, feeling the wind on your face and in your hair is nice, but it’s not worth dying for. And if you go without a helmet, there’s a good chance the price will be just that. The statistics are clear, and helmets have a huge impact on whether or not motorcyclists survive nasty crashes, saving more than 1,800 lives in 2016 alone. So don’t take your life into your hands. Just strap a helmet onto your melon and buy yourself some more healthy, happy years of riding your bike. Smart riders know that motorcycle helmets are a motorcycle rider’s best friend.
Know the local laws
Helmet laws aren’t the only things that change when you cross a state or national border. Different states have different attitudes towards motorcycles in all sorts of ways, and even towns and cities can have their own regulations. Take lane splitting, for instance. It’s legal in many areas, but it’s illegal in other areas. You don’t want to end up with a ticket, so be sure to know the laws in whatever area you’re riding in.
Remember as well that local drivers will be more or less used to things like lane splitting depending on their legality, so bending the law also puts you at risk when clumsy drivers unfamiliar with the maneuver react to it. If you’re traveling far on your motorcycle, take the time to look up local laws ahead of time. This isn’t stuff you want to learn on the fly.
Stay within your skills and watch the weather
Becoming a proficient motorcycle rider is a lot of fun, but it takes time. Just because you’ve passed your motorcycle licensing test doesn’t mean you’re ready to tackle treacherous roads and conditions. Discretion is the better part of valor, so don’t let over-excitement for our wonderful hobby cut your riding days short.
Check out routes ahead of time, and be extra careful about checking the weather. Riding in the rain is possible, but it’s certainly not easy, and it’s certainly more dangerous than riding in ideal conditions. If a storm catches you by surprise, don’t be afraid to just wait it out beneath an overpass. Wasted time is better than wasting lives.