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Biker in helmet driving chopper motorcycle on sunset. Road in the city. Front view over the sky.

Motorcycling is an art form, something that is perfected with time, practice and experience. Riding safely though is something that each of us must master from the day we take the seat. Safety knowledge is used best when it’s shared between us, so use the Kent Bikers platform to refresh your own expertise and pass information along within your own communities – information that someday could be life saving.

Clothing

Wearing the right gear is more than just for comfort, it’s for our protection, and ensuring we have the right clothes for time of day as well as the conditions is just as vital as having a properly serviced bike and understanding how to ride. If you have one ambition, it should be to make you and your bike as highly visible as possible with reflective panels and clothes in the dark and fluorescent colours during the day. Use our guide below to understand the best ways to stay comfortable, dry and safe on your bike.

Boots

A strong, stitched and bonded sole is best – at least 4mm thick, anything less and it may fall apart under impact or abrasion. Also consider additional features such as closure system for your calves, ankle support, shock absorbing heel cups and shin plates.

Jackets & Trousers

Whether you ride a 50cc moped or a 1200cc superbike, biking in everyday clothes could put you at serious risk of injury. Your goal should be clothing that protects you from both abrasion and impact, so leathers are always most effective. Ensure they have a comfortable fit for good shoulder movement and arm coverage, a ventilation system, double or triple stitching and a zip that never lies directly against skin. Finally, make sure you check the label for the CE test approval.

Gloves

The instinctive first thing that happens in a crash? We put our hands out to protect us. So protect them properly with specialist motorcycling gloves with a strong protective layer. Consider a pair for both winter (water resistant to keep hands warm and dry) and summer (lightweight yet abrasion resistant).

Back Protectors

These play the vital role of absorbing energy from an impact and protecting the spine and internal organs so ensure when purchasing one, it meets all the latest standards.

 

Helmets

Before buying a helmet, visit the Sharp helmet safety scheme tool. Its ratings guide will help you select a helmet that fits, is comfortable and provides the right level of protection: https://sharp.dft.gov.uk/

Fitting –

Invest time in ensuring you know your exact head size (measure around your head just above the ears, taking the measurement at the forehead) and then try on as many helmets as possible. Getting the right fit is paramount, so when trying on, take the following steps:

– Secure the chin strap so you can fit two fingers between the helmet and your jaw

– Check you can feel the helmet against the whole of your head – without feeling ‘pressure points’ or the helmet leaving red marks

– Try rotating the helmet from side-to-side. If you’re wearing a full face helmet your cheeks should follow the helmet’s movement, while remaining in contact with the cheek pads firmly and comfortably

– Tilt it forwards and backwards. If it moves or slips during any of these movements it’s probably the wrong size

Care –

Helmets typically have a life span of around five years; three years if used more regularly. To optimise the protection your helmet gives you, you need to give it the best possible care and maintenance. Store it carefully and ensure that the visor is well cleaned to maintain good vision in all weather and lighting conditions, but do so with care to avoid damaging the surface. If it scratches, replace it. Personalising a helmet with paint and stickers is best left to the professionals, who will use specialist paint and adhesive to ensure your new look doesn’t weaken the shell.

 

Winter riding

Invest in specialist winter riding gear –

The key in winter is layers. Protective outer layers will keep out the cold and wet and a base layer will keep in the warmth, though use a good quality base layer of thermals from a specialist motorcycle or outdoors supplier. Combine these layers with a textile jacket that allow the sleeves, ankles and neck to be tightly closed but without restricting movement and an outer waterproof layer. Also consider:

– Neck tubes keep that keep draughts and wet from entering

– One-piece leathers for an overall barrier

– Good quality gloves and socks which can be essential for keeping the extremities dry and warm (including a spare pair of gloves)

– Heated clothing (ensuring you consider the draw on the alternator and battery)

– Reflective gear, as always, will dramatically increase your visibility to other road users

Adjust your riding –

In winter, grip is reduced, visibility is lower and your attention is hindered by the cold – it’s a season where the riding conditions demand both respect and a different approach. Choosing the appropriate speed and giving yourself time and space to adapt could be lifesaving. Try higher gears to reduce wheelspin

and break traction and slow down to increase the distance between you and other road users. Also consider:

– Signalling earlier to minimise abrupt changes in speed or direction

– Keeping a loose grip on the bars, look straight ahead and not down at the road

– Avoiding any sudden movements by anticipating road conditions as far ahead as possible

– Planning ahead so you know where and when you are able to stop and warm up on route

– Taking advanced rider training to maximise your skills in difficult conditions

 

Summer riding

Check your bike –

If you’re dusting your bike off for summer, it’s no doubt been stored away for some months or hasn’t had a service recently! It’s the vital first step though before your season of riding begins.

Invest in specialist Summer riding gear –

Being hot when you ride dehydrates you and affects the way you process information and react. To find a good balance of protection vs comfort, consider a good moisture-wicking base layer. A properly designed summer piece layer will then carry moisture away from your skin.

Stay hydrated –

Ensure that you carry and stop to drink enough water – you’ll think clearer and be a lot safer. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t drink as much (water) as they should – especially on a long ride.

 

 

Having a plan

There are huge benefits in taking the time to forward plan. If riding out alone, try the process of running through all of the ‘what ifs’ you can think of. Make sure you then have the answer to each before you leave. Apps such as Real Rider – https://www.realrider.com/ – also make riding alone much safer. The technology detects a crash and notifies the emergency services, with your medical details, unless you register that you’re safe.

First aid

As motorcyclists, we are over represented in the crash statists – making up just 1% of traffic in terms of miles travelled but involved in almost 25% of all killed and serious injury crashes – this is something we need to change. It is important all road users including bikers are equipped if they arrive at the scene of a crash. Basic, intermediate and advanced levels of first aid are available from providers such as the Air Ambulance service, British Red Cross or St, Johns Ambulance Service. Also consider the courses delivered by some Fire and Rescue services such as the ‘Biker Down’ scheme – http://www.kent.fire-uk.org/your-safety/road-safety/road-safety-for-bikers/ – or the First Bike on Scene scheme – http://www.firstbikeonscene.co.uk.

COVID-19 Notice

Whilst the temptation to wheel out the bike and take to the road is great, especially considering to fine weather we are experiencing at the moment, please take time to consider the implications:

  • Going for a motorcycle ride is not essential use
  • Riding in groups does not reflect a responsible approach to the current situation and will only enforce the negative image of bikers that non bikers hold
  • At some point you will have to stop and if you are in a group you will no longer be social distancing
  • You are putting yourself and others at risk. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash the extra unnecessary burden you will put on the already over stretched NHS staff will be YOUR FAULT because your ride was not essential
  1. STAY AT HOME
  2. PROTECT THE NHS
  3. SAVE LIVES