The Invisible Motorcyclist to the Rescue!

Invisible RiderThere are times when I really do wish I were an invisible rider: particularly during those instants of startled realization that my speedometer is indicating the wrong enjoyment factor at the wrong time – at least relative to some long-gone road engineer or lawmaker who determined the speed limit.

However, regardless of how invisible we bikers wish we may be, or how invisible drivers who do bad things to motorcyclists SAY we are, the fact is, we, as riders, are only relatively invisible.

So, you and I may occasionally collect a local or state citation for not being invisible enough. And, at some point, a driver will cut you and I off, because we are perfectly invisible.

Such is part of the risk of being a motorcyclist.

Hence, bikers are a unique breed on the roadways of our world. There is tremendous diversity among the motorcycle characters I have met on both sides of the Atlantic over the decades. But if I were pressed to determine some point of commonality among them all, I would say that most riders enjoy going their own way.

Regardless of ample diversity and independent mindedness, all of us riders DO need to confront the inherent risks of motorcycle enjoyment.

Here in the Unites States, the leading types of motorcycle accidents are twofold:

1. Motorists violating a motorcyclist’s right-of-way and turning across the biker’s path
2. Motorcyclists, without any help from anyone else, running wide through turns and crashing

The solution to point #1 requires CONSTANT alertness to minimize the unfriendly consequences of distracted drivers. A simple way to increase rider road defense is a state of mind: simply ASSUME YOU ARE INVISIBLE!

Operating a bike while assuming invisibility, per force, necessitates a higher awareness of what every other motorist in the vicinity is doing. Attendant with that is an ever-present readiness to get OUT OF THE WAY as soon as possible. Stated differently, complacently riding our motorbikes with the same mind set as driving our cars, SUV’s or trucks, ain’t gonna prove helpful at certain times, regardless of our legally granted right of way. The result of unfriendly meetings between motorcyclists and other vehicles is never good for the rider.

Point #2 is eye-opening. A large chunk of motorcycle accidents are 100% rider error. What’s the fix? IMPROVING RIDER SKILLS. (Note: some of the errors are related to alcohol consumption, which is another story). So, what about improving one’s rider skills?

The evolution of becoming a more professional motorcyclist requires some time. Study, training and gaining more experience, are all workable ways to improve our riding and safety proficiency.

Further, underlying points #1 and #2 is the assumption of another viewpoint: An allowance that we CAN improve our skills. (It’s just a heck of a lot harder for a “Know it all” to become a better rider).

So, do YOU have the viewpoint that you can become an even BETTER rider?

If you can nod your head affirmatively, you already know you’re on your way to longer-term motorcycle riding enjoyment. (Heck, if you are bothering to read this at all, you are automatically among the affirmative head nodders).

So, what’s the take-away point here?


The awareness necessitated by assuming invisibility as a rider may very well be what rescues you from some unwanted encounter with a motorist who is gonna end up saying you ARE invisible, anyway.

Beat him to the punch and act the part of an invisible, professional rider to avoid any messy trouble.

Ride safely and invisibly!

30 thoughts on “The Invisible Motorcyclist to the Rescue!

  • Over the last few days I’ve been reflecting on your exact topic. And came up with the following which I try and adhere to
    1) In a suburban environment stick to a speed that gives you enough reaction time. Generally the speed limit or slightly slower given vehicle drivers generally not paying attention.
    2. Highway riding don’t be a hero and do unnecessary lane splitting in moving traffic. A lot of riders do this at speed and generally end up as organ donors.
    3. We all ride a bit faster than we should at times, that is understandably part of the enjoyment of owning a motorcycle. However the more you are aware of your speed in given environments, the safer you will remain.
    Just a penny’s worth on the topic.

  • The thing is that you best ride as far away from those sardine cans i ride as loud as a strait pipe i still get cut off on the highway 2 back tail lights
    Got ran over on a red light next to a stop car so watch your back an drive for them….ride hard

  • I ride with the lights on hi during daytime and wear hi-vis clothing . Bought an after market horn that makes a great sound, and so I’m hoping that will make me less invisible.

  • When I was teaching my daughter to ride I had “Dads 5 immutable laws for motorcycle riding:

    Dads Law # 1: Ride like everyone else is an idiot (very similar to the invisible) and you will survive.
    Dads Law #2: There is no such thing as safe slipstreaming. By the time you get out of the rough air you are too damn close.
    Dads Law #3: If the sign says “Rutted Roads – Dangerous to motorcyclists” they are not kidding.
    Dads Law #4: Road kill smells and you will get the smell inside your helmet – get over it.
    Dads Law #5: Bugs hurt – a lot.

  • As a cyclist, on and off road, bicycles and motorcycles and a pilot it is imperative to stay focused. It is that loss of attention that will get you in the most trouble and that lack of attention from that texting idiot is our worst nightmare. Stay alert and focused and with some lady luck and a good skill set you will have many safe miles and years. I hope to be doing all these things for a long time.

  • My story is common.. A cager wanting to make a left in front of me on a country highway.He did let me go passed but never looked again. My female companion on her own cycle had him pull in front of her. Luckily he cleared her by 10-12 ft. a real heart stopper…

  • Just go on the assumption that every other person on the road, starting with directly in front and behind you. . .is a blithering idiot who is texting and talking on their cellphone while screaming at their passenger and drinking a beer. Give them three times as much space as the license books teach. Beware especially of very tiny women driving 7000 pound SUV’s; they really can’t see you, no matter what colors you wear.

  • These are all good points, but for improving riding skills my only comment is it should almost be required to get some track time. Even a few hours on a track improved my skills in a way three years on the street could never do.

  • I sincerely thank each and everyone of you for sharing ure comments and stories . Ride safely!

  • So TRUE MCg. Motorcycling is a way of life & in life, you never stop ‘learning’.
    How many times do we let that rapidly advancing truck in our rear-view overtake us on a not-so-urgent day, being happy to enjoy the full space that it leaves behind, with it’s departure. Being a rider within my mind first & try to being optimal at that, I wouldn’t mind coming LAST solong as I feel riding a pleasure flowing through my veins. And there is no second thoughts to that, even when I am doing cross-country, 30days continuously, around so many different traffic behaviors I face that try to make my senses go IMMUNE to dangers that look all so probable at the start of the ride. But still on a spirited period of the day when I would be making better use of my acceleration, at the back of my mind, I would be calculating for a fraction of second before crossing each trailer or Large Truck or tanker or even a SUV, that the driver behind the wheels is NUTS (no hurt intended) & would try to give myself sufficient recognition either by a instant HONK or mostly by a pass-by FLASH or both. And even then, I would keep that GAP of life between myself & the potent death; waiting for every eventuality.

    Every road is a new chapter in the life of a rider, a chapter that can & must have a REJUVINATING ending when one sees the family waiting on the balcony, after 02 months being away. But equally is the probability of the LEAVING faces that remain inside your grey matter while you start, becoming the last memory. One needs to learn & keep learning towards the last lines.

  • Having been down a couple times I know I can always improve my riding skills. I ride defensively now. I wear bright colors, protective gear, and always a great helmet. You can do all you can do but if a deer or some animal comes out with no reaction time you’re screwed. I once had a matress come of a truck in front of me and take me out. I was lucky and only suffered a broken hand. While the FL trooper was writing his report with me standing in front of his car. An old guy in his 70’s in an old pickup slowed to view the damage (I’ll never call it an accident due to the stupid fool not properly tying down cargo).
    While this old guy slowed down another truck towing a boat rear ended him right beside us. The boat came OFF the trailer, flew thru the air, and landed 5 feet from where we were stsnding. TRUE story. It was such a bizarre scene I don’t even tell the story at times.
    POINT BEING you can do all you can do and can still become a victim. Thanks for being there my friend Kevin X………..Ride as safe as possible……Always wear a great helmet….

  • Every moment that your on the bike ride like it is “Match Point”, a tennis term and very approiate here. You can have the right of way but remember you can also wind up being dead right. A bike has the advantage of being much quicker and more maneverable in a smaller space than a car so you need to learn to use this to your advantage. If you find yourself stuck in a group of cars that make you uncomfortable I suggest either speed up or slow down to create a safe gap. I always speed up to take control of the situation. It is up to you to use your abilities to take control of your situation in traffic. Allowing traffic to control you will lead to bad things happening to you. Remember you are always the one that pays the price no matter who is right. If you don’t feel comfortable doing these type of things you should consider some MC schooling. Track school ,NOT track days, is a lot of fun, a great way to spend the day and above all a safe place to learn how to improve your MC skills.

  • I know what you mean by being invisiable. I was riding on the back of a friends bike. It’s not a small bike it’s a Honda Valkrye we were at a stop lite behind a minivan positioned so we were in his mirror if he bothered to look. He began to back up . We seen his back up lights and tried to move but face it,it’s not easy to back up a big bike. So he backed up into our front tire and bent the fender into the tire. When the driver got out of his car all he could say was I did’nt see you behind me. I felt like punching him.,and saying what are we invisiable? I’m 64 and my rider is 70 and we want to be able keep riding infact I just got my first bike last year and want to keep riding for a long while.

  • Ride aware and yes be prepared every moment of the ride.
    I saw a Gold wing with a rotating amber lite on the top box.
    Wonder if a white one would be better on the Helmut.
    SLOW DOWN Keep your distance. Good luck ya`ll for the 2011 season.

  • This is a very good article. I take it fully to heart, plus everyone who does see me is trying to kill me, insuring me that I must not assume the actions of another vehicle. In the 70’s my 900z1 was an amazing machine. Now, 64 years old, have an adventure bike-KLR650 and plan to stay alive. Keep the good articles in print.

  • To Ron,
    Only one flaw in your ‘classy’ bike theory. There hasn’t been a bike made classy bike yet that will draw attention away from a seventeen year old boy / girl texting his or her NBFF. The kids with licenses to kill are brain dead behind the wheel as long as the latest techno gadget is in hand and active. I love the pipes, love the smell of exhaust in the morning, but don’t think for a minute that the teenage driver cuttin up on his way to school is going to stop to check you out. Been there, done that, need the surgery to fix it.
    Stay well my biker amigos, jim, Louisiana.

  • I am a pretty avid adventurist and will admit that I am anal about my tools. If there is one nuance that I highly dislike, it’s when my gear give way. That is why I always purchase quality tools to gear myself up and be prepared for most anything the trail throws at me.

  • All good comments & habits to adopt; And although I didn’t see anything suggesting it, I go one step further; I wear a yellow-lime, high visibility safety vest, Tee shirt or jacket depending on the weather and my headlights are always on. All bike riders should be wary of road hazards and other drivers and I think most are, or you don’t last long; BUT, I do what I can to be VISABLE to others so I don’t get blindsided or hit from behind when I am operating my bike in a safe manner. Bikers are invisible, so anything you can do to be more visible can only save you some skin; or worse.

  • Steve , God bless . “Ride free or die ” The attitude that they are all out to get us may not be far off . Threedays ago my sister told me about one of those SQUIDS ‘squishy-kids’ ( kevlar corona tank-top and sandals) swerving thru 5 oclock traffic and she wanted to hit him . Now both me and her husband are riders and , if she felt that way , imagine how the pissed off soccer-mom feels as you are cutting that white line .
    That being said , the best way I have figured out to be noticed is to have such a cool bike that people want to look at you . Screw the whole bright yellow jacket and all . Go loud . Let your bike show some class and , people will look . Then all you have to worry about is an actual accident or a psychotic driver that wants you under his wheels

  • I try to anticipate what the drivers ahead or approaching are going to do and plan an evasive action. I plan to take the advanced MSF training course again and do whatever I can to upgrade my rider skills. Thanks for this reminder.

  • Very helpfull comments,but it depends what part off the world you are riding,In Malta EU its very dangerus to drive a bike,the roads are slipery,pot holes,dangerus driveres,sometimes they cut short on you,drive slowely on the fast lane etc.The athoroties dont give a s…..but when we go to Italy its much better as they love bikers there and treat you with rispect ,like a king.

  • Loud pipes save lives. Why ride invisible and think invisible when you can be heard. We have every right as any other motorist on the road. I say use your horns and crack your pipes, let them know your there.

  • On 6/24/09, I rode from my Gilbert resideance in route to my Childerns Home in Queen Creek,AZ, It was the 2nd time, I rode without a; helmet or jacket. I put a baseball cap on backwards, with a pair of over googles, to protect my own glasses. I thought what could happen on non higway roads, as the speed limit was less than 50 MPH, plus for the most part, the were low volume country and farm roads. I approx. 10 min. into my ride, noticed a big Yellow Fire truck. The lights were on as well as a blast of it’s horn. I noticed the driver making a stop signal with his hand, as well as the Fire fighters in the crew cab, aslo asking me to stop, as they wanted me to yeild there right of way. I quickly pulled off to the white line, as AZ demands, when there is a emergency vehicle. About 90 seconds later, a driver in a SUV, struck me, as he did not see me as he was driving approx. 45 mph. The Firer fighters watched I being struck from behind, as well as my Bike travling across the roadway, from my East bound lane as I was ejected approx. 50 feet into it’s total travel path once hit of a total of 500 feet, as it fell off to the shoulder of the West bound lane. Well, I was hurt beyond my belief, as I was told I was air bound approx. 6-10′ above the pavement, prior to hitting the roadway. I never knew what happened, as it was a dream. I guess, even as I did have my Bike in 1st. grear and the clutch covered, I should have; never rode without a helmet, jacket or not made use of my mirros. As I was instructed at Team AZ training center, it’s not whats in front of you, but whats behind you, so always keep on checking cars, trucks, etc. creaping up on you.
    To all that will read this, please be wize, wear all the needed protected ridding wear ex; helmet, jacket and gloves and never trust that you’ll be seen by others, even if asked to pull to the side, as ordered by any emergency vehicle, or what might happen in heavy traffic, anywhere. I know have another Bike and have the thought that I might never get to my destination alive.

  • Think invisible, think about family, think about protective riding gear, think about safely using YOUR motorcycles brakes, think about your physical health. Everytime you ride a motorcycle think of the word “practice”. Your bike is not a easy chair in front of the tv. Practice riding your motorcycle at every ride. Tune your body to become part of the machine, your skills will sharpen and your spirit will soar.
    M K Alpers of Arlington, WA.

  • I took the motorcycle safety class several years ago, but didn’t begin to ride until this year. Since my husband had a serious motorcycle accident at 17 because he was invisible (hit broadside by a 58 Buick) , I always make the assumption that I am invisible and the little experience I have corroborates with that. I wear full face helmet and bright armored jacket. Learning to ride on a 93 Kawasaki Vulcan 750, with a steep, curvy gravel driveway, has been a challenge but it has taught a lot about bike control and how easy it is to lose control when you have 500# under you. One precaution I take is to avoid situations when my invisibility gets really bad. For instance, I am involved in youth ministry. I wait until most of the parents leave because a parking lot of parents in their SUVs, on cell phones, talking to their kids, parking in random spots, is the most dangerous position I’ve been in. The problem is compounded by the fact that there are so many large vehicles on the road and they have huge blind spots! Truthfully, my biggest concern is those moments when I get distracted by other thoughts because we have to be triply aware of what is going on around us. BTW, I plan to retake the safety class as soon as I can..

  • As long as I have been riding, I have had the attitude that when I swing my leg over the bike, I could die that day if I wasn’t careful. Sort of the same theme as “invisible”. Almost every motorcycle accident could be avoided if we riders could maintain awareness, but the temptation is ever present to have more fun!

    Bright lights are great, “Back Off” flashers on your brake lights work well, but nothing can replace knowing where you are, where they are, and thinking about how you move through space and time.

    Great piece. Thanks for it.

  • Back in Oct 2002 I took an advanced rider safety course . I’ve tried doing this every year or twosince first hearing about them a few years ago when I took a beginners riding course with my wife so she could get her license.

    Back to 2002, Nov of that year just weeks after taking the advanced riders course I got taken out by a u turner on my way home from work. I was 17degrees out that morning when I left for work @ 5:30 AM, so I wore my full face helmet & all my leather riding gear. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t be writing this right now.

    Had a hot date that Sat night with my wife planned, dinner, dancing, etc. Guess my daydreaming about that & being a little tired from a day of pouring & finishing 140 yards of concrete a work had me a bit distracted.

    All of this also had me in a bit of a hurry to get home. Never did make it home that day. While passing 5 vehicles in the only passing lane on hwy28 on the north shore of Lake Tahoe NV I inbedded myself into the side of a Ford Expedition.

    Police say I was down to about 55 – 60 mph upon impact. Pushed the Expidition 2ft sideways, snapped it’s rear axcel, kind of totaled it. My HD Road King didn’t fare much better, neither did I. Teach me to not daydream while riding, to pay attention to everything going on around me at all times.

    Here it is 6+ years later, have a used 07 cop HD Road King. My wife gets to ride it until we get enough funds together for the modifications needed so I can ride again. Only have to get the throttle & front brake moved to the left side, foot clutch, push button electric shift for it. Would also like a sidecar for my dog to come riding with me.

    Drs said I’d never walk again, I walk okish. Only thing paralyzed is my right arm. No brain damage, guess the fullface helmet did it’s job. I know for a fact that I’d be dead today if I hadn’t of done the safety course 2 -3 weeks earlier, or hadn’t put on my full face helmet that morning.

    Plan on taking another safety course as soon as I can ride again. Going to have to practice riding 1 handed for a couple 3 thousand miles first though.

    Thanks for letting me ramble,
    Steve K.

  • I’ve heard this “invisible” idea all my life, being 51 years old now. It’s good advice, but I have survived by taking it even further. I ride with the idea in my head that I can be seen clearly by everyone on the road, and they all want to kill me. I look at each and every vehicle on the road as a danger to my life, and have already figured out how they are going to kill me, and how I am going to stop them from doing it before they even get close to me. Maybe a little extreme, but I haven’t let one of them hit me since the first time, 4 days into my riding career. Maybe coming within inches of losing a leg changes your outlook. Y’all have fun, now.

  • Get training, more training, and then practice, practice, practice! Learn something on every ride. Pay attention and wear all of your gear everytime you through a leg over a bike. Every time!

    You are invisible…except to the revenue’rs!

  • I find it that riding fast I never got in a accident do not know if it is me or a six sence I have.

    Anyway I use to have the flashing headlight modulators but had people pull out of the way thinking I was a cop, I also got harased by two cops so I started carrying the book of laws and how they are street legal and the cop said he did not care to shut it off and that is that and having earphones in my ears which are illegal I decided to end it there and drive off, I would have love to augue the point home and show him that it was leagal and nothing he can do about it,

    the other time the cop said he is a motorcycle rider and owns a Gold Wing and said he been riding a long time and never heard of it and was going to charge me with pretending to be driving a police bike or something like that and stopped me over the car ahead that was speeding.

    so now I use H I D lights in most cased there are less wattage then regular headlights at 35 watts when the bike has 55 watt bulb, to get high and low beam they use a electical magnet that pulls the bulb in for high beam, I have that blue color to the bulbs and stand out from other cars and have not been pulled over sence then.

    also on they have super bright led white lights that you can mount on your forks and have them flash or steady on.

    but no matter what you do you still have to drive like they do not see you and I know not to drive at certon hours of the day and like to take trips during the week and weekends I try not to ride at night especially after 12PM when the bar guys are starting to leave drunk and driving. I am now 50 and still riding and hope to continue as long as possible.

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