So you're making payments on a new 1200 cc Blood Red Hog and you feel invincible.

Or maybe you own a BMW R1100 RT, all anthracite gleam, with a CD changer and heated grips, and you wanna ride two-up cross-country when the weather's better.

Some statistics:

  • More than 26% of all motorcycle accidents involve riders with less than one year's experience.
  • Ninety-two percent of riders involved in reportable accidents are untrained (i.e. they were self-taught or learned from friends or family).
  • Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly over-represented in accidents.
  • Twelve percent of ALL motorcycle accidents involve alcohol, but HALF of all the FATAL motorcycle accidents show ALCOHOL involvement..
Still wanna ride? Good, here's to your health!

It is essential that any motorcycle rider who wants to ride safely graduate from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Beginning or Experienced Rider Course. This is the sort of training that is just too good to miss. When the program was introduced in California there was a 76% decrease in fatal accidents among riders under 21. The course is now mandatory there for young riders.

Given over two weekends, the MSF course spends two days in the classroom and two days on the bike, which is provided, along with helmet and gloves.

There is a single technique that stands ahead of all tricks, tips, and smart things to do that are taught in the course. As you might imagine, this technique is also useful for anyone driving any sort of motor vehicle.

Here it is:

THE S I P D E TECHNIQUE

Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute--the mental process suggested by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

  • SCAN--Always be looking. Your eyes should follow a rotational pattern including mirrors, controls, and the road ahead. Scan for potential hazards as well as opportunities.
  • IDENTIFY--Identify the situation ahead. Hazard or opportunity? Vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or stationary object? Each category presents its own challenge to the motorcyclist.
  • PREDICT--Anticipate the hazard or opportunity. What will be the situation by the time you get to it? Predict what might happen and visualize escape routes. This is the part of SIPDE that depends most upon your knowledge and experience.
  • DECIDE--Make a choice from the available alternatives. Single hazard or multiple hazards? Blow your horn, flash your lights, adjust your speed (slower or faster), adjust your course--or some combination of these? What you decide depends upon the road conditions, your bike, and most important, your skill level.
  • EXECUTE--Do it! Take the action necessary to avoid the hazard. Generally this means increasing the "envelope of safety" surrounding your motorcycle.

If you can keep the bike where the hazards aren't, a cold beer upon your safe arrival becomes a distinct probably.

That's it. S I P D E, an acronym to live by.

For the beginning or experienced RiderCourse nearest you, call 1-800-446-9227


You know, now that I think about it S I P D E makes pretty good sense when it comes to noding too.

This is perhaps a condensed version of the advice above, but it has served me very well through the years.
When I bought my first street bike at the tender age of seventeen my father, an avid cyclist himself, knew I was already fairly adept at motorcycle operation from years of enduro riding. He made certain that my first road machine was a small, forgiving bike, and spoke the following sentence, which I keep in mind when operating a car, motorcycle, or bicycle:

"Assume that everyone you see will try to kill you, and ride accordingly"

After that, he turned me loose.

So far, so good. Paranoid? You bet, but I've still got all my original parts.

The best way to stay alive on a motorcycle is not to ride one.

Once you decide that saying alive isn't what it's cracked up to be, you sell your matchbox collection and buy yourself a motorbike.
So here you are, alive, and your whole genome telling you that you should stay so.
S I P D E doesn't quite roll off your tongue, and you've already forgotten what the acronym stands for, but the nagging survival instinct is still bothering you?

LOOK NO FURTHER, for I will teach you the ways of the sensible rider.

I prefer lists and examples to acronyms, so here is a list of things that may help you stay alive on whatever two wheeled suicide machine you decided to purchase.

  • Firstly, everyone is an idiot and is trying to kill you; being a motorbike rider, YOU ARE ON TOP OF THAT LIST
  • Understand that the only idiot you can even remotely try to control is yourself
  • Try to follow the road rules
  • Wear all the safety gear you can. You hear a lot about bikers being thankful they were wearing their gear, but don't hear much from the ones that don't.
  • STAY BACK, using brakes is bad for the environment, when you slow down, you'll need to speed back up, which not only increases your petrol usage, but also kills innocent penguins in the process. By keeping your distance from the car in front of you, not only will you improve your chances of survival AND fuel efficiency, but you will also improve traffic behind you.
  • Look ahead and be aware of your surroundings. Always have a way out; if a car in front of you hits a concrete wall, what will you do?
  • Don't lane split at high speed (if legal in your state)
  • Similar to above, try to avoid going much faster than the rest of the traffic, eg. if one lane is almost stationary and you are going 80mph in the adjacent lane, expect to go though the back of whoever cuts you off's window.
  • Corners are fun, but remember, you're not on a track, you're on a publicly funded road, so at least consider where you would land if you were to come off.
  • Stay in the wheel groove closest to the adjacent lane; own your lane. This both stops people from drifting into your lane and gives you extra wiggle room if someone does.
  • Keep your toes in; not only will you now look 100% cooler, but you're also less likely to scrape your toes in a corner and scare the bejesus out of yourself.
  • You may be a 300lb boxer, but when you're on your bike, you're just another small fry to the granny in the SUV

If you follow the above steps, it may help extend that short, but satisfying period in life where you can call yourself a Motorbike rider.

Stay safe!

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