As summer nears and the weather turns warmer, a growing number of motorcyclists will take to the road. That’s why May has been designated Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which serves as an opportunity to remind the public that all drivers and motorcyclists must “share the road” with each other.
“Sales of motorcycles grew significantly throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, with manufacturers reporting some of their best margins in several years. As a result, not only will more motorcyclists be hitting the road this year, but a greater percentage of them may be less experienced.”
With this in mind, now is the perfect time to help your clients brush up on the risks associated with their motorcycles and review vital safety precautions.
After motorcycles have been stored away in garages all winter, there are some basic safety steps owners need to take in order to get their vehicles ready for the road, including:
- Replacing the fuel—Gasoline gets stale when it sits in the tank for too long. Use a siphon pump to get rid of the old gas and fill the tank with fresh fuel.
- Changing the oil—Before taking the motorcycle out for its first ride, change the oil and replace the oil filter. Neglecting this step can affect the performance and longevity of the engine.
- Checking the battery—If the battery was not disconnected before the motorcycle was put in storage, it may need to be recharged. A battery that is more than 3 years old will lose its ability to hold a charge and should probably be replaced.
- Checking the tires—Fill the tires to the proper pressure and inspect the treads, looking for bald spots, sidewall bubbles or any other warning signs that the tires are unsafe for driving. If unsure about whether to replace tires, remember that it’s much easier and less expensive to replace tires than to repair a motorcycle after a blowout or other tire failure.
- Checking other fluids—Oil and gas aren’t the only fluids a motorcycle depends on. Brake fluid and coolant are important too. These fluids can sometimes leak if the motorcycle has stood in one place for a long period of time. As such, be sure to double-check fluid levels and refill or top them off when necessary.
Utilizing proper riding gear
A motorcyclist’s most essential piece of riding gear is by far their helmet. Helmets significantly reduce the risk of death and limit the likelihood of suffering traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) from motorcycle accidents.2 Studies have shown that helmets reduce the risk of death amid such accidents by about 40%.
Helmets are designed to withstand only one major impact, so it’s important for motorcyclists to replace theirs following a crash. What’s more, because wear and tear can cause shells to become brittle, helmets should be replaced every five to seven years, even if they haven’t been damaged in an accident. Some manufacturers even recommend replacement every three years, so motorcyclists should review their owners’ manuals for specific helmet lifespan guidelines.
After head protection, the next priority for motorcyclists is safeguarding the rest of their bodies. Motorcycle-specific attire is strongly recommended, as everyday clothes will offer little defense in the event of a crash. Some key forms of apparel to consider include:
- Jackets and pants—Because they are strong and long-lasting, leather jackets and pants have always been the classic choice for motorcyclists. However, this material can be too dense for warm climates and offers limited weatherproofing options. On the other hand, textile materials are often waterproof, reflective, ventilated, and lightweight. Textile gear is available in different grades, with varying levels of protection and durability. Another option is gear armor, which covers all major joints and strike points, including the elbows, shoulders, back and hips. Fortunately, specialized motorcycle jeans with Kevlar reinforcement panels are now widely available.
- Boots—Motorcyclists should always wear boots that protect their ankles while riding, as this body part is particularly vulnerable to injuries during a crash. For this reason, motorcycle boots sometimes provide reinforcement or padding over the ankle bone. Soles should easily grip the motorcycle’s footpegs. Combat or work boots make good choices because they often provide additional padding, sliders or steel shanks that guard against crushing injuries.
- Gloves—Often overlooked, gloves are vital for riding safety because motorcyclists almost always extend their arms before hitting the ground during a fall, resulting in significant injuries. Gloves should have palm sliders and retainment straps to keep them in place around the wrist.
Keep in mind that while motorcycle fashions tend to gravitate toward dark, moody colors, bright and vibrant shades (including high-visibility options) are better choices from a safety perspective, as they enhance road visibility.
On the road
- Start slow – Riders should always take it slow and easy on their first rides of the season, as they may need to rediscover the necessary balance and feel for their motorcycles. It may also be wise for motorcyclists to keep their initial trips close to home in case they encounter some mechanical problems caused by faulty winterization.
- Conduct a pre-ride check – Riders should inspect their motorcycle before each ride for potential issues. It is important to pay special attention to the tires, breaks, headlights, signal indicators and fluid levels.
- Know the forecast – Inclement weather such as rain, ice and snow can make operating a motorcycle dangerous. Prior to setting off on a trip, motorcyclists should check the forecast. If weather is poor, alternative transportation plans should be made.
- Ride smart – To stay safe, motorcyclists must remember to drive defensively. Riders should always obey traffic lights, speed limits and lane marking while operating their motorcycle. What’s more, motorcyclists should leave enough space between their bike and other vehicles on the road.
- Stay sober – Operating a motorcycle is a great responsibility. motorcyclists should never drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including certain prescription medications. These substances can negatively affect judgment, coordination, balance, throttle control and the ability to shift gears.
Despite a motorcyclist’s best efforts at riding safely, accidents unfortunately do still happen. This is why it’s important to have proper insurance protection. For costs stemming from liability for damage to other motorists, motorcycle replacement, potential loss of income, rider or passenger injuries and damage to safety gear or custom equipment, Nationwide offers various protection solutions.