Distractions for drivers are at an all time high with buzzing cell phones and pretty bright touch screen displays on the dashboard of nearly every new car.
Unfortunately we can’t change every driver and the undeniable fact that we as motorcycle riders are in fact invisible. Although we can ride defensively because we do have a better field of vision as compared to the drivers in their steel cages and we can maneuver in much tighter spaces than the cars surrounding us.
“Watch your six”
Watch your six or paying attention to what is going on behind you is one of the best defensive riding techniques. Whether you are stopped at an intersection, stuck in traffic, or riding on what seems to be an open road always be hyper aware of your surroundings. A split second reaction can mean the difference between kissing the pavement or escaping the danger hurtling in your direction. For those of us who grew up racing this goes against our racing mantra of always looking ahead but remember on the road you’re not surrounded by other racers you are surrounded by people of all kinds. Even the best of drivers can make mistakes or become easily distracted in our world of technology.
Don’t be a sitting duck.
Intersections can be dangerous even if you’re stopped. Stay on your toes, become aware of your surroundings, and have an escape plan.
Say you’re sitting at an intersection and you know the light will give you more than a few seconds to check your tank bag for your wallet. So you lackadaisically click your gears into neutral and begin to dig through your tank bag. Maybe say you forget to set your GPS mounted on your bars to the destination so you again shift into neutral and have at the task. Suddenly you hear the screaming tires trying to come to a stop on the pavement directly to your back you want to maneuver quickly but your hands are off the grips and you can’t grab first gear in time to escape. Hopefully the inattentive driver is able to come to a stop before reaching you and hopefully you have a good helmet but unfortunately in many of these scenarios the driver won’t even see you there.
Whether you’re sitting in traffic or stopped at an intersection always be on your toes and leave yourself an out.
Keep your bike in first gear when stopped the extra split second it takes to pull in the clutch and shift down to first can make a difference. If you need to check your bags or make adjustments always pull over to a safe spot where you’re out of the way of traffic. As you roll to a stop check your surroundings, is there a better chance of escaping danger from the left or right side of the lane? Can you hop between the cars ahead if needed or is the shoulder a safe spot to pull over? Are there any curbs, cones, or road hazards you need to avoid if you have to make a run for it? Also as you slow down a quick check in your mirrors can reveal whether the driver behind you is slowing down as well, if needed flash your brake lights to notify the driver that you are coming to a stop. When you’re sure the driver behind you has come to a stop pay attention again to what is ahead, the trick is to keep a balanced awareness of your surroundings utilizing lights, signals, and mirrors. Maintaining this awareness of all your surroundings is key when moving as well, always check for speeding cars in the mirrors and be aware of where you can safely dodge danger if necessary. Most importantly, do all of this with confidence in your riding ability! Be assertive and confident instead of aggressive or timid.When you’re not on the road you can still make a difference in your safety. Take time to make sure your mirrors are properly adjusted and clean if needed replace your mirrors with some that allow better vision. Always check your lights and signals as well and utilize reflective gear and trim.
Has watching your six ever saved you from a near accident? What other riding rules do you live by? Let us know in the comments below!