Motorcycles have a less than stellar reputation for being a hazardous form of transportation. It’s true that bikers are much worse for wear in the event of an accident, but that’s only because the most dangerous thing about riding a bike is other vehicles. And while sharing the road is a reality that can’t be avoided, there are a few less often considered, motorcycle safety features and tips to follow that, compared to bigger vehicles, actually give them surprising safety bonus points.
Size and Design
One of the primary lessons in martial arts is how to turn your weaknesses into strengths. The fact that motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles and ride on a balanced two wheels instead of four is normally seen as a liability, but as it so happens, those dimensions can also be seen as an asset. For instance, what motorcycles lack in mass, they gain in agility. Bikes have greater ability to maneuver, which means they can take evasive action more effectively and fit into smaller spaces to avoid accidents in a way cars cannot. And no metal shell means you won’t be trapped inside if you happen to find yourself underwater. To take full advantage of being the David among Goliaths, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got good tires and, as always, a solid maintenance schedule.
No matter how many wheels you’re working with, the most important safety measure you can employ is to both see and be seen. Bikes have to get a little more creative with the latter, but there are ways of being heard that allow you to be seen. This is why so many bikes seem so darned loud — they really are trying to get your attention, just maybe not for the reason you’ve been thinking (there’s even a movement around the “loud bikes save lives” concept). However, when it comes to being able to see, motorcycles have the advantage hands down. No blind spots, an unbroken field of vision and the ability to shift to either side of a lane to see around the car in front of you, give bikers an almost unmatched ability to spot potential problems before they become accidents. Just make sure you’re always wearing a good helmet, just in case.
Year after year, distracted driving ranks as the top cause of traffic accidents. Motorists use their phones, adjust their radios, apply makeup, talk to passengers, you name it. Bikers, however, are largely exempt from many of these potential distractions. Unless you want your phone taken by the wind, you’re probably not texting anyone. Radios are rare, passengers are muted — just the simple act of riding a motorcycle requires a constant attention to your own body and how it relates to your vehicle to stay upright. It’s a continual exercise in paying attention, and that means you can react faster and use overall better defensive driving techniques.
In the end, what could be safer than safety gear? As a biker, you’re the underdog, and it’s best to be as prepared as possible. There are tons of products on the market to help you optimize inherent motorcycle safety features in all sorts of areas like traction, brakes, visibility, audibility and body coverage.
Riders and drivers might not always see eye-to-eye, but doing everything possible to share the road safely is one idea nobody could find fault with.
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Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.