There are millions of motorcycles on the road and you see them everywhere you go. With the rising cost of fuel they become a more popular form of transportation every year. They are also popular for mountain climbing, dirt bike racing and working in open areas. You might have ridden a two wheeled bicycle most of your life or even now but learning motorcycle safety and how to properly operate one is something I think everyone should know.
I may have an advantage over most people because of my location. For 51 weeks of the year Sturgis South Dakota is a sleepy little town with a population of just over 6,000 people. The local police often refer to it as Mayberry, a friendly family oriented town that is a wonderful place to raise children.
But, during the month of August every year since 1939 bikers gather in the Sturgis, Black Hills area of South Dakota to celebrate their love of riding. It began as a small gathering and has grown tremendously over the years. Currently the area welcomes over ¼ million bikers during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that is held during the first full week of August.
The number of motorcycle crashes fluctuates from year to year and there are different reasons for each one. I firmly believe that the roads would be a lot safer if every driver had motorcycle safety training.
The everyday driver often does not realize what it takes to safely maneuver a motorcycle in traffic or winding roads. Unfortunately, many riders just assume that everyone else is looking out for them and that is not the case, although it should be.
There are many different types of bikes and people enjoy riding for different reasons but, one thing is a constant and that is safety. You don’t have the benefit of being surrounded by a steel cage, air bags and seat belts on a motorcycle. You are wide open to the weather elements, wildlife and other vehicles. Basic safety tips could save your life or help you avoid a crash altogether.
1. Learn to ride from a professional- The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers training and refresher courses at a very affordable rate. Most classes are held in the evening for one or two weeks with one Saturday class and they provide the motorcycles to learn. Once you successfully complete the course you are presented with a card to take to your local licensing agency. Simply present the card, take the eye test and you are done, you will not need to take an additional driving test. Get more information and find a class in your area by visiting the MSF website at: http://online2.msf-usa.org/msf/Default.aspx
2. Many insurance companies offer discounts for completing defensive driving courses, check with yours to see if you are eligible.
3. Choose your motorcycle wisely- Don’t buy one just because you like the way it looks. You need to be comfortable and able to easily control the bike. Your feet should sit flat on the ground when stopped and you need to reach all controls comfortably, most of which are at your fingertips.
4. Safety Gear-Most states have a law that requires riders to wear a DOT certified helmet but many do not. The helmet is the most important safety gear you can wear. Remember, accidents happen in a split second and you will not be able to stop and put on your helmet if you are in one. I have had some pretty big bugs hit my helmet that would have left a bruise on a bare head. It is also essential to wear protective eyewear day and night.
5. Cover Your Feet -A good pair of riding boots will make shifting, braking and stopping more comfortable.
6. Cover Your Legs-Wearing long pants or leather chaps will prevent wind burn, bug stings, sunburn and provide some protection from the heat of the motorcycle itself.
7. Cover Your Hands-In the event of a crash your hands will probably be the first thing to hit the ground. Wearing gloves will also protect your hands from all of the elements listed above.
I love to ride my motorcycle, but it can also be a source of great stress, especially in traffic. Don’t assume that the other guy is looking out for you. Always practice good motorcycle safety and don’t drink and ride.