Top 5 Ways That Motorcycle Riders Screw Up

Being average isn't good enough.

Being average isn’t good enough.

1.Thinking You Are Better Than You Are

Overconfidence and an inaccurate, overinflated self-image is responsible for a lot of motorcycle crashes. This is certainly true with young men (the majority of crashes in MA involve young sportbike riders). But, you old guys (and gals) aren’t immune. So, listen up.

Most motorcycle riders are average, at best. On the surface, they look competent enough, but when the going gets rough, their weaknesses become apparent. Everyone should occasionally look in the mirror to try and identify their weaknesses and then act to turn those weaknesses into strengths.

Group riding can bring out the worst behavior.

Group riding can bring out the worst behavior.

2. Succumbing to Pack Mentality

Group Riding can make the most level-headed rider do really stupid things. It’s something about the energy of a group, in combination with the need to prove that you’re a good rider that often fuels bad behavior. I’m not immune. Knowing that I can get sucked into riding too fast (for the street environment) causes me to be very selective about who I ride with.



3. Speeding in All the Wrong Places

Riding too fast for the street environment is one of the stupidest things you can do on a motorcycle. Yes, it sucks to get pulled over, but it sucks more to crash because you simply didn’t respect the reality of street riding. Errant cars, animals and pedestrians can jump out from anywhere and sand, gravel and fallen branches often lurk around corners undetected. I like riding fast, but not too fast. I reserve the really fast stuff for the racetrack.

An all too common sight.

An all too common sight.

4. Mixing Alcohol with Riding

Are you kidding me? As if being an average rider isn’t dangerous enough,  are you willing to add impairment to the equation? Talk about stacking the deck against you. Listen, I like  drinking a beer or two just like the next guy (or gal), and there was a time long ago when I would even jump on the bike after having a few. Thankfully, I survived those days.

You may think you’re fine to ride with one or two cold ones having passed your gullet, but combining drinking or other impairments with riding is totally counter to managing risk. I’m not your father, so do what you want. But, I ask you to please refrain.

See it coming before it happens.

See it coming before it happens.

5. Failing to Predict Danger

Close calls are a warning. Crashes are the result of you not heeding those warnings. The best riders develop a sixth sense about their surroundings. They scan the roadway looking for anomalies and evaluate if anything is “wrong with the picture”. They are actively searching for problems and are way ahead of the situation, because they are prepared. By “preloading” hazard scenarios into their mind, they are already halfway toward managing any hazard. Try it. Not only does it make riding safer, it’s also fun, like a video game. Don’t let them get you!

Add to the list in the comment section, below.

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Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in All Things Motorcycle, Motorcycle Musings, Motorcycle Safety, Rider Education Tagged with: , , , , , ,
15 comments on “Top 5 Ways That Motorcycle Riders Screw Up
  1. Fred says:

    Hydrate; Keeping hydrated while riding is often overlooked. Motorcycling normally requires both hands. I have always worn full-face helmets, and thought keeping hydrated meant stopping every so often (mostly at fuel stops) then chugging down some water. With the advent of flip-up helmets, and cup holders some can drink reguraly better than others. Recently I have changed my riding style to Trail and Adventure routes, often with dirt roads. So I started wearing a hydration backpack. Sipping reguraly keeps me hydrated, so I don’t get those dehydration headaches, but more importantly it dramatically helps keep your mental focus up! Now my hydration pack is part of my riding gear, & I just wear it.

  2. Dave says:

    Keep a safe distance from traffic in front of you not only for safe stopping but so you can also see the road surface, potholes, sticks and rocks can bring you down.

  3. Ken says:

    It is always good to be reminded about potentially lethal combinations. It’s good to be confident but not so much as to be cocky where we overestimate our competencies and underestimate conditions. Thanks for the article and tips on self reflection.

  4. Adam says:

    Looking in the mirror from time to time is so important. It’s so easy to think we are better than we really are. Great article Ken.

  5. Chuck Aulino says:

    Thanks for this article. I’d like to add a couple of things from my personal experience on the street & the track. If you are approaching an intersection where a car is stopped, signaling they are making a left across your path, know that they will turn in front of you every time. Especially if there are no cars immediately in front or behind you. Know it. Intersections in general are danger zones for bikes – that same car waiting to turn in front of you may be obscured from view by cars on your left. Approach intersections on high alert. Another thing to remember is that modern bikes, especially sport bikes, are way more able to negotiate situations than most of us riders; if you find yourself deep in a turn and way too hot, remember that the bike can almost always make it – look where you want to go and lean that bitch until you’re dragging hard parts, and more often than not you’ll make it.

  6. Wes says:

    Knowing when and where to ride is extremely important. Avoiding areas that have an abundance of bars, especially late at night. Avoid riding near high schools in the morning and and afternoon hours is wise, as there is a lot of new and inexperienced drivers trying to show off for their friends.

    • tom gaudette says:

      I want to second the high school. I live near one and thought it was good for my kids to walk to but don’t drive when it starts or stops of the school day.

  7. Louis says:

    Always ride your own ride and don’t try to impress anybody or show off…
    shit happens when you least expect it

  8. Jimbo says:

    Peer pressure.
    Having to think you have to keep up.

  9. erik says:

    I think number 5 is the biggest one. Always staying vigilant for bad/distracted/under educated drivers is a must. I really like this site keep up the good work anyone who wants to share their knowledge and experience is a fellow riding brother to me.

  10. Mark says:

    Maintain and inspect your ride before you ride… Nothing’s worse than a mechanical failure when miles from home. Especially when it was a failure that could have been prevented. IE: riding on a bald tire, or riding with a loose chain or clutch cable. It’s a shame having to tell your buddy’s you have to miss a long awaited ride because of a worn tire or other part.. It’s hard to say no but it’s in your best intrest to bail and get your ride fixed and head out on the next one. Riding is already dangerous for the inexperienced don’t make it worse by riding faulty equipment!!!

  11. steve says:

    I actually took the car the other day after a sleepless night- I felt ok in the morning, but knew I would be draggin’ ass for the homeward commute. I wish more 20-year-olds would have that kind of foresight…

  12. brad says:

    Like others said being tired while riding is very dangerous. Emotions can be a very dangerous mix while driving but so much more on a motorcycle. Your significant other left you and your sad. Or your mad at someone for whatever reason. Really evaluate if it’s a good idea to be operating a motorcycle. You have to be focused on the road and your surroundings. Not what is surrounding your emotional life. Stay focused it only takes a second of distraction for something to go wrong. Always be focused on your ride. If you have to much stuff going on in your head get that all figured out before you get on your bike. I’ve had to put the bike in the garage for a month while I needed time to get myself together. However long it takes make sure your in the right state of mind.

  13. mike says:

    Thank You for publishung these comments. They are very true and even after 10 years of riding I still have to think about these rules.
    Just to add another when I ride I eat light and if I get sleepy with or without other riders I stop to take a 15 minute nap in a park or on a picnic table. When I lead I encourage my friends to let me know if they need a nap. We find a spot. So if you see a couple of bikers laying in the grass it could be us. loll

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