Ride Alertly

Ride AlertlyRiding can be great fun on one end of an emotional spectrum and perhaps too relaxing on the other end of the same spectrum. And in between, a whole lot of different emotions can be experienced, as well. Regardless of whether we are riding in the city, or on a deserted country road, constant alertness should be our ongoing riding partner.

The concept of “Riding Alertly” seems too obvious to bear mentioning. And yet, I find myself occasionally getting lulled into a sense of such contentment on some rides, whereby I recognize that I’m not as vigilant as I could be.  At the same time I recognize that it’s not an optimum motorcycle-safety state of mind.

Interestingly enough, I sometimes wonder if that’s a negative factor gained through experience. Whether my recollection is correct or not, I like to think of my early years of riding as filled with such excitement and enthusiasm that I’m not sure I could have been eased into a state of such complacency that it would be a safety concern.

That’s not to say that, a few decades later, I never get excited or enthusiastic about riding. But nevertheless, I have caught myself in a routine of riding that sometimes seems a bit too relaxed to such a degree that my reflexes would seem less responsive.

And yet it is best to ride in a relaxed frame of mind. We’re talking about some relative level of confident alertness balanced with a generally relaxed yet heightened sense of present-time awareness. Such that one can be relaxed and still mindful of approaching traffic, and ready to instantly respond if such traffic strays out of its lane.

Such relaxed-alertness includes being keenly sensitive to animals off to the side of the road, since at any instant one or more might dart across right in front of us, at the last possible instant.

Such relaxed-but-confident alertness also includes being able to continuously survey the approaching roadway for any challenges or obstructions, such as potholes, road debris, oil slicks, sandy spots, gravel in the road, etc.

Of course the biggest threat to motorcycle safety is other vehicles. Over the years I’ve seen furniture fall off the back of pickup trucks; food fly out of open car windows; lots of fruit bounce off the back of large, over-filled trucks; and I’ve encountered a stray car tire in the middle of a highway that wasn’t visible until the vehicle in front of me swerved out of the way at the last second, which gave me an instant to swerve around it as well.

Much more commonly is the routine traffic challenges of vehicles turning in front of us in a way that seems calculated to ensure the most direct collision possible, unless we ultimately save the day by engaging in an immediate, impact-avoidance maneuver that even Superman would find daunting.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the time such roadway drama is absent. But on the few days such does demand instantaneous response, personally, I want to be riding at optimum alertness.

What words would you use to describe that riding balance of environmental and survival awareness vs. simply experiencing and enjoying time on a bike?

Enjoy safe riding.

MCg

MCg

"Wandering Around" is my motto: Up and down the California Coastal Ranges; the Rockies; the Appalachians; the beaches of both North American coasts; and everywhere in between. Any two wheels with a motor and a full gas tank will make me happy.
MCg

74 thoughts on “Ride Alertly

  • A friend of mine years ago decided to trade his black leather coat for a white one. Soon after on a highway ride an on-coming car made a farmer’s turn in front of him causing a head-on collision. Unluckily he broke his hip/pelvis and knee on the other leg and suffered a collapsed lung. He survived. The driver said he did not see him coming even though he had his headlight on. The farmer was turning into his own driveway at the time. It was at the end of his trip, not my friend’s. Be alert > ALL THE TIME !

  • Be the Jedi!, aware of the moment (the ride) aware of the present (surroundings) riding a bike is a control need. Everyday we are confronted with elements that are out of our control, riding a bike is getting it back. Enjoying the ride, watching the road surface, looking ahead and, expecting the unexpected, prepping for it controlling it. As a bike rider your must be on your guard for the moment if your not its over! In a way it makes us better drivers when in the car! aware of our surroundings and almost the ability to forsee the future, albeit a few seconds, but that’s all it takes isn’t?

  • Intersections are one of the two most deadly places for motorcyclists. (Curves are the other, in case you’re wondering.)

    The reason is, lots of things are happening there…

    • Vehicles are crossing each others’ paths
    • There are traffic controls, signs and signals
    • Pedestrians may be around
    • Some vehicles are accelerating, others are slowing down and/or stopping
    • Some are turning, others are going straight through

    Intersections are confusing….especially if they’re unfamiliar to you. So, here’s what I do to stay alive (and it’s worked so far) at all the intersections I travel through.

    I do two main things:

    1. I ALWAYS slow down…even if I have the right of way (i.e. no stop sign or a green light)

    2. I treat all “opposing” traffic (and by that, I mean traffic coming toward me on my street AND traffic crossing in front of me on the ‘other’ street) as though they are going to break every law and rule in the book.

    Those are the two main things I do, but they actually break down into several smaller things:

    I assume that I’m going too fast for what I’m doing
    I assume that everyone else is going too fast
    I assume that people with a stop sign or stop light are going to blow through it
    I assume that opposing traffic will turn left in front of me
    I assume that my engine will stall in the middle of my OWN left turn and that oncoming traffic will ‘clock’ me
    I assume that pedestrians will jump out from every possible direction and j-walk in front of me

    In short, I assume that all the bad things that could possibly happen, WILL happen.

    I know you may be thinking I’m a ‘puss’! Trust me, I’m not. I raced motocross for years and I’ve done my share of edgy riding on the street. But I’ve ALWAYS flipped my paranoid switch to “ON” when I get to intersections.

    So endeth today’s “stayin alive” lesson. :-)

  • Video wasn’t paying attention and crashed into the Internet netherworld. A transcript was reconstructed and posted above.

  • It’s not only this video but I haven’t been able to view any of your videos that you send out at all. I have tried unlocking tracking on this site and others that you send out but to no avail. Your videos are not playing. Does anybody who can do anything about this really read the feed back? Obviously I’m not the only one having this problem. What do you recommend or is this all just for fun . . .

  • Hi, I love reading everybody’s ideas and suggestions it helps me when I’m out riding.It’s true you have to be alert all the time.The other day on the highway a car cut into my lane not seeing me I was able to avoid him.I believe the person never saw me.

  • Responding to Dr. Dave: This is why I ride a white bike. Yes, black is more ‘cool’ but black bikes just may not register on a tired motorists brain. I am guilty, though, of riding in a tee shirt when it’s very hot. I know that’s a big no-no. My brother who has ridden for 50 some years, suits up like he’s going to war! (no matter how hot it is!) He used to be a daredevil racer as a kid…how we change over the years!

    Yesterday a young kid turned left in front of me. He looked me right in the eye and could have stopped…but he kept on going! Thank God for my good brakes.

    Change of subject: the other day I was cruising near the entrance of the grocery store looking for a parking space. A young kid came out of the entrance, let out a holler and threw his arm out in front of me. It didn’t phase me but I thought: that little fu*ker! If I had been a MAN, he sure wouldn’t have done that! Women have special challenges riding alone. I wish there were a bike mag just for women. I subscribe to several biker mags and they are way too technical. I couldn’t give a flip about how to modify my bike or what the difference is between an RX276jh and a LX40ripXL. Half the time I have no IDEA what they are talking about! LOL.

    Last night, when I returned from shopping, someone had dumped pop all over my seat. Maybe a Harley hater?? The discarded cans were lying on the ground. That’s what I get for not parking away from all the cars. Would it kill me to walk across the parking lot? Live and learn. Have a nice day fellow riders! :)

  • Very interesting concept about the last 10 minutes of your ride being so risky. I have not been on a bike for 50 years. Just started riding again. Now workout three days days A week just to stay in shape. I find that working out keeps my body chemistry up,l and my alertness is sharper. And when I am riding I can feel the difference in both the first 10 minutes of taking off and the last 10 minutes as well.

    I made a turn yesterday and I know I had my signal onh:f however motorcycle tail lights are not that bright and the motorist behind me apparently couldn’t see my signal, then just before I turn in to the coffee house he laid on his horn – So use hand signals along with your llghts .

    PALE RIDER
    Michigan

  • Being paranoia about being rear ended I installed a LED flashing very bright stop light. I also have a modulated headlight that only works in the daylight hours.

  • Here’s what wikipedia says about car colors and safety. My own impression is that bright, reflective clothing and helmet, and daytime running lights seem to provide me with a much larger safe zone from other drivers.

    “A Swedish study found that pink cars are involved in the fewest and black cars are involved in the most crashes (Land transport NZ 2005). In Auckland New Zealand, a study found that there was a significantly lower rate of serious injury in silver cars; with higher rates in, brown, black, and green cars.

    The Vehicle Colour Study, conducted by Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and published in 2007, analysed 855,258 accidents occurring between 1987 and 2004 in the Australian states of Victoria and Western Australia that resulted in injury or in a vehicle being towed away.[14] The study analysed risk by light condition. It found that in daylight black cars were 12% more likely than white to be involved in an accident, followed by grey cars at 11%, silver cars at 10%, and red and blue cars at 7%, with no other colours found to be significantly more or less risky than white.

    At dawn or dusk the risk ratio for black cars jumped to 47% more likely than white, and that for silver cars to 15%. In the hours of darkness only red and silver cars were found to be significantly more risky than white, by 10% and 8% respectively. However, no study on the relation between car color and safety is scientifically conclusive.”

  • I was just reading the above comments, and I do run our towns motorcycle shop. I seriously do not know that know that having loud pipes do anything other than allow us to sound cool riding down the highway. In fact, I don’t seem to see any evidence in any of the reports anywhere that loud pipes actually do anyting other than injure one’s ears, and turn the non riding public aginst all motorcycles.

    I do know one thing for sure, that everyone will be debating this issue for many winters to come when we are gathered together around the fire waiting for summer to come again so we can ride.

    George

  • I agree about the last 10 minutes of any ride being the most risky. And it is simply because we are less alert. So that just backs up the video. Be Alert at all times. The unexpected will happen to every rider, we just never know when.

  • Ride alertly, but NEVER pass on a bridge. Why stop on a bridge? Where you gonna jump if a truck comes by out of control?

  • This is a very important topic. I’ve gotten a lot of good ideas from reading everyone’s comments. My bike is mostly white (pearl) and my helmet is silver. I feel that it shows up better than all black. I think I will take Christine’s suggestions and start wearing my orange vest. I know when I’m driving my car, there are some motorcyclists that really catch your attention by loud pipes and bright colors. There are others that you can hardly hear and are all black. The latter are not quickly noticed.

    Someone here in the Buffalo area was passing a truck at which time the truck, not seeing him passing, came over into his lane. He survived but his passenger was killed. Now, if I pass someone on a highway, I honk to alert them as to my intentions. Being conspicuous and staying alert are critical. I always cross intersections on the slow side because I expect people to turn left in front of me. I watch their face to make eye contact and watch their car tires. Sometimes I will swerve out to the side to give them more room in case they do start turning. The farther I am away from them, the better.

  • This is my number one rule. I got into biking late in life (wish I had started much sooner!) but I quickly learned to ride defensively. When I “announced” that I started riding, I got an outpouring of concern from friends. The ones who were already riders immediately started
    suggesting ways to stay safe. Number one was “be alert”. And of course, when one takes the motorcycle license exams, that is also stressed. Seeing all around you, using your peripheral vision is the key. Safe riding!

  • ive been told that the last ten minutes of any ride no matter how long are always the most risky, because we start switching off our alertness and anticipating getting into the house and relaxing. Anyone agree?

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