Motorcycles and motorcycling are a way of life for many of us. They are a big part of who we are. Ask anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle, and you will know that it isn't something they would trade for anything in the world!
Motorcycles are cool, and motorcycling is highly rewarding, but let's face it, this hobby comes at a cost. We are all very aware of the risks that come with this passion.
While motorbikes today can go as fast as cars (sometimes faster), they all lack an exterior frame that can absorb shock and impact. This makes us riders and our bikes vulnerable and completely exposed to all the elements on the road.
Well, now if I have got you wondering about what the solution to this is.. Here is a list of simple steps you must follow to make sure you stay safe as a rider:
11. Do your basics
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Before any ride, however long or short, be sure to check if your bike is in good condition. You don't want nasty surprises once you are on the ride- like worn out brake pads, headlights not working, low tyre pressure.
The basics are not limited to just the bike, but to you- the rider as well. Stay hydrated, observe if you are too tired before the start, keep yourself in good shape, don't get high the night before. These may feel like obvious things, but you would be surprised by how many riders don't really watch out for these basic, yet important issues.
10. Know your bike
With the easy access we all have to a variety of bikes today, either new, borrowed or rented, there is a huge need to know the bike before taking it on a ride. If you are riding a bike you have owned and rode around for a while, this may not apply to you. But there are a large number of seasoned riders who are opting to rent motorbikes- sometimes bigger, heavier and more powerful than the ones they are used to. Each bike is very different, and each bike behaves differently in different weather and road conditions. Lack of knowing the bike well enough could be disastrous. I am not saying don't borrow or rent motorbikes. I am saying take it easy and slow till you actually get comfortable with the bike and understand its nuances.
9. Watch the weather
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Knowing what to expect from the weather beforehand helps you prepare better for the day's ride ahead.
Avoid riding in bad weather if you can. Rain, snow, ice, water- you need to ride differently in each condition. Rain not only makes your tyres slippery, but also reduces your visibility to a great extent. You need different tyres to ride in snow and ice. In any of these 'not-normal' conditions, you must go easy on the brakes and throttle, avoid sudden maueuvers and keep enough space for stops.
8. Ride within your limit
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Don't ride to prove anything to anyone. A ride is the last place you want to show off your skills in any way. Just because someone else is able to maneuver better, go faster, off-road better, doesn't mean you go out to prove you are equally good. Motorcycling is a skill, one that is developed overtime and not overnight. Know and acknowledge your skill and limit. If you are motivated to ride like the others you see at rallies and races, join a riding course and hone your skills. Don't improvise on the road.
7. Use common sense
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Use common sense in making decisions. While you should ride at your comfort, there are certain things you should not be compromising on. Get rid of the music from your earphones, because you could be distracted, and more importantly you can't hear if there is a huge thud right next to you! Don't get high and ride, because, well its obvious. Don't overspeed. Wear your gear and helmet all the time while riding. Riding comfortably never means compromising on the safety aspect of the ride. For example- because your jacket is uncomfortable doesn't mean you take it off and ride.
6. Protect your feet
While every body part is equally important, and you should be wearing proper riding gear during a ride, make sure you don't ignore wearing sturdy shoes with good grips and ankle supports. For starters, flip-flops and open sandals make it painful to shift gear on most bikes. The last thing you want is to put your foot down for balance while coming to a halt, and drop your bike because of bad grips on your shoes.
On another important note, in case of a crash, your foot is among the main impact points on a bike.
5. Don't get distracted
Roads are highly dynamic. You are never stationary on a ride. And so, there will always be ample things that could be distracting- People, landscapes, buildings, signages,. While you are riding through beautiful landscape, account for enough breaks to soak in the beauty, rather than check out the surroundings while riding!
Like I mentioned earlier, music is a huge distraction. You might end up closing your eyes for a nano-second (unknowingly) going with the flow of the music, and it could end up badly.
Also, don't let go off your handle bars while riding. Not only does it mess up your balance, but also affects gear shifting, braking and accelerating.
4. Get yourself the right gear
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When getting out on a motorbike ride, don't compromise on your safety. Unlike a car, even small things like a little pebble, dust, a fly or a cigarette butt could sting your skin. There is a huge variety of riding gear that is available in the market today- for hot, cold, humid, windy or rainy weather. Jackets and pants comes with detachable wind, thermal and rain liners; they come in leather, mesh and textile, with high quality armours for impact points like the shoulder, back, knee, elbows. Depending on your use for the gear, you have a variety to choose from, available at various price points to suit every budget.
Anticipation is one of the most important things to keep in mind while on a ride. Nothing ever really comes 'suddenly' on the road. Most of the times, it is an error of judgement on part of the rider, that gives a feeling of something having appeared 'suddenly'.
It need not be your mistake that causes accidents. But after an accident, it really doesn't matter whose mistake it was anyway! As riders we should be able to anticipate errors from others too. Some situations where we need to anticipate are blind spots during night riding, possibility of someone crossing the road while you are negotiating a corner, or something that is blocked from your vision while overtaking a big truck.
2. Never get high and ride. Not even a pint of beer on a sunny afternoon!
Drinking and riding is a big no! And so is riding with any kind of intoxication! 'It's too hot, just one pint', 'Nothing happens to be with this little alcohol', 'I have a massive capacity, this is nothing', or 'I will take long enough a break after drinking', none of these statements hold true. Whether or not one agrees, however little intoxication, it definitely has an effect on your reflexes. That small delay in reaction, could mean the difference between life and death. Make this a principle you live by during a ride, and inspire others to follow your footsteps. Together, we can make the world a safer place for ourselves.
1. Always always wear a helmet
I had once heard a track racer say "We don't think twice before picking up the latest smartphone and go out of our way to pay Rs 30k to Rs 60k for one! But when the topic is of a helmet, many make do with the cheapest, flimsiest helmet available in a local shop".
We have one head, and that ONE cannot be replaced at all, the way a shattered phone screen can be. There is a massive collection of helmets available in the market for you to choose from. Get a good quality helmet. I do hope you will never need to experience first-hand how useful an investment it turned out, but if you do, you sure will thank your stars!
My strive is to make our world of motorcycling a safer place for ourselves. I am doing my bit of following a few simple steps.
All I ask of you is to create this same awareness about safe motorcycling.
Share this post with all your rider friends, and together let's work towards a safer world!