You’ve just passed your bike test. You’ve got a new bike, all the right gear and you’re raring to go, but wait! No road-user is more vulnerable than a newly-qualified motorcyclist.
It doesn’t matter how good a student you were while training, how good your machine control is, or how cautious you may think you will be when out on the open road alone for the first time, you still need every bit of help and wisdom you can get. As every die-hard biker will tell you: there’s no substitute for experience.
From the many years of wisdom from the experienced motorcyclists at Auto Trader, here are a few extra tips you may not have seen anywhere else. Read up and ride safe.
Wear the right gear
This might sound an obvious one, but we don’t just mean proper, quality protective gear for every part of your body, i.e. boots, jeans, jacket, gloves and helmet. When you’re new to biking, it’s all too easy – even with the best intentions – to get your clobber wrong. By that we mean gear that may be ill-fitting, too loose, uncomfortable, draughty, inflexible, too hot, or other traits that can be dangerous, or at the very least distracting.
Do yourself a big favour, and get used to your riding gear as well as your bike. Go on short runs at first, adjust things, wear different layers, and change your gear if necessary. After all, get it wrong and you might not get a second chance.
Ride at your own speed
We all know how much fun it can be riding with a group of mates: blasting across the countryside then comparing notes at some biking stop before doing it all again on the way back. But it can also be a recipe for disaster, especially for the inexperienced rider in a group of mixed riding abilities.
Going beyond your comfort zone by trying to keep up with fellow riders is one the biggest causes of motorbike accidents. Before you set off, make sure everyone is aware of the others’ abilities; be conscientious and considerate; and if you feel yourself being sucked in to speeds you’re not comfortable with – back off.
Assume everyone’s an idiot
To put it another way, be defensive and ride ultra-cautiously. That doesn’t necessarily mean riding slowly, but it does mean trying to anticipate the worst in every traffic scenario. For example, that car at a junction will pull out in front of you without looking; or the door of that just-parked car will open into your path. Maybe that lorry driver hasn’t seen you… then ride accordingly. The further you can look ahead and anticipate any of these things, the better, and you’ve got more time to manoeuvre accordingly. If any of those things happen, it’s not your fault. But it doesn’t matter, as you’ll still be the one injured or worse.
Never overtake near a junction
We’ve all done it, especially in busy traffic… filtering past queues of cars or zipping past a dawdling commuter until you find yourself flying over the bonnet of a car that just turned right in front of you, as you went to overtake. If you’re very lucky, you’ll end up bruised and with a damaged bike.
So, simply, don’t. Don’t overtake anywhere near a turn, right or left. If it’s a right, the car in front could turn suddenly into it or, a car could come out of it towards you. If a left, in traffic the car in front could pause to let someone out in front of you.
Watch out like a hawk for hidden driveways, turns and more, too, as they’re all potentially lethal to bikers.
It sounds odd, difficult even, especially for new riders who are bound to be anxious and unfamiliar, but try to do your best. If you’re tense, you’ll tire quickly. If you’re anxious, you’re more likely to panic if an unexpected scenario arises. If you’re stiff and awkward, you’re not comfortable.
The most dangerous situation for bikers is on left hand bends when riders panic because they’re going too fast, brake, sit up, and go straight on into approaching traffic. Go at your own speed, look ahead, and relax. It’s far more enjoyable that way, too.