Checklist for New Motorcycle Owners
You've done it. You've bought your first bike. Congratulations - and welcome to a whole new world.
It’s easy to let the excitement and anticipation be at the forefront of your mind, but before you hit the open road, it’s important to be aware of some basic safety tips and skills in order to keep you (and everyone else!) safe.
We’ve put together a handy mental checklist for first-time motorcycle owners – and these are good tips to keep in mind regardless of your experience level:
1. Take A Safety Class:
Just because your uncle or your college buddy has a bike doesn’t mean they are your best bet for teaching you how to ride safely and confidently. Dirt biking all your life does not mean you will be all set on a motorcycle. Find an MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) course near you – it will only take a weekend, and you’ll come out a much more confident and knowledgeable biker.
In some cases, taking safety courses can also make you eligible for insurance discounts, and allow you to skip road and written tests in certain states’ licensing processes. If riding your bike is something you plan on doing regularly, it really is worth it to take a beginning and even an advanced course to help you maintain a strong visible presence on the road. By gaining such knowledge and skills, you will certainly be a better rider!
2. Check The Weather:
Before every ride, check the weather forecast. As a new biker, this holds especially true for you. Wet pavement reduces traction, particularly on painted road lines, and heavy rainfall can make road hazards harder to see. Even something as simple as a puddle can be quite dangerous to an unsuspecting biker. In Florida, this is especially true in the beginning of May where we have not seen rain in a while, the streets are full of oil, especially where cars wait for red lights; and at first rain, it sometimes feels slippery – almost like invisible ice, sometimes referred to as “Black Ice!” I have seen others apply their brakes and go down because of this, without any fault of their own.
Know your limits, and take extra caution during wind, rain and fog. Recently, we read in the news of a biker struck by lightning. If you know about inclement weather beforehand, you can be prepared with water-resistant gear, or map an alternate route to avoid the worst of the weather. There’s nothing worse than being caught out in the rain without the proper setup.
A famous acronym among bikers, ATGATT stands for All the Gear All the Time. Being geared up is an absolute must when it comes to riding your motorcycle. It doesn’t matter if you are just going down the road to grab a snack – crashes can happen anywhere and anytime (and most often, accidents happen close to home). Trust us – being injured because you decided to bike without a helmet, in a tank top, jeans, without gloves and wearing sneakers is something you want to avoid. Denim just won’t protect you in the same way modern motorcycle gear will.
Head to your local bike shop and ask for some help getting all set up for your first ride. You’ll need a high-quality, DOT-certified full-face helmet, along with an armored jacket and/or pants, riding boots, and reinforced gloves – and those are just the basics. You have plenty of options to up your safety even further, including ear and eye protection. You get what you pay for, so buy high quality. The saying is true: “Helmets Save Lives!”
While you are there, you might also consider purchasing a safety vest and rain gear, including gators to wear over your boots – to carry the same in your saddle bag or tour pack. I guarantee you, if you do this, you will be glad you did. For more information, Ride Smart Florida (Motorcycle Safety Coalition) has a very comprehensive and informative website for those interested in motorcycle safety, also having related brochure on this very same subject.
4. Set Yourself A Routine:
Check your bike before and after every ride. This might be hard to remember at first but force yourself to make it a habit. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) provides the T-CLOCS℠ Inspection Checklist as a reminder to check your: Tires, Controls, Lighting, Oil & Other Fluids, Chassis and Stand.
Most commonly, be in the habit of checking your tire pressure, your brakes, and make sure you have enough gas to get you where you want to go. At various stops, check that your wheels are in good shape and that nothing is dripping. An example is re-fueling, one time I checked my tires, didn’t like what I saw and ended up calling for a tow, which probably saved my passenger and I from an accident. Visually checking your bike is one of the best ways to avoid larger problems down the road.
5. Take It Seriously:
Motorcycles are awesome, and riding a bike is an absolute blast. However, you must remember biking is a high-speed, high-risk activity. An accident that might slightly damage a car could destroy your bike beyond repair (and more importantly, kill or seriously injure you). You can only control your own bike on the road – how everyone else drives just isn’t up to you. Therefore, strive to be ten times more observant while on your bike than in a car. Check every intersection, be wary in parking lots, and never ride in anyone’s blind spot. Work on anticipating potentially dangerous situations ahead of you, so that you are prepared for the worst.
An advanced riding instructor once stated: “Use the analogy of a ladder, you have climbed up to the top, you reach the top of the roof and think about what happens to you if you fall to the ground from such a distance!” The same is true on a bike, only worse.
6. Don’t Ride Impaired Or Distracted:
Obviously, don’t drink and ride. Even having a single drink can affect your ability to turn smoothly.
But drinking isn’t the only impairment you might face before choosing to get on your bike. Anything that affects your ability to be hyper vigilant is a big no before riding.
This includes things you might not think about, like your prescription medications – even over the counter medicines can affect how you function. Don’t get on your bike if you’ve taken anything that might decrease your attention span or cause you to be tired, groggy, or slow to react.
Speaking of being tired: Tired biking can be as dangerous as drunk biking. Even a 15-minute nap can help re-tune your senses.
Another thing to keep in mind - riding under the influence of a strong emotion, like anger or grief, will affect your decision-making and take away from your ability to pay attention to the road. With advances in technology, I see other bikers having Bluetooth Helmets, talking to others on their cell phones, guilty themselves of distracted driving. The same is true about navigations screens or maps, or simply waiving to another biker or friend on the side of the road. Don’t get on your bike unless you are calm, focused on the road and rational. Your thoughts and attention should be on the road, enjoying the ride.
7. Be Prepared / Accidents Happen:
You should always carry insurance on your bike, no questions asked, especially Underinsured Motorist Coverage, the highest possible limits you can reasonably afford. On the subject of insurance, take a minute to educate yourself now by visiting our website page(s):
Likewise, we encourage you to consider having disability and life insurance, having a will, to have all your affairs in order. For additional peace of mind, visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles online “Emergency Contact Information” portal, to list close family or friends who should be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Engaging in a potentially high-risk habit like biking means you should be prepared for the worst, so you can have the best assistance, comfort, protection, resources and tools if ever needed.
This checklist of tips and warnings is not to deter you from riding – we do, however, want you riding safely and smartly for many years to come.
Share this checklist with any new bikers in your circle to get them started out right - they may thank you later.
Ride Safe, Brad
Do you need an experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
Call Brad Souders any time, day or night, at 1-866-464-5291 for a FREE, immediate consultation. A lifetime biker, and award-winning attorney with more than 25 years’ experience – A Biker Representing Bikers!
Attorney Brad Souders has a main office in Tampa, representing injured bikers and their families throughout the state of Florida.
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