From the day you purchase your first motorcycle, you enter an exciting new world of experiences, equipment, gadgets, and technology. Being a motorcycle owner is about so much more than planning your next adventure. It’s also about learning to keep your bike in peak condition, selecting the right protective and safety gear, organizing insurance, tackling hazards on the road, and dealing with a host of other challenges.
But every challenge is also an opportunity to learn something new and become a better bike owner and handler. So, dive in and start learning.
Attack of Tiredness
Tiredness kills! This applies equally to those who drive cars, trucks, or motorcycles. If you’re heading out on a long journey, be sure to take regular breaks at a rest area or even just on the side of the road. Caffeine can help if you are really tired. A good rule of thumb is to take a break at least every 30-45 miles.
While it’s possible for brakes to suddenly malfunction, the more common scenario is that brakes wear out gradually over time. This means that riders usually receive some warning that the brakes may be due for a service or a change. Never ignore any brake changes such as taking longer to come to a stop, less responsiveness, or brake warning lights.
Infrequent bike usage might mean less wear and tear on brakes and tires, but irregular riding has its downsides too. If you only ride on the weekend or in certain seasons, or if you clock less than 25 miles a week, your bike’s mechanical parts could suffer. When a bike isn’t used regularly, gas can become stale and clog up the internal parts. Add a fuel-stabilizing formulation to your gas tank to tackle this problem.
The smaller size of the motorcycle makes it harder for other vehicles to gauge how far away the bike is and how fast it is traveling. Assume that drivers on the road are not accurately assessing your bike’s speed or proximity to them and drive extra cautiously when close to cars.
With fuel costs on the rise around the world, you’ll want to keep your fuel consumption as low as possible without compromising your ride. There are a number of things you can do to keep your bike fuel-efficient:
- Ride your bike at average speeds as much as you can
- Shift gears properly at each change
- Regularly change your engine oil
- Tune your carburetor often (or get someone to do it for you)
- Book a professional service at least twice a year
Your fingers can get sore or cramped when constantly hovering around the brakes. If this is a problem for you, explore different brake handles and try to find one that offers a more relaxed handling
Choosing good riding gear can seem like a job in and of itself simply because there is so much choice. Be aware that quality varies enormously between manufacturers. Look for safety certifications and read reviews to help you decide. When selecting clothing such as jackets, gloves, riding pants, and boots keep the three “F’s” in mind: Fit, Function, and Fashion. Remember, the nicest-looking riding outfit won’t do its job if it fits badly or is of poor quality.
Driving a motorcycle is a responsibility at all times but even more so if you’re riding in hazardous conditions. While it’s preferable to find another mode of transportation in storms, hurricanes, or blizzards, sometimes you can’t avoid using your bike. Always pay attention to weather reports and be extra careful if you need to ride in harsh climates. Equally, keep an eye out for surprising hazards on the road such as potholes, loose gravel, and oil slicks.
Motorcycle insurance is not just a simple matter of signing on the dotted line and paying up. There’s an enormous array of coverage types including:
- bodily injury liability coverage
- property damage liability coverage
- medical payments coverage
- personal injury protection
- collision coverage
- comprehensive coverage
- uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage
- towing and labor coverage
Before you purchase insurance, read up about the different types of coverage and work out what is right for you. A competent insurance agent should be able to advise you.
Just So Much Dust!
Dust in your eyes while riding can impair vision, set off allergies and sneezing, and cause accidents. To protect yourself, keep the visor of your motorcycle helmet down or wear goggles or sunglasses to shield your eyes. Polarized lenses can provide better visibility in sunny conditions.
Know Your Limits
Many motorcycle accidents are caused by the rider’s lack of skills, or high-risk driving behaviors, such as swerving in and out of lanes, and not paying attention to road conditions. You may be an experienced rider but you are not invincible. Keep your riding skills up to date by taking courses and practicing on quiet roads. Never perform maneuvers that you are not sure you can complete safely.
Over time and with frequent use, the bike’s chain loses lubrication. An insufficiently lubricated chain can break or slip, resulting in a skid or even an accident. Make sure your bike’s chain is well lubricated and pulled to the proper degree of tension before each ride.
You know your bike better than anyone else. Malfunctions can occur from one minute to the next and design or manufacturing defects can result in problems further down the line. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and get it checked out. This could be anything from a wheel wobbling at high speeds, to the indicator lights not working. While making time to get your bike checked can be a pain, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
No Perspiration Please!
Motorcycle helmets can be hot and heavy and some riders suffer terribly from sweating, especially on a hot day. Forgoing your helmet is never a good idea so, if perspiration is your problem, look for a lighter style helmet with excellent ventilation.
If you like to head out on long road trips, or even if you use your bike for the daily commute, the lack of onboard storage can be an issue. If you need to carry a lot of stuff when on your bike, there are luggage boxes and bags on the market to suit a variety of needs.
As a passionate rider, you naturally want to share the thrill with others but you need to plan ahead if you’re going to let others ride with you. Make sure you have a spare helmet and some basic protective gear to offer your passenger. Also be aware, that riding with a passenger is not the same as riding solo. A bike with an extra passenger is heavier and won’t steer as nimbly or brake as responsively. Ride extra carefully until you have mastered the technique of carrying passengers.
Quit Being Bugged by Insects
Getting a bug in your eye or mouth while riding your motorcycle is not only unpleasant, it is dangerous too – especially if the bug blurs your vision or sets off a coughing fit. Bugs can cause riders to lose control and get into accidents. Fortunately, your helmet visor offers good protection. If you want to lift the visor on a hot day, don’t leave your eyes unguarded and use motorcycle goggles instead.
Remedy Your Tracking
Have you ever noticed that your bike tends to pull a little too much to one side or the other? This is a sign that your bike is not tracking straight – one of the most common reasons bikes are taken to the garage. If your bike is having tracking problems, check the wheel alignment. Also, look out for loose wheel spokes (if you have spokes) and check that the steering head, wheel bearing, or swingarm hasn’t come loose. If you’re not sure how to do this, take the bike to a garage.
Scale Up Your Skills
The more experienced you are at riding, the more skilled you become but experience can be a double-edged sword. As you clock up the riding years, you may get lazy and develop bad habits. Taking a motorcycle safety course or advanced skills course every few years can keep your memory fresh and ensure you stick to good practices. If you have difficulty with a particular maneuver, practice in an empty parking lot or on a quiet road until you feel more confident.
Tramlining happens when a bike’s tires follow a groove in the road – kind of like how a tram is forced to follow the tracks. It can be very scary for a rider, especially if the bike enters an unintended trajectory. If your bike tramlines when you’re riding, don’t panic and follow these instructions:
- Don’t make any sudden movements like accelerating or decelerating
- Try to maintain a constant speed
- Don’t force a direction change
- Try not to load the front tire
- Look straight ahead – the moment you look down at the grooves, you can lose your nerve
Unfortunate Aches and Pains
Backache is a common problem for riders who clock up the miles. Riding posture and bike design can influence whether you experience back pain or not. If you know you have back problems, try out different bikes to find one that’s ergonomically suited to you. Choose a saddle with moderately soft padding – too much softness or hardness can exacerbate back problems. You can also purchase a specialized aftermarket seat for superior comfort and back health.
Motorcycles are among the hardest vehicles to spot on the road. Don’t rely on car drivers to look out for you – in most cases, they don’t. In 66 percent of motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle, the driver of the vehicle violated the motorcyclist’s right-of-way and caused the accident. Cover your back by being extra careful around cars, especially at intersections which is where 70 percent of motorcycle versus car collisions occur. Also be aware, that you are even harder to spot in rainy and foggy conditions, or where there is low light such as at dusk. Make yourself more visible by wearing a bright riding jacket or helmet or other reflective or fluorescent gear.
Weaving in and Out
One of the advantages of motorcycles, particularly in towns and cities, is their ability to weave through traffic. Tempting as it is to do this, it is far safer to stay in lane, particularly in heavier traffic. Remember, you’re not the only one who wants to get from A to B as fast as possible. At any moment, a car that’s close by might suddenly decide to change lanes – and then you could be in trouble.
While you can’t beat cruising down a scenic road on your motorcycle in good weather, the pleasure quickly fades when the heavens decide to pour down rain or the sun begins to beat down fiercely. Bikes do not come with air conditioning and climate control features like cars, so the best way to tackle excessive heat, cold, or rain when on your motorcycle is to buy appropriate gear for each weather condition.
You Can’t See
Blind spots are a driver’s worst nightmare. The blind spot refers to areas around a vehicle that are both outside the driver’s visual field and the mirror’s range. When you’re driving in someone’s blind spot, they can’t see you, and collisions are much more likely. Given their smaller size, blind spots are more of a danger for bikes than they are for cars. While you can’t know for sure when you’re in someone’s blind spot, a good practice is to try and ride in front or behind other vehicles as much as you can, rather than alongside them.
It can happen to even the best, most cautious drivers. You get so caught up in the beautiful scenery around you that your mind goes elsewhere and you completely zone out. This can be extremely dangerous when you are driving a motorcycle – it’s important to make sure you stay focused on the road and what’s around you even while taking in the beautiful sights.
Over to You
Motorcycling isn’t without its challenges but most of these are easily overcome if you educate yourself and learn how best to respond. Now that you have a deeper understanding of some of the most common biking challenges and their remedies, get out and enjoy your motorcycle with renewed confidence.