Health & Safety

November 30, 2012

The little things mean a lot to safe motorcycle riding

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — (Editor’s note: Master Sgt. Jason W. Edwards, 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, contributed to the writing of this article.)

Little things mean a lot. It’s a phrase we have all grown up with, and probably, take for granted. Motorcyclists can’t afford, from a safety standpoint, to take anything for granted. When things go wrong on a motorcycle they go wrong in a hurry, often with painful or fatal results.

Little thing No. 1: Head Position. Head position is paramount when riding a motorcycle. Generally speaking, where the head is pointed the hands and body will follow. This sets the stage for everything a motorcyclist does; from handling, to throttle position, to braking, and to decision making.

One of the greatest advantages we humans have is that as one of the greater primates we’re sight driven.. We gather most of our data about our surroundings using our eyes. Simply put, it’s harder to make a decision about a situation if it can’t be seen. You can’t see a situation if you don’t have your nugget at least up and scanning the path of travel. Look where you want to go, and don’t get fixated on a target you don’t want to hit Even in curves or turns, looking through the anticipated path of travel will heighten the decision making process. Keeping the head up while braking may seem like an afterthought, but it is just as important as looking through turns. A motorcycle, due to its lighter overall weight, will stop faster than just about anything else on the road. It’s important for a motorcyclist to scan for possible escape routes, just in case the other driver doesn’t see you in time.

Little thing No. 2: Throttle/Clutch Control. In a car or truck, “mashing the gas” will result in little more than an abrupt accumulation of speed, there’s not much in the way of drama or upsetting the vehicle. The same act on a motorcycle will greatly influence the dynamics of the vehicle. Either the rear tire will turn into a centrifuge worthy of NASA, or the motorcycle will suddenly have a profile similar to that of the Statue of Liberty. Adding a low-traction surface (gravel, oil, etc) could result in a horizontal rather than upright body position. Deliberate and smooth application of the throttle, coordinated with the clutch, will result in much more favorable results. Find the motorcycle’s friction zone the point in the clutch travel where the engine engages the rear tire, and apply steady throttle from that point. If the tire sticks, continue to apply throttle while releasing the clutch and away you go. If there is rear tire slippage, adjust the amount of throttle being applied as required.

Little thing No. 3: Being mentally ready to ride. Have you ever been tired or had a lot on your mind, gotten home and have no idea how you got there? It’s not a good thing. Keeping the mind as distraction-free as possible should result in being able to better manage little things no. 1 and 2. A distraction-free mind allows one to take in the data gathered from keeping the head up, looking in the anticipated path of travel, evaluating the current or developing situation and executing the formulated course of action. As a motorcyclist, it is better to utilize superior judgment than to have to demonstrate superior skill.

These three little things are an important foundation for safe riding. As you gain riding experience you will develop more safety tips that suit your personal riding style. The biggest little thing for any rider is to never discount the effectiveness and importance of the basics.




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