Motorcycle Safety - Are Motorcycles Dangerous
Motorcycle riding is one of the most freeing and fun means of transportation. With a community rich in culture, and filled with passionate people, it’s a sport that’s easy to fall in love with. However, for new riders, riding around on your bike for the first time can be a little intimidating and even dangerous, especially if you don’t know what to look out for. Luckily, there are many safety measures you can take to keep riding fun and safe.
Knowing The Dangers
For newbies and experienced riders alike, it is important to know the dangers of riding a motorcycle. A lot of the time, we can get in over our heads, or even get overconfident—which is a danger to riding within itself. One way to keep yourself safe is to know the statistics surrounding motorcycles. In 2020 alone, 5,579 motorcyclists died, an 11% increase from 2019. While motorcycles account for only 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States, 14% of all vehicle crashes were by motorcycles (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). To make matters worse, riding a motorcycle has been proven to be 28% more fatal than driving a car. Although these stats seem scary, it is important to make mental note of them before you get out on the open road. When we’re aware of the dangers of riding, it makes us all the more cautious and even more responsible riders, which in turn makes us a lot more safe.
Safety Gear For Motorcycles
One of the most important ways to keep yourself safe and less injury-prone is to wear your gear…yes even during the sweltering summer. Your gear, no matter how annoying, bulky or hot it may be, can quite literally save your life. Another pro tip we suggest, is to pick out gear that makes you stand out. Most accidents happen when car drivers don’t see us. To get ahead of this curve, it’s a good idea to make yourself visible, as most car drivers are not even thinking about us on the roads. A great way to do this is by wearing bright colors. We know stocking up on gear can get pricey, but that price is surely not worth more than your life; a sentiment told time and time again by experienced riders. So when you’re putting together a savings for buying your first bike, be sure you budget for some gear as well.
At the very least, every rider should wear a helmet, as head injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are reported as the most common injuries from motorcycle accidents. Here’s another statistic to think about: In 2020, states without universal motorcycle helmet laws, 57% of riders that were killed in a crash were not wearing helmets. When picking out your helmet it’s important to know a few things, before making your purchase as they can be pretty expensive. (Here’s our guide on that). One of the main points to note is to get a helmet that is comfortable, snug and is DOT compliant. There are many different types of helmets to choose from—¾, full face, open face, just to name a few—so choosing the right helmet for you can get confusing if you’re not sure what to look for. The best thing to do is go to a retail store and have one of the employees help you get fitted to find the perfect one for you.
Some other common motorcycle injuries that occur are road rash, fractures and lower extremity injuries. To prevent and make these injuries less critical, is by wearing a jacket, which is arguably the second most important piece of gear you should pick up before riding. You can choose from a more durable and safer leather option, or if you're someplace warmer you can get a lightweight mesh and kevlar lined jacket that offers breathability and airflow. Although leather jackets are typically safer, other options will be sure to keep you in good shape. Most jackets come with padding and other safety features that’ll keep your common contact areas protected and include other weather-proof designs. Like the rest of your gear, you should invest in a jacket that is durable and will offer the best protection from both accidents and the elements. Usually, your best bet is to try out some options, and make a decision based on fit, comfort and practicality.
One of the most crucial aspects of riding are your hands. You use them to operate your bike, control your direction, and they’re almost always the first line of defense for breaking our falls—which if you’re a new rider, will likely happen within the first 6 months of riding. The best way to combat potential injuries, rocks flying at your knuckles, numbness and the ever-changing elements, are gloves. Not only do they protect your hands from hazards but they also offer better grip on your handlebars. There are tons of different options for gloves you can choose from, based on your style, comfort and safety. Above all, it’s super important to always wear your gloves…Accidents, falls, and even weather are all unpredictable, so being proactive in your safety is the best thing you can do.
Unlike with enclosed vehicles, motorcyclists have no outer shell protecting them from collisions and other hazards. The only thing getting in between your body and the hard asphalt is your protective gear. So while jeans may be a safe bet that most riders opt to wear, perhaps consider riding pants—the more durable and protective alternative for your legs. Many times, riding pants are even wearable off the bike, but are equipped with both denim and fabrics like kevlar or nylon.
Another piece of gear that’s important for riders to wear are boots. Our ankles take a lot of heat when riding. Whether it be contact from the ground, heat from your exhaust, or even just trying to make a solid stop; the right footwear can be a crucial factor in your everyday riding. Wearing at least some durable hiking shoes or boots that go over your ankle can be yet another preventative step you take into being a safe rider.
Let’s face it. Most accidents that occur amongst riders are from people who don’t have their license (36%) and those who simply don’t understand their own skill level. All riders can get something out of a Motorcycle Safety Course, however for new riders taking a course like the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) is extremely beneficial. Whether you have zero riding experience or 40 years of it, you will still most likely pick up some new skills you didn't have in your repertoire, making you a better equipped rider. Not only is it required in most states, but with a certificate under your belt, it makes the process of getting your license so much easier. Apart from getting your insurance rates lowered, the MSF is a great way for new riders to become immersed into the world of motorcycle riding, in a supervised and forgiving environment. Even if you walk in not knowing the slightest thing about motorcycles (much like myself) you will walk out with the knowledge and skills it takes to pick up the bike and get going. While different states have different requirements to obtain a Motorcycle License, including various Motorcycle Safety Courses, the MSF is the most commonly recognized course nationwide.
Tips For Beginner Riders
There are so many tips and tricks for riding that I couldn’t possibly put it all into one small section. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll list some of the best ones that will keep you safe and well-practiced.
Buy A Bike That Fits
Before you dish out your savings on a big hog of a bike that you’ve always dreamed of riding, consider your skill level and size. Many riders who crash their bikes first starting out, simply cannot handle the power and weight of a motorcycle that is fast and heavy. Before you buy your first bike, do some research, test out some bikes, and get a bike that fits and is comfortable for you.
Practice Early & Often
So you have your new license, gear and bike, but still may be a little intimidated to enter the bustling traffic of wherever you may live. Many people get to this point and think riding a motorcycle is self-explanatory and they can just get on the freeway without the practice and patience, but realize soon enough that this is not the case. They’ll spend all this money on gear, bikes and the classes, but then drop their bike or stall out once, and give up. These people have failed to do the one thing that will make riding easy and less frustrating—and that’s practicing. The best times to get some practice are on Saturday and Sunday mornings, between 5-8 a.m, while there’s hardly anyone out on the road. Gather up some friends to ride to breakfast, and avoid riding during crazy rush hours. Soon enough you’ll get better at riding and can eventually start adding it to your daily routines/commute.
If you don’t know the fundamentals of riding, you’re just putting yourself in danger. Take the time to learn the major controls and functions of the bike and apply them to your daily riding. Make an effort to do things the right way; developing your skills being in total control of the bike can be the difference between getting in an accident and being able to recover from a mishap. Some quick things to remember: let your knees hug the gas tank for better control and balance, use a good balance of front and back brakes, practice throttle control and be sure to look where you’re going.
Be Safe & Have Fun
Once you get a good handle of the bike controls, know your commute by the back of your hand, and have solid gear to keep you protected, you’re all set to becoming a well-versed rider. Don’t forget to keep a calm mindset when riding, so you can make clear and rational decisions. It’s also a huge must to stay hydrated and take breaks along the way, to keep yourself in the best shape possible to ride. Before each ride it’s also a good idea to do a pre-check on your bike’s condition, so you don’t have to worry about any flat tires or faulty brakes on your journey. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun, because that’s what riding is all about!
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