Motorbike Safety: 50 Ways to Save Your Life Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Motorbike Safety: 50 Ways to Save Your Life

1 Conversation

Black Triumph Motorbike

If you ever wondered how to ride your motorbike safely, then this Entry has been written for just that very purpose. Bikers young and old will find something to relate to in this list of tips to save your life.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
– Aristotle

Fifty Ways to Save Your Life

  1. Assume the four-wheelers don't see you.

    Because often they don't. They're just not looking for a vehicle as small as you are, going as fast as you are. Use your headlights on bright out of town and drive defensively.

  2. Don't aggravate the ignorant.

    Stay calm, remember that most of them have no skill, have no idea of what they've just done - they just sit there and point - and that you're at most risk. Make like a penguin and smile and wave.

  3. Dress for the fall, not the ball.

    Even a 5-minute trip can be deadly. Modern mesh gear means heat is no good reason for a T-shirt and shorts. Make sure your gear has armour at vital points and joints. Wear mesh gloves. Rather sweat than bleed.

  4. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

    Assume that the car across the intersection will turn across your intended path when the light goes green.

  5. Stay icy cool to stay alive.

    Show-offs become organ donors. Don't1.

  6. Stay focused.

    Staring at a butt could land yours on the road. Save it till later.

  7. Mirrors are limited.

    Check your blind spots before moving over.

  8. Take time to make sure.

    Always take the time to be absolutely sure before pulling out, over or accelerating.

  9. Pass with class.

    You're always at risk when you overtake. Take it easy, watch your closing speed. Arriving out of nowhere behind or next to other drivers or riders is a recipe for a collision any day soon.

  10. The sides of roads hold crap.

    Stay alert for stuff on the sides of roads. In time you'll see amazing things there. Make sure you see them in time to avoid them.

  11. Cross turners are killers.

    Assume the guy on the other side of the intersection in unaware of your presence2, and may turn right in front of you, because now and then they will.

  12. Watch out for light shooters.

    Even if the light's in your favour, check the side streets. Eventually in your career someone will shoot across. Make sure you survive the experience.

  13. Use your mirrors.

    Do it every time you change lanes, slow down or stop. Stay in gear and check behind yourself at lights. Be ready to move if someone tries to share your space.

  14. Check 12 seconds ahead. Keep your following distance.

    One second's worth of distance per 10mph is the old rule of thumb. Better still, scan the next 12 seconds ahead for potential trouble.

  15. Beware of hot cars.

    They're quick and their drivers tend to be aggressive. Don't assume that just because you've thrashed them away from the lights that they've given up - watch out for them screaming up at you when you've stopped accelerating.

  16. Watch your entry speed on curves.

    Going in too hot means you run out of road and either wind up in oncoming traffic or in whatever's on the side of the road, be it barbed wire, bush or a cliff. Slow in, fast out - at a suitable speed... even Rossi gets it wrong sometimes. Be careful.

  17. Watch the dumb animals as well.

    Birds, foxes and other dumb animals cross roads with gay abandon – especially in spring when they have just one thing on their minds. Believe the warning signs and watch out for animals – a bird hits you like a brick at speed.

  18. Practise using both brakes.

    The front does most of your stopping but trailing the rear helps stability.

  19. Keep the front brake covered.

    Save a single second of reaction time at 90mph and you can stop 25 metres shorter. Think about that.

  20. Look where you want to go.

    Target fixation is real. Looking at a hazard will put you into it. Look at the way out, not the way in.

  21. Always be scanning and planning.

    Keep those eyes working all the time and don't get hung up on one thing. If you want to enjoy the view, stop.

  22. Anticipate.

    Zipping by a kerb crawler could put you into his door when he opens it.

  23. Raise your gaze.

    What's immediately in front is too late to do much about, so look ahead to where you can still do something positive.

  24. Get your mind right in the driveway.

    The first quarter hour's most crucial. Get your bike brain on as you go down the drive.

  25. Come to a full stop at that next stop sign.

    Put a foot down. Look again. Anything less forces a snap decision with no time to spot potential trouble.

  26. Never dive into a gap in stalled traffic.

    Cars may have stopped for a reason, and you may not be able to see why until it's too late to do anything about it.

  27. Get the right bike for you.

    Don't get a superbike unless you're a super rider and you need it for the kind of riding you do. Get a bike that suits your style, skill, weight and height.

  28. Watch for car doors opening in traffic.

    They'll open them, make sure you see them first.

  29. Don't get into bad habits.

    If every road intersection for miles is a four-way stop, the one that isn't is the one that'll get you, if you assume it's going to be the same as all the rest.

  30. Stay safe in a group.

    Don't out-ride your talent. Make sure you know the route and where the group's going to stop. If they're quicker than you, get there later, but get there.

  31. Give your eyes some time to adjust.

    The older you are the slower they are to adjust. Take it easy when going into dark to let them adjust. Ride by what you can see, not what you think you can remember.

  32. Practise U-turns.

    Weight the opposite peg and tilt the bike, do this without thinking and you can concentrate on your surroundings.

  33. Practise hill starts.

    Traffic's not the place to master this art. Practise in private and safety.

  34. If it looks slippery, assume it is.

    Diesel, oil, even sewage gets spilled onto the road. If it looks suspicious, treat it with great respect.

  35. Punctures at speed.

    Don't Panic! Apply clutch, brake gently with good wheel. Ease gently to the side of the road. No sudden moves. You can survive these.

  36. Raindrops falling on your visor?

    It's raining, it's slippery, ease up. And increase distances.

  37. Wear adequate protection.

    A full-face helmet, unless you hate your chin. Back protector, have all joints protected with EU-approved pads, denim doesn't do it, track leather or Kevlar. Boots with an inner boot or outer skeleton. Your enemies are impact, abrasion and overextension. Look at your stuff. Can you smite yourself with a 2x4 and smile? If not, what you got ain't that hot. An inflatable jacket from Hit-air works really well, the author has tested this at 140 kph and watched the other two guys leave for hospital.

  38. Wear the right gear.

    Having sorted out the protection, make sure the gear fits and suits the conditions. If you're distracted by your equipment you're not safe.

  39. No phone no music, minimum intercom.

    Concentrate on the road, your bike and the ride.

  40. Learn to swerve.

    Be able to do two tight turns in quick succession. Practise in a safe place. Remember target fixation, look where you want to go, not at the obstacle. Remember: 'Clutch, Brake, release, swerve, swerve.' Now practise till it's a reflex. Riders go under cars because they jam on anchors and swerve. Practise 'Clutch, brake, release, swerve, swerve.'

  41. Be smooth at low speeds.

    Learn to use your rear brake to smooth out low speed manoeuvres.

  42. Flashing is good for you.

    Gently pulling on the lever or tapping the pedal to flash the brake lights before applying will help the drivers behind you see them.

  43. Intersections are scary, so take cover.

    Put another vehicle between your bike and the possibility of someone running the stop sign/red light on your right. If you're turning right take extra care you're not being hidden by a vehicle on your left.

  44. Tune your peripheral vision.

    Pick a point near the centre of a wall. Practise scanning using your peripheral vision. The more you can see without turning your head, the sooner you can react to trouble.

  45. None for the road.

    Do you think Valentino has a couple of drinks before a ride? And you're in a much more hazardous environment than he is. Stay absolutely sharp to spot the blind aunties, the reps with mobile phones and the dumb fools trying to kill you.

  46. Everything is harder to see after dark.

    Carry a clear visor and be super careful after dark, especially during rush hour, when the pubs shut, or in the early hours. Practise night riding in a safe environment before tackling traffic. Better still, try not to ride at night if possible.

  47. Leave large lorries well alone.

    Their tyres shed tread with some regularity, 'nough said.

  48. Take the panic out of panic stops.

    Develop an intimate relationship with your brakes. Seek out some safe, open road surface. Starting slowly, find that fine line between maximum braking and a locked wheel, and then do it again, and again. Don't ride faster than you have practised stopping. Now there's something to think about.

  49. Make sure your tyres are right.

    Don't take 'em for granted. Make sure pressure is spot-on every time you ride. Check for cuts, nails and other junk they might have picked up, as well as general wear.

  50. Take a deep breath,

    When aggro rises, count to ten. Visualise a naked man/woman. Forgetting some clown's dumb or arrogant move beats running the risk of ruining your life, or ending it.

With acknowledgements to David Hough, Motorcycle News, Two Wheels Only, Arrive Alive, The Hurt Report and all the bikers this Entry has been discussed with.
1Or, rather not right away. Carrying an organ donor card is altruistic, but let's hope it is never actually used.2To car drivers, a motorbike is often invisible.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by


Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more