Ten Common Motorcycle Mistakes

Whether you just bought your first bike or you’re an experienced rider, let’s be honest—we all make mistakes. And when you make those mistakes on a motorcycle, the consequences can be deadly.We’ve compiled the top ten motorcycle mistakes we’ve seen on South Dakota roads and hope they serve as a welcome reminder to ride safely so you can ride again.

Assuming people have seen you.

We’ve all learned the principles of defensive driving—thinking ahead and anticipating hazards. Defensive riding takes that to a whole new level. You can never assume other drivers, riders and even pedestrians have seen you. Motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to die in a crash. That stat alone means your every move (and your life) are worth a second and third look.

Skipping practice.

Rider safety courses are crucial whether you’re a new rider or just brushing up on a few skills. Make them an essential and recurring part of your safe riding practice.

Riding in your beach gear.

Shorts, flip flops and sandals = a major no-no. Keep the pool gear at home and make sure you’re wearing boots, pants, leathers, gloves and a helmet. Otherwise, prepare to kiss your feet and toes goodbye in a crash.

Turning too fast.

Taking turns too quickly and running off the road is a common cause of crashes. Take time to learn the limits of your bike so you don’t misjudge your speed or turn too sharply and slide into the ditch—or somewhere even worse.

Forgetting to turn the key off.

Most riders have done it—using the kill switch to stop the bike, then forgetting to take the key out. The next thing you know, you’re ready to ride again but your battery’s dead in the parking lot. A good habit to start: powering off your bike with the key instead of the kill switch, then putting it straight into your pocket.

Riding with a passenger too soon.

Passengers change the whole dynamic of riding, not only increasing the weight on your bike but shifting its center of gravity. Give yourself time to practice and grow confident in your own riding skills before adding a buddy onto the back. And even then, remember practice makes perfect.

Overdriving the conditions.

We get it—motorcycles make you feel awesome. It’s empowering and thrilling to ride like the wind. But overdriving the conditions is one of the most common mistakes even old pros make. New roads, winding curves, rain, wind, traffic—all these things pose serious dangers if you’re driving too fast and aggressively. And crashing your bike definitely feels less than awesome.

Failing to engage the clutch and stalling out.

If you’re a less experienced rider, you’ve probably stalled out a few times as you learn. The most common cause is improper clutch control—not engaging the clutch while decelerating during stops. To improve slow riding and stops, repeat riding in a figure 8 as slowly as you can to practice clutch control. And make sure you perform regular maintenance to rule out any mechanical issues for stalling.

Skipping your helmet in town.

You might think because you’re riding in town at lower speeds that you can skip the helmet. Not true—according to NHTSA, more than half of crashes occur within five miles of home, and that means motorcycles, too. Even at low speeds, you’re more at risk for a fatal crash without a helmet.

Too many new things at once.

Mastering your motorcycle takes years of practice. So don’t rush to do too many new things too quickly—being new to riding, driving a new bike, exploring new locations and roads, or riding with a new passenger. Add one new thing at a time and practice careful, defensive riding until you’re comfortable.

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