by Liz Jansen
This post was first published September 11, 2012. Given my own experiences, and those I’ve heard about from other riders since, it bears repeating here.
Riding your motorcycle makes you vulnerable. Operating it safely requires skill, focus, physical and emotional strength.
Not only do you have to know how to operate a powerful machine and make split-second decisions, you’re often navigating unfamiliar territory, watching for traffic signs, scanning building numbers, reading maps, trying to figure out how other drivers are going to act or watching for (four-legged) animals. And don’t forget to watch where you’re going!
You can do a lot to lessen that risk by making sure both you and your bike are fit and ready to ride.
- Am I tired? According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, fatigue is a factor in up to 21 per cent of motor vehicle collisions. Fatigue can be caused by lack of sleep, cold, heat and riding for long periods of time.
- Am I distracted or emotionally upset? You need all your faculties to focus on the ride. If you’ve just been fired or broken up with your girlfriend, it’s a good idea to wait and simmer down before going for a ride.
- Am I rushed? Rushing causes us to be impatient, forget things and take shortcuts. It also creates a tendency to speed and be less tolerant of others on the road. All of these things are ingredients for a collision.
- Do I have the skills to go where I’m going? Be realistic. As an instructor, I’ve heard jubilant students who’ve just passed the basic rider course effuse about their plans to now go and ride the Tail of the Dragon. They’re ill prepared to do so and stand a good chance of crashing – or causing a crash.
- Do I have the correct gear? Think about the temperatures you’re likely to encounter and whether you’ll need warmer/cooler clothing or rain gear. Also, if you’re expecting a fair amount of rain, it’s wise to carry back-up gloves and clothing.
- Am I prepared for an emergency? Depending on where you’re going and the length of your ride, carry a cell phone, water, snacks. If you’re somewhere without cell service, think about how you’re going to manage if you or your motorcycle have a breakdown.
- Am I feeling OK? Physical well-being affects our mental and emotional capabilities. If we’re not feeling well, it’s better to wait and play it safe.
- Have I taken anything that could impair my judgment? Alcohol, prescription or non-prescription medication can impair your senses and judgment before you’re even aware of it. Don’t take chances. Alcohol and motorcycles are a deadly combination.
- Am I going because I want to go or I am feeling peer pressure? Your safety is too important to let others influence your choices. If you do not want to ride for whatever reason, don’t. True friends will understand.
- What is my intuition telling me to do? This is the acid test for me. If logically, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be riding, yet my intuition is advising me otherwise, I listen. It’s never let me down.
Take a moment to step back and ask yourself these questions before getting on your motorcycle the next time. You’re setting the right example – and your friends and family will thank you.