RIDE WITHIN YOUR ABILITIES
Original Source: http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/mcmanual/ride_within.htm
BASIC VEHICLE CONTROL
cannot teach you how to control direction, speed, or balance.
That's something you can learn only through practice. But
control begins with knowing your abilities and riding within
them, along with knowing and obeying the rules of the road.
control a motorcycle well:
Posture - Sit so you can use your arms to steer the
motorcycle rather than to hold yourself up.
Seat - Sit far enough forward so that arms are slightly bent
when you hold the handlegrips. Bending your arms permits you to
press on the handlebars without having to stretch.
Hands - Hold the handlegrips firmly to keep your grip over
rough surfaces. Start with your right wrist flat. This will help
you keep from accidentally using too much throttle. Also, adjust
the handlebars so your hands are even with or below your elbows.
This permits you to use the proper muscles for precision
Knees - Keep your knees against the gas tank to help you keep
your balance as the motorcycle turns.
Feet - Keep your feet firmly on the footpegs to maintain
balance. Do not drag your feet. If your foot catches on
something, you can be injured and it could affect your control
of the motorcycle. Keep your feet near the controls so you can
get to them fast if needed. Also, do not let your toes point
downward - they may get caught between the road and the
more to shifting gears than simply getting the motorcycle to
pick up speed smoothly. Learning to use the gears when
downshifting, turning, or starting on hills is important for
safe motorcycle operation.
Shift down through the gears
with the clutch as you slow or stop. Remain in first gear while
you are stopped so that you can move out quickly if you need to.
Make certain you are riding slowly enough when you shift
into a lower gear. If not, the motorcycle will lurch, and the
rear wheel may skid. When riding downhill or shifting into first
gear you may need to use the brakes to slow enough before
downshifting safely. Work towards a smooth, even clutch release,
especially when downshifting.
It is best to change gears
before entering a turn. However, sometimes shifting while in the
turn is necessary. If so, remember to do so smoothly.
sudden change in power to the rear wheel can cause a skid.
Your motorcycle has two
brakes: one each for the front and rear wheel. Use both of them
at the same time. The front brake is more powerful and can
provide at least three-quarters of your total
stopping power. The front brake is safe to use if you use it
Use both brakes every time you slow or stop.
Using both brakes for even "normal" stops will permit you to
develop the proper habit or skill of using both brakes properly
in an emergency. Squeeze the front brake and press down on the
rear. Grabbing at the front brake or jamming down on the rear
can cause the brakes to lock, resulting in control problems.
If you know the technique, using both brakes in a turn is
possible, although it should be done very carefully. When
leaning the motorcycle some of the traction is used for
cornering. Less traction is available for stopping. A skid can
occur if you apply too much brake. Also, using the front brake
incorrectly on a slippery surface may be hazardous. Use caution
and squeeze the brake lever, never grab.
Some motorcycles have integrated braking systems that link
the front and rear brakes together by applying the rear brake
pedal. (Consult the owner's manual for a detailed explanation on
the operation and effective use of these systems.)
Riders often try to take curves
or turns too fast. When they cannot hold the turn, they end up
crossing into another lane of traffic or going off the road. Or,
they overreact and brake too hard, causing a skid and loss of
control. Approach turns and curves with caution.
Use four steps for better control:
1. SLOW - Reduce
speed before the turn by closing the throttle and, if necessary,
applying both brakes.
2. LOOK - Look
through the turn to where you want to go. Turn just your head,
not your shoulders, and keep your eyes level with the horizon.
3. LEAN - To turn, the motorcycle must lean.
To lean the motorcycle, press on the handgrip in the direction
of the turn. Press left - lean left - go left. Press right -
lean right - go right. Higher speeds and/or tighter turns
require the motorcycle to lean more.
4. ROLL -
Roll on the throttle through the turn to stabilize
suspension. Maintain steady speed or accelerate gradually
through the turn. This will help keep the motorcycle stable.
turns, the rider and the motorcycle should lean together
at the same angle.
tight turns, counterbalance by leaning the motorcycle
only and keeping your body straight.
KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE
protection you can have is distance - a "cushion of space" - all
around your motorcycle. If someone else makes a mistake,
distance permits you:
Time to react.
Space to maneuver.
In some ways the size of the motorcycle can work to your
advantage. Each traffic lane gives a motorcycle three paths of
travel, as indicated in the illustration. Your lane position
Increase your ability to see and be seen.
Avoid others' blind spots.
Avoid surface hazards.
Protect your lane from other drivers.
Communicate your intentions.
Avoid wind blast from other vehicles.
Provide an escape route.
Select the appropriate path
to maximize your space cushion and make yourself more easily
seen by others on the road.
In general, there is no
single best position for riders to be seen and to maintain a
space cushion around the motorcycle. No portion of the lane need
be avoided - including the center.
yourself in the portion of the lane where you are most likely to
be seen and you can maintain a space cushion around you. Change
position as traffic situations change. Ride in path 2 or 3 it
vehicles and other potential problems are on your left only.
Remain in path 1 or 2 if hazards are on your right only. If
vehicles are being operated on both sides of you, the center of
the lane, path 2, is usually your best option.
strip in the center portion that collects drippings from cars is
usually no more than two feet wide. Unless the road is wet, the
average center strip permits adequate traction to ride on
safely. You can operate to the left or right of the grease strip
and still be within the center portion of the traffic lane.
Avoid riding on big buildups of oil and grease usually found at
busy intersections or toll booths.
"Following too closely" is a
major factor in crashes involving motorcyclists. In traffic,
motorcycles need as much distance to stop as cars. Normally,
a minimum of two seconds distance should be
maintained behind the vehicle ahead.
your following distance:
Pick out a marker, such as a pavement marking or lamppost, on
or near the road ahead.
When the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead passes the marker,
count off the seconds: "one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two."
If you reach the marker before you reach "two," you are
following too closely.
A two-second following distance
leaves a minimum amount of space to stop or swerve if the driver
ahead suddenly stops. It also permits a better view of potholes
and other hazards in the road.
A larger cushion of space
is needed if your motorcycle will take longer than normal to
stop. If the pavement is slippery, if you cannot see through the
vehicle ahead, or if traffic is heavy and someone may squeeze in
front of you, open up a three second or more following distance.
Keep well behind the vehicle ahead even when you are
stopped. This will make it easier to get out of the way if
someone bears down on you from behind. It will also give you a
cushion of space if the vehicle ahead starts to back up for some
behind a car, ride where the driver can see you in the rearview
mirror. Riding in the center portion of the lane should put your
image in the middle of the rearview mirror - where a driver is
most likely to see you.
Riding at the far side of a lane
may permit a driver to see you in a sideview mirror. But
remember that most drivers do not look at their sideview mirrors
nearly as often as they check the rearview mirror. If the
traffic situation allows, the center portion of the lane is
usually the best place for you to be seen by the drivers ahead
and to prevent lane sharing by others.
Speeding up to lose someone following
too closely only ends up with someone tailgating you at a higher
A better way to handle tailgaters is to get them
in front of you. When someone is following too closely, change
lanes and let them pass. If you cannot do this, slow down and
open up extra space ahead of you to allow room for both you and
the tailgater to stop. This will also encourage them to pass. If
they do not pass, you will have given yourself and the tailgater
more time and space to react in case an emergency does develop
PASSING AND BEING PASSED
Passing and being passed by another vehicle is not much
different than with a car. However, visibility is more critical.
Be sure other drivers see you, and that you see potential
1. Ride in the left portion of the lane at a safe following
distance to increase your line of sight and make you more
visible. Signal and check for oncoming traffic. Use your mirrors
and turn your head to look for traffic behind.
safe, move into the left lane and accelerate. Select a lane
position that does not crowd the car you are passing and
provides space to avoid hazards in your lane.
through the blind spot as quickly as possible.
again, and complete mirror and headchecks before returning to
your original lane and then cancel signal.
passes must be completed within posted speed limits, and only
where permitted. Know your signs androad markings!
When you are being passed
from behind or by an oncoming vehicle, stay in the center
portion of your lane. Riding any closer to them could put you in
a hazardous situation. Avoid being hit by:
The other vehicle. A slight mistake by you or the passing
driver could cause a sideswipe.
Extended mirrors - Some drivers forget that their mirrors
hang out farther than their fenders.
Objects thrown from windows - Even if the driver knows you're
there a passenger may not see you and might toss something on
you or the road ahead of you.
Blasts of wind from larger vehicles can affect your control.
You have more room for error if you are in the middle portion
when hit by this blast than if you are on either side of the
Do not move into the portion of
the lane farthest from the passing vehicle. It might invite the
other driver to cut back into your lane too early.
Cars and motorcycles cannot
share a lane safely. Lane sharing is permitted only for two
Riding between rows of stopped or moving
cars in the same lane can leave you vulnerable to the
unexpected. A hand could come out of a window; a door could
open; a car could turn suddenly. Discourage lane sharing by
others. Keep a center-portion position whenever drivers might be
tempted to squeeze by you. Drivers are most tempted to do this:
In heavy, bumper-to-bumper traffic.
When they want to pass you.
When you are preparing to turn at an intersection.
When you are getting in an exit lane or leaving a highway.
on an entrance ramp may not see you on the highway.
Give them plenty of room. Change to another lane if
one is open. If there is no room for a lane change,
adjust speed to open up space for the merging
ride next to cars or trucks in other lanes if you do
not have to. You might be in the blind spot of a car
in the next lane, which could switch into your lane
without warning. Cars in the next lane also block
your escape if you come upon danger in your own
lane. Speed up or drop back to find a place clear of
traffic on both sides.
Good experienced riders
remain aware of what is going on around them. They improve their
riding strategy by using SEE, a three-step process used to make
appropriate judgments, and apply them correctly in different
Let's examine each of these steps.
Search aggressively ahead, to the
sides and behind to avoid potential hazards even before they
arise. How assertively you search, and how much time and space
you have, can eliminate or reduce harm. Focus even more on
finding potential escape routes in or around intersections,
shopping areas, school and construction zones.
Search for factors such as:
Oncoming traffic that may turn left in front of you.
Traffic coming from the left and right.
Traffic approaching from behind.
Hazardous road conditions.
Be especially alert in
areas with limited visibility. Visually "busy" surroundings
could hide you and your motorcycle from others.
Think about how hazards can interact to
create risks for you. Anticipate potential problems and have a
plan to reduce risks.
Stationary objects - potholes, guard rails, bridges,
telephone poles, and trees won't move into your path but may
influence your riding strategy.
Traffic control devices - Look for traffic signals, including
regulatory signs, warning signs, and pavement markings, to help
you evaluate circumstances ahead.
Other vehicles, pedestrians and animals - may suddenly move
into your path and increase the likelihood of a crash.
Think about your time and space requirements in order to
maintain a margin of safety. You must leave yourself time to
react if an emergency arises.
Carry out your decision.
To create more space and
minimize harm from any hazard:
Communicate your presence with lights and/or horn.
Adjust your speed by accelerating, stopping or slowing.
Adjust your position and/or direction.
Apply the old
adage "one step at a time" to handle two or more hazards. Adjust
speed to permit two hazards to separate. Then deal with them one
at a time as single hazards. Decision making becomes more
complex with three or more hazards. Weigh consequences of each
and give equal distance to the hazards.
In potential high
risk areas, such as intersections, shopping areas, school and
construction zones, cover the clutch and both brakes to reduce
the time you need to react.
The greatest potential for conflict between you and other
traffic is at intersections. An intersection can be in the
middle of an urban area or at a driveway on a residential street
- anywhere traffic may cross your path of travel. Over one half
of motorcycle/car crashes are caused by drivers entering a
rider's right-of-way. Cars that turn left in front of you,
including cars turning left from the lane to your right, and
cars on side streets that pull into your lane, are the biggest
dangers. Your use of SEE at intersections is critical.
There are no guarantees that others see you. Never count on "eye
contact" as a sign that a driver will yield. Too often, a driver
looks right at a motorcyclist and still fails to "see" him. The
only eyes that you can count on are your own. If a car can enter
your path, assume that it will. Good riders are always "looking
for trouble" - not to get into it, but to stay out of it.
Increase your chances of being seen at intersections. Ride
with your headlight on in a lane position that provides the best
view of oncoming traffic. Provide a space cushion around the
motorcycle that permits you to take evasive action.
you approach the intersection, select a lane position to
increase your visibility to the driver. Cover the clutch and
both brakes to reduce reaction time.
Reduce your speed as
you approach an intersection. After you have entered the
intersection, move away from vehicles preparing to turn.
Do not radically change speed or position. The driver might
think that you are preparing to turn.
If you approach a blind
intersection, move to the portion of the lane that will bring
you into another driver's field of vision at the earliest
possible moment. In this picture, the rider has moved to the
left portion of the lane - away from the parked car - so the
driver on the cross street can see him as soon as possible.
Remember, the key is to see as much as possible and remain
visible to others while protecting your space.
have a stop sign or stop line, stop there first. Then edge
forward and stop again, just short of where the cross-traffic
lane meets your lane. From that position, lean your body forward
and look around buildings, parked cars, or bushes to see if
anything is coming. Just make sure your front wheel stays out of
the cross lane of travel while you're looking.
PASSING PARKED CARS
parked cars, stay toward the left of your lane. You can avoid
problems caused by doors opening, drivers getting out of cars,
or people stepping from between cars. If oncoming traffic is
present, it is usually best to remain in the center-lane
position to maximize your space cushion.
A bigger problem
can occur if the driver pulls away from the curb without
checking for traffic behind. Even if he does look, he may fail
to see you.
either event, the driver might cut into your path.
Slow down or change lanes to make room for someone
cutting in. Cars making a sudden U-turn are the most
dangerous. They may cut you off entirely, blocking
the whole roadway and leaving you with no place to
go. Since you cannot tell what a driver will do,
slow down and get the driver's attention. Sound your
horn and continue with caution.
PARKING AT THE ROADSIDE
at a 90° angle to the curb with your rear wheel touching the
crashes with motorcyclists, drivers often say they never saw the
motorcycle. From ahead or behind, a motorcycle's outline is much
smaller than a car's. Also, it is hard to see something you are
not looking for, and most drivers are not looking for
motorcycles. More likely, they are looking through the skinny,
two-wheeled silhouette in search of cars that may pose a problem
Even if a driver does see you coming, you are
not necessarily safe. Smaller vehicles appear farther away, and
seem to be traveling slower than they actually are. it is common
for drivers to pull out in front of motorcyclists, thinking they
have plenty of time. Too often, they are wrong.
you can do many things to make it easier for others to recognize
you and your motorcycle.
Most crashes occur in broad daylight. Wear bright colored
clothing to increase your chances of being seen. Remember, your
body is half of the visible surface area of the rider/motorcycle
Bright orange, red, yellow or green jackets or
vests are your best bets for being seen. Your helmet can do more
than protect you in a crash. Brightly colored helmets can also
help others see you.
Any bright color is better than drab
or dark colors. Reflective, bright colored clothing (helmet and
jacket or vest) is best.
Reflective material on a vest
and on the sides of the helmet will help drivers coming from the
side spot you.
Reflective material can also be a big help
for drivers coming toward you or from behind.
The best way to help others see your
motorcycle is to keep the headlight on - at all times
(motorcycles sold in the U.S. since 1978 have the headlights on
automatically when running.) Studies show that, during the day,
a motorcycle with its light on is twice as likely to be noticed.
Use of the high beam during the day increases the likelihood
that oncoming drivers will see you. Use the low beam at night
and in cloudy weather.
signals on a motorcycle are similar to those on a car, They tell
others what you plan to do. However, due to a rider's added
vulnerability, signals are even more important. Use them anytime
you plan to change lanes or turn. Use them even when you think
no one else is around. It's the car you do not see that is going
to give you the most trouble. Your signal lights also make you
easier to spot. That is why it is a good idea to use your turn
signals even when what you plan to do is obvious.
you enter onto a freeway, drivers approaching from behind are
more likely to see your signal blinking and make room for you.
Turning your signal light on before each turn reduces
confusion and frustration for the traffic around you. Once you
turn, make sure your signal is off or a driver may pull directly
into your path, thinking you plan to turn again. Use your
signals at every turn so drivers can react accordingly. Do not
make them guess what you intend to do.
Your motorcycle's brake light is usually
not as noticeable as the brake lights on a car - particularly
when your taillight is on. (It goes on with the headlight.) If
the situation will permit, help others notice you by flashing
your brake light before you slow down. It is especially
important to flash your brake light before:
You slow more quickly than others might expect (turning off a
You slow where others may not expect it (in the middle of a
block or at an alley).
If you are being followed closely,
it is a good idea to flash your brake light before you slow. The
tailgater may be watching you and not see something ahead that
will make you slow down. This will hopefully discourage them
from tailgating and warn them of hazards ahead they may not see.
USING YOUR MIRRORS
While it is most
important to keep track of what is happening ahead, you cannot
afford to ignore situations behind. Traffic conditions change
quickly. Knowing what is going on behind is essential for you to
make a safe decision about how to handle trouble ahead.
mirror checks should be part of your normal scanning routine.
Make a special point of using your mirrors:
When you are stopped at an intersection. Watch cars coming up
from behind. If the driver is not paying attention, he could be
on top of you before he sees you.
Before you change lanes. Make sure no one is about to pass
Before you slow down. The driver behind may not expect you to
slow, or may be unsure about where you will slow. For example,
you signal a turn and the driver thinks you plan to turn at a
distant intersection, rather than at a nearer driveway.
Some motorcycles have rounded (convex) mirrors. These provide a
wider view of the road behind than do flat mirrors. They also
make cars seem farther away than they really are. If you are not
used to convex mirrors, get familiar with them. (While
you are stopped, pick out a parked car in your mirror. Form a
mental image of how far away it is. Then, turn around and look
at it to see how close you came.) Practice with your
mirrors until you become a good judge of distance. Even then,
allow extra distance before you change lanes.
Checking your mirrors is not enough.
Motorcycles have "blind spots" like cars. Before you change
lanes, turn your head, and look to the side for other vehicles.
On a road with several lanes, check the far lane and the one
next to you. A driver in the distant lane may head for the same
space you plan to take. Frequent head checks should be your
normal scanning routine, also. Know what is happening
all around you.
ready to use your horn to get someone's attention quickly.
It is a good idea to give a quick beep before passing anyone
that may move into your lane.
Here are some
A driver in the lane next to you is driving too closely to
the vehicle ahead and may want to pass.
A parked car has someone in the driver's seat.
Someone is in the street, riding a bicycle or walking.
In an emergency, press the horn button loud and long. Be
ready to stop or swerve away from the danger.
mind that a motorcycle's horn is not as loud as a car's,
therefore, use it, but do not rely on it. Other strategies may
be appropriate along with the horn.
At night it is harder for you to see and
be seen. Picking your headlight or taillight out of the car
lights around you is not easy for other drivers. To compensate,
Reduce Your Speed - Ride
even slower than you would during the day - particularly on
roads you don't know well. This will increase your chances of
avoiding a hazard.
Increase Distance -
Distances are harder to judge at night than during the day. Your
eyes rely upon shadows and light contrasts to determine how far
away an object is and how fast it is coming. These contrasts are
missing or distorted under artificial lights at night. Open up a
three-second following distance or more. And allow more distance
to pass and be passed.
Use the Car Ahead -
The headlights of the car ahead can give you a better
view of the road than even your high beam can. Its taillights
bouncing up and down can alert you to bumps or rough pavement.
Use Your High Beam - Get all the light you
can. Use your high beam whenever you are not following or
meeting a car. Be visible, wear reflective materials when riding
Be Flexible About Lane Position.
Change to whatever portion of the lane is best able to
help you see, be seen, and keep an adequate space cushion.
No matter how
careful you are, there will be times when you find yourself in a
tight spot. Your chances of getting out safely depend on your
ability to react quickly and properly. Often, a crash occurs
because a rider is not prepared or skilled in crash-avoidance
Know when and how to stop or swerve, two
skills critical to avoiding a crash. It is not always desirable
or possible to stop quickly to avoid an obstacle. Riders must
also be able to swerve around an obstacle. Determining the skill
necessary for the situation is important as well.
Studies show that most riders involved in crashes:
Underbrake the front tire and overbrake the rear.
Did not separate braking from swerving or did not choose
swerving when it was appropriate.
information offers some good advice.
stop quickly, apply both brakes at the same time. Do not be shy
about using the front brake, but do not "grab" it, either.
Squeeze the brake lever firmly and progressively. If the front
wheel locks, release the front brake immediately then reapply it
firmly. At the same time, press down on the rear brake. If you
accidentally lock the rear brake on a good traction surface,
keep it locked until you have completely stopped. Even with a
locked rear wheel, you can control the motorcycle on a
straightaway if it is upright and going in a straight
Always use both brakes at the same time to
stop. The front brake can provide 70% or more of the potential
If you must stop quickly while turning or
riding a curve, the best technique is to straighten the bike
upright first and then brake. However, it may not always be
possible to straighten the motorcycle and then stop. If you must
brake while leaning, apply light brakes and reduce the throttle.
As you slow, you can reduce your lean angle and apply more brake
pressure until the motorcycle is straight and maximum brake
pressure is possible. You should "straighten" the handlebars in
the last few feet of stopping, the motorcycle should then be
straight up and in balance.
SWERVING OR TURNING
Sometimes you may not have enough room
to stop, even if you use both brakes properly. An object might
appear suddenly in your path. Or the car ahead might squeal to a
stop. The only way to avoid a crash may be to turn quickly, or
swerve around it.
A swerve is any sudden change in
direction. It can be two quick turns, or a rapid shift to the
side. Apply a small amount of hand pressure to the handgrip
located on the side of your intended direction of escape. This
will cause the motorcycle to lean quickly.
sharper the turn(s), the more the motorcycle must lean.
Keep your body upright and allow the motorcycle to lean in the
direction of the turn while keeping your knees against the tank
and your feet solidly on the foot rests. Let the motorcycle move
underneath you. Make your escape route the target of your
vision. Press on the opposite handgrip once you clear the
obstacle to return you to your original direction of travel. To
swerve to the left, press the left handgrip, then press the
right to recover. To swerve to the right, press right, then
IF BRAKING IS REQUIRED,
SEPARATE IT FROM SWERVING.
Brake before or after -
never while swerving.
RIDING A CURVE
primary cause of single-vehicle crashes is motorcyclists running
wide in a curve or turn and colliding with the roadway or a
Every curve is different. Be alert to
whether a curve remains constant, gradually widens, gets
tighter, or involves multiple turns.
Ride within your
skill level and posted speed limits.
Your best path may
not always follow the curve of the road. Change lane position
depending on traffic, road conditions and curve of the road.
no traffic is present, start at the outside of a curve to
increase your line of sight and the effective radius of the
turn. As you turn, move toward the inside of the curve, and as
you pass the center, move to the outside to exit.
alternative is to move to the center of your lane before
entering a curve - and stay there until you exit. This permits
you to spot approaching traffic as soon as possible. You can
also adjust for traffic "crowding" the center line, or debris
blocking part of your lane.
Your chance of falling or being
involved in a crash increases whenever you ride across:
Uneven surfaces or obstacles.
Grooves and gratings.
UNEVEN SURFACES AND
Watch for uneven surfaces such as
bumps, broken pavement, potholes, or small pieces of highway
to avoid obstacles by slowing or going around them. If you must
go over the obstacle, first, determine if it is possible.
Approach it at as close to a 90º angle as possible. Look where
you want to go to control your path of travel. If you have to
ride over the obstacle, you should:
Slow down as much as possible before contact.
Make sure the motorcycle is straight.
Rise slightly off the seat with your weight on the footpegs
to absorb the shock with your knees and elbows, and avoid being
thrown off the motorcycle.
Just before contact, roll on the throttle slightly to lighten
the front end.
If you ride over an object on the street,
pull off the road and check your tires and rims for damage
before riding any farther.
Motorcycles handle better when ridden on surfaces that
permit good traction. Surfaces that provide poor traction
Wet pavement, particularly just after it starts to rain and
before surface oil washes to the side of the road.
Gravel roads, or where sand and gravel collect.
Mud, snow, and ice.
Lane markings, steel plates and manhole covers, especially
To ride safely on slippery surfaces:
Reduce Speed - Slow down before you get to a slippery surface
to lessen your chances of skidding. Your motorcycle needs more
distance to stop. And, it is particularly important to reduce
speed before entering wet curves.
Avoid Sudden Moves - Any sudden change in speed or direction
can cause a skid. Be as smooth as possible when you speed up,
shift gears, turn or brake.
Use Both Brakes - The front brake is still effective, even on
a slippery surface. Squeeze the brake lever gradually to avoid
locking the front wheel. Remember, gentle pressure on the rear
The center of a lane can be hazardous when wet. When it
starts to rain, ride in the tire tracks left by cars. Often, the
left tire track will be the best position, depending on traffic
and other road conditions as well.
Watch for oil spots when you put your foot down to stop or
park. You may slip and fall.
Dirt and gravel collect along the sides of the road -
especially on curves and ramps leading to and from highways. Be
aware of what is on the edge of the road, particularly when
making sharp turns and getting on or off freeways at high
Rain dries and snow melts faster on some sections of a road
than on others. Patches of ice tend to crop up in low or shaded
areas and on bridges and overpasses. Wet surfaces or wet leaves
are just as slippery. Ride on the least slippery portion of the
lane and reduce speed.
Cautious riders steer clear of
roads covered with ice or snow. If you cannot avoid a slippery
surface, keep your motorcycle straight up and proceed as slowly
as possible. If you encounter a large surface so slippery that
you must coast, or travel at a walking pace, consider letting
your feet skim along the surface. If the motorcycle starts to
fall, you can catch yourself. Be sure to keep off the brakes. If
possible, squeeze the clutch and coast. Attempting this maneuver
at anything other than the slowest of speeds could prove
RAILROAD TRACKS, TROLLEY TRACKS AND PAVEMENT SEAMS
it is safer to ride straight within your lane to
cross tracks. Turning to take tracks head-on (at a
90° angle) can be more dangerous - your path may
carry you into another lane of traffic.
track and road seams that run parallel to your
course, move far enough away from tracks, ruts, or
pavement seams to cross at an angle of at least 45°.
Then, make a quick, sharp turn. Edging across could
catch your tires and throw you off balance.
GROOVES AND GRATINGS
over rain grooves or bridge gratings may cause a
motorcycle to weave. The uneasy, wandering feeling
generally is not hazardous. Relax, maintain a steady
speed and ride straight across. Crossing at an angle
forces riders to zigzag to stay in the lane. The
zigzag is far more hazardous than the wandering
You can find
yourself in an emergency the moment something goes wrong with
your motorcycle. In dealing with any mechanical problem, take
into account the road and traffic conditions you face. Here are
some guidelines that can help you handle mechanical problems
seldom hear a tire go flat. If the motorcycle starts handling
differently, it may be a tire failure. This can be dangerous.
You must be able to tell from the way the motorcycle reacts. If
one of your tires suddenly loses air, react quickly to keep your
balance. Pull off and check the tires.
If the front tire
goes flat, the steering will feel "heavy." A front-wheel flat is
particularly hazardous because it affects your steering. You
have to steer well to keep your balance.
If the rear tire
goes flat, the back of the motorcycle may jerk or sway from side
If either tire goes flat while riding:
Hold handlegrips firmly, ease off the throttle, and keep a
If braking is required, however, gradually apply the brake of
the tire that is not flat, if you are sure which one it is.
When the motorcycle slows, edge to the side of the road,
squeeze the clutch and stop.
Twist the throttle back and forth several times. If the
throttle cable is stuck, this may free it. If the throttle stays
stuck immediately operate the engine cut-off switch and pull in
the clutch at the same time. This will remove power from the
rear wheel, though engine noise may not immediately decline.
Once the motorcycle is "under control," pull off and stop.
After you have stopped, check the throttle cable carefully
to find the source of the trouble. Make certain the throttle
works freely before you start to ride again.
A "wobble" occurs when the front wheel
and handlebars start to shake suddenly from side to side at any
speed. Most wobbles can be traced to improper loading,
unsuitable accessories, or incorrect tire pressure. If you are
carrying a heavy load, lighten it. If you cannot, shift it.
Center the weight lower and farther forward on the motorcycle.
Make sure tire pressure, spring pre-load, air shocks, and
dampers are at the settings recommended for that much weight.
Make sure windshields and fairings are mounted property.
Check for poorly adjusted steering; worn steering parts; a front
wheel that is bent, misaligned, or out of balance; loose wheel
bearings or spokes; and swingarm bearings. If none of these are
determined to be the cause, have the motorcycle checked out
thoroughly by a qualified professional.
"accelerate out of a wobble" will only make the motorcycle more
Grip the handlebars firmly, but do not fight the wobble.
Close the throttle gradually to slow down. Do not apply the
brakes; braking could make the wobble worse.
Move your weight as far forward and down as possible.
Pull off the road as soon as you can to fix the problem.
A chain that slips or
breaks while you are riding could lock the rear wheel and cause
your cycle to skid. Chain slippage or breakage can be avoided by
Slippage - If the
chain slips when you try to speed up quickly or ride uphill,
pull off the road. Check the chain and sprockets. Tightening the
chain may help. If the problem is a worn or stretched chain or
worn or bent sprockets, replace the chain, the sprockets, or
both before riding again.
Breakage - You
will notice an instant loss of power to the rear wheel. Close
the throttle and brake to a stop.
When the engine "locks" or "freezes" it is usually low on
oil. The engine's moving parts cannot move smoothly against each
other, and the engine overheats. The first sign may be a loss of
engine power or a change in the engine's sound. Squeeze the
clutch lever to disengage the engine from the rear wheel. Pull
off the road and stop. Check the oil. If needed, oil should be
added as soon as possible or the engine will seize. When this
happens, the effect is the same as a locked rear wheel. Let the
engine cool before restarting.
Naturally, you should do everything you safely can to avoid
hitting an animal. If you are in traffic, however, remain in
your lane. Hitting something small is less dangerous to you than
hitting something big - like a car.
Motorcycles seem to
attract dogs. If you are chased, downshift and approach the
animal slowly. As you approach it, accelerate away and leave the
animal behind. Do not kick at an animal. Keep control of your
motorcycle, and look to where you want to go. For larger animals
(deer, elk, cattle) brake and prepare to stop, they are
From time to time riders are struck by insects, cigarettes
thrown from cars, or pebbles kicked up by the tires of the
vehicle ahead. If you are wearing face protection, it might get
smeared or cracked, making it difficult to see. Without face
protection, an object could hit you in the eye, face, or mouth.
Whatever happens, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on
the handlebars. When safe, pull off the road and repair the
GETTING OFF THE ROAD
you need to leave the road to check the motorcycle (or just to
rest for a while), be sure you:
Check the roadside - Make sure the surface of the roadside is
firm enough to ride on. If it is soft grass, loose sand, or if
you are just not sure about it, slow way down before you turn
Signal - Drivers behind might not expect you to slow down.
Give a clear signal that you will be slowing down and changing
direction. Check your mirror and make a head check before you
take any action.
Pull off the road - Get as far off the road as you can. It
can be very hard to spot a motorcycle by the side of the road.
You do not want someone else pulling off at the same place you
Park carefully - Loose and sloped shoulders can make setting
the side or center stand difficult.
PASSENGERS AND CARGO
Only experienced riders
should carry passengers or large loads. The extra weight changes
the way the motorcycle handles, balances, turns, speeds up, and
slows down. Before taking a passenger or heavy load on the
street, practice away from traffic.
To carry passengers safely:
Equip and adjust your motorcycle to carry passengers.
Instruct the passenger before you start.
Adjust your riding technique for the added weight.
Equipment should include:
A proper seat - large enough to hold both of you without
crowding. You should not sit any farther forward than you
Foot rests - for the passenger. Firm footing prevents your
passenger from falling off and pulling you off, too.
Protective equipment - the same protective gear recommended
Adjust the suspension to handle the
additional weight. You will probably need to add a few pounds of
pressure to the tires if you carry a passenger. (Check your
owner's manual for appropriate settings.) While your passenger
sits on the seat with you, adjust the mirror and headlight
according to the change in the motorcycle's angle.
Even if your
passenger is a motorcycle rider, provide complete instructions
before you start. Tell your passenger to:
Get on the motorcycle only after you have started the engine.
Sit as far forward as possible without crowding you.
Hold firmly to your waist, hips, or belt.
Keep both feet on the pegs, even when stopped.
Keep legs away from the muffler(s), chains or moving parts.
Stay directly behind you, leaning as you lean.
Avoid unnecessary talk or motion.
Also, tell your passenger to tighten his or her hold when
Approach surface problems.
Are about to start from a stop.
Warn that you will make a sudden move.
Your motorcycle will respond
more slowly with a passenger on board. The heavier your
passenger, the longer it will take to slow down, speed up, or
turn especially on a light motorcycle.
Ride a little slower, especially when taking curves, corners,
Start slowing earlier as you approach a stop.
Open up a larger cushion of space ahead and to the sides.
Wait for larger gaps to cross, enter, or merge in traffic.
Warn your passenger of special conditions - when you will
pull out, stop quickly, turn sharply, or ride over a bump. Turn
your head slightly to make yourself understood, but keep your
eyes on the road ahead.
Most motorcycles are not designed to carry much cargo. Small
loads can be carried safely it positioned and fastened properly.
Keep the Load Low - Fasten loads securely, or put them in
saddle bags. Piling loads against a sissybar or frame on the
back of the seat raises the motorcycle's center of gravity and
disturbs its balance.
Keep the Load Forward - Place the load over, or in front of,
the rear axle. Tank bags keep loads forward, but use caution
when loading hard or sharp objects. Make sure the tank bag does
not interfere with the handlebars or controls. Mounting loads
behind the rear axle can affect how the motorcycle turns and
brakes. It can also cause a wobble.
Distribute the Load Evenly - Load saddlebags with about the
same weight. An uneven load can cause the motorcycle to drift to
Secure the Load - Fasten the load securely with elastic cords
(bungee cords or nets). Elastic cords with more than one
attachment point per side are more secure. A tight load will not
catch in the wheel or chain, causing it to lock up and skid.
Rope tends to stretch and knots come loose, permitting the load
to shift or fall.
Check the Load - Stop and check the load every so often to
make sure it has not worked loose or moved.
If you ride with others, do it in a way
that promotes safety and doesn't interfere with the flow of
KEEP THE GROUP SMALL
Small groups make it easier and safer for car drivers who need
to get around them. A small number isn't separated as easily by
traffic or red lights. Riders will not always be hurrying to
catch up. If your group is larger than four or five riders,
divide it up into two or more smaller groups.
KEEP THE GROUP TOGETHER
Plan - The leader should look ahead for road changes and
signal early so "the word gets back" in plenty of time. Start
lane changes early to permit everyone to complete the change.
Put Beginners Up Front - Place inexperienced riders just
behind the leader. That way the more experienced riders can
watch them from the back.
Follow Those Behind - Let the tailender set the pace. Use
your mirrors to keep an eye on the person behind. If a rider
falls behind, everyone should slow down a little to stay with
Know the Route - Make sure everyone knows the route. Then, if
someone is separated they will not have to hurry to keep from
getting lost or taking a wrong turn. Plan frequent stops on long
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
Maintain close ranks but at the same time keep a safe distance
to allow each rider in the group time and space to react to
hazards. A close group takes up less space on the highway, is
easier to see and is less likely to be separated. However, it
must be done properly.
Don't Pair Up - Never operate
directly alongside another rider. There is no place to go if you
have to avoid a car or something on the road. To talk, wait
until you are both stopped.
is the best way to keep ranks close yet maintain an adequate
space cushion. The leader rides in the left side of the lane,
while the second rider stays one second behind in the right side
of the lane.
A third rider maintains in the left
position, two seconds behind the first rider. The fourth rider
would keep a two-second distance behind the second rider. This
formation keeps the group close and permits each rider a safe
distance from others ahead, behind and to the sides.
Passing in Formation - Riders in a staggered formation should
pass one at a time.
First, the lead rider should pull out and pass when it is
safe. After passing, the leader should return to the left
position and continue riding at passing speed to open room for
the next rider.
After the first rider passes safely, the second rider should
move up to the left position and watch for a safe chance to
pass. After passing, this rider should return to the right
position and open up room for the next rider.
suggest the leader should move to the right side after passing a
vehicle. This is not a good idea. It encourages the second rider
to pass and cut back in before there is a large enough space
cushion in front of the passed vehicle. It is simpler and safer
to wait until there is enough room ahead of the passed vehicle
to allow each rider to move into the same position held before
It is best to move into a single-file formation when riding
curves, turning, entering or leaving a highway.