How to stay safe on your motorbike
A combination of the pandemic and fuel hikes has affected almost all bikers on some level; for some it’s meant cutting your riding opportunities to essential journeys only, for others it’s meant staying off the bike altogether. Then there are those who have used the time to get back to two wheels after years or even decades away by recommissioning an old bike or buying a new one.
This will mean that there are likely to be a lot of motorcycle riders out and about this summer who are… a little rusty. Here’s a guide to help minimise your chance of an accident as you get back to biking.
It’s the most boring part of the process, but arguably the most important; make sure your documents are all up-to-date including your motorcycle insurance. If you’ve been away for a long time, you’ll be starting from scratch so make sure you shop around for the best price. Get the most comprehensive policy you can afford and check that everything you need is covered.
If you’ve had the bike tucked away for longer than usual, you may have dropped your cover to third party, fire and theft so consider whether you want to go back up to a higher level before you hit the open road.
Once your insurance is sorted, make sure you’ve got a valid MoT certificate for your bike and that your VED is paid up.
A clean bill of health for your bike
If your bike has been laid up for longer than usual, perform a visual check. There are enough potential dangers from other road users out there, you don’t need your own bike to be another! Check the tyres for wear or damage and top up the pressures where necessary.
Give the brakes a good squeeze and check they’re still free and working properly. Make sure your fluid levels are all correct and that your chain is properly lubricated and adjusted.
Doing all of this a few days before your intended first ride will take the pressure off, allowing you to be more thorough and also give you time to address any issues you may discover. If in doubt, get booked in with a professional mechanic for a service.
Check your kit
Many returning bikers still have their old kit tucked away in the back of a wardrobe or in the loft and getting back to biking will give you the perfect opportunity to dust it off. But be really honest with yourself about whether the kit you have will keep you safe if you have a spill.
UK law requires that you wear a helmet, so that’s a given, but if it’s 20-years-old and you dropped it that time when you moved house, get a new one.
There is a lot of good and reasonably inexpensive kit out there these days and, provided it has the correct safety rating, you can bag a real bargain. This stuff has the potential to save you from a fatal accident, after all.
If you splash out on some more expensive clobber, a lot of insurers have the option to add helmet and leathers cover to your policy for a little extra, so check that out.
Start on your own
Even the most experienced riders can get caught up in the excitement of riding with others. If you can, it’s probably best to take your first run out on your own. It removes any potential risk of peer pressure or competition creeping into your riding.
Make a concerted effort to ride defensively, give other vehicles on the road time and space to see you and keep out of car drivers’ blind spots.
If you can’t fit in a solo trip on your own before a group ride, just go at your own pace. There’s no shame in taking it easy as you reacclimatise. Riding safely is far more important than riding fast and there’s no trophies awarded at the end of a Sunday ride out anyway. The chances are your riding buddies will be rusty too and you don’t want to follow them into an accident.
If you normally carry a pillion it is worth a quick ride without them to get used to the bike first without the extra weight and responsibility. If you’re returning from a longer break, make sure your insurance covers carrying a pillion, too.
Build up slowly
Bike fitness is a big deal and can’t be gained in the gym. The specific muscles you need for the job will take a while to build back up and taking on a massive trip too soon will lead to a negative experience. Start small – up to about an hour, perhaps – and then build it up over time.
It’s not just your physical fitness that will need time to adjust, either. Life happens at a higher speed in the saddle and your eyesight, reactions and concentration levels will likely need time to get ready for longer stints. Don’t be surprised to feel pretty shattered after that first hour-long ride.
Taking things slowly also applies to your literal speed on the road. Your riding skills will have diminished over time and if you’ve bought a new bike you will need to get used to that too. Just because you used to take your favourite sweeping bend flat stick on your CB400F in 1979 doesn’t mean you can on your new bike with twice the power now.
Treat every road as a new road
Most of us have little routes and stretches of road we know better than any other but as you ease back into life on two wheels, take every road as if you don’t know it. There might be a new pothole in the middle of your preferred line, or a traffic calming measure you weren’t expecting where you used to brake.
Even if you’ve been driving a car on the same routes since you last rode, the lines you take, speeds you can carry and the potential for a drain cover or new road surface to cause issues is completely different.
Do an advanced riding course
Not only will taking an advanced course give you the chance to hone your skills with a professional and pick up new motorcycle safety tips, it could also save you money on your bike insurance. There are plenty of options out there and so you will be able to find a course near you.
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