Riding a bike safely means continuing to improve and practising so that bad habits don’t creep into your riding style. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to two wheels or a seasoned rider; there’s always something new to learn, master or relearn. Concentrating on certain aspects of your riding can help you form good habits when you’re out on the road. Doing so will make safety a natural part of your riding.
Build your beginner riding habits
If you’ve been riding for years, you should have these habits down. It’s worth taking a look through all the same; poor riding habits can sneak into your riding style just as surely as they can for drivers of cars, usually with more severe consequences.
Heels in: For greater control and stability on your bike, you need to ride with your feet pressed against the diamond plate next to the footpegs. Be conscious of your feet positioning for a month and this should become second nature.
Loose top, tight bottom: Grip your motorcycle’s tank with your thighs, press into the motorbike with your ankles. You want your lower body to stick to the bike through unexpected bumps. Your top half needs to be loose in order to adequately control steering and move through twisting turns safely. This may feel strange at first, but this posture will help you maintain control for both sharp and sweeping turns of the road.
Look through turns & Outside-Inside-Outside: Look as far ahead of you as you can to look through turns. When it comes to taking a bend or corner, you need to consider your entry speed, lean angle and avoid breaking during the turn. It’s a lot to think about, which is why looking ahead will give you the chance to prepare.
When you get to the bend or turn, you need to work with an outside, inside, outside pattern to go through safely and have the furthest view of the road ahead. This means entering the turn from the outside, taking the pronounced part of the bend on the inside and then moving back to exit the turn on the outside again. The clip below shows how not to do it, and then how you should be taking bends and twists in roads.
DON’T brake in a turn: Braking in a turn can be a safety risk. When you hit the brakes, your bike will immediately try to straighten up and throw you to a part of the road that is less than optimal for your riding fluidity or safety. You could land yourself on the wrong side of the road or off the tarmac unexpectedly. Prepare for turns by reducing speed in advance and using the above tactics to take them safely.
Five common motorcycle accidents
Good riding habits are just one part of staying safe on the tarmac. Another aspect is being aware of common hazards that cause accidents for riders. Here’s the top five from the BMF…
Bends on rural roads: Country roads can be a lot of fun and they can also be a little tricky for urban riders unused to these road conditions. Twists and turns can be unexpected if you don’t know what to look for. Left-hand twists are the worst offenders when it comes to accidents. Check the tree line, hedges or run of telegraph poles to get an advance idea of the sharpness of a bend. Some can start of sweeping and then tighten up faster you’d think. Positioning is especially important on narrower lanes as you’ve far less room for error.
Junctions: T intersections can be a major hazard for motorcyclists. Vehicle drivers often fail to see approaching motorbikes or judge their speed correctly if they do see them. We’ve talked about SMIDSY in an earlier blog. Remember to approach intersections with care, caution and a plan for how to deal with a driver pulling out on you. Get eye contact with drivers if you can.
Overtaking: This is a basic skill that requires sound judgement for the road conditions, speed, distance and your motorbike’s capability. Avoid overtaking when approaching hills, junctions, dips or hills. Don’t overtake when you have double solid white lines, it’s breaking the law and could end up with you breaking part of your body. Always plan your own overtaking, even when riding in a group.
Loss of control: This isn’t just down to you. Other road users can cause you to lose control by unexpectedly breaking or turning or shunting you at a roundabout. Road surface defects also play a part. Make sure you leave enough room between you and other vehicles on the road, unexpected braking and turning is more common with increasing reliance on sat nav for directions. If you run into the back of someone, it may not be your fault if they haven’t indicated their moves or intentions correctly.
Filtering: While riding a bike means getting through traffic faster, partly thanks to this manoeuver, it’s something to do carefully and with an awareness of what’s around you. Keep your speed below 15/20mph so you don’t get done for dangerous overtaking and position yourself so drivers can see you in their mirrors.
Recognise hazards, improve riding habits, and stay safe out there
It’s good practice to consciously cycle through focusing on each of these safe riding habits throughout the year. Doing so will improve your riding style awareness, help you to correct any sloppy habits you may have slipped into and strengthen the neural pathways and muscle memory associated with great riding skills.