Despite the cool points you get for riding a motorcycle, it is just as important to remember that bikers are much more likely to be seriously injured than car drivers and passengers, should they be unlucky enough to be involved in an accident. Car passengers have seatbelts, airbags and ever-advancing technological innovations to keep them safe; motorbike riders only have their helmets and their wits to keep them out of trouble.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US, 13 out of every 100,000 cars, compared to 72 out of every 100,000 motorcycles are involved in fatal accidents. Motorcyclists are 35 times more likely than car drivers to be involved in a road collision which costs them their lives.
And it is not always the fault of the motorcyclist if they are seriously hurt. Often car drivers fail to check properly for motorcycles before performing maneuvers such as turning at junctions or overtaking on the highway, However, there are lots of things that motorcycle owners can do to keep themselves safe, from ensuring they have the proper equipment to ensure that they are not distracted while driving.
Some of the bad riding habits on this list can also lead to accidents though, and there is simply no excuse for any motorcyclist to still be making these kinds of basic mistakes in 2019!
23 Riding Too Close To Vehicles In Front
Just as tailgating in a car is dangerous and annoying, so the same goes for people riding motorbikes. Not only does riding too close to the vehicle in front make it harder to stop in the event of an emergency, but it also makes it harder for the driver of the car in front to see the biker traveling behind them, which can cause problems of its own when it comes to junctions.
Bikes may feel that they can easily nip in and out of traffic and that tailgating puts them in a good position to overtake when needed, but it is a bad habit that should be stamped out as soon as possible.
22 Looking Down At Their Dashboard
Anyone using the road from, from pedestrians to the drivers of semi-trucks, needs to make sure that they are always aware of their surroundings, and that they are not allowing themselves to be distracted by other things. This goes double for motorbike riders who have to keep their eyes on the road and keep a close watch on what other road users are up to.
Yet some bikers find themselves too distracted by the dashboard on their motorcycle, particularly when they are driving at high speeds. Lingering looks at your speedometer means you are not watching out for hazards on the road.
21 Not Wearing The Right Clothing
For a long time, biker culture has been as much about the clothes you wear as the motorcycle you ride. Leather jackets, trousers, and tough knee-high boots may look good, but they also serve a practical purpose, protecting the skin from cuts and bruises in the event that the rider takes a tumble.
Yet today many bikers haven’t just rejected wearing leathers, they seem to have rejected wearing any kind of practical clothing when they go out for a ride. Shorts and t-shirt may seem like an acceptable choice if you like somewhere warm, but you should always make sure your skin is covered as much as possible.
20 Not Wearing A Helmet
Riding without full leathers might be forgivable, but there is no excuse for riding without wearing a helmet. Even the most innocuous motorcycle accident can lead to serious head injuries if you don’t take the proper precautions. It may seem the height of cool to ride around with no helmet, or with one of those smaller retro helmets, which while better than nothing still don’t provide much protection, but you could be putting yourself in danger, as well as getting in trouble with the law.
Motorcycle helmets are mandatory in most parts of the US, and across many European countries too.
19 Dragging Your Feet While Riding
Many beginner motorbike riders – and sadly just as many who should know better – drag their feet when they are going slowly. It is an understandable habit; when the bike is going slowly, it can feel as though it is going to fall over, so riders take their foot off their peg and drag it along the floor for what they think is going to be some added stability.
Actually, all that happens is that you look like a fool, you wear your shoe leather out quicker, and you could even be making the bike more unstable, as a sudden burst of speed while one foot is off the ground will leave you very unbalanced!
18 Setting Off Without Checking For Traffic
Of course, it goes without saying that every road user should be checking the carriageway is clear before they make a turn, or even before they set off at a green light – not all road users stop at red lights, unfortunately! However, it is even more important that motorcyclists make these checks, as they are more likely to be injured if they are involved in a collision.
Bike riders should get into the habit of never assuming that other road users are going to follow the rules, and always double check the road even when they know it should be clear.
17 Using Just The Rear Brake
Braking on a motorcycle isn’t as simple as hitting the brake pedal. There are actually two brakes on a motorbike, a front brake and a rear brakes, and riders make lots of mistakes, from only using their back brake to never using it at all! Most braking, around 70%, should be done using the front wheel, so relying on the rear brake alone is a bad idea for you and your bike.
However, there are circumstances when the rear brake is a better option, such as when you’re trying to steady the bike on an uneven surface or while taking a corner.
16 Wearing A Shaded Visor At Night
It seems obvious that bike riders shouldn’t wear shaded visors, or even sunglasses, while they are riding at night, and yet many motorcyclists feel that they can carry on using the same helmet, regardless of whether it is a bright sunny day or a pitch black night-ride. It goes without saying that shaded visors, while a great asset during the day, reduce visibility dramatically from evening onwards.
Yes, you will still be able to see light on other vehicles, but what about pedestrians? Or other hazards which don’t happen to be lit up like a Christmas tree? Ditch the shaded visor, or get yourself a different helmet for night riding.
15 Riding On Bald Tires
Tires are arguably one of the most important parts of a motorcycle, and unfortunately also one area which many riders get very badly wrong! As with any vehicle, motorbike tires soon get worn down through use and can get worn down faster depending on how you ride your bike.
It is vital that you replace the tires as soon as the tread starts to get worn, otherwise you could find yourself losing control of your bike next time you need to hit the brakes. Motorbike tires even have a “best before” date stamped into the rubber to help, but that should not be taken as gospel, especially if you are a frequent and aggressive rider.
14 Riding On Under-Inflated Tires
One of the things which can cause motorcycle tires to wear out before their time is riding when they are under-inflated. Tires that are seriously under-inflated can even come off the wheel rim while in motion, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this scenario doesn’t end well for the rider!
Under-inflated tires also affect handling and braking and can damage the wheel itself as well as the tire. Over-inflated tires can also cause problems, such as over-heating, but it is under-inflation which seems to be a bigger problem among motorcyclists who fail to check their tire pressure regularly.
13 Not Filling The Gas Tank
Of course, no rider ever forgets completely to fill their bike with gas, but the problem is that most motorcycles don’t have a fuel gauge on their small dashboard, which means that you can only figure out how much gas you have and therefore how far you can travel – by getting to know both your bike and the way you ride it.
Too many riders don’t spend time getting to know what their range is, and end up broken down on the side of the road as a result. Experienced riders know that the best thing to do is to fill the motorbike with gas at every opportunity you get.
12 Failing To Shut Off Turn Signals
This is one of those bad habits that are just as annoying in car drivers as it is in motorbike riders, but to be fair to bikers, it is harder to know when you have left your turn signal on by mistake.
Leaving a turn signal flashing leaves other road users confused about your intentions, and in a worst case scenario can lead to them making maneuvers based on what they think you are going to do. Motorbike turn signals don’t make a clicking noise as they do in cars, but new technology is being developed that could see turn signals on bikes which automatically switch off after they sense the vehicle has made its turn.
11 Not Looking Far Enough Ahead On The Road
It can be tempting while riding a motorbike, especially if you are an inexperienced rider, to keep your eyes on the bike and its immediate area. However, the trick to safe motorcycle riding is to watch the road ahead as much as possible, with only the odd glance at your machine to check the dashboard.
The best defense riders have against being involved in an accident is being prepared for what is coming up on the road ahead; that is why most motorcyclists sit straight up on their bike with their eyes facing forward, rather than looking down at the bike or from side to side at vehicles close to them.
10 Motorcycle Maintenance
There is no excuse for not keeping your bike in a roadworthy condition; even if you do not have the time or the talent to carry out the most basic checks and repairs yourself, there are plenty of garages out there that will do the work for you. Basic motorcycle maintenance will save you money in the long run, by catching potentially more expensive problems early, but it could also prevent accidents or breakdowns caused by bald tires, worn-out brake pads or even more serious issues.
Even something as simple as keeping your bike clean can help with long-term maintenance.
9 Never Thinking About Escape Routes
Riding a motorbike can (and probably should) make you feel a little paranoid sometimes. The safest way to ride, after all, is to assume that all other road users pose a risk to you and that any scenario can easily become one which puts you in danger. Too many bikers ride oblivious to these potential dangers, and get themselves into positions on the road from which there is a possible escape, should the worst happen.
Motorcyclists should always be thinking about escape routes before they make any maneuver, from overtaking to something as simple as just riding around a parking lot.
8 Riding In A Car's Blind Spot
Thinking about escape routes is all part of ensuring that your road position is the safest it can be – including doing everything that you can to make sure that other road users are aware that there is a motorbike in the vicinity.
Making yourself visible is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe on a bike – from road position to wearing bright, reflective clothing. Which is why it is so bizarre that so many bikers still insist on riding in the blind spot of car drivers, where motorists can have no idea that they are even there.
7 Not Covering All The Controls
When it comes to riding a motorcycle, the handlebars and handles are everything. Within that one small part of the bike, you can find the throttle, the brakes, the clutch, indicators, headlights, and even the horn. Many bikes even a kill switch built into the console in the event that you are involved in an accident.
That is a lot to keep in your head, but it is even more important that your hand position is such that you are covering as many of the controls as possible. You never know what might be around the corner, so you have to be ready for anything.
6 Failing To Perform Pre-Ride Checks
Even if you don’t have the skills to carry out basic motorcycle maintenance, every biker should know how to carry out pre-ride checks; and then they need to make sure that they perform those checks each and every time they take their motorbike out onto the road.
Your pre-ride checklist should include gas, oil, and water or coolant levels, as well as making sure that your electrics all working and that there is no obvious damage to the bike. Finally, a quick check that the tires still look good and you are on your way. These checks could save you money and prevent you from getting into an accident.
5 Sitting On The Bike While Filling Up With Fuel
When you stop your bike and lean it onto the kick-stand, the whole machine – including the gas tank – is at an angle. Some riders, realizing that this means that they wouldn’t be able to fill the gas tank completely to the top while it is on the kick-stand, have taken to sitting astride their motorcycle while they fill up with gas to keep the tank straight as well.
At first glance, this might seem like a neat biking hack, but it won’t be so neat when a few drops of gasoline get onto your clothes and catch on fire later!
4 Assuming That The Road Is Clear
One of the worst mistakes a motorcyclist can make is assuming that the road ahead is going to be clear. Even if you know the route very well, and ride it daily, that doesn’t mean that there might not be some unexpected hazard lurking around the corner.
Taking turns at speed may feel cool, but what isn’t cool is seeing an overtaking car heading straight for you or having to slam on the brakes for a traffic jam! This is one of those rules that goes just as much for car drivers as it does for bikers, only those on motorbikes are going to come off worse if there is an accident waiting round the bend.
3 Performing Tricks On The Road
There isn’t a biker out there who hasn’t at some point dreamt of performing some stunts and tricks on their mean machine. Many would just settle for being able to do a wheelie! Even if you can pull off those tricks, and even if you think you have them nailed, no biker should ever be performing stunts on the road where there are other vehicles and pedestrian around.
Aside from the fact that it could get you into trouble with the cops, all it takes is one tiny mistake or error of judgment to put yourself and others in danger.
2 Riding With Your Heels On The Foot Pegs
Most of the time while riding, bikers should have the ball of their feet on the foot pegs. Although there can be some movement during certain maneuvers in order to improve control and balance, the one part of your feet that should never be resting on the foot peg for any length of time is the heel.
Sometimes riders will do this to stretch out their feet if they are on a long ride, but if your heels are on the peg, that also means your toes are dangerously near to the ground, and can even catch on the road surface, causing some bad injuries or even forcing you off the bike altogether!
1 Holding The Handlebars Too Tightly
It is somewhat understandable that new riders would want to hold onto the handlebars for dear life, but more experienced rider should know better. Although you want a firm hold of the handles at all time, to ensure that you remain in control of the bike, it is possible to hold on too hard to the handlebars.
Every little bump and hole in the road passes right through the handlebars and into your arms and shoulders, leading to muscular pain. Worst of all, holding the handlebars too tight holds the front wheel too steady, and doesn’t allow it to adjust to any minor hazards on the road.
Sources - IIHS, Vaping Daily, Ride Apart, Cycle World, Motorcycle News