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Motorcycles 101: Riding strategies - man


BDA's - Before, During and After checks.  Planned maintenance.

Marvin Gaye sang "Brother, brother, brother... there's far too many of you dying..."  I wonder if he was like, prophetic or something.  

You see it everyday in headlines around the nation.  Motorcycle enthusiasts are perishing at alarming rates.  One has to wonder whether or not these riders practiced a faulty riding strategy or were they simply victims of circumstances.

So far we've examined the machine side of a successful riding strategy, we took a deer related tragic side trip and also discussed how to minimize your response time in the event of an emergency. This time we're going to examine the human side of things.  We'll examine how man himself figures into a safe and successful riding strategy.  The amount of sensory input we motorcycle riders have to assimilate is astronomical.  That means there's a lot going on that will, according to your HD service manual, cause severe injury or death, should you not be paying attention to what you're doing.  You have read the service manual for your scoot haven't you?  First step in developing a successful riding strategy.  Know your machine.

Riding covered.  MSF recommends 4 fingers!

The list of scenarios that can be explored in an attempt to make one a safer rider is a long one indeed.  Riding in the rain, riding at night, and what gear should I wear, are just a few of the different questions and concerns that we face as motorcycle riders.  What we're going to examine now is the mental knowledge and practices that will aid you in developing a good riding strategy and will hopefully make you more aware of your surroundings and your ride.

So far we've discussed:


  •  T - tires: air pressure, cracks, dry rot, tread
  • C - controls: pegs, shafts, levers, hoses
  • L - lights/electricrical: lights, turn signals, wiring, operation
  • O - oil/fluids: check levels, check for leaks
  • C - chassis: frame, handlebars, mounts, forks, bearings
  • S - stands: springs, cracks, bent


  • Search - watch as far ahead of you as possible
  • Evaluate - examine any and all possible hazards to your course of travel
  • Execute - form plan of action to lower or remove impending hazard 

I play a little game called "What if?" when I ride.  As I'm out and about, whether it be side streets or the interstate, I continually ask my self "What if?"  What if that guy pulls out in front of me?  What if this guy changes lanes?  What if that mini-van driving soccer Mom on the cell-phone has to slam on her brakes because she doesn't see the kid with the dog fixing to step off the curb?  Of course, you saw the kid with dog at the curb, becuse you were practicing SEEing the road ahead of you.  Slow down, cover your controls, and be prepared to stop.

Other techniques that should be part of an overall riding strategy:

  • Lane position - move to the part of the lane that makes you visible to the drivers around you
  • Position yourself in a drivers mirror - one sure way to make sure that driver ahead of you can see you, is if you can see them in their mirror, most important around tractor-trailer units
  • Head checks - turn your head and check that on-ramp your going by, don't be surprised
  •  Edge traps - watch the road for uneven or broken pavement
  • You are invisible, ride like it
  • Take a riders course.  If you've taken the beginners, take the advanced.

Sources:, MSF,

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  • Jerry 5 years ago

    Thanks Eric. Always appreciate your articles.

  • 20031200 4 years ago

    I'm in full agreement of your "thinking" with regard to "What If". I do alot of this type of thinking when I'm out and about on my bike. Recently I came across a forum on delphi that provided test scenerios too help a rider better understand how too handle "What if's" I was amazed how poorly I did taking the first few tests. Hopefully I'll retain most of the good examples I learned from those tests.