You could probably argue that I’m not the best person to be doling out advice on how to avoid a crash. I have, after all, crashed more bikes than I care to remember. But, on the other side of the coin, perhaps I can help you learn from my mistakes; not that I seem to have learnt much from them myself. So, in a sort of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ kind of fashion, here are some top tips to avoid a crash. I hope it helps…
Don’t stare at that really bad thing
Target fixation can catch even the most experienced riders out, whatever they’re riding, wherever they’re riding it. If you’re on track and someone runs wide just in front of you, chances are if you’ve got your eyes on them, you’ll run wide too. If a car nudges out of a junction and you stare at its bonnet, you’ll probably end up pointing your bike at it; and that’s obviously the last thing you want to do. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to look at these things to see them. You’ve got to notice them to avoid a crash. But once you’ve clocked them, don’t stare at them. Staring’s bad.
Decide where you want to put the bike and focus on that instead. Eyes on the prize, and all that. If you’re on a track, that might be the apex of a turn. If you’re on the road, it’s probably going to be the bit of tarmac that doesn’t have a car on it.
Build your confidence on track or off-road
In other words, just become a better rider. Lots of crashes are caused by people panicking as soon as they think they experience a bit of wheelspin, or they think they’re carrying too much corner-speed. Nine times out of ten, you’d have quite easily been able to ride through it, if you hadn’t of panicked. But I know that’s easier said than done. If you get a couple of trackdays under your belt, you’ll soon have a much better understanding of what your bike, your tyres and you as a rider are capable of. You’ll learn that if you lean the bike over and try and make it round the corner, you probably will. If you bottle it and stand the bike up, you won’t, and you’ll probably make a right mess.
Likewise, if you’ve done a bit of off-road riding, you wont be phased by a bit of wheel spin. And a wishy washy front end wont bother you. So you won’t chop the throttle and high-side yourself over the moon, or panic brake and tuck the front. Broadening your motorcycle horizons will only make you a better, faster and safer rider.
Assume everyone else is blind. And stupid
It would be great if everybody paid attention to their surroundings when they were driving. But they don’t, and they probably never will. So to assume, as a motorcyclist, that you’ve been seen, whether stationary or moving, could be a huge error. It could be a fatal error. So don’t take the chance. If it looks as though someone might pull out on you, slow down, don’t give them chance. If it looks remotely like that bus is going to wipe you out with his arse end at a junction, let the fucker know; give him the longest blast of horn he’s ever heard.
And whilst it’s a fair assumption that someone indicating left to turn into a side street is going to do exactly that, don’t bet your life on it. If you’re about to pull out of that side street and they change their mind, it’s going to hurt. We motorcyclists are amongst the most vulnerable road users and we’ve got to look after ourselves; because nobody else will.
Don’t get egged on to ride too fast
If you’re out with your superbike riding buddies and they want to ride at 100mph everywhere, then let them. They might have faster bikes than you and they might be more experienced. They also might not value their licenses as much, but that’s another story. Whatever the situation, remember to let them crack on and to see them when you get there. What’s the rush? Too many crashes are caused by people trying to keep up with the fast lads, and failing. If you start riding out of your comfort zone, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you hit the deck, and it’ll be nobodies fault but your own.
If you can’t comfortably keep up with the boys and girls you are riding with then don’t ride with them. Ride with someone else, or buy yourself, until you know you’ve got the pace. If they make you feel like a dick because you can’t keep up with them, or you’re not as fast as they are, then they’re a bunch of arseholes, and you ought to find someone else to ride with anyway.
Look after your bike
You’ll know how important this is if you’ve ever tried to make it round a corner with a tyre that’s just popped, or a chain that’s just snapped. Some won’t ever have to contend with that kind of thing but if you don’t look after your bike properly, soon you might. That doesn’t mean changing the oil every time you ride it and checking your valve clearances weekly. But it does mean spending 30 seconds looking over your bike before you get on it. A quick visual check for any oil leaks takes no more than a couple of seconds. Checking the chain tension and making sure it’s lubed is just as quick. If you can’t be arsed to check your tyre pressures every day I won’t hold it against you, but a quick look at the tread and a press with the thumbs will give you half an idea.
And don’t ignore your brakes. Far too many people leave discs, pads, and especially brake fluid in their bike for way too long. Please don’t do it. If you want to avoid a crash, look after your bike, and your bike will look after you.