Motorcycle Safety Tips – What You Need to Know Before You Ride

by Paul Konrardy

Safety First

  1. Take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) safety course.
    • There are over 1500 courses across the United States. Sign up early to get a date that works for you.
    • The program is about 15 hours and offers classroom and actual motorcycle operator training in a controlled, off-street environment. You don’t need to have any riding experience at all to be able to take the course. Also, you won’t need a motorcycle or helmet – those are provided for you.
    • In many states, you’ll need to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course in order to receive a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. Check with your state’s department of transportation or your local DMV to learn about the requirements in your state.
    • Additionally, if you take a safety course you might receive a discount on your motorcycle insurance.
  2. Taken the class before? Consider taking refresher or advanced rider courses to improve your riding skills. This is especially a good idea if you’re a bit rusty.

Get In Gear

Now that you’ve completed the training, it’s time to look the part. Check our Motorcycle Accidents page for tips on equipment and protection!

Helmets and Eye Protection

The most important thing you’ll need – so important we’ve dedicated an entire article to finding the right helmet: 6 Tips for Choosing and Using a Motorcycle Helmet.

Jackets and Pants

“Motorcycle jackets usually range from $99-$800, depending on brand, material and features,” says Denise Maple, founder and owner of VaVaVroom, a company that designs motorcycle wear for women riders. “For material, both cordura and leather can offer good protection. Features may also include venting, pockets in various, helpful places, ability to tighten or loosen different parts of the jacket such as the waist and sleeves, and removable liners.”

“Make sure you wear an armored jacket!” says Ken Weissblum, who on the one day chose not to wear his, ended up in a scooter accident and suffered eight broken ribs and a broken collarbone. “If armor is included in the jacket, look to see if it is CE-approved [which means it can be sold in the European Union, an area with many motorcyclists]” says Maple. “You can often get armor on the back, shoulders and elbows.”


“Boots also have a wide price range, typically from $70-500, depending on the brand and features,” says Maple. “Boots should also be tried on before buying. Walk around in them. Make sure they fit well. If you plan to wear them to events where you will be walking around, this is especially important. If you are buying them for the racetrack, it is even a good idea to try on the boots, sit on a bike and see how they feel while shifting.”

WHN TIP – Choose Proper Footwear: If you don’t have boots, wear durable shoes that cover the ankles. Do not wear sandals or sneakers and avoid dangling laces. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you’ve got the training, got the bike, got the gear, it’s time to practice! Top tips from experienced motorcyclists:

  1. Before each ride, do a quick check of your bike. Take a look at or test:
    • Tires – check the air, traction, look for tears or holes
    • Brakes
    • Safety gears
    • Lights, turn signals
    • Chain – check lubrication and if aligned properly
    • Oil and fuel levels
    • An easy mnemonic device to help you remember: Check T- CLOCS
  2. Check the weather before you hit the road. Plan accordingly.
  3. Bring the following items with you or store them on your bike:
  4. Review the laws and safety rules. You’ll learn about the state laws in your MSF class but brush up on them
    sporadically to keep your memory fresh.
  5. Practice the drills you learned in your MSF safety class.“Perform drills in a nearby parking lot or get up early and ride around your neighborhood while traffic is light,” says Maple.
  6. Find a local club or group and join them on group rides.“75% of what I know about riding, I learned going on group rides,” says Jack Skates, founder of North Bay Sport Riders, CA. “Almost every community has a club or a web site where people get together and go on rides. You’ll find most people are extremely helpful and you can never get enough tips about riding when you’re first starting out.”
  7. Wait until you’re comfortable with your bike before taking a passenger. Riding with a passenger requires even more skill than riding alone, according to the NHTSA. Riding with a passenger should be delayed until you have considerable solo riding time and are ready to take on the responsibility of carrying a passenger.

Want more? Check our Motorcycle Accidents page for top motorcycle safety and riding tips.

WHN Expert TIP – Take It Easy: “When you first start riding, there is a lot going on… a lot to process. The fast you’re going, the less time you have to process all of this information. You need to build up slowly in order to develop an orientation for how to make decisions (leaning, turning, braking, etc…) at speed. Take your time and do it someplace safe without a lot of traffic around.” Jack Skates, founder of North Bay Sport Riders, CA

In Case of Emergency

In the event of an emergency or after an accident, emergency personnel will use your cell phone to look for “ICE” – who to contact In Case of an Emergency. This can save a lot of time in the attempt to retrieve lifesaving information (allergies, medication info, condition information, etc).

In your cell phone contact list, simply type the word ‘ICE’ followed by the name (ICE – Jerry) and phone number of the person to call in case of an emergency. You can enter multiple entries if you want, (ICE 1, 2, 3). Be sure to tell the person you ICE that you have ICE’d them. Tell family and friends about the importance of ICE.

Photo Credit: Anders Jacobsen

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