Risk management for motorcycle riders
Riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience, but it’s not without its risks. Risk management for motorcycle riders must be at the top of their agenda.
For new riders, the risks can be even greater, as they lack the experience and skill necessary to handle a motorcycle in various road conditions. In this article, we will explore risk management for motorcyclists and how new riders can, in particular stay safe on the road.
Why new riders are vulnerable
It’s important to understand why new riders are vulnerable. Motorcycles offer very little protection in the event of an accident, which means that riders are at much greater risk of injury or even death compared to drivers of other vehicles.
This is because they don’t have air bags, roll cages, seat belts, crumple zones and all the other mod-cons that four wheeled vehicles have as standard.
Motorcycles are often more difficult to handle than cars, requiring a greater level of skill and concentration to operate safely.
New riders do not have experience
New riders may also lack the experience to recognise and react to potential hazards on the road. This can lead to poor decision-making, such as taking unnecessary risks, riding too fast for the conditions, or failing to anticipate the actions of other road users.
Everyone who rides a motorcycle should think about how they reduce their own risk and take measures to stay as risk free as possible.
There are a number of things they can do:
Get proper training
Undergoing professional motorcycle training is an essential step for new riders. It is important to find a good training school that takes your education seriously. Just riding around to give you time on the bike is not a good training programme. You must have structured training plans in place to improve.
Training courses are designed to teach you the basics of riding a motorcycle. There should be good foundation lessons delivered to you and practised until you are proficient at all the skills. Risk management for motorcycle riders starts in a safe environment where you should be taught the foundations, then build these skills over time with practice.
Continuous learning is an essential part of risk management for motorcycle riders. You should continue to develop your skills and knowledge through further training sessions and home study using other educational resources.
Motorcycle riders Hub has an extensive programme of lessons and video presentations explaining and walking you through each stage of training for test standard and beyond. Trawling through YouTube might waste many hours of research, not to mention getting distracted by shiny marketing gimmicks to draw you from one thing to another.
Self education can help you stay up-to-date on the latest techniques but it won’t help you safely practise the skills needed to hone the skills. Riding techniques must be learned, understood and then practised. There must be instructor lead education taken regularly to upskill.
Maintain the motorcycle
It might seem very obvious to maintain your motorcycle but the fact is that many riders just take their bike out for a ride without a second thought.
Proper maintenance of the motorcycle is essential for safe riding and reducing rider risk. Regular basic checks can help prevent mechanical failures that can lead to break-downs or accidents.
It’s important to ensure that the motorcycle is in good working order before each ride. Always do a thorough check over your bike if it has been sat for any length of time and go through your daily checks before you ride each time.
- Visual check
- Oil check
- Lights check
- Tyre check including pressures
- Steering works freely before you ride
As you start riding down the road, carry out a rolling brake test before you get to the first junction. This is to make sure your brakes work correctly before you actually need them.
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Wear appropriate gear
Wearing appropriate protective gear can help reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident. This includes a proper motorcycle helmet that has been approved to ride within this country. You should always consider wearing a proper motorcycle jacket and trousers, along with decent gloves and motorcycle boots.
Although reflective clothing is not mandatory, other road users may see you more easily and you may become more visible to them. Your aim is to try to get them to give you a second glance.
Ride within your limits
It’s important for you as a new rider to recognise your own riding ability and most importantly, your own limitations. Always ride within your own ability and a general rule is to never ride more than 80% of your natural ability. This is so that you always have something in reserve, just in case.
Never take any unnecessary risks, such as riding too fast or attempting manoeuvres that are beyond your skill level. Peer pressure is a huge reason riders get into trouble, it’s because they get coerced by other riders into doing things they normally wouldn’t do.
Don’t do anything on your motorcycle that has any amount of extra risk, especially riding above your safe comfort zone.
A hazard is anything that may cause you to change speed and/or direction. As a new rider you should be aware of the hazards on the road and how to recognise them. This will be continual development whilst you undergo motorcycle training.
Things to look out for include potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, drain covers, white painted lines, debris in the road and other road users.
By anticipating potential hazards, you can take steps to avoid them and reduce the risk of accidents. The best way to do this is to position early, have a good view ahead and slow down if you do not like the look of something ahead.
Defensive riding means being aware of the actions of other road users and taking steps to avoid potential danger. Defensive riding is the manner in which you adopt to ride safely on the road..
This includes leaving sufficient safety when following other road users, not being aggressive in your manner that may cause you or others harm. Move to a safe distance when passing other vehicles and give other vulnerable road users more space as you pass.
Be aware that you may be in other road users blind spots and be prepared to give way even if you have the right of way.
Riding a motorcycle requires a high level of concentration. It’s important to stay focused on the road and avoid distractions. Some riders wear earphones and listen to music, this can be a huge distraction and they will not hear what is happening around them. What is deemed as okay to do in the car certainly has a negative effect on a motorcycle.
This means not using a mobile phone or other electronic device while riding, although sat navs have become the norm and many people do not go anywhere unless they have their sat nav giving them directions. This can be dangerous as it takes away your concentration of what is happening around you.
You must always try to concentrate 100% when riding your motorcycle, do not get into bad habits and think an accident will never happen to you!
Manage yourself to prevent risk
Managing oneself is an essential aspect of risk management for motorcycle riders. There are several ways in which you can manage yourself to prevent risk and ensure a safer riding experience.
It all starts with the way you think about riding and how you perceive everybody else on the road. If you consider that they have not seen you and prepare for the challenges mentally before you ride, you will be in a much better situation when you do go for a ride.
Riding a motorcycle requires a high level of mental preparation. This means you should be focused on what is going on ahead, alert of danger around you and mentally prepared for the ride you are going to be doing.
It’s important for riders to be in a calm and relaxed state of mind before getting on your bike, as anxiety and stress will impair judgement and reaction times. Especially if you’ve had some bad news and you are going to ride a motorcycle.
You must be physically prepared to ride your motorcycle too, it is an important aspect for safe riding.
This means ensuring that you are well-rested and had a good night’s sleep, especially if you have a long journey ahead of you. You should be properly nourished and not feel dehydrated as this will affect your concentration and decision making.
Being physically fit also means you are bike fit and able to cope with riding the bike for the duration of time it takes for your journey. This is one of the reasons motorcyclists take longer to reach a destination than someone driving a car.
You will need to plan your breaks and fuel stops if you intend to travel a long way. Fatigue will be a factor that newer riders are unaware of, so taking it easy and not trying to push on all the time is a good way to reduce risk.
Wear the correct clothing for the time of year, for example don’t set off on a three day journey in the middle of winter with your summer gear on.
Practise good riding habits
Practising good riding habits can help prevent risk and ensure a safer riding experience. This can only be done while you are training if you don’t have your own motorcycle.
If you have any areas or riding you are not happy with or feel you need more practice, tell your training school what you need to work on. They should allow you time to practise skills you are not confident doing.
Also on the road obey road signs, speed limits and the rules of the road. Many people do ride or drive over the speed limit, sometimes unintentionally as they stay with the traffic flow. When training for a test, the Instructor will ensure you stick to the speed limits. This is your chance to gain experience at the correct speed and get to know what it feels like to ride at the various speeds for the different road conditions.
What should you perceive as risk?
When looking ahead, you should perceive anything that may pose a risk to your safety or the safety of other road users. Here are a few examples of what you should perceive as risks:
Heavy traffic congestion can pose a great risk to you, other drivers may not be aware of your presence and not check their mirrors before they move. Always ride and make decisions as if someone hasn’t seen you.
Changing road conditions
Changes in road conditions such as potholes, debris, or wet or icy roads can pose a risk. Make sure you ride at an appropriate speed and can make changes to what you intend to do if something unexpected appears.
Pedestrians and other road users
Pedestrians, young children, cyclists and other vehicles on the road can pose a risk to you. They may not be aware of your presence and may make sudden movements that can catch you out.
Weather conditions change minute to minute, check the forecast and make sure you are clothed correctly. You must ensure you are aware of how to ride in the varying weather conditions, such as rain, fog, sun and even high winds which can pose a risk to you.
Be aware of the lack of tyre adhesion to the road too, as this could cause you to lose grip. Reduce risk by taking your time and taking longer to get to your destination.
Because of the upgraded protection car drivers now enjoy, things such as stanchions and uprights between glass make motorcyclists invisible to some car drivers. The reason is, they are much thicker and obscure the driver’s vision.
Blind spots are bigger and riders can easily hide (unintentionally) from view. Make sure you ride in a position where car drivers can see you, never ride next to them or towards the rear of a vehicle.
The fact is, you must manage the risk that exists when you ride a motorcycle. There are many ways to do that but you are ultimately responsible for your own safety.
You can prevent risk by adopting simple measures and always riding within your own ability. Make riding your bike enjoyable and not a chore, if you have a problem with any part of your riding, seek professional advice and work on that area until it no longer bothers you.
Your risk is elevated if you do not realise your ability level is low. Your risk is higher if you ride faster than your own personal ability. Risk is also elevated by external factors and a lack of riding experience, but riding within your own capabilities will reduce your risk.
Develop slowly, don’t rush it!
Develop slowly, practise the skills you were taught when you were learning to ride. Set good strong foundations and practise the basic things until they have been perfected. Changing bikes means starting all over again to be acquainted with a new machine. It’s like having a new partner, you have to get to know how they behave and what they do and don’t like.
So, remember, to reduce rider risk you have to manage a lot of things to be safe. Be proactive in your riding and not reactive to what is going on just in front of you. Slow down if you need more time to process what to do next and always expect the unexpected.
This way, you are more likely to stay out of trouble and will be far less likely to be caught up in a motorcycle accident.