Opinion: Staying safe

Today is the first day of Motorcycle Awareness Month, and this is a bigger deal in Canada than most places – we’re coming out of a long winter, and many of us will be rusty on our bikes in May.

All of us who’ve ridden for at least a season have picked up some little-thought-of riding tips or knowledge, sometimes the hard way, and now is the time to share it with everyone. I’m not thinking of the big swoops of sage advice that crusty old guys like to pass along, like the “ride as if everyone’s out to get you” stuff, but the little things that add up to make all the difference.

Here’s one: When you’re stopped at night behind a car, and you see in your mirrors that another vehicle is approaching from behind, then squeeze your brake lever a couple of times. This will make your bike’s flashing tail light stand out from the tail lights of the car in front. If the driver behind isn’t concentrating, he might think your light is from the car in front, and he won’t factor in you being there. Crunch!

Here’s another: When you’re riding on a two-lane highway, and you’re alone in your lane, and you’re sitting in the correct position just to the left of the centre (to claim the entire lane, and also avoid the oily centre patch) – if a line of traffic approaches up ahead, then move over a little to the right of your lane. This won’t give the oncoming traffic enough space to overtake into your lane, but it will make sure that oncoming drivers can see you. If you’re too far to the left in the lane, you could be hidden by the traffic they’re following. Ouch!

There are loads of snippets like this, and they all add up to greater than the sum of their parts. Just one could make all the difference one day, and the secret is to practice, practice, practice so that these all become second nature. When you can act without thinking, then you’ll be way ahead.

This week, we asked a bunch of people who know what they’re talking about to pass along some of their advice, and you can read it here. But don’t stop at this. There’s smart advice in books and elsewhere on the internet, and if you want to be both a better and a safer rider, you’ll seek it out and absorb it.

After all, that stuff that’s learned the hard way? Sometimes, those riders don’t get a second chance. You don’t have to be one of them, and while there will always be freak accidents no matter what you do, you can swing the odds waaay into your favour with a bit of thoughtful preparation.

Do you have some advice of your own? Leave it in the comments of our story. We really want to know about it.


  1. Heard some great safety advice from a cruiser rider at the local coffee shop yesterday.

    When you know you are going to crash, let go of the handlebars, grab the bottom of the tank, press your knees into the motor, lock the rear brake and lay your bike down. Don’t worry the engine won’t burn your legs and the crash bars will keep your legs off the ground.

    Because going over the handle bars is not an option.

    He knows what he talks about, he raced dirt bikes as a kid, ( an RM 80 ! ) has a new 2016 CVO Harley, has only dropped it once and has 2400 MILES on his bike. ( That’s a lot!!! )

    we all need to be safe out there.

    I hope this advice helps you as much as it has helped me


  2. Put yourself into the perspective of the frustrated car driver following a slow moving motor-home or tractor trailer as described in this article. They are over to the left of the lane looking for a gap in traffic to pass. An oncoming rider traveling in the left of the lane will NOT be seen. To avoid graphically describing the impending collision, consider both the rider and the truck are traveling 80 km/h. That means we have a 160 km/h head-on collision with little or no warning.

    I agree with this article. In fact i’ll take it a step further. The good rider will recognize that there is no vehicle behind his/her motorcycle and will abandon the proper blocking position to gain better vision and reaction time. Another factor is the improved engines of today’s cars can reduce the frequency of these oil patches we have been reading about for years. The middle of the lane or perhaps even a little to the right of it can be your friend in this “perfect storm” of dangerous riding circumstances.

    • Totally agree. I have NO INTEREST in trying defend my lane. Too often I have seen vehicles swerve/drift into oncoming traffic lane with some near misses. Whether it’s momentary distraction or some other cause. When I’m riding without a vehicle in front of me I stay to the right side of the lane. Regardless of lane position you always have to be vigilant at intersections.

  3. I have a question. You are in a 4 lane city street and want to make a left turn. You move into the left lane and await a moment to make your left turn. Do you wait to the left of the lane or the middle ? When awaiting in the left extreme or the lane, this gives cars behind you the ability to get around you without having to move into the right hand lane.. Thus, possibly avoiding being hit from behind ? Or is it better to wait your turn in the middle of the left lane thus forcing cars to come around you ?

  4. Good point on the 2-lane road positioning for oncoming traffic. I find that particularly helpful with oncoming large trucks. Everyone is extra eager to get around them, they are hard to see around when passing and those wanting to pass them will take extra chances to get by them.

  5. Large trucks. Stay away from them at all costs. They will kill you. They can drive over stuff that you won’t. They can have up to 30 tires that can blow up, throwing huge chunks of rubber at you, and whatever part of the truck broke when the tire blew (mudflap hangers, lights, etc).

    If you’re behind one, pass him. When you pass him, do it decisively, even on divided highways. Once that’s done, get the hell out of his way, for obvious reasons.

    • All excellent advice. I DO, however, appreciate their moose-mashing mass when riding at night in areas where I might hit wildlife.

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