Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Motorcycle Commuting
Getting to ride your motorcycle every day is just one of the benefits of motorcycle commuting.
On the practical side, it’s more economical than commuting in your gas-guzzling truck or car, and it can dramatically cut down on travel time. On a more personal level, commuting by motorcycle gets you two extra rides per day, and even more ride time if you decide to cruise during your lunch break.
That being said, motorcycle commuting is a bit more of a commitment than commuting by car, but it can be something to look forward to every day. Here are some tips to make motorcycle commuting more effective and enjoyable.
Maintain Your Motorcycle
Keeping your bike in peak mechanical condition is perhaps the most important factor in motorcycle commuting.
If your motorcycle isn’t mechanically sound, you’ll be endangering yourself every time you ride it. Not only should your bike be in top condition for commuting, but you’ll need to service it more frequently because of the extra miles and wear-and-tear you’ll be putting on it.
At the very minimum, you should include the following inspections in your routine motorcycle maintenance checklist:
- Tire pressure, wear, and damage
- Oil and fluid levels
- Working lights, turn signals and horn
- Brake cables and brake pads
- Chain tension and lubrication
- Battery power and condition
Riding with a tool roll will enable you to make some roadside repairs if you do hit trouble.
Emergency maintenance work will be limited, but a portable toolkit might be enough to get your motorcycle home or to the nearest shop. You should get roadside assistance coverage too, which may be included in your motorcycle’s insurance policy. Check your policy to see what your roadside assistance covers, and consider additional coverage if necessary.
Once you know your bike is mechanically safe and sound, your next biggest concern is visibility.
Wear as much high-visibility riding gear as possible when commuting, and don’t be concerned with whether or not you look cool. Stay visible by wearing bright riding gear that stand outs from your surroundings. If you don’t like bright colors and feel like you must look like a badass in black, seek out reflective riding gear in darker colors. Keep your motorcycle’s lights on at all times too, even during daylight, as they help alert other motorists to your presence.
Use a Full Face Helmet
Full face or modular helmets are the best head gear for your daily commute.
Conditions can be unpredictable when you commute on a daily basis. A beautiful morning could turn into a windy, rainy evening, so if you’ve ever ridden in inclement weather at 70mph with an open face helmet, you know how uncomfortable (and dangerous) it is!
Gear Yourself Up
Next on the list for protecting yourself for the daily commute is having proper riding gear.
Once again, you may encounter unpredictable weather conditions in a single day or even a single ride, so you need to be prepared for anything.
Gear Up Your Motorcycle
While you’re gearing yourself up for motorcycle commuting, you’ll want to pick up a few things for your bike as well.
A set of handguards and a windshield will make your commute much more comfortable, particularly in rainy or cold weather. For your bike’s security when you leave it unattended, consider getting an alarm or security system. Choose one that comes with anti-theft protection coverage from the system’s manufacturer, as well as a key registration and replacement program.
Also think about where you’ll be parking your bike once you arrive at your destination. A motorcycle cover is a must to keep your bike protected from exposure to the rain and sun, which may cause rust and faded paint.
Get Good Luggage
If you’re commuting by motorcycle on a daily basis, think about where you’ll carry stuff: work clothes, laptop, packed lunch, etc.
A backpack might do the trick, but a heavy one ruins your center of gravity and balance, and can be uncomfortable to wear after a while. Backpacks also have limited space, which isn’t helpful if you want to stop and pick up groceries on your way home. Some popular luggage options include tank bags, tail bags, top cases and panniers.
- Tank bags: Soft bags that attach to the fuel tank. Convenient to use, but offer limited carrying capacity and no security.
- Tail bags: Soft bags that attach to the passenger seat. They usually have a greater carrying capacity than tank bags, but offer no security or passenger room.
- Panniers: Saddlebags available in hard-sided and soft bag options, they provide the largest carrying capacity and are easy to use. Hard-sided saddlebags provide lockable security and all-weather protection, but add width to the motorcycle and can interfere with passenger comfort. Soft saddlebags don't widen the motorcycle as much, but don't offer the same levels of protection either.
- Top cases: Hard-sided lockable boxes that attach to the motorcycle's tail. They offer all-weather protection, security and ease-of-use. They don't have quite the carrying capacity of a pair of panniers, but they don't add to the width of the motorcycle either.
It’s also worth carrying a couple of bungee cords and a cargo net. They’re inexpensive, take up very little space, and are ideal for quickly rigging a way to transport large, bulky objects.
Motorcycle Commuting Safety
Commuting by motorcycle is most dangerous during the morning and evening rush hours.
In the mornings, you may encounter drivers who are groggy or in a rush to get to work. In the evenings, you may encounter drivers who are distracted or tired after a long day. In other words, there will be plenty of vehicles around with dangerous drivers behind their wheels on a daily basis.
Here are several common sense tips to make your motorcycle commute safer:
- Cover the front brake lever with two fingers
- Cover the rear brake pedal with your foot
- Keep a safe distance between you and other vehicles
- Don't ride beside other vehicles or in their blind spots
- Pass other vehicles swiftly to minimize your time riding beside them or in their blind spots
- Take routes with the least possible amount of traffic
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings so you can react fast and avoid accidents. Combine that awareness with the riding skills you’ve picked up since you got your motorcycle license, and you’ll be better prepared for any unexpected situations.