If you are anything like me, you spent many hours in the garage this winter staring at your motorcycle. Those of us that live to ride look forward to the first ride of the year all winter long. For me that day was yesterday, and I am almost glad it is raining buckets today so that I am not tempted to ride again. Springtime riding may be the most dangerous riding you will do all year, but there are steps you can take to start your season safely.
Perform Maintenance and Repairs
I perform all of my own maintenance unless I can convince a trusted buddy to work the wrenches with me. Before I ride, I always make sure that my bike is in perfect mechanical condition. Most of my big repairs take place during the ice and snow months, so once April or May come around I simply go over my pre-ride checklist and hit the road. Without full maintenance and a mechanic's inspection, it is foolish to head out for your first ride. There are too many things that could go wrong. Take the extra time and money to make sure that your motorcycle is still ready to ride.
Watch Out for Unaware Drivers
The single biggest threat to you on the road, besides your own errors, are other vehicles. All summer you will have to avoid drivers that do not see you. In the springtime, it is even worse. Drivers go months without seeing a motorcycle, and they will not be looking out for you. You need to be aware of how little attention and care you will receive from drivers on the road. Be even more cautious around cars than you normally would be.
Adjust for Road Conditions
Salt piles, dirt, gravel, and potholes all want to take your motorcycle riding season away from you. They are the enemy, and you must always check road conditions. Even on roads that you used every day last summer, you might find that conditions have changed. Take it easy for a couple weeks until the rain and road crews can do the clean up work for you.
Refine Your Riding Skills
Some of us forget that our biggest danger on the road is us. Rider error is present in two of every three motorcycle accidents. Riding into a telephone pole is never a good idea, and it is more likely to happen to us when our skill levels are at their lowest. The best riders know that their ability to stay safe changes because of many factors, and they adjust their riding to account for road conditions, fatigue, weather, and traffic. It is never a bad idea to head to an empty parking lot to touch up your riding skills before doing any serious riding.
Sometimes we like to tell ourselves that riding motorcycles is not very dangerous. While we can take steps to make riding safer, it will always be more dangerous than driving in a car. This risk is part of what makes it enjoyable, but losing a season because of a preventable accident in April or May is something we would all hate. It is bad enough staring at a sleeping motorcycle in January. Spending a few months in a body cast hearing your fellow riders enjoying the summer as they roar by the hospital would be even worse.