Keeping yourself safe is THE most important aspect of riding. Below are some tips to help you to keep yourself safe on the roads.
Riding defensively means that you are less vulnerable. Things you need to do:-
- Take a ‘life saving’ glance over your shoulder before you undertake any kind of manoeuvres’. Get into the habit of doing this, so you know where other road users are and what they are potentially doing.
- Try and anticipate the actions of other road users. Think ahead and plan.
- Remain alert at all times.
- Observe what’s happening around you.
- Use your mirrors regularly.
- Don’t ride too close to the vehicle in front – make sure you can either slow down or stop if you need to.
- Position yourself in the safest place in the road to maximise your visibility.
- Signal clearly and in plenty of time so other road users know what your intentions are.
- Scan the road particularly at junctions
Wear the right Clothes
It’s no joke – don’t put fashion before safety! Having the right gear is essential. If you fall off your bike and you are wearing just normal jeans the tarmac will shred through them and your skin in seconds.
It’s good to wear bright, high visibility clothing with reflective strips so that you stand out in the day and the night time.
So, what do you need to wear…?
A helmet – by law you have to wear a helmet. You can buy a full or open faced helmet, if you purchase an open faced one, you may need goggles to protect your eyes. You should also remember, the more open the helmet, the less protection it offers you. You should aim to change your helmet every 2-3 years as they tend to take a bit of a battering. Don’t be tempted to buy a second hand helmet, you don’t know where its been or what internal damage it has – it may have a crack that you can’t see as most of the protection is in the inside of the helmet. Try and buy the best helmet you can afford. Look at the SHARP rating system to see how much protection a helmet will offer you in a collision; see http://sharp.direct.gov.uk. Make sure that you buy a helmet that fits you properly and you fasten your chin strap – in some serious collisions helmets have been known to come off because they didn’t fit properly or they weren’t fastened correctly, if at all! Look for the European and British Safety Standards logo on the helmet to ensure that it is up to standard.
Visors and Goggles
If you opt for an open helmet then protect your eyes. Sounds like common sense but wind, rain, dirt on the road and insects can all cause you discomfort as you ride. If they get scratched you need to replace them, the scratches may look small but they can affect your vision, particularly at night time. Only wear tinted visors or goggles during the day time, they are not meant for night time riding. Visors and Goggles must also conform to British Safety Standards and have the British Kitemark or comply with the European mark.
Don’t forget trousers, jacket and gloves. It doesn’t matter if you opt for textile or leather as long as it has a sufficient level of protection, you can get these from specialist shops or some motorcycle dealerships have a clothing department. Clothing that offers protection against impact, grazes or abrasions must have the CE mark to indicate that it has passed rigorous tests. Make sure you have appropriate footwear that protects your ankles. Carry a spare set of gloves in-case your normal ones get soaked in any bad weather. Wear a neck buff to stop the wind channelling into your jacket. Your clothing needs to keep you comfortable in hot weather, warm in cold and wet weather and offer maximum protection in the unfortunate event that you end up in a collision. It also needs to make you visible to other road users.
Motorcycle clothing often comes in two forms – leather or textile (man made clothing) with built in body armour. Both have good and bad points. If you opt for leather – make sure they are double or triple stitched to offer strength and safety. Leathers often provide better protection in the event that you come off your bike and are generally cooler; however can sometimes leak so you may need additional waterproofs. Man made materials – called textiles are generally waterproof and wind resistant and tend to keep you warmer in the winter as they often come with zip out linings but may not offer the level of protection leathers do.
Kevlar is another material that offers some protection and often looks like normal clothing e.g. jeans. You can also buy additional CE approved body armour to slot into pockets that a lot of Kevlar clothing will have.
Buy the best protective clothing that you can afford! Even though we know that it can be expensive to buy all this gear, what is your life worth – go that extra mile and buy well! If you are buying your bike from a dealership see what discount you can get if you buy your protective clothes at the same time.
Its not rocket science but road users misjudging speeds contributes to collisions all over the UK every day. Slowing down gives your brain the time it needs to react. It allows you to see more and observe more. Riding at the appropriate speed for the weather conditions will also help to keep you safer on the roads. Bends are lethal, if you misjudge the speed going into the corner; you’ll be off your bike and potentially into the path of on coming traffic or a crash barrier.
Overtaking is all about making decisions; you need to judge the speed of the vehicle you are going to overtake. You need to check if there maybe turnings ahead that the vehicle in front may take – this means they may turn across your path or another vehicle may pull out.
Has the road user in front of you actually seen you – do they know you are there? Position yourself in the road so that they can see you and you can see the road ahead as much as possible. Remember to signal before attempting to overtake and NEVER overtake on double white lines. Allow yourself plenty of room to pass the vehicle, make sure you are in the right gear and overtake as quickly and as safely as possible. Overtaking is never a good excuse for speeding and it doesn’t wear well with the Police either!
Keep control of your bike
It is important for you to stay in control and stable on your bike. Learn how to use your front and back brakes appropriately to help you to slow down. Although it might look great to hang off the back of a bike and look cool, it is very dangerous and means you have no stability on your bike. You are more like to come off the bike and cause other road users and yourself serious harm.
If you develop the right attitude from the beginning you will become a safer rider. You always should consider the safety of all road users around you. Losing your temper won’t help anyone; it will more likely lead to you making a mistake. You need a clear head to stay in control, so use it, don’t ride if you are tired or ill, if you have had any alcohol or have taken drugs – illegal or certain prescribed drugs.
It sounds silly doesn’t it when we say be careful on bends! However, it is so important that you look how tight the bend is and plan the angle that you are going to take. You need to ensure that the angle you position yourself in gives you maximum vision. The rule to remember is for right hand bends you need to position yourself close to the roadside border and for left hand bends you need to position yourself closer to the central white line. Ensure you don’t ride too fast into the bend, you need to be able to allow yourself time to react to any unforeseen surprises e.g. pot holes, other vehicles, dead animals etc.
There is only one person you can rely on and that’s yourself.
Modern cars / vans etc can accelerate really quickly – this also true of vehicles moving quickly into different lanes. Make sure you leave room around you. The key is to be seen. Stay out of blind spots. If you can’t see the drivers face in their mirror – they can’t see you!!! Simples!
However, just because you can see the driver, doesn’t mean that they will use their mirror before changing lanes or turning, potentially knocking into you. Make sure you position yourself so you are not in danger.
If you see a battered, dented car by you – be wary – they have obviously have made lots of mistakes and you don’t want to be their next one. You never can be sure exactly what is going to happen in the traffic, so be on your guard
Scan the roads at junctions, even if the lights are on green!
Keep your bike in good working order
A bike is just like most other mechanised things – it needs regular attention and maintenance. If you don’t maintain it you are running the risk that your bike will get into a dangerous condition and it will cost you even more. Some colleges offer short courses on bike maintenance if you fancy learning to do some of the more routine jobs yourself. However, you should always seek expert mechanical knowledge and assistance for the more complex tasks or if you are unsure about anything. The main priority is to keep the engine running smoothly, keep your costs down and have a bike that’s safe to ride. Make sure that your lights on the bike are clean and in good working order. If you have storage space on your bike, it might be a good idea to carry spare bulbs.
We know this sounds simples but you should always choose tyres that are recommended by the manufacturer. If you use a tyre that isn’t recommended it could be at best an illegal fitment and at worst lethal!
Do you know the legal tread depth for a motorcycle tyre in the UK? It is at least 1.00mm around the circumference of the tyre for 75% of the central width and the original pattern visible on the remaining 25%.
You should choose your tyres based on what best will suit its purpose, so for example are you going to ride the bike all year round, are you riding it every day or just at weekends, what conditions are you likely to ride in? All of this needs to be taken into account. If you aren’t sure what is the best tyre for your bike then pop along to a recommended garage or motorcycle dealership and speak to them.
Once a week before you ride your bike, when the tyres are cold, check the air pressure. The manufactures guide will let you know what pressure should be in your tyres. Having the wrong tyre pressure can cost you money as it causes the tyre to wear down quicker, it increases the amount of fuel you use and it also more seriously provides less control over your bike. If you over inflate your tyres it can mean that the contact between the tyre and road decreases meaning that you don’t have a good grip and you will experience poor road handling.
Also, when you purchase new tyres they need to ‘run in’, that means you shouldn’t exceed 60mph for around 100miles and try not to brake sharply, change direction quickly or lean into sharp angles. This will allow the tyre to adjust properly and function in the most effective way.
By taking on board the points listed above, hopefully it will help to make you safer on the roads. However, one of the best ways for you to keep yourself safer is to have further training. It doesn’t mean you have to do your test. Trainers are quite happy to give extra lessons. However, what is stopping you progressing from CBT to full licence? It demonstrates that your bike skills are improving and the money you invest in paying for this should pay off in lower bike insurance premiums – win win for everyone! At the end of the day there is only one of you, there is no reset button, so stay safe!