It's motorbike season! Ride safely

Motorbike on the roaf Expect the unexpected . Give yourself time to react

We've recently seen an increase in the number of motorbikes on British roads, and as a result of this there has been an increase in the number of motorcyclists that have been hurt on Britain's roads in recent years. Members of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service are working with motorcyclists across Cheshire to reduce the number of casualties on the roads.

  • In Cheshire over a recent two-year period there were 1,058 motorcyclist casualties, 34% of which were killed or seriously injured.

  • Over the last three years motorcycle casualties have accounted for 22% of all road fatalities in Cheshire

  • Motorcyclists are 55 times more likely than car drivers to be killed or seriously hurt in an accident.

On this page you will find tips for motorcyclists and drivers to reduce the number of casualties on the roads.

Pre-ride safety checks

Your motorbike has probably been tucked up in the shed or garage during the long cold winter. With spring weather around the corner, now is the time to get your ride ready for the road. Give it a thorough inspection using our guide below:

Tyres

Although modern tyres are a lot more hardy and durable than they used to be it doesn’t mean they’re not susceptible to wear and tear. If they’re not in good condition don’t take the risk, replace them before you go out on the road.

Look at the surface of each tyre:

  • is there anything that could cause a puncture or has already?  Things like glass, nails and screws are the most common culprits. Run your hands along the tyres and if anything looks suspect, don’t ride until you’ve had a closer look.

  • look at the tread. Bald tyres may not lead to an accident but they may land you in trouble with the law. Make sure that your tyres are in shape in the eyes of the law as well as with regard to your own safety. If you can see any thread, don’t go anywhere!

  • check the tyre pressures. Look online or in your bike’s handbook at the optimum tyre pressures for your machine.

  • The wrong pressures can make your bike dangerous.

Chain

On most bikes, chains can easily be adjusted, replaced and cleaned up so there is no excuse for a chain in bad condition. During your pre-ride check, you should take a look at your chain. Is it properly lubricated? Is it tensioned correctly? Is it free of rust and other gunk? The same questions will also apply to a belt-driven bike.

Cables

Your cables keep you in control of your motorcycle and the slightest problem with one of them could potentially lead to an accident. If it’s been a long time since you replaced your cables, think about replacing them even if they don’t look worn - some problems can’t be seen until it’s too late. In the meantime, test each lever and see if your cable is moving freely and smoothly while keeping an eye out for any frayed areas. If your throttle cable sticks open at the wrong time and you can’t react fast enough, you may end up in trouble. If your brakes aren’t responding, again you’re asking for an accident. If your clutch isn’t responding, you might be in for a surprise when you pull away!

Lights

Bulbs can go at any time and just because all of your lights were working yesterday doesn’t mean that they still are today. You should take a look at each and every light, whilst flicking your switches on and off. This includes your headlights, brake lights, tail lights and indicators.

Brakes

Sit on the motorbike to test your brakes; if you’re pulling in the front brake lever and still moving forward, even slowly, something needs attention. The back brake isn’t as easy to test but you can try the same principal. If any wheel can be moved when a lever is fully pulled in or depressed, don’t even think about riding your motorcycle until the problem is fixed. If you’ve got drum brakes, it might be an easy adjustment or a new set of shoes; if you’ve got disks, you may want to check your fluid levels or, in extreme cases, the disk.

Fluids

When you’re checking brake fluid levels, round off your inspection with a general fluid inspection too. Check engine oil, your coolant levels and (of course!) fuel levels. If anything needs topping up, get it done before you go out on the road.

Motorbikes - riding advice

  • Ensure the bike is safe to ride

  • Don't ride if you feel tired or unwell

  • Learn how to handle the power of the motorbike

  • Don't succumb to peer pressure when riding in groups

  • Be careful on bends and don't overtake if you can't see the road ahead

  • Don't do anything outside your own capabilities or take unnecessary risks

  • Learn to brake properly without going over the handlebars, as a motorbike's stopping power is nearly all in the front wheel. Equally don't use the back brakes alone as this can cause the bike to skid.  

Clothing tips for motorcyclists

It is extremely important to ensure that you wear the correct clothing whilst out riding, as unlike driving a car, there is nothing else to protect you from injury in the event of an accident.

  • Always wear protective clothing, even for short trips.

  • Make yourself visible. Ideally wear fluorescent clothing

  • Wear a long sleeved jacket, which fits closely around the waist.

  • Wear long trousers to protect you from the hot parts of the bike and to offer protection if you fall.

  • Full finger gloves to help maintain control of the bike, and to protect your hands should you fall off and slide across the road surface.

  • Choose the right helmet - your helmet could save your life.  The SHARP rating system helps you understand how much protection a helmet offers in a crash. Visit the SHARP website for more information (opens in new window)

  • It is important to wear good footwear when you ride a motorcycle. If you wear sandals or trainers your feet will have little protection if you fall off.

Dehydration - a hidden danger for bikers

Dehydration affects your concentration and your reaction time. When riding your motorcycle in warm weather, you can easily become dehydrated. Signs that you may be dehydrated:

  • Your head will become drowsy

  • You may have shallow breathing

  • You may feel a mental fogginess

  • You may have slower reaction times 

  • You will not longer be able to focus on traffic and riding

  • If it is hot and you are not sweating, this could be another sign that you are dehydrated and you could be nearing heat stroke
    Stay hydrated - drink plenty of water.

Accident involving a biker - would you know what to do?

If you were the first on the scene of an accident involving a biker, would you know what to do? Would you know who is most at risk, how to protect the area or whether you should remove the helmet of a downed rider?

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service offer a course for bikers, the Biker Down course, which is a free three-hour training course run by bikers for bikers designed to answer these uncertainties.

More about Biker Down

Advice for drivers to avoid a crash with a motorcyclist

Here are a few simple ways that you can avoid a crash with a motorcyclist:

  • Keep your distance - driving too close can intimidate a less experienced motorcyclist

  • Check for bikes when turning - double-check for motorcyclists, whether you're turning left or right

  • Look carefully for motorbikes when you pull out at a junction. If you're approaching a junction, look out for motorcyclists pulling out too

  • Check for bikes when changing lanes - a motorcyclist may be in the space you want to move into, or moving into it fast. Remember your blind spot

  • Park safely - check for motorcyclists before opening your car door - and ensure that your passengers do the same. When you pull away, remember to look specifically for motorcyclists as they can accelerate faster than cars.

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Motorbike on the roaf Expect the unexpected . Give yourself time to react