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The tips on Motorcycle Safety

So, you are in the saddle of a motorcycle. Now your fate is in your own hands, or in your fingertips, to be exact. What's the way to live through it and stay alive, not to become a disabled person? I'll try to give you some tips, proved by my own experience and the experience of many other riders like you.

First and foremost, it's a must to get used to road regulations, because keeping the rules is 90% of your safety, both physical and legislative aspects in mind. Some riders are sure the road regulations do not imply the crudeness of life, so they think not only can they but they must not follow the rules. I won't argue but I cannot remember a single road accident in which both sides involved were right and followed the regulations.

A motorcycle is not just a friend or a buzz toy, it's also one of the most dangerous vehicles, which is why it's essential to learn two things to avoid possible consequences of that danger:

  1. The skills of handling the bike in different situations and road conditions;
  2. Attentiveness or thoughtfulness.

Why is the attentiveness important? When riding off your garage, you're entering the world where anyone and anything might be considered as relative enemies: moving and motionless vehicles, pedestrians and dogs. Any collision may result in sad consequences, while they may not catch sight of you, create situation of emergency on purpose, or just be off their guard or loose the handling.

Before you are off for a ride you must check the general condition of your bike: pressure in the tires, oil, to inspect the bike if even briefly – whether a nut's loose or there's any leakage. Do not disregard the protection. The knee and elbow sliders, back protection belt, “tortoise-shell”, motorcycling boots can help you to avoid serious injuries. When falling off the bike at 5 kmh the skin of your palms will be left on the asphalt surface if you do not wear gloves. It could be even worse for your head if you do not ride wearing a helmet, moreover the helmet must be fastened. Besides, you may well catch a fly, dung-beetle or a rock with your eye. If you are after flashiness, feel free to ride without a helmet.

According to the statistical reports, most of the road accidents, which involve motorcyclists, happen when a driver of a car coming in the opposite direction takes a left turn. While doing that, he/she can't see you. To make sure they can see you from afar you should always ride with dimmed lights turned on. Having said that, I'd like to address those who fancy upper beam: when the driver is blinded via rear-sight mirrors he/she cannot estimate your lane position and the distance to you. By the way, it's more effective to attract the attention when you are flashing with upper beam, which is hard to perform when you are riding with upper beam switched on all the time. Train yourself to usage of the horn. Should you be in a blind spot, and/or you suspect the passing by cars cannot see you, or if you feel like an oncoming car is going to take a left-hander, let them know you are on the road as well – honk, and make sure they noticed you. I am not calling upon for giving up the practice of riding in-between the lanes, but you should be careful at the utmost. Moreover, when investigating the road accident if that's the outcome, you'll appear to be the perpetrator by all means. But I do call upon for behaving yourself, avoiding crashing the mirrors, giving the finger, etc., as it might echo back to you or the two-wheeled brotherhood. Next time the offended car enthusiast may push you off to the roadside or even worse – to the oncoming lane.

Your speed in a clogged traffic must not exceed the speed of the traffic by more than 10-20 kmh. The same rule is true when you bypass the jam using the roadside or the oncoming lane. The classical example of the road accident is the following: a motorcyclist bumps into the car, which was waiting in a jam motionlessly, but then the driver decided to take a U-turn or drive to an oncoming lane suddenly right in front of the speeding motorcyclist. Having said that, one should remember that both a roadside and a dividing lane can be covered with sand, and it's a problem to brake on that sort of surface. If the vehicles are at idle, be prepared that a door of the car you are going to overtake might be opened all of a sudden, and a kid or a dog may spring out. You should stick to such a speed that could provide you with the time necessary to stop the bike. If you were riding with a pillion, your braking distance would be increased significantly. Everything you must know about the braking is given at www.fireworks.ru/moto/rear_braking.htm

Keep in mind, you are not the only motorcyclist in the world, and you cannot know what's in the heads of other riders, which is why you must always keep an eye on the traffic behind you. Learn to make eyes at rear-sight mirrors not only when maneuvering, but every other 5 or 10 seconds just in case, even while standing at crossroads. When riding off the lights one should keep in mind there's an unwritten rule in Russia: at yellow light a driver steps on it, not brakes. It's not a rare situation when hard-accelerating from the lights a rider bumps into the car, which couldn't cross the road in time.

Anyway, once you are in the saddle and about to start the ride, you should be very careful and not feel relaxed if even for a minute – the enemies are everywhere. When in town your fingers should be placed at the levers of the clutch and brake. When maneuvering learn to control the blind spot turning you head. While doing that, remember about “chess-players”, who can change several lanes at a time, so do not be lazy to check not just the lane you're moving to, but the lane next to it as well. If the road you're riding along is free, you'd better ride in the middle, especially at the end of the slope, providing the place for maneuver in case anyone driving in front of you decides to make a U-turn. It's recommended to train yourself to exploiting the periphery eyesight: look in front of yourself without turning your head from side to side and try to include in your field of vision as many vehicles as you can. You shouldn't stay in a blind spot of a car for too long – they may occasionally hit you with their side. Pay attention if there're mirrors on the car moving in front of you, and make sure the driver can see you. When moving behind a car at a short interval, you should be in a position providing: 1) you don't hit an obstacle the car driver can let through between the wheels, and 2) you can view the road in front of that car. It's better to avoid riding behind the trucks at all, as stones may be pushed out from under the wheels or dirt and sand may be run out of the load platform. Sometimes an airflow behind the truck rises above the surface a metal plate or a sheet of plywood.

Try not to be provoked by some of the four-wheel Schumachers. Remember you can't be relaxed in town; you'll be concentrated on the racing style, you're riding hard and maneuvering quickly, the combination of the factors is fraught with danger. You shouldn't underestimate the thrill-seekers on all-out Bimmers and Mercedes' – many of them are able to maneuver well at speeds of 200 kmh and higher, while a motorcycle has a limited ability for maneuvering at such speeds. Let them go, the lamp pole is yet in store for them. If they are trying to push you off the road or make you stop in clearly unfriendly manner, do not try to run away exceeding your limits – the agility and ability of a bike is significantly higher at low speeds. It's easier to stop and to be off at the most of the motorcycles compared to the most of the cars.

Generally speaking, the impudence and impunity of our four-wheel “sworn friends” is inconceivable. Often they rush in from side roads, speeding and trying to take up the left lane, or they can dive into the right one all of a sudden. You should be at alert in such situations. Try to avoid maneuvering when on such parts of the road, even though you're riding down the main road. Sometimes they try to jam you, and you have no chance but got stuck in the traffic. Sometimes they do it deliberately. If that's the case, honk. The louder the horn the better.

You shouldn't overestimate your abilities and the abilities of your motorcycle. The novice riders are inclined to it in particular. They might think that if they've been riding for a season or two with no problems, now they can do anything, and any thing can do well. The falls and accidents are happened to all of us sooner or later. I don't believe every motorcyclist who passed away thought he had been unskillful. I'd like to remind you, that a motorcycle itself isn't a perfect faultless machine. In the most inappropriate situation, say, while overtaking on the oncoming lane of a tight road, the engine might cut out, a tire get punctured, etc.

A couple of words about the road surface. The higher is the temperature of the asphalt and rubber the better is the grip. For the exception of such heat when asphalt starts melting. When riding in cold conditions you should be very careful, even if the road is dry and clean. If the surface is wet, you should bear in mind that the difference of grip coefficients at different types of surface becomes more significant. In the wet the best grip is on the roads with old rough asphalt, the worst grip is on the roads with newly-laid smooth asphalt. The plastic road marks, bitumen patches, manholes and other metal surfaces do not provide a grip at all. When crossing streetcar (tram) rails, try to cross them at an obtuse angle, especially in the wet. The most slippery asphalt is in the very beginning of rain when a dirt film forms on the surface. Right after the rain, when the road dried, there's a lot of sand on the surface. Be careful when entering the turns with poor or blocked visibility, as you may occasionally ride along on an oil spot or hydrochloric acid splashed out of the tank of a truck.

Of course, we try to avoid collisions and accidents always, but if the accident is inevitable, then there're things to remember. When front collision or when the bike hit the car side, the motorcyclist can jump out of the bike easily. The most important thing is not to be afraid to perform that. Let's take the following example. You are riding at the green light, when suddenly notice a car speeding from the side road. You can estimate that your trajectories would be crossed or the car would stop blocking your way. What are you supposed to do? First, you shouldn't speed up when passing the crossroads, especially when the visibility is poor. Second, if you don't have time to stop the bike, don't panic, better try to change your trajectory so that the damage could be minimized. When breaking hard the ability for maneuver is low. But you've got a little time to vary your trajectory a bit so that, for instance, the bike would hit hood or trunk instead of a body, or taking into account the road traffic you would be pushed in the direction of the roadside instead of the oncoming lane. If a car is speeding out of an alley or a gateway, try to bypass it from the front of it instead of from behind. The car driver would notice you and brake hard, so you would have the chance to either bypass the car or at least to bump into and jump over the hood instead of hitting the side body. If they are jamming you in the traffic, and the collision is inevitable, try to hit the delinquent, otherwise he/she would run away, and you would be left to resolve the accident with the victim. If you have to fall down the bike on one side, you should be in a hurry to retrieve your leg from the side of falling. When you are falling because of the front wheel sliding off, it's hard to estimate which side you're gonna fall, and it would appear impossible to recollect the moment of your falling down. While the sliding with the bike down the surface you should tend to push the bike away from yourself. I think everyone knows the right way to fall down. For those who don't know: when falling you should tuck, protect the head with your arms, then stretch out while on your back, with your arms apart and your legs moving into the direction of sliding of the bike.

The pedestrians are another cup of tea. For a motorcyclist a pedestrian is a large biological object provided with the rights and deprived of any responsibilities. If you hit a pedestrian, even at the part of the road, where the pedestrian hasn't been supposed to show off, pray God he/she was drunk or has no relatives working in power entities, but the most important thing is that the person wouldn't die because of your “help”. If there's a pedestrian in the field of your sight, and you think he/she is going to cross the road, then you must think as if he/she is going to rush right under your wheels. Generally, the pedestrians cannot estimate the speed of the oncoming motorcycle, and cannot understand you are actually moving twice a speed they think you are. You must draw their attention in any way: by honking, changing gears, turning on the lights – it helps them to estimate the situation the way you do. Preferably your speed should provide you with enough time for braking or maneuvering. The road regulations read “to slow down right up to a stop”. Sometimes when the speed is high enough, and the pedestrian is crossing the road already, he/she is starting to rush about from side to side. Then you shouldn't rush about yourself, copying his/her convulsions. Take the initiative in your own hands: stick to the direction you think is better to bypass him/her and turn on the corresponding turn-indicator. In 99% of the situations the pedestrian wouldn't like to part with his/her life under the wheels of your bike, so he/she would jump aside in the opposite direction instinctively. Though there's 1% of freaks that may stand on the road, at unexpected location, at night, far away from any settlements, with their arms apart… Wish you never meet that freak when riding, but you should be prepared for such a meeting.

Dogs are dangerous as well, though to the less degree. It's a good idea to use your horn. Also if you are being attacked by the dogs, a good honking might work well.

The last thing is drinking. The tests of the mag “Za Rulyom” (“Behind the Wheel”) proved that a small amount of alcohol strengthen the feeling of responsibility, stimulate the reaction, etc. But, which makes one blue, when you're involved in a road accident having drunk that “small amount”, you are in trouble anyway.

Special thanks to everyone, who sent me the examples of their accident situations on the road.

Original text: Student

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