I love motorbikes and everything about them, and I know I’m not the only one. But there are still plenty of people out there who are petrified at the thought of swinging their leg over a two-wheeled streak of lightning. And I can sort of see why, when the only time motorcycles feature in the ‘normal’ news, is for all the wrong reasons. It’s usually the news that someone else has crashed and broken their legs or been attacked by a hammer-wielding thug. That kind of stuff is frightening. So if we want to make motorcycling more appealing to the masses, perhaps we need to make it safer. And I don’t think it’s that difficult to do. So here are five ways that will, if you ask me, definitely have the potential to make motorcycling safer for a lot of people.
Get some better kit
This one might sound a little bit obvious but I feel like I’ve got to say it because there are still people riding about in seriously shoddy kit. I don’t know if it’s fashionable to ride round in your shorts, tee-shirt and trainers, but it’s a really stupid idea. Despite that, you still see plenty of people doing it. It tends to hurt when you crash with the proper gear on, so crashing when you’re not dressed properly is an act of the purest folly.
Wearing better kit isn’t necessarily going to reduce your chances of having an accident (although it could, in some instances), but it’ll certainly reduce the odds of you needing hospital treatment. So for the good of your health, and for the good of motorcycling in general, next time you go out for a ride, put some proper kit on.
Yes, I know riding off-road does come with certain inherent dangers. In fact I know very well thanks to numerous A&E visits. But it doesn’t have to be that dangerous. And you’ll probably find that if you spend a bit of time doing some off-road motorcycling, it’ll make you a better, and therefore safer, rider on the road.
Whether it’s full blown motocross racing, or just a bit of green-laning, riding on dirt and loose ground will teach you the skills you need to control a bike when things start getting a bit drifty. Loosing traction doesn’t mean you’re going to crash, but if you’ve never experienced it before, chances are you’ll panic, and then crash. I’d even go as far to say there ought to be an off-road section in the bike test; or certainly some compulsory off-road training. I doubt that’ll ever happen though.
Like riding off-road, racing will improve your riding skills, no end. So too will a trackday. Because when you are riding on a track, you’ll find you push your bike, and yourself, a lot closer to the limit; and that’s when you truly learn what you, your bike, your brakes, your tyres etc. are capable of. Too many crashes on the road (and on the track, for that matter) happen because people just bottle it. They might be heading into a corner at a speed they consider too fast and so sit up, run wide and then crash into something. Nine times out of ten, they would have made the corner if they’d have just committed to it. When you’ve learnt how fast your bike is capable of cornering, you’re much more likely to at least try and get round the bend.
And then there’s the fact that racing is, in a lot of respects, a lot safer than riding on the road. I know you’re more likely to had an off when your pushing hard on track, but when you do, you can usually pick yourself up and dust yourself down. That’s because everyone is going in the same direction, for a start, and if you do crash, there’s usually a gravel trap or an acre of grass to slow down in before you hit anything. And when you do hit something, it’s usually only a tyre wall, which are a lot more comfortable to smash into than a lamppost or a bus.
Understand your bike
Knowing how your bike works, and how to look after it, is definitely a good way to make motorcycling safer. If you don’t know how to identify potentially dangerous issues with your bike, you might come unstuck. That’s why it’s a good idea to take the time to learn how to check your bike for damage and keep an eye on any wear parts. Overly worn tyres, brake pads, chains and sprockets will quite often give you some warning before they get so bad they’re going to cause an accident; but sometimes they won’t.
I find cleaning a bike is a good time to look ever stuff that you might otherwise miss. I once spotted a loose clutch cover on a bike whilst I was cleaning it; and oil was spraying all over the rear wheel. If I hadn’t have spotted that, it probably would have caused me to come a cropper on my next ride out. So look after your bike and your bike will look after you.