Spring Into Action: 10 Tips To Boost Your Motorcycle Riding Season
If you've been cooped up
all winter like a rabid dog slobbering at the mouth just itching to
get outside and enjoy the breeze in your face, you're in luck.
Spring has sprung and now it's time for you to spring into action,
shake the cobwebs out of your body, throw a leg over your
motorcycle seat, put your hand on the throttle, and then grip it
and rip it.
Unless you've got some kind of high-tech, virtual reality motorcycle simulator, chances are your riding skills are probably a bit rusty. Sure riding a motorcycle is like riding a bike and you never forget how to do it, but just like your bike needs a good once over before your hit the road for your first ride of the season you should spend an hour or two getting reacquainted with your motorcycle and brush up on your riding skills. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for your motorcycle riding season and get you back up to speed from a long winters nap.
1. Lift the Lid
Before you even fire up your bike, the first thing you
should do is inspect your motorcycle helmet. Everyone has their
favorite lid, and no matter if you wear a full face helmet, half
helmet, beanie, or open face style helmet they all wear down over
time. Even if you've taken excellent care of your helmet, never
dropped it or been in an accident with it, if you've had it for
several years there's a chance it may be past its prime. Over time
the EPS liner (the part that helps absorb impact) inside the helmet
loses its effectiveness, therefore providing less safety and
protection. To help determine if it's time to replace your helmet
look inside for the manufacture date. Shoei Helmets
recommends replacing your helmet seven years after the production
date, which is a pretty good guideline to go by for any helmet. If
you really want to be on the safe side, five years past the
production date you might want to start looking into a new
2. Line of Sight
[caption id="attachment_31155" align="alignright"
FT2 Full Face Helmet[/caption]
The days are going to get longer so that probably means you'll be taking longer rides that may extend into dusk or nighttime riding. Aside from low light situations you may experience unexpected weather conditions like pelting rain or skin peeling dust storms. Having the right eye protection can mean the difference between a great motorcycle ride and tears of misery streaming down your face. Speaking of face, a full face helmet provides the best overall protection from wind, rain, hail, dust, and bugs. These days there are many full face helmet options like the LS2 FT2 Full Face Helmet that offer two shields, a traditional face shield and then a short tinted eye shield that can be retracted or deployed with the push of a button. This is a great option because it means you can ride all day with the tinted shield and then retract it into the helmet to see through a clear face shield for night time vision without having to mess with glasses or get off the bike to switch eye wear. If you're not one for a full face helmet there are now half helmet options that have retractable tinted shields like the [mageProductLink sku="035-488-601" title=""]HJC IS-Cruiser Half Helmet[/mageProductLink]. However you choose to protect your eyes just remember to have a clear or yellow tinted lens for low light riding and a dark tinted option for bright/daylight riding.
3. Boot Up
[caption id="attachment_31152" align="alignright"
width="135"] Tour Master Coaster Waterproof Boot[/caption]
Another important piece of riding gear you should inspect is your motorcycle boots. Obviously you want to make sure there are no holes in the soles or excessive wear in the toe where the shifter hits the boot. Inspect the bottom and make sure the sole is still firmly attached to the body of the boot and that there is plenty of traction/tread so that you'll have grip when you put your feet down at stops.
4. Back to School
It might be a hard concept for your kids to understand while they
are enjoying spring break, but enrolling in a motorcycle safety
course is a great way to properly re-learn how to ride a
motorcycle. There are advanced rider courses you can take that may
teach you some new tricks and techniques or help you correct bad
habits you've developed over the years. Aside from improving your
skills, completing a rider's course can help you save money down
the road as many insurance agencies offer discounts for taking
5. Get in the Zone
If you're more of the do-it-your-self type and going to a
motorcycle riding school doesn't appeal to you then slip over to a
large open parking lot or area where you can practice without
dealing with traffic or other distractions. Get familiar with the
friction zone of your motorcycle clutch. Start from a stopped
position and slowly let the [mageProductLink sku="307-1223"
title=""]motorcycle clutch lever[/mageProductLink] out as you
lightly twist the throttle until you feel the bike begin to pull
then gently pull the clutch in and let off the throttle. Continue
this process over and over slowly letting more and more clutch out
until your hand/fingers commit to memory the position and feel of
where the beginning and end of the clutch's friction zone is.
6. Brake it in
Once you've got the friction zone down start warming up the brakes.
Remember the majority of your braking will be at the front of the
motorcycle (almost 70-80 percent of the braking). You want to
practice rolling at a mild pace and work the front brake lever and
rear foot brake together gently applying more and more pressure in
a smooth manner until you come to a stop. Keep the bike straight up
to maximize your motorcycle tire's
contact patch to the road. The key is to not apply too much
pressure too fast otherwise you'll lock up the wheels and end up in
a skid. Keep in mind more pressure is applied to the front brake
Practice again and again gaining a little more speed each time and
braking in a safe and controlled manner so that you can get a good
amount of pressure on the brakes without skidding. As you get
better start setting predetermined points and brake so that you
come to a stop at those spots.
7. Lean and Mean
After you get familiar with the clutch and brakes move onto getting
to know the turning characteristics of your motorcycle. Working in
a wide open area begin rolling in big swooping figure eights at a
slow speed and use the friction zone of the clutch to control your
speed. Gradually pick up speed and gently tighten up your lines so
that your turns get deeper and you can lean the bike over more. The
objective isn't to drag pegs or floorboards trying get the bike to
its maximum lean angle, but to help reacquaint yourself with the
shifting weight of the bike, get you to lean with the bike, and get
you back in the habit of looking through the turn to where you want
8. Space out
We all appreciate others respecting our personal space. Well, the
same applies when we're on the road. Except rather than personal
space being observed out of courtesy or respect it's more of a
safety issue. If you space out while riding and aren't aware of the
fact that you've encroached on the personal space of the rider or
vehicle in front of you, when/if there's a sudden stop you won't
have time to safely stop or maneuver the bike around whatever is in
your path. Riding a motorcycle requires all your attention all the
time. You need to remember to keep a safety gap between you and the
bike or vehicle in front of you. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation
recommends a 2 second gap when cruising around town at speeds under
40mph, and a gap of about 4 seconds when riding at highway speeds.
These distances should be adjusted depending on the road conditions
and weather. Remember to always be scanning the road and be aware
of your surroundings. Most importantly, don't ride in the blind
spot of another rider or vehicle.
9. Mixed Signals
When riding with others communication
is a key ingredient to a fun and safe outing. Even if everyone in
your group has a motorcycle communication
system like a Sena Communication System or a Scala Rider you
should still talk before you set out and go over your final
destination, planned rest stops, fuels stops, and meal locations.
Hand signals are a big part of motorcycling. What one signal may
mean to you can mean something totally different or nothing at all
to others in your group. So before you ride, make sure everyone is
on the same page about the various hand signals and make a plan as
to what to do if someone gets separated from the group. Another
important part of riding in a group is staying together so that you
don't leave spaces big enough that would allow other vehicles to
break up/into the group. This can sometimes be tricky, as we
mentioned above you want to keep your distance from those in front
of you but don't want to lag so far behind that someone else can
interrupt the group.
10. Know your Enemy
The open road can bring a lot of enjoyment when on a motorcycle.
However, with the arrival of the spring thaw it can reveal new pot
holes in your favorite roads and other obstacles. Spring and summer
are also prime time for road construction which can lead to sand,
loose gravel, and sheer drop offs where there used to be shoulders
and other. Also remember the road can get pretty slippery after a
spring or summer rain, especially fresh asphalt; railroad tracks
can also very tricky to cross in wet conditions. In any of these
circumstance the key is to stay calm and relaxed and don't tense up
on your motorcycle handlebars. Reduce your speed and downshift
ahead of the obstacle, if possible cross the surface in straight
line with the bike upright. If you have to brake do so gently and
don't get on the throttle until you're out of the hazard.
Lastly, and this may be the most important of all, remember that the majority of automobile drivers are not paying attention for motorcyclists. While hi-viz motorcycle gear like [mageProductLink sku="03-8767-0313-03" title=""]Tour Master's Intake Air Series 3 Hi-Viz Textile Jacket[/mageProductLink] will definitely help you be seen by others, you still need to always have your guard up and act as though cars don't see you. Intersections and junctions where vehicles join or cross your path from other roads are where the majority of motorcycle/vehicle accidents occur. The most common motorcycle accident at an intersection is from a car turning left into an oncoming motorcycle. And what's the most common excuse from the vehicle operator? "I didn't see him/her." When approaching an intersection proceed with caution and be mindful on oncoming traffic and those around you.
Spring is an exciting time for motorcyclists, we are all excited to finally get out of the house and explore on two wheels. But we can also be a bit rusty or have a few cobwebs in our heads from the long winter's rest. By following a few of these tips you can help bring in the new riding season safely and with the fun and excitement it deserves.