Top 10 Safety Tips for Solo Bikers (And More)
Taking a motorcycle trip with friends is probably a big part of why you got a bike in the first place – but sometimes, a little "you" time can be a great way to explore another side of riding. Solo trips are a must at some point in your life. They are a chance to experience adventure your way: No worrying about making plans work and keeping everyone happy. You'll meet new people along the way, learn about yourself and new adventures are just around the corner where you might see things you have never seen before.
Take our advice: Indulge yourself. Most of us call it "Wind Therapy" and it reminds me of the phrase: "You never see a MOTORCYCLE parked outside of a psychiatrist's office!" Take a trip where you want, when you want – but first, be prepared.
Below are some great tips for staying safe as a solo traveler:
1. Wellness Check For Yourself:
Make sure you are in the right frame of mind to operate your bike. One riding instructor said the best advice he ever told his students was: "Never Be In A Hurry To Get Somewhere!" This is true, if you are in a hurry, running late, pre-occupied or your mind is on other things, you might not be in the best frame of mind to be on the road! As part of the safety class, to obtain the motorcycle endorsement, the safety materials taught us to "SEE" dangers ahead. This acronym reminds us to "See" "Evaluate" and "Execute" - to steer ourselves away from danger, to avoid dangerous conditions, to save us from a crash.
Also remember the phrase: RIDE SAFE/RIDE SOBER. During a ride, whether it is a stop for lunch or dinner, do not drink and drive. Some believe the myth one or two drinks is not dangerous. In truth, one drink itself can make a difference in reaction time and you may find yourself in serious trouble, especially if another motorist makes a left turn in front of you!
2. Wear All The Gear / All The Time:
We have all seen it – the guy wearing no helmet, no glasses, shirt or gloves, simply wearing shorts and flip flops. Please don't be that guy. In simple words, it's not safe! On the other side of the coin, experienced riders often live by the phrase: "Dress For The Slide!" Such bikers are typically wearing full face helmets, leather jackets, gloves, motorcycle pants and motorcycle boots! Such safety gear truly makes a difference. Helmets save lives!
I recall another example where a biker did not wear his gloves, a crash ejected him from his motorcycle; and instinctively, as he was sliding down the road at highway speeds, he put his hands down to try to slow himself down and lost most of the skin from his hands. Thus, even on the shortest rides, I wear my gloves every time I saddle up!
3. Wellness Check For Your Bike:
Before your solo trip, make sure your motorcycle is in solid condition. The only companion you have with you on this trip is your bike, so pay attention to its well-being. Check your bike in the morning before you set out and check it again when you pull in for the night. Pay special attention to the wheels, the sound of the motor, etc. Do you know how to do basic maintenance? What tools would you need for a simple fix if your bike was to break down on the road? Recall the Motorcycle Safety Foundation ("MSF") recommends we perform a "T-CLOCS Inspection Checklist" before saddling up. For safety, before a ride, we check: "T" (Tires & Wheels), "C" (Controls), "L" (Lights), "O" (Oil & Other Fluids), "C" (Chassis) and "S" (Stands – Center or Side Stand). For reference, the detailed list can be found online.
It is also wise to find a mechanic you trust for scheduled oil changes and general maintenance. Most mechanics take pride in their work and inspect your bike for any issues such as tire tread, brake pads and the like. Failure to maintain your bike can result in sudden and unexpected dangerous conditions. I recall one mechanic told a biker he needed new tires, the biker could not afford new tires; and, continued his trip to Daytona only to have a tire blow out at highway speeds, resulting in a fatal accident for both himself and his passenger. I saw another case where a biker unexpectedly ran out of fuel at the very moment he was swerving to avoid a hazard, also resulting in a crash. These are just two examples that could have been avoided had the bikers maintained their bikes and performed the pre-ride inspection.
4. Be Your Best Pilot: Before The Ride – Check The Weather Forecast:
Every pilot, like every good biker, checks the weather forecast before starting the ride. By knowing the forecast, you are less likely to have any surprises and you can plan your ride accordingly. On hot and sunny days, best to protect yourself with sunscreen and a long sleeve shirt as long sleeve shirts help to keep you hydrated. There are some who are comfortable riding in the rain and others who are not. A most experienced rider, especially on a longer ride, carries an extra helmet (a full faced helmet) as half helmets are not good for rainy weather and your vision can be drastically reduced as the rain is hitting your face, your glasses or goggles, or worse yet, sometimes fog up. It's also good to have your rain gear on board, whether in a saddle bag or strapped to your luggage rack. With today's technology, we can periodically check radar on our smart phones, to see what conditions are ahead, or how severe the conditions might be. In summary, those riders who are prepared for the weather ahead have the best comfort and are the most prepared, increasing your chances of a safe ride, also to feel your best when arriving at the destination.
5. Wear Visible Clothing:
When riding solo, it is more important than ever to be seen by others. In recent years, I have seen more people wear an orange or yellow riding vest over their shirt, sometimes in bright florescent colors. I do this myself when riding to and from the office, I actually feel better knowing other drivers are more likely to see me and truly believe the safety vest is helpful, keeping it on my bike at all times, conveniently stored in the tour pack or saddle bags. Most safety vests have reflective materials, also good for night or rain conditions, again helpful for other drivers or motorists to see you.
To illustrate the point, think of the opposite where a biker has a black helmet, black shirt, dark jeans and is riding at night – almost invisible - not a good practice or safe situation, especially in these times of "distracted driving."
6. Stay Connected:
Your people love you – and it's easy to forget that while living in the moment during each day of your trip. Regardless of how in contact you'd like to be, it is important that someone knows where you are. Be sure to let someone know what time and where you plan to start and finish your ride each day and keep a scheduled check-in time, so they know you are safe. Staying connected will usually be more for their sake than yours – but in the rare occasion you need help, having a contact in the outside world can be extremely important.
7. Rise with the Sun:
Try to be on your motorcycle by the time the sun has risen – that way, you'll have all day to cover the ground you need before dark. Nighttime is the most dangerous time to be on the road for anyone, and bikers are at even greater risk, especially in remote or rural places.
If you've gotten a late start and have been riding all day, don't continue into the night – fatigued driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Get to bed early, and get a solid night's sleep so that tomorrow you can start out with the sun again.
8. Pack Smart:
Check the weather before you go – and don't over pack. If it is more than a day trip, a couple of pairs of clothes should be all you need. Is it going to be raining? You'll regret not having something waterproof.
Importantly, bring earplugs. They protect your ears and reduce fatigue. Earplugs also cut out a ton of background noise and allows you to hear mechanical noise coming from your bike – a huge safety plus.
9. Don't Trust Your Map App:
Apple or GPS maps are great, but what happens when your phone stops working, or when you're in an area with no service? Paper maps fit nicely in your bag, and won't come clattering off your bike at 70mph, like your latest smart phone might.
10. Stay Hydrated:
You really can't afford to be dehydrated on a long solo trip. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, muscle pain and nausea, and can eventually cause you to pass out - none of which you want, especially while on a motorcycle. Make sure to have plenty of water with you at the start of each day – more than you need. Water is one thing you really can't over pack, especially on hot days.
11. Rather Safe than Sorry:
Make sure your emergency contact and medical info are clearly visible on your person. If you are injured and can't communicate, the emergency responders or Good Samaritans trying to help you will need to know if you have allergies, preexisting conditions, etc. The best place to display this is either on a medical bracelet or on your helmet – that way, personnel can get that info without needing to dig through your clothing and belongings. Also, the State of Florida allows you to register your emergency contact information. See here for more info.
12. Be Smart:
Be observant and conscious of your surroundings. Strangers don't need to know where you are headed, where you are staying, or whether there is a group waiting for you in the next town. If you carry a weapon, know laws in the states you plan to travel through. Common sense is your best weapon – if something makes you feel unsafe, your instincts are probably right.
13. Continuing Education/YouTube Safety Videos:
Regardless of riding experience, as a motorcycle enthusiast, there are numerous resources to make us all better riders, to be the best we can be. After a long day at work, relaxing at home, I often find myself watching motorcycle safety videos on YouTube. Two of my personal favorites are motorcycle instructors who release weekly training videos on their channel. If you subscribe to a channel, you receive a notification every time a new training video is released. For an example, MC Rider released a video titled: 5 Bad Habits on a Motorcycle. Another great channel is by Dan The Fire Man (A Motorcycle Coach & Firefighter/EMT). Checkout one his video titled: Learn To Save Yourself Just Like This Rider. Such motorcycle training instructors (and others) provide extremely valuable information, making us all better riders!
14. Motorcycle Safety/Additional Materials:
Simply visit our firm's website for additional/easy to read information by clicking here. This page provides quick access to additional outside resources including the Motorcycle Handbook, Motorcycle Safety Campaigns, Florida DMV Motorcycle Practice Tests, Safety Courses and other guides.
Share these tips with other bikers - it's important that we're all able to indulge in a little "me" time safely and responsibly.
Ride Safe, Brad
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