Motorcycle Operator Manual – Part IV

reflective gear

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Motorcycle Operator Manual – Part IV

In order to safely operate a motorcycle in traffic, the rider must gain certain knowledge and skills. The information on these pages will, hopefully, help to keep novice motorcycle riders safe and reduce the risk of them being involved in accidents.

Be Safe – Be Seen

In many crashes involving motorcyclists, the car drivers all say the same thing – they simply didn’t see it.  Whether you’re looking head-on or from behind, a motorcycle is a much smaller outline than a car, for example, and it’s sometimes difficult to notice something which you are not specifically looking for.  Most drivers have a quick look for cars and don’t even think about motorcycles, they might look straight past the silhouette of the motorcycle to see if any cars are coming.

Even if a car driver does see you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the danger is over. The problem is that smaller vehicles appear to be further away and traveling at a slower speed than is actually happening, so a car driver might pull out on a motorcycle – even if he has seen it coming – thinking that there is plenty of time before the situation becomes dangerous – how wrong they can be.

So, what can you do to help the situation?

  • Motorcycle Clothing – is traditionally black, but that doesn’t help the situation at all. Many crashes happen in broad daylight but it’s still important that your clothing is as highly visible as possible. The body of the rider is about half of what the other drivers see, so you really can make a big difference. Wear brightly colored clothing, those brightly orange, yellow or green vests are the best option – you can see those miles away! Don’t forget about your motorcycle helmet  too, a brightly colored one can help you to become more visible and protect you in more ways than one! If you wear reflective materials it will help you to be seen from the front, from behind and from the side – covering all angles so to speak.
  • Headlights – should be on at all times, even in broad daylight. Actually, in the USA, all new motorcycles which have been sold since 1978 have their headlights on automatically. At night time or if it’s foggy you should dip the beam.
  • Signals – I can’t stress enough how important it is to signal clearly and in plenty of time. Motorcyclists are vulnerable from other road users, and you need all of the other users to know exactly where you are going so that you don’t surprise them.  Use signals every time you want to change lanes, even if you think that there’s nobody to see you! It’s a good habit to get into, and the flashing signal lights also help to make you more noticeable. Be sure to turn your signal off as soon as you’ve finished your maneuver though, to avoid any further confusion.
  • Brake lights – are not as noticeable on a motorcycle as they are on a car (well, there’s only one of them) but you should make sure that it is clean and not obstructed in any way. It’s also a good idea to flash your brake light a couple of times to bring attention to it, especially if you are going to slow down more quickly than others might expect due to some hazard or other.
  • Mirrors – not only do you need to be aware of what’s happening on the road ahead, you also need to know what’s going on behind you. Make sure that your mirrors are clean and well positioned for you to keep an eye on the situation.
  • Horn – beeping your horn is not only a sign of road-rage you know, that appears to be a curse of the 21st century, but for decades horns have been used as a real signal to let someone know that you are there (if they appear not to have noticed you) and to use it as a warning that you are coming if you think that someone hasn’t noticed you. When you are passing a car, for example, it might be a good idea to give a quick beep to remind the driver that you are coming so that they don’t pull out into your path – they might just wave – many people automatically think that a horn beeping at them means that a friend is passing.

Night Riding

Many accidents happen during night time riding, not just motorcycles but other vehicles too. It is especially important to make sure that you can see and be seen.  Ride a little slower than usual, especially if you’re on an unfamiliar road – you never know what hazards might crop up. It’s also a little more difficult to judge distances in the dark, so give yourself plenty of room between you and the vehicle ahead. Use high beam on your headlight if there is no oncoming traffic (you’ll see much better), but remember to switch to low so that you don’t dazzle other road users.

Quick Stops

Whether you are riding your motorcycle through the night or during the day, you need to have the ability to do a quick stop. If you need to stop in an emergency don’t be afraid to squeeze the front brake firmly (don’t grab it though) and if you feel the front wheel locking quickly release and apply again. Whilst this is going on you need to also press on the rear brake. Don’t worry too much about locking the rear brake if you are on a good traction surface, it can stay locked until your motorcycle comes to a standstill as long as you are traveling in a straight line.

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