50 Riding Tips

1. Assume youíre invisible
Because to a lot of drivers, you are. Never make a move based on the assumption that another driver sees you, even if youíve just made eye contact. Bikes donít always register in the four-wheel mind.

2. Be considerate
The consequences of strafing the jerk-du-jour or cutting him off start out bad and get worse. Pretend it was your grandma and think again.

3. Dress for the crash, not the pool or the bar
Sure, Mcdonalds is a 5-minute trip, but nobody plans to eat pavement. Modern mesh gear means 100-degree heat is no excuse for a T-shirt and shorts.

4. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
Assume that car across the intersection will turn across your bow when the light goes green, with or without a turn signal.

5. Leave your ego at home
The only people who really care if you were faster on the freeway will be the officer and the judge.

6. Pay attention
Yes, there is a half-naked girl on the billboard. That shock does feel squishy. Meanwhile, you could be drifting toward Big Trouble. Focus.

7. Mirrors only show you part of the picture
Never change direction without turning your head to make sure the coast really is clear.

8. Be patient
Always take another second or three before you pull out to pass, ride away from a curb or into freeway traffic from an on-ramp. It's what you don't see that gets you. That extra look could save your butt.

9. Watch your closing speed
Passing cars at twice their speed or changing lanes to shoot past a row of stopped cars is just asking for trouble.

10. Beware the verge and the merge
A lot of nasty surprises end up on the sides of the road: empty McDonaldís bags, nails, TV antennas, ladders, you name it. Watch for potentially troublesome debris on both sides of the road.

11. Left-turning cars remain a leading killer of motorcyclists
Donít assume someone will wait for you to dart through the intersection. Theyíre trying to beat the light, too.

12. Beware of cars running traffic lights
The first few seconds after a signal light changes are the most perilous. Look both ways before barging into an intersection.

13. Check your mirrors
Do it every time you change lanes, slow down or stop. Be ready to move if another vehicle is about to occupy the space youíd planned to use.

14. Mind the gap
Remember Driverís Ed? One secondís worth of distance per 10 mph is the old rule of thumb. Better still; scan the next 12 seconds ahead for potential trouble.

15. Beware of boy racers
Theyíre quick and their drivers tend to be aggressive. Donít assume youíve beaten one away from a light or outpaced it in traffic and change lanes without looking. You could end up as a Nissan hood ornament.

16. Excessive entrance speed hurts
Itís the leading cause of single-bike accidents on twisty roads and racetracks. In Slow, Out Fast is the old adage, and it still works. Dialing up corner speed is safer than scrubbing it off.

17. Donít trust that deer whistle
Ungulates and other feral beasts prowl at dawn and dusk, so heed those big yellow signs. If youíre riding in a target-rich environment, slow down and watch the shoulders.

18. Learn to use both brakes
The front does most of your stopping, but a little rear brake on corner entry can calm a nervous chassis.

19. Keep the front brake coveredóalways
Save a single second of reaction time at 60 mph and you can stop 88 feet shorter. Think about that.

20. Look where you want to go
Use the miracle of target fixation to your advantage. The motorcycle goes where you look, so focus on the solution instead of the problem.

21. Keep your eyes moving
Traffic is always shifting, so keep scanning for potential trouble. Donít lock your eyes on any one thing for too long unless youíre actually dealing with trouble.

22. Think before you act
Careful whipping around that curve 50 mph in a 35-mph zone or you could end up with your head in the driverís side door when he turns into the driveway right in front of you.

23. Raise your gaze
Itís too late to do anything about the 20 feet immediately in front of your fender, so scan the road far enough ahead to see trouble and change trajectory.

24. Get your mind right in the driveway
Most accidents happen during the first 15 minutes of a ride, below 40 mph, near an intersection or driveway. Yes, that could be your driveway.

25. Come to a full stop at that next stop sign
Put a foot down. Look again. Anything less forces a snap decision with no time to spot potential trouble.

26. Never dive into a gap in stalled traffic
Cars may have stopped for a reason, and you may not be able to see why until itís too late to do anything about it.

27. Donít saddle up more than you can handle
If you weigh 95 pounds, avoid that 795-pound cruiser. If youíre 5-foot-5, forget those towering adventure-tourers.

28. Watch for car doors opening in traffic
And smacking a car thatís swerving around some goofballís open door is just as painful.

29. Donít get in an intersection rut
Watch for a two-way stop after a string of four-way intersections. If you expect cross-traffic to stop, there could be a painful surprise when it doesnít.

30. Stay in your comfort zone when youíre with a group
Riding over your head is a good way to end up in the ditch. Any bunch worth riding with will have a rendezvous point where youíll be able to link up again.

31. Give your eyes some time to adjust
A minute or two of low light heading from a well-lighted garage onto dark streets is a good thing. Otherwise, youíre essentially flying blind for the first mile or so.

32. Master the slow U-turn
Practice. Park your butt on the outside edge of the seat and lean the bike into the turn, using your body as a counterweight as you pivot around the rear wheel.

33. Who put a stop sign at the top of this hill?
Donít panic. Use the rear brake to keep from rolling back down. Use Mr. Throttle and Mr. Clutch normallyóand smoothlyóto pull away.


34. If it looks slippery, assume it is
A patch of suspicious pavement could be just about anything. Butter Flavor Crisco? Gravel? Mobil 1? Or maybe itís nothing. Better to slow down for nothing than go on your head.


35. Bang! A blowout! Now what?
No sudden moves. The motorcycle isnít happy, so be prepared to apply a little calming muscle to maintain course. Ease back the throttle, brake gingerly with the good wheel and pull over very smoothly to the shoulder. Big sigh.

36. Drops on the faceshield?
Itís raining. Lightly misted pavement can be slipperier than when itís been rinsed by a downpour, and you never know how much grip there is. Apply maximum-level concentration, caution and smoothness.

37. Emotions in check?
To paraphrase Mr. Ice Cube, chickity-check yoself before you wreck yoself. Emotions are as powerful as any drug, so take inventory every time you saddle up. If youíre mad, sad, exhausted or anxious, stay put.

38. Wear good gear
Wear stuff that fits you and the weather. If youíre too hot or too cold or fighting with a jacket that binds across the shoulders, youíre dangerous. Itís that simple.

39. Leave the iPod at home
You wonít hear that cement truck in time with Spinal Tap cranked to 11, but they might like your headphones in intensive care.

40. Learn to swerve
Be able to do two tight turns in quick succession. Flick left around the bag of briquettes, then right back to your original trajectory. The bike will follow your eyes, so look at the way around, not the briquettes. Now practice till itís a reflex.

41. Be smooth at low speeds
Take some angst out, especially of slow-speed maneuvers, with a bit of rear brake. It adds a welcome bit of stability by minimizing unwelcome weight transfer and potentially bothersome driveline lash.

42. Flashing is good for you
Turn signals get your attention by flashing, right? So a few easy taps on the pedal or lever before stopping makes your brake light more eye-catching to trailing traffic.

43. Intersections are scary, so hedge your bets
Put another vehicle between your bike and the possibility of someone running the stop sign/red light on your right and you cut your chances of getting nailed in half.

44. Tune your peripheral vision
Pick a point near the center of that wall over there. Now scan as far as you can by moving your attention, not your gaze. The more you can see without turning your head, the sooner you can react to trouble.

45. All alone at a light that wonít turn green?
Put as much motorcycle as possible directly above the sensor wireóusually buried in the pavement beneath you and located by a round or square pattern behind the limit line. If the light still wonít change, try putting your kickstand down, right on the wire. You should be on your way in seconds.

46. Every-thing is harder to see after dark
Adjust your headlights, Carry a clear face shield and have your game all the way on after dark, especially during commuter hours.

47. Donít troll next toóor right behindóMr. Peterbilt
If one of those 18 retreads blows upówhich they do with some regularityóit de-treads, and that can be ugly. Unless you like dodging huge chunks of flying rubber, keep your distance.

48. Take the panic out of panic stops
Develop an intimate relationship with your front brake. Seek out some safe, open pavement. Starting slowly, find that fine line between maximum braking and a locked wheel, and then do it again, and again.

49. Make your tires right
None of this stuff matters unless your skins are right. Donít take íem for granted. Make sure pressure is spot-on every time you ride. Check for cuts, nails and other junk they might have picked up, as well as general wear.

50. Take a deep breath
Count to 10. Forgetting some clownís 80-mph indiscretion beats running the risk of ruining your life, or ending it.