Motorcyclists

From protective personal equipment to general road safety, there's considerations all motorcyclists should have when on the road.

health_and_safety

Safety

Some of the most common reasons for collisions involving motorbikes include:

Bends on country roads – reduce your speed before the bend so you have more room to manoeuvre

Junctions – this can be down to a driver failing to give way, to stop or misjudging your speed. Always anticipate and consider how you would deal with a vehicle unexpectedly pulling out in front of you.

Overtaking – overtaking requires skill, judgement and a good knowledge of your bike’s acceleration capacity. Snap decisions to overtake can be dangerous. Don’t overtake when approaching bends, junctions, lay-bys, crossings, hills or dips in the road or where signs/road markings prohibit you from doing so.

Loss of control – mainly due to two reasons: shunts, caused by riding too close to the vehicle in front, or the vehicle behind you being too close; failing to adjust your riding to deal with the different road conditions.

For more detailed advice on motorcycle safety, visit Brake charity.

Biker down logo
Whatever your age or riding experience, everyone can benefit from extra training to improve their safety on the road. It can improve skills, refresh knowledge and boost confidence.

We offer a FREE three-hour ‘Biker Down’ course on accident scene management, first aid for motorcyclists and the science of being seen. Find out more about Biker Down in the West Midlands.

POWDERS check

Prior to setting out on a motorcycle journey, we recomment performing a pre-ride check to ensure your bike is in optimal condition and you won't experience issues. This check not only helps identify potential safety hazards or illegalities (for example, worn-out tyres), but also for keeping track of general wear and tear, as well as upcoming servicing requirements.

When to conduct pre-ride motorcycle checks

It is recommended to perform these checks before every ride, or at the very least, every few days if you ride on a daily basis. If your bike has been unused for several days or if you plan on embarking on a longer trip, you should go through these checks. If you commute daily on your motorbike, you can likely perform this pre-ride inspection every few days as you become more familiar with your bike's condition and the frequency at which certain components require attention.

How to conduct your check

The easiest way to remember what needs to be checked is using the acronym POWDERS. It'll help you remember the steps for your pre-ride checks so you don't forget anything. Take a look below!

P
Petrol
This step is quite straightforward: ensure that you have sufficient fuel to reach your destination. If necessary, plan a refuelling stop along your route. Running out of fuel and becoming stranded can be difficult. If your bike lacks a fuel gauge, you can listen for fuel sloshing within the tank or open the fuel cap to check the level.

It is good practice to use the odometer to keep track of the distance travelled since your last refuelling. This will give you an idea of how many miles you have left in the tank and can help identify any significant changes in fuel economy. Additionally, if your bike has a reserve tap, ensure that it hasn't been left on.
O
Oil
Checking the oil is a step that should never be skipped, as oil is vital for the smooth operation of your bike. 

Refer to your bike's manual for instructions on how to check oil levels, usually done through a sight glass or dipstick, where you can verify that the level falls between the high and low points. To obtain an accurate reading, it's commonly recommended to warm up the engine for 5 minutes, then let it rest for a couple of minutes before checking the oil level with the bike positioned upright.

Pay attention to the colour of the oil, which typically changes from a reddish-orange to black over time. A milky-white colour could indicate water leakage or potentially serious engine issues. Also, be mindful of the time or mileage since the last oil change and when the next one is due.
W
Water
Unless you have an air-cooled bike, water or coolant is essential for maintaining proper engine temperature. 

Running with inadequate levels can cause the engine to overheat, potentially resulting in permanent damage. Water levels are usually checked at two locations: the overflow tank, often located near the rear of the bike, and the main water filler cap on the radiator (or nearby).

If it's difficult to read the levels in the overflow bottle, try shining a torch on it. The main filler cap is often concealed under the fuel tank, so take caution and avoid opening it when the engine is hot. Top up the water or coolant as needed with a mixture recommended for your bike and climate.
D
Damage
Drive chain
While you'd assume that damage would be easily noticeable, it is not uncommon for someone to accidentally knock your bike over, pick it up, and for you to remain unaware until you've started your journey and discover issues.

Drive chain - 

Your drive chain endures significant stress, so it is crucial to inspect it to ensure:

it's properly lubricated and not dry
it's not too loose or too tight (refer to the bike's manual for the correct amount of slack)
there are no stiff links (links that are stuck at an odd angle)
the sprocket teeth are not excessively worn, rounded, or hooked.

For shaft and belt drive bikes, although they require less maintenance, it is still important to inspect them for any noticeable wear and tear.
E
Electrical
Confirm that all your lights are functioning correctly, with no blown bulbs. 

Check that the indicators are operational, and both the front and rear brakes activate the brake light. It is wise to double-check that the kill switch and side stand switch also cut off the engine as intended. These aspects are typically examined during your yearly MOT inspection.
R
Rubber
Your tyres are crucial for maintaining grip and stability, so it is vital to thoroughly inspect their condition. 

Check for excessive wear by examining the wear markers in the tread or looking for signs of significant flattening. Additionally, inspect the tyres for any damage, such as debris embedded in the rubber or cracks caused by aging. If you find small bits of gravel stuck, remove them. You can apply a blob of spit over the hole to determine if it's deep enough to cause a puncture.

Ensure that the tyre pressures are correct and inflated to the recommended specifications. Even a slight change in tyre pressure can significantly impact the handling of the bike.
S
Stopping
Self
Your brakes are essential for stopping when needed. 

Check for brake pad wear and any signs of decreased brake fluid. Brake pads often have wear marker grooves, which, when reached, indicate the need for replacement. A drop in brake fluid may indicate worn pads or a leak. The front and rear brake fluid reservoirs should have low-level markers.

Lastly, check yourself. It is easy to overlook, but it is important to assess your own condition. Are you excessively tired, agitated, ill, or injured? 

If you're not at your best, it may be safer not to ride. Many riding errors have the potential to occur when a rider is not in optimal physical or mental condition.