By Tim Scarrott
For our first Riding Tip we are going to discuss the most important factor while riding a motorcycle and that is Riding Safety. People sometimes say there are two types of riders, those who have crashed and those who are going to crash. Nationally, motorcycle fatalities have been on the rise over the last few years, a serious concern to the motorcycle community. We are here to help you buck that trend.
We can’t forget that as motorcycle riders our risk factors are much higher when we don’t have the protection of the steel cage that we take for granted when we are riding in a car or truck. Whether you are out for a Sunday ride, commuting to work, taking part in a track day event or even racing: Riding Safety must be your first concern. So, let’s talk about how to ride safe. Wearing appropriate riding gear as well as conducting routine motorcycle maintenance and inspections are two very simple ways to make sure you are protected in case of an accident and decreasing the changes that a mechanical problem might actually cause you to crash. We will start by taking a look at safety gear.
When it comes to riding gear, you generally get what you pay for. So, when purchasing protective equipment you may want to wait to buy that carbon fiber front fender and opt for some high-end gear instead. Properly designed and constructed garments equipped with CE armor will fit comfortably, last for years and protect you in the event of a crash. The most obvious place to start is at the top. A good, SNELL approved helmet must pass stringent tests in order to be certified. Although a DOT helmet is all that is required for the street, at the track you must be equipped with a SNELL approved helmet. Age takes a toll on your helmet’s ability to protect you so your helmet should be less than five years old and free from any crash damage.
A good riding jacket will shield you from the elements as well as providing a level of protection during an accident. If you do go down, the first thing that usually hits the asphalt is your hands so a good pair of gloves are worth their weight in gold. In most crashes, you are tossed around like a rag doll so riding boots or shoes are a great way to protect your feet from impacts. Last but not least are the riding pants. Many people ride in jeans and that’s fine until you go down. The majority of the time, denim evaporates on contact with the road. A good pair of riding pants with reinforced impact areas and some CE-approved armor will improve your chances of escaping unscathed. For track riders, a good one-piece suit is the only way to go. You can get away with a two-piece on the street and at some track days but we recommend going big if you plan to ride at track speeds.
During the last 10 years, I’ve ridden and commuted nearly 100,000 miles on the street and my primary concern was always other vehicles, roadway hazards and traffic. Being aware of other drivers and anticipating their actions is very important. Two cars bumping in traffic may not even result in an insurance claim. However, a car bumping a motorcycle or causing a motorcycle to crash in traffic will result in a more serious outcome. Always leave a safety zone around you, leave an avenue of escape when you are stopped at intersections and ride defensively. Remember that you can’t expect other vehicles to see you or for other drivers to be more concerned for your safety than their own. Ride like you are invisible and always ride within your skill level. Plan your route and be aware of weather, traffic, construction areas or other factors that may impact your trip.
The next piece of the puzzle is to not override the road or your motorcycle. If you are riding a sport bike on the street you have the ability to haul-ass through the corners but your margin for error is nil. Between the guardrails, gravel, wildlife and automotive traffic you are asking for trouble. Plus, you never know what is waiting around the next corner. It usually is wide open but every now and then there can be an obstacle in the way. We’ve seen lost tourists doing U-turns around blind turns, oncoming cars cutting a corner, heck, there may be a driveway with a delivery truck waiting for you. So do yourself a favor, slow it down a bit and enjoy the ride. If you are riding a touring bike or cruiser you are likely on a heavy machine and in some cases, with limited ground clearance. Be aware of your bike’s capabilities and don’t go charging into a corner only to find you floorboards or exhaust digging into the tarmac. This could result in a loss of traction and the inevitable crash. Again, slow down and enjoy the scenery a bit. If you want to haul-ass, go to the track.
Participating in a track day event provides a much safer environment to develop skills or practice performance motorcycle riding techniques than strafing your favorite canyon road. The only vehicles on track will be other motorcycles and you will be riding with motorcycle enthusiasts who want to avoid crashing as much as you do. Traffic and roadway hazards are not likely and “flag stations” alert you to any issues on track. Riding on the racetrack also means that you will be operating our motorcycle at speeds much greater than what is possible on the street and riders new to the track should keep that in mind. Riding within your ability, learning new skills slowly, making proper decisions while you ride and keeping a positive attitude will ensure your day isn’t cut short by a crash that could have easily been avoided.
No matter what your motorcycle riding discipline or skill level may be and regardless of the motorcycle activity we are taking part in, safety must always be a primary concern. So remember to dress for the ride, plan ahead and stay alert. When you are on a motorcycle your safety is your responsibility first and foremost. So be alert, have fun and keep it on at least one wheel.
About Pacific Track Time: For over 10 years, Pacific Track Time has hosted hundreds of motorcycle track day events, schools and riding courses for thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts all over the world. Pacific Track Time conducts its track day events at premium facilities such as Buttonwillow Raceway, Laguna Seca, Sonoma Raceway and Thunderhill Raceway Park. In addition to quality track time, Pacific Track Time is also heavily involved in the community providing riding schools, race-licensing courses, organized street rides and training seminars at local dealerships. Pacific Track Time has a fully qualified staff that in AFM/AMA for 2013 took 35 top three finishes in overall championship points and racked up a total of 193 podium finishes. These same staff and instructors are available for on and off track help at every PTT event. For more information, visit pacifictracktime.com
Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts participate in track day events across the United States each year and their reasons are as varied as the motorcycles they ride.
Our first “tech” piece is going to talk about how to conduct a general inspection and preparation of your motorcycle as part of your periodic maintenance.
Track days continue to be one of the most popular activities for sport bike riding enthusiasts across the United States so if you haven’t been to one, please come join us.