After what seemed to be the longest winter on record, spring has finally arrived in the Great Northeast and that means…bikes, bikes and more bikes. Unfortunately, along with the warm days, longer nights, and fresh air comes an increase in motorcycle accidents. This seems to taper off as the weather stays or becomes warmer, but for the first few weeks we can be sure to see article after article in the newspaper about crashes.
There are probably a few reasons for the proliferation of accidents, not the least of which is there are naturally more bikes on the road. However, another reason might very well be that, after keeping the two wheels in storage for upwards of five months, the eyes and body of a rider are a bit rusty. Add to these issues the idea that motorists are not quite prepared to see motorcycles (let’s face it, many never are) and it’s easy to see why we are at such risk early on.
If you are just heading out after a long winter’s nap, take it slow at first. Re-acclimate yourself to the local driving habits of cagers, especially at rush hour. Make sure your bike is running smoothly, the brakes are decent, and the horn works. As one long-time biker once told me, “Ride like you are invisible, because to people in cars, you are.”
Now would be a good time to check the helmet. A rule of thumb is to get rid of it if it’s five years old, but who does that? Check that it still fits; one friend said it should fit like a sock. If it’s wiggly, it probably has some flattening of the padding or you just bought it too big to begin with, but either way, replace it. If it has a face shield, check for scratches or cuts to be sure none impede your vision. There are things you can skimp on, but protecting yourself should never be one of them.
Speaking of helmets, I have made an observation of sorts regarding wearing them in states that don’t require them. Women tend to wear them regardless. This is not to say every woman does, but by pure ratio, we do. Are we smarter or more scared or both?
Hopefully by the time this article shows up, I will have finally learned to do more than just lean into turns from the pillion. My friend’s 250 has been fixed and shined up and is ready for me to try my hardest in keeping it upright and moving. I would have liked to have taken a course, but finances won’t cooperate right now. Perhaps in the future that will be possible and I can add my name to the roster of licensed New Jersey motorcyclists.
If you have any suggestions for future Spoke to Spoke articles or just want to comment about what you’ve seen so far, drop me a line by clicking on my name below. This month will mark my 12th month of Cycle Connections participation, and so far, it has been a blast. In writing for you, I have learned so much by researching, experiencing, and speaking to many other riders. I look forward to continuing the “ride” and thank everyone for allowing me this opportunity.
By Louise Reeves