Motorcycle Safety Month: Are you ready to ride
Thursday, 11 May 2017
By Robert Johnson
Public Affairs Office

It happened in a flash. I was on my motorcycle on my morning commute. It was the same route I had taken hundreds of times, and my mind wasn’t on the ride, but the day’s training with my unit.

 In an instant, a car ahead of me without brake lights stopped in the highway. I veered quickly to my right and into a convenient store parking lot, plowing into a pile of mulch bags.

 Thrown from my motorcycle, I managed to skip like a stone on a pond across the asphalt. Still running, my bike managed to scrape itself from fender to fender.

 I was lucky. Besides some scrapes and bruises, tears in my uniform and gashes in my helmet, the only real damage to me was my pride. My bike was trashed with bent handlebars, torn seat, dented gas tank and shift lever that could double as a kickstand.

 I wasn’t a novice on a bike. I had my first motorcycle when I was 10 years old and had progressively over the years increased the bikes I rode from 50cc to the big twin 1000cc I had just laid down. I had taken the division’s motorcycle safety course along with passing motorcycle tests in Ohio and Louisiana.  

 I had all the right gear: helmet, leather boots over the ankles, gloves and reflective vest, but I made one major mistake — I got complacent.

 Riding a motorcycle requires a great deal more concentration and the ability to be more aware of your surroundings than driving a car or truck. While I would never say driving a car is perfectly safe, I will say riding a motorcycle is infinitely more dangerous. You have to be aware of road conditions more than driving.

 A bug on the windshield isn’t that big of a deal, but a bumblebee up a loose sleeve on a motorcycle is panic time.

 With May being Motorcycle Safety Month, one should plan accordingly when deciding to take to the highways on two wheels. First, make sure you have all the right protective gear. Helmet, gloves, leather shoes over the ankles and long sleeves are mandatory.

 Other tips to keep safe on your bike come from Consumer Reports. They suggest the following to improve your safety on a motorcycle:

 — Never buy more motorcycle than you can handle. The bigger the engine the more torque, speed and weight, but those three can work against a novice rider. And buy a bike that fits you. If you can’t touch the ground without your feet flat on the earth, your bike may be too big for you.

 —  Watch the weather. A light rain may be fine for a ride, but it makes the roadways slick, and a heavy rain earlier can wash gravel onto the pavement. And while a side wind can push my Ram 1500 around, it can really cause problems on a Sportster.

 —  Be defensive. Drivers don’t always see you and those who do sometimes don’t realize how close they are to the bike. Drivers also do dumb things, like pull out in front of bikes, make turns without signals and stop unexpectedly in front of you. A study by the University of Florida showed that in motorcycle-car accidents, the driver of the car was at fault more than 60 percent of the time.

 —  Pick the right helmet. First, it needs to be DOT approved, but a full-faced helmet gives a lot more protection than some hard-shelled beanie.

 —  Finally, make sure your bike is maintenance ready for the road. Your tires should have good tread and be properly inflated. Check for leaks and make sure all your lights work before heading out.

 I walked away from my motorcycle disaster, but I was, again, very lucky. Every year, every month, a Soldier is killed in a motorcycle accident that could have been avoided. Pay attention, and don’t let complacency end your ride.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 May 2017 )