With huge power to weight ratios, extreme grip and none of the protection, stability and size our 4-wheeled counterparts enjoy, riding a motorcycle is a dangerous activity. In fact, you are 27 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than you are in a car one. Despite the dangers, there are many things riders can do to lower their propensity for an accident or crash, but here are our top 5 mistakes we see riders making that usually (eventually) lead to getting hurt on two wheels:
Riding The Wrong Machine
The best bike for you to ride is one that matches closely your current skill & experience level. If you are a brand new rider and sat on a motorcycle for the first time ever during your 2-day MTC course, you are at level 1, so buy a bike that is also at this level. This would mean a similar machine to the one you did the MTC on (small, lightweight, around 250cc, preferably second hand). Matching your machine to your skill level will give you confidence more quickly as they are easier to handle and control and you won’t scare yourself silly when you get on the power. They are also cheap to run and insure and it doesn’t matter too much if you drop / scrape / scratch them (which you almost certainly will do being a new rider on a new bike). The bigger the gap between your skill level and the level of motorcycle means the greater your chances of getting hurt, so be sensible and match your machine to your level as a rider. As your skill / experience level increases, so also will the size and power of the bikes you ride.
Drinking and Riding
If you look at motorcycle accident statistics for any state, for any year, you’ll see that drinking and riding is a really popular way to kill yourself. You can get around this particular problem by simply not doing it. Period. If you only have one golden rule in your life that is unwavering and uncompromising, make it this one. Even one beer is too much. Alcohol slows our reaction times and worst of all impairs our judgement. It makes us less alert, more unstable and impairs our vision. Be a responsible rider and don’t drink and ride. This can be difficult when bars and even motorcycle dealerships offer beers-n-bikes deals to incoming riders, but either stick to soft drinks or simply avoid rideouts to those places where the temptation or peer pressure to drink alcohol is strong.
Unsafe Use Of Speed
Excess speed is a contributing factor in many motorcycle accidents. Simply put, the bike was going too fast for the rider to react and avoid an accident, and too fast for other road users to see and react to them. The most horrifying excess speed I see is freeway lane-splitting. Riding at 60mph through congested traffic that’s all doing 5mph is pure lunacy. If anyone nips out (which they do here – A LOT) you physically can’t stop the bike in time and you have no escape route. The only thing you can do is t-bone into the side of them and it’s game over. Let road, traffic and weather conditions adjust your speed to ensure the speed you are riding at is the correct one. If it’s busy, poor tarmac and/or raining then these are indicators to slow down.
Thinking Rider Training Isn’t Needed
Riding a motorcycle is like playing an instrument. It’s a skill that takes a lot of time, energy and practice to get really, really good at. The thought that “I’m a good car driver which automatically means I am a good motorcycle rider” is one that catches a lot of people out as riding is a very different discipline to driving. Rider training and coaching can increase your skills, your confidence and your enjoyment so should be considered a wise investment. Don’t think that the 2-day MTC class is sufficient. It’s not. Riding small machines at 15mph around a private parking lot gives you none of the skills needed for riding much larger, far more powerful machines on busy LA roads and freeways. Don’t be so arrogant to think you know it all. I’ve been riding 20 years and I still learn new things every time I’m on the bike. If you are an older rider getting back into it after a long break, your skills will have decreased and you’ll be very rusty. The size, power and weight of modern machines will take you by surprise. Re-orientate your skills and knowledge by taking a rider course at a local school. If you are a new rider, recognize that you have a lot to learn to ride modern motorcycles properly and roadcraft on a bike is a very different world to that in a car. These skills take time to build up and if they lower your propensity for an accident, it is worth making the effort and investment to get there.
Not Gearing Up
It can be really hot here in SoCal. Wearing leathers and other layer upon layer of bike gear is uncomfortable and sticky as hell. But it’s no less dangerous just because the sun is shining… Rather than thinking what a pain, hassle and expense it all is, or thinking you are some sort of accident-avoiding, motorcycling messiah, ask yourself this question: “If I were to have an accident – what would I want to be wearing”. Jeans, tshirt and sneakers? Or armored jacket, boots, gloves, full face helmet and riding pants? Road rash (sliding along the road on your skin) HURTS. Broken bones HURT. Blood loss and head injuries will kill you. If the only protection you have is the gear you are wearing, then invest in some protection and gear up.