There is an increase in the number of motorbikes and scooters on British roads, and a growing trend for bikers to choose more powerful machines. As a result of this there has been an increase in the number of motorcyclists that have been hurt on Britain's roads in recent years.
It is extremely important to ensure that you wear the correct clothing whilst out riding, as unlike driving a car, there is nothing else to protect you from injury in the event of an accident.
What protective clothing can I wear?
- A helmet: by law you must wear a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle on the road. If your helmet gets severely damaged, you should buy a new one
- A jacket: preferably a long sleeved jacket, which fits closely around the waist.
- Trousers: preferably long trousers to protect you from the hot parts of the bike and to offer protection if you fall.
- Gloves: full finger gloves to help maintain control of the bike, and to protect your hands should you fall off and slide across the road surface.
- Visor/goggles: to ensure good visibility is maintained and to protect the eyes from dust, wind and debris.
- Footwear: it's important to wear good footwear when you ride a motorcycle. If you wear sandals or trainers your feet will have little protection if you fall off.
It's a good idea to get clothing with armour at points which are most vulnerable in an accident. For example:
You need to be visible to other road users at all times. Remember you need to be visible from the side as well as from the front and back.
Improving your visibility in daylight
- Wear fluorescent clothing
- Wear a light or brightly coloured helmet
- Wearing brightly coloured clothing
- Riding with your headlamp on dipped beam.
Improving your visibility in the dark
To improve visibility in the dark you need to wear reflective clothing or strips. They work by reflecting the light from headlamps of other vehicles. This makes you much more visible from a long distance away.
General riding advice
- Be careful on bends and don't overtake if you can't see the road ahead
- Learn how to handle the power of the motorbike
- Learn to brake properly without going over the handlebars, as a motorbike's stopping power is nearly all in the front wheel. Equally don't use the back brakes alone as this can cause the bike to skid.
- Wear protective clothing
- Ensure the bike is safe to ride
- Don't do anything outside your own capabilities or take unnecessary risks
- Don't succumb to peer pressure when riding in groups
- Don't ride if you feel tired or unwell.
If you do carry a passenger, check that the bike has a suitable seat with foot pegs. Make sure the suspension is adjusted for the extra weight.
If you ride as a passenger on a motorbike remember the following:
- Wear appropriate clothing
- Keep feet on the footpegs
- Try to sit as still as possible
- Always lean with the angle of the motorcycle
- If you are nervous about riding, it's probably better not to.
Riding in cold and wet weather
Be prepared for the weather to change - take waterproof clothing and screen wipes in case it rains. Being wet and uncomfortable while you are riding can distract you from hazards on the road.
When riding in very cold weather your hands and feet can become painfully cold. No matter how good your gloves or boots, the cold will eventually get through.
Electrically heated motorcycle accessories
If you are serious about motorcycling in cold weather you should consider buying electrically heated inner gloves or electrically heated handlebar grips.
These accessories put a large demand on your motorcycle's electrical generator. You should check that it can cope with the extra demands before you buy and fit them.
There is a disturbing statistic that 50% of bikes that are stolen have been left unlocked. It’s stating the obvious, but the more you do to make your bike secure, the less likely it is to be stolen.
Here are some tips to make your bike more secure:
- Use an additional form of security such as a good lock and chain, brake disc lock and a good alarm and immobiliser system.
- Consider fitting a paging alarm that alerts by SMS you when your bike is under attack. Using a talking alarm instead of sirens is also effective in discouraging thieves, as is installing a GPS tracking system.
- Don't leave your bike on show. If you have a garage at home, then get into the habit of using it and make sure your garage is securely locked and alarmed.
- Don't leave your bike keys in an easy to find place in the house.
- When you do have to park in public, choose a street or area that is well lit, where your bike can be seen and where you can lock your bike to a grounded anchor. Carry a bike cover which covers the whole bike.
- Mark your bike. These improve the chances of your bike being returned to you and can help the police make a successful prosecution. Make sure you use a secure marking system that is approved by the motorbike insurance provider that you choose.
- Brake disc locks may deter opportunists and joy riders, but professional thieves are simply going to pick the bike up and put it in the back of a van within a few seconds. A ‘U’ lock attached to a grounded anchor is a safer option and will take more effort to break.
Stability is the main difference between a car and a bike (only two wheels). The bike needs to be in top operating condition to ensure safety. Before setting off it's essential to check the following:
- Oil and fluids - Check brake, coolant and clutch fluid levels and of course petrol. Also check the hoses, lines and reservoirs for leaks.
- Controls - Check all levers, control cables and hoses to make sure they are in good working order and will not interfere when riding the bike. In addition, make sure that your throttle moves freely.
- Lights and electrics - Make sure the battery terminals are clean, electrolyte fluid is sufficient and the battery is properly secured. Check that all the lights work properly and that there are no cracks in them. Check the routing of wires and beware of frayed or cracked wires.
- Chassis - Check condition of the frame, forks and shocks. Check the chain or belt for tension, lubrication and wear. Ensure all the fasteners, bolts and cotter pins are in place and not broken, loose or missing.
- Tyres - Check for proper inflation as under inflation will wear the sides of the tyres, whereas over inflation will wear the middle of the tyres. Also check that there are no foreign bodies embedded in the tread. Remember a flat tyre is a major problem on a bike as there is no spare.
If you believe that something is not operating properly, don't ride the bike.