Many new motorcyclist view riding on the freeway for the first time as a milestone in their motorcycle riding career. Although cruising at 65 or 70 miles per hour on hard asphalt surrounded by cars takes a little getting used to, it is actually one of the safer places to ride. Also, if you follow a few rules and practice, your fears of freeway riding will be long gone and your commute will be a breeze.
There are a few reasons why the freeway is a bit safer than riding your motorcycle on an urban street. If you're concerned about speed, keep this in mind; a motorcycle moving at a higher speed is more stable than one traveling at a slow speed. The motorcycle wheel acts as a gyroscope causing the motorcycle to naturally stay upright. If you trust this law of physics you'll find more comfort in traveling at higher speeds. Another reason why the freeway is safer than the urban roads is because everyone is traveling in the same direction at relatively the same speed.
This fact doesn't mean an errant driver won't cut you off and it doesn't mean you are free and clear from accidents. There are some basic rules you can follow to help you ride your motorcycle safely on the freeway.
- Stay alert. The freeway is no place to daydream. Your eyes should always be moving, scanning the road and assessing the situations around you. Check your mirrors. Check beside you. Look to see what the other driver is doing. Is he on the phone? Is he talking to his passenger? Is he swerving in the lane?
- Anticipate the other driver's move. Although you never know what someone is going to do, there are certain situations that you can predict and prepare for. For instance; if you're riding in the far right lane and you are approaching an off-ramp, you can predict that someone in the left lanes is going to merge to the right in order to exit the freeway. You can avoid a collision by keeping a close eye on the cars in the left lanes and plan a way out if someone should cut across.
- Don't get stuck in someone's blind spot. When riding along side a car in a separate lane, ride either slightly ahead of them or slightly behind them. When riding behind the car, try to stay in a spot where you can see the driver's face in their side view mirror. This means they can see you, that is, if they take the time to look. If you find yourself sitting in someones blind spot either accelerate or slow down to put yourself in a safer position.
- Avoid riding behind or beside semi trucks. A truck and trailer have many blind spots and it's even harder for a truck driver to see a motorcycle. Don't allow you and your motorcycle to be stuck behind one. Pull ahead of a truck as soon as possible and clear yourself away from that hazard.
- Ride in the gaps. Even in relatively heavy traffic, cars have a tendency to travel in groups. Find the gaps between those groups and stick to those empty areas.
- Look ahead. Don't focus on the tail lights of the car in front of you. Look ahead 4 or 5 cars up. Doing so will keep you aware of approaching traffic conditions, hazards in the road or sudden stops in traffic.
- Leave yourself an out. Ask yourself "what if". What if that driver drifts into my lane? What if traffic suddenly stops? What if someone cuts in front of me? Then, find a way out for those "what if's.
Always the number one rule when riding a motorcycle is to wear all your riding hear all the time. Stay alert and have fun.