Anyone who has been involved in or seen a motorcycle crash knows how horrific they can be. There are however new riders every year that hop onto motorcycles without the proper training, knowledge or safety equipment. These riders make up the overwhelming majority of motorcycle crash statistics in the United States every year. The purpose of this article is not to scare people away from riding motorcycles. The thrill and perspective from a motorcycle ride has no comparison in the motoring world. The rider has a full 360 degree view of his or her surroundings, which makes for an incredible sensory adventure. The downside of course is the fact that the price you pay for this incredible view is the motorcyclist’s lack of physical protection from an impact.
The day you start riding a motorcycle, your life will change. You will look at the road differently, you will look at the behavior of other drivers differently, and your odds of being fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident spike dramatically. This is the truth. You can however reduce your personal odds of becoming fatally injured in a motorcycle crash. Follow these steps:
- Take a Motorcycle Safety Course
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers courses all across the country. The best part about them, they’re free, and, they provide the bikes. It amazes me that everyone doesn’t take advantage of this incredible safety tool. I took the course in Pennsylvania. It consisted of one night of classroom learning and two days of road training. The classroom part was extremely informative. By its nature, it was not as fun as the road part of the course, but still an incredible experience. The road portion is designed to teach riders how to ride a motorcycle as if they are completely foreign to the concept. This ground up approach aims to create good habits and relegate bad ones to a forgotten place. The 250cc cruiser style motorcycles are perfect for this purpose. They are light, maneuverable and very forgiving. At the end of the course, in Pennsylvania anyway, the riders are provided the opportunity to earn their Class M license designation on the spot. After a graded test, I was legally allowed to ride motorcycles, and was equipped with the knowledge of how to do it safely. Take the course and reduce your odds of being involved in a motorcycle crash.
- Start Slow
I don’t mean that riding 10mph around town will keep you off the pavement. Motorcycle crashes can happen at any speed. What I mean here is that you should start with a manageable motorcycle. Many young riders (who make up the majority of fatal crashes each year) get caught up in the sportbike culture. These riders end up riding 600cc super sports as their first bike, which is an unspeakably bad idea. The 600 class supersport bikes, GSXR’s, CBRs, Ninjas, R6’s are some of the most powerful road bikes ever created. These motorcycles are purpose built to run on tracks under the careful use of an experienced rider. The brakes are built for racing, which means that they are strong, VERY strong. A panic brake grab can easily put an inexperienced rider over the bars. The throttle is super responsive. Hit a bump and lose control of your right hand for a second, that inadvertent throttle input may send the front wheel skyward. Are you ready for how to deal with this? Take a turn with too much speed, your uncomfortable leaning any further so you grab a big handful of brake. Well, your tire contact patch with the road while leaning is a percentage of what it is while upright. Your tires will begin to lose traction and you will hopefully “lowside” (fall off as the bike slides away from you). If you are unlucky you might “high side” which describes a rider being thrown over a bike in a crash. Watch out for that 500 pounds of aluminum coming at you. So what am I saying? Do yourself and your family a favor and get a nice 250cc motorcycle to start out on. You will learn so much on this bike that will prepare you for the rigors of riding a sport bike. Don’t learn the hard way. Be smart. You only live once.
No, I’m not losing my mind and speaking jibberish. That right there is an acronym. It stands for “All The Gear All The Time.” ATGATT is something that every new rider should drill into his or her head. The odds of getting into a motorcycle crash, even for an experienced rider are still significant. As a rider, your job is to mitigate that risk in every way possible. If you have taken the two steps listed above, great. You’re well on your way. But let’s not stop there. You must prepare the crash and enjoy the ride. Obviously don’t go out there and try to crash. It is not fun. But if you do crash, be sure that you are protected.
First is the helmet. A quality full-face helmet will protect your head, chin and face from damage in a motorcycle crash. Motorcycle fatalities decrease significantly in crashes where the rider was wearing a full-face helmet. Forget about the skull only helmets. An impact analysis was performed on motorcycle helmets involved in crashes and the chin and face area were impacted over 40% of the time. If you like what you see in the mirror, go with the full face. Arai and Shoei are two of the best in the helmet world. Spend money to protect your head.
Next stop is the torso. You can protect your upper and lower body with a number of options. The best however is leather. Leather protects the rider from road rash, which is a nasty injury, which occurs when a rider skids across the pavement, losing layers of skin as he goes. Leather jackets and gloves will mitigate this risk almost entirely. Leather pants too.
Lastly, your feet. Wear over the ankle boots always. If you fall off of your motorcycle in a turn, where do you think the bike will land? Right on your leg and foot. There have been motorcycle crash stories where people’s anklebones were ground down to nothing. A good sturdy over the ankle boot will reduce the chances of major lower leg injuries in a crash.
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