MOTORCYCLE SAFETY

You need to realize that riding a motorcycle is an inherently risky venture. It's your responsibility to be aware of those risks. It's your responsibility to decide how much of that risk you're willing to accept. Once you become aware of, and accept the risks associated with motorcycling, you can manage those risks and attempt to keep your ass in one piece.

This can be done many different ways; you can take a safety course, you can wear the proper safety gear, you can ride sober, you can pay attention when riding (sounds stupid, I know), you can keep a margin of safety around you, you can think ahead, you can ride within your limits, etc. All of this really just boils down to having a strategy for reducing the factors that could lead to trouble. It means thinking before acting. It means considering the consequences of your actions — and it takes some effort on your part.

Of course risks can't be completely eliminated, so do yourself and your loved ones a favor — ride safe and ride smart.




MOTORCYCLE SAFETY COURSES

MSF LogoI highly recommend that new riders take the MSF BRC (Basic Rider Course). Even if you think you know how to ride, or that you can do it on your own, this course is an excellent tool in your keep-my-ass-alive toolbox — and I'm telling you, you can't have too many tools in that toolbox!

For those of you who've been riding a while, the MSF ERC (Experienced Rider Course) has a lot to offer you, and is another great course. Don't think it's something for newbies only — because it's not. Think of it as if you're sharpening the tools you already have in your toolbox, and even picking up a few new ones... and nobody in their right mind passes up more tools!

If you're in Maine, the place to start is by emailing the Maine Rider Education Program.


MOTORCYCLE SAFETY GEAR

Wearing the right kind of safety gear is a huge part of managing risks. What kind of gear you ride with is, for the most part, your choice. In some states there are helmet and eye protection laws — something to check on unless you like giving your money to The Man.

In all reality, if you're on a motorcycle, you should be wearing a helmet, jacket w/ armor, gloves, long pants, and boots. You can even get a fully armored leather suit if you prefer. It all boils down to how much risk you're willing to take, compared to how much hassle you want when going for a ride.

If I had a full set of leathers, I'd end up wearing them only when I went for long rides, or on the weekends. I wouldn't wear them to work because then I have to bring a set of clothes with me... something I don't want to hassle with. I know if I'm wearing jeans and get in an accident, it's very likely that I'd be in a world of hurt — a risk I'm apparently willing to take.

How much risk are you willing to take? Just take a look at pictures of anyone whose been in an accident — heck, you might even know someone who's been in an accident, or possibly even died while riding. Whatever you decide, just think about how much more uncomfortable that road rash covering your arse is going to feel compared to how hot or "uncool" you might be by wearing a jacket and helmet.

MY RIDING GEAR

thumbnail

When shopping for a helmet, you'll find a range of products and prices — anything from $100 to $700. I wanted something really comfortable and light, and ended up going with the Arai Signet GT. I'll don't think I'll ever get anything else — this lid is so comfortable I could wear it all day long. Comfort should be a major consideration — there's nothing worse than being distracted by an uncomfortable helmet... and being distracted is not a good thing when riding... risk management?

For a jacket, I ended up getting a FirstGear Kilamanjaro. I chose this over leather for a few reasons. First it was a little bit cheaper, it has a ton of pockets, it's water/wind proof, and it has a removable fleece liner — important things here in Maine. It also has a ton of zippered vents that let the whole thing breath when you need it on those really hot days. It was also one of the only jackets I could find with long/tall sizes... since I'm tall and skinny, this is what fit my arms the best. I also went ahead and bought the overpants to go with the jacket. They've really come in handy during the late November riding around here.

Finally, for the boots I ended up getting some really great 100% waterproof leather CruiserWorks Cruiserboots. I wanted them to be waterproof, but I didn't want wrestler-looking plastic boots. I also wanted to be able to wear them all day, on the bike or not. Again, I'll probably never get anything else — these have been that good... plus they look great!


RIDER MENTALITY RANT

One thing that drives me nuts is when people say that they know they'll go down sometime while riding... that just doesn't make any sense! Why set yourself up to fail? Something more positive would be better — I know going down is a possibility, but I'm going to try and avoid that possibility at all costs. A much better attitude, isn't it?

The same goes for that day when your Gods aren't smiling down on you, and you do go down... a good rider will try and think of what s/he didn't do to avoid the crash, while the other rider will think that s/he had to "lay the bike down" in order to avoid crashing. See the difference? One is thinking about what s/he should have been doing to avoid the situation altogether and actually learns something, while the other thinks that s/he had to lay the bike down in order to avoid crashing, learning nothing. In fact, "laying the bike down to avoid crashing" really doesn't make sense at all... if the bike gets laid down, isn't that still a crash?

A good rider will always find a way to blame himself for an accident or a near miss. In fact, there is almost always something s/he didn't do to help create the incident. Don't complain about poor drivers, rather learn by your experience of the encounter and how you can be ready to avoid it next time. The sooner you learn to accept the fact that you could have avoided your crash, the sooner you'll become a better rider.