Motorcycle Safety: What to Know Before You Go

Image: Woman in motorcycle gear in front of motorcycle.

So you want to ride a motorcycle? It takes more than buying the bike. You need the proper equipment and knowledge to be safe out on the open road.

Gear Up
Motorcycle riders are far more exposed in the event of an accident than drivers of other vehicles, so purchasing protective gear can really save your skin—literally—and your skull.

Skin Protection Factor
Imagine falling off your bike (or getting thrown off) and sliding across the pavement wearing shorts or a t-shirt. Consider these instead:

  • Jeans
  • Leather jackets
  • Boots
  • Motorcycle pants
  • Leather chaps

All of these are more than just a fashion statement—they protect your skin if you are in an accident. (You might also want to advise passengers to wear similar gear. Even if you don't crash, a passenger's leg can be burned by the exhaust pipe if they are wearing shorts and are not careful.)

Skull Protection Factor
Although skin protection is important, the most important piece of protective gear you can buy is a helmet. The NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives in 2017, and could have saved 749 more. A lot of helmets on the market look really cool, but your first concern should be how well it will protect you. The first thing to look for is certification that the helmet meets U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards for motorcycle helmet safety. The DOT tests for impact protection, penetration protection and retention. You can tell if a helmet is a DOT-approved, legal motorcycle helmet because it will have a "DOT" sticker or painted symbol on the rear of the helmet.

Next, make sure the helmet fits well and is comfortable. Concerned that you won't be able to hear as well with a helmet on? Don't be. In addition to protecting you from a brain injury, helmets can actually protect against wind noise.

Get Training
If you've never owned a motorcycle, but a friend or family member taught you everything you think you need to know about riding a motorcycle, you might consider taking a training class. Motorcycle training classes are offered throughout the country and although they are not required, Shelter offers discounts on motorcycle insurance if riders complete them. In addition to being a great idea for safety sake, a motorcycle rider education class might even help you get your motorcycle license.

Get Covered
Riding a motorcycle likely carries far more risk than driving a car, and if you have an accident on your motorcycle that causes someone else to be hurt, or if you damage someone's property, you could be held financially responsible. That's why it's a good idea to have motorcycle insurance. In fact, it's required in many states. Shelter offers a motorcycle policy with basic coverage options and many of the same money-saving discounts as our auto policy, including discounts for taking approved accident prevention courses.

Of course, it should go without saying that you should never operate any kind of motor vehicle—including a motorcycle—under the influence of alcohol. And never bike beyond your ability or take chances like weaving in and out of traffic or popping wheelies. What if one of those other drivers is texting and driving? Just because they should be paying attention doesn’t mean they will be. Besides, those types of riding behaviors don’t make you look cool and certainly aren't safe. To enjoy your bike for many years, don't take chances—ride safely.