The Least of Your Concerns

Remember: You have enough to contend with on the highway. The last thing youneed is for your motorcycle to be a distraction.
There are a few simple steps to ensuring you and your motorcycle are on a“first-name basis,” if you will, before you set off to ride:
  • Start with a motorcycle that is well-matched to your capabilities as a rider
  • Read the owner’s manual
  • Familiarize yourself with the motorcycle’s controls
  • Check the motorcycle before every ride to ensure there are no mechanical orperformance issues.
  • Maintain the motorcycle properly between rides to make sure it’s safe to ridenext time.
  • Stay away from modifications that could make your motorcycle more difficult tohandle.

Finding the One
Remember: Above all else, you have to be comfortable with the machine andconfident in your ability to safely pilot it in any traffic situation.
We won’t say nobody goes directly to a 600-class supersport bike afterobtaining their motorcycle license. It happens. Coincidentally, inexperiencedriders are more apt to get in over their heads and crash. A faster bike justtends to get them to that point more frequently and faster.
Do yourself a huge favor and forget all the advertising, the bikes yourfriends think are cool, and the peer pressure to buy this or that model. Thebottom line is this: You have to be comfortable with your machine, and you haveto know without question that you can handle it safely in any trafficsituation.

Generally speaking, riders tend to do best on smaller bikes in the beginningstages. They’re lighter, often have lower seat heights, and are slower to reactto overzealous inputs new riders often make.
Regardless of the bike you choose, you should be able to comfortably placeboth feet on the ground while seated on the machine and operating the controlsshould present no challenge. At a minimum, any street-legal bike should have aheadlight, taillight, and brake light; front and rear brakes; turn indicators;a functioning horn; and two rearview mirrors.

Exercise Control
Remember: Every motorcycle has its quirks, and controls may be placed indifferent positions or behave differently on different makes and models ofbike.
Knowing how the controls operate is crucial to the safe operation of anybike. Gaining that knowledge starts by reading the owner’s manual. For any bikethat is unfamiliar to you, make sure you give the following items considerationbefore riding:
  • Make all the mechanical and safety checks you would on any bike to determinewhether it’s safe to operate on the road.
  • Locate all auxiliary controls for things such as turn signals, horn, enginekillswitch, starter button, fuel supply valve (if equipped), and high/low beamselector, and make sure you can operate them quickly without the need to lookfor them.
  • Get familiar with the gear pattern. Some bikes approach it differently thanothers. Admittedly, most are now the standard 1-(Neutral)-2-3-4-5-6 in orderfrom bottom to top, but some may be different.
  • Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with the clutch, finding its “bitepoint” in a controlled environment if possible. Also, check your brakes in thatcontrolled environment.
  • Proceed with caution once you hit the road. Give yourself time to becomeacclimated to the bike’s handling characteristics, braking distance, power, andweight.

Check, Please!
Remember: Motorcycles need more maintenance and attention than most cars.Things that would merely inconvenience you in a car may cause a nasty crash ona bike.
The following items are good things to check before setting off for anyride:
  • Tires, for proper air pressure, wear characteristics, and tread depth.
  • Fluids such as oil level, coolant level, hydraulic fluids, and fuel level.Watch for leaks of any vital fluids—check for puddles or stains below thebike’s parking space.
  • Head and taillights for proper operation including high and low beam for theheadlight.
  • Turn signals for proper operation.
  • Brake light for proper operation when either front or rear brake is applied.
  • Clutch and throttle for smooth operation. Look for immediate snap-back of thethrottle upon release and a tight, but smooth clutch lever pull.
  • Mirrors for unobstructed view. Clean or re-aim them if necessary
  • Brakes for proper operation. Make sure both front and back brakes work bytesting them one at a time.
  • Horn for clearly audible sound, in the event you should need to get amotorist’s attention.
  • Fuel supply valve (if equipped) for proper position. Some bikes have anadditional PRI setting in addition to the usual OFF, RUN, and RES settings. PRIstands for “Prime” and is typically used to get sufficient fuel to the engineto start the bike after a long period of being parked. Riding the bike on thissetting can cause it to run improperly or stall. Meanwhile, a bike withsufficient fuel in the lines may run temporarily in the OFF position (at leastuntil said fuel is gone), and a bike in the RES position will leave you noreserve fuel should you start to feel the bike run out of gas on your ride.
  • Wheels, cables, fasteners, and fluid levels should be checked at least once aweek. Give the bike a good once-over to make sure the wheels are free fromdamage, the cables are snug and free from fraying or breaks, all fasteners aresecure, and all fluid levels are where they should be.

Always the Responsible One
Remember: Safety is all up to you.
When a crash or collision happens on the roadway, too often we refer to itas an “accident,” which by the very nature of the word implies nobody wasnegligent. That’s seldom the case. Some, if not all the people involved in acrash can usually claim at least partial responsibility for the way thingsturned out.
Motorcyclists can’t be sure other motorists will see them clearly. Neverassume a motorist will yield right-of-way. Chances are good they don’t evennotice you.

To reduce the chances of a crash, be responsible and do the following:
Make yourself highly visible. Always use your headlight, wearhigh-visibility clothing, and ride in a position that allows you to see and beseen.
Signal your intentions by using turn indicators, your brake light, and lanepositioning.
Keep enough distance between yourself and others on the highway when following,being followed, passing, and being passed.
Keep a lookout at least 12 seconds ahead of your current position for anyobstacles or things that may cause you difficulty on the road ahead.
Pick out and separate multiple hazards when they present themselves.
Take action without hesitation when the need arises. Alertness and quick,confident control of the bike is the only way to avoid a crash.
Bottom line: It’s up to you to avoid crashes. Be prepared, be alert, and doyour best not to make yourself the cause of a crash.