Safer Riding

Young motorcyclists are one of the most vulnerable road users, with riders aged 16 to 25 accounting for over half of Staffordshire’s motorcycle casualties every year. Those taking their Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) on a moped or a 125cc motorcycle are even more vulnerable, often with little experience and generally poor knowledge of the highway code or rules of the road. Although meeting the CBT standard, most young riders are ill prepared for what lies ahead of them and unfortunately are at high risk of becoming a road traffic casualty.

In Staffordshire we of course offer various courses such as Biksesense, Pre-CBT etc as well as the Biker Jack app & young rider campaign,  if you are from a different county & have stumbled on this page from a search engine etc, these tips below will also apply to you but we also suggest you take a motorcycle safety class in your county area as this will teach you about traffic laws as well as practical advice on how to react to emergency situations on a bike in a controlled environment.

Some of our tips for new riders – even some of the more experienced.

COAST – Remember the acronym
Driving instructors love an acronym & one they often use is the acronym COAST – the key thing is if one of the letters of it are removed it usually means you are doing something wrong.
C –
Concentrate – always concentrate on your riding, try not to let your mind wander
O –
Observe – keep looking for danger, watch what people are doing.
A –
Anticipate – Try to think “what if” & have a plan in mind at all times to deal with it.
S –
Space – give yourself room, give others room & make sure your positioned to see or be seen
T –
Time – this applies to reaction time or time to stop.. time to act to prevent problems.

Ride with friends
Riding with friends is a superb way of not only socialising, but you can also chat about how the ride has gone, where you think you made mistakes or telling yourself where your friends are perhaps going wrong in a positive way.  I always believe that the best way to improve your skills (in anything you do) is identify where you are going wrong, then you will improve.  If if is you want to see what you are doing wrong you can also use an action camera such as a Go-Pro to record your rides & use the videos to evaluate your riding by watching the clip back alone or perhaps with trusted friends who are experienced riders who won’t try to lead you in the wrong like people in a similar situation to yourself.

Be visible.
Although it may not win you many fashion contests wearing bike riding gear, in all situations you can be safer on the road by just being seen, what you wear can help you be seen but If you blend into the background, others simply cannot see you. It always helps to wear something bright, or at the very least a white crash helmet.  A popular type of accessory to ensure you are being visible is the hi-vis vest with some reflective taping.  Show off a little, be bold & make people look.

Wear the right gloves.
Gloves are important as they really help with keeping you both warm to keep comfortable & also safer, as in a crash your hands will be the first things you use to stop yourself falling further than you are. Always when buying gloves consider if would you feel safe running your hands down a brick wall while wearing them, if you don’t feel confident to run your hands down the wall it’s worth buying a better pair.  With gloves always test the reach of your fingers or the grip of your fist & ensure it’s comfortable to move because how you move your hands as well as reach for levers helps with control of the bike. You will move your hands plus twist your wrists a lot on the bike.  You can use thin gloves in the summer but invest in other gloves for warmth if riding in the rain or cold weather.

Keep a distance.
If you ride a bike or drive any type of vehicle on the roads a lot of people will always say keep a safe distance.  A simple measuring guide is the gap of 2 lamp-posts when following another vehicle & consider doubling this if it’s cold or wet weather to help keep you safe if you need to brake in a panic or just in case someone else does.  The way the brakes operate will be affected by the speed & momentum of the bike as well as the weather conditions, but also consider overtaking distances, both can be a great way of seeing further down the road & also if you overtake a car or any stationary vehicle always give at least a doors width & half a door again just in case the driver or passenger opens the door or puts an arm through a window to signal others.

Never ride when you need to rest.
Never ride a bike when you are sleepy.  If you are on a long ride consider places to stop even if it is only for a stretch or to get a mug of coffee.  Try to keep refreshed by perhaps having a face wash to wake you up or just a walk around to get your muscles activated again that have been in the same position for a while.

Don’t take “racing lines” on bends or curves
Motorcycle racers adopt a line around a corner to maximise speed & use as little of the corners as possible, on the road however this isn’t practical as 1) the road is not a race track & 2) the racing line  isn’t suitable for the road as it makes you less visible & means you won’t have a good view around the bend as part of the corner will be out of your eyeline.  When on the road start at the outside part of your lane as a racer would, but move to the inside part in the curve once you are passing the point of where the corner starts to show around the bend, move towards the inside of the corner, then hug that inside line until you are fully clear of the corner.  Follow the line of the trees or buildings in your eyeline to see where the corner is going if you can’t see around the corner.

Plan an escape route.
Watch all the time the traffic situation but keep in mind a “what if” scenario & an action to take if that “if” happens.  For example, there is nothing wrong with turning left at a difficult junction & doing a full turn around at a traffic island to come back down the same road if you don’t feel safe turning right, plus if you are taking corners riding on unfamiliar roads etc leave yourself some room if you need to move across the lane to get clear of any chunks of tarmac or potholes that could fetch you off.  Look for a clear area or a clear section of the road to pull across or move away from danger.  There is also no shame or harm taking a detour to control your route better by opting to complete your journey on less dangerous roads, even if it adds a few miles to your trip.

Drop off from others to ride your own ride.
I know in our first tips we spoke about riding with friends, but we’ll end this section by saying don’t feel pressured to keep up with others or try to be the fastest of the group of friends or be pressured to keep up with friends who are much more experienced riders.  If you’re in a group and they’re riding faster than you feel comfortable with or if they are riding faster than your own bike can go, drop off from the pack and go at your own speed.  Some riders are more confident on the bike than others purely because the bike can handle better – for example bigger bikes may be cruising on low revs at a speed of 60mph where your bike can be at the point of being flat out which can be dangerous, so ride within your own limts & the limits of the bike.

To support young riders we have lots of information and tips on how to ride more safely. If you would like to join one of our ride-outs  you would learn from others and become a more confident safer rider.