Top Tips for Safe Motorcycle Riding This Summer

POSTED: 22/05/2023

Being on two wheels, as you more than likely know, is often far more dangerous than being on four. Taking steps to minimise risk is not only important for safe riding but makes the whole riding experience far more enjoyable too. As the weather heats up and holiday traffic increases in the South West, the roads inevitably become much busier and riding more hazardous. It’s also the best time for many to get out on the bike and enjoy the great weather, but the combination of more vehicles and hotter roads can pose challenges you don’t have to worry about in the cooler months. So, here are some tips to ride on the busy Westcountry roads safely this summer.

Wear protective gear

By far the most important item of protective motorcycle safety gear you will ever own is a helmet. It's illegal to ride a motorcycle in the UK without one. In addition, a motorcycle safety jacket, gloves and boots are highly recommended. For further information on motorcycle safety gear and helmet safety ratings, be sure to see our article on the top 10 motorcycle accessories. It can be tempting to avoid the heavy protective gear when the temperature rises so you might want to invest in some breathable riding gear for riding in hot weather so you can be comfortable and protected.

Don’t skip your motorcycle checks

It's a sunny day, you’ve arranged to go for a ride, and you can’t wait to jump on the bike. But before you do, remember a quick check over the motorcycle could save your life! Whether you ride your motorcycle every day or once a year, be sure to carry out a quick daily or weekly check - depending on how often you ride. This is especially important in extreme temperatures where hot road surfaces will heat up your tyres much quicker than usual and engines can be prone to overheating.

When you took your Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) you may have been made aware of the acronym, BLT and BOLTSS, two simple checks that not only keep you safe, but also help take care of your motorcycle.

BLT – Daily Motorcycle Safety Check

Brakes – Check front and rear brakes before setting off.
Lights – Check head light low and high beam, taillight, brake light, indicators and horn.
Tyres – A quick check to make sure they have pressure.

BOLTSS – Weekly Motorcycle Safety Check

Brakes – Check the brake fluid level in both front and rear master cylinders/reservoirs through the sight glass. As your pads start to wear, the level will go down. If the fluid is very low or the reservoir is empty, you have a leak in the system; don’t ride the motorcycle and contact the service department. For drum brakes, if the brake lever is close to the handlebars, you can adjust the cable to give you more travel. When the cable is getting close to the maximum adjustment level, contact the service department.

Oil – Check the oil level on your bike. Depending on the make/model, you will either have a dipstick or a sight glass on the crankcase. It’s important to change the oil on your motorcycle in line with manufacturer service recommendations.

Lights – In line with daily checks, check head light low and high beam, tail light, brake light, indicators, hazard lights and horn. It’s not a bad idea to carry spare bulbs just in case you do find yourself with a light out. Staying visible on busy roads is crucial so your lights and horn will be essential!

Tyres – Check the tyre pressures are correct, as per the manufacturer’s recommendations in the manual. Check the tyres tread depths, the legal tread depth is 1mm across 75% of the tyre but consider changing at 2mm. Heated air expands and can cause an increase in tyre pressure on hot roads so make sure your tyres aren’t overinflated before you even set off.

Steering – Check that the handlebars move freely. No grinding or rough movement should be present.

Suspension – Sit on the bike, compress the front suspension forks and rear shock absorber/absorbers. Check the oil is not seeping from the fork/rear suspension seals (you may have to peel back the suspension fork gaiters to check). Weeping suspension not only encourages dirt ingress, but in extreme cases the suspension fluid can leak on to the brake pads/disc.

Coolant – If you have a liquid-cooled motorcycle, make sure your coolant is topped up and not running low before you set off. Keeping the engine cool on especially hot days is crucial, particularly if you’re likely to spend any length of time in slow-moving traffic where air-cooling is less effective.

Observe the traffic and give yourself a buffer

Many riders will have heard “sorry mate, I didn’t see you” more than once. When you add holidaymakers unfamiliar with the area and more cars on the road into the mix, the potential for accidents increases. While it can be easier said than done to leave a gap between other vehicles on busy roads where some cars see any gap as an opportunity to filter in, make sure you allow yourself as much space as possible. It’s always a good idea to assume the worst when it comes to thinking about whether drivers have seen you, so maintaining a safe distance gives you plenty of time to react if you need to.

Know Your Route

If you’re familiar with your route, you’ll be familiar with any dangerous spots or potential traffic jams during busy periods. Knowing the route to take, where the turn offs are, and any accident blackspots makes for a generally safer ride but it’s important not to get complacent. As the roads get busier over the summer, routes are more likely to have unexpected hazards like dangerous drivers, traffic jams or broken-down vehicles that you might not expect. Knowing your route can also let you plan breaks to rest, refresh and grab a cold drink (we recommend a visit to Café 53 if you’re passing by Bridge Motorcycles!).

The South West is one of the best places in the UK to get out on your motorcycle, with coastal roads, moorlands and scenic routes, plus plenty of great places to stop for a bite to eat or to relax. While busy roads can make these routes more challenging to navigate, a little extra care means you can enjoy some of the best riding routes at the best time of year.

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