Cars Suck. No, Really.
So many motorcycle accidents are caused by car drivers. There are a bunch of reasons for this; one of them is that cars usually outnumber bikes substantially. This is important because it means the average motorist is looking out for other CARS. They may simply not see you even when looking straight at you. It sounds ridiculous, but inattentional blindness is a real thing.
What this means for you is that you not only have to think for yourself, but also for the guy behind the wheel of the car. There is no road vehicle that benefits from defensive driving more than a motorcycle.
Even when motorists can see you, they may still underestimate the acceleration and maneuverability of a motorcycle while underestimating how much road a bike needs to brake. This is why we often see bikes t-boning cars that are turning across the road because the car’s driver misjudged how fast the bike was going and how far away it was.
If you’re in the car in this scenario you’ll likely walk away, but the bike rider isn’t in the best position here.
Also, never ride in a car’s blind spot and if you can’t see a vehicle’s side mirrors, they sure as heck can’t see you.
Human Machine Interface
It’s very important that you become highly familiar with your motorcycle and know the proper way to operate it.
There’s a big difference between the braking ability of a bike with and without an ABS (anti-lock braking system). You have to know how much room you need to brake safely at different speeds and in different road conditions.
You also need to know at what speed you should enter corners. Cars are much more forgiving of errors in judgment than bikes are. If you go into a corner too hot there may be no safe way out and you’re committed one way or another.
Also, many beginning riders don’t know the proper way to use a bike’s brakes. Don’t apply the front brake when leaning over in a corner. Go easy on the brakes in the rain and increase your following distances. Use both brakes, but learn the correct balance for your bike. Some people say that 30/70 braking force rear/front is ideal, but this may change based on your bike and the road conditions.
Never ride away on a motorcycle that is not roadworthy. Always perform a brief pre-ride inspection and periodically do a full inspection to ensure that everything is mechanically sound. I’m not going to list the whole inspection process here because it’s a lot of writing and can be slightly different depending on the make, model, and style of your bike. You should find the correct inspection procedure in your motorcycle’s manual and follow it. Also make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. Service the bike at the right intervals and make sure that your tires and brakes are in a good enough condition to ride.
Don’t Be A Dummy
In general the best thing you can do is not be an idiot. Obey the rules of the road. Stick to the speed limit. If you want to race, take it to a track. Only ride if you’ve had enough sleep and NEVER ride under the influence of alcohol.
Being tipsy is bad enough in a car thanks to the reduction in reaction time, but you need the reflexes of a cat just to do a daily commute on a bike; not to mention a fully-functional sense of balance. Alcohol and bikes don’t mix. Period. No matter how capable of riding you feel, call an Uber or refrain from drinking, but don’t get on that motorcycle.
Riding defensively is the best way to ensure your safety as a motorcyclist. Unlike a car with crumple zones, airbags, and all sorts of other tough protective measures, all you have between yourself and the big bad world is some padding and textile. Modern safety gear has come a long way to be sure, but they are an absolute last resort; your first line of protection comes from your awareness and riding skill.
Saften Up and Be Safe
Riding a motorcycle is awesome, but it isn’t worth cutting your life short or seriously impacting your quality of life through reckless riding. If you really want the adrenaline rush of pushing yourself and your machine to the limit then consider undergoing training and joining a group that does track days, where you can safely enjoy the performance of your sports bike. Public roads are not the place for this.