Wednesday, 30 July 2014

[Ride Safe]: 7 motorcycle safety tips!

There are countless practices one should follow in order to increase their safety while riding the tiniest and arguably the vehicle on which the traveller is most vulnerable to damage. While there's always a scope of learning no matter how experienced you are, this article is an effort to bring forward some very basic practices which everyone of us can follow without the need of much investment and technical know-how.

#1 Always wear helmet
Wearing a helmet is the first and foremost step you can take towards safe riding. While most of the people commuting around use helmets with the sole purpose of escaping a challan ticket from their local traffic police department, they do not understand that their brain (if only they have any) is of much more worth than the amount they to be paid for the challan they are escaping. For instance, in India the fine against helmetless riding is 100 INR. Ask yourself! Is your brain worth less than a hundred bucks? Some might argue that that helmets spoil their hairstyle. I guess the image below should ring some bells. Moreover, wearing just a helmet for the sake of it is almost as good as no helmet. Make sure your helmet is certified, fits you snugly and you always fasten the strap.

#2 Use both brakes
During our learning phase, almost everyone of us in the Indian subcontinent was fed with the approach 'do not touch the front brake, its dangerous'. In fact, most of the 2-wheelers our previous generation owned had their front brakes disabled, either by cutting off the cable (yes, our 2-wheelers did not have discs/hydraulic brakes back then) or by cutting short the brake lever itself. Another approach that surfaced mostly in youngsters or in the developed countries having disc brakes was to use only the front one. Why? Because its sharper, efficient and has a lot more bite than the rear. Well, both these approaches are wrong. Both the brakes are there in the vehicles for some purpose and none is useless. You should use both of them. The front brake primarily does the job of bringing your vehicle at halt or reducing your speed and the rear brake works in order to stabilize your vehicle. All braking force at front and none at rear might end up either in lifting your rear up or your front losing the traction in case of hard braking. In normal conditions when you apply brakes while riding straight and on good roads, the braking force distribution should be 70-30. 70% on front and 30% on the rear. Though in special cases like braking on wet tarmac, on gravel or while negotiating a curve, you should adaptively vary the braking distribution to keep the tyres from giving up the already reduced traction.

#3 Watch your speed
Everyone likes to ride fast. Why? Because speed thrills! But remember, the speed thrills but also kills. If you ride like there's no tomorrow, there're more chances there won't be. You just cannot ride as fast you ride on a highway on the city roads. Your speed should vary with the amount of traffic on the road. Also with the kind of the road your are riding. A road meant for lower speeds is not made with the same material an expressway is made of. It wouldn't offer your tyres the same level of grip. Moreover, if you're riding on a wet road, the traction decreases further. Then come the limits of your bike and your own.

#4 Know the limits
EVeryone of us want to see yourself riding like a pro. And some of us might consider us one already. But don't forget that no matter how skilled a rider you are, you (being a human being) and your vehicle still have some limits. There is a limit to the quickness of reflex actions of human body. No matter how much skills do you have, your brain takes certain amount of time to process the information it gets from your vision and trigger a reaction. Yes, it all happens in just fractions of a second but so does a collision at high speeds. Apart from the limits of human body, you also need to know the limits of your motorcycle. A Splendor, platina or a regular scoot does not offer as much control and braking ability as an Apache or an R15 would do. At the same time, an Apache or R15 does not offer the control and braking ability a Ninja would do. And the list goes further up.

#5 Keep distance
Its is always important to keep distance from the vehicles travelling in front of you. Nobody likes a tailgater. Tailgating (riding/driving very close to the vehicle in front) might make the rider/driver in front of you annoyed or aggressive and that increases the chances of of mishap.You would prefer calm fellow motorists compared to the mad ones anyday, won't you? Moreover, the vehicle in front might panic brake seeing something not visible to you from behind and you reacting after they've already slammed the brakes hard might not have enough time to avoid collision. Also, mostly cars have a better braking ability due to 4 wheels present to get the traction in place of just two in our case. So if you are riding behind a car, your vehicle won't be able to come to halt in the same braking distance as the car would, even if you start braking right at the moment the car does.

#6 Use signals
Use signals while making a change in your riding trajectory, or even in your speed. The fellow motorists are not witches. They won't be able to read your mind if you're going to change a lane, take a turn or maybe slow down. Some are even stupid to see you changing the lane even slowly. Signaling is always a safe bet. There are various signals that alert the fellow motorists about your expected action like turn indicators, brake light,pass light etc. and some hand signals in absence of any of these. Using signals before any taking any such action would alert the fellow motorists and reduce the risk of people crashing into you because of being unaware of your sudden act.

#7 Be Seen
2-wheelers being smallest vehicles on the road are many times involved in the accident just because the bigger vehicles didn't see them. Sometimes its because of their ignorance but sometimes its not even their mistake. Being a tiny vehicle, we might not be visible to them if we are riding in their blind spots. The bigger vehicles not being open air from all sides like ours have certain blind spots. Like the back pillars or a car, the area of their back and sides their mirrors do not cover etc. And there are even blind spots of human eyes which are there in case of even even motorcyclists. Be aware of such spots and avoid riding there. 


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