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For motorcycle riders, cruising down the highway, back road or city street offers a profound sense of freedom. For many, the motorcycle is a universal symbol of Americana. Driving a motorcycle or even sitting in the sidecar allows you to experience the elements, have the wind swept through your hair, crank your favorite tunes toward the wilderness, and feel the motorcycle’s raw power beneath you.

As the saying goes, “with freedom comes responsibility.” In this case, responsibility has to do with safety. Whether you are riding to Sturgis, your friend’s house or just riding to ride, you have a destination to reach. Reaching that destination ensures the chance to ride again. At the same time, reckless or aggressive driving, even inadvertently, significantly decreases that opportunity due to the chance of experiencing a severe injury or death.

Tips and tricks of safe motorcycle riding

Most seasoned riders understand the importance of safety, but many beginners do not, and no matter how experienced you are, all passengers could benefit from hearing some new ideas.

  • Ride with those you trust and those who can handle their bike.
  • Don’t blend into your surroundings: Wear apparel and colors that stand out to drivers around you.
  • Know how many miles you can ride without getting tired. Dozing off, even for a half-second, can spell disaster on a motorcycle.
  • At minimum, keep a 20-foot cushion between you, fellow riders, and other vehicles on the road.
  • Feather your clutch when making slow or tight turns.
  • Pay attention to the traffic behind, especially when coming to a stop and eye an escape route if the vehicle behind you is bearing down.
  • As is the rule with all bikes (motorized and unmotorized), where you look is where you’ll end up. Always look toward the direction you want to go.
  • Only ride on bikes you know how to control.
  • Be extra cautious around semi-trucks and large vehicles. Semi-trucks cause wind turbulence, which can drastically shift your motorcycle at a moment’s notice. Also, the larger the vehicle, the larger the driver’s blind spot. Make sure the semi-driver can see you in their mirror if you pass them.
  • Pay attention to other drivers’ heads and mirrors as many drivers check their mirrors before switching lanes, and even if they suddenly swerve, their head will often sway in the direction of the vehicle.
  • Keep a distance at offramps as many vehicle drivers swerve onto offramps at the last minute that fatally injure many motorcyclists every year.

Lastly, enjoy the wind’s feeling in your hair and power at your fingertips, but understand that you too have blind spots. Trust your mirrors while also trusting what you see after a slight glance of your shoulder.