There's nothing better than taking a ride on a warm spring day to blow away the winter cobwebs.
If you haven't ridden for quite some time, it's not a matter of simply jumping on a motorcycle and hitting the road again. There are a few things to think about first to make sure you and your motorcycle are ready for the road including:
If you haven't ridden for a long time, consider updating your skills with a motorcycle training course, even if you are an experienced rider.
Your gear is your best defense against serious injury or death in the event of a crash. Before setting off again, check that your whole body is covered and that there is more than one line of stitching on all seams. Any faults like holes in your clothing or cracks in a helmet can be dangerous so make sure it’s in good nick. Your gear should fit you properly with impact protectors guarding your joints. Women riders can have trouble finding a good fit, so if something's too loose, adjustable fasteners are great at holding the impact protectors in place. Avoid anything that might snag or tear in a crash and remember that light, reflective gear with ventilation will help you to not overheat.
Before you set out, check to make sure your bike is still roadworthy. Your registration label and number plates must be up to date and should be securely attached and visible, and your lights, indicators, brakes, horn and chain guard should also all be in good working order. Tyre pressure is critical to the handling of your motorcycle, so the pressure should be at the manufacturer's recommended level. Adjust your mirrors, make sure you can reach the controls easily and without cramping, and then you're good to go! If you're not sure that any of these areas aren't up to scratch, it's best to take your motorcycle to a trusted mechanic for professional once over.
9 fatalities in 2017 86 fatalities in 2016
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If your motorcycle has been gathering dust in your shed, there are things that you must do before you take that first ride again.
One of the first things you should do is to make sure your bike is prepped properly. If it's been a really long time, consider taking it to a motorcycle mechanic to ensure everything is in working order and that it's safe and roadworthy.
These are some simple things that you can do at home, but check your motorcycle manual for more maintenance tips
- Check battery terminals (clean, if necessary, with baking soda and water). Dry, or apply an after wash product (there are several available) then dry.
- Check, charge, or install the battery (positive lead first).
- Check oil and other lubricants. Change the oil filter if necessary.
- Check all cables and lube with appropriate lubricants.
- Check tyre pressure and wear. Top up each tyre to the correct pressure.
- Check all lights and replace any globes if required.
- Check brake fluid level, and pads/shoes for wear. If the pads seem a bit thin, replace them.
- Apply leather treatment where applicable.
- Check drive belt, chain, or shaft.
- Clean any glass, reflectors and mirrors.
- Clean inside of helmet with mild soap then leave in a warm place to dry.
- Give your ride an all over clean to get rid of any old road grime and rust spots.
- Polish and wax all chrome and painted parts.
You’ll also need to take a look at your number plates. They must be easy to read, clean, unworn and undamaged.
Finally, check that your registration is up to date. There are severe penalties for riding an unregistered motorcycle because compulsory third party insurance is not valid when a motorcycle is unregistered. This means that you could be held personally liable for compensation to any person injured as a result of a crash.
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Motorcyclists can be hard to see at the best of times, but there are things you can do to improve your visibility.
- Bright or reflective clothing
- Bright or reflective helmet
- Reflective strips for clothing and helmet
- Reflective patches for jackets
- Use hand signals whenever possible
- Keep paintwork and chrome clean and shiny
- Keep lights and reflectors clean
- If your motorcycle is dark coloured, use reflective strips
- Use your headlights and turn on your high beams when safe to do so
- Tap your brakes so that any vehicle behind you is aware that you’re up in front.
Whether you're using your motorcycle to ride to the shops on a cold, wet winter's day or to take a nice cruise in the country on a sunny afternoon, motorcycle safety should always be a priority.
Take a look at our list of top ten safe riding strategies which includes things to do before you head out and things to remember while you're on the road.
- Look out for other road users that are not looking for you. Remember to ride conspicuously, avoid blind spots and assume that the other vehicle won’t stop for you.
- Unlike car drivers with air bags, collapsible steering columns and stability of 4 wheels, riders only have their hazard perception, advance skills and their protective clothing to keep them safe.
- Always wear visible, good quality, protective clothing from your head to your feet. Protect your extremities with a helmet, gloves and leg and arm protection in all weather conditions.
- Motorcycles require more time and distance to stop than cars in an emergency situation and even more so in wet conditions. Always keep a three-second gap to the vehicle in front of you.
- Always do a head check before changing lanes. Just checking your rear view mirror is not good enough.
- It is vital to ride at a speed to suit the conditions. In bad weather, this could mean a speed that’s under the posted speed limit.
- Riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs is suicidal. Your faculties need to be at a high level to ride a motorcycle successfully.
- Consider the safety of your pillion passenger as well as yourself. They will also need good protective clothing, plus knowledge of motorcycle dynamics and the best ways to assist the rider as a pillion passenger.
- Lending your motorcycle to riders who are unlicensed or inexperienced is a bad idea. There are severe penalties for riding an unregistered motorcycle.
- All intersections and junctions are high risk areas. Slow down when approaching an intersection and be ready to avoid a possible collision.
Riding in the Wet
Winter presents a whole different set of road conditions for motorcyclists. Here are some basic tips for wet weather riding.
- Rug up. Make sure you’ve got proper rain gear that’s breathable yet waterproof. If you’re riding long distances, consider thermals as well.
- Helmet. Make sure your helmet covers your face — a no brainer really.
- Hand grips. Consider investing in some heated handgrips or a pair of hand guards.
- Tyres. Check your tyres to ensure they’re in good condition and suitable for wet weather.
- Watch the road. Things like line markings, metal plates, potholes, tram tracks and wet, soggy leaves can be more dangerous than you think.
- Puddles. Water hides the surface and you just never know what you’re riding into.
- Oil. A coloured rainbow on a wet road is sure sign of oil. Use extreme caution.
- Brakes. You’ll need more time to brake and when you do, apply more rear brake than normal and brake gently.
- Be visible. Because rain makes it difficult for others to see you, now’s the time to put on high visibility clothing.
Motorcycle riders only have their helmet, the gear they’re wearing and their riding skills and ability to protect them from unforeseen hazards and other road users. Whatever the conditions, make safety your highest priority by doing everything you can to protect yourself before you set off on a ride and while you’re on the road.
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The State Government has recently introduced new rules for ‘P’ platers to bring us into line with other states. The new rules apply to all ‘P’ platers regardless of vehicle, but with specific inclusions for motorcycle riders.
Young riders are at greatest risk of being involved in a crash in their first year of riding on their P-Plates. A lack of experience, driving at night, and having your friends around are all contributing factors towards an increased crash risk.
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Simple fixes to get you to the mechanic
There's nothing more frustrating than breaking down while you’re enjoying a ride. If you are unable to call the RAA, there are some simple emergency fixes to common problems that will get you back on the road again and on your way to your nearest qualified motorcycle repairer.
What happens when your repair kit has run out of patches, or you haven't got another tube or pump? The answer is to pry off the tyre and start filling it with anything you can find, like newspapers, rags, hay etc and to stuff in as much as you can. You’ll need to ride slowly because you won't have much traction, but you will save your rim and may even save your tyre as well.
Over time, your handle bars can become loose. If they start slipping in the clamps while you're on the road you can fix it easily with an aluminium can. Simply remove the clamps, cut a strip from the can and place it between the bar and the clamp. You can then replace and retighten the clamps. Aluminium is soft and will grip both the bar and clamp tightly.
Epoxy works well, but black pepper, a plug of potato or a couple of raw eggs can also close the hole and get you riding again. If you've lost water, use your canteen and if that's empty, let's hope your bladder is full!
Dirt bike riders will know this problem. The solution is to lay the bike on the side, clean the crack with petrol and patch the hole with two-part epoxy. If you're not carrying epoxy, some tree resin mixed with charcoal will do the trick. Failing that, there's always good old duct tape.
A spares and repairs kit for roadside emergencies is a great idea. Make sure the kit is waterproof and include essential items like fuses, chain master link, tyre tubes and/or puncture kit, headlight bulb, instrument bulbs, a bit of wire, two part epoxy, spare nuts, duct tape, etc.
Also include some basic tools like a small wrench or multi grips, screwdrivers, allen keys, tyre lever and anything else you might need.
You also might need to do some running repairs on yourself, so make sure you have a good first aid kit on board as well.
The key here is to try and be prepared for any situation. Having a well stocked emergency spares and repair kit is always a good idea. Remember that these tips are only short-term solutions and can become dangerous if you don’t head to a qualified motorcycle repairer as soon as possible.
If you're riding with a pillion passenger, make sure they are motorcycle safety aware.
Pillion passengers should have the same protective wet weather gear as the rider and should be familiar with the dynamics of motorcycle riding, like where to place their feet, how to get on and off the bike, where to hold on, how to sit and how to communicate with the rider. They should be able to ride in line and relax, letting the rider control the bike and try not to ‘help’ by leaning with or against the rider when on the road.
They also need to be especially aware of road conditions in winter and assist the rider in looking out for any road hazards.
Alcohol and drugs affect different people in different ways. When you're riding a motorcycle, you need your wits and senses operating at the highest level. Even a small amount of alcohol or drugs will affect your ability to operate a motorcycle properly and to make quick decisions in emergency or hazardous situations.
Severe penalties apply according to the level of intoxication of a rider, and increase depending on whether the offence is a first, second, third or subsequent offence.
Penalties include: Severe fines, loss of demerit points, suspension or disqualification of licence, or in some cases, imprisonment.
Remember, all police vehicles carry alcohol and drug testing equipment including saliva tests to detect THC (Cannabis), Methyl amphetamine (Speed) and MDMA (Ecstasy). The safest bet is to not drink or take drugs at all if you’re riding.
All motorcyclists should treat intersections as black spots. More accidents involving motorcyclists happen at intersections than anywhere else.
Black spots are not just confined to normal intersections. T-junctions and roundabouts are just as dangerous — even more so during wet, wintery conditions.