More Canadians all the time are interested in hitting the open road and exploring their world by motorcycle. While the lure of the endless blacktop calls out loudly to freedom loving motorcycle enthusiasts everywhere, serious dangers abound for those unwilling to respect the uncompromising nature of this thrilling mode of travel. Even if you are only planning short trips around town, you're on dangerous ground if you don't follow some basic guidelines.
Did you know that most motorcycle accidents involve a short trip of some kind, like running errands, visiting friends, or going shopping?
Whether you're an experienced rider or just starting up, our "Top Tips" for Canadian motorcyclists will help you to keep on riding - safely and smartly.
Motorcycle riders top tips:
- Learn to ride from an expert: Relatives and friends may consider themselves "experts", but nothing beats learning to how to ride from a program designed specifically for the purpose. Many important details are usually covered in a good program that might otherwise be missed by a friend or relative. One such program to consider is "Gearing Up", Canada's only national motorcycle rider training initiative. It's managed by the Canada Safety Council, and since 1974, over 325,000 people from across the country have learned how to ride through this program. Another advantage of the program is that many insurance companies offer a motorcycle insurance discount to riders who have obtained their training from Gearing Up.
- Use your brain - protect your head: In Canada we have universal motorcycle helmet laws, as do most other developed countries. It is extremely unwise to flout this law, even if you justify it by telling yourself that "you're not going far", "you're not going fast" or any other excuse that you can think of. The fact is you just never know what's going to happen, and in every jurisdiction where motorcycle helmet laws have been relaxed, the rate of motorcycle fatalities and serious injury have increased dramatically. Remember, use your brain, and always protect your head when riding a motorcycle. Canada is a world leader in motorcycle safety, thanks in part to our longstanding helmet laws and our strong national training program.
- Stand out in the crowd: Fluorescent clothing, light or white coloured helmets, and daytime headlights may help to reduce the chance of motorcycle injuries and death. It only makes sense to make sure that you can be seen by others on the road. A motorcycle has a significantly smaller profile than a car or truck, so take extra measures to ensure that others know that you're there
- Slippery when wet: Be extra cautious after the first rainfall following a dry spell. Within the first half hour, much of the oil that has accumulated on the road comes up, which makes for very slippery and dangerous conditions. In fact, wet conditions should always be reason for extra caution.
- Look ahead, plan ahead: Look as far down the road as you can. Make sure you are constantly scanning for things to avoid, like bumps, garbage, potholes, cracks, stones, spills, and puddles, etc. Also, observing how other vehicles are reacting to the road allows you to plan ahead for safety
- Practice makes perfect: Try to practice various riding skills such as emergency braking, swerving, slow turns, and smooth throttle operation. It's a good idea to set aside some regular time on a weekly basis, where you can practice safety maneuvers in an area devoid of people and traffic as you learn to ride.
- Go solo for a while: New riders should not carry passengers until they are "very" comfortable with their new motorcycle; this usually takes about a year.
- Ride your motorcycle defensively: Motorcycles are harder to see than cars or trucks, so for safety reasons, it's best to pretend that you can't be seen at all, and operate very defensively. In particular, be more cautious when entering turns and be extra alert at intersections, alleys and driveways. It's wise to try to keep a large space cushion around your bike.
- Beware of oncoming left turners: Beware of oncoming motorists turning left in front of you at intersections and elsewhere. This is one of the leading causes of death for motorcycle riders. Slow down before you enter an intersection and always have an escape route planned.
- Consider your motorcycle insurance needs: When choosing what motorcycle to buy, you might consider buying a cheaper bike with a relatively smaller engine, as it could be safer for you and may reduce what you will pay for your insurance coverage. These types of bikes are generally less costly to insure as they are less costly to repair, and they are also potentially safer, because they are easier to handle in the event of an accident. It's important to know exactly what your insurance covers and for what jurisdiction. You may need extra coverage if you're biking to the United States and you will need separate coverage if you plan to ride your motorcycle in Mexico.
A great place to start your motorcycle insurance research is at Kanetix, where you can compare multiple motorcycle insurance quotes for free.